Sky Chase downgrades

It’s hard to believe, but even the minigames (subgames) received a bunch of downgrades in SADX. Much like the rest of the game, they suffer from bad lighting, poor texture quality, transparency problems and model issues. Sand Hill also has some sound problems, such as certain sounds playing too quietly or missing altogether. However, this time I’m going to focus on Sky Chase since this minigame has received the most noticeable downgrades.

In the PC version, Sky Chase is broken at resolutions higher than 640×480. It becomes very obvious at 1080p or 4K. It’s very difficult to control the Tornado because of increased acceleration that gets multiplied together with the resolution. Some enemies don’t fire at higher resolutions (because their programming uses hardcoded dimensions of 640×480), so it’s much more difficult to get emblems that require a high score.

Before going into visual downgrades I should mention that the Sky Chase models were updated in the ports. During gameplay the original game uses low-poly models that look like something out of Sonic R, even though higher-poly models are used in cutscenes. SADX updates all Sky Chase models with Sonic and Tails onboard the Tornado. Although some people (like me) may not like the SADX models from an aesthetic point of view, this change is not bad.

Dreamcast

Gamecube

There’s a problem with the updated models, however. The lighting on the Tornado is a lot more basic than in the original game (Left – Dreamcast, Middle – Gamecube, Right – PC):

One of the first things noticeable in the ports is that the Egg Carrier is not visible immediately in Act 1. Instead, it gradually pops in as you progress through the stage. This is most likely caused by reduced skybox scale in the ports, which makes the skybox obscure the Egg Carrier model. If skybox scale for Act 1 is set to the same value as in Act 2, the Egg Carrier is visible from the start, like in Act 2.

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Another noticeable problem that you can see in the screenshots above is the layering of the sky. The Dreamcast version had smooth transitions between the static clouds and the animated bottom of the skybox, but in the ports the transition is sharper with noticeable color banding. This is caused by two things: transparency order problems and lower texture quality in the ports. In addition, the PC version’s unnecessary processing of material colors gives the bottom of the skybox a dirty look, a problem similar to what happened to the clouds in Red Mountain Act 1. In this case it doesn’t look too terrible, but this isn’t the way it was supposed to look. The Gamecube version doesn’t have this problem.

The transition issue also affects the second act, although it’s less noticeable on screenshots (but still very visible in motion). The sky fades to black smoothly on the Dreamcast, while the Gamecube and PC versions have a clear border separating skybox pieces:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

Another issue is with the Tornado’s reticle. On the Dreamcast it has a smooth appearance, while in the ports it looks pixelated. Let’s compare them at 640×480 since the vanilla PC version doesn’t support scaling, and to demonstrate that it’s clearly visible even at low resolutions:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

The Egg Carrier model used in this level is suffering from transparency or material color issues that give the green glass floor a washed-out look:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

It’s especially noticeable in the second act, which uses the same Egg Carrier model:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

What’s interesting is that the Dreamcast model of the Egg Carrier works fine as-is when imported into SADX. It doesn’t have the problem the updated model has. So the developers either tried to fix something that wasn’t broken (and broke it as a result) or deliberately made it look less colorful. To be fair, the updated model of the glass floor has a more rounded look due to a higher polygon count, but that’s no excuse for not sorting the model properly.

The sun flare textures look pretty bad in all versions of the game, but compression artifacts are more noticeable in the ports:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

In all versions of the game the effect for the giant laser beam goes behind the clouds at the bottom, but the ports make it look worse, especially the PC version:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

The texture used for this effect has noticeable quality degradation, especially in the PC version. It’s also mirrored, however here it’s also one of the few cases where the developers at least had the courtesy to compensate for it by increasing the resolution:

In Act 2 the lighting on the Egg Carrier no longer has a yellowish tint in the Gamecube version. In the PC version the lighting is almost completely gone and the background looks noticeably worse because of poor texture quality:

Dreamcast

Gamecube

PC

As you can see, the only good change SADX introduces in Sky Chase is the updated character models. Everything else is plagued by various issues, much like the rest of the game. The minigame is completely broken in the PC port when it’s played at higher resolutions.