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Hedgehog Engine

The Hedgehog Engine is the graphics game engine used in some Sonic video games and is developed by Sonic Team.


The Hedgehog Engine is a graphics engine, and has no bearings on gameplay style. It is not compatible with the PlayStation 2's, Wii's, and Nintendo 3DS's hardware because they are not powerful enough to handle its next-gen lighting and visual effects. The engine is not to be confused with Havok, which is related to certain physics tasks, or Sonic Team's in-house engine used for gameplay. Hedgehog Engine is also used in the game Sonic Generations. Sonic Generations was in development for two years from 2009.

The engine was in development for three years.[1] As well as featuring camera position changes and a blend of classic elements from other Sonic games, the Hedgehog Engine also uses a revolutionary new piece of technology. This was called the "light-field", which can create CGI quality graphics in the in-game graphics system. The basic concept of the Light-field is that light bounces off every single thing on screen, creating an ultra realistic look on the area around. Also, not only did the graphics around Sonic change, but so did Sonic's model. Light is reflected off of him too, to make sure that he didn't look "out of place" as many reviewers would claim from past Sonic games.


Features of the Hedgehog Engine include:

  • Pre-Baked Global Illumination (GI)
  • GI Generated Textures
  • Post Processed HDR Bloom
  • Eye adaptaion & HDR lighting
  • Color grading and tone mapping
  • Light-field character illumintation
  • Dynamic shadows
  • Motion blur & depth of field
  • Multi-Core support

Sonic games using the Hedgehog Engine

Hedgehog Engine 2

A successor to the original Hedgehog Engine named "Hedgehog Engine 2" has been developed and was confirmed by Takashi Iizuka that Sonic Forces released for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch runs on it, being the first game to do so.[3] The main features of Hedgehog Engine 2 are the Global Illumination, Physically Based Rendering and improved shadows. The engine was developed by Sonic Team to improve lighting and shadows and other problems that occured with the original Hedgehog Engine.

In 2018, Japanese computer graphics magazine CGWORLD published an article about Hedgehog Engine 2. In it, Sonic Forces art director Yoshitaka Miura said "We wanted to achieve not only realism, but also the atmosphere of the design culture that existed in 80s graphics in 3D.". The article highlights features such as:

  • Spherical Gaussian Global Illumination (SGGI), which prevents artifacts of conventional light mapping methods.
  • Image-Based Lighting (IBL) with parallax correction to provide naturally looking reflections.
  • Capsule shadows to imitate ambient occlusion on the characters.
  • Curvature-Dependant Reflectance Function (CDRF) to render Subsurface Scattering of the characters skin.
  • Color grading and consistent pseudo-bloom post processing effects.

The goal of Hedgehog Engine 2 is to provide cutting-edge rendering visuals that seamlessly react to changes in gameplay and the environment in real time. With the help of multiple in-house tools, it also allowed the developers to edit the stages in Maya and quickly see the results in-game.[4]

Sonic games using the Hedgehog Engine 2


  • While Phantasy Star Online 2 is the only game outside the Sonic the Hedgehog series to use the Hedgehog Engine, Sakura Wars (2019) and Tokyo 2020 Olympics: The Official Video Game are currently the only games outside the Sonic the Hedgehog series to use the Hedgehog Engine 2.
    • They are also the only games that are not developed by Sonic Team in use of the engine.
  • In the US TV commercial for Sonic Colors, the Hedgehog Engine icon was shown.


  1. Takahashi (3 April 2008). Hedgehog Engine In Development For 3 Years, Sonic Unleashed Official. Gemaga. Archived from the original on 6 April 2008. Retrieved on 19 November 2017.
  2. Sonic Sochi Wii U Lighting swap. YouTube. ItsHelias94 (30 December 2015). Retrieved on 2 November 2015.
  3. Sonic Official - SXSW Recap
  4. CGWORLD article scans
Sonic the Hedgehog in other media
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