Sonic the Hedgehog 2 BETA – Playing the Legend

Sonic 2 Beta. The image that sparked the biggest conspiracy in the Sonic community was a picture of a level select screen that no-one had seen before, found in the Official Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Guidebook. The booklet featured whole black and white maps to all the levels to the Mega Drive classic and included every cheat possible… Of course, there was one little thing that no-one could quite figure out.

In the middle of the booklet was a small colour section titled “Sonic the Hedgehog 2: The Lost Levels”. The section featured screenshots of Dust Hill Zone and Hidden Palace Zone, along with many other canned Sonic 2 levels. This screenshot of the alternate title screen, with the alternate level select, was among these screenshots.

And so that was that. We all left it at that – either an elaborate prank or some kind of cool nugget of information that nobody would ever uncover.

But in 1998, a Sonic ROM investigator called Simon Wai vowed to search for those fabled ‘Lost Levels’, by inspecting every line of code within Sonic 2 ROMs, cartridges and any other form of media he could get his hands on. Thankfully, Sonic Team had kept most of the canned levels and sprites in the retail cartridge, to save time on completing the game.

It was at this time that Wai had discovered leftover missing pieces hidden in the cartridge, and compiled them into a ROM for the Sonic games-playing public to try out. It is on this page that you can find out about the contents of the Sonic 2 BETA ROM, level by level.

When you play the game the ‘normal’ way (by pressing Start), it seems that there are only four Zones to play, but by using the level select (holding A and pressing Start) we can get access to many more. Most of these stages have no sprites or backgrounds to speak of, however. Basically a big black screen with Sonic in it. But, there is one level that has been canned and has most of its sprites and backgrounds intact…

Metropolis is the third Zone you encounter. Oddly, Aquatic Ruins [called Neo Green Hill Zone here] is the first level you come across, and, just like the two zones after it, there are absolutely no enemies to be found. In Aquatic Ruins there are even several places where there’s no floor. One example is the beginning of the second Act, with the swinging platforms (remember that?) – well, if you fall into the water, you’re as good as dead, mate.

The next level after Aquatic Ruins is Casino Night, which isn’t much different from the release version except for the scenery. The strangest thing is that the only boss in the entire BETA is the Emerald Hill Zone drill! And it appears… in Emerald Hill, which appears last in the BETA. Bizarre that.

AND, playing the ‘game’ is frustrating at times as, yes you guessed it from the screenshot, Tails can LOSE you rings. Instead of cheerily bumping into enemies and just getting off lightly, his foolishness punishes you by losing all your rings.

One of the mysterious levels hidden involves a level titled ‘Genocide City’. When accessed however, you cannot move and the level is in no way complete at all. You just gracefully fall, as if paralysed, to your doom… until you do it again! We had an email from ‘Stadium fan Elric Sullivan, to tell us what he thought about the stage…

Genocide City for Sonic 2 Beta was there all along, but when Sonic 2 first came out, it was 100% complete with badniks and all, but hence the “bad word” in the level name, Japanese parents started complaining that the name was inappropriate for children.

So they took it out of Sonic 2, and left the pallete, because if it was somehow accessed, then the game would start a series of bugs and eventually crash due to the fact that when the Genesis tries to access something that isn’t there, it just stops working.

I have proof too. There’s a secret area that you can access by using debug or “Action Replay Coding”. I don’t know the code though. You can walk around in it, with no deathpits, and I think I saw a badnik in there once.”

The canned level which you can freely play in Sonic 2 BETA is the Hidden Palace Zone. This level is only accessible via the level select, explained above. This level is very special to all Sonic fans, because this level has been the most talked about Sonic level ever on any game, and finally you can play this fantastic level. An interesting aspect of this level is explained in this little screenshot below.

Clearly you are playing as Sonic, but it’s a Tails Life icon. Could this mean that the Hidden Palace was a level only meant for Tails? Or maybe there’s a much better explanation of it all. Also, you can find the Master Emerald in the Hidden Palace Zone. So, what were Sonic Team thinking at this stage? Obviously they had the Master Emerald story set up ages before Sonic 3, but maybe they held the idea back for a better storyline to link it with. Enter Knuckles…

Everything is in this level, backdrops, cool effects, rings, even enemies can be found in here. In fact, the only part of the level that hasn’t been completed was the very last part, a slope right at what seems to be the very end of the level. This kinda makes you wonder why Sonic Team would go out all their way to make a whole Act, then at the very last part just scrap it and leave it in the cartridge. Curious…

Emerald Hill is the final Zone you come across in this ROM, and it may well have been placed at the end of the game at the time – there are strange new enemies unlike those seen in the Sonic 2 release version. And whenever you’re about to hit the spikes, you’ll feel glad that you have rings to protect you; because a split second later, you hear Tails lose rings nearby, then YOU hit the danger and die from it. Typical.

Cheats

Level Select
For a Level Select, simply hold A and press START. Simple, huh? Bear in mind that most of the levels that you select are not finished, or aren’t even there. When that happens, just hit Reset.

Debug Mode
At the Title screen quickly press C, C, C, C, Up, Down, Down, Down, Down, C, Up. A chime will will confirm the entry. Hold A and press START to access the level select and hold A and START when selecting your level. You now have debug – pause the game and press A to reset, B for slow motion and C for frame advance. Unpaused, you can press B to change Sonic into an item, C to place the selected item on the game field, and A to change your item. B returns you back to Sonic.

Alternate Debug Mode
At the title screen press C, C, C, Up, Down, Down, Down, Down, Up, A and START. Hold A and START when selecting your level. The controls for Debug Mode are explained above.

Play at Night
To play Sonic 2 BETA at night (merely darker background sprites), then hold C and press START.

More Screenshots

Published by

Dreadknux

Sexy founder of The Sonic Stadium, and creator and co-organiser of the Summer of Sonic fan convention. By day, I'm a super-fantastic games journalist, el professionale. By night, I'm the mother-loving Sonical Batman. I keep the site ticking, look after the TSS Network, and get all excited about Sonic games so that you can too. May contain nuts.