The focus of this articles is on the secretes revealed about Hidden Palace, if you wish to read the full interview then please use the links provided in the ‘media links’ section of Sonic News.
On September 30th 2005 Heidi Kemps of the games site ‘Gamespy’ conducted an interview with Yuji Naka.
The interview’s true purpose was to discuss the many Sonic games that Yuji Naka and Sonic Team were currently working on, and to give Yuji the chance to have his say on the next generation of videogames consoles. The interview, however, soon lost its original focus, the curiosity of Heidi lead to some interesting revelations on the subject of the original Sonic Mega drive games, particularly the Hidden Palace level of the Sonic 2 Beta.
Yuji talks about ‘Hidden Palace’, the level that was found in the Sonic 2 Beta. He reveals that the Sonic 2 Beta ROM, which has been circling on the net for years, was in fact the very same ROM that originated from a Sonic 2 demo cartridge that was stolen from SEGA during a demonstration at the New York toy show in 1992.
The Hidden Palace level was a concept that was recycled in the Sonic 3& Knuckles game. Yuji informs us that its function was to allow sonic to go super once all seven Chaos Emeralds had been collected, and that it was a concept that had been considered since the very first Sonic game on the Megadrive.
Also discussed was the incorporation of a break dancing Sonic from the Original Sonic 1 Megadrive game. During the sound test Sonic would dance to music played by his band. The idea was scrapped due to time constraints.
Below is a quote taken from the interview, it focuses on the ‘Hidden Palace information, as well as other Sonic secrets.
GameSpy: OK, off topic, but this came to mind when we were talking about the Hidden Palace Zone … there are entire fansites out there devoted to hacking Sonic games and finding all the things Sonic Team was working on, but never used in the finished product. What do you think of this?
Naka: Wow, people do that? I didn’t know. I guess I am pretty surprised at the level of dedication of fans on the Internet. But how do I say this … there is a bit of a problem. I mean, I am glad that people really, really like the games, but if it gets to the point where they are engaging in activities that can hurt us or Sega in some way, that’s not good at all. Like, way back when we had a beta ROM of Sonic 2 that was stolen by someone. That one even had the Hidden Palace in it.
GameSpy: There’s actually a beta ROM with the Hidden Palace code that’s been floating around the Internet for a while.
Naka: What? You’re kidding! Tell me more. I’d really like to get that back. *laugh* I guess we know what happened to that now… You see, back in mid-1992 we had taken a demonstration cartridge to a toy show in New York. It wound up being stolen, and although we searched and searched all over, it was never found. So that’s probably where the data comes from. What’s the Hidden Palace in this one like?
GameSpy: There’s stuff in the stage, but it’s impossible to play past a certain point.
Naka: Yep, that sounds exactly like what we lost!
GameSpy: Was the Hidden Palace meant to be “hidden,” then?
Naka: Actually, no, the basic idea was about the same as it was in Sonic and Knuckles. You’d encounter the stage through normal play by collecting the emeralds. The idea behind the stage was, “Where do the Chaos Emeralds come from?” That’s where Sonic was originally supposed to be granted his Super Sonic powers. We finally were able to use it in S&K, though it wound up being quite different from what we had planned in Sonic 2. But even from Sonic 1 we’d been throwing around those sorts of ideas. Still, when we were running out of time, we looked over things quickly trying to figure out what to dump … and CHOP went the Hidden Palace. There’s simply no way we could have thrown that in by the deadline at the rate we were going.
It’s the same deal with Sonic 3… Sonic 3 is literally half a game. Sega management back then wanted the game out at a certain time and we only had half the stages done, so we had to put the leftovers into Sonic and Knuckles. So when you bought S&K and attached it to Sonic 3, you got the whole of what Sonic 3 was planned to have been.
GameSpy: You can find some interesting stuff by screwing around with the debug codes, too. Like in Sonic 1, if you put Sonic outside the walls of the special stage and just have him roll around in space, you encounter a weird background with some unused panels.
Naka: Ah, yes, those. I’m not surprised. See, we left the debug codes in the games because we thought people would have fun playing around with them. *laugh* But yeah, there was a lot of leftovers and unused stuff in Sonic 1 as well. I remember we made a rabbit enemy. It was lik e… “Rabbit-bus.” Or “Rabbit-taxi.” You know, sort of like Catbus (from My Neighbor Totoro).
But the biggest thing I remember we had that we didn’t use in Sonic 1 was the break-dancing. We had this idea for the sound test. The composer for the game was one of the members of Dreams Come True, a famous Japanese band, so we wanted to do something special for the game’s music. See, we wanted to have a separate sound-test screen with an animation of Sonic break-dancing while a “Sonic Band” played the game music. We were working on the images, and had enough space left on the cartridge memory for it, but once again time constraints prevented us from putting it in the program.
So what should we do with that leftover space? I suddenly had an epiphany! It said to me … “SE-GA!” It came from our TV commercials, and that became the game’s startup sound. I thought it made a good impression when you heard it, right? Though to fit it in, we had to delete all the break-dancing picture data we had made up to that point. Oshima was heartbroken, since we didn’t need his pictures anymore. But seriously, that sound alone took up 1/8 of the 4 megabit ROM! Ah, those were the days…
GameSpy: Thank you very much for your time, Naka-san. We’re sure that this interview will make a lot of Sonic fans very happy!