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.
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]
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.
Sonic X-treme. Just the name can send a shiver up the spine of anyone who anxiously awaited the release of the game, reading the Red Shoe Diaries over and over again, trying to dissect each screenshot and guess what obstacles were in store for each new zone. Meant to be Sonic’s first foray into the world of 3D gaming, the title was quietly cancelled during 1996, a Sega Saturn port of Sonic 3D: Flickies’ Island filling the hole in scheduling. For years, speculation ran wild as to what happened, and over time many of those involved in the project have spoken about it, including Chris Senn who created an entire compendium chronicling the development history of the game.
But with all we’ve come to discover in the last 18 years, there are still aspects that have been hidden away, the most glaring being how it would feel to hold a controller in your hands and move Sonic about in his fish-eye world. The only playable build thus far had been the test arena from Christina Coffin’s boss engine, a green hill-esque terrain with not much more than random Flickies populating a finite plane with no end goal. That, however, is about to change in a very big way.
Read more after the jump. Continue Reading
Even more than two decades after being cancelled, Nick Arcade is still giving us more alpha/beta stuff. The earliest version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that we’ve seen in action was first seen on the show, and now that the unaired pilot from 1991 has popped up online we now have the best footage yet of a Sonic the Hedgehog prototype.Sadly we don’t see that much of it because the challenge had to be completed in less than 25 seconds. The most notable differences shown are the rolling ball, which kinda looks like something that’s meant to be used to experiment with the rolling physics, and the different ring placement. Thanks to forum member ashthedragon for uploading a video of just the prototype footage. The full pilot can be seen here.
And on the subject of Sonic development stuff, this book by Read-Only Memory has lots of never-before-seen visual material from Mega Drive games and the console itself. This of course includes stuff related to Sonic as well. Forum member 87th has been kind enough to post a photo of the design documents for Sonic 1 showing some storyboards of the original ending. If you want to see more of it, you can buy the book here.
Also, yes we know that all of this news is old. We’re playing catch-up. :V
Today marks the 20th anniversary of SEGA’s Sonic & Knuckles, and to celebrate, Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 remastered developer Christian Whitehead shared a proof of concept prototype from the Taxman & Stealth personal vaults featuring Sonic 3 & Knuckles running on the Retro Engine. Of course, this is presented unofficially, so don’t jump to the conclusion that a Sonic 3 & Knuckles remastered is on the way anytime soon. Still, awesome to see that they’ve done work on the much requested title, even in an unofficial capacity. The Taxman himself shared this link in our forums, stating that “this isn’t an official announcement of any Sega project, nor to we intend to work on this as a fan-project. It’s simply a proof of concept from our vaults that has been kept to our chests for some time.” You can learn more about the technical side of the project in Stealth’s latest blog post!
Remember that time some guy with a Sonic hat on just ran alongside a subway? Cause some guy somewhere did that, and there’s a video of it that I can’t find right now. There’s this gif though which pretty much shows all you need to know about it anyway, that being that some guy with a Sonic hat ran alongside a subway. Or it’s a metro, but who can tell the difference really?
By the way, I recently started watching this anime I barely ever see mentioned called Dennou Coil and it’s super good and all of you should watch it. Just thought that I should put that out there. Anyway have some links: Retro News
[The following was provided by forum moderator and researcher JenHedgehog.]
Sonic Retro member Orengefox recently acquired three new Sonic Game Gear prototypes, which have now been made available for download. These are review copies of Tails Adventures and Sonic Labyrinth, and an early demo of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (all obtainable here.)
Sonic 2 is a rolling auto-demo showcasing mainly the prototype version of Green Hills Zone, which was prominently shown in many early magazine articles prior to the game’s release. Sky High Zone and Underground Zone can also be seen. The auto-demo has a time stamp of Dec. 5, 1991, making this an extremely early version of the game that was compiled almost a year before the final version was released.
As well as the Game Gear games, Orengefox is releasing some other new Sonic demos including a previously unseen Japanese Sonic Adventure trial, and a trial version of Sonic & the Secret Rings[forum link] which was distributed in limited quantities to competition winners in Japan.
To see what our members are able to find hidden inside these games once the digging begins, head over to the forums, where all these prototypes can be downloaded right now.