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

The next fleeting ray of light for the team came in April of that year. When Bernie Stolar, Sega of America’s CEO asked Wallis what he could provide for the team to make life easier, Wallis said he wanted access to the game engine that Yuji “Good luck” Naka had created for NiGHTS. Getting hold of the technology would give the team the tools they just didn’t have time to develop by themselves, and inject the project with a much-needed shot of hope. And in an uncharacteristic stroke of good-fortune for the project, Stolar managed to deliver. In an ironic twist of fate, it looked like Naka himself might actually provide the very luck that he had wished the team.

Of course, by this point you’re probably expecting something to go wrong, and you’d be entirely right to. Two weeks after delivery of the engine, it turned out that Naka hadn’t been consulted. He protested at his work being given to STI and as a result the NiGHTS technology was withdrawn. The team was back to square one. Or rather it was back to square one minus fourteen days.

By May, things were shambolic. Moral was low, the team had a staggeringly high turnover rate, and the events of the preceding couple of years had seriously taken their toll on the project.

According to Senn, “It was about as bad as I’ve seen. The politics that led to Kosaka-san’s departure. Allowing a newbie wanna-be designer like me to fill a veteran like Michael Kosaka’s shoes without guidance and direction. Going through three lead programmers in the first year and a half of production, each time restarting the technology. A divide between people’s ideas about what the game should be. Egos. Inexperience. Poor communication, bad politics… all of these things contributed to the inevitable demise of the project.”

By that point most of the development tasks had fallen to Chris Coffin. Still holding an unstoppable drive to keep the game in production, he moved a bed into the office and worked constantly throughout the summer.


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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