There are a handful of games that one could point to and say they forever changed the course of the video game industry. Among them? Sonic the Hedgehog. First released on the Sega Genesis on June 23rd, 1991, it challenged Nintendo’s dominance. It introduced a new kind of platformer to the masses. It sparked the imagination of an entire generation. Nearly 30 years later, the world of Sonic continues to grow and thrive, but it all started in a little black cart with six unique zones hiding inside, waiting for someone to plug it in and explore South Island.
As the kids who played the game grew up, it was only a matter of time before many became curious as to how this game came to be. Through research, interviews, and a lot of persistent digging, much of the game’s development has come to light. The process as to how Sonic and Eggman were designed. The months spent perfecting Green Hill Zone. The debates between the American and Japanese branches of SEGA, arguing how the game would be formed, advertised, and all the million little details inbetween that could make or break the company’s hopes in the 16-bit era. It’s a fascinating story, but there was always one piece that was missing. An early piece of media that would let someone take a peek into the development process, to experience a version of Sonic just a bit different than the one that hit store shelves.
That puzzle piece has finally been discovered. And it is glorious.
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.
Back in 2017, Traveller’s Tales co-founder Jon Burton created the YouTube channel GameHut, a behind the scenes look at his time as a video game developer. From Puggsy to Lego Star Wars, Jon has dived into the history and development of the games that has made Traveller’s Tales a household name.
For Sonic fans, the channel has been of particular interest, as TT worked on both Sonic 3D Blast and Sonic R, two spin-offs from the 90’s that helped carry the torch as Sonic Team focused on non-hedgehog properties. A number of videos have been uploaded over the last couple years regarding 3D Blast and R, showing early prototypes and explaining the coding tricks that maximized the hardware they were made for. Heck, Jon even released a Director’s Cut of 3D Blast not all that long ago! However, there has been one item that he mentioned having that he held back on – the demo recordings of 3D Blast’s soundtrack.
Well, until now.
Though only three songs are featured in the video, the fact that it’s marked as “#1” implies that more are on the way. Of particular interest is the the second track, an extended version of the theme song. Sure, it’s only slightly longer, but hey! It’s still neat. Hopefully we won’t have to wait long to hear the rest of those songs.
It turns out this student’s professor is David Javelosa who, if you aren’t familiar with him, is a freelance composer who used to be an Audio Director at SEGA of America. These days you’ll find him as a professor at Santa Monica College. You will typically find his name on western productions of SEGA titles including Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, Ecco – The Tides of Time,Spider-Man VS. The Kingpin and even was part of the SEGA Multimedia Studio to help with SEGA CD development.
After the tweet gained massive popularity the poster agreed to try to convince David to put his works online somewhere. Luckily he agreed to it and now you can find this online. A SEGA Genesis GEMS Test Module. GEMS of course was the sound driver used in many western Genesis games including Sonic Spinball. But in the video below it seems to center around Sonic 2. You can find more demo reels and music tracks from this channel after the jump.
Software preservation can be incredibly tricky, as is the case for Hidden Palace’s recent discovery of an prototype of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that was recently discovered from an old dumping group named CENSOR. Despite being made available to the public once before, it was not until recently that this version of Sonic 2 was not made available to a society dedicated to software preservation.
If you’re reading this expecting some significant new information about Sonic 2’s development history, you’re out of luck. However this build is actually older than the Beta 4, previously relesed by drx in 2008. This has led to speculation that this version is the Beta 3 build that was not included in SEGA’s QA archives. In fact this version is so close to the release of the final game from a matter of weeks, meaning the differences between this prototype and the Beta 4 prototype are not as drastic. However there are some notable differences, such as object layout changes in Wing Fortress, known as Sky Fortress in this version, slanted edges on the loops in Chemical Plant as well as longer load times when entering special stages due to how art was compressed in the Nemesis format.
Hidden Palace has provided a video playthrough showcasing differences, a brief history on dumping groups and the indirect role of software preservation (piracy!) as well as a page dedicated to the prototype detailing differences as well as links to download the prototype. The downloads include versions with CENSOR’s intro and copy protection bypass along with a proper dump of the ROM by itself.
Be sure to keep an eye on Hidden Palace as they have been on a roll putting out pre-release and prototype versions of games consistently. Aside from Sonic 2, they also rediscovered another CENSOR release of Gauntlet IV which predates the official Japanese release. One of the more interesting recent releases includes the 32X version of Pinocchio which, despite being ultimately cancelled, features increased color depth and parallax scrolling over the Mega Drive and Genesis versions. They also noted they will continue to put out more releases by CENSOR in the near future.
Thanks goes to GerbilSoft for pointing out the release in the Sonic Retro Discord.
[Source: Hidden Palace]
How’s this for a little role reversal? Where Sonic Mania features fan game developers work in a commercial Sonic game, a Sonic game developer makes works on a ROM hack? GameHut is the YouTube channel run by Traveller’s Tales founder Jon Burton which recently celebrated his achievement of 25,000 subscribers. The channel provides a constant stream of video material showcasing old prototypes, special builds and insight on coding techniques of Traveller’s Tales’ work over the years. There’s a greater focus on Mega Drive material and more recently a focus on their work on Sonic R and Sonic 3D Blast / Sonic 3D Flickies’ Island. As an example I reported on videos on SEGAbits that covered a prototype for Sonic R and unseen footage of an unannounced sequel to Mickey Mania. In a surprise announcement for achieving 25,000 subscribers on the channel Jon announced that he is working on releasing an unofficial patch for Sonic 3D titled Sonic 3D Director’s Cut that focuses on restoring content and adding enhancements to the game. This has no involvement with SEGA or any other company and is only being developed by Jon himself in his spare time. Details about the hack can be seen in the jump. Continue Reading
The once long-elusive SegaSonic Cosmo Fighter Galaxy Patrolhas finally been found, dumped, released, signed, sealed, delivered by the good folks of the Dumping Union, a group dedicated to preserving old arcade games that may have otherwise been lost to time. Cosmo Fighter was released in celebration of MAME, a notorious emulator that aims to recreate the hardware of thousands of arcade titles, which turned twenty years old on February 5th. An entire playthrough was uploaded to YouTube by ashthedragon, as seen above. If we’re doing our math correctly, every known, officially released Sonic game has been dumped as of this release, meaning all that’s left are prototypes/tech demos and any rare unreleased games.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 has been previewed, played, reviewed, picked apart, dissected and a whole host of other actions. We’re not here today to do any of those things. This article isn’t about how Sonic 4 Episodes I & II played or the behind-the-scenes politics of how the game came about. This article is about how a few fans with too much time on their hands bothered SEGA enough about silly little details.
Way back in 2010, SEGA revealed Sonic the Hedgehog 4, and speculation ran rampant. How would it play? How would it tie to Sonic 3 & Knuckles? Could we expect a Sonic 4 Happy Meal? These and many more questions were asked. Now, six years later, many of those questions have been answered and with the upcoming Sonic Mania, fans are looking towards the future while Sonic 4 Episodes I & II remain in the past. But one little question has always gone unanswered, and that question is “What is the name of the island in Sonic 4?”. Following the game’s release, I reached out to SEGA for an answer, but I came back with just a few names of the bosses from Episode II. We tried again last year in an interview with Aaron Webber, but aside from his own head canon answer there was no apparent official name. Continue Reading
In the Sonic Internet community, there have been few stories that have captured the imagination like the tale of Sonic the Hedgehog 3‘s music. With a feel unique from the previous two entries in the series, the discussion of just who composed what have filled untold pages of conversation for well over a decade.
The reason behind that infatuation? Michael Jackson, one of the biggest pop stars of all time. A man who not only defined a decade with the release of Thriller, but also unknowingly inspired the belt buckle of Sonic’s shoes. The idea that a musical icon that large was connected to the gaming sensation of the 90’s in any way was incredibly tantalizing. It wouldn’t be long before audio files, YouTube videos, and snippets of interviews would fill in the gaps. From Qjimbo to GameTrailers, everyone sought to find the answer to what seemed the impossible – confirmation that the King of Pop had been involved in the soundtrack of Sonic 3 at some point, as SEGA’s official line to this day has been to deny or leave no comment.
While it has been almost certainly determined that Michael Jackson was not only involved but that some of his contributions made it to the cartridge, the Huffington Post’s Test Kitchen released today a brand new look at the entire Sonic 3 Jackson story. From what happened behind the scenes to the fandom’s unending interest in the truth, “The Michael Jackson Video Game Conspiracy” by Todd Van Luling covers it all.
With new interviews from Roger Hector, Doug Grigsby III, Brad Buxer, Cirocco Jones and Matt Forger, to comments from Ben Mallison and Steven Nipper that illuminate the community’s part in the story, the article is definitely worth a read for those with even a passing interest in the subject matter.
The only question I’m left with is…who has ever called a Sonic fan a “Blue?”
Source: Huffington Post
We all know the story. 19 years ago, everyone was getting super excited about the upcoming release of Sonic X-treme, which would mark Sonic’s first fully three dimensional adventure. Long story short, the game was never released, and the Sega Saturn always had a hole in its library, no main Sonic title ever being released.
While bits and pieces of what the game would have been have leaked/been released over the the years, last November JollyRodger showed up with a plethora of material from defunct gaming studio Point Of View, including the source code for a variety of Sonic X-treme builds on both the Saturn and the PC. Being as the code could only run natively on hardware very few people have access to, Jolly took it upon himself to begin the process of porting the code to modern PC’s. Earlier tonight, the first public release of this labor of love was been released, “version 037” of X-treme now fully operational.