I was doing my weekly shopping in the town square, as they had just opened some new market stalls. They sold your typical wares: fruit, vegetables, meat etc. but one caught my eye. It was a small tent with all sorts of goods placed on a short wooden table. I was going to walk past it and continue, but I had noticed something that made my eyes widen and sparkle.
In the middle of the dull plank sat a shiny, almost new Sega Saturn. I remember playing some of my favourite games on Sega hardware, such as Sonic 2 and Streets Of Rage. However, something about it struck me as odd, not the system itself, but the games that came with it. Sitting next to the black box were 6 games: NiGHTS Into Dreams, Sonic Jam, Bug!, Sonic 3D: Flickie’s Island, to my surprise, Panzer Dragoon Saga, one of the most valuable games on the system and a mysterious game I had only ever heard about in magazines and online articles, a game that I once heard was cancelled and never released, Sonic X-Treme.
This was certainly weird, since Sonic X-Treme was never released officially, but at the time of writing this, fans have found the game’s source code and are currently reviving the project, so maybe a version they found was put on a blank Saturn disc so people could play it without an emulator. What was even stranger was the case for the game: it was a typical CD case, but instead of the covers being blank, there was box art, a rating and even a back cover! The only time Sonic X-Treme ever had anything resembling box art was a concept sketch used as a template for what the final box art would have been, but they never got around to drawing up a final version due to the game’s cancellation. Perhaps this was not the actual game but instead a early demo from before it's cancellation.
I immediately asked the man at the counter for the cost of the system, and he priced it at a measly £79.99, quite cheap for such a valuable system. I gave him the money and drove home to play my new collection of games.
STARTING THE GAME
After about 2 hours of testing each game to see if they worked, there was only one game left, Sonic X-Treme. I was excited, I was about to play the Sonic game that never was! The Sega Saturn splash screen started up, and all of the pieces of the logo flew into fit the intended shape, but as the logo showed up, the system froze. No menu or copyright screen showed up, and any button I pressed did nothing. I had a feeling that if hadn't found this, it would've ended up as a non-for-sale item in the public domain. Or someone could've bought it before me and successfully destroyed the rare video game artifact, this possibly being the only known copy of the demo or one of the very few. The system had crashed. I turned it off, ejected the Sonic X-Treme disc and went to bed. The next day, I woke up and turned on the Saturn again to see if Sonic Xtreme would work, and to my surprise, it did. I picked up my controller and began to play the game...
A black screen faded in, and a logo began swirling around and bending across the screen. Eventually, it snapped to the centre, “SONIC X-TREME” was what read on the screen, and there were three options underneath it: Single Player, Two Player and Options. The latter two didn’t work, so I selected Single Player, and a cutscene began. Sonic was lying down in the middle of a field with his friend Tails, when the blue sky turned a shadowy black colour. He opened his eyes, and the camera panned up to reveal a huge object in the sky. It looked like the Death Egg, Dr. Robotnik’s space station featured in Sonic 2, 3, 4 and Generations. Sonic got up and started running, as the screen faded to black.
JADE GULLY ZONE
The game loaded its first level, it was the generic Sonic “Green Hill” level, with more of a jungle vibe than the other levels of this variety. The game had a fish-eye lens that made it look like a sphere. In a lot of cases, this helped immensely with platforming, as I could see more of what was ahead. Initially, I thought it was disorienting, but I got used to it.
The enemies consisted of your typical Badniks, such as a flying bee robot, a fish robot that would hop around in pools of water and a chameleon that shot projectiles at you, but there some more “unorthodox” designs for other Badniks than what was typical of the series, such as a robot with three drills on it, a rolling wheel with spikes on it and a boomerang that would chase Sonic.
The music was a very calming bongo drum beat, mixed in with a pleasant acoustic guitar. There were segments where Sonic would have to hit a switch to activate a hidden path, and there were some crumbling bridges that would lead you into spikes, but the level was fairly easy.
The boss was a big cat looking mech, which would leap at Sonic and swipe at him with laser claws. After a few hits, its head would fly off, revealing Robotnik in his classic Egg-Mobile piloting it. He now had two new attacks, he would shoot lasers out of the mech’s paws and perform a spin attack that would send him bouncing across the room. The game ran completely differently in the boss battles than in the regular levels, for instance, the fish-eye lens had gone, and in its place was a flat battlefield with no features whatsoever other than a colourful texture on the ground. Sonic ran a lot faster, and the arena rotated around him. After a few hits, the boss was destroyed and the game displayed a results screen. After my score was totaled, the game faded to black to load the next zone.
RED SANDS ZONE
This zone was a desert themed level, with lots of pyramids, tombs, traps and even a sphinx at the end of the third act, which Sonic would run into to finish the zone. The music was very slow, with a Middle Eastern mood to it. There were quicksand traps that you would have to jump over, and dart guns that you would have to run past. The level design was a lot more treacherous than Jade Gully, making for a huge difficulty spike.
The enemies included a mummy robot that limped towards Sonic, an Anubis robot that would drag Sonic towards nearby quicksand and the Tri-Drillers from Jade Gully. There were a lot of spikes and fireballs that would jump from the many pits of lava scattered throughout the level. The boss was a sphinx robot that would try to smash Sonic with its extremely large stone hands. Unlike the Big Cat robot, this boss was fought on a single platform floating in the sky instead of an arena, in a completely 2D perspective. As I was about to defeat him, the graphics started to flicker and glitch out, creating some weird images and patterns. Shortly after the barrage of colours, the game locked up and emitted a loud buzzing noise.
I took out the disc, expecting to see tons of scratches, but to my surprise there weren’t any. I restarted the Saturn, only to see that the game had saved my place. No splash screen, or title screen, just the boss arena, minus the boss. Sonic was just standing there, facing towards the screen. The game then loaded the next level…
CRYSTAL FROST ZONE
This zone was a Winter Wonderland style level, complete with icicles, snow, slippery ground and light hail that would fade in and out every few seconds. The only enemies were the Tri-Drillers, but instead of just floating around, like the first two zones, they were hidden beneath the snow, waiting to ambush Sonic. They looked different, as well. Instead of the googly-eyed orbs with drills on the sides and top, they looked more menacing, with a darker colour than their usual vibrant red, and shining, angry eyes. The drills had spikes on the sides, and the robot itself had a mouth, lined with razor-sharp teeth. This certainly disturbed me, but I wasn’t going to let it stop me. The music was very slow, with deep bass tones playing sporadically, and a chilling twinkle making up the melody.
The boss was a pathetically easy snowman robot that would throw snowballs at you. There wasn’t much to talk about, the Big Cat was harder than it! After it was destroyed, the game didn’t load the next zone, instead, Sonic just stood there, with a worried expression on his face as a cold wind swept in. Suddenly, a violent blizzard of glitched sprites erupted from the right side of the screen, covering the poor hedgehog in jumbled characters, enemies, snow and ice. When it ended, Sonic was nowhere to be seen, and the screen faded out…
After the screen had faded out, I was expecting the next zone to load, but it didn’t. Sonic’s sprite faded in, and I was given control, but there was nowhere to take him, as I was trapped in a black void. After a few minutes of just running around, the sprite glitched out, then Sonic did an animation I hadn’t seen, even when I lost a life: he pulled a sad face, then fell to his knees, and passed out. The game then loaded the next zone…
BLUE OCEAN ZONE
This was a water level, similar to Labyrinth Zone in Sonic 1. It was an ancient ruin with traps similar to Red Sands, only instead of quicksand or lava, there were spike pits. The enemies consisted of Tri-Drillers and a multitude of Fish robots that would either shoot projectiles or chase Sonic. The music was very calming and mellow, a stark contrast to the difficulty of the level.
The boss was a giant Electric Eel robot that would shoot lightning in all directions and electrocute the floor. Overall, it wasn’t much of a challenge, but it did take a while before I destroyed it. After the results screen, the game didn’t fade to black. Instead, another “cutscene” played. Sonic lay down on the floor of the arena and sighed, as he started to drown. As he lost air, he got paler and paler until he became a lifeless husk, then as the graphics became a scrambled mess, it loaded the next zone...
METAL BLADE ZONE
This level was a mechanical metropolis level, and the home of the infamous Metal Sonic boss fight seen in many magazines and promotional videos. The aesthetics of this zone were very grim and out of place, many buildings were on fire, some were charred, vehicles were smashed up and there were bones scattered across the floor. This was the hardest zone in the game, with tight platforming challenges and a lot of death traps to keep me on my toes. The enemies were the Tri-Drillers, the Wheels and the Boomerangs from Jade Gully, except they were on fire, and hellbent on ripping Sonic to shreds.
The music was quiet and ominous, with an electric guitar for the melody and a deep bass guitar for the beat. Like I said before, Metal Sonic was the boss, and he was huge, about three times the size of Sonic. He would fly around the room and shoot lightning bolts at Sonic, then charge straight ahead. He was fast, aggressive and unpredictable, but I managed to beat him. I was waiting for another cutscene to play, like what happened at the end of the previous two zones, but the game entered its glitched state again, forcing me into another “void” stage…
ESC- [GARBLED TEXT]
This time, there were features to guide me in the right direction. Grey poles were lining a long path that if I diverged from, I would fall down a bottomless pit and die, so I had to be careful. After a while of running down the bland road, I was thrown into a platforming section, which was quite a challenge to complete. Then Sonic did his glitchy animation from the previous void and lost a life. That was strange, as it should have loaded the next level, but I had to do this one again. This process repeated about four times, and then it loaded the final challenge…
This did not look like a space station, so the name is a bit misleading, but I digress. This level was quite off, even considering what Metal Blade looked like. The walls were a deep purple colour, while the floor was a deep black colour. All of the previous enemies returned, now with rather menacing redesigns. The textures on everything were glitchy, almost corrupted, creating some very wacky images. There were segments where Sonic was in space, and he had an extremely cruel time limit to get through a nearby air lock and continue on.
At the end of the second act, right as I was about to pass the goal post, Sonic's sprite glitched out and began to fly in all directions across the screen. A few seconds after it started, the textures of the level flickered and suddenly went crazy, even glitchier than they were before, creating an image so bright and distracting that it actually gave me a headache. I covered my eyes and walked out of the room, but as was about to shut the door, the Saturn emitted an earsplitting noise that sounded like a mix between a buzz, TV static and a high-pitched shriek. I immediately turned off the system and as quickly as the sound had arrived, it had left. I relaxed, knowing that all was now silent.
Upon restarting the Saturn, I got a blank screen with “GAME OVER” scrawled in glitchy, red letters. No matter what I did, I couldn’t access the title screen, or anything else. It was just stuck on that intimidating screen, forever. I ejected the disc from the Saturn, put it in it’s case and left it in a corner of my bookshelf, hidden behind DVD cases and books...where hopefully no one else will find it and never will know to look, no one except for me...
Written By NateSnivyYT
Images Courtesy of Sonic Retro and Senntient.
Game Over Image By NateSnivyYT
Nate's YouTube Page: NateSnivySmasher