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 graphics and palette manipulation, although it does feature support for widescreen graphics and online functionality.
Australian programmer 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. 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, Sega did not approve of the project. Thomley speculated that this was due to legal problems regarding the music. Whitehead, Thomley, and PagodaWest Games later collaborated on an original Sonic game using the Retro Engine called Sonic Mania, which released August 2017.
In 2019, Whitehead, in collaboration with other members behind Sonic Mania, founded a new studio called Evening Star. In reference to the studio name, the Retro Engine initially had been renamed the Star Engine. In October 2021, Evening Star announced development was underway for a game using the Star Engine. In conjunction with this, it was announced that the Star Engine had been turned into a separate engine with a focus on 3D rendering, with the Retro Engine being brought back. In January 2021, an open-source decompilation of the Retro Engine versions of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 were released, allowing the games to run natively on PC platforms.
Reviewers 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". Whitehead has named games such as Ristar, Knuckles' Chaotix, and Dynamite Headdy, as well as non-Sega games like the Castlevania series, as others that would be possible to port to the engine.
|2007||Retro Sonic||Christian Whitehead||Microsoft Windows, Dreamcast|
|2008||Sonic Nexus||Christian Whitehead, Brad Flick, Hunter Bridges||Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X|
|2011||Sonic CD||Original game by Sonic Team; adapted by Christian Whitehead||Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, iOS, Android, Ouya, Microsoft Windows, Apple TV, Windows Phone|
|2013||Sonic the Hedgehog||Original games by Sonic Team; adapted by Christian Whitehead and Headcannon||iOS, Android, Apple TV|
|Sonic the Hedgehog 2|
|2017||Sonic Mania||Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, PagodaWest Games||Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Amazon Luna|
- Also known as the Retro Software Development Kit
- Whitehead, Christian. "Technologies: Retro Engine". Archived from the original on 21 January 2017. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
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- "Evening Star - Technologies". Archived from the original on 28 February 2019.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
- Batchelor, James (February 12, 2019). "Sonic Mania dev Christian Whitehead co-founds new studio Evening Star". GamesIndustry.biz.
- Stewart, Marcus (1 October 2021). "The Developers Behind Sonic Mania Are Working On An Original 3D Platformer". Game Informer. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
- "Evening Star - Technologies".
- Orland, Kyle (20 January 2021). "PC fan port of early Sonic games lets you zoom the camera way, way out". Ars Technica.