Back in 1993, before SatAM had even aired, the developers at the Sega Techinical Institute were already brainstorming ways to bring its world and characters to the Genesis. Sadly, the project was aborted before it had even begun in earnest, and all we have today is the following pitch video, an animated demo made on Amiga computers by Peter Morawiec and John Duggan to demo the game concepts.
The video was donated to the Sonic community by Peter Morawiec, who describes it in this interview with Sega-16:
Shortly after finishing Sonic Spinball, Roger Hector (STI’s boss) took Naka’s team and a number of us down to DiC Animation in Burbank, CA. The studio was about to start production on a Sonic cartoon series for the ABC TV network. It was a funny meeting – the storyboards were super Warner Bros’y, all squash-and-stretch, and full of silly slapstick humor. The Sonic Team guys sat through the spiel all stone-faced, so I don’t think they liked it very much. Roger was interested in having STI create a spin-off game based on the show, so I tried to come up with a gameplay format allowing for more story and adventure than the original Sonic games. I had made a number of these Amiga demos by then, so it didn’t take very long to put together, probably less than a week. John Duggan (STI’s Art Director) created the title screen and helped with the character sprites.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy to animate fast-scrolling backgrounds in Brilliance, so the demo came off too slow-paced, though I always intended for it to have some fast-moving sections. From what I heard, Naka gave the design thumbs down, but it was probably the right decision. The cartoon wasn’t even out, so banking on its success would’ve been premature, and too many spin-offs for a fresh new franchise are likely to do more harm than good. I was really excited to get started on Comix Zone which was just green lit, so the design was shelved…
As an avid viewer of SatAM, as well as a fan of the games, I know I would have been absolutely delighted to play this if it had been made. I can’t help but feel that nixing this was a big miscalculation on Sega’s part, especially considering the creativity, attitude, and great animation on display in Comix Zone, STI’s subsequent project. There’s no doubt in my mind that, given the chance, they could have pulled this off, and pulled it off brilliantly.
It may be easy for some to be all “sour grapes” and dismiss this demo as too slow paced or clunky, and claim that it’s all for the best that it was never greenlit. But – as is clearly demonstrated by the Amiga pitch video for Sonic Spinball below – had this game actually made it to the Genesis it would have been dramatically faster and cooler.
Sometimes I wish STI had not only gotten the chance to make this Genesis SatAM game, but that it had been the start of a long line of them extending into the 32-bit era. When playing games like Spyro 2, I occasionally find myself mentally swapping out the characters with SatAM ones and wondering what a western developed Sonic game of that time would have been like had Sega not put the squeeze on their American team. It’s still sad that the messy tale of Sonic X-treme is how it all came to an end.
At the end of the day, though, it’s cool that we even have this video at all. I wonder how long until some enterprising Sonic fan makes an attempt at recreating it? 🙂