- Not to be confused with Sonic the Hedgehog Extreme or the LCD game Sonic the Hedgehog Extreme Boarding.
Chris Senn (director)
Sonic X-treme is an unreleased platform game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series series. It was originally developed by Sega for the Mega Drive/Genesis but was moved to the Sega 32X and eventually to the Sega Saturn and intended to be released around Christmas of 1996, but after many problems it was finally cancelled in 1997. Had it been finished, it would have been the first fully 3D Sonic game and the first original Sonic title developed for the Sega Saturn. This was the second Sonic game to be cancelled on the Sega Saturn, the other being Sonic Saturn.
Multiple storylines were considered during the game's production. The "final" storyline involved the new character Professor Gazebo Boobowski and his daughter, Tiara, who are the keepers of the six magical Rings of Order, as well as the ancient art of Rings. Gazebo and Tiara fear that Dr. Robotnik is after the six Rings of Order, and call on Sonic to get the Rings before Robotnik can. Other storylines considered for the game included Sonic contacting Robotnik's "Doom" virus and being forced to find a cure for them both, Robotnik sidetracking Sonic during his attempted date with Tiara, the construction of a planet-size Death Egg, a virtual world, and the shattering of the Master Emerald and the unleashing the deadly six "ChaosDoom."
Artwork of Tiara and her father have been released by the game's director Chris Senn along with various other details based on the game.
To further the traditional Sonic "go-anywhere-or-run-through" formula, every level was designed in a tube-like fashion; Sonic would be able to walk onto walls, thus changing the direction of gravity and the rotation of the level itself, much like the special stages in Knuckles' Chaotix. In addition, a fish-eye lens-styled camera was put into place so players could see more of their surroundings at any given time.
It is now known that at one point in the development process, there was a possibility for four playable characters. The characters planned were Knuckles the Echidna, Tiara Boobowski, Miles "Tails" Prower and Sonic the Hedgehog. Each character would also have had a unique gameplay style. Knuckles and Tiara would have had traditional-style play, having top-down and side-scrolling views respectively. Sonic had the fish-eye style levels, and Tails would play in first-person flight mode.
There were eight planned Zones: Jade Gully Zone (as pictured above), Crysal Frost Zone, Red Sands Zone, Galaxy Fortress Zone, Metal Blade, Death Egg Zone and Blue Ocean (became a test level). Sonic himself was to be equipped with a large set of new moves, including a spin slash, a ring throwing ability (early at development), a ring powered shield, a sonic boom attack and a power ball. The spin slash move would have been cut out of the final version of the game due to being too similar to the spin dash move to attack.
Other characters intended to be included in the game were Fang the Sniper and Metal Sonic, who would have been bosses in the final game and whose design and programming was actually finished by the time Sonic X-treme was cancelled.
Sonic X-treme was originally intended to be developed for several other game systems prior to the Sega Saturn. In its earliest conception, the game was set to be released on the Sega Genesis and later on the 32X, under the name Sonic Mars (based on the codename for the 32X, Sega Mars). However, it was quickly decided that the game would require much more powerful hardware to cope with the new engine, and for commercial reasons, the release of a Sonic game on the new Sega Saturn console was a necessity.
Sonic X-treme was eventually cancelled because of many internal problems. The game was being developed by Sega Technical Institute (STI), a U.S.-based developer that had worked on games such as Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic Spinball and Comix Zone.
Game designer Chris Coffin was hired by Sega and tasked with creating the separate boss level portions of the game that was suggested to use a different viewpoint from the main game. Ofer Alon and Chris Senn continued their work on the main game in parallel with Coffin's Sonic X-treme boss engine. Coffin developed all boss engine work on the Sonic Mars hardware prototype initially before it was decided that Sega needed to make a Sonic game for the Sega Saturn.
For the boss level engine, several modes such as top-down and side scrolling views were prototyped to create a more interesting view of the boss battle areas while still using the pre-rendered Sonic sprite assets used in the main game engine developed by Ofer. Ofer continued developing the main game editor tools and engine code on the Mac and PC. Development picked up again and it seemed the game's deadline for release would be met after all. 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 engine never used the NiGHTS engine, and never saw any code, tools or assistance from Sonic Team. Even one of AM1's own arcade teams from Japan that was transplanted to the offices of STI and developed Dynamite Deka (known as Die Hard Arcade) was not privileged with any such knowledge or special support. Teams had to pretty much fend for themselves, which was evidenced by almost nonexistent third-party tools and support network for Saturn at that time. A few months into Coffin's involvement in Sonic X-treme, the studio director Roger Hector showed Coffin a playable pre-release level of NiGHTS. Coffin fell in love with the game's look and feel of NiGHTS for Sonic X-treme's boss levels, which may be why Yuji Naka himself threatened to quit Sega several months later because he assumed the Sonic X-treme team had been given access to his game's source code and art; this was not the case (Naka is very well known to have had an extreme passion toward NiGHTS, one time claiming that one of the game endings had induced tears in his eyes). 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 seen in games like Klonoa, Pandemonium, and NiGHTS, which was more fluid and lent itself to the fast moving gameplay of previous Sonic titles. The new boss engine gameplay prototype adopted a more pastel color scheme and organic flow of the inspirational NiGHTS game, and this caused some divided opinions amongst team members that felt originality was being sacrificed.
Some time after the game was changed to the Saturn platform, Ofer Alon was taken off the project, and Chris Senn left with him. According to Senn, STI management viewed Alon as a maverick who did not follow company politics and did little to direct the other programmers. Point of View was recruited to continue technical development of the game. In an attempt to demonstrate to Ofer and Senn the reason for the drastic action, technical director Robert Morgan showed them a demo created by Point of View. Senn recalled, "They showed us the Sonic sprite we were already using floating in the upper-right of the screen, a checkerboard ground, a rotating shaded polygonal shape floating in the air and maybe a ring sprite animating. For all that we had created, to throw all that away for such nonsense. Amazing." After seeing this, Alon and Senn separated from POV & continued developing Sonic X-treme as a PC game. As known from the last leak of Sonic X-treme, POV made their own engine, with a completely different source code.
Sega of Japan meddled once again, as representatives came over to check on the game's progress. They were disappointed by the progress on the main game engine, as POV showed them a broken effort to port an older version of the engine (which is known now as v40), but were so impressed by the boss engine that they requested the entire game be made on that instead, as "Project Condor". By now the team was running short on men, and as Point of View had not gotten much farther than their initial demo, it all had fallen on the Sonic Xtreme Project Team to finish it up before the Christmas deadline so as to go up against both Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot alongside NiGHTS. A major change in this project is replacing the pre-rendered Sonic sprite with a 3D model. Coffin, who had been working nonstop 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 Mike Wallis 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 both the Saturn and PC versions and switched to an alternative project: a Saturn port of Sonic 3D Blast.
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 on 17 July 2007. This prototype is actually Sonic X-treme early in it's conversion to Project Condor. An exclusive feature in this prototypes (and all other versions of Chris Coffin's boss engine) were blue crystals that throw you to the sky when touched. This prototype is often called "the 718 prototype", since "SONIC J.G 7.18" was written on its disk (which imply that the prototype was made in 18 July 1996). The music played in the prototype is "Quartz Quadrant Good Future" from the japanese version of Sonic CD.
In early January 2006, the game's director Chris Senn opened a forum based on the game on his own message board, and began revealing large amounts of the game's development history to the public, including videos of early attempts, a playable Tiara, concept art of Tiara, and more. Furthermore, he posted a large amount of previously unreleased concept music related to the title, and was given permission by Hirokazu Yasuhara (the level designer for the majority of the original 16-bit Sonic titles, including the first one) to post level designs that were going to be put in the game. Most of this information was posted on the Sonic X-treme Compendium website (SXC), which officially went online 5 April 2006.
In 2009, a big package called PackageX was released. The package included textures and levels from Sonic X-treme, along with a level viewer to see and explore the levels in an unplayable format. There were two exclusive characters in this package: Chaz and Gabby, but Chris Senn confirmed they were used as test art in a personal side project that was using Sonic X-treme's engine .
In November 2014, a member from ASSEMbler Games called "Jollyroger" found two prototypes, along with their levels that were used in the E3 trailer, both made by Chris Senn and Ofer Alon. The first one, v37, doesn't have fisheye and was played on the PC, while the second one is a both a PC game and a Saturn ISO that has fisheye. The Saturn version of v40 is POV's broken effort to port an older engine of the game, and has only 2 frames of animation, unlike the PC version. Jollyroger also found their level ediors as well. The prototypes require a nVidia NV1 video card & SDK & Windows 95 to work, so Jollyroger is converting them to render in OpenGL. Meanwhile, only one level of build v37 was released. The level is the Jade Gully level from the E3 trailer. Another level that was released, is a fisheye-lens level from v40. An exclusive feature in these betas is that Sonic could do an infinite jump, maybe for debugging the level. Jollyroger also has the level editor for v53 (the New Worlds Demo version), but not the engine itself. Another prototype that was found is POV's version, which uses a completely different source code.
Senn later started Project S, an effort to complete the game unofficially. However, he later stated that it will be an original fan game heavily inspired by Sonic X-treme, rather than a straight resumption of the unfinished project. On 12 January 2010, Senn announced that Project S was cancelled.
"Many people worked very hard throughout the project’s three-year and three-month life cycle. Making any product is extremely difficult, and Project S was no exception. Working for free and online with a wide range of experience, skillsets, availability and dedication just didn’t work out for the team responsible for Project S. The hope is that the successes the team earned along the way are complemented by lessons learned that, unfortunately, led to our collective inability to reach a public release." At one point, there was an article on the gaming site GameSpot referring to a possible release of a "Project S" for the PSP; however, the released game turned out to be Sonic Rivals.
- Sonic X-treme's level editor is called "SonicBOOM."
- The 1996 Christmas television special Sonic Christmas Blast was originally titled An X-Tremely Sonic Christmas, apparently with the intention of promoting Sonic X-Treme. The delay of X-Treme forced the special to be given a new title similar to Sonic 3D Blast, which came out on time.
- If this game was released, it would've been Fang the Sniper's second 3D appearance, the first being Sonic the Fighters.
- Some models from Project Condor (Sonic X-treme rebuilt with the boss engine) are leaked in the Sega Saturn SDK, these models are: A Green Hill Zone Ground model (basically it's the same model from the 718 prototype with a different texture), the Sonic model from Project Condor & the 3D model for Metal Sonic that was used in the boss battle.
- In the 718 prototype, there are two easter eggs: The first one is if you disable some layers, you can actually see the ground texture from the Metal Sonic boss battle from Metal Blade. The second one is that if you pause the game and press a button, you get a game over screen, and then, the game resets. The game over screen uses the game over theme from the japanese version of Sonic CD. An ice cream bar was made to promote the game, but was discontinued due to its cancellation. However, it was later released in normal Sonic the Hedgehog packaging.
- Despite the fact Sonic X-treme was cancelled, many elements were later carried over to other games such as Sonic Adventure, Sonic Colors, and most noticeably Sonic Lost World which reuses some gameplay mechanics from Sonic X-treme, as well as the level structures looking quite similar to each other.
- ↑ http://www.senntient.com/ubb/Forum13/HTML/000013.html
- ↑ http://www.senntient.com/cgi-local/forumdisplay.cgi?action=topics&forum=Xtreme&number=13