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Gameplay Mechanics

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The gameplay mechanics and physics of the video games in the Sonic the Hedgehog series have changed over time, but some game details have remained the same.

The main purpose, as expected from Action-Adventure games, is to reach the Goal of the Zone/Stage. To do this, Sonic the Hedgehog, or other playable characters in the game, must overcome the level's environment, obstacles, traps and enemies to get to the other side of the level.

Throughout these games there will be oppotunities to earn points and also to enter the Special Stage where a Chaos Emerald can be earned. However of later games the concept of the Special Stages have been dropped to the side-scrolling Sonic games.


Counters can be seen throughout the levels during gameplay keeping score of lives, rings and time.


The maximum time limit of each stage is 10 minutes (However, this limit does not apply in all Sonic games). The purpose of a timer in the games isn't to show how much time you have left, but how long you have played the level.

As Sonic is about speed, the clock is to encourage speedplay and records as usually the Goal rewards quickest time.


Main article: Rings

Rings are one of the common gameplay items in almost every Sonic game. They are mostly used for protection from attacks and damage. 50 rings can grant access to the Special Stage by Warp Rings or Star Post while 100 Rings gives an extra life.

Rings are also in Special Stages, either as optional collectibles to increase score or as items necessary to earn a Chaos Emerald (for example, Sonic the Hedgehog 2).

A modern use for rings is that they are recognised as an international currency and can be used at shops to buy various items and skills. However as shops are usually located at Hub Worlds you can only spend rings you have collected in total from stages (which are saved like a bank) and you cannot have saved rings when you start a stage.


Lives are how many times you can play a certain level over. Lives are lost when Sonic (Or whoevever hero the player chooses in the game) is hurt without rings, crushed, or falls off the level.

There are ways to increase your lives. The two most major methods throughout the series is for the hero to break open a "1-Up monitor"; These rare item boxes can be found in difficult places. Another method is to collect 100 rings which result in an extra life. Lives can also be rewarded as bonuses after completing an Act or level.

At the bottom left corner of the screen during play, you'll see an icon of the hero's face, which is usually the same one displayed on the Life Monitors. This icon will tell you how many lives you have. The default amount you begin with is 3 and if you lose a life, you continue from the last Checkpoint you activated (Or from the start of the level if you have not activated any Checkpoints).


Wikipedia article: Score (gaming)

Points are earned from defeating enemies which cost 100 points. Points are tallied at the end of the act or stage along with rings and time converted into points which depending on how much may reward you with bonus items. (And in later games a rank)

Item / Enemy Point value
Rings 10
Enemy units
100 (Limited dispense)
Golden robots 1000 (Sonic Adventure 2)
400 (Sonic Heroes)


Wikipedia article: Checkpoints

Checkpoints are marked areas of the Zone or Stage in which if you lose a life, you can return to this point.


First appearing in Sonic the Hedgehog, they didn't really resemble street lights. More simply posts with spherical tops which spin and flash red once Sonic touches them.

Star Post

These checkpoints have more purpose. When passed with 50 rings portals to the Special Stage will open above them.

Other Check Points

The 8-bit versions of Sonic 1 and 2, checkpoints were replaced with item boxes that had a down arrow on them.

In 3D Sonic games since Sonic Adventure, checkpoints have been marked with 2 Lamppost adorned with the Bobbin symbol.

In Sonic Heroes, checkpoints have been redesign as pillars of blue light with gold stars in red circle. The colours and design also resemble the boppin symbol. These checkpoints are favourated for Nintendo DS side-scrolling games.

Shadow the Hedgehog has the most unique Check Points as large green markers which Shadow can teleport to previous checkpoints he has activated in the stage.

Meters and Gauges

The games do not rely on a "life bar" since Sonic or his friends will lose a life just under 1 hit (with no rings). However, lives can be sustained by possessing rings or have a barrier to protect them.

Meters which register power or health have been used in more recently in Sonic games. The earliest being Tails Adventure where Tails' duration of flight is kept. Tails' stamina to fly increases everytime he gets a Chaos Emerald.

Meters for powers have also been used such as in Sonic Heroes where when the Team Blast meter is filled, the whole team can perform a powerful attack. An Action Gauge has been used in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) where characters abilities are limited to this gauge, the meter however could recharge over time or needed Light Cores to recharge.

Soul Gauge

Main article: Soul Gauge


Sonic Rush and its sequel utilized a meter for boosting called the Tension Gauge. A meter for boosting has been developed further for the game Sonic Unleashed where rings give Sonic the ability to break into instant and powerful speed. This very meter used again in Sonic Colors which is charged by the Wisps Hyper-go-on energy. (The meter in the Nintendo DS variation of Sonic Colors mostly resembles the Tension Guage from Sonic Rush while the Wii meter resembles the boost meter from Sonic Unleashed.) Boosting returns in Sonic Generations and it is also implied in cutscenes that the instant-speed boost will remain as Sonic's ability.


Some enemies in the series have health meters of there own. First seen during boss battles in Sonic Adventure and some tough enemies in Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog have there own life meter to let the player know how much health they have remaining.

The first playable character to actually use a life bar would be Tails and Dr. Eggman during Sonic Adventure 2. The mechs they drive had meters that register the power of their machines.

Sonic the Werehog is the first Sonic character to fully utilizes a health meter which replenishes health by rings. Sonic also has an Unleashed Gauge which fills when he destroys enemies. When filled he can unleash his powers and doubles the damage dealt and halves the damage taken (in the latter's case, it makes Sonic invincible instead in the PS3 and Xbox 360 version of Sonic Unleashed).

See also

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