Possibly the most interesting thing about the 8-bit version of Sonic 1 is that it shares so many similarities with its 16-bit counterpart – unlike its successor, Sonic 2. It shares fully half of its six zones with its bigger home console sibling, and a recent discovery reveals that it may once have been even more.
The presence of an 8-bit rendition of Marble Zone’s BGM was discovered by Sonic Retro Tech Member Kroc last November, nestled in the ROM of the Master System version of the game at hex offset 0xCD0A. Here it is at YouTube if you want to give it a listen:
This constitutes mounting evidence that Marble Zone was once meant for inclusion in the 8-bit version of the game. Previously, graphics for the badnik Batbrain (Basaran) were also found:
Furthermore, in the Master System ROM, the initial palette for Bridge Zone (which never shows up during play because it is overwritten with the cycling palette data) is slightly different, with one colour of green replaced with lavender. Could this be a leftover of a Marble Zone palette?
And if Marble Zone was planned, I wonder how far along it got before it was axed… and for that matter, why it was axed. Too many moving platforms and complex objects for the 8-bit hardware?
Regardless of all that, it is really cool to hear the 8-bit rendition of Marble Zone’s BGM itself. Besides Green Hill Zone and the Sonic theme music, it is the only other 8-bit arrangement by Yuzo Koshiro of one of Masato Nakamura‘s tracks from the original game we get to hear. (Though Koshiro would later go on to arrange more of Nakamura’s music in an orchestral context for Play! A Video Game Symphony Live!)
It would be cool if someday a prototype is discovered with actual 8-bit Marble Zone level graphics, but failing that I eagerly await some hacker to try their hand at making their own interpretation of what it would have been like.