With the Sonic series getting older, it’s also becoming harder to find copies of prototypes of both released and unreleased games in the series. Aside from old video game companies not having put enough effort into archiving their work, game cartridges and arcade boards don’t last forever and will probably start to decay in a decade or two. Meaning that the sooner they’re found and archived the better.
So it’s a good thing that arcade board collector ShouTime found a copy of a long lost unreleased Sonic arcade game that none of us even knew about. The game in question here is SegaSonic Bros., a puzzle game similar to Cleopatra Fortune which would have been the last game for which Fukio Mitsuji would have been credited as designer. Mitsuji was most famous for designing the classic Puzzle Bobble. (also known as Bust-A-Move in North America.)
While most of you have probably never heard about the game until the past few days, it turns out that details about it were actually already posted online two years ago. Back in December of 2013, Kohji Kenjoh (who happens to be the mind behind Custom Robo) wrote about playing the game on SEGA’s own social media website it-tells. And half a year later he asked SEGA producer Yosuke Okunari about the game on Twitter, who responded and even posted a photo of the game.
I’m sure a lot of you will probably want to try the game out. Thankfully ShouTime isn’t one of those collectors who wants to keep their collection precious and special by not sharing any of it with the world. He’s helped dump both released and unreleased arcade games in the past. This includes SegaSonic Popcorn Shop, which he helped dump in the October of last year. So he’ll probably share SegaSonic Bros. online as well at some point, meaning that you’ll be able to play the game using MAME.
We have no idea when the game will be dumped, but in the meantime you should keep an eye on ShouTime’s Tumblr as he has been updating it with photos of the game as well as of other arcade games that he’s been collecting. You can also read Kohji Kenjoh’s description of the game, translated by forum member RyogaMasaki, below.
“A is for Arcade”
#15 ‘Sonic Brothers’ (1992, Sega)
Mitsuji Fukio, known as MTJ and for the design of games like ‘Puzzle Bobble,’ ‘Sylvalion,’ and ‘Omega Fighter,’ was the director of ‘Sonic Brothers.’ Though he designed and developed the game, it was cancelled after the location test and was never brought to market.
I can only remember playing it a few times, but it seems there aren’t many people who have written down their memories of the game, I’ll attempt to describe it as I remember it. I’d be happy if any who knows the game could point out any errors:
The game was a falling-block puzzle game using ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ (similar to Tetris or Puyo Puyo).
The multi-colored Sonics in round spin attack form
In a 田 shaped block, a set of 4 fall downwards. You can rotate the block, and they will pile up at the bottom, and when Sonics of the same color surround a different colord Sonic, it disappears.
This can happen by forming a ring with the same colors or by using the walls. I’ve drawn the possible scenarios below. This character ■ (Same color) represents the Sonics that surround × (which can be any color) which are Sonics that will disappear:
Using the bottom
Using bottom + one side
Using bottom + both sides
Not using the bottom (for example, making a ring) might have been allowed too, and I think you could drop one block to complete two enclosures at once, but I can’t quite recall what would happen in that case (but I imagine that they disappeared in any case like that).
If you’re a puzzle game lover, you can probably imagine the game was a bit frustrating and difficult. If you make just one mistake with placement, your plan will fall apart, and it’s extremely difficult to start stacking over again. It’s also problematic that there so many blocks, since they come down in fours.
Since the surrounded blocks can be any color, as a bit of advice, it becomes extremely important to pay attention to the color as the game progresses. It’s infuriating to throw away a block when it turns out you needed it, –unsure–
Not just limited to the falling blocks, the game further adopted the concept of ‘encircling.’ While playing, (according to the rules) while keeping track of the situation inside and outside of the boundaries, it’s necessary to follow the tracks of the boundary line. It’s a difficult game where your eyes have to take in wide scope of things all at once. That concept reappeared in some later, released games.
That’s about all I remember of ‘Sonic Brothers.’ There may also been a kind of support item that looked like the gems from ‘Coumns,’ but I can’t recall.
I think a more polished example of the ‘Sonic Brothers’ idea is the Taito game ‘Cleopatra’s Fortune.’ The encircling idea greatly resembles it, but the parts that surround and can be surrounded are different, and there’s much easier to understand gameplay.
I think MTJ’s forte as a designer is to start with a single catchy idea and forcing it to work as problems arise.
— unsure —
I had only played the game a few times, and there are no materials, so the rules and such might differ from how it actually was. I’d appreciate any knowledge anyone has about it.
I think it’s awful that I won’t get to experience ‘Sonic Brothers’ once more. It might be amusing to program a game with the same structure..