Sonic the Hedgehog: The incredible secrets left on the cutting room floor


The goggles... they do nothing (for breathing)

The game's coding contains a sprite and item box for goggles. Logic suggests that it was supposed to work in the Labyrinth zone to allow the player to breathe underwater. It was probably dropped because... it doesn't cover Sonic's mouth.

Think that's daft? Hedgehogs can actually swim - it was a mistaken presumption on the part of Yuji Naka that made Sonic have to walk through these underwater levels in the first place. Anyway... it makes much more sense for Sonic to hunt out pockets of air... or air bubbles. And lo, a classic level was born.

But that wasn't the only thing that changed. This sprite (below) is even loaded into the VRAM, ready to be used while you're playing, but is never triggered in the final build. Maybe Sonic looks too anime-styled as he holds his breath?

Likewise, this alternative 'Bubble GET' animation is a little crude - the 'proper' one is clearly superior.

Fan remakes have put the old sprites back into the game (as well as allowing modern-day gamers to play pre-release, totally unfinished versions of the original levels), but it must be said this video is utterly fascinating as a glimpse of what might have been... (example lasts until the end of the act)

Note also the different background in the video - something else changed for the final version. Another old magazine scan shows this 'beta' background in place:

Above: The pre-release version (left) next to the final one (right). Note the different crystals too

You can see the game's distinct art style in this unused background, but there are also old magazine screens that don't really look like the game at all. What do you make of these two pictures? Prototypes? Mock-ups?

Above: Sorry about the watermarks. But look at the welcome sign - there's nothing like that in Sonic 1

The trees and ground look the same, but Sonic doesn't. There is evidence to suggest that this was indeed a prototype version of Sonic 1, as this concept art looks almost exactly the same. Rocks in the foreground, mountains, clouds... and the 'CG' styled trees may look different on paper, but if ever a sprite was meant to look like flat-shaded polygons of 1990-era CG, it's the Green Hill Zone foliage.

Above: Concept art for a 'CG-styled stage'. Must've been incredibly exciting to design Sonic 1

The levels themselves were slightly different in pre-production versions. Even the level select screen of the finished game has levels in a different order, suggesting that the progression we know wasn't always that way. But what about this little lot? Spring Yard Zone was originally going to look more like a casino level, which does make the bumpers make a bit more sense (as much as hedgehog-bothering bumpers suspended in the sky can).

Above: The foreground is familiar, but look at that background! All stars and neon. Too busy, perhaps?

There's also an unused graphic in the game code that probably would have been used in the Sparkling Zone before it turned into the less glamourous Spring Yard:

Can't say we miss it... But more interesting is the graphics tile that's present in the 16-bit version of Green Hill Zone's level furniture:

Above: The 16-bit graphics tiles (left) look exactly like the underground graphics from the 8-bit game (right)

Meaning? The two versions were perhaps meant to be more similar than they turned out. But I'd guess that the presence of underground caves would mean the player would spend large chunks of time not looking at that gorgeous parallax background. So it was left out... but never truly erased from the game's code.

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  • Ariaka - June 25, 2011 10:24 p.m.

    Ha, Neko Kit Su at Sonic Retro and X-Cult, Aeonic Butterfly at TCRF here. XD Only contribution I got for Sonic is pointing out the Robotnik monitor was used in Sonic 2 (multiplayer mode), but I do a fair bit of page cleanups, research and testing for TCRF XD
  • 8bitBaby - June 24, 2011 3:36 a.m.

    that last image is sonic surfing. he's definitely surfing.
  • ThatGamerDude - June 23, 2011 11:36 p.m.

    They should have an article like this for every Sonic game or at least for all the 2D ones.
  • KnightDehumidifier - June 23, 2011 10:26 p.m.

    What was up with the proportions of that guitar-playing monkey? That is too lanky for even Lanky Kong.
  • FortyVsZero - June 23, 2011 9:57 p.m.

    Great Article Justin, I was always a Nintendo boy when I was younger, but did revisit Sonic when I was a bit older, so he was sort of a part of my gaming childhood. As for that last picture...Sonic yoga.
  • Dave3087 - June 23, 2011 2:26 p.m.

    That last picture...... he's clearly DJing.
  • SonicX_89 - June 23, 2011 2:23 p.m.

    The goggles wouldn't have made sense in Labyrinth Zone , but I'm pretty sure 5 year old me would not have cared about that. Other than that, great article.
  • rxb - June 23, 2011 12:32 p.m.

    Also sonic generations demo on xbox live today. Apparently its only playable for 20 days.
  • rxb - June 23, 2011 12:27 p.m.

    I loved playing Sonic 1 back in the day, dont you missed the days when a released game was finished and didnt need a day 1 patch.
  • pimlicosound - June 23, 2011 11:26 a.m.

    Benjamin is nobody's friend. If Benjamin were an ice-cream flavour, he'd be pralines and dick.
  • GR_JustinTowell - June 23, 2011 11:13 a.m.

    @DarkTone - apparently not. It was just meant to be a sound test screen... although who knows how the series would have incorporated them later?
  • BattleReachRising - June 23, 2011 10:41 a.m.

    If she was a President, she'd be Babraham Lincoln. Great piece.
  • FoolyCoolyKid - June 23, 2011 10:34 a.m.

    It was 20 years ago today, that Sonic the hedgehog was released to play! He was going pretty fast with style, and in 90s children he raised a smile. So may I introduce to you, after 7 years of shitty games! Sonic the hedgehog's awesome secrets!!! Gotta love Beatle's parodies.
  • dcbernman - June 23, 2011 7:19 p.m.

    Oh man. The Sega chant was only the coolest thing ever back when I was 3. The first time my old babysitter's son uploaded Sonic 1 on his Genesis, and the chime came up, I KNEW something unbelievably magnificent was about to go down.
  • Sjoeki - June 23, 2011 3:40 p.m.

    He's catching a wave in that last picture but lost his board. Congrats Sonic, but I hope your adult years will be better for you (and us) then those akward teenage years, talk about the puberty from hell.
  • WTeen8 - June 23, 2011 2:47 p.m.

    We just got edjumacated. And the end sprite could possibly be for an animation where he engages the Boss fights...or maybe Sonic was supposed to be a power ranger. Great article.
  • nadrewod - June 23, 2011 2:04 p.m.

    I think that final animation frame would have been for rail grinding (which there is a lot of in Sonic 1 and 2). He is keeping his feet in line to keep them on the rail, holding his hands out in opposite directions to keep himself balanced (since the player only has control over his momentum and his height, AKA 2 dimensions, while it takes 3 dimensional control to accurately simulate grinding a rail), and staring down the track, trying to figure out the best time to crouch (and speed up), bunny hop (and avoid small obstacles), and jump off (to keep his momentum going when the Rail ends).
  • MikeMov89 - June 23, 2011 12:51 p.m.

    They should remake the game similar to the retro style of Megaman 9-10 In the form of a directors cut and incorporate everything that was originally cut from the game due to technical limitations. The sound test screen and missing enemies etc.
  • HardlyBirdman - June 23, 2011 12:35 p.m.

    Man, I can't imagine Sonic 1 without the SEEEEGGGGAAAAAAAA. 1/8th of the cart, though... either they had room to spare, or he REALLY knew that sound was iconic and had to have it in. Awesome feature.
  • KREATIVEassassin - June 23, 2011 12:18 p.m.

    Fantastic article. I love stuff like this. Very interesting stuff!

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