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Golden rings of unknown origin.
Rings (リング Ringu?), also sometimes referred to as Gold Rings or Power Rings are one of the most distinctive and recurring features in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. These golden rings serve as important (if not the most important) gameplay devices, which are usually spread throughout the levels and can be collected during gameplay.
Rings allow players possessing at least one ring to survive upon sustaining damage from an enemy or hazardous object. Instead of dying, the player's rings are sacrificed; in most Sonic games, a hit will cause the player to lose all of their rings, although in certain situations (such as the Special Stages in Sonic the Hedgehog 2) and throughout certain games (such as Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble, Sonic Blast, Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Generations) a hit only costs a set number of rings rather than the entire collection.
As mentioned above, rings are spread by hundreds throughout the levels in the Sonic series and can be collected upon contact. Possessing rings allows the playable character to survive attacks or impacts with enemies or any dangerous obstacles, such as spikes, fire pits, lava, etc., that would otherwise cost the player a life. As long as the player is in the possession of at least one ring, they can avoid most lethal attacks. Upon colliding with a hazard, the on-screen character is thrown backwards and given a momentary period of invulnerability (represented by a rapid flashing between visible and invisible). The dropped rings burst out of the character in a circular pattern and bounce around the environment, flashing for a few seconds before disappearing entirely. During this brief period, it is possible for the player to recover some of the rings they lost. Generally fewer "recoverable" rings are displayed on-screen than the number actually lost (usually a maximum of around twenty; fewer in Sonic games on 8-bit consoles, about fifty in Sonic Rush, while from the Sonic the Hedgehog 4 saga onward the player can recover 32). If the player suffers damage without possessing any rings, the player will lose a life.
Certain causes of death cannot be prevented by even when holding a ring, including being crushed by obstacles, falling into a bottomless pit, failing a mission held through a time limit and drowning.
In line with many platform games, collecting a hundred of these common collectibles will usually reward the character with an extra life. Certain titles in the series often reward the collection of other quantities of rings, often in conjunction with the Chaos Emeralds; usually, at least fifty Rings are required to access the Special Stages in which the Chaos Emeralds may be obtained, or to utilize a character's super transformation.
The origin of the rings, like the Chaos Emeralds, is never revealed during the game series. In addition, even Sonic characters are shown to have thought they came from a different world in official media. They are not often referenced by characters during gameplay, but they are used as currency at Chao Black Markets and at shops in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood and Sonic Unleashed. They are also mentioned to be a monetary system in Sonic Heroes. In Shadow the Hedgehog, Dr. Eggman collects them for prizes in his game-filled carnival base, and is distressed when Shadow takes them from him during the "Egg Dealer" boss battle. Rings can also be used to buy Extreme Gear in Sonic Riders, Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity and Sonic Free Riders.
Appearances in other media
In the Sonic the Hedgehog comic series and its spin-offs, Power Rings were originally natural byproducts of Chaos Emeralds. They were artificially created by the brilliant Overlander scientist Nate Morgan as a clean alternative to fossil fuels to protect Mobius' environment. After Morgan's banishment from his home city, when his original tests failed, the Mobian Sir Charles Hedgehog aided him in mass producing Power Rings to be used by the Kingdom of Acorn. Following this, the city of Mobotropolis entered a new Golden Age as the Power Rings had brought their kingdom out of the medieval ages. After that, Power Rings was used not only as power supplies for technology, but also as a means to increase the power and capabilities of certain individuals such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Miles "Tails" Prower and Knuckles the Echidna.
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog (TV series)
In the Sonic the Hedgehog television series, the Power Rings were invented by Sir Charles Hedgehog for Sonic to battle villains. They are generated by a machine, powered by the Power Rock, which is located in the Power Ring pool in the Great Forest. One Power Ring rises to the surface every day (two very day later on) and if not caught, it sinks back underwater.
The Power Rings' energies can only be harnessed by Sonic, which he can use to temporarily boost his speed. Additionally, they can be used to temporarily restore the free will of a roboticized victim and block a Roboticizer.
Sonic the Comic
In Sonic the Comic, the Golden Rings are an apparently naturally-occurring phenomenon of Planet Mobius. They were used by Doctor Ovi Kintobor in conjunction with his Retro-Orbital Chaos Compressor (ROCC) to transfer most of the evil energy on Mobius into six Chaos Emeralds. They possessed strange properties (possibly inherently, or possibly as a result of their use in the ROCC) and emitted special Ring Energy. Robotnik was able to use the rings to power his Neutrino Accelerator. According to Tails, this Ring Energy was also responsible for Sonic's first transformation into Super Sonic, although Sonic had absorbed so much Ring Energy over the years that later transformations were caused purely by stress.
In the anime series Sonic X and its comic series published by Archie Comics, the Rings are used by Sonic and his allies to give Sonic a power boost, much like the Power Rings in the Sonic the Hedgehog television series and the Sonic the Hedgehog comic series and its spin-offs. Tails usually has them loaded into his various aircrafts so he can deploy them to Sonic during battle.
- The familiar sound effect used for collecting rings has been adopted for use in cash registers.
- Rings can also have other purposes. For example, Shadow's Inhibitor Rings keep his powers in check as long as he wears them.
- The Sonic Storybook Series (starting with Sonic and the Secret Rings) is the first time a Sonic game has had the rings replaced with something else. In Sonic and the Black Knight, they are replaced with fairies. However, rings still appear in the Legacy missions (missions that play like the regular Sonic series) in this game.
- In Sonic Colors (Wii version only), Sonic Unleashed (PS2/Wii versions) and Sonic Lost World (temporally on the Wii U version only, later fixed via downloadable-content), the player is not awarded an extra life if he/she collects 100 rings, unlike the rest of the Sonic series.
- A joke was made in Sonic Generations in which both Classic and Modern Tails were discussing about how many rings Sonic collects and where he puts them.
- Shadow the Hedgehog is the first game in the main series where a playable character does not drop all rings when hit. In this game, Shadow drops only ten rings when hit. Sonic Unleashed continues this with Sonic dropping fifty percent of his rings when hit (provided he has forty or more). In Sonic Generations Sonic loses eighty percent of his rings when hit (provided he has twenty or more).
- Rings are mentioned in the cartoon Gravity Falls by the character Dipper Pines. In episode 10 (Fight Fighters), he rattles off a string of different video game power-ups, one of which happens to be "rings".
- In Wreck-It Ralph, rings also appear; first when Sonic gets hit by an escape pod Ralph is piloting and later during the credits when it shows Sonic battling Eggman and also getting hit.
- The ring collecting sound seems to be reused in every game that has them since the original Sonic the Hedgehog, only at a slightly different pitch, especially Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut which notably has a lower pitch.
- Rings are not the only form of currency in Sonic's world - for instance, when Sonic Colors is set to Japanese, the cutscene before the Tropical Resort boss has different dialogue in which Dr. Eggman, Sonic and Cubot haggle the price of the ride using yen. Yen is also referenced in some of Eggman's in-game announcements.