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Nerding Out #1 - Sonic the Hedgehog 1


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Hey guys,

So I figured I'd spice things up a bit around here by periodically posting uncommonly known facts/art about old video games that we loved to play as kids. None of this information's hard to find if you know its there, but I'm willing to bet a lot of people here haven't seen most of this before. Today I'm going to do one of my favorite video games ever made, Sonic the Hedgehog.

First off, you have concept art. What did Sonic look like before they came up with Sonic?

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A bulldog. He wears sunglasses too.

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An ultra patriotic wolf. I don't think that one would've had much international appeal. You need to remember too that even though Sonic was a Japanese game, it was developed heavily with an American audience in mind. SEGA was trying to come up with a counter to Mario, whose brand image at the time was unreal.

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I'm sure this guy looks familiar to you all. We can only hope that some day SEGA brings back those pink pajamas.

Another character design that was scrapped was a rabbit that would grab objects with its ears and throw them. Sonic Team took that idea and later on created Ristar. This is the only image we have of the rabbit character.

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SEGA went through a whole lot of random animal concepts actually. Take a look at this gem.

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I don't know what this is supposed to be but it definitely makes me smile.

Eventually Sonic Team (I don't recall what their name was at the time, sorry) came up with the idea of designing a game that would cater to the Genesis' hardware. They wanted a fast paced game, and to achieve that they had to create a character who would be able to move from obstacle to obstacle without stopping. They came up with the idea of a character that could roll into a ball and "hop" from one obstacle to the next. Unfortunately you have a pretty limited pool of creatures that can roll up into a ball. Hedgehog was a fairly elegant solution to this dilemma.

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I wish I could find it but I'm at a loss as to where I saved the image. At one point Japan had created a really feral looking hedgehog that apparently really appealed to Japanese audiences, but when SEGA of Japan sent the character design overseas to SEGA of America, SEGA of America redesigned the whole thing to market it better to American children of the time period. SEGA of Japan didn't really care for the redesign but used it anyway since they needed Sonic to be an international success and making it big in the American market was a top priority for them. You can see a lot of similarities between the Werehog from Sonic Unleashed and the old Sonic design, it almost makes me wonder if SEGA was going through old concept art when they came up with it.

Now then, onto levels.

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Here we have a picture of Green Hill Zone, showing Sonic running on a ball that resembles the weapon Robotnik uses at the end of Act 3.

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And here we see a Welcome sign as Sonic starts what's presumably Act 1

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Sonic punching the air. Also notice the ring counter says RING and not RINGS like it does in the final version of the game. This would've made a pretty cool ending animation, I honestly don't know why they cut it out, except for maybe they couldn't figure out how to work it in with the emerald portal at the end of the levels.

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A city in the background. No idea what this was supposed to be. It looks like its a mockup and not an actual screencap though

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And if there's anything that's kind of well known about the Sonic 1 Prototype, its these UFOs on Marble Zone. Very strange.

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Notice that the pink enemy usually doesn't show up until Spring Yard Zone. It looks like they might've been set for Marble Zone at the beginning. Apparently if you turn on Debug Mode on the final game you can place these things though, so who knows.

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Flying tiles. This is just kind of bizarre. I can't think of a reason why they'd be there except for testing purposes. There'd be no reason to have a floating path two feet above the ground when it doesn't seem to lead anywhere special.

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Welcome to Spring Yard Zone! Err... Sparkling Zone. I'm glad they renamed this one, that's kind of lame.

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A Good Luck sign. Apparently it sparkled red. Sonic Team you're so clever.

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Labyrinth Zone with a black background. The background art literally wasn't done yet so they just plastered a black background above water...

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...and a blue background under water. As you can see Sonic's palette doesn't change either, he stays the same color above and under water.

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And now we have a background, but its a different one. Rocky and barren looking.

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This is the only image I've got for Star Light Zone. This area's nowhere to be found in the final game, and to be honest its not very interesting anyway.

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Clock (W)ork Zone. In the final its Scrap Brain Zone. I can't remember the technical reason as to why the W isn't rendered, but it had something to do with a speed trick. Sonic used a bunch of speed hacks to get it running fullspeed on the Genesis hardware. Programmers in the 90s were brilliant, seriously. We're so wasteful now compared to how they were back then when it comes to managing resources.

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Prototype Stage Select. Notice the Final Zone doesn't exist yet, and there are X's by Star Light Zone and Clock Work Act 3. You can also see a PRESS START BUTTON which apparently isn't there in the final, I need to go pull out my Genesis sometime and check.

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At one point Sonic wore goggles when you opened up a powerup box. Nobody knows exactly what they were for but hackers were able to recreate the sprite.


And those are most of the highlights for Sonic 1. I might be slightly off on some of the SEGA history, if anybody happens to know a lot on this subject and would like to correct me please feel free to do so. If you enjoyed reading this and want to see more (On this game and other Sonic games!) then check out Sonic Retro. They have pretty much everything you'd ever want to know about the blue hedgehog, and then some. If you were hoping to play a prototype of Sonic 1, then sorry to disappoint you, but it doesn't exist. Nobody's been able to find a copy of it to dump online yet, but I'm sure everyone's hoping it will happen eventually so we can find out a lot more cool information about how the first Sonic game came to be.

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For my term paper in Sociology II I wrote a pretty in-depth essay about the tragic history of Duke Nukem: Forever, and how it ripped out our hearts with its vaporware lies again and again, only to come back strong and unexpected. The end thesis was basically saying that without vaporware to make fun of, the gaming community will grow restless with current titles, and chaos will ensue. I only pray that Starcraft: Ghost and Huxley are postponed for a little longer, at least until more empty promises are made. Nailed it. I was definitely inspired to write that while reading this topic for some reason.

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