Proto:Knuckles' Chaotix/Sonic Crackers

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Download.png Download Sonic Crackers (Prototype)
File: Sonic Crackers (Prototype).bin (1 MB) (info)
Crackers title.png

Sonic Crackers (referred to as Sonic Studium in the ROM header, and often identified incorrectly as Sonic the Hedgehog 4) is a very early prototype build of Knuckles' Chaotix, incorporating many of the elements that would appear in the final game. Its name comes from a peculiar ASCII-art title screen, which looks like it was thrown together in 5 minutes. Sonic Crackers is thought to be an engine test, composed of different game engines swapped out using RAM coding.

The game stars Sonic and Tails, held together by rings as seen in Chaotix. Sonic can also pick up Tails and throw him up to make it easier to reach higher platforms. The stages and music are also similar to those in Chaotix. There are no sound effects at all during gameplay. There are no badniks to be found, although there are spikes and you lose rings when hitting them (even though you have none).

Interestingly, the date on the lower right of the title screen reads "19940401", which led to much debate on if the title screen or ROM was an April Fool's joke. The discovery of the Chaotix prototypes, especially 1207, proved that this was not the case.

Also, when viewing the ROM through a hex editor, the date "JUL.1994" can be seen. This would suggest that a bit of work had been done since April 1.

Contents

Gameplay

There are four playable levels, which are accessible either by pressing Start on "1P START" on the title screen or by using the "SELECT" menu.

Attraction Levels

Standard sidescrolling levels similar to those seen in previous Sonic games. By pressing Start and using the D-Pad, you can move Sonic and Tails anywhere in the level (although Sonic and Tails' arms and Tails' tails become detached and stay at the original location until the game is resumed).

Starting Level and World 2 levels

An industrial-themed level thought to be an early version of Chaotix' Techno Tower. This is the only level with an obstacle which causes harm to the player (spikes), which makes this the most complete level of the prototype. The palette and music changes each time the level is entered, which indicates that time of day was already planned at this point complete with four different themes, themselves early versions of Chaotix songs (Walkin', Hyper-Hyper, Evening Star, and New Moon).

When the timer reaches 3 minutes, or when the top of the level is reached, the Game Over sound plays and a Field level is entered.

(Source: Sonic Retro)

World 1 level

A circus/carnival-themed level which, rather than having a definite end, loops. The collision detection is glitchy and makes the floor difficult to walk on when entering the normal way. The best way to play it is by entering it using the level select, which will make the ground solid (Tails seems to be able to walk on the ground without any trouble, though). The characters' arms and Tails' tails will glitch sometimes when they are on slopes.

The music of this level is an early version of Electoria, and Game Over activates after 1 minute. You cannot die from falling into a pit, and are simply stuck there unless you debug your way out.

(Source: Sonic Retro)

Worlds 3-7 and Premium 1-2

No work has been done on these. Trying to enter them shows the title card and plays the World 2 music for a few seconds before immediately giving you a Game Over and beginning a Field level.

(Source: Sonic Retro)

Field Levels

A pair of incomplete overhead field stages, commonly referred to as Special Stages even though they aren't (the "Special Stage" selection on the level select menu causes the ROM to crash). These levels are very incomplete and don't have any collision detection.

The music is an early version of Electoria. To exit these stages, simply pause and hit any button. The game will then load an attraction of the world it is on.

Unused Sprites

Artwork Name Description
File-Crackers-iso-ball-sonic.gif
File-Crackers-iso-ball-tails.gif
Field Jumping Sprites Jumping animations for Sonic and Tails in the Field levels. Unused because Sonic and Tails can't jump in the Field levels.
ImageSonicCrackershud.png HUD Objects Various HUD objects, including "Combi" and "Limits" (both of which remained through the final Chaotix). Given that Chaotix uses Limits for the Special Stage, the red objects on the right were most likely for Crackers' Special Stage (which is not actually present).

Sonic Studium?

For a long time, various people opened up the Crackers ROM in a hex editor and noticed one small detail: the ROM header says "Sonic Studium", as opposed to the "Sonic Crackers" on the title screen...so what does "Studium" mean? Is it a typo? Is it nonsensical? Is it a joke?

Actually, this was most likely a mere translation error. A common way things are mistranslated to and from Japanese is to use a romanization table letter-per-letter, which doesn't conform exactly to English or Japanese. Japanese has syllables with vowels after every consonant (barring a single letter "n"). As such, "Stadium" would become スタジアム, literally "Sutajiamu" (Japanese has no "di" syllable; "ji" is in its place), and this is where the error occurs: in Japanese, the vowel "a" is pronounced as in the English word "father". As such, スタジ would sound very much like the English word "stud".

Thus, the name is in fact Sonic Stadium. "Studium" is a translation error by someone who does not understand both English and Japanese well enough to ascertain the original word. Other examples include Amy (エミー, Emī) being referred to as "Emy" in the Sonic CD PC "OMAKE" directory, and Knuckles (ナックルズ, Nakkuruzu) as "Knack[les]" in the Sonic & Knuckles Collection "SONICSS\ICON" directory.

Interestingly, the translator knew to convert the "ji" back to "d" at least. The error would have been more apparent if the header said "Sonic Stujium". The translator most likely looked up both "stujium" and "studium" in a dictionary, where s/he would have learned that "studium" is in fact a word in Latin, meaning "zeal" (and as a result, the ROM header is "Sonic Zeal").

If this wasn't compelling enough evidence, an excerpt from the Sonic Mars script shows Sonic Stadium as a title under the "Future SEGA" products category, along with Sonic 3+. Chaotix prototype 1207 has unused graphics spelling out "Sonic Crackers S32X", indicating that the "official" name was changed around the time "Mars" became "Super 32X".

This translation error is also present in Pokémon Crystal in the form of an unused "Mobile Studium" menu option, which would have referred to a connection to a Pokémon Stadium game.

(Source: Sonic Retro)