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The Enigma That Is Knuckles' Chaotix's Development

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by The Joebro64, Aug 22, 2022.

  1. The Joebro64

    The Joebro64

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    Interesting that you point this out. I don't think the evidence is that strong (so it's hard to make an affirmative) but there's some indication that the game had some staffing troubles. Look at this quote from Hoshino (from the Sega-16 post Gryson linked above):
    Hoshino doesn't appear to be the only developer to work on both Knuckles' Chaotix and Nights into Dreams. In fact, a total of 10 developers worked on both: obviously Ohshima and Hoshino, but also Hataya, Watanuki, Miyake, Makino, Ryo Kudo, Saori Wada, Atsumu Miyazawa, and Tatsuya Kōzaki. That's not a negligible amount of people. It begs the question: how many of these people were working on Chaotix but got reassigned to Nights? I doubt Hoshino was the only one.

    Then there's Masato Nishimura's tweets. He claims Clackers was canceled, something we know isn't true - it came out as Knuckles' Chaotix. And after posting this, Zetaman on TCRF found two more Nishimura tweets (November 2011 and November 2012) where he talks about the Special Stages. Here are machine translations (again, if someone can provide a more accurate translation, please do!):
    Nishimura confirms that the wireframe special stages had been in the game back when it was on the Genesis, but again claims the game was canceled in the second tweet. (And remember, he mentions the cancellation was caused by "SOA issues", which is why I don't think Kalinske's comment should be discarded. If there was a dispute between SOA and SOJ that affected a major Sonic game, I'm certain Kalinske would have knowledge of that, and I doubt he'd conflate two entirely separate projects (Sonic 3 and Sonic X-treme) developed years apart.) And the way he describes the game makes it sound like he isn't even aware it was released in any form. Perhaps he was reassigned from the project as well?

    It almost makes me think the game was finished by a completely different team from the one that started it in the first place. This could explain why Hoshino doesn't mention any Saturn version (he left before it became a Saturn game), and why Chaotix credits three directors and not just one, like the other Genesis-era Sonic games. Hell, it could explain why Chaotix credits so many people. Chaotix credits 88 people, an unusually large number for the time. In fact, of the classic Sonic games, the only ones that credit more are Sonic CD, which credits 120, and Sonic 3, which credits 100.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2022
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  2. Gryson

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    You're misunderstanding things here.

    First, you're misunderstanding what Nishimura said.

    He didn't say the game was cancelled because of "SOA issues." He said the features he's discussing were cut due to changing circumstances with SOA (the Japanese 都合 does not mean "issues" or "problems"; it means something like "circumstances" or "convenience"). I all but guarantee you those circumstances were: SOA had decided to release the 32X and suddenly Japan was in a panic to get games ready for its launch.

    I think there's also some misunderstanding of Kalinske's role at Sega. The man was not involved directly with software development at all. Especially with a game being developed in Japan - that was in a different company that he had no direct involvement in.

    I can sit here all day and throw quotes at you that show Kalinske does not know anything about the software side.

    How about this one:

    In fact, Japan developed 10 games for the 32X. He's way off. He has no idea about these things. That's not meant as a slight against the man - it just wasn't directly related to his job as CEO of Sega of America. Managing the software coming out of Japan was delegated to people in production or product development.

    Furthermore, the 32X was created in Jan 1994 as a tool specifically for Sega of America so that they would not have to touch the Saturn for the near future. You can read my translation of Hayao Nakayama describing this entire strategy here. It would make little sense to move Chaotix first to the Saturn in mid-1994. The 32X strategy had already been decided then. The logical course is that once it became clear the 32X needed games ASAP, Japan immediately threw its resources into that direction. This matches precisely what Chaotix producer Takayuki Kawagoe said: Chaotix was a Genesis title that was shifted to the 32X.

    The ultimate problem here is that Kalinske was asked a question he was not at all expected to know the answer to. Given his personality, he answered it based on a vague recollection of problems with some Sonic game back in the day.

    Perhaps the bigger problem in this thread, though, is that people so want to find meaning in his vague, jumbled answer that they are jumping through hoops to do so.

    This is the equivalent of asking Sega president Hayao Nakayama about the development history of Bug! 20 years after the fact.

    I also love your comment: "I doubt he'd conflate two entirely separate projects (Sonic 3 and Sonic X-treme) developed years apart." This is a very naive (but very common) mistake in doing any kind of historical research. The sad truth is that most people don't remember what happened one year ago, let alone 20. You find this out soon once you start interviewing people. There are two types: those who admit they don't know, and those that try to guess the answer. Also, FYI: Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic X-Treme, and Chaotix were all being developed in 1994.

    Simply put: The burden of proof for a Saturn version of Chaotix has not been met. The default assumption should therefore be that it doesn't exist. Once we get the evidence, then we can change all of that.
     
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  3. The Joebro64

    The Joebro64

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    I said in my posts that I'm providing machine translations of Nishimura's tweets and would really appreciate it if someone could provide a more accurate translation. If you can, that'd be great. If you don't have time or simply don't want to, that's fine - I just wanted to point out that I did denote this.

    Also, would you maybe mind your tone a little? I know you're very knowledgeable and passionate about Sega's history and not trying to come across in a negative way but I did kind of feel like you came across a bit dickish.
     
  4. Snowbound

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    Moving away from Kalinske, I think some valid point have been made in this thread that you haven’t fully engaged with:

    I highlight these points for two reasons: 1) You seem knowledgeable and I’m curious what you make of the specific sections I quoted and 2) I often noticed on Sonic Retro that people will hyperfocus on one aspect of a user’s post and not engage with the rest of it. It’s important to fact check to prevent misunderstandings from cementing themselves as facts… but it’s very aggravating when a discussion devolves into a bunch of people solely typing “Well, actually…” at each other without fully acknowledging the points being made
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2022
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  5. Azookara

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    I've always been endlessly intrigued with Chaotix, and have wondered what it looked like in a world where it was completed the way it was supposed to be. It's such a strange game; full of great things just as it is full of questionable ones. If it never was intended for the Saturn, then it certainly feels like it should've been. The time came when Sega needed a Sonic title for the console, and they failed it. For the 32X.

    I'd love to see a world where it's completed, regardless of how much of the original game concept sticks along. Those environments, music and characters are far too charming to just sit on a shelf forever, leaving us pretending it doesn't exist.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2022
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  6. ndiddy

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    A lot of older toolchains would export builds as either Intel HEX files or Motorola S-Record files, rather than raw binary. The way these files work is that they're text files where each line specifies the address of the data and then a certain number of data bytes, along with checksums and other metadata. Because each line specifies the address of the data, that means that uninitialized data in the ROM is simply skipped over and there's a "hole" in the file. If the file was going to be written to an EPROM, it would be transferred over a serial connection to the EPROM programmer's internal memory, and whatever data that was in the programmer's internal memory and not overwritten by the new build would be written to the EPROM. For digital files, the leftover data would originate from whatever computer was used to convert the file from HEX to binary, which could be the developer's workstation, the server hosting Sega's internal BBS, a computer at the QA department, or any number of other possibilities (I never worked at Sega so IDK how their internal setup worked).
     
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  7. Forte

    Forte

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    Thank You Joebro, it was a fascinating read. There's still so much we don't know about the Chaotix development. I'm also happy that I'm not the only one who remembers drx mentioning the Saturn proto.
    I suppose he wouldn't mention it, if he wasn't sure enough it exists.

    I also know that sometimes the discussions on the forums get hot and people throw arguments around - but let's not forget that being nice to others is a cool thing.
     
  8. Pengi

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    Some other (possibly) relevant Nishimura tweets:

    https://twitter.com/Mazin__/status/46019819656581121
    https://twitter.com/Mazin__/status/46020572659974145
    https://twitter.com/Mazin__/status/46021587945783296 (11 Mar 2011)

    ^ The tweets aren't threaded, but seem to be related.

    https://twitter.com/Mazin__/status/74548511043096576 (28 May 2011)

    ^ Saying he worked on the Mega Drive predecessor of Chaotix with the main programmer of Super Shinobi 2. This is probably referring to Toshiaki Yojima.

    https://twitter.com/Mazin__/status/89154478892257280 (8 Jul 2011)

    ^ "I wasn't directly involved in the 32X version (I'll put it in a meaningful notation lol), but in fact, I secretly helped out with some pixel art and special stage ideas. The director is AX-101" (Google translated)

    https://twitter.com/Mazin__/status/136988798088253441 (17 Nov 2011)

    ^ "That's right, even when I was making the predecessor game of Chaotics, with the tacit understanding that "Sonic is a one-button operation," jumping, grabbing, and throwing (and spin dash) were all done with one button. Since it was originally a game with special controls, it ended up being complicated, so we decided to divide it into two buttons." (Google translated)

    https://twitter.com/Mazin__/status/200073952167596032 (9 May 2012)

    ^ "Reminds me of Sonic Labyrinth. I was in charge of the evaluation at that time. It was reminiscent of the predecessor of Chaotics, the attraction mode of a certain abandoned title, and it felt a bit complicated lol. I guess it's a blast." (Google translated)

    https://twitter.com/Mazin__/status/324530237436219393 (17 Apr 2013)

    ^ "Come to think of it, when I was making Chaotics for 32X, I remember being horrified when Kaibara Kawase was released. Well, it seems like they'll say we're going to do it together lol Well, I think I was referring to Top Secret and Aquares." (Google translated)

    https://twitter.com/Mazin__/status/1195580647932223490 (16 Nov 2019)

    ^ Mentions that Chaotix was a single button game in early development.

    There's an extra bit of info from Hoshino in the "Collected Works" book that wasn't mentioned earlier (it doesn't really change anything, but more info is more info):

    Naoto Ohshima didn't work on Crackers/Chaotix though.

    From "The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers Volume 3":

    The interview with Manabu Kusunoki (Mighty and Ray's character designer for SegaSonic the Hedgehog) had a similar exchange:

    So essentially, anyone credited under "Original Character Concept" didn't work on the game unless they also had any additional credits in the game. "Original Character Concept" is just a historical acknowledgement for creating characters used in the game.

    Naoto Ohshima (Designed Vector, Charmy, Eggman)
    Takashi Yuda (Designed Knuckles)
    Manabu Kusunoki (Designed Mighty)

    Kazuyuki Hoshino (Designed Metal Sonic. Also credited as "Character Designer" and "Enemy Designer")
    Takumi Miyake (Designed Espio. Also credited as "Chief Graphic Designer", "Attraction Designer", "Character Designer", "Enemy Designer" and "Boss Designer".)
    Yasufumi Soejima (Also credited as "Character Designer".)

    The other design credits are:

    Character Designer
    Ryo Kudo
    Takumi Miyake
    Jina Ishiwatari Tsukahara
    Kazuyuki Hoshino
    Yasufumi Soejima

    Enemy Designer
    Takumi Miyake
    Ryo Kudo
    Kazuyuki Hoshino

    Boss Designer
    Ryo Kudo
    Takumi Miyake

    It's vague what "Character Designer" refers to here, but looking at how the credits are organised, I think it means they're the people who drew the playable character sprites, whether or not they actually created the character. Similarly, everyone credited under "Attraction Designer" is an artist (Chaotix had "Attractions" rather than "Zones"). There are no generic "Artist" credits.

    Vector's "Chaotix" design dates back to 1991-1992.

    It was used in the April 1992 issue of Shogaku Gonensei (published March 1992):
    [​IMG]

    Which used this concept art by Ohshima as reference: https://twitter.com/naotoohshima/status/975790031632719873

    [​IMG]

    Regarding Charmy, he had two designs in the manga. The designs varied between the magazine/artist.

    This is what he looked like in Shogaku Yonensei, the magazine he first appeared in:

    [​IMG]

    This design was also used in Shogaku Sannensei. It's not exactly the same as the Chaotix 32X design, but it's close. It also seems that Sonic Team referred back to this when updating his design in Sonic Heroes.

    Ohshima has said on Twitter that Amy was designed for the games (but just happened to appear in the manga first), but he thinks Charmy was created specifically for the manga.
     
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  9. LockOnTommy11

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    So far there’s three interesting points related to the notion of the game being developed for the Saturn before shifting to the 32X:
    • The development timeline (the aforementioned four months)
    • START + A + B + C resetting an earlier prototype before being removed.
    • Drx advising that he almost snagged a copy of the Saturn prototype.
    None of this is concrete however. The development timeline doesn’t necessarily confirm nor deny the fact, lots of Mega Drive games can be reset with the button combo, and until we see / hear more on this list prototype, it’s hard to say what the prototype’s content was, where on the development timeline it placed, or even if it was really immediately related to the same project and not just an offshoot of something else.

    I suppose if Drx had something else to share on the matter he already would have. Presumably it’s all tight-lipped to keep the case low level in hopes that attention doesn’t cause a mishap that renders the prototype unobtainable.
     
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  10. The KKM

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    Even if not fully trusting DRX, I feel the addition of the reset code etc lends credibility to it. I doubt it would've gotten very far, but I'm willing to believe there was at one point an attempt to move this to the Saturn
     
  11. Black Squirrel

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    This is the software reset, and while it was mandated for Saturn games, it appears in a bunch of Mega-CD titles too (don't ask which ones - I haven't the patience to check them all). Sony and Nintendo consoles have software resets too - different button combinations, but the idea is the same.

    Sega started caring about this feature around 1994 - I wouldn't read too much into developers experimenting with it. My gut feeling is it was never ideal for the three button Mega Drive controller because the start button is on the right hand side - perhaps it was too easy to trigger with one hand.
     
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  12. drx

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    :rolleyes:
    @Gryson You are probably the first person who is actually rigorous about these, and I think you are right to question the veracity of my claims. Since I am the only source for the Saturn Chaotix claim, my original evidence for Saturn Chaotix was an unpublished interview with one of the people who worked on Chaotix, from 2008:

    "Browsing through old SEGA stuff, I found some interesting assets from the development of a few games you worked on -- [...] and Chaotix -- that would probably interest you."

    "Very interested to know how you go about finding some of this old stuff. As far as [...] and Chaotix are concerned, it was very disappointing that SOA decided to put those on 32X as they were originally slated for Saturn. Putting them on 32X was the kiss of death. We had to aggressively reduce scope and features to make it work for that platform. Chaotix was especially a really cool and potentially great game for the Saturn, but became a mediocre game when pushed over to 32X. Anyway, if you have questions I can do my best to answer them. It's been such a long time ago, I can't say for sure I would remember specifics, but I will try."

    One more tidbit:

    "Could the timing issues you ran into be related to the fact that it was originally built for Saturn rather than 32X? It wasn't until towards the end of the project that it was pushed over to the 32X (Sonic was removed at the same time). I agree with you that it was under appreciated, and that it was because Sonic wasn't featured and because it was released on the 32X which very few people bought."

    ---

    Commentary:
    * I didn't mention Saturn at all until he brought it up. It wouldn't have even occurred to me as a possibility until he mentioned it.
    * Agree that it was a leading question for Tom. Tom was a high-level executive (and therefore not the best primary source for in-depth project knowledge), so for expediency I didn't ask him vague non-leading questions.
    * I am being intentionally vague about the source because there are people who will pester devs on twitter nowadays. Which is why we can't have nice things. I intend (in the next few years) to go back and ask the source some more questions, and finally publish the entire thing.
    * I would ask you all that you don't try to reverse engineer the source and let me handle it.
    * I conducted dozens of these small interviews back in the day. Some day I will publish them in some form.
     
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  13. LockOnTommy11

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    Thanks for the response Black Squirrel. I did reference other games using this in my post which you may have missed, but not to worry. I can’t recall which games use this feature but there are absolutely ones that do.

    Drx, thank you for reaching out in this thread and clarifying the matter, your efforts in investigating and handling all of these prototypes is forever appreciated, as well as the time you take in providing the community with your findings and knowledge.

    I hope you have luck in obtaining this Saturn version one day!
     
  14. The Joebro64

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    I can’t thank you enough for the clarification, drx!
     
  15. HEDGESMFG

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    Very glad to see this thread. Chaotix has always been an extra fascinating title to me as it was the last US non-arcade classic title I was able to play, and that was after going through 'considerable' efforts to obtain it a very long time ago...

    1. I first ebayed a copy of the game around 2000. Something like 50$ for the cart back then, rough condition box/manual included as well. No emulator was able to play the game at that time, so this was the only possible method to play it at all.
    2. I also ebayed a 32X, but it was missing components (namely, one of the RCA cables that wired it directly to the Genesis, though the static plates may have also been a factor) and the game failed to run because of it, not properly rendering the correct visual layers on top of the ones the genesis hardware output.
    3. Because of this, a Sonic RP forum I was on at the time had a member who had a boxed 32X sitting in the back of a K-Mart in a rural town for roughly 5$, brand new. They offered to pick it up and sell it to me directly. I actually had to ship them a small check to cover the cost of the unit and shipping, but sure enough a few weeks later I got a fully working brand new 32X out of the box in the year 2001, and played the game to 100% completion. Indeed, that single missing cable fixed the issue, and the game ran flawlessly on my model 2 Genesis+32X combo.

    It was somewhere between months to a year later that emulators were finally able to play the title properly.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2022
  16. MarkeyJester

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    I'm basically still waiting for SEGA to release a port/remake of it. They supported arcade titles in Gems collection (Sonic the Fighter), so I see no reason not to support Knuckles Chaotix :colbert:
     
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  17. Azookara

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    My mind's been racing since DRX's post above. What a reveal!

    Going by what all has been said here, I guess it's easiest to assume that the game we got is literally unfinished. Like not just that it feels that way, but that it is. Having to downscale everything about the game's scope and design and bum-rush out a 32X port certainly explains why the game feels like there's various missing pieces in the final product.

    And it really gives the idea that while the art/music department were seemingly done with their jobs, the gameplay didn't get the chance to have it's issues ironed out and the level design never got to a fleshed-out state. The end product is a game that feels hurried to the finish line, despite what should've been a more than ample amount of time for the mid-90s. And it's never been known why until now. It just.. makes sense. Well, a lot more than ever before anyways. Still so many questions..

    Just wild. Praying we see the Saturn Chaotix proto reach the light of day. Forget Sonic 1 TTS (we may never find that). THIS is my holy grail, lol.
     
  18. Mr. Ksoft

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    Honestly, it's always been obvious that the game is literally unfinished. There are all kinds of unpolished moments outside of just poor design choices like the level layouts.
    An example that comes to mind is one that hits you in the face right at the beginning of the game - when you spawn in as Knuckles alone, Espio actually appears (scaled up like the Recall was used) for a single frame and then magically disappears while Knuckles jumps down several pixels to touch the ground suddenly. A few frames after that, Knuckles AGAIN awkwardly snaps into place (over a few pixels) along with the camera. And then there are things like elements as fundamental to Sonic as loops and ceiling ramps not working properly even near the end of development -- with the former ending up being completely removed. The ramps did get fixed, but a lot of the level designs were already structured to work around the problem and never updated.

    Seems QA for the game was basically just "make sure it doesn't crash" because there are little paper cuts like that all over the place that likely would not have been an issue had they actually been given bug-fixing/polish time.
     
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  19. Ted618

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    To add some context to the development department state at Sega at the time of Chaotix and get a sense of how these developers were moved around, Yosuke Okunari has recounted in one of his Saturn articles what he remembers each CS team was designated to serve (made from several varying machine translation results, if anyone can provide their own improved one if possible, it would be much appreciated):
    Harmony #128's detailing of the recent Sega reorganisation does shed some additional light on this period too, with CS4 and 5 established as part of it. That happened around the same time that Chaotix was still Clackers, but if it really was moved onto Saturn after getting the greenlight, that would then place the game in 1 or 2 - before moving again, as 32X/MCD development was seemingly amalgamated with MD personnel in both 3 and 4.

    However, a tweet by ex-Sega developer motekin does contradict some of the above by claiming that CS1 were responsible for Ristar at one point, despite it supposedly sticking to Saturn games around that time. This is notably in response to Okunari, who seems to be asserting that the original Sonic team (i.e. people from 1/CD) were working on Clackers whilst Ristar was being made - a television show had given the age-old false credit to them again.

    Also
    Sega definitely owned some Silicon Graphics equipment circa 1993/4. How do we know this? Tetsuya Mizuguchi says he had been effectively given carte blanche by the higher ups in placing orders for a crapton of expensive 3DCG rendering + editing equipment. He was still fairly new to the company at this time, with no early successes like Sega Rally or Manx TT to speak of just yet, and that's what they were already letting him do.

    We also know that this equipment was the basis of Mizuguchi's own subdivision at AM3, as they were initially the only ones at Sega who actually kind of knew what they were doing with it. It's why they made Sonic Ride, and the 3D portions of Sonic The Animation - experimental short films to help work their way around the technology. Coincidentally, Ride was even confused for the then-rumoured Sonic title for 32X by Game Players.

    So if all of the PR noise is true, then parts of Chaotix may well have been another 3D thing that AM3 were responsible for.

    And re: the frustration with no Chaotix port still, the impression I got from recent Mega Drive Mini 2 interviews was that the commercial viability of reproducing 32X games acceptably is about the same as Saturn's - not easy, and particularly not feasible on a mini console. But a Blizzard retro compilation (the one that's questionably titled "Arcade Collection") did include the 32X version of Blackthorne last year, so who knows.
     
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  20. HEDGESMFG

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    I still say the reverse engineering board really needs to start going at this game at some point. I feel like there's a ton of romhack potential for the game that's just never been realized. I'm sure being on the 32x makes it more of a challenge, but I'd imagine it's far from impossible to hack. Imagine a functional version with modified stages, a combi-less hack, a hack that adds Sonic and Tails back in as extra character slots. Music hacks.

    There's a lot that could be done to really polish this game up even before a retro remake is considered.