Known simply as “Sonic Saturn“, it was another project that was in development in 1995 / 1996 by Sega Technical Institute (STI) along with Sonic X-treme. This prototype was created by Peter Morawiec, the coder of the Sonic 2 special stages, with an interesting 3D Engine that was more “realistic” than the ones used in X-Treme. It seems that Yuji Naka did not like this proto and so the Sonic Saturn Engine was never used to develope a full Sonic game. STI tried to use the engine to create some Bonus Stages to add in the Saturn version of “Sonic 3D”, but for the lack of time they abandoned them in favour of a 3D version of Sonic 2’s special stage.
The first “discovery” of this prototype was in December 1998, after a discussion in a newsgroup, Simon Wai released, with great surprise of fans, a beta version of Sonic 2, which had easily been found on a chinese website. We say “rediscovered” because in reality the cartridge already existed for some time, and the same Wai had already played it in 1992.
Yuji Naka, questioned on the issue, said that possibly the beta was stolen in 1992 in New York, ending then in clandestine Asian markets. However, the community had finally got a prototype of Sonic 2, which would make things possible to show different versions, which appeared in magazines, TV programs, commercials publications, and events of various kinds.
The early prototypes of Sonic 2 were vastly different. The Simon Wai prototype in particular featured 2 Cut Zones, Hidden Palace and Wood Zone. Wood Zone is incomplete, and ends very shortly into the level, due to a platform that you can’t pass by. It also has only 1 act that’s actually playable, while Hidden Palace Zone is pretty complete, though you still can’t complete this stage. Hidden Palace is a underground Ruby cave type stage, featuring bright gemstones and jewels. Hidden Palace is the most complete of all the cut levels. Early on, it was suggested that sonic would warp here after collected all 7 chaos emeralds, but that idea was shot down. it was also thought that Hidden Palace was going to be Exclusive to Tails, as his 1-UP Monitor Sprite was used, but this was later revealed to be just a Tile Mix-up. Other Scraped Zones included Dust Hill Zone, a Desert Zone, Genocide/Cyber City, removed possibly due to the mis-translation of Cyber. Cyber City’s stage layout was re-used as Metropolis’s Act 3. We also have Rock Zone, which was a past version of Dust Hill Zone, created during Sonic 2’s period of development where a Time Traveling Feature was in place. The Time Traveling Feature would ultimately end up as Sonic CD, which was released a year later.
[spoiler /Clicca qui per la versione in Italiano/ /Nascondi la versione in Italiano/]La prima “riscoperta” del prototipo avvenne nel dicembre 1998, quando in seguito ad una discussione in un newsgroup Simon Wai rilasciò, con grande sorpresa degli appassionati, una versione beta di sonic 2, che aveva appena trovato facilmente in un sito cinese. Diciamo “riscoperta” perchè in realtà la cartuccia esisteva già da parecchio tempo, e lo stesso Wai ci aveva già giocato nel 1992.
Yuji Naka, interrogato sulla questione, ha affermato che probabilmente la beta è stata rubata nel 92 a New York, finendo poi nei mercati clandestini asiatici. Ad ogni modo, finalmente la comunità aveva a disposizione un prototipo di Sonic 2 che avrebbe permesso di fare un po’ di ordine nelle diverse versioni dimostrative, apparse in riviste, programmi tv, spot pubblicatori, eventi di vario genere.[/spoiler]
Sonic X-treme is an unreleased platform game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. It started as a project for a new Sonic game, developed by Sega Technical Institute (STI) for the Mega Drive / Genesis but soon moved to the Sega 32X (Sonic Mars) and eventually to the Sega Saturn. After many problems and a long hiatus of development hell, it was finally dropped in 1997.
X-treme for the Saturn was just the “final” project of a long list of Sonic prototypes, created to find the best way to develope a new 3D Sonic for the new SEGA console. The X-treme project can be seen as 2 different games in one as it was initially developed separately by two teams in parallel. The first team was in charge of developing the main game engine, while the second team was creating the separate “boss level” portions of the game that was suggested to use a different viewpoint from the main game.
From a code standpoint the boss engine and main game were basically two games developing at the same time that shared some global memory to remember game state and use a process called executable chaining to switch from the main game to boss levels and back. The boss level engine began to evolve into a game of its own using this new source of inspiration, trying to stay closer to its 2D roots by adopting a 3D but side-scrolling viewpoint.
There were four planned Zones: Jade Gully, Crystal Frost, Red Sands, and Galaxy Fortress. Sonic himself was to be equipped with a large set of new moves, including a spin slash, a ring throwing ability, and a downward dash.
In March 1996, Sega of Japan representatives went over to Sega Technical Institute’s headquarters to verify the game’s progress. They were unimpressed at the progress made on the main game engine, but they were impressed by the boss engine and they requested the entire game be reworked on that engine instead.
By then, the team was running short on manpower, and the project all had fallen on the Sonic Xtreme Project Team to finish it up before the Christmas deadline. Coffin, who had been overworking non-stop to get this project out, came down with pneumonia. Since Coffin was leading the technology end and creating the engine, the loss caused the project to be indefinitely delayed and the studio director informed management that the team could not continue and the game would not be released in time for Christmas.
The project was officially cancelled. Sega of America decided to discontinue the game and switched to an alternative project: Sonic 3D Blast. [info from Wikipedia]
A disc of a test engine of X-treme exists. A copy was sold at auction to an anonymous collector in September 2005, and a high-quality gameplay video was expected to be released by the end of the year. An animated GIF image of the gameplay was released to the community. The disk image was finally leaked in July 17, 2007.