Adventures with Chaotix

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Black Squirrel, Jan 23, 2021.

  1. Robjoe

    Robjoe

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    Oh, it gets dumber. These platforms actually appear in all but the first Techno Tower level, all up in the upper-left "outside" area. In almost every case, you have to take an obscure route to even get out there, and it serves as an alternative route to the top of the tower, with the goalpost standing between the end of this and the normal route in most cases (interestingly, there is exactly one top-solid floor tile in level 1 that lets you out as well, but the area is completely barren despite locking you in, and requires character abilities or rubber band abuse to make it up to the goal). However, if you for some reason decide to run all the way to the left edge out here, you'll meet this crane that isn't carrying a girder:

    CraneFinal.png

    Apparently he isn't happy that his friends are hogging all the girders, because he instead snatches your partner (not unlike the Botanic Base boss), and hauls them... usually not far at all. But hey, that one in level 3 at least deposits you on some floating level tiles with ring monitors. Yippee

    And, in the spirit of proto research, I narrowed both this, as well as the girder-toting variants, down to 0202 as their first appearance. The girders seem finalized, poorly aligned solidity and all, but the grabber-crane's behavior isn't quite complete yet. It will grab the partner, but it just slowly raises them up a tiny bit before dropping them. It doesn't even pull the primary character off the ground as it does so, which is funny because I'd assume that'd happen based solely on the force of the ringband, and not be a function of the object itself. And then after it's done this once, it stays frozen where it stopped and won't work again, whereas the final one is endlessly reusable if you chase it down again. It seems finalized as of the next build (0208).

    CraneProto.png
    (Notice Espio's arm is pointed up: He knows Bomb is well above him, but remains planted on the floor.)

    Also, in the process of looking around here, I also found a mildly amusing difference with Heavy: In the Final, Heavy is invincible (as in his body is a permanent hitbox as if he had the invincibility powerup, which makes it difficult to see him as a "dud" partner, heh), but it turns out this wasn't added until build 0202. In 0119 and prior builds....

    HeavyOUCH.png
    (Also, turns out this flying fish shoots at you if sit and wait forever, never knew that.)

    ... he takes damage like any other character! Though he defaults to his jump sprite, implying he probably wasn't ever intended to be vulnerable. In comparison to other characters' special abilities (because this silliness is the closest thing Heavy has to one), they seem finalized in 0111 apart from Mighty's default wall kick angle being straight and not diagonal-up, but Tails' flight wasn't actually removed until 0119 (so this specific build is the only one with all eight character being unique. Neat!). Then in 0202, Mighty's wall kick is finalized as well as Heavy being made invincible.

    And a clarification on the flying carpet's palette:

    A quick look at the final in the old 32X art viewer program reveals that it's part of Speed Slider's MARS palettes. Each level of Speed Slider seems to have its own slightly unique MARS palette, but 1 looks significantly different from the rest and doesn't include those particular shades (the spot it pulls from is a full yellow gradient in 1, rather than the others' yellow to red to black gradient).

    And also:
    Nice catch on it printing the MARS palette onscreen. Those blues you see there are part of the global MARS palette that's always in memory, and are used for any global object that's blue, like the shield and other such powerups. However, as I mentioned in my last post, this global palette is practically identical to Sonic/Tails' shades in Crackers, seen below (Crackers on top, Chaotix on bottom; pink is just transparency):

    Cracker-Chaotix_PaletteComparison.png

    Now, what I want to know is why did they choose to make this the global palette when, in the early builds, we can see Tails had his own unique MARS palette, which uses similar/the same shades (so Sonic probably had his own palette as well)? What waste of space, especially when certain global objects end up looking like crap because of this. In particular, the character icons on the partner change monitor have to use these colors, so people's skin is yellow, and Espio has ugly red/blue dithering to make up for the lack of purple (and Knuckles to a lesser extent).
     
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  2. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I guess Chaotix conditions you to avoid Heavy and Bomb when you can.

    Heavy in particular feels like he was designed in the knowledge that you couldn't actually play as him... even though swap and change monitors exist. Even in the final his holding animation is way off the mark, and his collision is... well:
    [​IMG]

    This apparently qualifies as "on a ramp". Many characters don't actually touch the ground - Heavy is the worst but Bomb, Vector and even Knuckles don't make contact here either (and yet Charmy who flies... does). It's hard to get too worked up about some of them, since most video games of this time period have characters looking awkward on slopes, but in Heavy's case it's pretty terrible.


    Also Bomb doesn't explode when hit in 1207.
     
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  3. Black Squirrel

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    As I kind-of predicted, you can trigger the good ending from the stage select... you just need to finish special stage 5, then play "Not Used" level 0.

    Unfortunately due to the way the game was put together, it's not as interesting as I'd hoped. You can't legitimately beat special stage 5 until the 0202 prototype, at which point the good credits trigger every time anyway (assuming there are even two versions at this stage - it's all white text on black backgrounds). In 0208 everything is final. Chaos Rings (or "Holy Rings") were collectable as early as 1229 so there might be something interesting there. I thought I might be able to cheat my way through via the action replay code finder, but I'm guessing it doesn't work with 32X instructions.

    As much as I'd like to see those unused Super Sonic and Tails graphics, it's not looking likely in the prototypes we have. Not unless something can be found via hacking.
     
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  4. Flygon

    Flygon

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    Sidenote on the particle performance thing - ignoring the fact it's a nightmare to render particle effects, it's worth remembering that the 32x has a surprisingly slow fillrate. If enough of the screen is being manipulated, the game really is going to be forced to run at just 30fps until the framebuffer can swap between the A and B buffers. It doesn't matter if the scene's been rendered fast enough by the CPU, transferring the data to the framebuffer really is that slow.

    It's such a trashy piece of hardware.
     
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  5. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    The 0208 prototype is the first build of Chaotix to have a rolling demo, i.e. something that plays if you don't do anything on the title screen. Previous builds just go back to the Sega logo.

    But the demo included... isn't in the final game. It's a fairly normal run of Knuckles and Espio in Botanic Base (in the morning), which was replaced with the five "final" demos in 0213.


    And of those five demos, four of them are played by people who understand the mechanics of Chaotix, so look fairly normal. But a clip featuring Vector and Bomb is anything but:

    [​IMG]

    The characters run back and forth in the initial section of Techno Tower 2 seemingly without much purpose. At one point Vector climbs this wall and stays in this corner for an awkward amount of time. It looks broken, as if the inputs were intended for another stage.
     
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  6. Blue Spikeball

    Blue Spikeball

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    Have you tried Cheat Engine?
     
  7. Robjoe

    Robjoe

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    Small correction to my previous post, regarding the color palettes: I was an idiot and pulled the Crackers one from another Gens VDP screenshot. Here's a corrected version, where we see almost all of the shades are identical. Neato!

    Crackers-Chaotix_PaletteComparison.png

    Based on what we see on the surface of the game, I agree with you. But there are a couple puzzling oddities I found when digging beneath the surface. Firstly, inspecting character statistics reveals Heavy to be tied with Vector for the strongest throw in the game, so he is rather maneuverable in that way. And speaking of throws, he has an unused throw animation I've never seen brought up anywhere. In as early as 1207 and never removed:

    HeavyThrow_2x.gif

    Not as many frames as it could have, but you can see what is I guess a spring inside his chest. Seems he holds his partner overhead and spins 360 degrees, which... oddly kind of lines up with his strange looking "hold" arm you mentioned, which points straight up. Though the character certainly isn't aligned with his hand. (But when are any sprites aligned right in this game? Hahaha). Not related to Heavy and Bomb, but unused throw animations like these actually exist for every character but Bomb and Espio, though I've only seen Vector's documented (which looks hilarious), on TCRF. If you like, I could animate the other ones for use on the Retro wiki!

    Another curiosity relates to the character select menu. We see they're on the early version of the menu in the older prototypes, and also, a quick search through the final in a hex editor reveals that the text for their names survived after the new menu was implemented. When I saw that myself, I got curious, and found the text wasn't the only surviving element:

    BombHeavyPlayerSelect.png

    Whoever made this screen took the time to fully account for these two supposedly unplayable "hazard" partners. All it takes to expand the screen and reveal these guys is modifying some compare and moveq instructions, which I've condensed into "Action Replay" codes below for anyone that wants to try this at home, complete with notes on what each byte does in specific:

    Code (Text):
    1. 0322B8:7E06 - This MOVEQ determines how many characters to display. Increased to $06 for Bomb and Heavy.
    2. 03245C:0006 - This compare instruction controls Player Select's scroll bounds. Increased to $06.
    3. 032474:0006 - This compare sets the scroll limit for Player 2 when Player 1 chooses second-to-last character - Increased to $06.
    4. 032478:7205 - And this one sets P2's limit when P1 chooses last character (P1's character is skipped automatically, so at the end of the list, this would land you out of bounds) - Increased to $05.
    5. 03258A:7E06 - If this MOVEQ doesn't match the one at 0x0322B8, then it freaks out and draws several Mightys onscreen. I forget what exactly this is doing. Increased to $06.
    6. 032596:7006 - This MOVEQ helps determine who to hide after P1 chooses. Increased to $06.
    No idea why they bothered putting them on here when testers would've been using the far more convenient stage select. Who knows.

    Amazing. Always fun learning about the 32X. The more you know, the more it starts seeming entirely impossible to do anything useful with it. I love it.
     
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  8. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Oooh yes please, and a sprite sheet so we can look at individual frames :)

    We can make the wiki do the scaling though so don't worry about that.

    (ditto for anything unused)
     
  9. Robjoe

    Robjoe

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    Not a problem! I'll try to get those posted sometime tomorrow afternoon maybe, at work tonight.

    I'll have to see what else I can find. I'm gradually remembering little things I've seen here and there. I'd considered posting about some of this a while back, but I didn't know how many people would be interested in seeing a thread about random Chaotix stuff, ha.
     
  10. Black Squirrel

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    Not sure I'll find much more in regular play, so I went hunting in our magazine archive... and didn't find much. Which says a lot.

    Judging from comments from Sega, and quite possibly the removal of Sonic and Tails, there wasn't much confidence in this game. Sources suggest Chaotix began development at the beginning of 1994, but was held back from being announced because Sega weren't sold on the gameplay - that the whole thing was just a little too awkward. My guess is that it was greenlit to give the 32X more value - Sega announced a load of 32X games in the summer of 1994, but most had been released by December/January, and there wasn't much coming afterwards.

    Other than some noise about "Sonic Chaotic" and a handful of reports on "Knuckles' Ringstar", coverage didn't really begin in earnest until Winter CES 1995 in January, where Chaotix was on display in some form. I can't identify the exact build shown on the show floor - my gut feeling is it wasn't 1229, but something between 1229 and 0111, which would make sense because CES started on the 6th January. But all the screenshots I've seen are off-camera photos of Isolated Island - it might not even have been playable.

    (As I mentioned in another topic, there's a mysterious "24A" build which I thought might have been a candidate, though requiring six limits in the second special stage dates it after 0111).

    Fun fact: only one of our prototypes has an extra number - 0202, which claims to be "02B":
    [​IMG]

    I don't know if this is meant to signify "24th alpha" and "2nd beta" but... it's a thing.

    [​IMG]

    Why isn't there more coverage of the game at Winter CES 1995? Because nobody cared. The gaming press at the time seem to be unanimous in that neither Nintendo nor Sega had anything groundbreaking to announce or show (spoilers: it was being saved for E3), and given this was the last CES most gaming companies would attend... yeah.

    Sega's pitch was to get you to buy the 32X, but it wasn't Chaotix leading the charge, it was... Metal Head (which sucks). (I think) to the left of this picture was a Metal Head stand with a big sign and five kiosks, front and centre of the Sega booth. Supporting it was Motocross Championship (which also sucks), After Burner Complete (which the press didn't like) and a few others like Tempo (which to the untrained eye, could be mistaken for a Mega Drive title). As I said, I can't even confirm Chaotix was playable - it was there, but not in a starring role.

    The press had their own agenda - they were more interested in the Sega Saturn console running Virtua Fighter, and Mega Drive games such as Comix Zone. Meanwhile Nintendo's big hits of the event were things like StarFox 2 (cancelled!) and FX Fighter (cancelled!) as well as the Virtual Boy. In fact, more interesting stuff was at Atari's booth because it was loaded up with brand new Jaguar games, and as dumb as the system ended up being, it was more novel than the 32X offerings and the SNES.

    (remember, not only was the Saturn and PlayStation expected at this point, the Ultra 64 was still expected to launch within 12 months - the many delays came later)

    Chaotix got a tiny bit of coverage in January and February. The Sega magazines were more interested for obvious reasons, but it was treated as a footnote in the multi-platform publications, and released to a bunch of "we're not particularly bothered" 70-ish% ratings. But it's job was to make up the numbers, and it probably succeeded in that. It was popular enough to be bundled with consoles in Europe, but that might equally be because there was nothing else to promote over this time period. From what I've read, the 32X port of Virtua Fighter was delayed from the summer 1995 into winter, and the console crashed and burned over the latter half of the year in favour of the Sega Saturn.

    But everyone likes Sonic-related things... right? Well yeah maybe, but this is pre-internet and before video game "fandom" was a known thing. If the press are getting bored with mascot platformers (which they were) the games industry moves onto the next craze, which was 3D. I'm not sure there was this concept of a video game "franchise" lasting multiple years (if not decades) - until Mario 64 came along, the perception would have been that new technology means new ideas, rather than retrofitting old ones and reinventing them. Was anyone asking for 3D Sonic before they saw 3D Mario? I'm genuinely not sure they were.


    Today, 32X consoles seem to be bought from ebay exclusively for Chaotix, because lol Sonic. But it was Doom and Virtua Racing (and to a lesser extent, Star Wars Arcade) that did the heavy lifting in 1994, and it was the promise of colours and 3D that made up the original sales pitch. But then again, this was a failed console - there wasn't much interest in the 32X as a whole by the summer, and it's perfectly plausible that Chaotix went completely unnoticed.
     
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  11. Black Squirrel

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    Taking screenshots of the special stages. I think they're some of the best the Sonic series has ever produced, but the engine really can't do corners.

    The fourth stage starts with a couple of turns before going straight. If you start the stage in the middle of the screen, you would expect, if you're never pressing left or right, to continue to be in the middle after going through the turns. But that's not the case:

    [​IMG]
    1207

    [​IMG]
    1227

    [​IMG]
    1229

    [​IMG]
    0111

    [​IMG]
    Final

    In the final game, you always drift a little to the left, but in the 1227 and 1229 prototypes, you don't (or at least, not as much).

    So if you play these and find you're missing things, even though you're sure you're lined up properly, it might not be your fault. There could be a slight error in how it calculates the player's position.


    Oh and if you've never bothered with Chaotix's special stage (see: "nobody likes Chaotix"), it's not just hexagonal tubes:

    [​IMG]

    They end up doing clever things, with branching paths and genuine 3D platforming. The 6th stage isn't elegant because you're forced to repeatedly bang your head against a wall, but it's a quintessential 32X experience.
     
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  12. JaxTH

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    I've always loved Chaotix's Special Stages.
     
  13. big smile

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    I too love Chaotix's Special Stages. What I really like is that the ring count (and thus the time you get to spend in them), is determined by the number of rings you collect in the proceeding main Zone. This effectively saves the game, as the other wise bland and challenge-less stages suddenly have a point to them, as they are about collecting enough rings to spend maximum time in the Special Stages.

    I also like the platforming in the 3D Special Stages. There's some neat ideas. And then beating them all in wireframe mode is quite the experience.
     
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  14. McAleeCh

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    Since folks are having some pretty in-depth discussion of Chaotix and it's prototypes here, I thought this would be a good place to ask - can anyone verify which build contains this unused Eggman graphic?

    https://www.spriters-resource.com/genesis_32x_scd/knuckleschaotix32x/sheet/146741/

    It was added to TSR relatively recently but with no confirmation of its origins - I've seen nothing of it on TCRF or Retro before either. Makes me wonder from where it originated, and whether more undiscovered art is still hiding in any of these builds somewhere...!
     
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  15. Robjoe

    Robjoe

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    Holy *shit*, I've never seen that one before. Looks so sick!

    I would go hunting myself, but Andlabs' old 32X art viewer program only works with the final, and unfortunately won't even open the later prototypes from after the main art index was relocated to 0x0A0000 like the final. It must be relying on a checksum or some kind of hard coded address somewhere.

    In fact, I just too a brief glance at the wiki's programs category, and it's not on there at all! Does anyone even still remember this thing? The one I have actually seems to have its source bundled with it, though it's a bit out of my depth to mess with that. But, if anyone capable of compiling a C program is interested, I could upload it and we can see about compiling special versions for all the protos (1207 at least, but if this thread has proven anything, it's that all these builds deserve broken into just in case). I'm willing to do all the actual dredging through the ROMs and everything myself, I've just never had to compile C code before (at least, I think it's C).

    Also, an update on the unused animations I promised: Real Life annoyances have limited my time this last week, but I have the majority of them done, but of course I found a few other points of interest and ultimately decided to just rip everything unused, since information on this game is so scattered and sparse. I think I have ideas of what a few of the already-known ones were meant for as well, so I think I'll wait and just do a big post with everything after I'm done. Just had to say I haven't forgotten!
     
  16. Techokami

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    Yeah, I remember this tool being A Thing, but I no longer have my copy. Please upload it so it can be preserved on the wiki!
     
  17. Sparks

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    This just further proves that Chaotix is such a fascinating game, and exploring every nook and cranny is like falling down some kind of wacky, 90s 32x rabbit hole.

    Any hopes you or someone else will make videos detailing all these quirks and evolution? I feel like Chaotix in general would make a great video subject, and it has plenty of content and oddities to make for quite a beefy duration.
     
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  18. Black Squirrel

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  19. qwertysonic

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    Everyone wants a retro engine remake of S3&K but honestly the genesis version is already so good. I'd rather have Taxman remake Chaotix.
     
  20. Lostgame

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    Holy crap, and I thought the Sonic 1 Beta was the best news I would see - to see so much interest in my favourite Sonic series game is awesome!