Perhaps no developer pushed the Sega Genesis further than Traveler’s Tales in the mid-90’s. At a time when the Saturn was already on the market, and the Genny was weighed down with a million peripherals designed to slightly enhance its graphics in a competitive world, Traveler’s Tales managed to work tricks out of its native hardware without any special add-ons necessary.
Jon Burton, one of the founders of Traveler’s Tales, has been gradually revealing the secrets of Genesis program trickery through his YouTube series GameHut. It’s really worth a watch. For example, the Genesis was only supposed to allow 64 colors to be displayed at the same time. TT handled the Genesis version of Toy Story, and they pulled off displaying full-color screenshots from the film by using layers and workarounds. Find out how:
TT pulled off something even more amazing with Toy Story: a first-person 3D maze section running at 60 FPS. This was at a time when the Genesis needed the 32X to run Doom and even then it couldn’t do it very well. Traveler’s Tales did it with native hardware…but how? Through a few ingenious shortcuts….
TT not only played tricks on gamers, but on the companies they served. Bug-testing was a frustrating process since any interruption to the game would bring up an error screen and the game would be rejected. To get past a strict inspection process, Jon engineered his games so that any errors registered by the code would automatically do something the player would find desirable. Mickey Mania auto-warped you to random places if it bugged out, and Sonic 3D Blast took you directly to a level select screen. The end result is that players found they could get to this menu by just hitting the cartridge.
One mystery that remains a mystery for now is how Traveler’s Tales got the Genesis to display a full-motion video in the opening for Sonic 3D Blast. Jon hasn’t told that story yet, but he could possibly spill it in the future. Keep an eye on his YouTube channel for more…