At one point, the current iteration of Sonic and his friends looked even more different compared to their original selves. So much so that it caused quite a few headaches to the series' original creators.
Speaking to GameSpot, Bob Rafei, head of the studio in charge of the character redesigns, said that early on, the team experimented with different colours and features for the characters, adding things like scales or realistic fur. When they showed these designs to Sonic Team, they were less than thrilled.
"Sonic Team [quickly] came back with their discomfort of that. Early on, when we had our first review of all the crazy things we wanted to try, [Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka] came down to Los Angeles and looked through all the different concepts. I felt sorry for the guy because sometimes he couldn't actually look at the screen — it was too traumatic seeing all the crazy stuff we wanted to do."
But, as Rafei explains, this was actually very helpful feedback. "They were great guardrails for us to understand when we were deviating too far from the character. Without their input, the character would have been a lot more alien and different from what Sonic is known for."
So, if you're not a fan of the team's new look, rest assured: it could have been far worse. That's a good thing, right? Right?
Sega Explains Sonic and Knuckles' New Look [GameSpot]