Sonic 3 Level Concept Art Research Thread (with HQ Pictures)

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by pkderbar, Jun 27, 2022.

  1. Exoticus

    Exoticus

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    This is such a cute line, what the heck? Too bad the Rival turned into an echidna, it would've been awesome to see this character trait make it's way into canon.
     
  2. pkderbar

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    This has to be the inspiration for Shadow, right?
     
  3. DefinitiveDubs

    DefinitiveDubs

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    I don't think it has anything to do with Shadow. "Rival that looks like the main character" is such a common trope, it can't possibly be attributed to this game.
     
  4. Dr. Mecha

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    The top one reminds me of Shadow somewhat, as if they recycled unused concepts for future projects.
     
  5. pkderbar

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    Of course that's possible. Perhaps I'm fancanoning too much, but I imagine this idea must have been in the team's back pocket since it went unused here.
    SA1 and SA2 have some pretty overt references to S3 and perhaps even some unrealized aspects of S2, with SA1 having more obvious thematic and plot reference and SA2 having more influence in the level themes and locations:
    • Wood / Secret Jungle - Green Forest/White Jungle
    • Launch Base - Metal Harbor
    • Sandopolis - Pyramid Cave/Death Chamber/Egg Quarters/Sand Ocean/Hidden base
    • Death Egg - Crazy Gadget
     
  6. Sparks

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    Even as a kid, I thought the similar level themes between Sonic 3K and Adventure 1/2 was intentional. It seems silly and obvious to say out loud the ARK and Death Egg are meant to be parallels, but the in-level architecture always felt like a deliberate homage to me.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Though if we want to be more specific, Death Egg Zone feels like it's inspired by the Death Star's reactor, right down to having a large reactor in the center, just like in the Act 1 backdrop:

    [​IMG]
    Though I always felt some Cloud City influence, too.
    [​IMG]

    Either way, I felt like these were worth pointing out and bringing up since it's the level concepts thread and I always found these similarities fascinating. I would kill to see more detailed concept art and level notes for the Sonic 3K zones, and see exactly what was ticking in Sonic Teams heads when they concepted and visualized each stage.
     
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  7. DefinitiveDubs

    DefinitiveDubs

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    The similarities between Sonic 3 and SA1 are absolutely intentional and for sure some of the cut story ideas (like the dragon) were recycled for that particular game (some of which recycled from Sonic 2 even), but I don't think Shiro Maekawa was aware of anything involving Sonic 3's development when creating the character of Shadow. I can't prove it, but that idea is so generic and common among franchises like these that it could've come from anybody.
     
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  8. SystemsReady

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    wait, this explains why you run into Knuckles coming out of a Giant Ring leading to Hidden Palace at the beginning of Mushroom Hill
     
  9. Pengi

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    The giant Chaos Emerald is still there at the end of Lava Reef Zone in these drafts.
     
  10. pkderbar

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    Right, I think the drafts imply that Knuckles's routes would more or less consist entirely of shortcuts through temples connecting the zones - ultimately what remains of that idea is a few of the traps Knuckles uses in scripted sequences + the entrances to some of his alternate routes and of course the mural is moved to the Showdown room in the final.

    I would guess the mural under Mushroom Valley would be a breadcrumb of the "legendary god" prophecy that would unfold to the player as they made it through Knuckles' exclusive routes. In Sonic's you have no visibility to any of it and quite literally just happen upon it while chasing after Eggman.
     
  11. Blue Spikeball

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    Indeed, but the manual says that the dragon's legend is depicted on the Emerald Altar, which makes me wonder if this one and Master Emerald were going to be in different locations at first.

    Perhaps there would have been two altars? One for the regular Chaos Emeralds, and one for the giant Chaos Emerald/Master Emerald/Mighty Stone.

    Of course, these drafts appear to show a blank mural near the giant Emerald's altar as well, right where you fight the rival as in the final. Maybe it was going to be a dupe of the dragon altar from Mushroom Valley (assuming it didn't have the final game's mural with Super Sonic, which I personally believe they only came up with after they scrapped the dragon boss), in which case the altar was probably always intended to be in Hidden Palace/Lava Reef.


    Edit: Unrelated, but I wonder if Sonic Advance could have been inspired by some of these ideas? I see some similarities in it, like the cutscene before the true final zone in which Eggman escapes into space, followed by Sonic going Super and giving chase. Death Egg Zone is also depicted as having windows near the beginning that show the sky as it ascends, similarly to Egg Rocket Zone.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2022
  12. McAleeCh

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    Started replaying Sonic 3 & Knuckles with Knuckles, and while I still appreciate how committed the dev team were to giving him his own paths and bosses, with the added context of the concept sketches shown in Origins you can definitely feel the holes in the fabric compared to their original plans.

    The first three Zones are pretty much fine with lots of alternate paths and things - highlights include Angel Island having an Act 2 layout completely disconnected from Sonic's, Hydrocity using the alcove Knuckles appears in during Sonic's story as the doorway to a whole alternate ending, and Marble Garden really making an effort with a very different Act 2 boss. And then you get to Carnival Night, which is fine in Act 1 - some alternate routes, boss is pretty much the same but a little more difficult. And then Act 2 is... just really, really short. I got enough rings to go super and then basically hit the capsule not long after transforming! No boss, nothing - just that weird incongruous teleporter leading to Icecap. It's like they got partway through building his alternate path and had to wrap things up before they'd finished!

    Having seen the concepts, the current end point seems the perfect place for a tube in the wall that'd lead to a lower path that doubles back yet again like in the sketch. I can only assume they planned for a quite different boss á la Marble Garden and ran out of time, as otherwise I can't see why they wouldn't just stick the existing Act 2 boss in at the very least. And the weirdly out of place transition - a teleporter that doesn't really relate to any gimmick present in the stage or to the theme of the next - smacks of patching over the hole left by not having the intended Knuckles-only stage in-between. Even though it seems to have been abandoned at a very early stage, I can't help thinking they could have joined that up a little better - though if the teleporter had been conceived while Flying Battery was still in the Zone 5 slot then I guess that makes more sense of it, as a mechanical teleporter like that would make more sense in context of being some sort of Eggman tech.

    Speaking of which, although I've not reached it yet, it's kind of surprising that even in the final game Flying Battery has no alternate paths planned for Knuckles. Makes me wonder if the idea of a Knuckles-exclusive Zone 5 might have made it further into the planning process after all, enough to have affected the layout planning for Flying Battery. On the one hand, the one sketch we do know of was abandoned and used for character designs instead before any real work started. However, the Sandopolis sketch points to an otherwise-unmentioned Knuckles-exclusive Zone 10 too, and the sketch for Lava Reef backs this up with a complete lack of any Knuckles-exclusive paths. Actually, none of the following stages do either, so whatever the intended stage was it was presumably supposed to be the rival's final stage at one point! Likewise, a transition to The Doomsday is illustrated in the Death Egg sketch but no corresponding sketch is included for that stage - a shame as I'd love to know if it featured the dragon seen in that one piece of concept art seen briefly in Rock the Rock. All this suggests there may be other sketches from this point in development that weren't included in the scans made for Origins, meaning more sketches and plans for an alternate Zone 5 could still exist somewhere.

    Got to admit, I'd love to see a mod one day focused on Knuckles' playthrough, that restores the idea of a unique Zone 5 and 10 for Knuckles, fleshes out Carnival Night Act 2 (with maybe a variant of the Act 2 boss that somehow involves the Ferris wheel seen in the concept sketch?), and takes inspiration from other stuff in the sketches such as the underground ruins beneath Launch Base and the original transition between Mushroom Hill and Sandopolis. Goodness knows what exactly the themes for the exclusive Zones could be without retreading ground already covered by other stages, though. Wonder if that's part of the reason they scrapped the idea, or if it was just a case of paring down the scope to more manageable levels?
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2022
  13. Blue Spikeball

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    I believe Knuckles' lower jump makes the CNZ2 boss unbeatable as him. They probably would have implemented a Knuckles-exclusive boss for that act if they had had more time.
     
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  14. pkderbar

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    I can't believe I didn't note that Knuckles was supposed to go to 10B! I will update the OP.

    I think the sketches make it clear this is a "post-story" to S3 as the Knuckles playthrough functions in S3K, with Eggrobo as the villain. For years we have known that Flying Battery being around in Knuckles' storyline doesn't really make any sense and in my opinion, Knuckles was just hastily programmed into the level in a rush for time, absent the unique level designs. It also explains why Knuckles campaign is significantly shorter than Sonic's:
    • The sketches depict Knuckles traveling from 4 ("Neon") to 5B after heading down a unique path split from the Elevator near the end of Act 2, where Knuckles forces Sonic up to the Eggman fight. The Knuckles route from here is after the Elevator switch, and almost appears to be the reverse of the final zone layout, with Knuckles traveling backwards through the Zone and then "Digging in the Soil" to the transition to 5B
      upload_2022-7-5_17-9-53.png

    • The layout in the final game is pretty close - Knuckles' route and Sonic's are from different directions, with Knuckles wrapping around to the back of the Elevator switch before abruptly ending, while Sonic is forced up as the sketch depicts. Of course, Knuckles entire route is separate from Sonic after the beginning of Act 2 with a mandatory breakable wall. View attachment 5744

    • As you noted, Flying Battery has no Knuckles-exclusive routes of any sort, and until recently one of the most notable errors was the boss of Flying Battery Act 2 - Eggrobo sprites are not used in the Knuckles battle unlike every other boss.
    To me this is the most interesting thing - there are fan edits of all sorts including S3 AIR that have attempted to "restore" Flying Battery back to Zone 5 and they end up feeling unbalanced. My playthrough of S3 AIR with FBZ in slot 5 is usually more stressful than necessary since the super rings become limited to Mushroom Hill, Sandopolis and Lava Reef only. Zones 5B and 10B will become the Genocide City or R2 for the next generation, now that those secrets became revealed over the last 15 years or so.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2022
  15. Ashura96

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    Wow it's really cool to see all this new concept art and sketches show just how fleshed out things could have been - much like the Sonic 2 concept art that showed the long rumored time travel story. Patiently waiting for that Sonic 3 director's cut lol
     
  16. Linkabel

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    During my first playthrough all the way back in the 90s I though Knuckles was going to go through the wreckage of Flying Battery.

    That would be a nice comprised for a "complete Sonic 3 edition" since you can keep the level and just add some destruction and smoke here and there. You can even use the badnik junk from Mania's version.
     
  17. I would actually think it is possible that Knux went through the wreckage of the Flying Battery, though I honestly think it is more likely that Zone 5 as Knux was completely different - some sort of level designed to bridge the gap between Carnival Night and IceCap set more on the ground...

    Of course the final plan prior to FBZ being moved was to have Knux teleport to ICZ, which was probably done to save time better spent developing the main zones.
     
  18. I just realized something. Since the Competition Mode levels seem to at times recycle themes from the main games levels, it might mean that some without a direct correlation were possibly originally assets designed after unused level ideas conceived for zones 5B or 10B. I wonder if at one point every level might have had a Competition equivalent.

    Edit: I'd also forgotten there was evidence of an unused 2p Zone missing from level IDs and an extra music track in some versions. Definitely seems that there were plans for more at one time. Kinda wondering if it would have reflected another existing Zone.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2022
  19. muteKi

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    I don't think we have enough to say that it's a clear ringer for Shadow, though we did get the one scene in SA2 where Amy accidentally tries to hug Shadow because she doesn't realize he's not Sonic
     
  20. DigitalDuck

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    I beat the CNZ2 boss as Knuckles all the time - it's more difficult but far from unbeatable.
     
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