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