Game Secrets, Hacking

Prototype Windy Valley Progress Report: Beta-tastic Magic

Almost a year ago to the day, Sonic Retro forum member Orengefox shared with the world the discovery of two prototypes for Sonic Adventure and its sequel. While to the untrained eye the Sonic Adventure AutoDemo might not have seemed all that special, we here at Retro know better, our elite crack team of technologically-inclined persons more than excited to tear apart reams of code to find the secret caramel-filled goodness hiding underneath.

Indeed, it wasn’t long before all sorts of secrets were uncovered, including earlier versions of Ice Cap and Speed Highway’s “At Dawn” segment. But the deepest, most enticing artifact uncovered was the level architecture from a far earlier version of Windy Valley. Unlike the previously mentioned levels, the prototype Valley couldn’t easily be turned on, what was there full of pointers directed towards a build much earlier than what the AutoDemo used. While other people would get frustrated and walk away, I already stated above how excitable our crack team can get. It was only a matter of time before someone figured out the next step, with Retro Researcher evilhamwizard putting the pieces together, importing the third segment of Windy Valley into the PC version of Sonic Adventure DX:

More after the jump.

Though still clearly a work in progress, the level architecture is clear and proud, full of rings and one very lonely enemy. The reason everything is a similar shade of green is just to prove it’ll work, specific graphics surely coming later. If you happen to have the SADX Mod Loader and the US version of the game, you can download the WIP mod right here, which features not only additional enemies, but the level layout of the original first segment of Windy Valley.

Exploring the terrain shows a mentality that some people would argue didn’t make it into the final game, with nooks and crannies off the beaten path that would have assuredly contained hidden power-ups evoking the series’ multi-pathed forefathers. Sure, running through the speedways of the final version of Windy Valley is fun, but it is fascinating to see what could have been.

If giving it a go yourself, keep in mind that while the first “act” has a rudimentary camera, the third act’s camera is completely free and clear, so expect fighting with the view if you’re trying to play the level normally.

As a final note, it would be a disservice not to mention that CorvidDude had previously taken the level architecture and incorporated it into his Sonic Adventure Generations mod, complete with graphics recreated to look like those grainy images of Big the Cat wandering around a green and blue landscape. A fully playable extravaganza, the level did have to be tweaked for it to work in Sonic Generations. So if you happen to have Generations on your personal computer of choice, you can give that a go as well. However, for those who want to imagine themselves sneaking into the offices of Sonic Team in the early months of 1998 and being able to get a taste of the future, hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we can experience the original valley of wind with those slightly awkward yet glorious physics from a time when three dimensions was still a wild and wondrous new world.

As always, you can see the latest by going to the Sonic Retro forums.

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  • Reply

    Way past cool guys, I remember looking at the fuzzy screenshots on Secrets of Sonic Team, and reading your website on my dad’s computer, I love this game, and always will, and can’t wait to hear about the Ice Cap and At Dawn prototypes later on!

  • Reply

    Nice. I actually rather like the layout of this prototype stage…much more time spent in an actual valley-like environment and indeed clear evidence of an attempt at more Genesis-era gameplay mechanics (though not very effective it looks like, probably why it was mostly dropped). It actually reminds me a little of Angel Island as seen in the Genesis era, but the lack of proper texturing might be contributing to that.

  • Reply

    I loaded the mod with SADX Mod Manager, but when I went to Windy Valley, I only got the regular version of the stage except without object, save for a lone Boa-Boa above the starting point…

    • Reply

      Nevermind, I fixed that. It was a dll problem.

      I think I can see why they scrapped the first section, it was kind of confusing (though that might be because we don’t have the object and camera data to give it context) and it wasn’t speedy enough for Sonic Adventure. But the third part was fantastic and I firmly believed it would have worked, better than the final version even. It’s so large, complex and detailed and it plays like the levels of the MegaDrive games, with multiple paths, yet it has lots of speedy sections. It feels so much richer than the short, linear, bare, on-the-rails final version. I also love the large and open “floating ruins” sections. I’m convinced that the reason they simplified the final version so much was either time restraints or that the Dreamcast or the engine couldn’t handle such a large stage well.

      IIRC, when they announced SADX, they released a screenshot showing this beta section, which leads me to believe that they were originally planning to bring it back for the remake, which explains the Director’s Cut subtitle – it would have included content cut out from the Dreamcast version. That leads me to assume that they actually preferred the beta, larger, more complex version, so the simplification of the final version wasn’t a design choice, as much as a result of time restrictions or technical limitations.

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