Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball/Development

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Back to: Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball.

Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball underwent several changes over the course of its development.


Peter Morawiec, Spinball's lead designer.

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 next logical step was to start work on Sonic the Hedgehog 3. However, delays in production meant it was unlikely to make a Christmas 1993 release date.[1] Wishing to capitalize 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 pursue other projects. Spinball was one such concept - devised entirely by STI with virtually no input from Sonic Team, it stands as the first entirely Western-produced Sonic game, and the first specifically designed with a Western audience in mind.

The third-party development studio 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 Polygames founders Lee Actor and Dennis Koble being hired as programmers to get the project out the door. Spinball was programmed in the C programming language, when the norm for Mega Drive games of the era was 68K assembly.[1]


Early concept art depicts the Veg-O-Fortress being used as a map screen.Media:Sonic Spinball game rounds concept art.jpg[2]

Sonic Spinball game rounds concept art.jpg

1. Underground Caves
2. Toxic Pools
3. Lava Powerhouse
4. The Machine
5. Eruption

The final game contains only four rounds, with Underground Caves and Toxic Pools being replaced by Toxic Caves, perhaps combining the two concepts. In the 8-bit version, the name Toxic Pools is retained. Meanwhile, Eruption was renamed Showdown in the 16-bit version and Final Showdown in the 8-bit version.

Music and sound

"Well, no one had told us about this, and we had used the original music. Howard, our music guy, quickly ran to his little room and started writing a new piece of music. At about midnight that night we released a NEW gold master version of the game, this time with our own original theme song."

— Artist Craig Stitt[3]

Sonic Retro emblem.svg Main article: Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (alternate music prototype)

Two versions of Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball are commonly available: an "earlier" ROM which features two short jingles previously used in Sonic the Hedgehog, and a "later" ROM which replaces the jingles with new songs. As the former jingles were not composed in-house at Sega, instead being created by Masato Nakamura of the Japanese pop band Dreams Come True, Sega did not hold the license to use the music in other games - something the developers Sega Technical Institute were unaware of. When Hirokazu Yasuhara revealed this fact during the game's official wrap party, STI's composer Howard Drossin was forced to compose last-minute replacements for the offending tracks.[3] This earlier ROM leaked onto the internet in late 1993, with the common belief that it was released in limited quanitites before being quickly pulled and replaced with a later revision. However, modern investigation has also revealed information which identifies the ROM as being a late prototype stolen from Sega of America's BBS servers and released by the scene group SNEAKERS.[4]


Sonic Pinball demonstration

The game's creation came about as a result of Sega of America's marketing department showing interest in utilizing Sonic 2's Casino Night Zone for a potential new Sonic project.[1] A short animated pitch, titled Sonic Pinball, was soon created by Sega Technical Institute's Peter Morawiec, Kurt Peterson, and Justin Chin. Recycling graphics from Sonic 2 (a common theme across the game), the demo features elements from what would become Toxic Caves, albeit with an entirely different set of graphics and music.

The demo was produced only 2-3 days before Winter CES 1993, with Peterson creating the game's art and Morawiec producing its programming.[1] Drawing inspiration from the popular Amiga game Pinball Dreams, the layout was designed to look like a real pinball table, and a MOD file from the Amiga demoscene was used as background music.[1] It is unknown if the video was actually shown at Winter CES 1993. However, a copy of the VHS tape was retained and eventually digitized, where it can now be easily found online.[5]

Summer CES 1993

Sonic Spinball was announced to the public under its new name at Summer CES 1993 in Chicago, with a teaser video playing on the show floor.[6] It was one of three games scheduled for release on "Sonic Mania Day" at some point in November, alongside Sonic the Hedgehog CD and the Game Gear version of Sonic Chaos. Prior to the event, Sega had listed a Sonic 3 on its release schedules, but were quick to point out that Spinball was not the game being referenced, and would ship with only an 8-megabit cartridge.[6]

While in a more recognizable state than Spinball's previous appearances, the video on display was not real gameplay footage. Sonic's animations boasted a notably-low framerate, and appearances from both Toxic Caves and Lava Powerhouse demonstrated a number of design and layout differences when compared to the final game.

¡Atencion! Mezcla Explosiva: Especial Eternal Champions

Sonic Spinball footage was included in the Spanish promotional VHS ¡Atencion! Mezcla Explosiva: Especial Eternal Champions.

Concept art


Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (16-bit)
Spinball title.png

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