UK studio Traveller’s Tales knew the humble Mega Drive inside and out, pushing the 16-bit system beyond its limits by tricking the hardware to produce results deemed impossible.
SEGA was so impressed with the studio’s abilities that they even let them create the Mega Drive’s final Sonic game – 1996’s Sonic 3D Blast, which is often referred to as the system’s swansong. Sorry, Vectorman.
For the past couple of months, Traveller’s Tales’ founder Jon Burton has been busy sharing coding secrets, unseen prototypes, concept art, and proof of concepts for various titles on YouTube. His channel – GameHut – has grown exponentially since launching at the end of August, gaining over 37,000 subscribers.
It’s easy to see why. GameHut’s videos are concise, informative, and well-presented. The channel is frequently updated too, with two or three new videos a week.
Recent videos detail how Sonic 3D Blast’s impressive FMV intro was crammed onto a cartridge, an explanation of the trickery behind Mickey Mania’s 3D chase scene, and an exposé on Toy Story’s cut-scenes which featured more colours than the Mega Drive could technically display.
Sonic 3D Blast has become the channel’s focal point of late, due to the surprise announcement of a director’s cut. To celebrate the 25k subscriber milestone, Jon Burton revealed plans to revisit the title, fixing numerous issues and adding dozens of improvements and tweaks.
Early footage is both impressive and encouraging. Sonic 3D wasn’t a bad game, but it certainly had room for improvement. Improvements that, some twenty years later, are finally being made.
Sonic’s floaty controls are being tightened, the boss battle camera will be steadier, hitbox detection is being altered to make certain things easier, a password system – taken from the SEGA Channel version – is being included, and Sonic will be able to transform into Super Sonic. The pesky Flickies will be easier to locate too, thanks to an improved HUD.
Sonic 3D Blast: The Director’s Cut will be available as a free mod, and isn’t officially sanctioned by SEGA. Considering Christian Whitehead’s Sonic CD conversion(s) managed to receive a release by SEGA themselves, there’s a slither of hope that Jon Burton’s work will gain an official release somehow. Stranger things have happened.
It’s not hard to imagine some clever so-and-so giving it an unofficial cartridge release, a la the recent Star Fox 2, at the very least. Keep your eyes on GameHut for more updates.