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Sonic games have never interested me, because I grew up with Nintendo games. Every time Sonic appeared in a Nintendo game (Super Smash Bros. Brawl, etc.), I never played as Sonic. Sometime in 2011, I started getting into all kinds of games; platformers, adventure games, and even games that I couldn't stand before. I remembered about the Sonic franchise and gave the first Sonic game a try. It was fantastic! I instantly got the second Sonic game, which quickly became my favourite game of all time. And it didn't stop there! I got more and more Sonic games, as well as having a big understanding of almost everything Sonic related.

On one beautiful day in April, 2016, I was expecting some Sonic action figures to arrive in the mail. I went to go check the mail, but there was nothing there for me. How disappointing. Instead, I found other mail for my other family members, and a small USB stick. I didn't order the USB stick, but having a new one was very nice. I wasn't sure what was on it, but my curiosity got the better of me.

When I got home, I knew the house was empty, because my parents went to get some things at the grocery store, while my brothers and sisters were out working. I didn't have to go to school today because it was a day off for me. I went to the computer and plugged in the USB stick that was in the mail. It said it was an 8GB USB stick and that the name of it was simply titled “You are a Winner! (E:)”. I instantly thought that this was a scam, but I wanted to keep the USB, so I first would check the files on it, because it said there was some data on it, then format it.

Upon opening the files, there were simply three files: A text file, an audio file, and an executable file. The name of the text file was “Details.txt”. The name of the audio file was “Test.wav”. The name of the executable was “SonicBeta2.exe”. My eyes lit up at the name of the executable. Was it really a prototype of Sonic 2? I love prototypes! And I knew there were some prototypes for Sonic 2, so was this an earlier prototype? Even if it wasn't, I always liked playing fangames! The text file read as follows:

Congratulations! Your address was chosen to receive the only copy of the earliest Sonic 2 Beta to ever exist! Please note, it never got to the cartridge state, as well as being converted to a .bin file, so here at SEGA we chose to ---

It just ended there. It even confirmed that it was made by SEGA. The audio file was of Sonic saying “Watch out, you’re gonna crash! Ahhhh!!”. I remembered Sonic saying that from Sonic Adventure (with a funny face), but Sonic 2 was released before that game! I thought that maybe SEGA threw this all together after Sonic Adventure’s release and gave it away. We’ll see.

I finally started up SonicBeta2.exe, and it started up with the SEGA logo from the original Sonic 1. Not surprising, because I heard Sonic 2 was built off of the original. It also showed the “Sonic Team Presents” screen. To my surprise, the original Sonic 1 title screen was here, although there was a poorly drawn ‘2’ at the bottom, complete with “©SEGA 1991”. It seemed earlier than the Nick Arcade prototype, because the former version had the beta title screen with Sonic giving thumbs up and Tails next to him. Nope, just Sonic, coming up from the bottom of the logo, wiggling his index finger back and forth.

Something strange was that the music was the theme that always plays, but it was being played on a piano. No percussion tracks, even. And, knowing lots about music, I knew it was in the key of B Harmonic Minor. It also sounded like a .mid file. That was weird, I thought. That’s the minor scale of G Major! It still sounded nice and it was the same tempo as the original. I pressed enter to start the game.

Emerald Hill Act 1 started, with Green Hill zone’s music and Sonic 1’s title card. Once again, the music sounded like a piano playing the minor scale of what Green Hill Zone was written in. Once the level loaded, I was playing as Sonic in Emerald Hill zone, but the whole ground was flat. No slopes, no enemies, no obstacles, not even any rings. The background was from Green Hill zone in Sonic 1, but the tiles (ground) were the final Emerald Hill tiles. This did look like a very early prototype. I liked it!

I ran through the level as Sonic. Sonic’s sprites were from the Nick Arcade prototype where his running animation looked a lot more smooth. The entire level was, as I stated earlier, completely flat and no enemies or obstacles. It went on for a more than a minute.

That’s when Sonic went to a complete stop. The music changed to a sad melody in the key of C♭ major (All music was a .mid file because of the way it sounded). The song wasn't even Sonic-related! Sonic looked up and shouted “Watch out, you’re gonna crash! Ahhhh!!”, complete with his mouth moving. Maybe that’s what that sound links to, I thought. I was still confused by how that clip, being made in 1999, got put into a work of 1991.

Sonic started to run by himself. After a while when Sonic reached his top speed, the screen panned upward to reveal Tails flying in the Tornado plane. Well, I guess at this point in development, they made him and the plane, I thought. Except the plane was falling, and he had a worried face on. The plane was smoking furiously. Tails was shouting, and he sounded like his Sonic Adventure voice. Was this supposed to happen?

As soon as Tails hit the ground, the screen went to black with a very loud explosion sound. No screaming, or anything. Poor Tails! He’s my favourite character! I felt nervous about what was going to happen next. Some white text appeared on the screen. It read “My buddy, he’s gone…”. I guess that was Sonic saying that, but I thought that Tails could survive plane crashes (Sonic Adventure, when the Tornado 2 crashed on the Egg Carrier).

The game loaded up Emerald Hill Act 2. Same music as last time, Green Hill A Minor. Sonic looked more depressed this time. I tried moving him, but he wouldn't respond. He went into his ‘impatient’ stance, still depressed. All of a sudden, Dr. Eggman came from the right side of the screen. He stopped in front of Sonic, and Sonic looked at him. Suddenly, Sonic became angry and tried to attack Eggman, but Eggman dodged really quickly and started to run. The music changed into slamming random keys on a piano. Sonic ran after him, anger in his eyes. Sonic chased him, and I was expecting Eggman to run as fast as Sonic, but no.

Sonic ran quickly after him and rolled into a ball. A text box popped up on the screen, freezing it temporarily. The text box read “Are you sure you want to do this?”, and I could select Yes or No. I thought about what I was going to pick. Did I want to hit Eggman, possibly even kill him? No, that was too harsh. I selected no, and Sonic and Eggman slowed down to a stop, so they were looking at each other again. Sonic went back to looking depressed again. I now had control over Sonic again. I made Sonic run to the right of the screen, and I found Tails standing there. The music changed back to that sad C♭ Major song.

Tails had no mouth, similar to Mephiles (from Sonic 2006), and he was a very bright green colour all over. He also was transparent, because I saw the background through him. He looked like a ghost! That was proof that he died. I tried jumping over him, but when I tried, the game glitched out like crazy. An array of colours flashed about the screen. The music became distorted, and didn't sound like a .mid file. It lasted in this colour-flashing state for a bit, until the screen went black.

It lasted like this for more than half a minute, then it loaded up Emerald Hill Act 3. Emerald Hill Act 3 was VERY different from the others. The Green Hill Zone theme went to the key of D♭ Major, and everything was colour inverted except for Sonic, whose face went back to being normal again. The enemies came, but none moved. I moved around, but there were still no slopes, but there were platforming challenges (pits, different levelled tiles, etc.) that made it feel more like a Mario game than anything.

I rolled into an enemy, but then the computer blue-screened, with that annoying sound when the Nintendo Wii freezes. When it said what file caused it, the file was SonicBeta2.exe. When the computer restarted, it instantly put me back to the start of Act 3 again. I tried to attack another enemy, a different one, but the computer blue-screened again. Next time it started up, I was in Act 3 yet again. I guess I should avoid enemies, I thought.

I ran through the level, avoiding all enemies. It was pretty tough, because some were floating in the air, and some enemies were set up like a maze. When I made it to the end, the game froze with the “Illegal Instruction” error from the first Sonic game. That message, although hidden, always scared me when it popped up. I thought I saw Tails appear in his ghostly form for a split second before the screen cut to black. I had enough of this game! I shut it off, by using the control panel, and I forgot about that game for a long time.

My “Sonic craze” went down significantly after a week or so, because that’s how I operate (I get obsessed with something for the first week, then I just like it afterwards), and got doing other things. But one day, when I was looking around the internet, I saw the old Nick Arcade prototype on Sonic Retro, and I remembered SonicBeta2.exe from a week ago. My curiosity couldn't be helped. I had to finish that game!

I went back to my computer, jammed the USB inside the port, and sure enough, all three files were still there, plus another. It was a file called “save.ini”. It had saved my progress! I clicked on the SonicBeta2.exe and after the title screen, I went straight back to Emerald Hill Act 3 again. After another playthrough, the game froze at the Illegal Instruction error, with Tails appearing. The screen cut to black.

After the screen cut back from black, another title card popped up. I was expecting Marble Zone, but instead it was You’re Doomed Act 1. Great, I thought, this is going to be fun…

The music was, for some reason, some sinister low brass music. The background was of Marble Zone’s interior, while the tiles for the ground were from Lava Reef Zone from Sonic & Knuckles. This didn't make any sense, Lava Reef came after this game. I shrugged off that annoyed feeling, and thought that this was just some crazy fan’s game.

I ran through the once again, flat area, while Sonic’s expression looked ticked off. I just ran through this Mario-like area, but it was a HUGE maze, with thousands of obstacles. Being a platforming expert, I thought I would get it quickly, but I didn't get through it quickly. There were lots of dead ends, spikes, springs, and time was short. I died five times from the time running out. You only had three minutes to navigate this maze. Once I was out, Tails was waiting for me.

This time, he looked angry at Sonic, and I tried jumping over him again, but Tails just wouldn't allow it to happen. The screen spazzed out like it did earlier, audio went nuts, and I was presented with a black screen. After a couple of seconds, some text appeared, along with Tails’ head as a background, saying “You didn't save me Sonic!”. Then a text with Sonic’s head saying “I'm sorry Tails! I tried, and I thought you would survive! Please forgive me, Tails!”. It sounded like Sonic was saying my thoughts, because that’s what I was thinking.

Another text stated “It’s too late, Sonic! I'm already dead!”, with Tails’ head. It went back to black, then loaded You’re Doomed Act 2 after a couple of seconds. It had the same music and graphics as the last level in this ‘world’, and it was a maze, like the previous level, except it had enemies. The enemies LOVED blue-screening my computer, because they did it here. At the end of this level, Dr. Eggman was standing there waiting for me. A text box popped up, freezing the game temporarily. It read, “Do you want to help me, Sonic? Tails is becoming a monster. He is not himself. If you help me, I may be able to save him.” It had a yes and no selection. What did Eggman mean by ‘save him’? Save his corrupted soul? Maybe resurrect him? I selected yes, because I wanted to help Tails become normal again.

A new level loaded up after the screen cut to black. It was called “Final Death Act”. There was no Act 1, or 2. Just, ‘act’. The background looked like a volcano, with an orchestral remix of Lava Reef Zone Act 1, in a minor key I didn't know of. I didn't question the fact that Lava Reef came after this game any more. The floor tiles were from Chemical Plant Zone. There was a new feature in this level: Water. Although it was a volcano, there was water. The water was Labyrinth Zone’s water, the green stuff. I always hated water levels in Sonic games. This level took more than three minutes to beat.

There were obstacles galore, enemies that blue-screened, and springs and traps to keep you on your toes. Tails kept appearing in the level to try and stop me, and I feared what might happen if he got me, so I didn't allow it to happen. Final Death Act was like a Mario game mixed in with a Sonic game. If you don’t know what I mean, it’s that in a Sonic game, you’re supposed to go fast. But in Mario games, you’re forced to be slower and think about your jump timing. This level had a mix of both in it.

Before I could get to the end of the level, Tails came really quickly and got me. The screen cut to black, with Sonic groaning out in pain. A Game Over message appeared, but it was a bright green, like Tails’ ghostly appearance. The game over disappeared and some text appeared, replacing the Game Over, saying “Try again. You only have 2 more tries to get it right!” I assumed it was Tails saying it. I thought it was Game Over, so I’d have to restart the game, but I was given two more tries, so that was nice.

I respawned in “Final Death Act”, and tried it over again. The part where Tails got me last time could be avoided with a well-timed jump, so I jumped out of the way. I proceeded to the end of the level, where Tails was waiting.

Tails waited there, but his eyes turned completely red, and he started to rise up in the air, and the camera locked in place. Was this a boss? Finally! Tails floated up and looked at Sonic, with those piercing red eyes and lunged at Sonic, went through the ground, and teleported back to where he was before he lunged. I was supposed to hit him, but Tails hurt Sonic, and Sonic groaned out in pain once again. I got the same message when I died by Tails earlier, except he said I only had one more try.

To my surprise, I had to start all the way back at the start of “Final Death Act” again. I was getting frustrated. My rage seemed to have gotten the best of me, because I accidentally died because I fell onto spikes.

“You were given more chances. I expected you to pull through!” I imagined Tails saying this. “YOU ARE DEAD, LIKE ME!” Suddenly, a picture of Tails appeared on the screen. Just some official art from Sonic Advance 3, except Tails was ghostly green and had a devious little smile on his face, and red irises. He looked like he was up to no good. His theme from Sonic Adventure 2 was playing, except it sounded like it was coming from a music box, and in a harmonic minor scale.

The screen suddenly flashed like crazy, an array of colours to blind anyone. A laugh, not Tails’ laugh, a horrible, twisted, malevolent laugh played over and over. A music track that sounded like a band was going nuts and playing any note they wanted played. The game then shut down after this.

What a weird experience! That was a strange game, certainly not made by SEGA, probably just made by a drunk Sonic fan or something. I am creeped out by it, and I never understood why Tails wanted to kill Sonic so bad. Maybe it was vengeance? I can’t tell you. This didn't ruin Sonic for me; it’s hard to do such a thing with me. It’s good just to get a good scare sometimes.

But, I still don’t know one more thing. Who sent me the USB in the first place?

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