What happened to Rocket's "Sonic the Hedgehog Hacking Guide" and Cyan's "Sonic 1 Operation" pages you ask? Both have merged to create the ultimate Sonic hacking page on the net. With both brains put together, you can be assured that you will not find a better source of info anywhere! So check it out!
Some exclusive information from Robert
Here is what he wrote:
I have discovered an area in the Sonic 1
Special Stage that contains
_working_ 1-up icons. The area is a bit glitched, since it does reside
outside the valid maze area, but you can collect the items, proving that the
1-ups are (somewhat) implemented in the final game and do indeed work,
and could mean that the other items ( " W " icon, Zone 1, 2, and 3 icons) would
work as well, if someone could figure out a way to place them in valid maze
I have included a .ZIP containing a
Genecyst save state of the area,
plus a text file describing the area, and explaining a couple of theories I
have regarding this area.
Pretty interesting, eh? Click here to download the savestate.
TPLaing has sent in loads of level editing info. This page is currently being rushed to get done so it can be released to the public. Therefore, not all the stuff he sent has been posted. It will eventually. Thanks for the info!
For many years, people have tried to hack Sonic 1 in various
ways. Seemingly, though, the only result that has been produced
is that of breaking the game. Sonic 1 hacking therefore lost
popularity around a year ago.
However, these days, Sonic 1 hacking is making an inevitable yet essential comeback, and that is because people have seen the light. They saw the light back in May 1999, when Cyan's Sonic 1 Beta Hoax was released. Because this was hacked in a very specific way, people realised that it was possible and began to hack the game themselves once more.
However, of all the information out there, none will give you the information on how to change the palette in a very exact way, turn on and off the intros, change the text on the level select, and modify the music's instruments. These are just some of the many things you will learn by reading this file.
Also, all the hacking methods and addresses in this guide are known to be correct, and when hacked as stated, the result is achieved.
Please note that we gained most information on the Sonic 1 ROM
by hacking the ROM ourselves, and did not reference any other
information. However, any reader submissions will be added to
this page, and credit will be given by listing the submitter's
name and e-mail address in square brackets after the information.
If you want to put some of this info in one of your hacking guides, then please e-mail either of us for permission. We shall require crediting. If we don't get credited, then.... well, SEGA will be the first to know!
As hacking the game involves directly editing both the data and the compiled source code, you will need to make changes to your Sonic 1 ROM. Also, this hacking info has only been tested with the US version of the Sonic 1 ROM. It hasn't been tested with a European or Japanese ROM. Don't expect it to work with these.
Firstly, make sure your ROM file is in .BIN format. If it is
in .SMD or something else, then load the ROM in Genecyst, then go
to the CPU menu, point to DUMP, then select ROM. This will
convert the ROM to a .BIN format, saved on your hard disk as a
file called ROM. You'll have to add the .BIN extension on
yourself by renaming the file. You could also use a conversion
program to change the format. The DUMP feature in Genecyst is a
conversion in itself -- although you have to change the file
extension to .BIN afterwards, it still converts the ROM.
Note that, as some people may believe, simply changing the file extension is not converting the file, but just changing its name. This isn't sufficient to allow hacking.
Now, you've got your version of Sonic 1 in BIN format (give it
a more descriptive name if you like -- SONIC1.BIN) and it is
ready to be hacked. But firstly, MAKE A BACKUP COPY!!! Just call
it SONICHK.BIN or something, but if you go changing the original
ROM, then when you break it, you won't be able to go back on your
Every time you accomplish a large hacking task successfully, then create a numbered copy of the file. For instance, Cyan's hoax ROM is called SONICHX9.BIN -- the 9th copy of the hoax ROM. The older versions worked OK, but were not as complete. For instance, version 6 didn't feature Green Hill at night.
Now, using a HEX editor, load your BACKUP ROM, and observe. The first 17% or so of the ROM is mainly code, and the remaining portions are data. Code is very vulnerable to blast-hacking, but with careful editing, the best features are possible. If you are using HexEdit for Windows, then before use, go to the OPTIONS menu, and click DISPLAY. Make sure you select CHARACTER COUNT from the dialogue box. It also helps to have the HIGHLIGHT WORDS, and WIDE CURSOR options selected. Using the base converter, enter the hex address you want to hack, and convert to decimal. Then do a JUMP TO LINE, BYTE and put the decimal value in.
Note also that all addresses and data in this guide (unless otherwise stated) are in HEX.
Throughout this guide, many seemingly alien terms may be used.
Whenever a HEX value is specified, if it contains lower case "x" characters, then those characters must be substituted with a value. For instance, if there was a HEX value 104BD219xx20xx, then the x characters could mean something. By replacing those with a valid number, then valid data can be inserted.
Zone names in the game are often shortened to abbreviated versions:
GHZx = Green Hill Zone Act x
MZx = Marble Zone Act x
and so forth...
With regard to Scrap Brain Zone, you will find there are 3 acts mentioned, but no Final Zone, and 4 acts on Labyrinth Zone. That is because Scrap Brain Zone act 3 is actually Labyrinth Zone act 4, and Final Zone is actually Scrap Brain Zone Act 3.
Many people don't understand how to hex edit and may get lost.
Hex editing is nothing more than changing the contents of a file, byte by byte. To do this, you need a program called a HEX EDITOR. There are many editors, but by far the simplest, and most reliable of them all is HexEdit for Windows.
A lot of people get confused with regard to the addresses. People cannot understand why you see things like 00D4 and 0019047. Well, the 0s to the left of the number mean nothing. Just like in decimal -- if someone writes you a cheque for $10, then it's no good adding a few 0s at the left of the number, because you get $00010, which is still the same thing. However, if you add 0s at the far right of the number, then clearly it becomes much more profitable!
However, it is usual to add 0s to the left of the number to make it a certain length -- for instance, addresses for the 68000 are generally 6 digits long.
If you study the image below, you will see the screen is split up into 3 sections. The first is a list of addresses down the side. Most HEX editors have this address in HEX, but HexEdit for Windows uses decimal.
However, you will note that the numbers go up not in steps of 1, but in steps of 16 (steps of 10 in hex). This is because each line contains 16 bytes. Some hex editors will have fewer or more bytes on one line.
Therefore, the first line contains addresses 0-F, the next line contains addresses 10-1F, and the next line contains addresses 20-2F, and so on.
The second area of the display contains a list of bytes. Each byte requires 2 hex digits to represent it. Therefore, this area is 32 characters wide. You can click on the byte you wish to edit, and type the new hex value.
The third area of the screen is a text representation of the bytes. This is so that you can see if the ROM contains any text strings. In most cases, you can directly edit this area too.
By using the JUMP TO BYTE function of the hex editor, the cursor is automatically placed on the byte of your entered address, without having to count across the line.
These are the sections that make up the ROM file. Most addresses are to the nearest multiple of 16, although some are byte-exact:
00000-01B58 Header and
initialisation code. Also exception table.
program code and literal data such as palettes.
1DC0E-21277 Data who's
function is unknown.
handling data and code.
relating to above code, and emulator code, including breakpoint
sprites. Hack here to change the artwork.
data. Includes level maps, some graphics, and other important
62930-64A45 Block angle
information. Some of you refer to this as "solids".
65464-66B15 Unknown 16-bit
66B16-66D45 Unknown 8-bit
especially sprites for levels. May be block mappings for sprites.
mappings, esp. 8x8 to 16x16 mapping, for levels.
positions for each level.
713CC-719CF Blank space.
Part of above? Part of below?
programs. The code, and data, that is executed to play a tune.
796C6-*END* PCM data
for SEGA intro sound. 8-Bit MONO.
Before you go any further, you may need to know
the basics on the game engine.
Sonic 1's game engine is in three distinct parts. The first part deals with objects that do something, such as collapsing platforms, moving platforms, TVs, rings, etc. These are usually sprites, and are defined in the level as a list of positions like:
RING, 10, 10
TV, 50, 72
MOVING_PLATFORM, 100, 127
Of course, they are not defined in plain text like this, but that is the general idea behind the object handling system.
The second part of the engine is the motion engine. This deals with how Sonic and various objects move around the level. It deals with gravity, friction, etc. This part of the engine not only allows objects to interact with the world (such as being pushed, and falling) but also allows Sonic to interact with the objects, so objects can have surfaces you can walk on. This part also works very closely with the third part.
The third part of the game deals with the levels. A level is a static thing, with no moving parts, interactive objects, or anything. All a level consists of is graphics and different angled blocks to walk on.
A level is defined on a grid. Each square of the grid can either be empty, or contain a block. There are a number of blocks in each level, and each has different properties. A block is 16x16 pixels in size, therefore the average level is something like 300x40 blocks. A block is built up of 4 smaller graphics blocks (tiles), and this process is known as MAPPING. A block also has a sequence of angled lines in it, making up a surface you can walk on. There could also be no lines, meaning that you fall through it.
Therefore each block has four graphical tiles, and one set of SOLIDS data. There are MANY blocks in each level. A palette of blocks exists for each level. I would imagine there would be something like 1024 blocks per level. Now, each square on the level map can choose one of these 1024 predefined blocks. This saves you having to define solids and graphics for each square on the map.
An object is made up of one or more sprites. A sprite is made up of one or more 8x8 tiles. An object doesn't have to be visible -- take for example "kill blocks". These blocks, when in debug mode, are visible as Robotnik tiles. Whenever you come into contact with them, you die. These are used whenever there is a moving object crushing you into a part of the level. Although Sonic can be crushed between two objects, he cannot be crushed by the level. Therefore kill blocks are used. The objects that are commonly known as spikes are also used at the bottom of lava. However, they have had their graphics removed. Whenever you turn off the objects in a level, you can walk through lava.
However, although you can happily change where the sprites are, and easily change which blocks you can walk on, and at what angle they are, don't expect to be able to change the level map quite so easily.
The reason it is so hard is because it is compressed. Imagine a typical level. There is lots and lots of empty blocks, and lots and lots of the same block repeated over and over. Each block takes about 2 bytes to store. Therefore you are looking at a vast 64KB per level, just for the map. However, it so happens that a PKZip-like compression is applied to this data, and due to its repetitive nature, the size is reduced to a couple of KB.
Of course, the level is decompressed into RAM, so you can hack the RAM to change the level, but this is not a permanent hacking method.
These are useful commands used throughout the binary. These will tell you what some parts of the sections are doing in the game. Any with a "*" beside them are in hex format, not actual text format.
The function of these commands is not yet fully understood, and is not 100% reliable.
NqNqNqNqNq Switches to another
Nu Sprite offsets
UrUrUrUrUr Color palette [Ganarii]
init C initializer?
HB Pixel offsets
FF FF Start of a level *
4x F9 00 xx xx xx Locates hex locations to find data *
This will allow you to move or place objects where you want them in a typical level. However, because objects are handled separately from block placement, you will not be able to edit the level.
Each object in each level is stored in a list. The X and Y positions on the map, the object type, and the variation on that object are stored.
address+0 X high-byte
address+1 X low-byte
address+2 Y high-byte
address+3 Y low-byte
As you can see from the above table, if you jump to the
address of the beginning of the object table for one level, then
the byte the cursor is placed on is the X high-byte. The next
byte is the X low-byte, and so on.
The byte after OBJECT VARIATION is the X high-byte of the next object in the list.
Addresses for object table beginnings
for each level:
Now, here is an object list:
Scrolling background [
UNKNOWN (floats up)
Hang bar (from LZ)
Thing above Sonic
Thing below Sonic
Swinging platforms of different lengths
Swinging balls of different lengths
Robotnik and his capable craft
Yellow spring up
Floor layout (generally level design) works with sets of 256x256 floors with a single byte representing the floor object that is placed. The floor layout works by reading the bytes one by one in order and are placed upon a 256x256 grid. This means that you can't freely place them at any location at any pixel you want. Green Hill act 1 starts at 068C80. Each row is based on a total of 64 bytes. Here is a list of pictured floor objects which you will need to guide you. Remember that you can click on the pictures below to see them in full scale.
This contains the rest of the information that the game has configured.
entry on level select screen -- level number
First entry on level select screen -- act number
Second entry on level select screen -- level number
Second entry on level select screen -- act numberAnd so on, for each act of each zone. By changing these
values, you can point the items on the Level Selection Screen to
different zones / acts.
That's right! Thanks to many hours of intense hacking, the information is now available to hack the Sonic 1 level selection text. This system also works with the level select and option screen text in Sonic 2 final! However, Cyan cannot be bothered to print the table and addresses used in Sonic 2. If enough of you mail Cyan requesting them, they may be placed up here somewhere.
Firstly, you must understand how ASCII works. For instance, if you want a letter A, then that is 41 in hex. A letter B is 42 in hex, and so on. Why they decided to start the alphabet at this number... who knows? However, the immensely popular people at Sonic Team have decided to do away with this crappy system. This is the list of hex values corresponding to the letters on the level select screen:
00 = 0 01 = 1 02 = 2 03 = 3 04 = 4 05 = 5 06 = 6 07 = 7 08 = 8 09 = 9 0A = $ 0B = - 0C = = 0D = <- 0E = <- 0F = Y 10 = Z 11 = A 12 = B 13 = C 14 = D 15 = E 16 = F 17 = G 18 = H 19 = I 1A = J 1B = K 1C = L 1D = M 1E = N 1F = O 20 = P 21 = Q 22 = R 23 = S 24 = T 25 = U 26 = V 27 = W 28 = X FF = space
So there you have it. Firstly, convert the text you want to change the entry to into hex using the above table.
Now you are ready to hack. Incidentally, the reason for the above complexity is not just to do with the Genesis hardware. It is to hacker-proof it as well... Hahahahaha!
Anyway, here are the hex addresses where each line of text is stored:
35A2 = Green Hill Zone 35EA = Labyrinth Zone 3632 = Marble Zone 367A = Star Light Zone 36C2 = Spring Yard Zone 370A = Scrap Brain Zone 3752 = Final Zone (don't forget, from here down there are no STAGE messages) 376A = Special Stage 3782 = Sound Select
You'll note that after the zone title,
there is a load of spaces, then STAGE 1, then more spaces, then
STAGE 2, then more spaces, then STAGE 3. Generally there is no
space between STAGE 3 and the next Zone. The addresses listed
here are the first letter of each zone title.
Believe it or not, thanks to Cyan's powerful hacking attempts, you can now change the palettes for various sections in the game!
Firstly, make sure you understand how the Genesis deals with its hardware.
As I hope you are aware, a palette is a list of colors. The colors are mixed out of the three primary colors -- RED GREEN and BLUE.
Now, when doing artwork on the PC, you will normally encounter a palette if you are drawing in 16 or 256 colors. However, the Genesis deals with its palette in a slightly strange way.
Instead of having a single palette of a certain number of colors, such as 16, or 256, the Genesis has four separate palettes, each 15 colors in size. Whenever a tile is drawn to the screen, it can use any one of these four palettes. For instance, Sonic's sprites always use the first palette. However, tiles from the zones can use any one of the palettes, but they are normally constrained to the last three.
The first palette is a FIXED palette, that is, it contains all the colors used for things that appear in all zones -- Sonic, rings, etc.
However, the other palettes change depending on what colors are in the zone.
You may note that, when you observe the palette of the Genesis, you see 16 colors in each palette. However, the first color of the palette is always shown as the color of the border (only visible on the original machine). Whenever this color is used in a sprite, it appears as transparent. As this color isn't really a color, but an indicator, you cannot set the RGB values for it. That is why, for all intents and purposes, the Genesis has four 15-color palettes. When I refer to the first entry in the palette, I mean the one after the transparent color. Arguably, you can set the RGB values for this transparent color, as it determines the border color. However, all of the four transparent colors are somehow linked, so it is not a good idea to attempt this procedure.
Now, as you may know from PC artwork, the three primary colors are mixed in varying quantities. 255 is full brightness, and 0 is black. Therefore there are three values each between 0-255.
However, the Genesis doesn't have a true color palette like the PC. Instead, it has 8 shades of each color. This means that the values range between 0-7, instead of 0-255.
However, that doesn't mean the screen is very dim, as 7 is full brightness, and 0 is black.
Therefore, to convert a shade from the PC into a shade the Genesis can use, divide the value by 32, and floor it (remove the decimal point, so 7.8902 becomes 7).
Now you know how the Genesis deals with colors, you need to know how to hack the specific addresses in a manner that will be both productive and fascinating.
To do this, you will need to get a palette to work with. Go to the zone you want to alter using the Genecyst emulator, and press F9 to take a screenshot.
Load this screenshot into an image editing program such as Autodesk (for DOS), or Paint Shop Pro, and look at the palette. Make the changes to the appropriate entries, recording which entries you changed, and what you changed them to. Be sure to ignore the transparent color. Hint: if you use PSP, and create the screenshot with Genecyst, you will find that the palette is show on screen nicely organised in four sets of four.
Now you are ready to insert the new palettes into the ROM. To do this, you will need to convert your values into a form which will hack into the ROM.
To do this, take your color values, and divide them by 16 (NOT 32). Then, lose the stuff after the decimal point.
If the number is odd, then round it down (or up) to an even number. This should mean that the highest value you can get is 14. Make sure you don't round it up above 14, or below 0.
Now, convert those values into hex. They should come out as a single hex digit.
Open the ROM in the hex editor, jump to your chosen address (see below) and insert the data. Each color has four hex digits to represent it. As you have converted each of the R, G, and B components of the color into hex, then put a 0 in, then the B hex value, then the G hex value, and finally the R hex value. This will make changes to the first entry of that palette. You can then repeat this process for the other entries.
So, here is a list of addresses. There isn't much at the moment, but when Cyan can be bothered, more addresses will be added.
Here is the bit-map for the bytes:
byte 1 = ----bbb-
byte 2 = ggg-rrr-
238A = First "real" color on master palette (first palette of all zones) 23AA = First "real" color on second palette of Green Hill Zone color set 23CA = First "real" color on third palette of Green Hill Zone color set 23EA = First "real" color on fourth palette of Green Hill Zone color set 25AA = First "real" color on second palette of Spring Yard Zone color set 25CA = First "real" color on third palette of Spring Yard Zone color set 25EA = First "real" color on fourth palette of Spring Yard Zone color set
Genecyst Savestate Hacking
There is tons of info saved in savestates. All the ram that the game reads from is saved. This includes the art that is loaded, level, status, and tons more. Here is the info we have on it.
Startup data is the data that contains lives, level, etc. It is very useful for you cheaters out there! There are some things you need to know first. Lives are defined like this:
The first number is the number of lives and the last number is it's value. You should see a pattern in this table. Since FF is the highest you can go, this means the max number of lives you can have is 255. Act values are also easy. 00 is act 1, 01 is act 2, and 02 is act 3. It is as simple as pie.
011BD8 - Max speed
011BDA - Acceleration
011BDC - Slow down
012271 - Sprite sets [Tails]
012272 - Previous level music
012288 - Level
012289 - Act
01228A - Lives
012290 - Continues
012299 - Rings in 1's (must pick up a ring to display)
01229A - Rings in 256's (must pick up a ring to display)
01229B - Minutes on clock
01229C - Seconds on clock
01229D - Middle seconds on clock
01229E - Score in 16,777,216's (must get more points to display)
01229F - Score in 65,536's (must get more points to display)
0122A0 - Score in 256's (must get more points to display)
0122A1 - Score in 1(0)'s (must get more points to display)
0123E9 - Player in special stage (doesn't function in the original) [Yarharhar]
0123EB - Player in game (only Sonic in the original) [Yarharhar]
Edit this section to change the brightness of a certain color.
This contains info on how to turn on Debug mode and swap monitors.
01227E - Change current monitor selected in Debug mode
012472 - Change to 01 to enable Debug
012280 - Sprite selected (only 02 seems to work)
012281 - Toggle Debug on and off.
Here are descriptions on how to get certain monitors:
01 = Invincible
03 = Super Ring
This will let you activate the level select menu and change the cursor position along with the sound number.
012448 - Enable slow motion (would normally be activated when
level select is enabled)
012449 - Enable level select
0123FB - Selection
0123FD - Sound #
The level selection works like this:
00 Green Hill 1
01 Green Hill 2
02 Green Hill 3
03 Marble 1
04 Marble 2
05 Marble 3
06 Spring Yard 1
15 is the sound test and if you select 16, Hidden Palace will be selected! However, it won't be playable the way you think it will be.
This will let you edit the artwork pixel by pixel..
If you have any questions, comments, hacking
info, or something else, you can e-mail us.
Cyan - email@example.com / Website - The Underground Zone
Rocket - firstname.lastname@example.org / ICQ - 8257368.