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Super-rare 1990 Sonic The Hedgehog prototype is missing

As you may have read in the incredible secrets of Sonic The Hedgehog's cutting room floor, there are some strange-looking screenshots of Sonic 1, showing what looks like a very early version of Green Hill Zone. As luck would have it, I had the chance to interview legendery former head of Sonic Team, Yuji Naka, and current head of Sonic Team, Takashi Iizuka, on Saturday at the Summer of Sonic event in London, so I showed them the pictures and asked him for clarity. The result is going to start a treasure hunt...  

Before I recount the conversation, take a look again at the pictures in question:


Above: The screens are slightly blurry, but the game within is clearly different compared to the final version

GR: We've seen some pictures on the internet, taken from old magazines, of pre-production versions of Sonic 1. Were these ever playable, or are they just mock-ups? Is this what the game looked like?

YN: Actually yes, these are authentic and it was something that was playable. In 1990 the team created a demo for a toy show. There was no TGS, so the major show to go to at the time was this toy show. So they used this as a playable demo to show what Sonic would be like and to show the breakneck speed that Sonic has. This actually has got seven layers of background scrolling – the trees one layer… a lot of effort went into creating it. I am looking for this ROM. It's gone. Nowhere to be found. These photos are very rare – I would like this photo.

GR: We can email it...

YN: And another thing to add to that is we worked really hard to find this software. It must exist somewhere, we created the build for it. When we created Sonic Mega Collection, we thought it would be a great addition to have – the original prototype that we used, the first one shown in the world, but it's just nowhere to be found and it's such a great shame that we can't find it. I'm really happy to see it because I haven't seen those pictures at all.

So there it is, folks. Somewhere out there, there's a 1990 prototype of Green Hill Zone with a different Sonic sprite and seven layers of scrolling. If you do find it, please show Naka-san. You'll make him very happy.


Above: (From left) Yuji Naka, Takashi Iizuka, their translator, my good self and Fran Shergold from Ready-Up.net, dressed as Ulala from Space Channel 5 (which I think Yuji Naka approved of)

Ready-Up also asked which videogame character Naka and Iizuka like most besides Sonic. Naka-san said he likes Eggman - saying we should not forget that it is his 20th birthday too (good point). Iizuka-san said he didn't make Sonic, but he did come up with Shadow the Hedgehog, so that's his favourite.

*Bell tolls in the distance*

The final revelation from the interview came when I asked why Sonic Team didn't make a Saturn Sonic game and what they thought of the cancelled Sonic X-Treme project...

GR: You were both working on NiGHTS on Saturn in 1995 on Saturn while Chris Senn was making Sonic X-Treme. I was wondering what you thought of Sonic X-Treme and why you didn't make a Saturn Sonic yourself?

YN: The reason why there wasn't a Sonic game on Saturn was really because we were concentrating on NiGHTS. We were also working on Sonic Adventure – that was originally intended to be out on Saturn, but because Sega as a company was bringing out a new piece of hardware – the Dreamcast – we resorted to switching it over to the Dreamcast, which was the newest hardware at the time. So that's why there wasn't a Sonic game on Saturn. With regards to X-Treme, I'm not really sure on the exact details of why it was cut short, but from looking at how it was going, it wasn't looking very good from my perspective. So I felt relief when I heard it was cancelled.


Above: The cancelled Sonic X-Treme. The name 'Chris Senn' seemed to mean nothing to Yuji Naka

It's pretty common knowledge that the 3D World section of Sonic Jam on Saturn was part of the experiment to see how Sonic would work in 3D. But the news that Sonic Team started work on a proper Saturn Sonic game? Mouth-watering. Let's hope he's mislaid the prototype for that one too...


Above: Time up... but Naka and Iizuka were still gracious enough to sign my copy of Christmas NiGHTS. Amaze

27 Jun, 2011

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13 comments

  • Ariaka - June 27, 2011 9:30 p.m.

    This frustrates me bad, but now I'm hopeful drx is on the lookout for the proto now. XD And I love my NiGHTs-- I even know where it and my Saturn are at this second. Maybe going to play some shortly... (The Wii game was actually pretty good. Not the best, but it was fun and might be worth a buy if you liked NiGHTs the first time.)
  • GR_JustinTowell - June 27, 2011 5:15 p.m.

    @EnigmaSpirit It is a good game, if you can get over the voice acting and dodgy control. NiGHTS on Saturn is a supremely controllable, smooth experience and just a perfect package overall. I always said, if the Wii game is half as good as the Saturn one, it will be great. As it is, it probably *is* half as good, which is still worth a look. But do try and hunt out the Saturn game if you can - or perhaps try the import PS2 remake of the original :)
  • KrEid - June 27, 2011 4:45 p.m.

    You've got my shirt on Towell! :3 Really a shame that the proto of the game is missing, would have been very fan pleasing for the 20th anniversary
  • EnigmaSpirit - June 27, 2011 4:25 p.m.

    Justin, is the Wii Nights game worth playing? I don't have a saturn to play the original unfortuanatly. And that must have been an awesome experience. Iizuka's face in your group shot is like in the transition to a smile.
  • Pytor - June 27, 2011 3:49 p.m.

    Justin, do you ever wish you were Princess Elise from Sonic the Hedgehog reboot just to get even closer to the blue blur? ;)
  • GR_JustinTowell - June 27, 2011 3:10 p.m.

    @FuzzyBee Yes! That too :P
  • GR_JustinTowell - June 27, 2011 3:08 p.m.

    @UncleMomo Actually, it was ironed! Travelling from Bath to London does that to a T-shirt. But you're right, it was chosen specifically for the occasion. It even says 'Since 1991'. @mothbanquet Not me, sorry! Maybe she'll post some? @Arucard04 Yes, it was incredible. I had about 20 questions ready to go, but the 20 minute shared slot and translator meant that I only got to ask a few. Ah well, at least the answers were good!
  • FuzzyBee - June 27, 2011 3:03 p.m.

    @UncleMomo If you had any idea how hot it was in that hall you'd understand why Justin's t-shirt wasn't in pristine condition!
  • UncleMomo - June 27, 2011 2:32 p.m.

    Justin surely when meeting one of your idols it is appropriate etiquette to have properly ironed the T-shirt you chose especially for the occassion!
  • mothbanquet - June 27, 2011 2:22 p.m.

    As much as the Sonic fan in me wants to ask deep-seated, meaningful questions about your once in a lifetime encounter with Naka-san, only one forces its way to the fore of my mind: Any more pics of Fran Shergold in that outfit? :D
  • Arucard04 - June 27, 2011 1:48 p.m.

    You seem to be a true fellow Sonic fan. That must have been incredible to meet these guys. And I'd love to get my hands on that prototype.
  • RareHero - June 27, 2011 7:31 p.m.

    Great find Justin. Hopefully somebody, somewhere has that prototype lying around, just like the Sonic X-Treme tech demo. To Sonic Retro!!
  • Robx - June 27, 2011 3:41 p.m.

    Did you comment him you did a speed run WHILE running? That should have given an additional minute. :D

Showing 1-13 of 13 comments

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