Sonic's first title for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 was supposed to be a new beginning for the franchise. Originally billed as a reboot for the series, the primary design goal for the game was to create a "realistic" Sonic game -- complete with a full-on day/night cycle, physics-centric gameplay, and a huge world to explore. The game that ended up on store shelves was radically different: essentially another game broken out of the Sonic Adventure gameplay mold, it contained unaltered game elements and concepts largely dating all the way back to 1999.
As per the formula established by Sonic Adventure, Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) is broken up in to multiple storylines: one for hero Sonic the Hedgehog, another for rival Shadow the Hedgehog, and a third story for the newcomer Silver the Hedgehog. Though each character has their own plot threads, paths frequently cross and storylines intersect. Like Sonic Adventure 2, each of the three characters' campaigns does not represent just a single playable character, but a team of characters. For example, throughout the course of Sonic's story, one can expect to play portions of certain stages as Tails, or Knuckles. Likewise, players who choose Silver will at times be required to play as Blaze the Cat and Amy Rose, and lastly, Shadow teams up with Rouge the Bat and E-123 Omega from Sonic Heroes. Each character has abilities unique to them and can differ greatly from Sonic in terms of play style.
The game is broken up in to two major modes: free-roaming "Town Stages" and more goal-oriented "Action Stages". A typical scenario involves exploring a Town Stage in order to find a way to access the next Action Stage, and once the level is complete, Sonic is taken back to the Town Stage to repeat the process. Town Stages contain human NPCs, which can offer hints on how to find the next Action Stage, or offer side missions to complete for money. A handful of shops exist around the game world's as well, which will sell upgrades that unlock new abilities.
New to the game is the "Action Gauge": a meter that determines how much of a special ability each character can use. When the gauge depletes, the special ability is unavailable until it recharges. For example, Silver the Hedgehog can only use his psychokinesis until the action gauge is empty.
Although Sonic's action gauge is always on-screen (just as it is for other characters) he possesses no abilities that deplete the action gauge - except for when he is carrying Princess Elise, where it's used for a protective shield ability.
In Soleanna, the City of Water, its people are holding a celebration marked by the lighting of a giant torch called the "Sun of Soleanna". During a fireworks display right at the ceremony's crescendo, Doctor Eggman launches a missile attack on the celebration, and uses the ensuing commotion to swoop down and attempt to kidnap the only surviving member of royalty: Princess Elise. Eggman knows that contained inside of Princess Elise is a dark power known as "The Flames of Disaster", and he wants to use this power combined with the energy of the Chaos Emeralds to fuel "Solaris", a time machine of his own invention. With time travel firmly in his grasp, nothing would be able to stop Eggman from ruling the world.
Right on cue, Sonic the Hedgehog shows up to rescue the Princess. Unfortunately, a second ambush catches Sonic off guard, and he ultimately loses the Princess to the Doctor.
Watching this spectacle from the shadows is Silver the Hedgehog, who was sent from the future to kill Sonic, believing him to be the "Iblis Trigger". In the future, the world is in ruins caused by a destructive, sentient flame called "Iblis". Silver was brought to the past by a mysterious being called "Mephiles" who has the power to travel through time. Mephiles informed Silver that it was Sonic who unleashed Iblis and is therefore the one responsible for destroying the world. If Sonic is killed in the past, Iblis will never be unleashed, and the future will be saved.
Unknown to Silver, Mephiles is actually an evil entity who was supposed to be sealed inside the Scepter of Darkness centuries before Silver's time. Mephiles was accidentally released by Shadow the Hedgehog when he and Rouge the Bat attempted to steal the scepter from Dr. Eggman. Much to Shadow's confusion, Mephiles somehow seems to know who Shadow is, as if they had a previous encounter - though this was Shadow's first meeting with Mephiles. After being freed, Mephiles banishes both Shadow and Rouge to the dystopian future from where Silver originates.
Now Sonic must save Elise, Silver must kill Sonic, and Shadow has to figure out a way back to his own time!
- Wave Ocean *
- Dusty Desert *
- White Acropolis *
- Crisis City
- Flame Core
- Radical Train
- Tropical Jungle
- Kingdom Valley *
- Aquatic Base *
- End of the World
* Available in Multiplayer.
Sonic the Hedgehog's soundtrack was composed by Mariko Nanba, Tomoya Ohtani, Hideaki Kobayashi, Tai-Hey, and Jun Senoue, and was overseen by Masato Nakamura, the original composer for the Sega Genesis games Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The game contains five vocal songs:
- "His World - Theme of Sonic the Hedgehog" by Tomoya Ohtani, Ali Tabatabaee, and Johnny Gioeli of the band Crush 40
- "Dreams of Absolution - Theme of Silver the Hedgehog" by Mariko Nanba, Lee Brotherton and The Remix Factory
- "All Hail Shadow - Theme of Shadow the Hedgehog" by Jun Senoue, Mike Szuter and Johnny Gioeli of the band Crush 40
- "My Destiny - Theme of Princess Elise" by Mariko Nanba, Candie Y, and Donna De Lory
- "Sweet Dream - AKON '06 Mix" by Dreams Come True and AKON
The game was first unveiled behind closed doors to select members of the press at E3 in May 2005. Shown along side a number of other tech demos Sega created for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, the "Hedgehog" tech demo featured a real-time animated scene of Sonic racing through miles of forest as robots closed in around him. After easily outrunning the robots, Sonic found himself at the ruins of an old castle, where the demonstrator took control to showcase a real-time physics engine. By pressing a button, the demonstrator would throw out a container which would burst on impact, scattering golden rings around the dilapidated environment. The animation resumed, with Sonic being chased out of the castle by the squad of robots who had been hunting him. Now outside, an airship loomed overhead. The ship's cargo doors opened, and hundreds of hunter robots poured out, completely surrounding Sonic on all sides. Having nowhere to escape to, the robots all simultaneously open fire on the blue hedgehog, and the hail of gunfire presumably leaves Sonic for dead. However, from the smoke rose the now-transformed Super Sonic. Super Sonic flies forward at high speed to meet the robot army head on - the tech demo animation ending right before we see the final result.
Despite being played exclusively for the press in secret, cell phone video footage of the tech demo reel was leaked on to the internet within hours of being shown. The game was officially announced on September 9th, 2005 by current President of Sonic Team, Yuji Naka, who stated that they would be treating this game as if it were the original Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Genesis - fully committing themselves to rebooting Sonic's universe. The game was to be a new beginning for the franchise, with particular focus being paid to a specific goal: "What if Sonic the Hedgehog existed in the real world?" When officially announced, the same animated scene from the behind-closed-doors demonstration was shown, minus the interactive ring physics demo. Instead, a brief demonstration of the actual game itself was revealed, showing a very early version of the level known as "Kingdom Valley". The highlight of the gameplay demonstration was the game's lighting engine, which self-shadowed everything in the environment. This was to fuel the game's day/night cycle , a first for a Sonic title. All of this would be aimed to celebrate Sonic's 15th Anniversary in 2006.
Not long after that point, Yuji Naka announced his resignation from both Sonic Team and Sega, departing the company after nearly two decades of employment, in order to start an independent studio, PROPE. Meanwhile, Nintendo chose Sonic Team as one of the very first third party developers to get Wii Development kits - then still codenamed the "Nintendo Revolution". Previously, Sega had planned to release Sonic 2006 on all three platforms, expecting the "Revolution" to be comparable to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in terms of technology. When shown the Wii Remote and the level of graphical horsepower in the Wii, Sonic 2006 Game Director Yojiro Ogawa decided they would have to make a completely new Sonic game to specifically fit the Wii hardware. To accomplish this task, he split the Sonic 2006 development team, taking half with him to go create Sonic & the Secret Rings for Nintendo's platform. Now working at half-capacity on an ambitious game for unfamiliar next-generation hardware, Sonic Team struggled towards Sonic 2006's impending Holiday season deadline, and was reportedly so behind schedule that many Quality Assurance Tester bug reports had to be ignored in order to get the game out on time.
- Despite being a focal point of the original gameplay demonstration, the game's day/night cycle was removed shortly after the game was unveiled.
- A number of online multiplayer modes were at one point planned; Time Trial, Ring Race, and most cryptically, "Quiz". The final version of the game has no online multiplayer.
- Viewing the game's main executable in a hex editor reveals a bevvy of cut content and features, including planned (but never released) Downloadable Content like "Super Hard Mode", additional Xbox 360 icon sets, dashboard themes, a real-time version of the original tech demo animation, and music packs for every game spanning Sonic's 15 year history.
- Also cut were items to buy from the shop: A "Speed Booster" item for Silver that increased his top speed, and for Sonic, a special "Rainbow Gem" equip that possibly allowed him to transform in to Super Sonic at will, like he could in the old Sega Genesis Sonic games. At one point, extra 1ups could also be purchased from shops.
- Perhaps the biggest content cut came in the form of extra missions for each playable character in the game - Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Silver, Amy, Blaze, Shadow, Omega, and Rouge. However, listed among these names was a heretofore unseen secret tenth playable character: Metal Sonic, Sonic's long-time robotic doppelganger which originally debuted in Sonic CD. Curiously, Metal Sonic is not referenced anywhere else in the game, and no data for him exists anywhere else on the disc - he is only referenced in this on-disc DLC listing.
- In addition, the game was slated to feature alternate level objectives, similar to Sonic Adventure 2. Unused mission description text exists tasking the player to get to the goal ring within a specific time limit, finding a newly re-located goal ring, collecting a specific amount of rings, defeating all the enemies, and clearing the mini-game.
- More Level Objective text exists, possibly relating to the game's cut multiplayer modes: "Get to the goal ring before the ghost" and "Get to the goal ring before your rival" - Ghost possibly a reference to time trial ghosts, a feature often seen in racing games. However, no such ghost feature or mode exists in the final release.
- The Tokyo Game Show 2006 trailer for the game showcases a build of Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) that is somewhat different from the final release. There are a large number of additional visual effects and complex animations present in the TGS 2006 trailer that simply do not exist in the final retail version of the game.
- Even though customizing Sonic's abilities was one of the game's selling points, the final retail game features almost no customization at all. Most ability upgrades are required in order to finish the game, and while the player can purchase special gems near the end of Sonic's story, they cannot be "customized" in any way shape or form - once equipped, the player has them forever.
- The instruction manual for Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) contains a number of inaccuracies that do not accurately reflect the final game. For example: It describes the possibility of leveling up abilities equipped to the action gauge up to three levels of "maturity". The action gauge is never used like this by any character in the game, and unless he's carrying Princess Elise, Sonic's action gauge is never used for anything.
- The manual also makes reference to a green shield power-up (similar to one seen in past Sonic games). No shield power is ever acquired from item pickups, nor is any green shield power-up ever accessible.
- In addition, the manual also mentions that Tails and Omega can only fly until their "Flight Gauge" depletes. No flight gauge is ever visible, and Omega cannot fly - only hover.
- Even prior to attaining it, the text for the Xbox 360 achievement "Nights of Kronos" suggests there is an alternate ending sequence to the game. (The achievement writes: "Unlock the complete ending to the last hidden story.") Meeting the requirements to get the achievement (S-Rank the entire Last Episode) does not actually change anything about the ending.
- Early design documents state that Silver's original name was "Venice" and Princess Elise's name was at one point "Oliga".
- Princess Elise and her role as a human "damsel in distress" is similar to a scrapped concept for the original Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) on Sega Genesis, where Sonic was tasked with rescuing a love interest named Madonna.
- During Shadow's story, the Scepter of Darkness is mistakenly referred to as the "Book of Darkness" in the subtitles.
- One of the very first leaked images of this game purported it was set to release on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Personal Computer. This port was even teased in the back of the manual for the PC version of Sonic Riders, and Amazon accepted pre-orders for it until eventually the listing was removed, presumably after the port was canceled.
- Early concept art released by Blur Studios depicts a fur shaded version of the Sonic the Hedgehog character, having a slightly more hairy appearance than normal. This was perhaps related to the vision of creating a more "realistic" Sonic title.
- In August 2009, Sonic (2006) was made available as a downloadable title for Xbox 360, as one of the first titles available on Xbox Live Marketplace's Games on Demand service. It was sold with a price of $19.99 US plus tax. The title was eventually de-listed from the service a year later, in an effort made by Sega to remove "poorly rated Sonic titles" from the marketplace.