Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball/Development
From Sonic Retro
The successful release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, allowed the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, and Sega as a whole, to soar to new heights during 1993. The logical next step was to start work on Sonic the Hedgehog 3, however delays in production meant that it was unlikely to be released for Christmas 1993. Wishing to capitalise on the most profitable trading season of the year, a number of smaller Sonic the Hedgehog games were commissioned, among which became Sonic Spinball.
Sonic Team had moved to the United States to develop Sonic 2, with the project becoming a joint effort between the Japanese staff of the original game, and Sega Technical Institute. However, a decision was made to keep STI away from Sonic 3's development, leading the group to persue other projects. Spinball was one such concept - divised entirely by STI with virtually no input from Sonic Team, it stands as the first entirely Western-produced Sonic game designed with a Western audience in mind.
Polygames handled around 90% of the programming, while Sega Technical Institute members handled the graphics, design, and music. The game was produced in the span of nine months, with Lee Actor and Dennis Koble being hired as programmers to get the game out the door. Spinball was also programmed in the C programming language, when the norm for Mega Drive games of the era was 68K assembly.
Early sketches for the box art cover, with logos. Uses the early title of Sonic Pinball. Features an alternate design of Scorpius.
Early concept art depicts the Veg-O-Fortress as a "map" screen. Unlike the final game, it shows five rounds:
The final game contains only four rounds, with Underground Caves and Toxic Pools being replaced by Toxic Caves, perhaps combining the two round concepts. In the 8-bit version the Toxic Pools name is retained.
Sonic Pinball demonstration
Spinball's invention came as a result of Sega of America's marketing department drawing attention to Casino Night Zone of Sonic 2. A short animated sequence was then pitched by Peter Morawiec, Kurt Peterson and Justin Chin called "Sonic Pinball". Recycling graphics from Sonic 2 (a common theme across the game), the demo features elements from what would become Toxic Caves, albeit with a set of entirely different graphics and music.
The demo was produced in 2-3 days before Winter CES 1993, with Peterson offering the art and Morawiec doing the programming. Inspired by the Amiga game Pinball Dreams, the layout was designed to look like a real pinball table, and a MOD file from the Amiga demoscene was put in as music.
It is not known if the video was actually shown at the Winter CES show, however it can now be viewed in full here.
Summer CES 1993
Sonic Spinball was announced to the public at Summer CES 1993 in Chicago, with a video playing on the show floor. It was one of three games destined for release on "Sonic Mania Day" at some point in November, alongside Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Sega Mega-CD) and Sonic Chaos (Sega Game Gear). Prior to the event Sega had listed a Sonic 3 on its release schedules, but were quick to point out that Spinball wasn't this third Sonic game, shipping only on an 8-megabit cartridge.
While in a more recognisable state than above, the video on display at SCES was not of real gameplay footage. Low frame rate animations had Sonic bounce around Toxic Caves and Lava Powerhouse, with many differences in level design when compared to the final game.
A slightly different title screen, with "The Hedgehog" being positioned on the right hand side.
The introduction cutscene takes place in a different time of day. The mountain also isn't symetrical.
This platform doesn't exist in the final game, and all the lights are missing.
You can't stand on these slingshots in the final game.
You can't trigger this balancing animation either - it was changed in the final.
Aside from getting in the way, the platform doesn't seem to do much.
The slingshots in Lava Powerhouse can be stood on too.
Sonic Spinball footage was included in the Spanish promotional VHS ¡Atencion! Mezcla Explosiva: Especial Eternal Champions.
Curiously this scene from the end of Showdown is missing... Robotnik. Sonic just bounces aimlessly on some glass.
Music and versions
The familiar Sonic theme song on the title screen then had to be changed at the last minute as Hirokazu Yasuhara had pointed out Sega did not own the rights to the music. Thus multiple versions of Spinball wound up being released in the US.
There are two versions that were released in the US. The first version was accidentally released in limited quantities. This version has the classic Sonic title screen music and a different game over and chaos emerald collect song. The more common version has original music. The reason the music was changed was due to Dreams Come True owning the rights to the Title music and Sega was required to pay royalties to use it. Thus, the music composer Howard Drossin quickly composed new music as the game manufacturing process had just started. However, a small amount of carts containing the Dreams Come True music had already been manufactured.
The Japanese version was the same as the final US version but replaced the hee-haw sound when dying with a proper jingle.
The European version was also the same as the final US version, with some music changes. The Options screen music was sped up, the intro tune was extended, and the music of Lava Powerhouse was sped up and bug fixed to prevent the PSG from dying off after the music looped once. The Boss music was bug fixed to prevent the instruments from the stage's music playing before it looped. The hee-haw sound is slower.
- Interview: Peter Morawiec (2007-04-20) by Sega-16
- File:SegaPro UK 22.pdf, page 16
- File:MeanMachinesSega10UK.pdf, page 11
- File:SegaVisions US 14.pdf, page 32
- File:MeanMachinesSega10UK.pdf, page 10
- File:EGM US 049.pdf, page 139
- File:EGM US Supplement 051 SuperTour93.pdf, page 19
- File:Joypad FR 022.pdf, page 45
- https://www.sega-16.com/feature_page.php?id=234&title=Developer%27s%20Den:%20Sega%20Technical%20Institute (archived: 2011-04-30 22:10)
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