Sonic R

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Sonic r title.png
Sonic R
Publisher: Sega
System(s): Sega Saturn / PC
Genre: Racing

Sonic R (the R stands for racing) is a racing game made by Sega for the Sega Saturn and PC. It features characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog series. The game is characterized by the same sense of environmental openness in the Sonic platformers. It contains colorful 3D graphics combined with a strong soundtrack by Richard Jacques (including songs performed by British singer T.J. Davis).


There are several collectible rings across each of the five racetracks. Each ring regenerates after a short period of time. These rings can serve two purposes.

  • Stepping on a speed boost will consume all of a player's rings, to a maximum of 50, and boost the player ahead along a preset path. The boost is at a speed approximately three times the normal maximum speed of a character and lasts for a duration proportional to the number of rings deducted.
  • Using twenty or fifty rings will open one of many special doors. After being opened, the doors remain open for all players for the duration of the game. The number of rings required to open the door is displayed in the frame above it.

There are also inexhaustible emblem bonuses. Touching an emblem gives the racer one of multiple possible rewards, including a random number of rings and the water and lightning shields that appeared in Sonic the Hedgehog 3. The bubble shield allows the racer to walk on water once, after which it disappears. The lightning shield attracts rings to itself, but is eliminated upon touching water.

Aside from the main game, there are three special gameplay modes: reverse, in which racing occurs facing the opposite direction, break five balloons, and tag four players.


There are five racers in each race. The four "best" racers that have been activated are automatically selected as computer opponents if a secret character is chosen. If one of the default characters is chosen, then the opponents with be the other default racers.

Some racers can run on water for a limited period of time, and can "swim" in it indefinitely, at greatly reduced speed. In addition, each of the ten playable characters has a different speed and a unique set of abilities. Unlike most racing games, these abilities are designed such that certain characters, even among characters that are initially playable, have a clear edge over others. The four characters that are initially playable are Amy Rose, Tails, Knuckles, and Sonic. Below are the characters and their abilities, listed roughly from worst to best.

  • Amy Rose drives a car and can hover over water. However, she is extremely slow.
  • Eggman, who races in a eggpod, can do a short-range heat-seeking attack at a cost of 10 rings. The attack will eliminate the target's shield if it has one and slow it down if it does not. He is also particularly slow.
  • Tails can fly at a fixed level for an limited period of time.
  • Eggrobo is an improved version of its counterpart, but slow compared to other secret characters.
  • Knuckles can glide for an unlimited period of time, gradually losing height. He cannot latch onto or climb walls as in Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
  • Sonic is the fastest of the characters that are initially playable.
  • Tails Doll can hover on water. Additionally, he can hover indefinitely a certain distance above the ground or water.
  • Metal Knuckles is an improved version of its counterpart.
  • Metal Sonic is an improved version of its counterpart.
  • Super Sonic is the best racer, and also the hardest to unlock. He can double-jump and can run on water indefinitely, although at a reduced speed. By repeatedly jumping, it is possible to move across water at full speed. He is also the fastest racer.

Activating secret characters

Placing first on each of the first four racetracks activates the fifth. Placing first on the last racetrack activates Eggman. If a player collects all five coins on a racetrack and places first, second, or third, the player activates a race against a secret character unique to the racetrack. Defeating this secret character unlocks it. If a player collects a Chaos Emerald and places first in the race, the player keeps it. Collecting all seven Chaos Emeralds activates Super Sonic.


Differences between versions

The Saturn version of Sonic R does the game's signature fade-in is works differently. If the game is undergoing slowdown the fade-in will disappear, shortening the draw distance, in an attempt to keep the frame rate up. On the Saturn, polygons that are transparent do not have lighting applied. On the software rendered PC version, fade-in is fixed and can be changed in the options menu or in-game with the F1 and F2 keys. On the hardware rendered version, fade-in is displayed differently, calculated per pixel instead of per polygon. Also on the hardware rendered PC version, the lowest flat floor fades-in with the polygons. The Gems version has no fade-in.

There are two versions of track lighting in the different versions of Sonic R. The Saturn and software rendered versions use addition to calculate lighting. This allows for much more dramatic lighting and changing to color of a texture. (Blue light on red shows blue.) The hardware rendered PC version and Gems version uses multiplication for calculating lighting. (Blue light on red shows black.) Since the game's lighting was designed for additive lighting, the track appears subdued on the hardware rendered and Gems versions.

The appearance Radiant Emerald has changed greatly between versions. In the Saturn version, the track is transparent and has a transparent overlay to simulate multitexturing. The fade-in found throughout the game is disabled, so the end of the track pops into view. On the PC and Gems versions, fade-in works normally, but the track is no longer transparent and there is no overlay. Instead, the coloring of the track pulsates with bright colors. On the hardware rendered PC version and Gems versions, the track is dark and unlit in places, but coloring does change.

Backgrounds are different in the Saturn and PC/Gems versions. The Saturn version has a smaller background (mostly made from a tilemap) and is mirrored four times to wrap the screen. (Likely size of the background is 416*128.) One problems with this, for example, is that suns/moons appear twice. The PC and Gems versions use a 1664*128 bitmap for the entire background. The water for the Saturn version appears different, with light shading on the wave reflection of the background (a palette effect) and a faintly visible water surface. The software rendered PC version has ripples done that same way as the Saturn version, but is missing the visible water surface and wave shading. The hardware rendered PC version is missing the features that the software version misses, as well as having a different method of the background reflecting, being reduced to a slightly darkened, wobbling texture. The Gems version has water similar to the software rendered PC version.

Textures have changes between versions. The Saturn version uses 4-bit textures whereas the PC and Gems versions have 16-bit textures. Despite some tweaks, texture resolution is roughly the same. Some polygon models have changed, too. The changes on Knuckles are particularly noticeable between the Saturn and PC/Gems versions. Also, the software rendered PC version is the only version with texture alpha blending. (Per texel transparency, all other versions only do per polygon transparency.)

There are several other small tweaks. In some places collision detection has changed. (In the PC/Gems version, you can stand on the ropes in Reactive Factory; in the Saturn you cannot.) The controls are less responsive on the Saturn version. (There is a slight delay between when a button is push and when a character responds.) There are fewer categories in the time records. (PC/Gems records for each character, mode, and track combination, Saturn records for each track and mode. combination) The Saturn and Gems versions have ambient sound effects for torches, waterfalls, and seasides; the Gems version has volume issues (too loud) and is missing some of the sounds that the Saturn version has. Credits are different in the Saturn version. (No 3D characters.) The balloons in the balloon mode are blue in the Saturn version, while other versions have randomly colored balloons. Items have different probabilities of being received in the Saturn version; shields and speed shoes are far more common for racers in top positions. In the PC and Gems versions, races occur in random weather conditions, either normal, rainy, or snowy, unless the default settings are altered. Snowy weather freezes the water so that racers can run across it without sinking. The Saturn version supports two players in split screen, while other versions support four players. The PC version has a networked mode, but has synchronization problems.

Overall, the best version of Sonic R is the PC version in software rendering mode, with best feature selection and graphics.

Also Released On

Production Credits

Program Design & Implementation: Jon Burton (Traveller's Tales)
Head Artist: James Cunliffe (Traveller's Tales)
Lead Artist: David Burton (Traveller's Tales)
Game Design Director: Takashi Iizuka (Sega Enterprises Ltd.)
Map Design Director: Hirokazu Yasuhara (Sega of America Inc.)
Additional Artwork: Kazuyuki Hoshino (Sega Enterprises Ltd.)
Additional Artwork & Visual Advisor: Shigeru Okada (Sega Europe Limited)
Character Designer: Yuji Uekawa (Sega Enterprises Ltd.)
Music & Sound Producer: Richard Jacques (Sega Europe Limited)
Project Director: Kats Sato (Sega Europe Limited)
General Producer: Yuji Naka (Sega Enterprises Ltd.)

Traveller's Tales

Programmed By Jon Burton
Polygon Model Design and Implementation: Neil Allen, David Burton, James Cunliffe
Texture Map Design and Application: Neil Allen, James Cunliffe
Character Animations: David Burton
Artwotk: Bev Bush, Carleen Smith
Addtional Artwork: Leon Warren, Sean Maden, Jon Rashid, Will Thompson
Model and Animation Data Conversion: Andy Holdroyd
Terrain System Programming: John Hodskinson
Special Effects Programming: Jon Burton
Artificial Intelligence: Stephen Harding, Gary Vine
Texture Application Software: Andy Holdroyd
3D Engine And Porting: Steve Monks
Additional Programming: Stephen Harding, Gary Vine, John Hodskinson, Andy Holdroyd

Sega Enterprises Ltd.

General Producer: Yuji Naka
Producer: Tetsuo Shinyu
Director: Masamitsu Shiino
Game Design Director: Takashi Iizuka
Map Design Director: Hirokazu Yasuhara
Supervisor: Yuji Naka
Game Designer: Syun Nakamura
Game Advisors: Takao Miyoshi, Katsuhiro Hasegawa
Additional Artwork: Kazuyuki Hoshino
Additional Artwork & Visual Advisor: Shigeru Okada
Character Designers: Yuji Uekawa, Yoshutaki Miura
Graphic Advisors: Naoto Ohshima, Hiroshi Nishiyama
Sound Advisor: Naofumi Hataya
Music & Sound Effects: Richard Jacques
Vocals: T.J. Davis (courtesy of Freedom Management)
Engineered & Mixed By: Matt Howe Digital Editing By: Neil Tucker Recorded And Mixed At: SEGA DIGITAL STUDIO, Metropolis Studio
Product Manager: Toshinori Asai
Sega Europe Ltd. Director: Richard Lloyd
European Marketing Manager: Hitendra Maik
Assistant European Marketing Manager: Steve Wombwell
Locailzation: Roberto Parraga, Dave Thompson, Michael Wiessmuller
Packing And Software Manual(Japan): Kaoru Ichigozaki, Osamu Makazato, Hayato Takebayashi
Packing And Software Manual(America): France Tantiado
Packing And Software Manual(Europe): Paul Jeren
Special Thanks: Jin Shimazaki, Kazutoshi Miyake, Katsuhisa Sato, Scott Hawkins, Sonic Team

Sega Europe Limited

Sound Producer: Richard Jacques
Additional Artwork & Visual Advisor: Shigeru Okada
Music & Sound FX: Richard Jacques
Sound Programming: Thomas Szirtes
Vocals: T.J. Davis (courtesy of Freedom Management)
Engineered & Mixed By: Matt Howe
Digital Editing By: Neil Tucker
Recorded and Mixed: Metropolis Studios, Sega Digital Studio
Technical Support: Colin Carter, Ed Hollingshead, Tamer Tahsin, Thomas Szirtes, Elton Bird
Senior Product Manager: Kazutoshi Miyake
Operations Manager: Naoya Tsurumi
Product Manager & Public Relations: Mark Maslowicz
Lead Tester: Jason Cumberbatch
Assistant Lead Testers: Dave Thompson, Roberto Parraga
Special Thanks: Jo Bladen, Mark Hartley, Philippe Deleplace, Frederique Ayer, Stephane Petit, Jose Angel Sanchez, Begona Sanz, David Garcia, Hitoshi Okuno, Andreas Von Gliszczynski, Thorsten Moe, Tina Sakowsky, Richard Leadbetter, Paul Davies, Tom Guise, Ed Lomas, Daniel Jevons, Jose Aller

Sega of America Inc.

Map Design Director: Hirokazu Yasuhara
Project Coordinators: Jason Kuo, Dave Locke
Product Managers: Kristin McCloskey, Terese Russell
Lead Tester: Fernando Valderrama
Assistant Lead Tester: Jeff B. Junio
Testers: Don Carmichael, Michael Dobbins, Arnold Feener, Lloyd Kinoshita, Dennis Lee, Christopher Lucich, Tony Lynch, Marcus Montgomery, David Paniagua, Mark Paniagua, Steve Peck, Maurice Smith, Matt Underwood, Paulita Villatuya
Special Thanks: Scott Allen, Sandra Castagnola, Curtis Clarkson, Geraldine Dessimoz, Marcelyn Ditter, Sheri Hockaday, Michael S. Jablonn, Judy Nybo, Paul Sears, Seedy Lounge, Eric Smith, Dan Stevens, Bernard Stolar, Mark Subotnick, Shuji Utsumi, Mike Wallis

Physical Scans


United States



PC Version

United States



Sonic games for the following systems
Sega Saturn
 1996  Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island     1997  Sonic Jam | Sonic R    
 Unreleased  Sonic X-treme | Sonic Saturn