Level Select, also referred to as Stage Select, Zone Select or Act Select, is a regular or hidden menu in the video games of the Sonic the Hedgehog series. When accessing the Level Select screen, it features every Zone and its Acts, Special Stage, Bonus Stage or multiplayer exclusive level in the game, which the player can access from there. Most of the time, the Level Select menu is the place where the Sound Test feature can be found, and activate other hidden features, such as Debug Mode.
Level Select was more-or-less a hidden feature in the earlier installments and spin-off titles of Sonic the Hedgehog series. Over time, however, Level Select has become a regular menu feature in later games. In such cases, the Level Select only shows a map or a list of Zones/stages that the player has already cleared.
Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
The Level Select made its debut as a hidden feature in the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Here, it is presented as a black screen with the game's title card as a grayscale image in the centre of the screen while the Zones (including the Special Stage) and the Sound Test (called the Sound Select) are featured in a list. Oddly, the Level Select refers an "Act" as a "Stage".
To access it, the player must press the following: ↑ ↓ ← → and the Ring chime can be heard. Hold down and press the start button to enter Level Select menu. Alternatively, should the player be playing on the Japanese release of the game, he/she must press ↑ ↓ ↓ ↓ ← → instead of ↑ ↓ ← →.
In the 2013 re-release of the game, the Level Select menu design exactly resembles the format used in the following main series sequels (Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 etc.). There is also a touchable directional pad and a "GO" button to navigate around the menu and confirm selections respectively. In addition, the player can also adjust various options such as enabling seven Chaos Emeralds or determining which character(s) to play as.
To access it, the player has to start the game in "No Save Mode". On the Sega screen, the player has to tap the letters S-E-G-A in that order (a Ring sound plays if successful). The player then has to have two fingers on the screen and wait until the title screen appears and he/she will be redirected to the Level Select menu.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (16-bit)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is the first game to feature a new Level Select menu design which was used in subsequent Mega Drive titles where all Zone names (without the "Zone") are listed along with their Act numbers. The background is colored blue with multiple texts of the playable characters ("Sonic" and "Miles") which alternate. While a Zone is highlighted, the emblem at the bottom right displays an artwork of the said Zone and while the Sound Test is highlighted, the emblem displays an artwork of Sonic with headphones on.
To access the Level Select, the player has to go to the Sound Test in the Options menu and play the following tunes: 19, 65, 09 and 17. The player will then hear Ring chime and must then return to the title screen by pressing start. Here, the player must press the start button while holding down to enter the Level Select menu.
The Level Select also appears in the '"Simon Wai" prototype of the game where its design resembles that of the original Sonic the Hedgehog. To access it, the player has to simply hold while pressing Start at the title screen to enter the Level Select menu.
In the 2013 re-release version, the menu is styled just like the 2013 re-release of the original Sonic the Hedgehog and the Zone list remains the same apart from the addition of Hidden Palace Zone. It is accessed in the same way as in the 2013 re-release of the original Sonic the Hedgehog.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-bit)
- Game Gear: While the game is booting up, the player has to hold down both in the southwest direction, and at the same time. From there, the player has to continue holding down the buttons and as the title screen appears. When Tails blinks twice for the time on the title screen, the player must press the START button while still holding the other three buttons down. The player will then enter the Level Select.
- Master System: While the game is booting up, the player has to hold left on and press and on the second controller at the same time. From there, the player has to continue holding down the buttons and until the screen turns blue and intro animation starts. With main controller one, the player starts the game to display the Level Select.
Sonic the Hedgehog CD
In Sonic the Hedgehog CD, the Level Select is renamed the Stage Select. Its menu display is simply a white screen with light blue outlines resembling clouds. The Stage Select now only shows one stage at a time but there are three digits which determine the stage; the first digit determines the Round number, the second determines the Zone number and the third determines the timeline of that Zone. (A is the present, B is the past, C is the good future and D is the bad future.) For example, "1-1-A" will render Palmtree Panic Zone 1 in the present timeline .
To access it, while at the title screen, the player has to press ↑ ↓ ↓ ← → and hold down to enter the Stage Select. In the PC version, it is accessed with the same directional input but with the spacebar instead of . In the 2011 remastered version though, it is accessible from the Extras Menu after clearing Special Stages Time Attack with a combined time under five minutes.
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball
While Level Select menu does not technically exist in Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball, the player can skip to one of three later levels through a similar code. To do this, the player has to go to the options menu and press ↓ ↓ ↓ ↑ ↑ ↑ in that order. A small chime can then be heard and the player must return to the title screen. At the title screen, holding down will take the player to Lava Powerhouse, holding down will take the player to The Machine, and holding down will take the player to the Showdown.
- Game Gear: When the player enters the title screen with the text "Press Start Button" appearing, press ↓ ↓ ↑ ↑ → ← → → ← and then the and and finally the Start button to enter the Level Select screen.
- Master System: Similarly to the Game Gear version. When the player enters the title screen with the text "Press Start Button" appearing, press ↓ ↓ ↑ ↑ → ← → → ← and then the and to enter the Level Select screen.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles
The Level Select in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles reuses the same menu design for its Level Select. Below Angel Island Zone, there is a number that represents the character(s) the player is currently using; 00 means Sonic and Tails, 01 means Sonic alone, 02 means Tails alone and 03 means Knuckles alone. In the Level Select of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 though, it contains three zones not present in the game (Flying Battery Zone, Mushroom Valley Zone (presumed to be Mushroom Hill Zone) and Sandopolis Zone) and the artwork of the Zones appears to have been reused from Zones in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. To access it, when the Sega screen starts turning black in the beginning of the game, the player has to quickly press ↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ↑ ↑ ↑ ↑. After completing the code correctly, the player hears a Ring chime and the "Sound Test" option will appear on the title screen. Selecting it will take the player to the Level Select menu.
In Sonic & Knuckles, the Level Select contains all Zones from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 in addition to its own Zones; selecting any of them will start the game from the beginning. To access it, the player has to find one of the manual elevators in Mushroom Hill Zone. After Sonic or Knuckles hangs onto the handle of a manual elevator, the player has to press ← ← ← → → → ↑ ↑ ↑, and the Ring chime can be heard. The player then has to press the Start button and then to return the title screen. There, the player must hold down and press the Start button after choosing a playable character.
In Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, the player has to find one of the swinging ropes with handles in Angel Island Zone. After making the playable character hang onto it, the player has to press ← ← ← → → → ↑ ↑ ↑ and the Ring chime can be heard. The player must then press the Start button and then , which will take the player to the title screen where the "Sound Test" option will appear as the third choice on the title screen. Selecting it will take the player to the Level Select menu.
While the game is powering up on the Game Gear, the player has to hold up on . The player must continue to do that until Knuckles gets the third Chaos Emerald in the intro cinematic. At this point, the player has to press the Start button which give off the Ring chime. At the title screen, the player must then select a character and he/she will then be taken to the Zone Select menu.
In this game, the player must enter the Color Test menu and adjust the six numbers in the top left column. There, the player must set the first row in the MARS column to 06, 0B and 11, and the second row to 04, 00 and 04. The player must then press Start to return to the title screen, where the option "Stage Select" will have appeared on the bottom of the screen. From there, the player can enter the Stage Select.
When playing in a Stage chosen from the Stage Stage, if the player pauses the game during gameplay, it is possible to move the playable characters anywhere with the D-pad and holding down , or will make them and their Combi partners move faster.
At the title screen, the player has to press up on and at the same time, and then press the Start button. This lets the player access the "Secret Options" menu, which contains Level Select, Background Music and Sound Effect tests.
After the game logo has appeared on the title screen, the player has to press ↑ ↑ → → → ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ← ← ← ← ← ← ← ← ← in that order. The word "Select" then appears and on the option menu, the option "Sound Test" will have been replaced with "Level Select", which the player can access the Level Select menu through.
- Genesis version: At the title screen, the player has to press → ↑ ↓ , which will take the player to the menu. When starting the game from there, the Level Select menu appears. After choosing the level from the Level Select menu, the player can skip to the next Act by pressing Start and button.
- Saturn version: At the title screen, the player has to press both the control pad in the northwest direction, and the A and C buttons at the same time. This will activate the "Master Code", which will cause the text Press Start" on the title screen to stop blinking. While this version of Sonic 3D Blast does not feature a Level Select, the player can when starting a game normally after activating the Master Code and then pausing the game skip to the next Act by pressing the A button or skip to the Zone by pressing the B button. When not pressing the A or B button during a pause, pressing C makes the player skip to the boss of Panic Puppet Zone, pressing X button gives a free extra life, pressing Y gives a free Sonic Medal and pressing Z grants automatically all seven Chaos Emeralds.
- The code to access the Act Select in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (19, 65, 09, 17) references Yuji Naka's date of birth (17 September 1965)
- In Sonic 2's Act Select screen, the code to access all 7 Chaos Emeralds is 04, 01, 02, 06, a possible reference to Genesis 41:26 ("The seven good kine are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years, the dream is one.")