The greatest Sonic game we never got to play

A brilliant 3D Sonic game? On the Saturn? It very nearly happened. We talk to one of the designers of the one that got away

In March ’96, Sega CEO Nakayama Hayao visited STI to check up on Sonic Xtreme’s progress. By that point Alon and Senn’s work had made great progress and they had a few playable levels ready to proudly show off. This was going to be the meeting that really cemented Sonic X-treme’s place in Sega development history. Except that it didn’t. In fact in many ways, it was the beginning of the end.

Nakayama didn’t like what he saw at all. The reason for that? What he saw was old work on an old version of the game engine, developed by a team inexperienced with the level-editing tech. The ‘real’ version of the game made by Alon and Senn might well have convinced him, but he was taken away before the two were allowed to show him what they’d worked so hard on.

He did however, get a look at Chris Coffin’s separate engine for the boss battles. That he did like, and he immediately ordered that the entire game be reworked using it. Here we go again…

It was a crushing moment for both the team and the project. With Alon and Senn’s version of the game blown unceremoniously out of the water, Coffin’s team essentially had a whole game to make. The December release date loomed on the horizon like an ogre with a headache. And a club with a nail through it.

Realising that development had well and truly hit the final ‘all or nothing’ stage, Producer Mike Wallis took drastic action and requested that Sega’s honchos allow Coffin’s team to knuckle down and crunch through the game in isolation. He put his foot down and requested that no more company politics be allowed anywhere near Sonic X-treme. Perhaps fearing the very same ogre, Sega management agreed. The team virtually moved into the office and started working sixteen hours a day.


Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.
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