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

Unused enemies

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 RetroSonic StadiumSonicologytcrf 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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Hoping (in vain) that Sonic Unleashed was going to be like this



The greatest Sonic game we never got to play
A brilliant Sonic game? On Saturn? It nearly happened



The rise, fall and deafening crash of Sonic the Hedgehog
A teary-eyed examination written during Sonic's lowest point a few years ago 

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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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