After 15 years of wandering around the video game prototype rabbit hole, Hidden Palace finally found the prototype for Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) and streamed it on Twitch for all the world to see on New Year’s Eve.
Hidden Palace, a gaming community founded in 2005 with the goal of searching for video game development material and preserving it for future generations, wrote on its website that of all the prototypes it found, from Sonic 3 to even Crash Bandicoot, the prototype for Sonic 1 eluded searchers since the site’s inception. That is, until an entity named Buckaroo generously presented it in all its glory.
Among the differences shown in the prototype, as shown in the Twitch stream, no one chants “SEGAAA!” when the Sega logo appears, a rolling ball resembling Eggman’s wrecking ball appears to almost run Sonic over at the beginning of Green Hill Zone Act 1, UFO’s hover in the background of Marble Zone, no bosses appeared after Green Hill Zone, Spring Yard Zone and Scrap Brain Zone had their original names Sparkling Zone and Clock Work Zone, respectively, and Labyrinth Zone had no water, rendering all three acts incomplete (which probably made Sonic happy as he detests water). Another few interesting beta features are that extra lives can be received after grabbing 50 Rings, and Sonic jumps up with an excitable fist pump after reaching the goal post.
While most game prototypes are shown to the public in the form of kiosk demos or discovered some time after the release of the finished product, the prototype for Sonic 1 was thought to be lost forever because the former employee of the magazine that received the preview cartridge of the game in 1991 discarded it by the time Hidden Palace got into contact with them.
With the 30th anniversary of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise upon us, it’s amazing to see the hard work of a group of game archivists pay off with their discovery of the Sonic 1 prototype, and showing the fruit of their labor to Sonic fans around the world. Just as NASA continues to uncover more mysteries behind the origins of our universe, Hidden Palace and hackers within the Sonic community will dive into the Sonic 1 prototype to uncover more mechanics that were not present in the final game and present their findings to future generations of gamers and Sonic fans.
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