Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Would Sonic X-Treme have saved the Sega Saturn if Finished?


Of all the canceled Sonic titles, this one is probably the most famous. The Sega Saturn was a commercial failure in America, and some people blame that on not having a mainline Sonic title. While having a proper Sonic game would have moved some systems, it is impossible to know for sure if it would have been enough to keep the Saturn in the market. However, if you care to hear my educated guess and why, click "read more" for my full article.

Sonic games that were released on Sega Saturn

 There were 3 Sonic titles released for Sega Saturn and they are at least worth a quick mention.

Sonic 3D Blast/Flickies' Island

After the plug was pulled on Sonic X-Treme, the Saturn got this port of a Genesis/Mega Drive game instead. Sonic 3D Blast, known as Sonic 3D - Flickies' Island in other countries. This was an isometric game that was focused less on speed and more about gathering to the center of the board. The Flickies are little birds that are found in enemies that need to be gathered before you can progress to the next level. A simple little game that a lot of people hated, but I found charming. This version offered cleaned up graphics, better music, and a full 3D intro & special stages compared to the original Genesis version. However, this was far from a traditional Sonic game and wasn't very popular with its original port to begin with so it really didn't have a chance on the Saturn.

Sonic R

Sonic R is an infamous racing game and a far cry from Mario Kart or CTR. The Saturn port lacked the weather effects, made more loading, and had a less then ideal draw distance. Personally, I adore this game, but there are some major balance issues complemented with little content and controls that aren't self explanatory that have earned it its infamy. So, does not take a lot to guess why this title failed to fill the need for Sonic on Saturn.

Sonic Jam

Sonic Jam is a collection game of the 4 mainline Genesis/Mega Drive titles that also includes a 3D area to run around in. This title is going to need a short history lesson. Sonic Adventure was originally being developed for the Sega Saturn, but was moved to the Dreamcast when the Saturn was deemed a failure. The remains of the Saturn version are what was used to make the 3D area on this game that they called Sonic World. Interestingly, the 4 Genesis titles were not emulated, but programmed from the ground up to run on Saturn which allowed extra's to be made to them like difficulty settings and the spin dash in Sonic 1. Honestly, this title is not bad; it is a great collection  and the missions in Sonic World are neat as a little tech demo. I feel like if this title came out closer to the Saturn's launch then it would have made more of an impact and got people talking about potential 3D Sonic games. But, who knows for sure.

What Sonic X-Treme Could Have Been Like

The development hell that Sonic X-Treme went through is a fairly well known story that has been told many times so, I won't bother re-telling it. (Try YouTube.) From the gameplay that has surfaced, it appears to be a 2D & 3D hybrid that is very grid based with a full rotating camera. Similar to the game Bug! and Bug too! 


As far as quality goes, it is hard to say. Yuji Naka, the original head of Sonic Team, was not impressed by the development; famously saying "good luck" to the development team. The goal was having an ability to move in any direction with a wide angle view, which could have made for interesting gameplay, or gotten disorienting. I appreciate the exploration aspect, but every gameplay clip I see makes it look really easy to fall to your death. One thing is for sure, this would definitely been a one of a kind for Sonic. 

Could Sonic X-Treme Have Saved the Sega Saturn?

To put it bluntly, no. Sure, a proper Sonic game would have sold a few more Sega Saturn units which in turn would have caused a few other titles to get extra sales no doubt about that, but it would not have been enough. We can debate all day on how good the game might have been, but the evidence comes from the previous and next Sega systems, the Dreamcast and Sega CD. Sonic Adventure was a popular launch title for the Dreamcast and Sonic Adventure 2 came out some time later. A lot of people say those games aged bad, but that doesn't matter because they were popular and beloved at their time and sold well, but the Dreamcast still failed because it could never have competed with the PS2's massive success. 
Sonic CD on the Sega CD is considered by many as some of the best and it sold over a million copies. But the Sega CD still undersold due to being an add-on and too expensive.

The Sega Saturn is one of the most fascinating systems for me because of its bazar history and weird crazy game library. But, outside of Japan it failed and there were a lot more factors to that than simply lacking a Sonic game. The launch was rushed and caused many retail stores to refuse to sell Sega Products, the system was difficult to develop for which led several 3rd party developers to favor Sony, the President of Sega America made bad decisions like deciding that JRPGs would not work in the states, and it was more expensive than either PS1 or N64 Take it as you will, but this is just my opinion. Please let me know yours. That is it for this article, happy 30th birthday Sonic, thank you for the memories and I will be a supporter for the rest of my time. 

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