If you had to associate controversy with a Sonic the Hedgehog soundtrack, most people would choose this: There's been a lot of discussion about Sonic 3's music lately, and research put into who composed what for the game. But I don't think enough people have talked about Sonic 2's music instead. All of Sonic 1&2 was composed by Masato Nakamura, with the exception of the Staff Roll themes and some jingles being done by SEGA. That much is obvious. And we also know that during development of Sonic 2, a bunch of levels got cut and tons of stuff ended up being shifted around. Also obvious, if you know anything about the game. But which song was composed for which stage? After analyzing every statement Masa's ever given in interviews, soundtrack booklets, and documentaries, it seems like the only materials he had to work with for Sonic 2 were concept art with vague descriptions, sent to him while he was overseas (in London, I believe). I believe "concept art with vague descriptions" refers to these: Assuming that all these concept images were drawn up at the same time, and sent to him at the same time, this means Masa must have been composing extremely early in development when the time travel concept was still being planned. So it's very possible that levels that never even made it to their own level slot, such as Tropical Sun, at least had music composed for them. The zones that seem to have had their music stay there from conception to final and don't have any controversy surrounding them are as follows: Emerald Hill, Chemical Plant, Casino Night, Hill Top, and Metropolis. Furthermore, here's what we know for sure(?) about how the final music connects to the original vision: But there are a bunch more tracks that are up for debate or just have weird stuff about them I wanted to mention. I was going to turn this into a video essay, but I sat on it for a while before posting it here. Prepare for unsubstantiated fan theories up the ass. Also please bear with me as I don't know a damn thing about musical theory. Aquatic Ruin: This zone had its own concept art ("Emerald Isle", as seen above), yet its level slot is dead last in the game's data and it's not mentioned in Hirokazu Yasuhara's original plans and map. Was it a last-minute addition? Did it evolve from the whole tsunami thing? Either way, is its music correct? When the original demos were first released back in 2011, a lot of fans theorized Aquatic Ruin's music was in fact intended for the cut desert level, due to it having the riff to the main theme of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, a common musical trope used for desert or spaghetti western themes. However, after Yasuhara blew the lid open on Sonic 2's development in 2017, it became clear that this couldn't have been intended for the desert stage. Some people think that because the desert stage changed from an Egyptian style to a Western style desert, Masa was asked to entirely redo the theme (this being the result), but I highly doubt that. In addition, with the use of a steel pan (xylophone?) it ends up sounding like Caribbean music. And what's in the Caribbean? Tropical rainforests. But what about that spaghetti western connection? The answer: it's not. It's the Tarzan yell. Stock music in cartoons will often use the exact same riff for tribal/jungle scenes (@14:49): Assuming Aquatic Ruin was always planned to be in the game, I think it has the correct music, but the zone itself remains an enigma. Mystic Cave: For years and years and years, there was a debate surrounding this zone and "Dust Hill". But after Yasuhara revealed some things in 2017, and the August 1992 prototype was unearthed, it became pretty obvious that whatever Dust Hill originally may have been at some point in time, it and Mystic Cave are one and the same. But, according to Yuji Naka, at one point, it was something that wasn't either of these things. In the Sonic Jam Official Guide, he mentions that it was originally a haunted house-type level, and changed themes by the end to become a cave. Keep this in mind, and the original demo's sound makes a bit more sense. I personally believe that "Madness Mountain", the bottom-right concept shown above, was this original version. The drawbridge gimmick, the brick tiles...the similarities are hard to deny, and it certainly fits the theme Naka mentioned, that being a spooky castle. So while Mystic Cave technically has the correct music for its level slot, the theme seems to have entirely changed from what Masa composed for. Emerald Hill 2P: In prototypes, the music here plays in the slot just after Metropolis. There were two levels between Metropolis and Hill Top in the original plans: Tropical Sun and Blue Ocean. The problem is the former's slot is taken up by Act 3, even in the Simon Wai build. The latter's slot is empty and plays the theme you hear here. A lot of people conclude based on this that the music was intended for Blue Ocean. But was it? Keep in mind that several zones had placeholder music put in before the final music was inserted. The level slot after Emerald Hill was originally a level called Ocean Wind, but that slot plays Emerald Hill's theme. So isn't it possible that the music was actually intended for Tropical Sun, and Blue Ocean only used it as a placeholder before it was cut? I say this because it doesn't sound like a water level to me. It sounds very much like a TROPICAL theme. We may never know for sure, but it was definitely meant for one of those two cut zones. Mystic Cave 2P/Unused Theme: Oh boy. The great Hidden palace debate. For over 20 years, fans have believed Mystic Cave 2P belonged to Hidden Palace. All evidence at first glance seems to point to that. It's not used for any other level slot, and it has somewhat of a prehistoric feel to it, fitting Hidden Palace's status as taking place in prehistoric times with dinosaurs walking around. Taxman and Stealth used it as Hidden Palace's theme in the 2013 Sonic 2 remaster, and at the time, said on Twitter that they were privy to development info on Sonic 2, and heavily believed this was the theme for the stage. Their argument was that it was used in all the prototypes where HPZ was present. However, there's issues with this explanation. It was given years before Yasuhara's presentation in 2017. Prior to that point, fans were under the impression that HPZ was always intended as a full playable level. But Yasuhara made it clear that HPZ was not a proper zone, but rather the "shrine" that Sonic & Tails go to in order to time travel. This level in concept art is referred to as "Hidden Shrine" and "Secret Palace", and in his presentation, Yasuhara points to "Olympus" in the middle of this map as being "the shrine". It's pretty obvious that what he's referring to is Hidden Palace, and that Hidden Palace was originally literally a palace. A Greek-style shrine. Not the cave full of waterfalls Craig Stitt created later on, and not a level theme where prehistoric bongo drums would fit. It's a cutscene level, just like HPZ is in 3&K. That's also why it's labeled differently. So if HPZ wasn't a normal level, and was instead a cutscene, the unused theme would make perfect sense. What else could this have been composed for? HPZ was a cutscene level, then it became a proper level with two acts, which then became one act, then finally Yuji Naka wanted to salvage it as a cutscene once again where Sonic became Super Sonic, but that couldn't have been decided on until the last minute, long after Masa would've submitted this. And in the final game, that's where this plays, is in HPZ's leftovers. Was it by accident due to all the music shifting around? I don't think it was. I think the music was deliberately placed there since salvaging HPZ was still on the table, but plans fell through. But then, what's the deal with Mystic Cave 2P? What was it composed for, if not for HPZ? Well, in Sonic 2's sound test, the music seems to follow the original intended order up to a certain point. It goes from Emerald Hill to the desert theme to Metropolis to Hill Top, and inbetween Emerald Hill and the desert theme, Mystic Cave 2P is present. It's my belief that Mystic Cave 2P's music was intended for Wood Zone. Not Hidden Palace. Look at the concept art for "Secret Jungle" above, then listen to Masa's demo, and see how well it fits. Notice also how the percussion in the final version has changed entirely from what Masa's demo was. Masa's demo has a bongo beat throughout that sounds built for a jungle-like setting, but even in the Simon Wai build, those bongos have been removed and replaced with whatever the hell's going on in Channel 1, which doesn't seem to be present in the original demo. What I think happened was that due to HPZ's new direction as an actual level rather than a cutscene, they didn't have an available music track for it since Masa hadn't composed for that. Wood Zone had already been cut, so they repurposed the music composed for Wood Zone into something that would fit the new, crystal cave-themed Hidden Palace. But that's just a theory! Game Results: Does anyone actually think about this theme? The only point where it plays in the final game is the Results screen for the two-player mode. A screen you're only going to spend 5 seconds on at most, despite the cue lasting 42 seconds. The idea of Masa being asked to compose for such an insignificant thing seems silly. It's the kind of thing that you'd think SEGA would've asked one of their own people to come up with a jingle for. The only logical explanation is that it was intended for something else. But what? What clues do we have? There are only two: First, it shares a leitmotif with Green Hill, something it has in common with All Clear and the Options theme, so it probably has something to do with either Green Hill itself or Sonic 2's main theme as a whole. Second, in the sound test, it's between the title theme and Emerald Hill. The latter has caused some to theorize that this was actually composed for Emerald Hill (back when it was just Green Hill) and that Emerald Hill's theme was actually meant for Ocean Wind (explaining why it's present in that level slot). It's plausible, I suppose, but highly unlikely. This just doesn't sound like a successor to Green Hill's theme like Emerald Hill's theme does, and it doesn't even sound like a level theme tbh. But if that's the case, then if we go by the sound test, it played between the title screen and the first level. Sonic 2 was originally an 18-zone epic, something even 3&K doesn't reach. 3&K is a huge game, so it has a save feature and a data select screen, with its own theme music. Could Sonic 2 have had the same? It would certainly make sense to at least have a password feature for how big Sonic 2 was going to be, and if there was a data select screen, it would also make sense that its music would share a leitmotif with the All Clear and Options music. And that would logically come between the title screen and the first level, just like it does in Sonic 3. But, again, that's just a theory. Options: And finally, we have this, the Options theme. A very short loop that likely was always meant for a menu. Even the Simon Wai build has it playing on the level select screen. However, in Yasuhara's presentation, he mentioned that all the maps showed were intended for a map screen similar to Mario 3, where the player would move Sonic around the map themselves. Masa's demo sounds awfully adventurous and triumphant for a simple options screen. If a map screen was planned, would Masa not have composed for it? This is probably the biggest stretch I've come up with so far, but I like to believe this was indeed intended for a Mario 3-style map screen. I dunno. I can just picture it, y'know? Anyway, there it is, my two cents. I've been fascinated by this stuff for a long time and was itching to write something down about it. Now I finally have. Hopefully my ramblings are not too cringey for this forum. Maybe someday, Masa will sit down with some Sonic fan who managed to hang out with him and give more insight into Sonic 2's development.