Meet the 30th Anniversary Edition of Sonic the Hedgehog on Mega Drive That Almost Happened

Everybody has their favourite Sonic game, but today – on the blue blur’s birthday – it’s without question that the focus should be on the original Mega Drive/Genesis title that started it all. And to celebrate Sonic’s 30th Anniversary, an inspired product designer came close to convincing SEGA to re-produce a special edition of Sonic 1 that would play on original 1990s hardware.

Unfortunately, “close” is as far as we’ll ever get, because the Mega Drive/Genesis release of Sonic the Hedgehog: The 30th Anniversary Edition will never see the light of day. Except for, now, in our dreams.

The concept was developed by Will Luton, a seasoned product designer who began his career working for SEGA – who today shared his pitch and vision for the celebratory re-release on his Twitter page. Unlike most re-releases of Sonic the Hedgehog, this would have involved a re-print of the original Mega Drive/Genesis cartridge, with a modified ROM including a number of gameplay enhancements.

“One day I was sat in a pub with a friend who happens to know SOJ’s CEO,” Luton explained on Twitter. “We started talking about things and then a plan was hatched: Let’s try to convince SEGA to let us make official Mega Drive carts since 1998.”

Luton’s idea and pitch to SEGA wasn’t just limited to Sonic 1, but was intended to be a general celebration of classic SEGA games from the 16-bit era. Other games like Streets of Rage, Shining Force and Ristar would have likely been follow-up Mega Drive games to get a similar anniversary treatment, and if those were successful Luton also mentioned following up with games on other SEGA consoles such as the Saturn and Dreamcast.

The game’s packaging went through some changes during the pitch. At first, “we had grand plans for a special edition including an oversized cartridge box, hardback art book and a huge real gold-plated ring,” as shown above. But when it became clear that the potential market for a release like this (and therefore the profit opportunity) was going to be rather small, the concept was scaled back to a “simple gold print cover, manual and cart, along with pixel art cards,” limited to 1,991 units.

Honestly, we think we much prefer the gold print edition ourselves. Look at how premium it looks. We want one on our shelf!

But even the game itself was going to be tweaked. According to Luton, “we got a well known SEGA homebrew programmer on board and had big plans: Boss Rush mode, integrated Sonic & Knuckles, [a] new splash screen and remixed music… We even talked about adding WiFi to the cart so people could upload scores.”

Sadly, the project went nowhere past the pitch stage. While Luton did have his foot in the door and bent the corporate ear of SEGA, ultimately “we got pinged around in SEGA for a while and eventually got a polite but firm ‘no thank you’. Which was great as we knew we could [finally] stop chasing.”

“To be clear: SEGA did not ask for this. The pitch was purely speculative and we knew a no was most likely. So these renders can be considered fan art and not anything close to official, despite our hopes being to make it real.” A shame, because we know at least a few people who would do unspeakable things for something like this.

Check out the full Twitter thread from Will by clicking the tweet below. And hopefully, his idea can be realised in the future.
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Founder of The Sonic Stadium and creator/co-organiser of the Summer of Sonic convention. Loves talking about Sonic the Hedgehog in his spare time. Likes Sonic Colours a little too much for his own good, apparently.