Dust Hill Zone
(Redirected from Desert level)
From Sonic Retro
Dust Hill Zone was the name given to a desert level intended to be featured in Sonic 2, but was cut out of the game due to time constraints during the development of the game. It was referred to in an early concept sketch as "砂漠 Zone" (Sabaku Zone, literally "Desert Zone"). Based on the mockup image published in magazines, the level would have taken place in a typical southwest American desert and feature cacti and lots of sand.
Brenda Ross, the designer of the level, said in an interview the level would have above ground and below ground sections. She also said that the level design was completed before work on Wood Zone started.
In the pictures above, the first two use inaccurate colors while the last image is using the correct colors. The second image was printed on the back of a Sears, Roebuck and Co. Magazine from a November/December 1992 issue. None of these pictures were accompanied with a caption mentioning any level name.
Before its level artist Brenda Ross unveiled that this screen was in fact a mockup image for promotional use, this could already be deduced based on three things:
Mystic Cave connection
Many gaming magazines received prototypes of Sonic 2 for review, which used the name Dust Hill Zone when referring to Mystic Cave Zone in the level select screen, thus making them label it as such. These entries in the level select listings are the only references to Dust Hill Zone that can be found in any known version of Sonic 2.
Despite this, Dust Hill was often thought to be the desert level shown in the concept art and mockups. It is possible that the level slot the Zone was meant to be in could have been replaced with Mystic Cave Zone, so picking Dust Hill Zone on level select would lead to Mystic Cave Zone instead. However, the Dust Hill/Mystic Cave association was kept when the level select screen was reworked in the prototypes, so this is purely speculation.
After Brenda Ross' e-mail was found and made public, several internet-goers pelted her with questions about the Dust Hill desert, something that prompted her to choose just one person (nicknamed Deviance) to conduct an interview in behalf of the rest.
Once this interview was made, she could be seen mentioning Dust Hill when asked about the desert level's name. Later, there was also a second interview with her conducted by Wetflame, where she also mentioned that she had always called it the Desert Zone or Desert Level, as a working name.
Dust Hill Zone was finally confirmed to be the Desert Level's name on September 13, 2008 as Tweaker and Sik released conclusive evidence proving so. Through Chris Senn they were able to get into contact with Hirokazu Yasuhara, a staff member that worked on Sonic 2 whom confirmed that the Desert level was Dust Hill Zone:
It was after this information was revealed that any speculation regarding the name Dust Hill was finally put to rest.
Other Zone connections
According to Brenda Ross and Tim Skelly (Art Director), most of the graphic tiles would be reused (with different colors) in a winter level. One of the possibilities was that Dust Hill Zone would change into a snow level half way through, but Tim Skelly explained: "There would have been two separate zones, spaced far enough apart so that the player wouldn't notice the repetition of the art."
As a side note, this level was originally planned as being the "present" time zone of another scrapped level, (Rock Zone), but the idea of time travel was quickly dropped and it's quite possible that it never got to be implemented in the game. Additionally, "砂漠 Zone/Desert Zone" and "Rock zone" are just descriptions, or working names, and not proper names of the zones.
Level Inclusion in ROM hacks and fan games
Several enthusiasts in the community, such as Esrael with his hack, Sonic 2 Delta, and Sonic Hachelle-Bee, with Sonic 2 Long Version, have used the image of this desert level to create full zones based on the artwork. These levels provide an alternative to perhaps understand how this level would have been had it moved past the concept stage.
In 1999, Jan created a demo fan game called Dust Hill Zone, a representation of Dust Hill Zone based on the very limited information of the time. It was created using The Games Factory, and posted on the Dust Hill Zone page of the Area 51 section of SSRG.
Media which reference Dust Hill