1996 could have been a very different year. While both Nintendo and Sony had seminal, fondly remembered forays into 3D with Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot that year, Sega was left out. But it wasn't for a lack of trying: the company attempted to do the same with Sonic the Hedgehog by launching a game for its fledgling Saturn console called Sonic X-treme, which was due to launch in time for that year's busy holiday season. It started life as a Genesis game, but was eventually turned into what would have been Sonic's 3D debut, though production troubles meant that the game was ultimately cancelled in 1997.
Sonic fans have been unable to see what could have been for the franchise. Until now, that is.
"A snapshot in time."
A group of die-hard fans have taken an unfinished build of X-treme and made it playable to anyone with a Windows machine. (In 2006 someone reportedly paid $2,500 for what was believed to be the only playable version of the game.) Since development on the game was never completed, it's more of a tech demo than a full game — there's not much to do but explore one level, and you can't even collect Sonic's trademark golden rings. More levels are expected to be added as the team continues to polish up the build for modern PCs, but even still it's a fascinating look at what could have been. The team describes it as "a snapshot in time."
Sonic's 3D debut ultimately had to wait until Sonic Adventure on the ill-fated Dreamcast, and since then things haven't exactly gone well for the once iconic mascot. That being the case, it's hard not to wonder what a successful launch for X-treme could have meant for Sega as a whole. In the meantime, you can check out the newly released build of the game right here.