Sonic R

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Sonic r title.png
Sonic R
SonicR Win icon.png
Publisher: Sega
System(s): Sega Saturn, Windows PC
Save file size: 2.16 KB (PC)
Genre: Racing
Release Date RRP Code Rating
Sega Saturn
1997-11-18[1] $49.99[2] 81800
Sega Saturn
1997-12-11 £44.99[3] MK81800-50
Sega Saturn
1997-12-04 ¥5,800 GS-9170
Sega Saturn
1997  ? 191306
Windows PC
1998-11-11  ? 85076
Windows PC
US (Expert)
?  ? ?
Windows PC
1998-11  ? ?
Windows PC
EU (Xplosiv)
?  ? ?
Windows PC
EU (Xplosiv)
?  ? XP-1263
Windows PC
1998-12-11 ¥7,800 (¥8,190) HCJ-0144
Windows PC
AU (Valusoft)
2005  ? THQ70475

Sonic R (ソニックR) is a Sonic the Hedgehog-themed 3D racing game. It was developed by Traveller's Tales under guidance from Sonic Team, and published by Sega for the Sega Saturn and later Windows PCs.


Sonic R is a racing game played from a third-person perspective, where players take control of one of ten Sonic characters racing around one of five courses against up to four other players. While never released in arcades, it is structured similarly to Sega arcade racers such as Daytona USA and Sega Rally Championship, however also includes (limited) platforming segments, power-ups and hazards.

Keeping in the tradition of earlier Sonic games, rings are scattered across each of the five courses, which in this game regenerate over a period of time. However, while in previous games rings act as hit-points to protect Sonic from damage, in Sonic R they are used as currency; either to use on "accelerators" (which will consume all of a the characters' rings (up to a maximum of 50) in exchange for a short, computer-controlled period where the player moves roughly three times as fast), or to open doors (which typically require 20 or 50 rings) to access new areas of the map.

While some characters can attack other players, all obstacles in the game serve only to slow characters down, rather than eliminate them from the race. This includes water, which in this game causes certain characters to continue the race off-camera, rather than drowning them after an alotted time. Racers will also merely "bump" off each other if a collision occurs, and rings cannot be lost in the same manner as earlier Sonic titles (i.e. they do not scatter everywhere when hit).

Secondary to racing computer (or human) opponents in Sonic R, the player can find and collect chaos emeralds (usually hidden behind doors), in-turn unlocking Super Sonic when all seven are collected. Each track also houses five Sonic tokens, which if collected allows the player to challenge the computer (as one of the unlockable characters) in a head-to-head race, where winning unlocks the opponent character. The player needs to finish in first place for any of these conditions to count, and has only three laps to collect the required enough rings/tokens/emeralds.

Also featured throughout the levels are floating "Item Panels", which if touched awward the player with one of multiple possible rewards, including multiples of rings and water and lightning shields (which first appeared in Sonic the Hedgehog 3). The water shield allows the racer to walk on water (until he/se reaches dry land once more), while the lightning attracts rings, disappearing of the player touches water. Item Panels do not disappear, but there is a pause between rewards.

Aside from the main game, there are three special gameplay modes: reverse, in which racing occurs facing the opposite direction, breaking five balloons scattered around the stage, or tagging the other four players in the quickest possible time.

The soundtrack by Sonic R was presented by Richard Jacques, with songs performed by British singer TJ Davis. The vocals can be switched off in the options menu.

Playable characters

Sonic R features ten racers, six of which are unlockable:

SonicR Sonic.png Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog is the fastest of the four initially available characters, but is the most difficult to control. He can spin dash and double jump.
SonicR Tails.png Miles "Tails" Prower
Miles "Tails" Prower is a slower version of Sonic with his trademark flying ability, allowing him to fly at a fixed level for a short period of time. The technique is not very useful in Sonic R, as the tracks generally lack any sort of "verticality" to them, and paths are usually enclosed by invisible walls.
SonicR Knuckles.png Knuckles the Echidna
Knuckles the Echidna fills the role as the all-round character, with average speed and handling. Knuckles can spin dash, and while he can still glide, is robbed of the ability to latch onto walls and climb up them (though there is never any need to do so).
SonicR Amy.png Amy Rose
Amy Rose is the slowest of the playable characters and drives a car which can hover over water. 10 rings allows her to boost for a short period.
SonicR Eggman.png Dr. Eggman/Dr. Robotnik
Dr. Eggman (Dr. Robotnik in the West) appears as an opponent from the start, however is only made playable after finishing first in Radiant Emerald. Driving an Eggmobile, Eggman can hover over water and fire a short-range head-seeking missile at other racers at the cost of 10 rings. The missile temporarily slows down its target or removes the person's shield, but is otherwise harmless.
SonicR MetalSonic.png Metal Sonic
Metal Sonic has a higher single jump than the rest of the characters, and can temporarily hover over water while travelling at faster speeds. The character is unlocked by collecting the five Sonic tokens in Resort Island, then beating him in a race.
SonicR TailsDoll.png Tails Doll
Tails Doll, unique to Sonic R is the only character that can travel over water without decreasing speed. It can also float slightly higher for a short period of time without losing momentum. The character is unlocked by collecting the five Sonic tokens in Radical City, then beating him in a race.
SonicR MetalKnuckles.png Metal Knuckles
Metal Knuckles is a faster variant of Metal Sonic with the ability to glide. The character is unlocked by collecting the five Sonic tokens in Regal Ruin, then beating him in a race.
SonicR Eggrobo.png Eggman Robo
Eggman Robo, first seen in Sonic & Knuckles, behaves similarly to Eggman, though is easier to control and slightly faster. The character is unlocked by collecting the five Sonic tokens in Reactive Factory, then beating him in a race.
SonicR SuperSonic.png Super Sonic
Super Sonic is unlocked by collecting all the chaos emeralds and pressing Up while hovering over Sonic on the character selection screen. As is usually the case in Sonic games, Super Sonic is the fastest character in Sonic R, though the increase in speed (and jump height) makes him more difficult to control. Super Sonic shares all of Sonic's abilities, but can now hover over water.

While arguably many of the characters have pros and cons, differences in handling and special moves are often negligable, and the majority of the action involves travelling forward on the ground. This means the initial five characters, from fastest to slowest, are Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, Eggman, Amy, while the unlockables rank as Super Sonic, Metal Knuckles, Metal Sonic, Eggman Robo, Tails Doll. The computer does not always follow the numbers - Knuckles is usually faster than Sonic when it is in charge.


During normal play, the computer controls four AI characters for the player to race against. Due to the passive nature of the game, most act as glorified pacemakers, rarely interacting with the player and following a predictable path along the course. In most cases, the computer selects the four "best" unlocked characters and never varies its choices - that is to say, as soon as one (non-Robotnik) character is unlocked, Amy Rose will never be chosen by the computer to race again, as when controlled by the computer, she is the slowest character in the game.

The computer follows all the same rules as human players, so will collect rings, run through emblems and make use of doors and accelerators (if doing so offers a shortcut). Computer-controlled Robotnik or Eggman Robo will fire at opponents which are close by, but will not actively hunt down other players. The computer also has no interest in collecting emeralds or tokens.

The AI opponents only ever run (or drive/float) around a track - they do not jump, use Amy's speed boost or capitalise on certain characters' ability to hover over water. With the exception of Radiant Emerald, large sections of the track are ignored by the computer, either due to the routes being longer, or presumed difficulties in overcoming certain obstacles. The stage designs coupled with smart-enough pathfinding means that the computer is unlikely to get stuck unless forced into a corner by a human player, but as its strategy never changes, the player has a huge advantage over the computer in most cases.

Computer characters move at an almost constant speed, hard-coded for each character which does not vary significantly between races. As the computer does not appear to be affected by character handling differences, this usually means it is easy to predict which order the computer characters will finish a race in. Sonic, for example, will always beat Amy in a race regardless of the chosen track, unless the player interferes in some way. While slight variations in the computer's racing lines could give Amy an advantage (i.e. she collects more rings to use), the length of the track and the time taken to collect these rings usually means that by lap three, each character has an unassailable lead over the next.

While the specifics are not understood, computer players do appear to "learn" better routes as the game progresses. One of the more obvious examples is the loop in Resort Island - when first playing the game, the computer will use the loop, but later will discover that it is quicker to avoid it on the right-hand side. Many (sometimes obvious) shortcuts are never taken by the computer, however.

When playing as Super Sonic in Radiant Emerald with all characters unlocked, Metal Sonic, Tails Doll, Metal Knuckles and Eggman Robo will travel faster through the stage and become more competitive as a result.


Sonic R was designed with the Sega Saturn in mind, but was subsequently brought to Windows PCs a year later. The PC version exists in two forms; one which uses software rendering (i.e. graphics are handled by the CPU), and another which uses hardware rendering, taking advantage of 3D accelerator cards which were becoming more commonplace at the time. The version of Sonic R which appears in Sonic Gems Collection is derived from this hardware-accelerated PC conversion.

On the Saturn, Sonic R uses the console's VDP2 graphics processor to render an infinite, textured plane which acts as the "floor" of each stage (save for Radiant Emerald). 3D polygons are then positioned on-top by VDP1, though to maintain a steady frame rate, the draw distance for these polygons is very short. To partially overcome this, Sonic R uses "fogging" techniques, rendering polygons which are further away with more transparency. 2D backgrounds then help to give the illusion that more of the scene is being drawn than what actually is.

While the software-rendered PC version attempts to emulate these Saturn quirks, 3D accelerators were designed differently, meaning that here, everything is a polygon, and fogging therefore applies to the entire scene. The hardware-rendered PC applies this effect to each individual pixel, leading to a less "choppy" effect than on Sega's console, where it is applied per polygon.

Draw distance is also configurable on the PC, and defaults to further away than on the Saturn (meaning more of the scene is rendered at any one time). It can be adjusted in the software-rendered PC version in real time by pressing the F1 and F2 keys. In Sonic Gems Collection, draw distance is not an issue, with the entire stage being rendered at once.

While the core content remains the same across all versions, the PC version introduces random weather conditions (either normal, rainy, or snowy) which can affect play. It is also able to operate at higher resolutions and frame rates than is possible on the Saturn.

Sonic R was also designed with "additive" lighting (blue light on red shows blue), meaning light sources dramatically change the colour of textures during play. In the hardware-rendered PC version, multiplication is used for the lighting calculations (blue light on red shows black) instead, creating more subdued tracks.

In the Saturn version, the Radiant Emerald track is rendered with semi-transparent polygons, and uses a transparent overlay to simulate multi-texturing. This technique comes at the expense of the fogging effect (meaning the track suffers from more abrupt polygon "pop-in". The PC and Gems versions opt instead for solid polygons and textures which pulsate with bright colors.

Backgrounds in the Saturn version use smaller textures, mirrored four times to wrap the screen (and in so doing, causing suns/moons to appear twice). The PC and Gems versions eliminate this problem by using 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 Gems Collection version animates water in a similar way. The hardware rendered PC version is missing the features that the software version misses, as well as the background reflecting by a slightly darkened, wobbling texture.

The Saturn version uses 4-bit textures whereas the PC and Gems versions have 24-bit textures, though despite these tweaks, texture resolution is roughly the same. Polygon counts for player models were increased for the PC port (Knuckles being one of the most noticeable imprvements), though tracks were left unchanged. The software rendered PC version is also the only version with texture alpha blending (per texel transparency, with all other versions using per polygon transparency).

Collision differs slightly between the Saturn and later versions, such as ropes in Reactive Factory which are solid in the original game. Items also have different probabilities of being received in the Saturn version; shields and speed shoes are far more common for racers in top positions. All non-Saturn versions support up to four player races, versus just two.

In addition to all of this, the PC version makes a number of graphical changes, often as a result of supporting higher screen resolutions. The balloons in the balloon mode are blue in the Saturn version, while other versions have randomly colored balloons. Audio is generally worse on the PC, however - sound effects are often played in lower quality, and instrumental tunes are mysteriously truncated in the PC version. The Saturn and Gems versions have ambient sound effects for torches, waterfalls, and seasides; these are missing in the PC version, and are played too loudly in the Gems Collection port.

Credits are different in the Saturn version in that there are no 3D characters.

Saving Data

The Sega Saturn version of the game makes use of the Saturn's internal battery back-up as well as the Sega Saturn Back-Up Ram Cart to save progress and unlockable content.

Sonic R Save Data
Name Comment File Size

Miscellaneous trivia

  • By loading the Saturn or PC CD of Sonic R in a standalone audio CD player or a media player on a computer, one may listen to the soundtrack of the game, which is also fully tagged if the players supports CD-Text.
  • (However…) Some copies of the PC version released by Expert Software (ActiVision Value) are missing the CD audio tracks, most likely due to a (very) sloppy mastering job. Hence, the game will not play music.
  • As there were many versions of Sonic R produced for the PC, there have been many accounts of bugs which can spoil the experience for the player. One such bug brings up an error message when the user makes an attempt to play the game. The game is still playable by forcing the computer to execute the program over and over again. Moreover, the bug can be fixed permanently with a single text edit(?).


Sonic Retro emblem.svg Main article: Sonic R/Manuals


Promotional Material

Also Released On



Sonic Retro emblem.svg Main article: Game Development:Sonic R



Production credits

Saturn version

  • Program Design & Implementation: Jon Burton (Travellers Tales)
  • Head Artist: James Cunliffe (Travellers Tales)
  • Lead Artist: Dave Burton (Travellers 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)
  • General Producer: Yuji Naka (Sega Enterprises Ltd.)
Travellers Tales
  • Programmed by: Jon Burton
  • Polygon Model Design and Implementation: Neil Allen, Dave Burton, James Cunliffe
  • Texture Map Design and Application: Neil Allen, James Cunliffe
  • Character Animations: Dave Burton
  • 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
  • Additional Programming: Stephen Harding, Gary Vine, John Hodskinson, Andy Holdroyd
  • Development Director: Jon Burton
  • Special Thanks: Helen Burton and Helen Gavin
Sega Enterprises Ltd.
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, Phiippe Deleplace, Frederique Ayer, Stephanie 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 Junio
  • Special Thanks: Scott Allen, Sandy Castagnola, Curtis Clarkson, Geraldine Dessimoz, Marci Ditter, Sheri Hockaday, Michael Jablonn, Judy Nybo, Paul Sears, Seedy Lounge, Eric Smith, Dan Stevens, Bernie Stolar, Mark Subotnick, Shuji Utsumi, Mike Wallis

Sega Enterprises, Ltd.

PC version

Traveller's Tales
  • Program design and implementation: Jon Burton
  • Head artist: James Cunliffe
  • Lead artist: Dave Burton
Traveller's Tales
  • Polygon model design and implementation: Neil Allen, Dave Burton, James Cunliffe
  • Texture map design and application: Neil Allen, James Cunliffe
  • Character animations: Dave Burton
  • Artwork: Bev Bush, Carleen Smith
  • Additional artwork: Leon Warren, Sean Maden, Jon Rashid, Will Thompson
  • Model and animation data conversion: Andy Holdroyd
  • Terrain system programming: John Hodskinson
  • Artificial intelligence: Stephen Harding, Gary Vine
  • Texture application software: Andy Holdroyd
  • 3D Engine and Porting: Steve Monks
  • Additional programming: Andy Holdroyd, John Hodskinson, Stephen Harding, Gary Vine, Neil Harding
Sega Enterprises Ltd.

Physical scans

Saturn version

Sega Saturn
87 Sonic Retro Average
Based on 4 reviews
Publication Score Source
Computer and Video Games 80 №193, p72/73/74/75/76
edge 80 №53, p100
gamesmaster 90 №64, p32/33/34
saturnpower 96 №9, p68/69/70/71/72/73
Saturn, US
Sonic R Saturn US Cover Back.jpgSonic R Saturn US Cover Front.jpg
Sonicr sat us cd.jpg
Sonic R Sega Saturn US Manual.pdf
Saturn, EU
Saturn, AU
Saturn, JP
Sonicr sat jp back cover.jpgSonicr-box-jp.jpg
Sonicr jp cd.jpg
SonicR Sat JP manual.pdf
Sonicr sat jp nfs disc.jpg
"Not for sale" disc
Saturn, BR
Sonic R sat tectoy back.jpgNospine.pngSonic R sat tectoy.jpg
Sonicr sat us cd.jpg
SonicR Sat BR manual.pdf

PC Version

SonicR PC US Box Top.jpg
SonicR PC US Box Back.jpgSonicR PC US Box SpineL.jpgSonicR PC US Box Front.jpgSonicR PC US Box SpineR.jpg
SonicR PC US Box Bottom.jpg
SonicR PC US Disc.jpg
SonicR PC US SonicGems manual.pdf
Sonicr pc us spinecard.jpgSonicR PC US SonicGems manual.pdf
Jewel Case
PC, US (Expert Software)
SonicR PC US Box Back Expert.jpgNospine.pngSonicR PC US Box Front Expert.jpg
Sonic R Expert Disc.jpg
Sonic R Expert Cover.jpg
Jewel Case
SonicR PC EU Box Back.jpgNospine.pngSonicR PC EU Box Front.jpg
SonicR PC EU Disc.jpg
SonicR PC EU Box Back JewelCase.jpgSonicR PC EU Box Front JewelCase.jpg
Jewel Case
Sonic R JP Cover.jpg
PC, JP (Ultra 2000)
SonicR PC JP Box Front Ultra2000.jpg
PC, AU (Valusoft)
SonicR PC AU Box Valusoft.jpg
SonicR PC AU Disc.jpg
PC, UK (Xplosiv)
Sonic R Xplosiv EU disc.jpg
PC, UK (Xplosiv; alt)
SonicR PC UK Box Xplosiv Alt.jpg
PC, UK (Xplosiv; alt 2)
SonicR PC UK Box Xplosiv Alt2.jpg
SonicR PC UK Disc Xplosiv Alt2.jpg
PC, UK (Xplosiv; alt 3)
SonicR PC EU Box Xplosiv2.jpg
SonicR PC EU Disc Xplosiv2.jpg
PC, UK (Grabit)
SonicR PC UK Box GrabIt.jpg
SonicR PC UK Disc GrabIt.jpg
PC, FR (Xplosiv)

PC, DE (Hammer Preis)
SonicR PC DE Box Front HammerPreis.jpg
PC, DE (Xplosiv)

PC, DE (Xplosiv; alt)

PC, DE (Green Pepper)
SonicR PC DE Box GreenPepper.jpg

PC, ES (Xplosiv)
SonicR PC ES Box Xplosiv.jpg
PC, PT (Power Games)
SonicR PC PT Box PowerGames.jpg
PC, PT (Top Games)
Sonic R PC PT Box TopGames.jpg
PC, DK/SE/NO/FI (PC Best Buy)
SonicR PC DK-SE-NO-FI Box PCBestBuy.jpg
SonicR PC DK-SE-NO-FI Disc PCBestBuy.jpg
PC, HR/SI/YU (Game Zone)
SonicR PC HR-SI-YU Box GameZone.jpg

SonicR PC BR manual.pdf

External links


Sonic R
Sonic r title.png

Main page

Promotional material
Magazine articles

Hidden content

Sonic games for the following systems
Sega Saturn
 1996  Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island     1997  Sonic Jam | Sonic R    
 Unreleased  Sonic X-treme | Sonic Saturn
Windows PC
 1996  Sonic the Hedgehog CD | Sonic the Hedgehog The Screen Saver | Sonic's Schoolhouse     1997  Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island | Sonic R     2003  Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut     2004  Sonic Heroes     2006  Sonic Riders     2010  Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing     2011  Sonic Generations     2013  Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed