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Tails' Skypatrol/Development

From Sonic Retro

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Tails' Skypatrol had gone through several changes over its development process. The following details several of these things.

Development process

Development of Tails' Skypatrol began as a game that was completely unrelated to the Sonic the Hedgehog series, developed by Japan System House. The first known version of the game was developed as a launch title for an unannounced game system with a monochrome LCD screen, a Z80 CPU, one background layer plus sprites, and two sound channels plus PCM. This system was intended to be a cheaper alternative to Nintendo's Game Boy, aimed at a younger audience with an educational focus. There was no development environment for the system, so game programmer Alice Kagamino (credited as Captain Alice) built the necessary tools, with boss programming handled by another programmer. Despite development of the game being completed however, the system it was developed for was cancelled before it could get a press release, and only those who were involved in the project knew the system even existed.

To recoup some of the costs of developing the game, the developers were asked if they could get the game running on the Sega Game Gear, which had similar technical specifications to the cancelled system. Kagamino started writing a translation API for the Game Gear hardware, and built an emulator to translate the monochrome data to Game Gear character data which took two weeks, though the graphics were still monochrome.

When JSH's business team approached Sega, the decision was made to make Miles "Tails" Prower the main character of the game, starting proper development of the Game Gear version. For the most part, the gameplay remained the same as the original game, but the world design was altered to better fit the Sonic universe. A different team handled the conversion as Kagamino was busy working on the Game Gear version of Ristar at the time. The team redrew the graphics, added demo scenes and the Training Area, and adjusted the game balance for the Game Gear hardware.

The original game was designed to fit within a 1-Megabit ROM, giving the developers trouble compressing the map data. The conversion to Tails' Skypatrol upgraded the amount of ROM space available to 4 Megabits, giving the developers more space to add things. There was enough space left over to leave the character data uncompressed.[1][2]

Connections to Disney

There are a few pieces of evidence suggesting that the original version of Tails' Skypatrol was going to use a Disney license rather than a Sonic the Hedgehog one. Prototype footage of the game shown in the April 1995 edition of Sega Video Magazine shows Tails fighting Disney cartoon villain Pete as the boss of the Ruin Wood Area, who was replaced with Bearenger in the final game. Two of the bosses in the final game, Focke-Wulf and Witchcart, resemble Disney villains the Big Bad Wolf and Mizrabel (the latter from Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse) respectively.

In response to a comment about the similarities to Disney characters on Twitter, programmer Alice Kagamino stated that they could not give out any specifics, but the enemy designs still have the same impression in the final game as they did in the original, back when Tails wasn't the main character.[3]

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