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Why did Sonic 2 (and 3&K) have such an elaborate level select screen?

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Bobblen, Jan 31, 2024.

  1. Bobblen

    Bobblen

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    Someone was talking about Sonic 1 8 bit's lack of level select in another thread and this got me messing around with some of the other games level select screens. It got me wondering why Sonic 2 ended up with such a pleasant UI for what is essentially a debug feature. The animated background (obviously reused from the options menu but its still there), the cute little graphics for each zone, the sound test. It all comes across like you were meant to find it and enjoy using it. Compare to something like CD which just uses a basic list of codes in the middle of a static background or Spinball which has no menu at all.

    I think its a great little feature and I'm not surprised it was reused for Sonic 3 / & Knuckles and ultimately Mania and the remasters.
     
  2. Vertette

    Vertette

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    Most likely some programmer and/or pixel artist got bored one day. You'd be surprised at the kind of detail a bored game developer will include for funsies.

    In one of our games the transition effect will sometimes play a loud meow sound instead of the regular sound and this has surprised at least several people, sometimes on stream. I laugh every time.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2024
  3. kazz

    kazz

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    I wouldn't be surprised if the icons were some kind of leftover from when S2 was supposed to have a proper map screen. I'm pretty sure they aren't just an incidental detail considering 3&K didn't have them despite otherwise having zone icons.
     
  4. Bobblen

    Bobblen

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    How did I miss this page on the wiki? Seems it was a fairly late addition as well given the prototypes are using Sonic 1 style with a different palette.
    Level select - Sonic Retro
     
  5. Blue Spikeball

    Blue Spikeball

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    As mentioned by kazz, the zone icons might have been created for the hypothesized map screen of the island.

    Otherwise, they might have planned to make all zones playable in 2p, or have savefiles ala S3K.

    As nice as the S2 level select screen was, I hated how it was recycled in S3K, Mania and the remasters. The background and font used fit Sonic 2, but not the other games. Sonic 3 Complete had a far more fitting level select screen.
     
  6. Bobblen

    Bobblen

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    I do see what you're saying @Blue Spikeball. The Sonic 2 look became the iconic stage select which everyone wanted to copy. But it'd be interesting to reimagine what such a screen would look like using Sonic 3's fonts and art style (I will check out Complete and see what they've done with it).

    Speaking of Sonic 1 8 bit, you could do quite a funky looking stage select screen with the pretty map and the white text / pink background which the game uses for intermission screens!
     
  7. Blue Spikeball

    Blue Spikeball

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    This is what S3C used:

    upload_2024-1-31_9-26-55.png
     
  8. Bobblen

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    That's pretty much exactly what I was imagining. Title screen fonts and the data select background, very nice.

    Here's a goofy mockup I just threw together of a hypothetical S1 8bit screen. You could use left and right to move between zones and have the map update as you do. Maybe the lives count could be hijacked to create a sound test as well. It'd be pretty neat (if only my z80 assembly was up to scratch :-P )
    upload_2024-1-31_12-51-19.png
     
  9. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    It's part of the game. You don't accidentally assign a special code for it - it was expected to be found and used by the general public, just like the Sonic 1 level select. The programmers would have had real debug tools - they don't need this noise, but it's handy for retail carts where people might want quick access to a later part of the game.

    It's a little prettier than some level select screens of the period, but not dramatically so. I imagine there's icons because there was space to fill - they don't take that long to create, and would have been one of the last things completed.
     
  10. Blue Spikeball

    Blue Spikeball

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    Drawing icons for every zone for a screen that 99% of players wouldn't see doesn't feel like something Sonic Team would do in the middle of such a rushed development. Especially considering that they didn't put so much care in the other games' level select screens.

    Sonic 1's was just the title screen with a menu over it and different palette. Sonic 3's was just the S2 level select recycled, right down to the level icons.
     
  11. Bobblen

    Bobblen

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    I'm not suggesting it was never intended for public consumption, just that the whole 90s cheats phenomenon tended to be debug stuff that started to be left in on purpose because they were found to be popular and increased longevity. I just mean its normally an afterthought and Sonic 2's menu seemed a little less so. Something like Dave Perry's test menus are a bit different, he clearly enjoyed making them as fancy as possible and wanted them to be found!

    There's probably nothing to it, they just had the art available and someone decided to spend a bit of time polishing it up a bit. I've been doing a fair bit of cheat hunting recently (its really quite satisfying when you find a dev message or something that no one else spotted yet) and it does stand out amongst the many black screens with white text.
     
  12. Mr. Cornholio

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    It's worth pointing out that the Options screen was first implemented in Beta 6, with the final Stage Select being implemented in Beta 7, which is dated just two days after that one. So both the Options Menu and the new Level Select were implemented around the same time as one another.

    Betas 5 and 6 almost seem to imply fixing the old Level Select wasn't a huge priority, as they not only still don't have the Zone names for Aquatic Ruin and Mystic Cave corrected, but they also have a nasty palette issue where the logo blocks the Zone names (making reading them extremely difficult). It seems to me that they were already considering phasing out the Sonic 1-esque Level Select in favor of something nicer if that issue persisted for so long? I feel like you'd want the level select to be more easily readable for beta testing.

    I'm unfamiliar with Sonic 2's disassembly. How much is shared code-wise between the Options Screen and the Level Select Menu? I wouldn't be terribly surprised if the Options Menu was meant to house more like a Password/Save System back when the game was considerably larger (which you'd want to look nice for the average Joe). That gets trimmed a fair bit and it's down to the wire, so the Options Menu becomes simplified to just allow playable character choice/2 Player Mode items when it comes time to actually code it in. Not wanting to put the little icons to waste (which might have been part of this password/save system), a decision is made to visually overhaul Level Select as well to use them, reusing the Options Screen they were already working on?

    Sonic 3 re-using Sonic 2's Level Select with little changes could be for a variety of reasons. The game technically has another level selector already in it...in the form of a cleared save file (granted, you can't easily choose Act 2 in any Zone with this). So perhaps there was less of a reason for them to tidy things up for those who prefer selecting levels the good 'ol fashioned way? Another thing that's worth considering is that we know Sonic 3's Zone count was divided in half pretty late in development. If they were sort of in a scramble to make sure Level Select 'just worked and took you to the Zones they actually had in the game still', there was probably less of a priority to make pretty icons. That, or it was considered kinda redundant when File Select allowed for slightly larger, nicer looking illustrations (hence &K junking the idea entirely).

    A lot seems to suggest Level Select in standalone Sonic 3 was left as-is in a bit of a rush without considering how a player would perceive it. It strikes me as odd that standalone Sonic 3 and the earliest prototype we have has Level Select slots for the 2 Player Competition Zones that were replaced outright in 3K. It also does have the older name for Mushroom Hill present in it as well. Both Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 made an effort to clean up the old Zone names last minute, so it's a bit odd an old Zone name slipped by in Sonic 3's case! The code being ridiculously hard to successfully input also gives me the impression they wanted the Level Select to be a 'Developer's Only' thing compared to Sonic 2.
     
  13. muteKi

    muteKi

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    Here I'd have figured one of the reasons they made the icons was to have them available for the 2P level select menu, though admittedly you'd never expect to see Sky Chase, Wing Fortress, or Death Egg selectable for it, and it would be doubtful for Metropolis, Aquatic Ruin, or Chemical Plant. In any case, at least four icons of those created are visible without the use of any cheat codes or modding devices!
     
  14. Mr. Cornholio

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    Oh yeah. I guess we also don't know a whole lot about the decision making process behind which levels got into 2 Player Mode and which didn't? Even then, there are some that wouldn't work in 2 Player Mode at all like you stated.

    It is quite possible (and more likely) I'm overthinking this and the Level Select icons for the other Zones were super quick to create as they are small. All of them were perhaps created in a 'just in case' scenario where they could get the Zones working in 2 Player Mode? The ones for the last 3 Zones were perhaps then created after the decision to use the other ones in Level Select came about. Both Sky Chase and Wing Fortress have literally the exact same clouds in their icons, for what it's worth:

    [​IMG]
     
  15. Nik Pi

    Nik Pi

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