News/Sonic Month Part 4 - Filling Blanks With Sonic 2 (MD)
Two days ago marked the 13th anniversary of the Sonic 2 Nick Arcade prototype release. Has it really been that long ago?
It’s been a long time coming since those early days. Back in those days, can you believe we only had just a handful of Sonic prototypes? We had Sonic Crackers, a prototype of Sonic 1 for the Game Gear, a few Sonic CD prototypes, and of course, Sonic 2 Simon Wai. Magazine scans, screenshots, and a few other excerpts were the only things that existed that could sustain the curiosity and intrigue of fans back then. Before prototypes and early game development were a talking point in many video game circles like they are today, the Sonic community were really the pioneers for that need to answer the riddles that were presented to us in an era that had long since past. The community even went as far as to hack and reverse engineer the games in hopes of finding answers. They were also one of the very first communities to do so, too. However, they were left with even more questions that people weren’t expecting.
The situation today is nothing like it was back in the early days when Sonic CulT, Sonic Stuff Research Group (SSRG), Secrets of Sonic Team (SOST), and Simon Wai’s Sonic 2 Beta (SWS2B, which would be rebranded to S2Beta, then merged into Sonic Retro) were the biggest names in town. The Sonic community would evolve and grow over time, moving on from palette hacks to full blown disassemblies and from myths to hard evidence. As far as Sonic goes, the world of mystery is growing smaller. That’s not to say that there aren’t still mysteries that persist even to this day. With each prototype released, we explore and map newly discovered territory. And when we’re done, we simply move on to the next. Since Sonic 2 Nick Arcade, it’s been like that almost every year.
This year is no exception thanks to Sonic Month. From the moment we released the Sega Multimedia Studio: Sega CD Demo, you may have already guessed that we are on a journey to get closer to the homestretch. Just what exactly is there left to see?
We have discovered not one, but ‘’’two’’’ brand new Sonic 2 prototypes that were built between Simon Wai and the CENSOR build! To think that thirteen years ago, we only had one Sonic 2 prototype!
If you had asked anyone back in the early 2000s that multiple prototypes would ever surface, let alone something that matches what you saw in your favorite early screenshots, they would’ve slapped you silly!
The first prototype is the earliest of the bunch and contains progress made sometime after the Simon Wai build. This is the earliest build we have that has Sonic use his final sprites. Hidden Palace Zone and Wood Zone are still in tact with the rest of the cut zones left the way they’ve always been. Sky Chase and Wing Fortress still hasn’t been implemented, although there are some signs that progress was underway. The early Casino Night Zone is still here in all it’s pink glory in a slightly more finished form, with a boss! The bosses (except for Wing Fortress’ and Death Egg) have been implemented, but only a few are loaded during normal gameplay. A similar prototype that combines Hidden Palace and Sonic’s final sprite have been seen in various forms of media before, but this is the first time we can see what the rest of the build is like! What secrets might be buried within the ROM…?
The later prototype we have to share with you is a rather familiar one to those who have studied those prerelease Sonic 2 screenshots over the decades. Dated September 14 on the EPROMs themselves (which is likely a burn date, not a build date), this prototype (or ‘pre-beta’) represents a stage in development where the last remaining critical parts of the game had just been implemented. For instance, the title cards have just been implemented, the special stage has just been implemented (albeit very rudimentary and buggy), and Sky Chase/Wing Fortress/Death Egg have been implemented and somewhat working. The bottom path of Aquatic Ruin (still called Neo Green Hill Zone) has been somewhat implemented, and Casino Night Zone has its final tileset but with a different object layout. Hidden Palace, while still present on the level select, has unfortunately been gutted since at this point the final game’s level pacing was beginning to take shape.
This prototype also solidifies the answer to a decades old question that has plagued the Sonic community since its earliest days. “What is Dust Hill Zone”? Dust Hill Zone was infamously attributed as the name for the mysterious “Desert” Zone mock up that was featured in very early magazine previews. The developers had intended Dust Hill Zone be Mystic Cave Zone’s original name until very late in development, and this new prototype confirms that they even went as far as to create title card art for the zone too! Given the recent new details on the original time travel level pacing specified that a desert zone called “Sand Shower Zone” would have been the fourth zone in the line up, and that internally the game’s fourth zone is actually blank and is programmed to use Oil Ocean’s final theme (which sounds a lot like something that would be used for a desert themed level, wouldn’t you think?), its safe to say now that Dust Hill Zone was the original name for Mystic Cave Zone, and is not referring to the cut desert level.
(Oddly enough, Oil Ocean in the September 14th prototype is still using Casino Night Zone’s 2P BGM. Could it be that this was the original intended song for the zone?)
Finally, as a little treat - we have some other Sonic 2 related goodies to show you aside from these prototypes as well! Unfortunately, these were all final - but it’s still worth noting for historical purposes that these exist.
First up, a copy of Sonic 2 (GG) on EPROMs with a potential burn date of September 25, 1992. Matches the final Game Gear version.
Next, a copy of Sonic 2 (MD) on EPROMs with a potential burn date of November 2, 1992. Matches the final REV01 version.
Finally, a sweet cart that was used at a public event in Europe near the game’s release for marketing purposes. We didn’t want to destroy the label to open the cart to confirm what the EPROMs say, however this build matches the final REV01 version as well.
As always, thank you all for participating with us in Sonic Month so far. The support we have received over the past few weeks have really made us excited for what’s in store next. The next prototype we have to show you will be something you’ll never forget. But in the meantime...
See you November 16th for the grand finale of Sonic month! You absolutely do not want to miss this, so be sure to tune into the stream on the same day at 5 PM EST/2 PM PST. If you’re worried about missing it, follow us on Twitter and get a reminder before it happens! Be sure to tell your friends!
Until next time…