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Prerelease:Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis)/Concepts & Ideas

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This is a sub-page of Prerelease:Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis).

This article is a work in progress.
...Well, all the articles here are, in a way. But this one moreso, and the article may contain incomplete information and editor's notes.
To do:

Creating Sonic

To do:
What is that concept next to the jester? Another mascot concept, or something else?

Before the release of the Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega wanted to make sure that their new console would sell as well as the NES. To do so, Sega held a competition throughout all of its branches to create a character that would end up replacing Alex Kidd as the mascot of the company. Many ideas were created for it, such as:

A wolf wearing an American flag T-shirt. A warrior. A jester.
Scrapped mascot.png
A bulldog with shades. A chick with a cap and overalls. A pink bunny with punk clothing, as seen in the "Origins of Sonic" video on the Blu-Ray of Sonic the Hedgehog (2020).
To do:
Just like the filename here says, the "pajama-wearing man based on Theodore Roosvelt" became Dr. Robotnik/Eggman. How should this be stated? There's a lot of ways to state it, but no clue on which way is the right way.

Eventually, it came down to four designs created by Naoto Ōshima, who had previously worked on the Phantasy Star series:

Trust Bustin' Teddy needs some rest after breaking apart monopolies.
Imagine if Sega had chose the bottom-left design...
Ristar's fursona
Feels like he wants to sell me lightbulbs.
A pajama-wearing man based on Theodore Roosevelt. A hedgehog character called "Mr. Hedgehog". A grey rabbit who could throw things with his ears. A man, likely based on Bart Simpson and Mario.

In addition, there was an armadillo character drawn by Ōshima, but no concept art has surfaced of this design.

Hairy the Hedgehog?

It was decided that the hedgehog character was the best of the lot, and was redesigned into Sonic the Hedgehog. Some of the other designs were reused later: the pajama-wearing character became the basis for Dr. Eggman/Robotnik's design, while the rabbit's ability to throw things would later be used in Ristar.

Additional Characters

Lady Madonna, children at your feet...

Early in development, several ideas for Sonic the Hedgehog were created by Naoto Ōshima. One of these ideas was Madonna, a human love interest (obviously modeled on the real-life pop singer's physical appearance at the time) that was described by Ōshima as a "male fantasy" who would chase Sonic around. She was scrapped early in development, with two individuals claiming responsibility (and whose rationale are not necessarily mutually exclusive):

  • Sega of America project manager Madeline Schroeder says that she was responsible for removing Madonna in order to make the game easier to sell in Western markets.
  • Yuji Naka says that Madonna never got past the concept stage due to how she would have made Sonic the Hedgehog more similar to Super Mario Bros.

Despite the loss of the Madonna character, the concept of a love interest who followed Sonic around would later be implemented in Sonic CD.

Is that the Time Eater?

At the same time that Madonna was being created, Ōshima drew up a picture showing potential enemies that Sonic could have fought. They included a six-fingered hand, a purple creature with a large jaw and yellow gloves, a walking cannon, a walking exclamation mark, a flying hand similar in appearance to Bat Brain, a large white ghost (Nicknamed "Nightmare Thirteen" in a Beep21 interview magazine.), and a bee-colored Robotnik. The development team thought that Robotnik's design was the best out of the bunch, so the other concepts were scrapped. The purple creature did make it to a prototype build shown at the 1990 Tokyo Toy Show, but had its colors changed from purple and yellow to blue and red.

According to Naoto Ohshima, the original plan in this storyline was to have Sonic in a world of nightmares.

(Source: Sonic Retro)
Cool, sweet and catchy!

Another idea that was thrown out was the Sonic the Hedgehog Band. Originally, the plotline for Sonic the Hedgehog would have involved Sonic saving both his bandmates and the Animal Friends from Robotnik; concept art was drawn for this (shown below), but was never put into motion. In addition, there was a full sound test where Sonic breakdanced to his band playing music. Due to time constraints, the idea was scrapped and the sound test ended up being on the level select. The room that the graphics took up on the ROM (around one-eighth of the cartridge size) was replaced with the "Sega!" chant heard at the beginning of the game.

(Source: Sega's Yuji Naka Talks!)

While the band was scrapped from the game itself, various merchandise such as a 1991 tie-in manga and 1992 calendar prominently featured them, and they would also later make appearances in Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog comic. The band is also present (albeit as unused sprites) in SegaSonic Bros. The crocodile character, Vector, eventually debuted in Knuckles' Chaotix.

Scrapped "Sonic the Hedgehog Band" Storyline

To do:
Get clean scans of the book instead of photocaptures.

The 2014 book Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works contained some never-before-seen concept art of Sonic the Hedgehog from an earlier version of the game's story when Sonic's band hadn't been scrapped yet.

(Source: Azukara)

Title Sequence

Sonic1concept title.jpg

An early version of the Sega logo and title screen. Instead of its short, iconic jingle, the Sega logo would have had Sonic leaning on it. The logo would have slid over to the left, making Sonic fall back. After this, the screen would have been covered in stripes (?) brought in by Robotnik and Sonic's bandmates, and the giant Sonic emblem falls in place from the top of the screen.


Sonic1concept miniboss.jpg

Within the concept art is an idea for a construction-themed mid-boss that Sonic would have fought, which held one of Sonic's bandmates and their respective animal species. Sonic would have had to dodge a giant wrecking ball as he used two platforms to destroy the machine. After the machine is destroyed, a small cutscene would play where Sonic and the respective bandmate would cheer.

Interestingly, Robotnik is watching the entire scenario unfold, and is riding on a flying sled that has a very similar appearance to the one seen in the ending of Sonic CD.

Final Boss/Ending

Sonic1concept ending1.jpg

The first design for the final boss was very different: it would have consisted of Robotnik behind a shield, firing turrets at Sonic. Presumably, the boss would have to be defeated by tricking the turrets to shoot at Robotnik's shield. After the boss is defeated, Robotnik runs away from Sonic and jumps into a small plane. As he takes off, however, Sonic jumps onto the plane and destroys it. The 8 bit version of Sonic 1 planned to reuse elements from this final boss concept, according to unused turret sprites in the game.

Sonic1concept ending2.jpg

As Sonic falls from the sky, he is swooped up and carried away by Sharps the Chicken, one of his bandmates. He is flown over to Green Hill Zone, where his other bandmates and animal friends are waiting for him. The two land, Sonic jumps towards the player, and the screen fades out to black.

The concept of Sonic falling from the sky after defeating the final boss, then being rescued by one of his friends, would be reused for the ending of Sonic 2.

Misc. Screens

Sonic1concept specialitem.jpg

A small animation that would play whenever Sonic got a "special" item, i.e. a key. Other than the setting of the scene, which seems to be an early rendition of Marble Zone, it seems that the idea of Chaos Emeralds hadn't been thought up yet.

Sonic1concept stageclear.jpg

This screen would have played after a Zone was cleared. It shows Sonic jumping through a strange circle (of rings?), with a heart in the middle of it. Judging from where it would have occurred and the layout of the "items", it's possible that this would have been an after-Zone minigame where the player could have gotten more rings or points.

Level Concepts

These level concepts were drawn by Naoto Ohshima during the production of the game's Zone creation progress.

Metallic Stage


"Metallic Stage", which is described by the Japanese writing at the top of the picture as "1. A gleaming, gold plated landscape with a Southeast Asian feel." This concept would be reprised years later in Sonic Superstars, with Golden Capital Zone using the same graphical designs seen in this concept.

Green Hill Zone


Early art of Green Hill Zone, which looks very similar to the version seen in the 1990 Tokyo Toy Show build. The Japanese writing at the top of the picture describes it as "2. CG style stage... The background consists of a blue sky and green hills, rendered in a CG style never seen before."

Unknown Mountain/Underwater Zone


An example of non-linear stages, as well as an example of a move which allows Sonic to bounce off of water. The Japanese writing at the top of the picture describes it as "3. Sonic mountain/underwater stage ... Japanese style rocky hills with underwater sections. The illustration shows how the character can spin to move across the surface of the water. There will be various courses to choose from, dependent on skill."

Unknown Marble Zone-like Stage


A zone which looks a lot like Marble Zone, albeit with a different background and the ability to burrow through the terrain. The Japanese writing at the top of the picture describes it as "4. Quaking landform stage... The ground is made from a primordial material which shakes and trembles. The character can burrow through the landscape."

Unknown Space Stage


A scrapped space stage with higher jump height for Sonic. It also shows off a scrapped 2-Player mode later implemented in Sonic 2. The Japanese writing at the top of the picture describes it as "5. space themed stage ..... your jump height will increase. in the image there is a two player mode in the concept." Naoto Ohshima alluded to this concept of a outer-space themed stage in the JP-only guidebook to Sonic Jam, but mentions how it was also thought of as a stage in a "scenic, night-time location." That concept would eventually become Star Light Zone.

(Source: Sonic Retro)

Chinese World


A scrapped level called "Chinese World". The Japanese writing at the top of the picture describes it as "6. Great spirit world themed stage ..... based off of china like place." The idea of an obstacle involving fireballs surrounding the platform above a half-pipe was implemented into the final game's Spring Yard Zone, albeit with the fireballs replaced with spiked metal balls.

Unknown Laboratory Zone


A scrapped science-themed stage. The Japanese writing at the top of the picture describes it as "7. Laboratory instrument like stage .....placeing the pipe to spin through it."

Scrap Brain Zone


An early version of Scrap Brain Zone, showing a city in the background. It shows off an early version of the spinning wheel gimmick seen at the start of Act 1 in the final game. The Japanese writing at the top of the picture describes it as "8. Megalopolis stage ..... going through tricky gimmicks to advance." The use of the word "megalopolis" is notable, as a zone called Gigalopolis Zone would later appear in Sonic Chaos.