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Prerelease:Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis)

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This page details prerelease information and/or media for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis).

To do:
Interview with Yasuchi Yamaguchi with more concept art (requires $3.50 subscription to view in full).


Concept Art
Scrapped enemies, time travel, worldbuilding, character art, a rejected sidekick and some other... interesting things to say the least...
Sonic2prerelease hiddenmockup.jpg
Scrapped Zones
How ambitious were the developers making this game?

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 second playable character, though only one of these other concepts are currently known to exist. 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 Sand Shower Zone. Once the idea was scrapped, Rock Zone was removed, along with Sand Shower. 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)
(Source: Another tweet by Al Nilsen)

Early Mock-ups

Released during the initial reveal of Sonic 2 were several mock-ups (advertised as screenshots) of stages; rather crucially, this includes the only known image of Sand Shower Zone, which was never implemented in any "real" build of the game.

Aside from that, several other differences can be seen in these early mockups (excluding reused assets from Sonic 1, such as the HUD).

Sonic2Mockup EHZBackground.jpg

Emerald Hill Zone's background has different, smaller clouds.

Sonic2prerelease hiddenmockup.jpg

Again, a different background compared to any prototype, although the small stalagmites can be found within the data of the Nick Arcade build, as is the Stego badnik (at the bottom).

Summer 1992 Screenshots

Several screenshots were sent out during Summer 1992 (possibly for Summer CES); despite common belief that these are from the Simon Wai prototype, it is actually from a build between it and Nick Arcade, presumably dated May, or around three months before Simon Wai. Interestingly, three of the screenshots from this build are used on the back of the package that the final game comes in, as opposed to using screenshots from the final game.

Nick Arcade Summer 1992 Simon Wai
Sonic2NickArcade CPZTubes.png Sonic2Summer1992 CPZTubes.png Sonic2SimonWai CPZTubes.png

Chemical Plant Zone's background palette had since been changed to the final version's, however the circles on the tubes still are in the same position as they were in Nick Arcade. While Sonic being in the middle of the screen seems to indicate it being a mockup, it's also possible the camera position was edited simply for magazine, as everything else otherwise matches up with proper screenshots.

Emerald Hill and Hill Top seem to have had no significant changes since the Nick Arcade build, while Oil Ocean and Aquatic Ruin are visually identical to how they were in Simon Wai, and thus aren't shown here.

Zone Changes

All of the zone changes shown on this page are of various prototypes: 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. Some of these match up to the August 21st and September 14th prototypes.

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 Sep 14 Proto CENSOR to Final
Sonic2prerelease aquaticruin.jpg
Sonic2 MD NeoGreenHill2 Sep14.png Sonic2 aquaticruintitlecomp.png

This photo showed 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 due to an error with too many graphics loaded into the VRAM. The September 14th prototype confirms the screenshot's origin.

Casino Night Zone

Simon Wai Proto Prerelease Photo
Sonic2 cnzlayoutwai.png Sonic2prerelease casinonight.jpg
Aug 21 Proto Sep 14 to Final
Sonic2 MD CNZLayoutAug21.png 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 Zone would eventually reach its final design by the Sep 14 build. The August 21st prototype confirms the screenshot's origin.


To do:
The Sega Soft video likely has more differences to cover and its section could definitely be written better.

When Sonic 2 was still in development, Sega released many, many videos of an older build. The first two are more advanced than the August 21st prototype, but older than the September 14th prototype. The next ones are Post-CENSOR.

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 take place between the August 21st prototype and the September 14th prototype.

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

  • 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, as its launch sound effect now plays and doesn't distort other sounds.
  • 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 and August 21st prototypes. The music oversight from the August 21st prototype has been fixed.
  • 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 all prototypes before CENSOR.
  • 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 still have no sound effect.
  • The drowning theme has been implemented. However, the warning bells and drowning theme play for both Sonic and Tails. From CENSOR onwards, 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.
  • The vine lifts in Hill Top Zone now have a sound effect.
  • 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 August 21st 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.

Sega Soft Video VOL.24

Sega released a Soft Video around the same time as the promotional Spanish VHSs, and it appears to be the same build as them aswell.

  • It appears the level tiles system is still stored in the Nemesis format like the August 21st build. The Nemesis format remained until the CENSOR prototype, when stage tiles were changed to be stored in the Kosinski format to speed up load times.

Layout Differences from the September 14th Prototype

Emerald Hill
  • 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.

US Commercial

A commercial showing a near-final build of Sonic 2. The only change is that Chemical Plant has loops with slanted corner, similar to versions up until Beta 4.

Gamesmaster Preview

A look at an early version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was shown in the first episode of the second season of UK game show Gamesmaster. The prototype shown features several changes that place it in-between the Simon Wai and CENSOR prototypes, and also place it after the builds seen in the above videos. It was later discovered that all these differences are consistent with the September 14 build:

  • 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.

Early Tails Sprite Sheet

An extremely early version of Tails's sprite sheet. Found in a folder of documents given to DiC Entertainment for the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon's pilot. He appears to be notably shorter than his final variant, as well as having tan fur with white tips on his tails. According to Yasushi Yamaguchi, Tails creator and chief artist of Sonic 2, Tails used the palette of Sonic from the first game. This was the only color reference for the character given to DiC, which explains the similarity in appearance to how Tails appears in the cartoons.


(Source: Fieryfurnace)