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Prerelease:Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis)

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This page details one or more prerelease versions of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis).
To do:
Document the time travel concept art and the [1] Tom Payne archives.

Early Development

Following the success of Sonic the Hedgehog, a sequel to the game was expected. However, the development of it had a rocky start, starting with Yuji Naka leaving Sega due to disagreements over company policies. After this, the founder of Sega Technical Institute, Mark Cerny, met with Naka and promised him a higher salary and more freedom if he joined STI. Naka agreed, and Sonic 1's lead level designer, Hirokazu Yasuhira, joined STI soon after. Development began in November 1991, as Sega of America felt that Cerny's September date was too early for the sequel's development to begin. As Sonic 2 began development, the teams went to work on creating a new main character for the game. This was due to Yuji Naka requesting a 2-player mode before joining the game's development team - something that he wanted to implement in Sonic 1, but wasn't able to due to time.

Much like Sonic's design, an internal competition was held in both Sonic Team and the STI to create the design and idea of the new character. The winner of this competition was a two-tailed fox designed by Yasushi Yamaguchi, who gave him the name Miles Prower. The rest of the team wanted his name to be Tails, however, to match the simplicity of Sonic's name. Yamaguchi would sneak Tails' original name in both the game and its concept art, which eventually stuck around to the finished game. The original plan for Sonic 2 was to have it span over 18 zones, but due to the game's November 1992 release, only 11 would make it to the game. Many of the cut zones were later revealed to the world through prototypes and concept art.

Around the same time, the idea of time-traveling through a past and present stage was thought of by the development team. Some of the levels designed for this concept were Wood Zone, which would have been the past version of Metropolis Zone, and Rock Zone, which was the past version of Dust Hill Zone. Once the idea was scrapped, Rock Zone was removed, along with Dust Hill. The whole time-travel idea wasn't abandoned, however, and was later implemented into Sonic CD by an almost completely different development team. During this, there were also plans to make a Sega CD version of Sonic 2, alongside Sonic 1. For whatever reason (probably Sonic 2's deadline), both games didn't go very far in development before being cancelled.

Sonic2prerelease oldlabels.jpg

In addition, Sonic 2 was originally going to ship with holographic labels, but were not used due to the cost of producing them. One of the labels would be used for the Nick Arcade prototype's cartridge.

(Source: Al Nilsen)

Scrapped Zones

Hidden Palace Zone

The big daddy of cut content in Sonic games, Hidden Palace Zone started out as one of the first zones developed for Sonic 2, along with Emerald Hill, Hill Top, and Chemical Plant. The original plan for Hidden Palace was that Sonic, after collecting all of the Chaos Emeralds, would warp to the zone, where he would learn how to become Super Sonic. After being cut down from two acts to one, Hidden Palace Zone was removed, and the idea of Sonic going to a zone to learn how to become Super was scrapped. The removal of Hidden Palace Zone was late into the game's development; both music and a level select icon were created for the zone, and still exist in the final's files. This icon can be seen in Sonic 3's level select by scrolling over to the second 2P VS option.

(Source: Sega's Yuji Naka Talks!)

Some of the zone's art was reused for future Sonic games - the glowing bridges and spheres made an appearance in IceCap Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and the design of Hidden Palace was used as the basis for Toxic Caves in Sonic Spinball. The name of the zone itself would be given to a similar-themed (but otherwise unrelated) level in Sonic and Knuckles. A finished version of Hidden Palace Zone was added in the 2013 iOS and Android port as a secret level.

(Source: Craig Stitt Interview)
Sonic2prerelease hiddenmockup.jpg

In addition to this, there exists an early mockup of Hidden Palace Zone which has a different, more realistic cave background. In the distance are barely noticeable stalagmites, the graphics of which appear in the data of the Nick Arcade and Simon Wai prototypes:

Sonic2pre hpzbg.png

Genocide City/Cyber City Zone

Not so spooky now, is it?

Planned to be a single-stage zone after a two-act Metropolis Zone, Cyber City Zone originally had the name of Genocide City. This very odd name was due to the development team not knowing English very well, and might have resulted from them looking for a dangerous name to give to the zone. Once Cyber City was scrapped, the layout of the zone was improved on and reused as a third act for Metropolis Zone. The artwork planned for Cyber City, as seen in the concept art on the right, was re-used for The Machine in Sonic Spinball.

Genocide City can be selected in the level select of the Simon Wai prototype of Sonic 2, but the acts themselves are empty.

Sonic2prerelease cybercityconcept2.jpg

Some more concept art of Cyber City shows that it was originally intended to just be a sprite (and probably palette) swap of Metropolis Zone, but with a more futuristic look. It also shows the alternate, more kid-friendly rename the zone was given.

Dust Hill/Winter Zone

Sonic2prerelease dusthill.jpg

Dust Hill Zone is the name given to a level which, if it was implemented, would have been the first desert level in a Sonic game. Only one image of this zone exists (which was later revealed to have been a mockup), and shows that a Gator badnik - whose sprites only appear in the Nick Arcade and Simon Wai prototypes - would have been one of the enemies. Despite this, a layout of Dust Hill was completed (but not added to the game) before the zone's removal, and featured both above and underground sections.

Interestingly, before the release of the game, the name Dust Hill was often given to Mystic Cave Zone. This occurred in the Simon Wai prototype level select, as well as various newspaper articles about Sonic 2, for unknown reasons.

While Dust Hill Zone was being made, the development team worked on plans for another level called Winter Zone. It would have been Dust Hill but with a winter theme given to the zone's graphics, like replacing cacti with Christmas trees. An idea thrown around before the idea of Winter Zone was that Dust Hill would, halfway through the act, transform into a snow-themed level.

Eventually, the entire zone was scrapped entirely. However, both the concept and design would resurface some twenty years later in the remastered Sonic CD as Desert Dazzle, which would also end up scrapped, and eventually, in Sonic Mania as Mirage Saloon Zone.

(Source: Christian Whitehead's Twitter)

Rock Zone

Rest in peace, Banper, we hardly knew ye.

As mentioned above, Rock Zone was planned as the "past" version of Dust Hill Zone, when Sonic 2 was going to be about time travel. Once the time travel concept was scrapped, Rock Zone went with it. Since this happened early in Sonic 2's development, Rock Zone is easily the least complete of the known scrapped zones; it doesn't have sprites, a layout, or even a proper name. The only piece of concept art that refers to it is an unused badnik called Banper, which would have used its bumpers to push Sonic away.

Scrapped Badniks

Dust Hill Badniks

Sonic2prerelease dusthillbadniks.jpg

Concept art was drawn up for a second, cactus-themed badnik for Dust Hill. The idea for it was that if Sonic got too close to it, the badnik would start flashing red. It would then explode, shooting out projectiles in a way similar to the Bomb badnik from Sonic the Hedgehog. It was never decided if the badnik would have moved towards Sonic or stayed still.

There was also a warthog badnik planned for the zone, but what it would have done is unknown.


Sonic2prerelease frog.png

The developers of Sonic 2 toyed around with the idea of a frog-themed badnik, which would have hopped around on a specific path. If Sonic got too close to Frog, it would have shot a projectile at him (seen in concept art below).

A frog-like badnik would eventually appear in Launch Base Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 3.

Spring Badniks

Sonic2prerelease springbadniks.jpg

There were also plans to have a badnik which would have a spring incorporated into its design (similar to Banper). If Sonic tried to attack it, he would get bounced off, and would have to find a different way to defeat the badnik (if at all). The enemy could have been used to the player's advantage by jumping on the springs and being able to access a normally-inaccessible platform.

In the final game, there are no badniks which have a spring built into their design.

Other Badniks

Sonic2prerelease othercutbadniks.jpg

Several animal/insect-themed badniks were drawn up for Sonic the Hedgehog 2, but were never implemented into the game. They include;

  • The Frog badnik mentioned above.
  • Squid and lobster-themed badniks, intended to be in underwater levels.
  • A pterodactyl/vulture badnik, which would have flown over the player and dropped bombs on them.
  • A dragonfly which would have had five bombs attacked to its body as its "abdomen". It would have dropped all of them as it approached Sonic.
  • A mole badnik with a drill on its nose, similar to the Grounder badnik. It would have hid behind a wall and, when Sonic approached it, burst out of its hiding spot.

Zone Changes

All of the zone changes shown on this page are of a prototype that hasn't been leaked yet: that is, it has things developed and worked on after the Simon Wai prototype, but lacks certain things that would appear in the CENSOR prototype.

Two-Player Mode

Earlier Photo Manual Photo CENSOR to Final
Sonic2prerelease twoplayerearly.jpg Sonic2prerelease twoplayerlater.jpg Sonic2 twoplayerfinal.png

At least two builds of Sonic 2, both with two-player mode, were sent out to game magazines and publishers during this time. The first and earliest build has Tails reuse the lives counter of Sonic in two-player mode. The second, later build is the one used for the US/EU manual, and shows a mixture of Tails' icon and Sonic's name.

Aquatic Ruin/Neo Green Hill Zone

Prerelease Photo CENSOR to Final
Sonic2prerelease aquaticruin.jpg
Sonic2 aquaticruintitlecomp.png

It seems that the early name for Aquatic Ruin Zone, Neo Green Hill, was used until sometime after the final game's title cards had been fully implemented. In addition, most of the text for the word "Hill" is replaced with bubbles, which could have resulted in the zone's rename.

Casino Night Zone

Simon Wai Proto Prerelease Photo CENSOR to Final
Sonic2 cnzlayoutwai.png Sonic2prerelease casinonight.jpg Sonic2 cnzlayoutfinal.png

At some point after the Simon Wai prototype, the development team worked on and finished the early level design for Casino Night Zone. Other than adding the spinning blocks and fixing other things with the layout, the background was revamped and given a more polished look. The crushing blocks (and all other objects minus Sonic and Tails) are missing, though, and the act would eventually reach its final design by the CENSOR build.


When Sonic 2 was still in development, Sega released many, many videos of an older build. All of these are more advanced than the Simon Wai prototype, but older than the CENSOR prototype.

Mean Machines Sega Promotional VHS

A VHS cassette included with the first issue of the UK-based Mean Machines Sega magazine has shown preview footage from a variety of games, with most of the focus being on an early version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that appears to have more work done since the Simon Wai prototype, placing it between that and the CENSOR prototype.

The timecodes for the Sonic 2 footage to the right are 0:40, 10:53 and 16:34.

  • The music from the final game has been added.
  • Title cards and results tallies are still absent.
  • Tails' AI has been worked on and is now like in the final game, including being able to fly to catch up to Sonic. However, he doesn't go into flying mode when Sonic dies yet.
  • Tails can no longer lose rings.
  • The Spin Dash is now fully functional.
  • Sonic and Tails' sprites have been updated to the final version's sprites.
  • The snail Badnik is now gone, and Coconuts has been added in its place.
  • The Emerald Hill boss' entrance is the same as in the Simon Wai prototype.
  • Tails still uses Sonic's life icon in the 2-player mode.
  • 2-player mode still uses the same music as 1-player mode, like the Simon Wai prototype and unlike Beta 4.
  • Sonic and Tails share the ring counter in 2-player mode. If Tails gets hurt, he can lose rings for Sonic.
  • A score counter is present in 2-player mode. Sonic and Tails also share the same scores.
  • Chemical Plant Zone still has the slanted corners on the loops and the grey girders in the background.
  • Badniks are still absent from Chemical Plant Zone.
  • The blue bubble snakes no longer make any sounds, as the new sound effect hasn't been implemented yet.
  • Tails can now drown. However, the warning bells and drowning theme play for both Sonic and Tails. In later prototypes and the final, the sounds only play for Sonic.
  • The platforms that move across rails have been made bigger from the Simon Wai prototype.
  • There is still no boss at the end of Chemical Plant Zone Act 2.
  • Hill Top Zone's level design is now like that of later prototypes and the final.
  • The vine lifts in Hill Top Zone now have a sound effect.
  • The Spiker and Sol Badniks have been implemented. Whether Rexon has also been implemented or not is unknown.
  • There are a number of glitches in collision detection and layer switching as evidenced in Hill Top Zone.

Spanish Promotional VHS

SEGA released a promotional VHS cassette in Spain sometime in 1992 showcasing various games that were coming up at the time such as Thunder Force IV and Splatterhouse 3, and a later prototype version of Sonic 2 which is very similar to the one shown in the video above.

  • The only audio from the game that is heard in the video is the title screen music which is from the final, assuming the music has been updated.
  • Sonic and Tails' sprites have been updated to the final version's sprites.
  • Tails is shown to be able to fly to catch up to Sonic now.
  • Tails now uses his own life icon in 2-Player mode, which shows that this build may have been made after the one in the above video. However, his lives counter still says "SONIC".
  • Sonic and Tails share the ring counter in 2-player mode.
  • A score counter is present in 2-player mode.
  • Chemical Plant Zone still has the slanted corners on the loops and the grey girders in the background.
  • Hidden Palace Zone is showcased, and appears to have had no changes since the Simon Wai prototype.
  • The Emerald Hill boss is now capable of exploding again with the new explosion graphics, but the boss machine appears to change direction as Eggman begins to escape. This behavior can also be seen with the old explosion graphics in the Nick Arcade prototype.

Layout Differences from the CENSOR Prototype

Emerald Hill
  • The snail Badnik is now gone, and Coconuts has been added in its place.
  • The first shield monitor in Act 1 is missing.
  • The first yellow spring on the upper path is missing.
  • The shield monitor on the lower path, along with the upside down spikes near the third checkpoint is missing.
  • The 1up monitor and rings near the end are still blocked off.
  • The first checkpoint in Act 2 is not present.
Chemical Plant
  • The first ring monitor in Act 1 is missing.
  • The first three rings on Act 1's upper path are missing.
  • The first badnik in Act 2 is missing.
  • The block preventing the player from skipping half of Act 2 at the beginning isn't present.
  • A set of vertical rings after the huge slope at the beginning of Act 2 are missing.
  • A few rings near them are also missing.

Gamesmaster Preview

A look at an early version of Sonic the Hedgehog was shown in the first episode of the second season of UK game show Gamesmaster. The prototype shown features several changes that place it inbetween the Simon Wai and CENSOR prototypes, and also place it after the builds seen in the above videos:

  • The menu options have been implemented into the title screen.
  • Title cards have also been added, but use the same format as the ones in Sonic the Hedgehog. The only differences between them are the lack of the Act graphic and the font being the one used in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
  • In addition, Emerald Hill Zone is still called Green Hill Zone.
  • Sonic and Tails share the ring counter in 2-player mode. If Tails gets hurt, he can lose rings for Sonic.
  • A score counter is present in 2-player mode. Sonic and Tails also share the same scores.
  • Casino Night Zone's layout and design have been changed to the ones seen in the final game. The object placement in the halfpipe at the beginning, however, is different from what's seen in the CENSOR prototype and later.
  • Chemical Plant Zone still has its angle-corner loops and grey girders in the background.
  • The music is slowed down when the game is run in PAL mode. From the CENSOR prototype onwards, the music tempo is increased if the game is played on a PAL system.