It’s not much, but it’s more than we had
The Sonic franchise is host to many secrets and mysteries. Most of those are a product of the environment in which most games are developed – all entertainment media ends up with unused content for one reason or another, but because of Sonic’s typically accelerated development cycles, there are often clues to tons of lost and forgotten content. This has become the basis for sites like Sonic Retro, which specialize in hacking apart games and figuring out not only what makes them tick, but to discover what didn’t make the cut.
One of the most long-standing mysteries is that of Sonic CD’s “R2”. By exploring the contents of the original Sonic CD PC disc, one could deduce that all of the game’s level data is organized in to numbered folders, from “R1” (Palmtree Panic) all the way to “R8” (Metallic Madness). But there was something odd: the folder for the second level, “R2”, was missing, with the folders skipping directly from R1 to R3. The contents of the R2 folder have been a subject of much debate and interest for more than a decade, with only small hints metered out here and there as to what the level looked like: An unused cactus area shown on some Little Planet artwork, and an unfinished piece of animation showing Sonic being attacked by an Antlion enemy.
With Christian Whitehead’s 2011 remake of Sonic CD, it was revealed that there were plans at one point to include a remade version of not only the lost “R2” level (now known as “Desert Dazzle”), but a new boss area called “Final Fever”.
Wanting this version of Sonic CD to remain more of a direct conversion, Sonic Team chose to pass on Whitehead’s offer to flesh these concepts out any further, and it seemed like the trail on “R2” had gone cold – until today. Posting on the Sonic Retro forums, Christian “Taxman” Whitehead offers another small look in to the mystery of “R2”. Apparently, when Whitehead was constructing the data for Desert Dazzle, he was offered the opportunity to view what little data was left from the original version of the stage:
Very little remained of R2 when I was working on Sonic CD. No level tiles, no name. The only things I can shed light on are some of the enemies and boss graphics from the digitiser files.
From these it’s pretty easy to confirm R2 as the second animated clip in the ending credits. You can also see a “wheel” type boss in the works, although the bottom half looks incomplete.
When you consider that Toei animation studios would have started work on the cutscenes early on in development one could assume that Tidal Tempest originally wasn’t part of the intended level line up.
While not exactly a startling revelation or some kind of deep insight in to the development of Sonic CD (or the lost “R2” stage), it’s interesting none-the-less, and is the sort of information that probably would’ve never been released if not for Whitehead’s involvement. Whitehead did go on record to say that “Desert Dazzle” could be released for Sonic CD as downloadable content if enough support for it was present, but given that it was more than a year ago, the chances of seeing any more than what we have now are slim.