Unused level furniture is understandable, but what about this guy? There was even one badnik (enemy) that has its sprite coded into the game, but never appears in it. Meet Splats the Rabbit:
Splats was even featured in promotional material, appearing as a toy, collectable card and in other promotional bumf. It's kinda sad to look at him now - he never got his chance to jump on Sonic's head. Aww.
Above: Come on, Tomy. Sonic & Knuckles was years later. Did no-one realise Splats wasn't in the games?
Still, Splats isn't the only badnik to almost make it into a Sonic game then fall at the final hurdle. The 8-bit version of Sonic 1 also has unused badnik sprites in its coding:
Above: Cute bat sprite is cute. But without a 'hanging' version, maybe it was too hard to trigger its presence
That's a bat just like the ones in Marble Zone on the 16-bit version. Two frames of animation are present, suggesting it was ready to go, but never used. This could be due to a very interesting theory put forward by a user on the Sega-16 forum which suggests the 8-bit version of the first Sonic game was initially supposed to be a straight port of the Mega Drive game's levels and themes.
The Master System version of Sonic 1 also has a mobile version of Newtron, which only appears in its static pose in the game. Green Hill Zone on Mega Drive/Genesis was full of these guys.
Above: Not present in the Game Gear version at all, and only present in the MS version's code. Shame!
The Sound Test screen - and Madonna
Finally, the strangest concept for Sonic 1 left on the cutting room floor was the idea of a Sonic band. This was supposed to work as a sound test screen and would feature a full band of characters (including Vector Crocodile who eventually got his shot at glory in Chaotix on 32X) and - incredibly - a human girl named 'Madonna'. Here she is:
Above: She looks kinda trashy. Plus, she's fantasising about kissing a hedgehog. Against his will. Hmmm...
There is some concept art for the band itself. But before you go thinking that it's ludicrous, just compare the concept art of Sonic singing with the end credits of 8-bit Sonic 1. Where Sonic has a microphone. There it is - the last scrap of the fabled sound test screen, now just an unexplained curio. It seemed strange in 1991, but now you know why.
Above: The 'Sonic band' concept for Sonic 1 (left) next to the actual end sequence for 8-bit Sonic 1 (right)
Vector may have got lucky, but Max the Monkey and Sharps the Chicken (ridiculous names, but no worse than 'Cream the Rabbit') didn't. Or did they? Could their designs have been used as badniks in Sonic 2?
Above: Sonic 2's Coconuts and Clucker look a lot like Max and Sharps from the scrapped sound test screen
Want to know what they did with all the space they saved by removing this ridiculous sound test screen? Yuji Naka heard a 'Sega' chant in an advertisement and decided it should go at the start of the game. This sound file alone takes up almost 1/8th of the memory in the entire cartridge. But with the sound test screen scrapped (and relegated to a text-only feature of the level select screen), the 'SAY-GERRR' chime could fit, and went down in history. As being freakin' awesome.
The death of Robotnik?
Ooh, controversial one, this. There are small sprites left in the game code that were most likely intended to feature in the end sequence. In both the 16-bit and 8-bit versions of Sonic, there is one final hit on Robotnik that seals Sonic's victory, but you never see him die (because he doesn't - he's back again a year later). But on Mega Drive at least, it appears that Robotnik's vehicle would have been escaping into the distance while malfunctioning, before possibly going up in smoke. But, as with the movies, you either get a death scene, or you get a sequel.
Above: Unused images still in the game's code that apparantly show Robotnik getting blown to smithereens
Sonic also seems to have an unused death sequence. Rumours suggest he's being hit by a shrink ray (or maybe a teleporter in the Scrap Brain Zone), but I think it's more likely this was an animation to show why you die if you touch the bottom of the screen. The existing 'face the camera and fall away' method does imply there's some deadly, unseen peril at the bottom of the screen, which looks odd. But the advantage of it is that it can be used anywhere without a specific background or crappy black screen. So that's probably why this was cut and replaced with the easier, stranger method.
Above: Shrunk? Or falling? Either way, this was dropped, perhaps due to increasing low res pixellation
And the rest...
This isn't even all of the unused content in Sonic the Hedgehog 1. There are loads of resources for fans who are interested in this sort of thing, all of which I used to research this feature. So do check out Sonic Retro, Sonic Stadium, Sonicology, tcrf and Sonic Secrets Group if you want to see more.
But the important thing to remember is that everything you've seen here was taken out to ensure that Sonic The Hedgehog was of the utmost quality - and the final cartridge version is the way it is because that's what Sonic Team wanted you to see. So go back, have another go on the real thing, and celebrate the fact that even 20 years on, Sonic 1 is still a magnificent videogame.
Oh, and try to work out what this animation frame was for. Snowboarding is incredibly unlikely.
23 Jun, 2011
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A teary-eyed examination written during Sonic's lowest point a few years ago