Retro Engine logo
The Star Engine, formerly known as the Retro Engine, is a multiplatform game engine developed by Australian programmer Christian "Taxman" Whitehead, best known for its use by Sega for games in the Sonic the Hedgehog series.
Unlike most modern game engines, the Retro Engine is primarily tailored for creating two-dimensional games like those released for 32-bit or below-era consoles, such as the Sega Saturn, Sega Genesis or the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. For this reason, the engine focuses more on raster effects and palette manipulation, although it does feature support for widescreen graphics and online functionality.
Christian Whitehead created the Retro Engine for use with a 2007 fangame entitled Retro Sonic, which is based upon the original Sonic games released for the Sega Genesis. The game became notable after its release for its accuracy to the games, despite not being a ROM hack or modification to an existing Sonic game. Retro Sonic later merged with two other Sonic fangames, Sonic XG and Sonic Nexus, to form Retro Sonic Nexus.
In 2009, Sega asked fans for ideas on a game to port to iOS. As a response, Whitehead produced a proof-of-concept video showing Sega's 1993 Sega CD game Sonic CD running on an iPhone. Sega later officially released the port in 2011 for various platforms, such as the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows, iOS and Android. Whitehead, along with fellow Sonic scene member Simon "Stealth" Thomley, were later commissioned to create remakes of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 using the engine, released for mobile platforms in 2013. Whitehead, Thomley, and PagodaWest Games later collaborated on an original Sonic title, Sonic Mania, which runs on an updated version of the Retro Engine. The game was released in August 2017. In 2014, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the release of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Whitehead and Thomley produced a proof-of-concept showing the game using the engine on an iPhone. Despite fan support, the project was not approved by Sega. In 2019, Whitehead, in collaboration with other members behind Sonic Mania, founded a new studio called Evening Star. In reference of the studio name, the engine was renamed the Star Engine.
Reviewers have praised the Retro Engine for its performance, which has been called superior to simply emulating the original games. TouchArcade has referred to the remasters of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as "spectacular".
Games using the Retro Engine
|2007||Retro Sonic||Christian Whitehead||Microsoft Windows, Dreamcast|
|2011||Sonic CD||Original games by Sonic Team and Sega; ported by Whitehead||Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, iOS, Android, Ouya, Microsoft Windows, Apple TV, Windows Phone|
|2013||Sonic the Hedgehog||iOS, Android, Apple TV|
|Sonic the Hedgehog 2|
|2017||Sonic Mania||Whitehead, Headcannon, PagodaWest Games||Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows|
- Whitehead, Christian. "Technologies: Retro Engine". Retrieved 16 March 2017.
- Mawson, Chris (2 April 2015). "Sonic the Hedgehog 3 Remastered Interview with Christian 'The Taxman' Whitehead". Power Up Gaming. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
- Ponce, Tony. "The joy of fan games, pt. 2: Fan game heroes!". Destructoid. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
- Hodapp, Eli (29 July 2009). "Christian Whitehead On 'Sonic CD' and His Retro Engine". TouchArcade. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
- Nelson, Jared (19 October 2014). "Hey Sega! This 'Sonic 3 & Knuckles' iOS Port Needs to Happen". TouchArcade. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
- D'Argenio, Angelo. "Do fan games have a future? AM2R, Sonic Mania, and the creative process". GameCrate. NewEgg. Retrieved 16 August 2017.
- Batchelor, James (February 12, 2019). "Sonic Mania dev Christian Whitehead co-founds new studio Evening Star". GamesIndustry.biz.