Sonic on the Saturn in 3D

I remember in the late 90s, one common feeling surrounding the Saturn was that it failed because Sega never put a 3D Sonic on there. N64 had Mario to prove what it could do, the Playstation had Crash (and eventually everything in the universe), what did the Saturn have? Also there as a feeling like Sega was “just holding out” or something. I'm starting to get why the magazines of the era felt that way, because there are actually 5 instances of 3D Sonic on Saturn!



**Christmas Nights**
You all know what Christmas Nights is - it was the free disc-based DLC-like that Sega sent out across the world for xmas 1996. It had several unique Nights levels and did different stuff depending on whether you played on xmas, new year's eve, april fool's, valentine's day, etc. I played through a bunch of this recently and time-based differences sure are nice! Anyway as you play through it you an unlock presents - and one of them allows you to run around the world as Sonic - you never turn into Nights, but you can run and jump as Sonic instead of Elliot or Clara. Sonic looks real weird here, but this was the first Sonic Team 3D sonic ever I guess?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40xQHxylN9U


**Sonic 3D blast**
Sonic is in 3D here in the special stages, which are similar to Sonic 2's special stages, but full 3D. I guess this was the first 3D sonic - and first playable sonic period - on the saturn, since this came out November 1996, a month before Christmas Nights? (The first game with sonic in it is Gale Racer I think... he's [a little plush](https://youtu.be/e-Cu-Jc2s-Y?t=239) dangling down from your rear view mirror)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgkqE00APNo


**Sonic R**
Obviously this is the big one - a full on 3D racing game for the Saturn, with Sonic and a bunch of his pals. This was Traveller's Tales again, but Hirokazu Yasuhara designed all the tracks and stuff. And there are a lot of neat hangout spaces in this game! Shame you can't spend time hanging out in them without losing. If you haven't seen the Gamehut videos about making Sonic R, you definitely should.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDJgeuoaSvQ


**Sonic Jam**
This is the one where Sonic runs around in a 3D world, completing minor challenges and unlocking game content, going to the movie theater, etc. It's kind of great I think! There's even a final quest and ending scene. I really think they could've pushed this a bit more and just made a proper game out of it.

https://youtu.be/pQWjT0fl72A?t=51


But yeah, when you put that all together, it's no wonder folks were frustrated. You had Sega and its associates constantly teasing this stuff. The Sonic 2 stages felt good and looked good. Sonic Jam and Nights had you roaming around in a 3D world, as did Sonic R, though you had a track to follow by and large. It feels like most of the elements were there, they just didn't pull the trigger. I guess there were two attempts made at STI, Sonic Saturn: https://www.unseen64.net/2009/04/20/sonic-saturn-saturn-prototype/
and Sonic Xtreme: https://www.unseen64.net/2008/04/10/sonic-xtreme-saturn/
both of which look pretty clueless (though I like that Xtreme tried something). And then there's the Sonic the Fighters characters in Fighters Megamix, though none of them are Sonic!

https://youtu.be/jUQZraVa4Uc?t=27

Ultimately for a console with "no 3D Sonic games" there was a lot of 3D Sonic on Saturn! In hindsight I now get why people were kind of upset about it.

Sonic R, more than anything, deserves a source code release. I‘d absolutely love for Mr. GameHut to make that possible, just so we can make a ton of improvements to the engine, i.e. remove rendering limits, add scripting and online play, the list goes on. I’ve always loved the base game (just gotta corner with both D-pad/analog AND shoulder buttons) and Yasuhara's excellent design work on it, but man is it content-deprived.

I 100% agree! It's a great shell of what could have been amazing.

Also, I've always been surprised that Fighters Megamix didn't have Sonic in it. That's a heck of a decision on Sega's part!

I‘m hoping to get Captain GameHut to do a retro postmortem at a future GDC… just requires convincing GDC that people would show up! That’d be a step, anyway.

A GDC panel about his works at TT would no doubt bring a crowd. There‘s a lot he could share that’s better fit for GDC than regular YouTube showcases.

@exodus#303 Wasn't aware of this one. Dig the Channelwood Zone

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I think the 90s were pretty obsessed with tree villages. probably had to do with people watching star wars and growing up? or something? but turok and highlander (jag cd) both had prominent channelwood-looking zones too.

Arcade only, but Sonic and Tails (and Takashi Iizuka?!) are buried in Fighting Vipers‘ data, so there’s that:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQY4g42pFlo

And shouts to XL2's [Sonic Z-Treme](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foMLX3Lz8fQ) for making the dream real and reigniting the Saturn homebrew scene. The Quake-like he's building now is really pushing the boundaries of the hardware, dude's nuts.

In the parallel universe where the Sonic X-Treme team was allowed to use the NiGHTS into Dreams engine and could complete their game, maybe we could've seen a decent halfway point between Sonic in X-mas NiGHTS and Sonic Jam.

As a kid, I was so thirsty for a 3D Sonic during the Saturn era, but thinking back on it now, the arcade speedrun-y NiGHTS with its beautifully surreal and minimalist story was much more enriching for my youth. I didn't experience Burning Rangers until way later when I was in college, but that too would've been pretty satisfying.

I didn't appreciate BR enough - it has a charming scifi but grounded future setting, plus the NiGHTS-style gameplay loop but using the tech from the grounded segments with Claris/Elliot, but also now with a gun to shoot fires. It's a good game dev evolution of NiGHTS both in technology and world building, and I can totally see how they went from a small game like NiGHTS to BR and eventually to huge, expansive titles like Sonic Adventure and ultimately, Sonic Team's pièce de résistance, Phantasy Star Online.

Anyway, that's my meandering thoughts. If Sonic the Fighters came out for the Saturn, I would've been 100000% satisfied without having a "real" 3d Sonic game though.

Sonic the Fighter is so good and charming and the perfect game for that time. I mean, if VF Kids did well enough in that era, why not Sonic the Fighters????? But the Saturn probably couldn't run it that smoothly without the full engineering genius of AM2 behind it to port it, and they were too busy working on VF3 and ultimately Shenmue, which locked all the talent and brainpower of Sega and then bankrupted them, but that's a whole other thread.

ah, perhaps there was a plan at some point. but they got bean and that dog character in there!

I'm definitely looking forward to that z-treme stuff!

@Personasama#360 I also enjoy how Burning Rangers kinda fits into the 1980s-90s Sega house anime style, next to Zillion and Phantasy Star and so on, making it all feel somehow connected.

@Personasama#360 They were gonna do it! I don‘t feel like digging right now but there’s definitely a blurb on a page of Sega Saturn Magazine where they claimed a Sonic the Fighters port was in production.

One announced-but-abandoned Saturn port project from SEGA among others, sadly. I still doubt we'll ever see anything from the Virtua Fighter 3 project for Saturn, for instance.

Sonic the Fighters now guest stars at yearly MAGFest arcade floors, and I take some time to enjoy it with a friend or bystander whenever possible. But, with all the current pandemic horrors keeping us inside, even Sonic the Fighters could end up more of a console game than an arcade experience.

I'm also strongly in that “NiGHTS and Burning Rangers really did it for me” camp. When I look back on my fondness for Sonic Team back then I think a lot of it came from the way Sega promoted Sonic Team and Yuji Naka in particular, there were so many interviews and behind-the-scenes looks, it may have been the first time I realized that people made these games, and I think I was as interested in what those people did as I was in any specific game. NiGHTS was one thing but Burning Rangers felt especially idiosyncratic, and it was amazing to see Sonic Team branching out to something less mascoty even though I wanted a new Sonic game quite desperately. Both NiGHTS and BR are so obviously made by the same people and share certain Sonicky Qualities, I feel like I got what I wanted.

NiGHTS has a massive place in my heart in general, since it‘s how I met my wife. Burning Rangers was one of those titles that I always heard about but didn’t play properly until the Saturn had long come and gone.

A pretty big portion of the library for Saturn had that feel of something shown but never fully delivered on. There is a whole bunch of games with a feel all their own that never got fully polished or expanded on, and I think I like it best that way.

I missed out on Saturn for years until I went back and found one and a handful of games - I wonder if a proper Sonic title on it would have made me pick it up earlier…

BTW I should probably mention I have this - it's a pre-release sonic jam with changes to the 3D bit :o (mostly missing stuff).

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Gonna dump it eventually

@exodus#401 oh wow, please do! I love seeing slightly different builds of games and checking out the differences. I still have my Shadow of the Colossus demo disc, since it has an interesting mechanic that's not in the final full game.

Man I didn‘t know any of that stuff about Christmas Nights! And I just played it last December. It looks pretty tedious playing as Sonic, and yet also weirdly similar to Death Stranding, which I’ve now put like 80 hours into.

I feel like a fragment of Burning Rangers lived on in Gun Valkyrie, if you call that livin'.

They should've made a sequel and named it “hyper burning rangers wow”

That's a game where I had to get the Japanese version as well, just so I could get all the bonus material, single cd, etc. Like Last Bronx, which I don't super love, but which Sega really tried to make a thing, at least in Japan. They've got all that bonus material in the Japanese release! A whole bonus disc too.

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1861/2927/products/IMG_20191231_153312_1090x@2x.jpg

How many Bronxes did there use to be?