Sonic R is a 1997 racing game developed by Traveller’s Tales and published by SEGA, which was released on the SEGA Saturn. The title made its debut at E3 1997 and was later launched in November, 1997. On the road to reaching store shelves, the game observed a multitude of beta changes, big and small, from how it was outlined in the beginning.
The Conception of Sonic R
Sonic R was first envisioned by one of the fathers of Sonic, Yuji Naka. It was originally going to be made by Sonic Team itself, but when they became busy creating Sonic Jam, they hired Traveller’s Tales as an alternative. Naka’s place in the project was switched to a supervising role, which included helping determine the character roster. The decision to employ the help of TT was made after they were impressed by their previous works, such as the Toy Story video game.
The first working title of Sonic R was simply ‘Project: Sonic’.
One enduring rumour tells that it began as a Formula 1 game, later turned into a Sonic racing title, but this goes completely without corroboration from any reliable source.
E3 1997 Prototype
Its first unveiling was made by SEGA in the form of a teaser video at E3, showing off just over 30 seconds of very early prototype gameplay. According to one of the game’s programmers, Jon Burton, who was interviewed in the October 1997 issue of SEGA Saturn Magazine, work on Sonic R had begun in February of the same year; less than 4 months before the reveal. It was being worked on at the time by no more than six people: three artists and three programmers.
A playable demo of it was not present at E3 that year, and Burton explained that this was due to them having only started programming one track at that point, which was an incomplete Resort Island. The build showcased in the video impressed attendees, but in actuality, had “no AI for its opponents, limited animation and special effects”, according to Burton. The trailer in question states that it was approximately “20% complete” at the time.