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 studioâ€™s abilities that they even let them create the Mega Driveâ€™s final Sonic game â€“ 1996â€™s Sonic 3D Blast, which is often referred to as the systemâ€™s swansong. Sorry, Vectorman.
For the past couple of months, Traveller’s Talesâ€™ founder Jon Burton has been busy sharing coding secrets, unseen prototypes, concept art, and proof of concepts for various titles on YouTube. His channel â€“ GameHut â€“ has grown exponentially since launching at the end of August, gaining over 37,000 subscribers.
Itâ€™s easy to see why. GameHutâ€™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 Blastâ€™s impressive FMV intro was crammed onto a cartridge, an explanation of the trickery behind Mickey Maniaâ€™s 3D chase scene, and an exposÃ© on Toy Storyâ€™s cut-scenes which featured more colours than the Mega Drive could technically display.
Sonic 3D Blast has become the channelâ€™s focal point of late, due to the surprise announcement of a directorâ€™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 wasnâ€™t a bad game, but it certainly had room for improvement. Improvements that, some twenty years later, are finally being made.
Sonicâ€™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 â€“ taken from the SEGA Channel version â€“ 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 Directorâ€™s Cut will be available as a free mod, and isnâ€™t officially sanctioned by SEGA. Considering Christian Whiteheadâ€™s Sonic CD conversion(s) managed to receive a release by SEGA themselves, thereâ€™s a slither of hope that Jon Burtonâ€™s work will gain an official release somehow. Stranger things have happened.
Itâ€™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.