Hello everyone, I'm working on a video documentary / retrospective about the early days of the Sonic Team (from Sonic 1 to Yasuhara's departure/SA1, roughly). However, I'm having a hard time establishing a coherent chronology for the creation of Sonic and the development of Sonic 1, because everyone involved seems to have a different story everytime they talk about it. I know about the "Development" page of Sonic Retro and it helped me a lot, but I found out about other pieces of information in my research that was not included in it, that may or may not be relevant. I wanted to share my findings and my attempt at understanding what happened, and see if people agree with me or not. Sorry for the wall of text. Also english is not my first language, so be nice. So, what I "knew" : - Sega was searching for a new mascot with an internal competition - Ohshima was working on something called "Twinkle Star" before teaming up with Naka who wanted to make a fast game, their first concept involves a rabbit - In some version of the story, the rabbit wins the internal competition - Yasuhara was invited by Cerny to join STI, but his visa was delayed, so he joined Ohshima and Naka to work on the game design - They think about using one button, which leads to a "round" character, which leads to 1) early eggman 2) hedgehog 3) armadillo (and maybe the dog, and bart simpson ?) - In some version of the story, the hedgehog wins the internal competition - Sega USA (at the time, Katz, Al Nielsen, and maybe Madeline Schroeder ?) hates it and wants the project dead. They contact an american artist for a counter proposal - But Katz is replaced with Kalinske, and being from Mattel, he sees the potential of the character, but finds it to "japanese". So they send Schroeder to Japan and she "fixes" the character (takes out the fangs, takes out Madonna, "softens" the vibe of Sonic), Sonic Team doesn't like it, but they finally agree to do it - So at some point Madonna is out, so is the original cast of villain, the early "round" character comes back as eggman/robotnik - Someone contacts the guy from Dreams come true to make the music - Game comes out... What I always found weird about this story : - The game never had a "producer" or even a "director". Yes, Yasuhara is the lead designer (and probably the main reason why those games work so well) but I never thought of him as a team leader. Even when he went to STI for Sonic 2, he still wasn't a director. - Other thing that ticks me off about the lack of producer/director, is that when Ohshima and Naka speaks about the early days of development, it seems like a very "cool" work environment. Like Ohshima was working on something, and I decided to give him a hand, and then Yasuhara kinda wandered off the airport so we took him in. It seems completely at odds with the culture at Sega at the time, and accounts from Yu Suzuki & co. - The "mascot competition". The result is always changing depending on who or when they tell this story, and even for Sega, choosing the official mascot of the whole company with an internal competition seems like the stupidest idea ever conceived. Imagine actually choosing the mascot, making a huge marketing event around it, and having a terrible game (or a game that bombs) associated with the character, and being stuck with that character. - The Sega USA "Mother of Sonic" story. I'm gonna forget the fact that Al Nilsen (and I want to say probably Schroeder, but I'm not sure if she was at Sega at the time) DESPISED the character so much a few months before Kalinske came into the picture, but then, had a revelation about the genius of Sonic, and just wanted to take out the fangs and give him red shoes, BUT. I have never seen a concept art of Sonic with fangs or without red shoes, even the more early ones. Considering this is true, and SOJ somehow sent the only drawing of Sonic with fangs and no red shoes, that just happens to burn in the fax machine right after that, I can't even begin to imagine Naka (or, anyone in the Japanese management) agreeing with the changes, at this stage in development (this would be AFTER Kalinske arrived at the company, so, let's say November / December 1990, 6 month before release). This is the guy who accused Peter Moore of being a liar when he told the board that the american public didn't care about Sega anymore during the Dreamcast era. Imagining his reaction when some random marketing lady from the US (and this is not a rant against Schroeder, she may be a secret genius or something for all I know) comes to Japan and tell him "you know, this character, and the plot you imagined ? i really don't think the american public is going to like it, so I made a few modification" is actually really funny. And then, I found some new or rare interviews : - the whole GDC presentation with yasuhara / ohshima. They basically explain the creation of the character, and that they went to the internal competition of Sega with a complete concept (like, no fangs, no Madonna, eggman in) - this interview with ohshima/naka : http://www.sega-mag.com/forum/sujet...s+de+Sonic+vu+par+ses+createurs-1915-67-1.htm It's a translation of a 2016 interview. It's in french, it's long, but it's interesting. Ohshima basically says that those drawings Were made for the Tokyo Toy Show in June 1990, so 3 to 4 months before Kalinske arrival (if the actual demo wasn't enough) Naka also says that Sonic 1) never won the "mascot competition" because no decision was ever taken and 2) was never designed FOR this "mascot competition" who came in the middle of the development (I remember Yasuhara saying something similar, but i can't seem to find this particular interview). Ohshima agrees with that, and just tell the usual "i made my presentation with a sonic toy" story, but without the "sonic won the contest" ending. it just won a place with 7 other finalists They created some kind of carving of the character before finalizing the design of Sonic, so I guess it took a while. Naka seems to think that Madonna was still Sonic's "official" girlfriend at the time of Sonic CD so he didn't understand why they created Amy Rose. - The Genesis Collected Works, where Kotaro Hayashida (from Alex Kidd, also lead on the first phantasy star) basically said that Sonic began, like Alex Kidd, as an answer to Mario 3, and incorporated a lot of ideas from some unknown Alex Kidd game. He also said that he CREATED the initial concept, and as head of departement, put Yasuhara in charge. I see no reason for him to lie... - This interview with Mark Cerny https://segaretro.org/Interview:_Mark_Cerny_(2006-12-05)_by_Sega-16 where he says that management of SOA waited a long time to "greelight" Sonic 2. SO with all this I propose the following timeline : - Kotaro Hayashida works on Phantasy Star, and meets Naka and Ohshima - The Sega Genesis comes out, does well, but the NES with Mario 3 still sells more. The Megadrive really needs some kind of platformer. - They make another Alex Kidd, with Yasuhara as junior designer. It bombs. The franchise is dead. - Hayashida begins to work on some kind of new "Mario Killer", and while recycling some of his idea for Alex Kidd, searches for a completely different set up. Ohshima begins to work on a main character (human twins who can travel back in time, twinkle star) - Naka finishes his work on Ghouls'n Ghost and asks to be put on a racing game. Hayashida (and Toyoda, I suppose) put him with Ohshima, the idea is to make a "fast action game" - While all this is happening, Yasuhara is waiting to join STI - Ohshima and Naka proposes the "rabbit concept" but the idea of making a fast game while picking things up every 2 seconds is stupid. Hayashida, who is a now more a supervisor (and probably a little short on ideas after years and years of crunch), must help with other projects, and ask Yasuhara to help with the "Mario Killer" - They finally come up with the "round concept" with a hedgehog, proto eggman, and some other character - This version of the hedgehog is this one : - They ask SOA for advice, they pick the hedgehog because it's the "least terrible" (from al nielsen own words) but they think it's going to bomb. They begin to work on some other character (with some other team) to make their own "Mario Killer" for the american market. Katz really, really hates the design. - Ohshima finishes the design by incorporating more of his "rabbit" (or more mickey/felix), Sonic is born - Development is going well, they have a "proof of concept" ready for the Toys Expo. They still dont have a finalized outline of the game. There is still Madonna in it and no eggman (or bee eggman if you want). - At some point (maybe with some help from Hayashida ?) they finalize the story with the two pilots, the sonic jacket, the widow who write the story/her daughter who meets a real sonic (the evolution of madonna, i guess), but also eggman, the chaos emerald, the rock band, etc. (the story that the wife is writing) and the actual plans for the game design - They participate to an internal competition for a mascot, and people like it. Probably after that, SOJ think they may have something great, and launch a big promotional effort, with Dreams come True composing, and some manga... With a Sonic with fangs... the rockband... and bunny girls... and story about dead pilots... - At the same time, SOA is entering RED ALERT TERRITORY. The Genesis is not selling like they wanted, and they have next to zero interest in this weird Mario Killer. STI that should make games for the american market is still nowhere, because all the japanese staff that should have come months before is stuck in japan. - At this point Katz is out and Kalinske is in, and tries to salvage the situation like it's a Mattel toyline. So basically, he wants to completely remake the storyline surrounding Sonic, to make it more "normal" for the american audience and create a comic to sell the toy (the game). The infamous Sonic Bible gets made but nobody really cares. He also asks Greg Martin to redraw Sonic. Ohshima is not pleased with the change in artstyle. Madeline Schroeder comes to convince them to drop their version of the character for continuity in the brand, and to drop all the "weird stuff". They say no and ask them to have their own "western sonic" - In the end, the game is rushed to market (like every Sega game, or even game, at the time) and they're "forced" to cut all the weird stuff that had nothing to do with the game in itself. Sonic with fangs disappears because it was just a promotional thing nobody cared about and not done by Ohshima. SOA thinks they won the battle. - The game is finished. Yasuhara & Naka quits Sonic Team to go to STI - But SOA still think they have a big, big dud coming. Its only in 91, like the summer CES of 91 (and the story of al nielsen putting sonic next to mario world) that they kinda think its going to do ok. But not be a real Mario Killer. They probably think that now that STI has the japanese talent inhouse, they're gonna make some other IP tailored for the american market with this kind of technology (i'm even wondering if their version of the "Mario Killer" wasn't Kid Chameleon, before that) - Over the summer, the game is a complet success and they kickly ask for a Sonic 2 So, do you think it could be accurate ? I'm trying my best not to take side in a SOJ vs SOA battle, and to respect everyone side of the story. It seems to me like the only chronology where my brain doesn't really hurt. I never heard before about the Hayashida story, so I'm waiting for my copy of the Genesis Collected Works to see if there is more in there. I heard that Ohshima alors talks in the untold history of japanese game developer vol3 (where he confirms MJ involvement with Sonic 3), does anyone knows if he talks about something else ? I'm also thinking about contacting Yasuhara, he seems to be the most honest about the whole situation... Thanks a lot for reading and don't hesitate to correct me !