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Sonic 2 Development Lore

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Chimes, Apr 5, 2023.

Is it Miles or Tails?

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  1. LockOnRommy11

    LockOnRommy11

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    Emerald Hill Zone has various pits of sand / mined material shown throughout the background layer which have been seemingly blown out of the hills. I can’t recall where but I’m sure it was mentioned before that Eggman would have been shown to be digging for the Chaos Emeralds / resources in Emerald Hill, thus accounting for these.

    This helps in understanding the transition to Dust Hill, where the entire level would have been blown to bits and eroded. Bear in mind that Emerald Hill’s past was originally Hill Top, which had tall mountains set upon the hills. Other green hills with Hilltop-style vertical rocks coming out of the ground are visible in the furthest background layer of EHZ also, proving that EHZ once looked like that.

    The name of the level is seemingly unrelated to the plot, from Yuji Naka, Sonic Jam guide:

    “At the time, we were developing in San Francisco, and south of there was a town(?) called Emerald Hill. We were doing a location test at a shopping center there when we saw it, and since it was a Green Hill-like name we thought well, let's use it in the game!”
     
  2. Forte

    Forte

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    Wasn't there also a Circus themed level in really early development?

     
  3. Nik Pi

    Nik Pi

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    I remember that Tom (or someone else) said that he planned a circus-themed zone with giant elephants, but it was scraped by early development stage.
    This song was proof of concept that born on late development stage, and this wasn't included in game (also it uses GEMS, not SMPS)
     
  4. Mr. Cornholio

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    That was my interpretation of it! My idea was that collecting all of the Chaos Emeralds was originally meant to take you to Sonic 2's Hidden Palace, and the player would've had to clear this one Act in order to be granted Super Sonic/progress through the rest of the game. If this is correct, however, that might have been a contending reason for it's removal. They might have considered having to do a regular stage after a very challenging final Special Stage a bit too much work on the player's part. Combine that with disagreements on the level design (I swear one former employee of STI stated the team wasn't very happy with how the level design was turning out), and it makes sense it would be cut.

    However, Yuji does state that the player would've had to have gone to it in order to get a Chaos Emerald in the third interview linked above. The lack of plural use does make me think it could be that the player had to access that area first before trying a Special Stage? Though that seems very odd with the design of the stage itself. It would work if the idea is that it was short easy to traverse HUB, but a full stage seems odd to make work.

    Do we even know for absolute certain Yuji is even referring to Hidden Palace in the first interview? I agree it's the most likely contender, but I'm not seeing anything that suggests he was stating it was Hidden Palace. He could also be referring to Cyber City having it's level design recycled for Metropolis Act 3. That would save on memory a bit by just reusing Metropolis' graphics.

    Someone earlier mentioned the Chiki Chiki Boys torch mixup earlier. That's sort of what I always assumed was the case with this one? It honestly just looked like a background for some sort of top-down shooter. Has an actual Genesis game ever actually been identified as the source for that weird background?

    The Sonic 2 'Cabaret' cartridge is also super interesting. The presentation is really cute, but yeah, it also reflects a really early point in Sonic 2's development. I'm guessing it was a soundtrack created when they weren't entirely certain if they would be able to get Nakamura back on board? I don't think the track that plays in the video was intended for a 'Circus Zone' or anything like that. The use of the word 'CLUB' makes me think it was a really early draft for Casino Night? Clubs are typically associated with casinos, but I've never really heard the term 'Club' used for describing a circus.
     
  5. DefinitiveDubs

    DefinitiveDubs

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    I highly doubt it would've worked that way. Remember: you enter special stages from checkpoints, in the middle of a level. So let's say you clear the last special stage and instead of being returned to the level, you're dropped into Hidden Palace. Now the player is being taken away from the level they were playing in order to play an entirely different one? That would be incredibly confusing for the player. What happens once it's cleared? There's not enough memory for it to be able to remember where exactly you were in the previous stage after you clear this new one, and even if it did, you probably won't remember what exactly you were doing by the time that happens anyway. Would it just completely restart the level? I don't think players would like being forced to replay a stage, especially in the hypothetical scenario of entering the special stage from the checkpoint right before the boss.

    Now, you might be thinking "well that's all the more reason why it'd be dropped" but I doubt they would've considered that in the first place.
    It's not just the most likely contender, it's the only possible one. Cyber City was dropped as early as the Simon Wai build, but Hidden Palace has its own stage select icon, and the redesigned menu was only implemented during the last couple weeks of development. It's the only cut level that still has an entry in the CENSOR build. All other cut levels were dropped long before that point. Even Death Egg had been cut down to being the final boss long before then.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2023
  6. GoldeMan

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    That is very fair, I'm not much good at the technical side of stuff so I wouldn't have thought of that. But I guess that just makes it's potential inclusion all the more confusing. Maybe it's because the original games did not do this at all but having it as a sole random hidden stage just seems so weird.

    Just for clarification I mean more specifically a random hidden stage in the game ala how it is presented in the 2013 version and not something like Doomsday Zone, which feels like an extra less so then just a hidden stage.

    Also worth nothing that Sonic 2 GG has has an extra stage (Crystal Egg) after completing the main campaign with all chaos emeralds, so I wonder if it'd work like that, but again seems very unlikely considering the type of stage Hidden Palace was shaping up to be in it's appearances in the prototypes.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2023
  7. Sparks

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    I imagine Hidden Palace being still present so late in development might be related to a meek hope among the development team that they'd have a chance to go back and turn it into a full stage before release, and just simply never got the opportunity as the deadline got closer and closer up to those final weeks. At some point though, they just had to "kill their darling" and let it be a lost zone.
     
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  8. E-122-Psi

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    In the beta version EVERY level is tested in split screen co-op format, though not always successfully, hence why they likely limited it to a couple of races. (Plans for split screen trace back to the first game in fact.)

    It's interesting to note that of the non-VS levels, only Hill Top Zone got so far as to get some individual coding done to work with split screen (largely scroll data so Tails' screen works properly).
     
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  9. Mr. Cornholio

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    Oh wow, I kinda forgot about the Stage Select icon being a thing! Thank you for reminding me! I guess I just mentally began to tune those out. I also appreciate the reminder of technical limitations - I was just thinking that overall my theory on how it worked was already kinda disorienting for the player to begin with (as you pointed out).

    So, is it possible that there might have been some type of plan to 'condense' Hidden Palace into a small HUB after the full-on level idea was dropped, akin to it's appearance in Sonic & Knuckles? I don't see how Hidden Palace would've worked otherwise if it being a level unlocked by getting all the Chaos Emeralds wasn't the intended solution. It doesn't seem like the level layout was reworked in any capacity at all past the Simon Wai prototype. It would explain the level design being untouched for a fair amount of time if the intended idea was 'oh we're going to replace this with something smaller'.

    But then, this makes me question Yuji's wording on S&K's implementation of it being similar to what was planned for Sonic 2. If it was dropped from that title for not 'merging' well, what was different in S&K's approach to the concept that got it greenlit?

    It's still unfortunate it got cut regardless. I actually visually prefer Sonic 2's Hidden Palace. The abstract 'cave' background with the purples is just really pretty. S&K's is still really well done for the system and more grounded in reality as an ancient set of ruins, but 2's version just pops out to me more. I think 2 as a whole just had some really pleasing palettes.
     
  10. DefinitiveDubs

    DefinitiveDubs

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    I think it's more likely that they abandoned the idea of it being a full stage or even a mini-stage like S&K had it, but hoped to still salvage it as some kind of cutscene or perhaps a hub for the special stages. Sonic 2's plot changed dramatically from its inception, but the concept of the origins of the Chaos Emeralds was always a constant from day one that they wanted to include up to the very end. I imagine eventually someone, at the tail end of development and with only days to spare, said "fuck it, who cares?"
     
  11. Hez

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    Honestly, with the way development works, I could see a potential two layout level somewhere stored on a floppy disk. I'm betting we still have the old layout from the beta because why risk putting in different data that has untested results.
     
  12. DefinitiveDubs

    DefinitiveDubs

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    Replying from another thread.
    By process of elimination, it's highly likely the final Death Egg theme was intended for Cyber City, since in prototypes, Wing Fortress plays there instead, and pretty much every other "cut" song was tied to a level slot that would make sense.
    Occam's razor.

    Brenda Ross identified the mockup as "the desert zone" and all evidence points to Sand Shower as the desert zone. You could make the argument that Brenda Ross misremembered, was led on, or maybe recognized some tiles and assumed it was the desert zone, but we kinda have to assume until any further information comes out that the mockup represents Sand Shower. It's kinda hard to argue with the level's artist.
    [​IMG]
    Looking at the maps, the desert zone would've probably had a pyramid visible in the distance, that being the "warp point". So that would add up to it being intended as a Middle Eastern desert. The issue is that there was a ton of miscommunication between the Japanese staff and the American level artists who didn't speak Japanese, as many of the artists have testified. So I imagine that Naka or Yasuhara or someone else told Brenda Ross to make a desert, and expected her to draw a Middle Eastern desert, but didn't even consider the possibility of a Western-style desert. Again, all evidence points to the music being composed before the actual artwork was implemented into the game. It doesn't make any sense otherwise, unless you believe that Sonic Team asked Masa to compose for a second time on short notice in the middle of his touring. Or that Masa composed two desert themes.
    There's only one thing we know for certain, and that's where Rock World would be in the level slots, Sky Chase's music plays. And Sky Chase's music almost certainly had to be for a winter-themed stage.
     
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  13. Palas

    Palas

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    Now that you mention it, it strikes me as odd that actually Sonic 2 8-bit has more connections to Sonic CD than to Sonic 2 16-bit. Green Hills music is the obvious example, but Mt. Gimmick has a very similar gimmick to Metallic Madness that Sonic 16-bit completely lacks. And Sky High + Underground Zone look more like what R2 could've looked like than anything we have in Sonic 2 (a stretch, but a smaller stretch than the ones you'd need to do for the supposedly closer cousins).

    So that's weird.
     
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  14. Nik Pi

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    Interesting, how much previously never heard Masa demos actually still exists deep in SEGA archives..
     
  15. McAleeCh

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    Fair point - whatever has been said re: leading questions and the name "Dust Hill" in past, it's fairly clear she did at least seem to identify it as specifically a desert Zone without any additional influence. We do also know Sand Shower was referred to as simply Desert Zone on the aforementioned "Banper" concept art, so I guess that's a strong point in favour of them being one and the same. Rock World is also mentioned on the same sketches, as simply Rock Zone, so it does seem the Desert Zone reference on those particular sketches must logically mean Sand Shower.

    My speculation was that since Rock World Zone occupied the same space on the island in a different time period, it may also have been desert-themed in some aspect - just like Emerald Hill and Hill Top (or Metropolis and Cyber City) have similarities in their theming. So the latter of your statements - that two desert sounding themes could have been composed for different stages - was what I was speculating could be the case. I was wondering whether the final Oil Ocean music could have been composed for an eastern-style desert stage (which, following my line of speculation, would have been Sand Shower) and the final Aquatic Ruin music could have been meant for a rocky stage set against the backdrop of a western-style desert (the one in Brenda Ross' mockup, which I was speculating could have actually been Rock World all along).

    Speaking of music, the final's Hidden Palace music is an interesting aberition - the fact that it's nowhere to be found in earlier builds would perhaps suggest it's a later addition, but as you say it's unlikely Masato Nakamura would have been called back to compose a second time at additional expense, especially around touring etc. The demo does sound like a cutscene of some sort as it doesn't loop at all, so I wonder if it was composed for that purpose, dropped early enough that it wasn't implemented in-game by the Sound Programmer(s) for earlier builds, and only repurposed as potential stage music much later into development? Whatever happened, it's clear that some parts of the Hidden Palace Zone puzzle don't seem to have made it as far as compiled builds of the game, as many aspects suggest it was planned for inclusion until very late despite the in-game implementation not really changing since the Nick Arcade build...! I'd be very surprised if Hez's assertion was incorrect, that more finalised but still unfinished data for the stage existed on floppy disks somewhere and never made it into an actual build of the game.

    Ah, now this does sound like there's some information I wasn't aware of. If we have good evidence that the level slots were set up based on the initial concepts for the game, and the slot we'd expect Rock World to occupy plays the wintery-sounding Sky Chase music, that sounds like a reasonably good indicator that Rock World and the winter stage were indeed one and the same. Sorry to ask, but would anyone be kind enough to break down the available evidence on this one? I'm really interested to hear more. = )
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2023
  16. RankoChan

    RankoChan

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    Some random RPG project.
    stage_ids.png
    Shamelessly stolen from TCRF, here's a table comparing the level order presented on the timeline concept art, the level select map concept art, and the Simon Wai proto/final game. Sometime after the Nick Arcade proto, level slots were added and zones were moved to match the level select maps. With this knowledge, we can safely conclude that the time travel storyline/level order survived until sometime after Nick Arcade but before Simon Wai, since by that build Genocide City Zone had been converted to Metropolis Act 3, Neo Green Hill Zone is present, and most of the levels had been cut.

    Both the Sand Shower (03) and Rock World (09) level slots are empty in the Simon Wai proto onward, but they do have music set. 03 plays Oil Ocean while 09 plays Sky Chase. Oil Ocean's slot (0A) in prototypes plays what would become Casino Night 2P in the final. Rock World playing Sky Chase's music is especially interesting when listening to the song's demo as it has an undeniable winter/christmas theme:

    With the demos likely created very early into development, this would mean a winter level was planned early on, rather then a later decision.

    Sand Shower's artist brought up the "winter zone" as she called it, stating it was a palette swap in the vein of Hill Top. At the time, the Sonic community had no idea about the original level order or the time travel storyline, but with recent confirmation on Genocide/Cyber City also being a Hill Top style palette swap, it's a pretty safe assumption that Rock World would also follow this.

    Lastly we have the Sonic 2 concept art that was reused for Sonic 3's development, also suggesting that a winter themed zone was planned from the start:
    HbL7g2E.jpg
    Ice Cap takes place on a large snowy/icy rock called a mountain, right? The name Rock World could simply be referring to the zone taking place on a mountain top in a similar fashion.
     
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  17. DefinitiveDubs

    DefinitiveDubs

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    No, I'm certain Rock World was never intended to be a winter stage.

    Rock World is strange, because the Bumper concept suggests "Rock" was supposed to be the Ancient version of "Desert", but the timeline and level slots suggest "Rock" is actually the Ruined Present of "Desert". Thing is, Yasuhara's maps list a "Rock World" for both Ancient AND Ruined Present eras. So either there are two Rock World's, or Rock World was shifted around and eventually became something else entirely, that being the winter stage.

    We actually have a single-page document that references an "Ice" level. Since "Desert" is also referenced, I would have to assume "Ice" and "Rock" are two separate codenames for two separate zones. Interestingly, "Rock" isn't listed here at all. Again, I think this is yet more evidence that the maps and timeline were made before the level themes were actually finalized. I think that by the time it came down to make concept art and ship it out to Masa, "Rock World" was dropped and wasn't planned for the final game.
    [​IMG]
     
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  18. RankoChan

    RankoChan

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    Some random RPG project.
    Where is that document from? It curiously states Chemical Factory, an earlier name for Chemical Plant alongside Secret Palace. Does this document reference a "rock" level? If not, it's entirely possible Rock World was also known as the "ice" level internally at some point in development.

    I have to disagree with your claim that the level select map concept art and timeline concept art were made before the level themes were finished. The biggest giveaway being that the level select map concept art uses near-final level names, as they appeared in the Simon Wai proto. We know that the name Chemical Factory was used in early concept art, yet Chemical Plant is used on the maps. Same deal with Woods vs Secret Jungle. It seems to me that the level concept art were created first, then the timeline/level order, and finally the level select maps.

    EDIT: Found the doc, it's one of Tom Payne's enemy concept arts. It would seem that both he and Brenda were unaware of any names for the desert and winter/ice levels.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2023
  19. I would like to mention that it is possible that Rock World was a concept that came after the Winter Zone concept.

    Or, y'know, Act 1 could've been set in the past with the ice theme, and Act 2 in the ruined present with a more rocky theme, just a crack thought
     
  20. DefinitiveDubs

    DefinitiveDubs

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    There are so many holes with assuming this, though. Let's think about this logically and weigh the evidence on both sides.
    • If the art was created first, then that means Madness Mountain, for some reason, changed to whatever the hell "Dust Hill" is, before changing again to Mystic Cave, which is more similar to Madness than anything Dust Hill could've been.
    • If the art was created first, then that would mean "Emerald Isle" was dropped, since it isn't listed anywhere in the maps/timeline, yet for some reason was added back in later in development.
    • If the maps/timeline were made later, then why do they list "Death Egg" and "Neo Death Egg" as two separate zones in two separate eras? Why is there a "Genocide City 1 Zone" and a "Genocide City 2 Zone"? Why are there two Rock World's? Why would the player revisit Hill Top and Blue Ocean? Those revisited levels are two of the supposed 18 zones, and yet there isn't any room for that in the final level slot order. Hidden Palace isn't even counted as a stage in these concepts, yet we know it was supposed to be. And why would he call Hidden Palace "Olympus"? Even by this point, the name should've been bouncing around different variations like "Hidden Shrine" and "Secret Palace".
    • If the maps/timeline were made later, that would mean concept art was made and shipped out to Masa before they even knew what the plot was going to be. Why would they do that? And why would they waste time and resources asking Yasushi Yamaguchi to draw up level concepts other people came up with that may or may not go into the final game?
    • If the maps/timeline were made later, then how do you explain Cyber City? We know that was the new name after "Genocide City" got dropped, and that's the name on the concept art, so why would Yasuhara continue to reference "Genocide" after that? The fact that "Genocide City" continues to be used on the level select menu long after the title would've been changed should be proof enough that the level select names are unreliable evidence.
    Not to mention, the Bumper art was a concept for an enemy, which would've been made during the pre-production phase. Tom Payne's documents detailing information about sprite data and enemies would've been done during the actual production phase.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2023
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