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

So just why did the team keep ploughing on despite the accelerated spiralling of the game’s apocalyptic problems? Purely and simply, it was belief in what they were making.

“It wasn’t so much that I’d invested so much already”, says Senn. “It’s that I truly loved the game we were trying to make. Sure, it had changed directions, team members, platforms and so on, but I still loved what we were trying to do. When I was using Ofer’s editor at its peak, the editor he’d worked so hard on, that we’d discussed day in, day out for so long…To have my hands on the fruits of all our labor and pain… my imagination was able to merely begin to explore what we could do. It had taken a long time to get to that point, and unfortunately, due to all of the circumstances, what we had was just too late.

“I plodded along until the project was cancelled, which probably saved my life. I spent three years recovering; one year to regain all the weight I’d lost, and two years to heal physiologicaly. That game rocked my heart, soul, mind and body to the core in every way. But as the saying goes, 'That which does not kill us makes us stronger'. Great learning experience on so many levels!”

Above: One of the many Sonic X-treme fan tributes on the 'net

With the game now essentially disowned by Sega in favour of such luminaries as Sonic Adventure and Shadow The Hedgehog, it’s tragically unlikely that we’ll ever see anything from the company that follows the model laid down by X-treme’s development team. There is however, always hope in the internet, and several fan remakes of the game have already been produced to varying degrees of effectiveness. Thebiggest source of potential right now comesin the form of Project S, a fan community initiative set up at Chris Senn’sown forum. It’s dedicated to the eventual production of a complete, non-commercial game based on X-treme, but we’ll have to wait and see.

And finally, having worked on the best Sonic game never made and very narrowly missed out on making the series great in 3D, what advice has Senn got for today’s Sonic Team?

“I would say the same thing to anyone – make a game that’s about quality, not quantity. Some people seem to think that a game has to have more things and characters and moves and levels and so on. I don’t agree. I think players want to feel immersed in a world that is consistent, with rules they can learn and understand, with risks and rewards that make them feel good; that make them feel like they are learning and getting better at something.

“Relating this to Sonic directly, I would want to make a game simply about him – maybe about a time in his life that’s never been covered. Set him up with a dilemma he ends up facing and let the player choose how they want to play, all as an umbrella for the classic foundation of polished, tight gameplay the original 2D games offered – but in 3D.”

We couldn’t agree more sir. We couldn’t agree more.

Chris Senn is now based in Los Angeles where he runsSenntient, his own multimedia production company dedicated to the creation of "strange and charming entertainment".

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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