Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (16-bit) scrapped levels

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Scrapped Levels
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (16-bit) scrapped levels

During development of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Sega Mega Drive, a number of levels were planned which were not completed in time for the final game. Some are more (in)famous than others: Hidden Palace Zone and Wood Zone were to some degree playable and featured in the printed press, while Genocide City Zone was referenced in-game by several known Sonic 2 prototype builds.

However, there are many more that did not make it past the design stage, or were radically overhauled by the time the game was released. Some exist only as names in developer notes, while others were partially completed before being axed. The following lists the levels that are known to have existed.

Sand Shower Zone

A "Desert Zone"[1][2] also known as "砂漠 Zone" ("Sabaku Zone", literally "Desert Zone")[3] and similar phrases such as "Desert"[4]Media:TomPaynePapers Small Blank Notepad (Loose, No Order) 2023-04-07-0028.jpg[5] and "Desert level". Devised by Brenda Ross, it is not thought to have ever made it into an actual build of the game.

It is claimed by Ross that the level's layout was completed before work began on Wood Zone, Ross' second level which was also ultimately scrapped[6].

Ross also claimed in an interview that the level would have above ground and below ground sections[6]. Alongside Ross, art director Tim Skelly has suggested that most of the graphic tiles would have been reused (with a different color palette) in a winter level[6][2].

The earliest known report of "Sabaku Zone" is mentioned in a piece of concept art for an early "Banper" enemy, suggesting, in a period of development where time travel was still being considered, that the Zone would have belonged in one of the present timelines[3]. Banper is also claimed to be planned for another stage, "Rock Zone" set in the past[3]. If one is to assume Sabaku Zone and Rock (World) Zone are the same place in different time zones, further concept art could suggest the desert level was at one point known as "Sand Shower Zone"Media:Sonic 2 Level Map Concept 02.png[7]Media:Sonic 2 Level Map Concept 01.png[8]Media:Sonic 2 Level Map Concept 04.png[9].

Desert levels have since proved common in Sonic games, the first being the Competition mode stage Desert Palace in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, followed by Sandopolis Zone in Sonic & Knuckles. The 2011 version of Sonic the Hedgehog CD was planned to feature a new Round, Desert Dazzle, with a similar look to this mock-up. By extension, the Sonic Mania stage Mirage Saloon Zone also draws inspiration, as it is based on the Sonic CD Desert Dazzle concept.

Mock-up image

Shortly after Sonic 2's announcement, Sega distributed three "screenshots" of the game, which were mock-ups constructed out of both completed Sonic 2 assets and holdovers from the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Alongside what would become Emerald Hill Zone and Hidden Palace Zone, this desert stage was pictured:

This is assumed to be the desert stage in question, using Brenda Ross' artwork. The HUD positioning is incorrect, Sonic is off-center and some graphics (such as the clouds) are borrowed from the original Sonic the Hedgehog, adding credence to the idea this is a mock-up.

The crocodile badnik, Gator was programd into the game, and in older builds was a placeable debug object in Hidden Palace Zone. Its artwork does not exist in the final game. Much like the Buzzers in this image however, it cannot be confirmed whether it was intended to be seen in this level, as Brenda Ross did not work on the objects and enemies.

"This is a stage that was created as a test with about 2 screens for a photo published in a magazine. Brenda is also in charge here. The graphics themselves weren't bad, but they tried to make it look like the quicksand was flowing by changing the color, but it didn't look like it was flowing if it was a large area, and when Sonic gets stuck in the sand, it moves just like in water. The main gimmick was that it would become too heavy and detract from Sonic's sense of speed, so it was canceled because the idea had not been refined any further at this stage. As a result of this, we are very sorry, but both stages that Brenda was in charge of have been canceled and she will be leaving the project. This happens to be because the graphics of the stages she was in charge of were very difficult, and if they were to create more stages with early time travel elements, there would still be one or two stages that lacked a sense of speed. I think it was, but in the process of narrowing down the numbers, it was decided that stages that would take away from Sonic's sense of speed would inevitably be cancelled. By the way, there were plans to turn this stage into an ice stage by changing the color and replacing some of the cacti and other graphics with Christmas trees. Eventually, these stages would be rethought and carried over to Sonic 3 and beyond."

Yasushi Yamaguchi[13]

Rock World Zone

Rock World Zone, likely known internally as just "Rock Zone" is mentioned multiple times in internal documents and sketchesMedia:Sonic 2 Level Map Concept 04.png[9]Media:Sonic 2 Level Map Concept 02.png[7], though what it contained is unclear. The scrapped Banper enemies were also set to appear in the stage[3], suggesting some thought had been put into its creation before being scrapped.

With a very generic working name it is fully possible Rock Zone became something else, such as Mystic Cave Zone or even Hidden Palace Zone, which take place in rocky environments.

Winter level

Winter level mock-up.

A winter-themed Zone, created by Brenda Ross was to recycle graphics from the above desert stage but with a suitable winter palette[6]. Cacti would have been replaced with Christmas trees[6], and the two levels placed far apart so that the recycling would be less obvious[2]. According to art director Tim Skelly, very little else was produced for the winter theme[2].

A mock-up image of this Zone was unveiled on December 12, 2023, found from a portfolio VHS tape showcasing Ross' work. It is almost identical to the desert level's mock-up, but with a wintrier color palette and various types of Christmas trees replacing the cacti, matching previous descriptions. Other differences from the desert mock-up include a lilac sky, the mesas in the background being replaced by a snowy mountain range with a pine forest in front, as well as the Buzzer Badniks being absent.

Art used in both this winter level and desert level would later be brought to Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball and used in Brenda Ross' level, Underground Caves. This too was also scrapped, merged with the planned second level to form Toxic Caves.


A number of unknown levels appear time travel sketches by Hirokazu Yasuhara, including the present level Ocean Wind ZoneMedia:Sonic 2 Level Map Concept 01.png[8], alongside the past stages Blue Lake ZoneMedia:Sonic 2 Level Map Concept 04.png[9], Tropical Plant ZoneMedia:Sonic 2 Level Map Concept 04.png[9] and OlympusMedia:Sonic 2 Level Map Concept 04.png[9].

Ocean Wind also has concept artMedia:Sonic2 ConceptArt OceanWind.jpg[14] alongside presumed levels known as "Emerald Isle"Media:Sonic2 ConceptArt EmeraldIsle.png[15], "Secret Jungle"Media:Sonic2 ConceptArt SecretJungle.png[16], "Madness Mountain"Media:Sonic2 MadnessMountain ConceptArtScrapped.jpg[17], "Tropical Sun"Media:Sonic2 ConceptArt TropicalSun.png[18] and "Blue Ocean"Media:Sonic2 ConceptArt BlueOcean.png[19]. It is not known how many (if any) got past the concept stage.


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