Sonic R


In 1997, the SEGA Saturn, which unfortunately had made little impact in Europe, was about to enter its final phase in retail. Sonic was to make another appearance on the short-lived console but this was still not the traditional style 2D platformer that people dreamed would grace their system.

This time round, Sonic Team would have only an involvement in the creation of the game and not see the whole process through as they were busy with other projects. Instead, Travellers Tales (TT), a programming team based here in England (whom created Puggsy for the Mega Drive) would get the honour again of creating a Sonic game for SEGA. TT had previously assisted with Sonic 3D.

Sonic R Travellers Tales Sonic Team SEGA

The idea of Sonic appearing in a racing game had been explored already with Sonic Drift and Sonic Drift 2. These were on the Game Gear reaching only a tiny audience and the first game was only released in Japan. Those games were basically Sonic characters pasted into a loosely themed track racer. Sonic R, however, is a full 3D polygon racer.

Sonic R scored only minor success due to the lack of Saturn's popularity but it did show the system had the power to create good games given the chance dispelling some of the anti-Saturn propaganda that had existed since the machines launch. TT, in an interview with Official SEGA Saturn Magazine, described how a game such as Sonic R would be near-impossible to reproduce on the PlayStation with a decent enough framerate to make it playable as it was designed with the Saturn in mind. For example, TT’s graphics engine used a technique called 12 Layer Transparency that makes distant textures transparent to get around a draw distance limitation of the console. A long term jibe at the Saturn was the inability to do transparency but is clearly got around. [Shot]. Perhaps with some more optimisation it could have been the basis of a more traditional Sonic game in 3D but thoughts like that are confined to the 90's.

Sonic R Transparency

Transparency Effect

The visual style of the game is wonderful with vibrant artwork that is both familiar and high quality giving each course a distinct look and feel.

Musically the game is very upbeat. The tunes are very pleasant, and yes, this is a game with lyrics to the music. They are well performed and are pretty non-sensical (still better than the average Spice Girls lyric though) but they can really grate after a while. In fairness, this was still one of the early attempts at putting lyrics to Sonic games and it’s not overly dreadful. Appreciation of them is binary.

Sound effects are the usual collection of noises we are used to, some of which have a new twist on them but otherwise fit just fine.

Thankfully, all this runs at a decent framerate and loading times are fairly quick.

Sonic R was later released for the PC sporting some improvements over the Saturn version. An overview is further down the page. This version was later ported to the Nintendo Gamecube as part of the Sonic Gems Collection.

Since this was one of the later PAL titles, Ebay is probably the best bet to find a complete copy.

Note: This feature focuses on the Saturn version with an overview of the PC version below.

Sonic R European Case
Sonic R European Case

Case Quote

Everybody's Supersonic Racing! Knuckles, Tails, Amy and Dr. Robotnik join Sonic in his speediest outing yet. Containing 5 graphically stunning tracks with many short-cuts and secrets. Sonic R will have you coming back for more. Features Grand Prix, 4 Time Attack modes and split-screen 2 player game.

R U Ready?!?


Sonic R

Sonic and Tails are out wandering. Tails spots a sign for a Grand Prix and suggests to Sonic it would be a good idea to enter. Sonic not being particularly bothered about proving how fast he is does not really show any interest until he spots that Dr Robotnik has already entered. Sonic with the intention of trashing Robotnik enters into the race.

However, unbeknownst to the duo, Robotnik observes them many miles above with a spy satellite. Having located the Chaos Emeralds, he intends to possess them as well as beat Sonic.

Knuckles, Sonic's long-time rival, learning that Sonic has entered the race, also enters not wanting Sonic to reap all the glory. Amy enters after discovering Robotnik's plan to collect the Chaos Emeralds believing she can help.


The basic goal to Sonic R is the same as any other racer: be the first to complete a set number of laps around a course. For Sonic R, the characters themselves are the vehicles (barring a few exceptions) with each having their strength/weaknesses and abilities.

The game is not difficult (though there are difficulty settings). For the most part, the main threat in Grand Prix mode before unlocking any secret characters will be Knuckles.

There can be some really frustrating parts as a character clips an edge of a platform which can waste time. The game is very short but this is generally a trait of the genre. A single rip through can take less than an hour. Thankfully, there are a few reasons to replay the game with other modes and secret characters to unlock.

Sonic R can be played with the standard Saturn controller or the NiGHTS/ 3D Controller.

Characters accelerate by pressing UP on the D-Pad or holding down Button B which is much easier. Note that your character cannot reverse as in walk/run backwards. The D-Pad is also used for steering left and right.

Pressing Buttons A, C or Y will make your character perform their skill move. The L and R triggers make your character drift in that direction (which is very useful for some of the tight corners) while pressing both simultaneously puts on the brakes.

There is a choice of two camera angles: up close by pressing Button X which puts you just behind your character similar to a third person view and overhead by pressing Button Z.

The main mode of play is the Grand Prix mode. The object is to be the first person to make 3 laps of the track. You have four opponents and coming in 1st, 2nd or 3rd results in a win.

Each course has a route to follow but you are free to deviate although you will be gently hinted if you go backwards. By exploring you will find that each level has a variety of shortcuts. And this will be necessary to find hidden Sonic Token and moreover the Chaos Emeralds. It is possible to collect both at the same time but this will require knowing the courses well.

In addition to the odd spring and 360o loop, scattered around each of the courses are a collection of items to aid you in your race. They are:

Rings - Have two uses. They open up Gateways and can be traded in at Accelerators. They are arranged in parallel strips on the courses and the trick to collecting a decent amount is to not be stuck behind another character as they vanish when collected but will respawn after a short time.

Item Panels/Dispensers - These hover in static points around courses. Run directly at these and they flip giving a reward which can be:

Sonic's shoes giving a temporary boost in speed.
A bonus number of rings: 5, 10 or 20.
A lighting spike grants a magnetic shield that attracts rings to you and can absorb one hit. This disappears when touching water.
Bubble gives grants the Aqua barrier. You can walk across water but only once. Also absorbs one hit.

Springs - will make a character bounce. Needed to reach some higher platforms on a course.

Accelerators - give an instant speed boost. The more rings in possession when running onto one the bigger the boost. By collecting enough rings, a player can sneak an unexpected victory somewhat easily. Note, most of your rings if not all will be taken. Consider this as you may need to open a gateway.

Sonic Tokens - five are hidden throughout each course. Collect all of these and then finish the race in 1st, 2nd or 3rd place to be challenged by the hidden character of that course. Beat this character in a race and they become playable. After getting all 5, the tokens will not appear in subsequent races.

Gateways open with 20 or 50 rings in possession. The number needed for a gateway to open is on the door. Some can be well hidden in the courses. For 20 ring gateways a Sonic Token can be collected while 50 ring gateways a Chaos Emerald can be found.

When gateways are open, CPU opponents will then start to use them.

Chaos Emeralds – Found in the 50 ring gateways. In order to keep it after the race you must come in first place. Some courses have more than one Chaos Emerald in them.

There are 7 in total. They are tricky to collect as they will take you off track and require back tracking and to retain the emerald, you must finish in first place. Collecting all 7 Chaos Emeralds unlocks the Super Sonic character.

There is an extra graphic when the game is completed (Radiant Emerald course).

Other Modes

Other modes of play available are Time Attack and Vs.

Time Attack itself has 4 modes of play all of which can be played in 2-Player split-screen.

Normal - where you race 3 laps against the clock

Reverse - making 3 backwards laps against the clock

Balloon - where 5 balloons have to be found as fast as possible

Tag Battle - with four opponents racing around the course avoiding you

Games with 2-players will done in a split-screen.

Sonic R 2-Player Mode Sonic R 2-Player Mode Sonic R 2-Player Mode

2-Player Vs


Initially there are 4 characters to choose from: Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Amy. There is a total of 10 playable characters. The other 6 are unlocked after completing the courses with the criteria mentioned above. More about each character is below.

Character Select (Complete)

Character Select Screen (Complete)

Initial Characters

Sonic R Characters
Sonic The Hedgehog Sonic's Skills

Sonic is the fastest character in the game. He has the best jumping ability but because he runs so fast his grip and turning ability are not as great.

Button A, C or Y to jump. In mid-jump press again for a double-jump. Jumps can be directed with the D-Pad.

D-Pad DOWN whilst running for a Spin Attack (even though there are no enemies to defeat).

D-Pad DOWN whilst stationary to crouch and then button B while spinning for a Spin Dash.

Miles Tails Prower Tails' Skills

Tails is not as fast as Sonic, but he has good acceleration and takes corners well. Best of all though he can fly.

Button A, C or Y to jump. In mid-jump press again for flight which can be directed with the D-Pad.

D-Pad DOWN whilst running for a Sin Attack (even though there are no enemies to defeat).

D-Pad DOWN whilst stationary to crouch and then button B while spinning for a Spin Dash.

Knuckles The Echidna Knuckles' Skills

Knuckles is an all-round great character. He has reasonable speed and his cornering is good. He can glide for short distances after a jump.

Button A, C or Y to jump. In mid-jump press again to glide which can be directed with the D-Pad.

D-Pad DOWN whilst running for a Spin Attack (even though there are no enemies to defeat).

D-Pad DOWN whilst stationary to crouch and then button B while spinning for a Spin Dash.

Button B or the D-Pad UP/DOWN to climb up/down walls.

Amy Amy's Skills

Amy goes around the course in her little car which over water is acts as a hovercraft and is automatic. It has appalling acceleration does not have a good top speed although it does a short boost from the rockets.

Button A, C or Y activates the turbo boost.

Dr. Robotnik Dr. Robotnik's Skills

Dr. Robotnik rides the courses in his little pod. He can fly over water (automatically enabled) and his rockets give him good cornering, however, because he has not contact with the ground he has no grip. He also has a homing missile to slow competitors down.

Button A, C or Y fires the homing missile (when it appears on screen) at the cost of 10 rings.

He becomes unlocked after finishing the Radiant Emerald course 1st place and thus completing the game.

Secret Characters

These are unlocked by collecting all of the Sonic Gold Tokens scattered throughout each course and then finishing the race in 1st, 2nd or 3rd place and then beating them in a 1-on-1 race that immediately follows.


When they are unlocked they will then be part of the line-up for other races in Grand Prix mode. This can make the game more difficult as some of them are really good.

Sonic R Secret Characters
Super Sonic Super Sonic's Skills

Super Sonic is unlocked after collecting all 7 of the Chaos Emeralds and is selected by pressing UP and highlighting Sonic on the character select screen.

He is of course the best out of all of the racers. He has the best acceleration with the highest maximum speed and good handling. He keeps all of Sonic's moves also and can hover over water for a short period of time.

Robo Robotnik Robo Robotnik's Skills

Robo Robotnik is unlocked after collecting all the Sonic Tokens in Regal Ruin. He flies around the course and is just about equal to Amy being slow. He has the homing missile weapon like Egg Man and at the cost of 10 rings.

Tails Doll Tails Doll Skills

Tails Doll is a weird version of Tails is unlocked after collecting the Sonic Tokens in Radical City. He's speed is equal to that of Tails and he has a float instead of fly. His grip and handling is bad.

Metal Sonic Metal Sonic Skills

Metal Sonic is unlocked after collecting the Sonic Tokens in Resort Island. He's like Sonic with a higher jump and fastest speed but with very bad handling.

He does not run with his legs but instead hovers. This also allows him to glide across water for a short amount of time.

Metal Knuckles Metal Knuckles Skills

Metal Knuckles is unlocked after collecting the Sonic Tokens in Reactive Factory. He's a slightly enhanced Knuckles with a better glide, good handling a high maximum speed.

He does not run with his legs but instead hovers. This also allows him to glide across water for a short amount of time.


There are 5 courses in the game. Four are open initially and the fifth – Radiant Emerald – is unlocked after completing the previous four in first place. This will be known with a gold cup next to the course on the course selection screen.

There are plenty of shortcuts to be found and these will be essential when racing against some of the secret characters as they can be challenging to beat.

All progress is saved automatically to the Saturn's internal memory and the external memory cartridge can be used.

These images are full PAL resolution 768x576 but displayed here at half size.

Resort Park

Resort Park

The typical tropical stage at the start of any Sonic game basically a cross of Green Hill Zone and Emerald Hill Zone in 3D; lots of greenery, palm trees, blue sky, waterfalls and bridges. This course is pretty easy to complete.

Resort Park Resort Park Resort Park Resort Park

Radical City

Radical City

A network of roads in a city landscape at night. The tracks are mostly straight winding runs with a few splitting into different directions. There is a large fruit machine acting as a set of springs in one section.

Radical City Radical City Radical City Radical City

Regal Ruin

Regal Ruin

As the name suggests, this course is a ruin and is probably the trickiest of them all. It is a cross of Egyptian and Sonic mythos. There are some very sharp turns being virtually 90o. There are plenty of drops to fall into when then require backtracking.

Regal Ruin Regal Ruin Regal Ruin Regal Ruin

Reactive Factory

Reactive Factory

The usual industrial factory/power plant level of any Sonic game with plenty of fans, grills, pipes and boiler like structures. Plenty of traffic cones line the course which is very twisty and has several shortcuts which are quite well hidden by traffic cones which can be knocked out of the way.

Reactive Factory Reactive Factory Reactive Factory Reactive Factory

Radiant Emerald

Radiant Emerald

A starry course with planets and galaxies filling the field of view. This course boasts some impressive graphics. It is in a state of flux fading in and out of being mostly solid to mildly transparent. It is not the most difficult course with some straight runs and a few sharp turns, however, getting the Chaos Emerald requires you to go quite out of your way.

It is unlocked after coming first on the previous four courses.

After completing this course, you will be greeted with the end sequence of the game. This will differ slightly depending on the character selected.

Radiant Emerald Radiant Emerald Radiant Emerald Radiant Emerald


These are found on the Select Mode screen. There a few useful options available most notable is that for turning off the vocals.

Game Level – Easy, Normal or Hard.

Ghost – Toggle On or Off. When enabled the game saves data for your next race. When racing a second time the data from the first race in included. Can be useful to track progress / improvement.

Best Times – Displays the best times for each course organised by Lap, Course, Tag and Balloon.

Load Data – Load a previous save file from the Saturn's internal memory or external memory from a total of 3. This is the same screen shown when the game boots up initially. It is useful even if not loading as the graphic details how many Chaos Emeralds have been collected and which secret characters have been unlocked. Here is it possible to delete files and play the game in No Save Mode.

Vocals – Toggle On or Off.

Sound – Toggle Stereo or Mono.

Music Vol – Select Hi, Medium or Low.

Music Test – Listen to the audio tracks in the game. Use A or C to select and B to stop/start.

SFX Test - Listen to the SFX in the game. Use A or C to select and B to stop/start.


When a race starts, the CPU players tend to all collide in the centre in the first few seconds. A well-timed jump will put you just ahead of them. This is most effective with Sonic's double-jump.

Direction when going around the 360o degree loops can still be controlled to collect rings.

Unlocking the secret characters is much easier done as Super Sonic.

Play as same character in 2-Player Vs.

Have player one select their character by pressing Button A. Player 2 then highlights the same character. Hold X,Y and Z on their controller when pressing A to select. This also works for secret characters.

Player 2 will be a slightly darker shade.

Adjusting Title Screen

At the title screen the moving 'R' model can be altered in size with the D-Pad and the colours with Buttons A, B, X and Y.

Adjust Select Screen Models

On any of the selection screens, the L and R flippers on the control pad can be used to zoom the polygon model in and out.

Use Up and Down for the PC version.

Clean Pause

To remove the text from the pause screen press X, Y and Z simultaneously while the game is paused.

Alternative Music for Radiant Emerald

Play the Radiant Emerald course as Super Sonic and the soundtrack will change to the title screen music.


The PC version was released in 1998 and for Windows 95/98.

It is the superior version of the game. Enhancements over the Saturn version are; higher resolutions and colours, 4-player multi-player with network (internet?) support (via a patch which can be downloaded here).

Courses have a random weather system that affects their style and conditions. For example, icy conditions will add an amount of slide and glacial graphics.

For the most part the game content is the same aside from a few screens and additional colours placed here and there. SFX are low quality and the balance of SFX to music is way off by default. Ambient sound effects for torches, waterfalls, and seasides are strangely missing in the PC version, but are in the Saturn version and are played too loudly in the version in Sonic Gems Collection.

The official system specifications are:

Sonic R PC System Requirements



Pentium 90Mhz CPU
20MB Hard Disk Space
640x480 256 Colours (8-Bit) Display
X4 CDROM Drive
Mouse and Keyboard

Pentium 133Mhz CPU
40MB Hard Disk Space
640x480 Hi-Colour (16-Bit) Display

The game can be played with non-Intel CPU's.

Oddly, there are two versions of the game for the PC. One uses software rendering for the graphics and the other uses hardware rendering (DirectDraw/Direct3D) which is the most ubiquitous of the two. This version formed the basis of the game which was later included in the compilation title Sonic Gems Collection released for the Gamecube and PS2 in 2006.

It's been reported that an alternative version fixed several bugs and some has native support for Windows XP whereas the other version has problems. See below.

Both have been released by Xplosive and Expert Software and there are plenty of CD's where no music tracks were added no doubt down to a mastering error and thus the game will not play any music.

Loading and saving the game must be done manually. Note that forcibly quitting the game (ALT+F4) will prevent the game save file from being updated.

A minor observation: the PC version says "PRESS START BUTTON" on the title screen even though there isn't one. Use the ENTER key and then ARROW and SPACE keys to navigate the menus.

Running the Program (with XP)

There is more than one solution in getting Sonic R to play on modern versions of Windows.

The most ubiquitous version is that from the Xplosiv range. It often refuses to play and crashes with the error 004801d9 in sonicr.exe and then a breakpoint error in dwwin.exe.

Sonic R PC Case (Expert) Sonic R PC Case (Xplosiv)
Sonic R XP Errors
Sonic R XP Error Sonic R XP Error

It is possible to play with Windows XP (including x64) by right-clicking the setup.exe and sonicr.exe on the CDROM and setting the program compatibility to Windows 95. Then execute setup.exe and allow it to install the game.

This is not always successful for reliable running of the game however. Research suggests these errors occur due to the speed of modern processors.

There is a more successful but technical approach that involves using a process manager (a utility for manipulating running programs) to alter/reduce the speed the program is executed.

Since the specifications are relatively low, it's probably more easily played via the use of a VM.

Both the Explosiv and Expert version are the hardware rendering version and the sonicr.exe is 1.2MB in size. Presumably the other version is different. A program such as InspectEXE would provide more details of differences.

The contents of these CDROMs is slightly different however.

Sonic R Expert CDROM Contents

Sonic R Xplosiv CDROM Contents



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