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Was this to be Sonic 4, an extension of Sonic 3 or a mash up of various Sonic games into one? There are still some who debate what this game was to be but the common wisdom is that Sonic Crackers was an early prototype for the game that would come to be known as Knuckles Chaotix for the Sega 32x system.
This uncompleted game features Sonic and Tails who are tethered together by rings, which also appears in Knuckles Chaotix. Sonic can pick up tales and throw him to higher areas and use “bungie-like” physics to pull him up to platforms.
There were two main uncompleted levels in Sonic Crackers that had music, but no sound effect as well as bonus areas (which you entered when you died or completed the first level). There are no enemies anywhere within the zones and you cannot collect any rings but lose a large amount when you die. Also when paused you can float around the world and un-pause to get to new areas.
Who am I?
One of the first things you will notice if you get your hands on a copy of the ROM is that Sonic Crackers is named Sonic Studium. This alone has caused some to believe it was to be a completely new chapter for the series. What we have learned about ROM’s is that they don’t always contain the correct or real name of a game.
Also the name “Studium” is not a misspelling (at least not by us) it is how it is spelled on the code. As we all know “Studium” is not a real word. Now they could have meant Stadium, but even so it is not the name of the game.
Another theory about Sonic Crackers is that it was a hoax by Sega. The reasoning behind this is the date of release was April 1st 1994. While in the planning stages for Sonic 4 a new technology was announced called Lock-On, no one knew what Lock-On technology was.
In the Sonic Crackers game Sonic and Tales are linked together by rings and a tether and the idea was that people would believe (mistakenly) that this was the Lock-On technology.
The Sound of Music
One of the reasons it was believed Sonic Crackers was its own game at one time was the music. In the end, when Chaotix was released you could hear some similar sounds between its music and the one from Sonic Crackers. However, some believe the music sounds as if beats and tones where taken away.
The idea is if Sonic Crackers was either a fake or a very early build the music would sound less complex on Crackers and more complex on Chaotix.
The first level has an industrial theme which looks a lot like the Techno Tower level from Chaotix that fuels the fire that this was just an early prototype of that game. In the ROM you can move freely through the level and as stated before you can pause the game and “float” to wherever you want.When you reach the top of the level the “Game Over” music activates and that leads you into the first “Field” or bonus level.
The music and palettes within the game changes each time you enter which shows that a time of day features was already being tested. While you cannot conventionally die on this or any of the other levels once the times reaches three minutes you get the “Game Over” music.
Field Level A
This bonus level has a pink and yellow tile on the floor as well as rainbows and waterfalls. It appears to be in the sky as there looks to be clouds in the open areas of the level. However, despite the different sections you cannot interact or fall through anywhere within this zone.
You can exit this stage by hitting any button.
The second level in the game has a carnival/circus theme which resembles the Speed Slider Zone from Knuckles Chaotix. You cannot beat this level as it just loops around, but after one minute of play time the game over music activates.
The overall level design looks fun with tons of loops and spins however the prototype was buggy making it had to walk on the “floor”
Field Level B
The second field is much darker and has more of a technical feel to it. It appears you are high above a futuristic city, but once again you cannot interact or fall through the level.
In this video, made by PaxPredicate, you can see all the zones and bonus levels for Sonic Crackers. In addition, he points out many of the bugs in the game including the physics issues with the connecting rings, the lack of rings even though when you hit spikes you lose a ton of them and the level instability.
Now you can get your hand on this game. Pretty much it is a simple Google search and you can find a ROM for it. I used the GENS win-32 emulator to try the game out, but I have confirmed it works with many of the other popular Sega Genesis emulators. Keep in mind the game will be buggy and there are no bad guys or sound effects and you cant really finish the final level. However, it was still fun to try if nothing else than for research purposes. There are two flavors of Sonic Crackers. They are the 1MB dump and the 2MB over-dump. The 2MB over-dump contains about half of a prototype Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. The precise game that the prototype is for has not been determined.
CSI Sonic Crackers
During my research I found a few emulation sites that have people decompiling Sonic Crackers in order to learn more about the game and try to either complete it, fix the current prototype to become stable or incorporate it with an existing Sonic game. Now, I don’t know if these guys want the press so I won’t mention who they are, but the good news is many of them plan to release a copy you can play on an emulator pretty soon. If this happens and it’s safe and stable and they allow it I will follow-up and bring it to you.