How an EARLY Sonic 2 Build changed EVERYTHING on what the game could have been

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Curiosity is just in our nature as humans. We want to get a peak of what's behind a curtain, alongside anything that was discarded.

This also applies to games, where they’re developed over a period of time, and any levels, characters, weapons are seen to not fit the game, and are lost to time.

But sometimes, there’s discoveries that show what could have been in games, and there’s sites such as ‘The Cutting Room Floor’ that document all of this. You could easily lose an evening to reading a site such as that.

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One game that has been a great example of this, is Sonic 2. From scrapped zones to mysterious names, it’s been a long saga ever since an early version was stolen from a toy fair back in 1992. Here’s the story of what happened.

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A Little History

Before the release of Sonic 2 in 1992, there were events that had an early version of the game, ready for someone to play, and at a Toy Fair in New York, someone had stolen one of these carts.

It wasn’t until six years later that an individual by the name of ‘Simon Wai’ found the said game on a ‘Geocities’ site, wanting to use it on an emulator. Loading it up, he noticed that the title screen was different than normal, and that levels were very out of place.

After realising that this was an early version of Sonic 2, he created a site soon after to document his findings. Since then, there’s been a whole heap of discoveries, and even other builds of the game alongside early versions of Sonic 3, Sonic CD, and a few more.

Levels Lost to Time

When we look at the level select screen, it’s reminiscent of Sonic 1, but there’s names of levels here that were not in the final version, such as:

  • Hidden Palace
  • Wood Zone
  • Genocide City
  • Dust Hill
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Out of these names, only two had its own unique zone in this early-build, one of which was Hidden Palace. This was where you could run freely in an underground cavern with water and unbreakable Chaos Emeralds objects, but you reached a dead end soon after. The development team had said that this was a level that you would access when you collected all seven Chaos Emeralds, and when brought, you would enter a cut-scene and then gain the ability to become Super Sonic.

Unfortunately they ran out of time, and also for size reasons, the level was cut. But the level still exists in some form in the final game.

The other level to have its own unique art and name was Wood Zone. This was set in a forest where you would run through wooden-doors and conveyor-belts, but due to a collision-bug in this build, you would only be able to access the first part of the level. A strange zone that didn’t feel like a Sonic level, more like a level from the ‘Mickey Mouse: Castle of Illusion’ games.

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Genocide City was meant to be a technological-filled level, but with only one act curiously. This was apparently cut early on, but you will be surprised to know that the level exists in the final game, but as a third act of ‘Metropolis Zone’. The team felt that they didn’t want to waste the layout, so they slapped on the art for this zone instead, and added a third act. Oddly enough, the level would find even more life, but in another game called ‘Sonic Spinball’, where some of the art assets would be used in ‘The Machine’ level.

Dust Hill was another zone that appeared here, but only in name, as ‘Mystic Cave’ loads up when selected. This was shown as its true-name in a mock-up image of a magazine in mid-1992, but it was nowhere to be seen. Future games such as ‘Sandopolis’ in Sonic & Knuckles, alongside ‘Mirage Saloon’ in Sonic Mania took up the mantle of being the desert zone, but due to time constraints, ‘Dust Hill’ was left to the past.

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The whole build has its own oddities that aren’t just cut levels, such as a different running animation for Sonic, or a different track of ‘Death Egg Zone’ when you collect 100 rings. Even the title screen, there’s many oddities, but it’s a fantastic ‘what if’ of what could have been for certain zones if the team had another six months to find ways of implementing these scrapped levels.

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Time Travel Almost Happened

The mysteries have been thick and fast ever since this build debuted, with earlier builds appearing that have Sonic injuring himself when he runs into a wall, alongside a totally-different layout and palette of ‘Casino Night Zone’.

But the other discovery was that Sonic 2 was going to have time travel. When the game was in the early planning stages, the team wanted to have different hub worlds with different time periods of levels, as shown here thanks to Hirokazu Yasuhara attending a talk in Poland back in 2017.

Even more zone names such as ‘Sand Shower’ and ‘Blue Lake’ are listed here, proving fan theories that certain zones are in-fact past and future versions of levels we have all been playing for the last twenty-eight years.

The build has become infamous in just what could have been for a Sonic game. It showed potential and ambition as to what the team at SEGA wanted from a Sonic sequel, and event though some ideas didn’t make the cut, they still inspire others to implement these cut levels in their own, modified games.

There’s so much that can be discussed, and perhaps we might go into other early versions of the Sonic games, but for now, enjoy what could have been for Sonic 2 on the Mega Drive.