Dust Hill Zone

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Dust Hill Zone
Beta level, Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Level theme: desert/western

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.

The idea of a desert-themed zone was later implemented into both the 2P zone Desert Palace Zone in Sonic 3 and the full zone Sandopolis in Sonic & Knuckles.

Mockup Image

Mag compare3a.jpgDesert preview.jpgDesertlevelCorrectColor.JPG

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:

  • The HUD is not in italics, and a "08" instead of the typical "8" is shown.
  • Sonic is off-centered in the image.
  • The running sprite uses a walking sprite from Sonic 1, which would be incorrect according to the development timeline the picture was shown in.

Mystic Cave connection

The Sonic 2 Simon Wai prototype's level Select screen, featuring Dust Hill Zone's name.

No information or references related to Dust Hill Zone (other than its entry on the level select screen in the Simon Wai prototype) are present in any ROM of Sonic 2. 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, this is purely speculation, as there is no direct evidence to support the idea. Many gaming magazines received prototypes of Sonic 2 for review, and some of these prototypes probably had a level select screen similar to the Simon Wai prototype. Therefore, this may have caused many magazines to mislabel Mystic Cave as Dust Hill Zone.

The "general view" of the words Dust Hill for years brought to mind a desert area hot and sandy, not a dark cavern such as Mystic Cave Zone. This is why it was often thought to be the desert level shown seen in the concept art and mockups seen above. Brenda Ross used the name Dust Hill in the first interview conducted by Deviance. Some believe that she came to call it that due to the common belief by several internet-goers which pelted her with questions about "Dust Hill" when her e-mail was made public. There was also a second interview with her conducted by Wetflame.

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:[1]

Tweaker and Sik: What significance did the name "Dust Hill" have in regards to Sonic 2's development? Was it the original name for Mystic Cave Zone? Or was it supposed to be a conceptual name for the scrapped Desert Level?

Yasuhara: "Dust Hill" was one of dropped levels from original plan of Sonic 2. Sega of America did want to sell the game at Christmas time of that year, I had no choice, but decided to cut some levels out from original plan. So if Sega allowed me to use enough time to pursue the plan, The Dust Hill zone would be in the game.

Tweaker and Sik: What kind of level was Dust Hill Zone? Did it represent any of the following images? If not, can you give any details about what it was supposed to be like? [images of both Dust Hill Zone and Mystic Cave Zone are linked] Also, feel free to give out any other information you might want to share.

Yasuhara: Ok, the Dust Hill Zone is like [the Desert Level mockup image and video of hack].

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

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