Sonic Generations is a 3D action platforming game developed by Sonic Team and published by SEGA. The game was created to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the company’s famed mascot, Sonic The Hedgehog. It was released in late 2011 and observed a number of small changes on its road to launch.
‘Sonic Anniversary’ & The Cancelled Versions
As revealed by leaked correspondance between SEGA of America and Sony Corporation of America from September 2009, the original working title of the game was ‘Sonic Anniversary’. It is unclear exactly which stage of its development the title was at back then, but we can safely assume a very early one.
The next update on Sonic Anniversary came from Madrid’s Gamefest 2010, courtesy of Sonic news site, Sonic Paradise. As corroborated by Sonic Reikai, a SEGA representative reportedly let slip an abundance of information on the game to one of their reporters. Without the authorisation of SEGA, the rep. disclosed that it was to be a combination of 2D and 3D gameplay, and would be developed for Nintendo Wii, PSP, PS3 and DS. When asked whether or not it was planned to come to Xbox 360, the employee indicated that talks were still ongoing.
Eventually, the game was officially announced as Sonic Generations on April 18, 2011 for Xbox 360 and PS3. It is uncertain how far the Wii, PSP and DS versions progressed, but our sources suggest that they were cancelled not long into development.
Two Three Sonics, One Epic Adventure?
Partway through development, long before the game’s script had been finalised, Ryan Drummond was invited by SEGA to re-audition for his role as Sonic The Hedgehog. Previously, the voice actor had played the character in a number of games, like the Sonic Adventure titles, but was replaced by Jason Griffith in 2004’s Shadow The Hedgehog.
Due to a fundamental professional disagreement with the company, Drummond ended up turning down the opportunity. According to one of our sources, who was formerly of SEGA, the actor would have played a “third Sonic” who would have represented the Dreamcast era of the series.
At another stage, Sonic Team also considered the possibility of Classic Sonic having a speaking role in the game and consulted the staff at SEGA of America about it. Aaron Webber, the associate brand manager at SoA at the time, insisted that if the character were to speak, he would have to be voiced by Jaleel White.
White, who was responsible for portraying the mascot in all three of the Sonic animated shows (Sonic SatAM, Sonic Underground and The Adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog) from the 90’s, was never contacted about the opportunity, however. The idea was soon dropped early on in production and Classic Sonic was made to be mute.
Sonic’s Birthday Beta
Despite the project as a whole being made to commemorate the blue blur’s birthday, the precise date of the 20th anniversary was June 23, 2011. To mark the big day, SEGA began distributing a beta demo of Sonic Generations on Xbox Live and PSN. This build contained the very first stage, which was Green Hill Zone Act 1, wherein Classic Sonic is playable.
The layout of Classic Green Hill was ever so slightly different in the beta. At the section about midway through when you enter the cave, a buzz bomber present in the final game had not yet been added. Instead, there is a platform. Furthermore, breaking item monitors/boxes would leave a briefly a blue static effect on the screen.
There was also a different loading screen in this build, showing Sonic and Dr Eggman in their Sonic 2 sprite forms:
Modern Sonic Beta
Later in the year, a few weeks before launch, SEGA put out a second downloadable demo on October 18 2011, which was at first exclusively available to Xbox Live Gold subscribers. This second beta contained the second level from the game, which was Green Hill Zone Act 2, featuring Modern Sonic. It was lifted from a build first on show to attendees of E3 and Summer of Sonic in 2011.
Inexplicably, there is a difference between the voice clips used in the demo and the released game. Not only is Sonic’s voice clip for boosting different, he begins the level by saying “Ready? Go!”; similar to how he started each day stage in Sonic Unleashed off by announcing “Here we… go!”. This was later scrapped. It appears to have been an alteration that was implemented fairly late in development.
This assertion is supported by the fact that the clip itself still remains in the sound files programmed for every Modern Sonic stage in the game. Via modding, fans have been able to access these. As it turns out, Sonic Team simply muted the “Ready? Go!” voice clip instead of removing it. A number of hackers have been able to undo this change so the line can once again be heard within the game.
Like Act 1, there are some minor contrasts in the stage design, too. Towards the end of the level, Sonic must homing attack a chain of buzz bombers and extra spikes were present, also. A trick rainbow ring, which sends the player in the wrong direction later replaced these enemies.
Sonic’s blue aura effect, in this version, followed him whenever he uses his jump dash, stomp or homing attack moves; similar to how he did in Unleashed. Furthermore, the game is much more generous with the amount of boost power it allows the player when they use tricks in mid-air.
In some of the pre-release trailers SEGA used to promote the game, you can get a glimpse at a CGI cinematic which was never included in the final release. Whether or not this is a genuine unused cutscene that was dropped, as opposed to merely something created for promotional purposes remains unknown.
It can be seen towards the closing of the ‘Rivals and Bosses’ teaser and features Sonic and Tails confronting the Time Eater in Green Hill.
Thanks to The Neo Joy, Ivo Robotnik and Runaway for their contributions!