Once upon a time, a man named Simon Wai came across a prototype of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Not only did it include lost and unused content, it was a window into the development process of one of the most celebrated games of the franchise. Sharing it with the Sonic Internet community, this discovery inspired an entire generation. Not only to wonder, to dream of things they could create, but to also research into the history of the Sonic franchise, and preserve it for future generations.
Over the past few weeks, a plethora of brand new prototypes for a number of games starring Sonic the Hedgehog surfaced. Presented by both Hidden Palace and The Cutting Room Floor, these early versions have answered questions, sparked debate, and most importantly, provided further context for understanding not only Sonic, but game development as a whole.
We also got to see Knuckles make Sonic talk to the hand.
The final prototype shown off during “Sonic Month,” a November 3rd, 1993 dated version of Sonic the Hedgehog 3, might be the definition of “saving the best for last.” Unlike Sonic 2, development of the game was not as freely shared with the gaming press, leaving numerous questions as to how the game looked before it was ready for the public.
The treasure trove of content in this build is hard to describe in a single front page news post. The early Knuckles sprite? The haunting title screen? The docile tones of the Sonic & Knuckles Collection for PC having been revealed as the original music for the game? The existence of a Drop Dash-esque move? For every question that gets answered, another is posed, while still furthering our understanding of what some consider the pinnacle of the Sonic series. Luckily, even the smallest of details are hastily being cataloged on both the Retro wiki and TCRF.
While Sonic 3 may have stolen the show, it was far from the only game on display over the past month. Kicking things off were the one-two punch of the Sega Multimedia Studio Sega CD demo and a slew of builds for Sonic the Hedgehog CD. The former? Showing off how Sonic can hold a CD in his hand while random clips of Cool World play. The latter? Discovering that Palmtree Panic was originally named Salad Plain, the healthiest sounding Sonic level ever.
Week 2 gave us a look at Sonic Chaos, an 8-bit title whose development cycle was unknown until the three prototypes were released to the world. Week 3 was a homecoming of sorts, with two brand new builds of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Mega Drive. If you haven’t already, it’s worth reading the write-ups on Hidden Palace, giving context to what these prototypes mean. They may not be as “earth shattering” as seeing Simon Wai’s discovery twenty years ago, but they are still incredibly important, adding to the development timeline, seeing how the developers reached the final version we as fans have become so familiar with.
Though we may have been remiss on our duties for the front page as Sonic Month went on, that does not mean it went by unnoticed in the Retro community. Those who partake (or simply lurk) on the forums will have seen multiple topics spring up, not to mention the flood of information being chronicled over on the wiki. Be sure to keep an eye out, or even join in on the conversation, as who knows what other small details may be unwrapped within these gems.
For those who have been following Sonic Month, the ride has been one heck of a roller coaster. Once upon a time, it seemed like we knew all there was to know, seen every prototype that had survived. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned during this journey? There’s no telling what the future, or the past, may hold.