- Special Zone redirects here. For the Special Zone in Archie Comics, see Special Zone (Archie). For the Special Zone in Sonic the Comic, see Special Zone (Sonic the Comic)
The Special Stages (also called Special Zones, and Secret Zones in the first game) are an important feature of the Sonic the Hedgehog series. They are located away from the usual setting of the games, in which characters can find the mysterious Chaos Emeralds, or in some cases, other mystical items. Usually, the player is required to clear all of the Special Stages (and obtain all of the Emeralds) to unlock the true ending of the game.
Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit)
The Special Stages first appeared in Sonic the Hedgehog, in which it was depicted as a somewhat psychedelic rotating maze, with the Chaos Emerald ready for collection in the center, guarded by barriers. It was accessed through a giant Warp Ring, which appeared at the end of an Act if the player had 50 or more rings at the end of the Act. The player could collect Rings in these Special Stages, but collecting rings did not contribute to completing the stage: they only provided points, lives, and continues, if enough were collected. This Special Stage style is used in Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, only with minor differences.
Sonic the Hedgehog (8-bit)
In Sonic the Hedgehog for the Game Gear and Master System, the Special Stages did not contain Chaos Emeralds; the gems had to be found in hidden areas around the normal zones. Special Stages still existed, though, but simply as a means to acquire Continues and Extra Lives. They were accessed by passing the Goal Signpost with 50 or more rings. The 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog sported Special Stages filled with pink blocks, extra-powerful springs and green and yellow coils that acted as bumpers. Only a limited amount of time was provided to collect as many rings as possible.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 altered the game mechanics of the Special Stages, though the psychedelic backdrop remained the same. Whereas gameplay in the Special Stages in the first game had been similar to the normal gameplay, in this game it was a mini-game in which characters ran along a curving half-pipe tube, collecting power rings while avoiding bombs (impact with a bomb would cause the character to lose 10 rings.) There were 3 sections, and a character had to collect a sufficient number of Rings in each section to advance to the next. In Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the Special Stages were accessed by passing a Star Post with 50 or more rings collected. A circle of stars then appeared above the star post, and the player had to jump into the circle to enter the Special stage. This action was reused in Sonic 3 & Knuckles to enter the Bonus Stages.
Sonic the Hedgehog CD
Sonic the Hedgehog CD saw the return of the first game's end-of-act Giant Rings, with the same requirement for entry (having 50 or more rings at the end of an Act without a Boss.) In these special stages, Sonic ran across a Mode 7 style track. To obtain the stage's Time Stone (the game's equivalent to Chaos Emeralds), Sonic had to destroy six UFOs hovering across the track within a time limit. The player could also collect Rings in these Special Stages, but they only gave the player bonus points at the end of the Special Stage; they did not contribute to the completion of the Special Stage. Hazards like bear traps and water would often slow Sonic down or speed up the timer (or sometimes both). If the timer was depleted to 20 seconds or less, a seventh, blue UFO would appear in the center of the stage; breaking this one would not count towards stage completion, but would restore 30 seconds to the timer, giving the player more time to hunt down and destroy the remaining UFOs.
A secret special stage unused in the main game can be played if the player enters 07, 07, and 07 into the Sound Test menu. The original purpose of this stage was to change powerup monitors into "S" monitors- enhanced speed and invincibility.
Sonic Chaos featured a unique kind of Special Stage. Accessed (whether you like it or not) by collecting 100 rings in the main game, the Stages were simple platforming levels, though considerably more labyrinthine than the game's main stages, with the Emerald hidden somewhere within. The player had to find the Emerald within a strict time limit. These stages are notorious for their difficulty; except for the first stage, in which the emerald is simply at the end of a long void crossed by using the game's Rocket Shoes, the emeralds were always hid in obscure or subtle ways, making it especially difficult to find them without the aid of a game guide. Also, though the game featured both Sonic the Hedgehog and Miles "Tails" Prower as playable characters, only Sonic could access the Special Stages. Accessing the Special Stages also automatically ends whatever act the player was in, although no end-of-act bonuses would be earned this way.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles once again returned to using Warp Rings as the entrance to the Special Stages. However, in these games, they were scattered throughout the acts rather than left at the end, so a player could play multiple Special Stages in each act (furthermore, there was no requirement for entering the Special Stages save for being able to find the Warp Rings in the first place.) Once again, the format of the Special Stages changed. This time, the player has to run along the surface of a checkered, planet-like sphere and collect all of the blue spheres while avoiding red ones as the Stage will end in failure if touched.
Sonic Triple Trouble
Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble Special Stages were accessed by hitting an item monitor displaying a Chaos Emerald whilst carrying 50 or more rings. The game's five Special Stages came in two varieties: the first, third, and fifth were similar to those of Sonic Chaos, in which the player had to navigate a maze-like level in order to reach the Emerald - all within 90 seconds. Though the Emeralds were hidden less obscurely than in Sonic Chaos, the mazes were much harder to navigate, as there were springs and invisible ledges that could only be crossed through a process of trial and error. The second and fourth stages featured Sonic/Tails in the series' trademark biplane, the Tornado, collecting 80 rings in a short flying course. These stages were considered much easier than the 2D mazes.
What sets this game's Special Stages apart from all others is the fact that at the end of all but the first, the player had to fight a mini-boss in the form of Nack the Weasel. The greedy treasure hunter attacks on the Marvelous Queen, his hoverbike from Sonic Drift 2, each time modified with a different weapon attachment. Amusingly, Nack rarely seemed to understand quite how to operate the weapons at his disposal. Unlike Sonic Chaos, both Sonic and Tails had access to these Special Stages.
The obscure 32X game Knuckles Chaotix featured a strange type of Special Stage. Though it had the same basic formula as the Special Stages of Sonic 2, it had many odd quirks that made it very different. Accessed in the same manner as Sonic the Hedgehog/Sonic CD, these stages featured a hexagonal tube that the player ran through. The player could run across all six sides of the tube. The object was to collect a certain number of Blue Spheres scattered across the tube in order to reach the Chaos Ring at the end. Unlike Sonic 2's Special Stages, reaching a checkpoint without having all the required Spheres would not end the stage, but would simply repeat the section. The catch was that your Ring count steadily depleted as you remained in the stage (in a manner similar to Super Sonic), and the stage would end once you ran out of rings. You could find some rings in the stages, but the primary source of rings was those you had brought into the Special Stage. This made Chaotix's Special Stages unique in the respect that the more rings you were carrying upon entering the Special Stage, the easier it was to successfully complete. However, no matter how many rings you held, if you fell out of the tube through one of the stage's many pits, the stage automatically ended.
Sonic 3D Blast
In Sonic 3D Blast, the Special Stages were accessed by searching the regular stages for either Tails or Knuckles, who made cameo appearances in the game precisely for this purpose. After handing over at least 50 rings to Tails or Knuckles, Sonic would be transported to the Special Stage.
The design on Sonic 3D Blast's Special Stages was somewhat different on each of the game's three platforms (Mega Drive, Saturn, and PC), although the gameplay and premise was basically the same: similar to that of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (16-bit). Sonic had to run down a three-dimensional level collecting rings and avoiding spiked traps. In the Mega Drive version, the level was simply a narrow bridge (suspended above molten lava in Knuckles' stages, and high in the sky for Tails'). On the PC and Saturn, the levels were multicolored half-pipes, even more like those of Sonic 2. The PC version is a very different layout and is greatly simplified (both graphically and gameplay-wise).
Knuckles and Tails both appeared in Acts 1 and 2 of the first five Zones (Green Grove to Volcano Valley), meaning there were 20 opportunities to collect the 7 Chaos Emeralds. All seven Emeralds were necessary to access the last boss of the game, in Final Fight.
Sonic Blast featured a rather horrid take on Sonic 2's Special Stages. Accessed by finding a giant ring hidden within the first and second acts of each zone (similar to Sonic 3 & Knuckles), the player had to navigate a short obstacle course, collecting 50 rings before reaching the end. Like Sonic Heroes, the first acts were for extra lives, while the second acts were for an Emerald. The problem with these stages lay in the awkward pseudo-3D perspective, and the fact that there were hardly enough rings in the stage itself to meet the quota. As the game's character sprites appeared larger than the actual area of influence, jumping at rings would often cause the character to simply pass through them. Also, you only got one shot at each stage, so if you messed up, you couldn't retry the stage.
Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure
In the Neo Geo Pocket game Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure, the Special Stages are almost identical to that of Sonic 2 for the Mega Drive. However, there are only six, as Dr. Robotnik holds the last emerald.
Sonic Jam (Game.com)
The Game.com version of Sonic Jam featured its own special stage, based on the Sonic 3 and Knuckles special stages. Due to the black and white screen on the Game.com, the player must collect black balls and avoid white ones. Outlining an area of black balls turns them to rings. There are no Chaos Emeralds in this game, so the special stages only serve to give the player extra points.
Sonic Advance used Special Stages where the player's character fell down an apparently infinitely deep hole while riding on a board. The player had to collect rings and avoid bombs much like in Sonic 2, and there were also special rings that could boost your speed. The player could perform tricks on the board to gather groups of rings or receive bonus rings when passing through a glowing section. The stages were accessed by finding a large hidden spring in certain stages and jumping on them.
Sonic Advance 2
Sonic Advance 2 featured an odd take on Sonic CD's Special Stages. Taking place in the same Mode 7 style arenas as the aforementioned game, the player was required to collect 300 rings within 120 seconds. However, because each stage barely held that amount, the player was required to collect several rings in rapid succession; doing so would steadily raise a multiplier that would increase the worth of the collected rings (so a ring collected while the multiplier was at x4 would make that single ring worth 4). All the while, the player had to avoid Sonic Adventure's ZERO, who patrolled the stage and would cause the player to lose rings if he hit them. These stages were infamous not because of the stages themselves but because of the method of accessing them; the player had to collect seven Special Rings hidden in each act. These rings were often hidden in out-of-the-way locations, so finding them was almost impossible without the help of a strategy guide.
Sonic Heroes marked the return of the Special Stages in a 3D Sonic game (as mentioned earlier, there are no Special Stages in Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2). This version is fairly similar to the Sonic 2 and Knuckles' Chaotix special stages. The player needs to collect a Special Stage Key (which is lost if you get damaged without a barrier shield or losing a life) in a particular stage to enter a Special Stage. Getting a Special Stage key in odd-numbered stages (Stage 01: Seaside Hill, Stage 03: Grand Metropolis, etc) opens up Bonus Challenges, where you try to beat the timer for points and 1-ups, linking spheres to add time to the clock. Getting a Special Stage key for even-numbered stages (Stage 02: Ocean Palace, Stage 04: Power Plant, etc) opens up Emerald Challenges, where you race against time and chase for the Chaos Emerald before it reaches to the end of the stage, powering up the Power Dash by collecting spheres. These stages are known to be quite glitchy at times, and have been criticized for control issues.
The player(s) has to run through a circular tube, whose scenery changes depending on the stage theme. There are different types of power sphere: normal multicolored ones, red with yellow stars, and cyan with yellow stars in order of value. There are also gates that change formation in bonus odd-numbered stages.
Once 40 Emblems are collected, Emerald Challenge Special Stages can be played in 2-player mode. The player who reaches the Chaos Emerald first wins. If the Emerald reaches to the end of the stage before either of the two teams does, the team that was the closest to the Emerald (ahead in the stage) wins.
Sonic Advance 3
Sonic Advance 3's Special Stages were very similar to the ones from Sonic Advance, and also to the biplane stages from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. In the stages, the character is standing on the wings of Tails' biplane, the Tornado 2, which has to be flown around while the character walks back and forth in order for the character to collect a number of rings within a time limit. There are also special rings that transform the plane into its speedy X-shape, boosting forward quickly. To get to the Special Stages in Sonic Advance 3, one has to find all the hidden Chao scattered across each Zone's multiple stages, and once they are found also collect a special key that appears at a random location in any Act of the Zone. While the Chao are permanently stored, the keys can only be used once each and both dying or failing to collect the Chaos Emerald will mean that the key will have to be found again. The keys, once found, are used to activate the "golden springs" (returning from Sonic Advance 1) on each Zone's over-world, which boost the player off the top of the screen (it is assumed that these bi-plane Special Stages take place in the sky above the main Zones). After defeating G-Mel in Nonaggression, the game unlocks a 'Special Stage' mode, in which the object is to collect as many of the 7 Emeralds as possible.
Sonic Rush had special stages similar to those of Sonic 2's where the player had to slide Sonic across the touch screen with the stylus to collect rings. To access it, the player needs to find a generator in any of the stages, grab on to it, and boost until the player is warped to the Special Stage, which costs an entire Tension gauge. The player can replay the Special Stages as many times as they like, so long as they have enough Tension left. However, like the Advance series, only that zone's Emerald can be obtained. (For example, if the player enters a Special Stage in Altitude Limit (Zone 6), Sonic enters Special Stage 6, regardless if he has the other Chaos Emeralds or not.) If the player got enough rings before reaching the half-way point, they would be given a higher ring count and would then have to collect that many by the end of the stage to obtain the Chaos Emerald. There were bombs in the stages that would cause the player to lose rings and had to be avoided, red Flappers that also caused the player to lose rings if touched but could be destroyed for one ring. There was also a purple Flapper that took 3 hits to defeat and stayed in a fixed position on the screen until it attacked. In addition, there were buttons on the ground that could be pressed to cause more rings to appear in the stage. There is also a new gimmick called a trick panel. If you hit it, Sonic will be launched into the air and the player will have to touch the numbers in their respective order to gain rings. If you run out of time or you hit the numbers in the wrong order you gain no rings. As Blaze collected the Sol Emeralds automatically during her game, only Sonic used the Special Stages.
Sonic Rush Adventure
Although not technically a Special Stage, the races in Sonic Rush Adventure, are functionally equivalent. Sonic has to race Johnny, a pirate with green shark's head-shaped headgear, on the waterbike, the Wave Cyclone, and win in order to earn the Chaos Emerald. Gameplay is basically the same as normally riding the waterbike, although if Johnny boosts into you, your life meter is reduced to 50%. The races are significantly easier if you upgrade the waterbike as much as possible near the end of the game. You can also replay races by either visiting the site with the sea chart or in the Viking Cup. However, in the Viking Cup, the Wave Cyclone is back to its original state.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games
In Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, the Dream Bobsleigh event is based of the Special Stages of Sonic Heroes, despite taking place in the Nocturnus Gate. The objective is to reach the goal in 1st place. Players can increase their speed by collecting the spheres scattered throughout the stage while bombs will slow down the player. Item boxes are also found throughout the stage and can be used increase speed and attack opponents. Unlike Sonic games, star points are awarded instead of Chaos Emeralds. They can be used to buy items in the shops.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4
The Special Stage in Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I is very similar to the Special Stage in Sonic 1; it is a rotating maze with bumpers and blocks and a Chaos Emerald hidden somewhere on each stage. However, it is not a direct copy. Instead of Sonic 1's gameplay, where the player moves in the maze, the player moves the maze itself, while Sonic falls constantly. A strict time limit is also enforced, which can only be extended through the collection of timers hidden throughout the stages. Also, there is an option in the Options menu to control the maze by tilting the Wii Remote, as well as the six-axis controllers for the PlayStation 3. The mobile versions allow either tilting or swiping to control. Swiping allows for much more precise control as the stage's rotation corresponds with the player's finger movement.
The Special Stage in Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II is similar to the Special Stage in Sonic 2 and Sonic Colors (DS) special stage; as if the player reaches the right or left ends of the tube Sonic and Tails jump. It is entered the same way as in Episode 1. It is a curving half pipe tube where rings must be collected in order to progress. Unlike Episode 1, there is no time limit, but rather a time bonus is given at the end depending on speed. Obstacles include green, plasma bombs that slow the player down but do not take away rings, and red bombs that take away rings on contact. Pressing the secondary button allows Sonic and Tails to perform a gimped boost, which makes them move faster and does not have any limit. They can also attract rings in (like the Sonic Boost). There is also a special item that can be obtained only in the Special Stages which creates a rope between Sonic and Tails, allowing them to collect more rings. Other stage gimmicks include speed pads that boost the player along a set path, springs that take the player to a different half-pipe, and yellow arches. The yellow arches activate a mode where if Sonic collects enough rings, he will get a bonus. Unlike Sonic 2, Tails can collect rings but not lose them (in single player).
In Sonic Colors for the Wii, the player has to collect Red Rings throughout the stages, 5 Red Rings per stage. 10 Red Rings unlock a stage in Game Land, which starts with stages 1-1, 2-1 and 3-1 unlocked already. There are 180 red rings throughout the game, which take you up to stage 7-3. When the third stage of each Game Land is completed, you obtain the appropriate Chaos Emerald. When all Emeralds are collected, the player can turn on Super Sonic in the Options Menu. Once this is done, the player must collect 50 Rings to become Super Sonic, unable to use any of the Wisp Power (Collecting all Chaos Emeralds is not required to unlock the final boss).
Nintendo DS version
In the Nintendo DS version of Sonic Colors, the player must have 50 Rings at the end of the stage to enter a Special Stage, where the player has to go through a track (similar to the ones in Sonic 2) 3 times to collect a Chaos Emerald. The player must collect Red Orbs in the first round, Blue Orbs in the second round and Yellow Orbs in the last round. When all emeralds are collected, the player unlocks the secret Final Boss, Mother Nega-Wisp. (Unlike the Wii version, the player cannot use Super Sonic in the regular stages.)
Sonic Generations (3DS version)
Special Stages only appear in the Nintendo 3DS version of Sonic Generations. To unlock them, you need to complete both acts of a zone. They use the same concept as the Special Stages in Sonic Heroes, but has better control than in the Special Stages from said game. Modern Sonic needs to boost to catch up to the Emerald before the 90-second time limit is up. Like in Heroes, you need to collect colored spheres to fill your Boost Gauge. There are also spiked spheres which slow you down if touched and new rainbow-colored spheres which completely refill your boost if touched. Additionally, there are speed pads that force Sonic into his spin mode (the player cannot boost this way) and also electrified gates that must be avoided. Sonic can jump and also jump dash, though such moves are almost never needed. All seven emeralds are required to access the final boss.
Amusingly, it is possible to clear the first special stage with an S rank simply by holding down the boost button for the entire race.
Sonic Lost World
Special Stages return in the Nintendo 3DS version of Sonic Lost World, using the Nintendo 3DS’ gyroscope to move Sonic in the stage. Special Stages in the game are somewhat based on another one from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, as the player has to collect Blue Spheres and avoid Red Spheres. Instead moving around endless checkerboard arena, the player has to boost in the void. The player must complete Special Stages in order to collect all seven Chaos Emeralds.
Appearances in Other Media
Early Sonic canon
The early Sonic canon developed by Sega of America (and depicted in the Sonic Bible and publications such as the 1991 edition of The Official Sonic the Hedgehog Yearbook and other UK books) referred to the special stages of the first Sonic game as Warps of Confusion. These areas (referred to as "sub-orbital space warps") were regions of space in orbit around Mobius that contained the Chaos Emeralds. They either formed naturally around the Chaos Emeralds after the explosion of the Retro-Orbital Chaos Compressor expelled the gems into space, or they were created by Doctor Robotnik specifically to keep the Emeralds out of Sonic's hands.
The Sonic the Hedgehog promotional comic does not explain the nature of the Warps of Confusion, but does depict them without gravity, leading Sonic to become disoriented and nauseous when he enters one.
Sonic the Comic
In a rare departure from early Sonic canon's back-story, Fleetway's Sonic the Comic grouped the Special Stages into a single "Special Zone", depicted as a complete parallel universe, complete with planets and cities, although the bizarre cosmology of the games was adhered to. This Special Zone resembled Sonic's home planet of Mobius, even with similar anthropomorphic animal inhabitants, and the two planes had a great deal of communication due to the Star Posts and the intervention of the Omni-Viewer. The Special Zone's largest city was called New Tek City, capital of Planet Meridian, and it was protected by the Chaotix crew. Sonic was trapped in the Special Zone for an extended run after traveling there to stop the demonic Super Sonic, who had at this time been given independent existence.
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog
In Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, several areas appear that are based on the Special Stages of the games.
In the episode "The Mobius 5000", Sonic and his friends access an area called the Special Zone via a post in the Casino Zone, where they had to collect enough rings in order to escape the Special Zone and get to the finish line. This area appears in its curving half-pipe design from Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
In the episode "Fast and Easy", an area called the Secret Zone is similar to the design from the first Sonic the Hedgehog with an altar for the Chaos Emerald Ring, which allows anyone to sink sections of Mobius into the sea.
In the episode "Robotnik's Pyramid Scheme", in order for Dr. Robotnik's ancestor to access the tomb of Robotnikhotep, who had the Chaos Emerald of Immortality, just like in the Special Stage of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Scratch and Grounder had to grab enough rings to get to the tomb, or deal with spikes at the bottom of the pit.
The episode "Trail of the Missing Tails" introduces the Warp of Confusion, an alternate dimension apparently filled with fish. This is a reference to the fish background of the Special Stages in Sonic the Hedgehog (1991). The name "Warp of Confusion" is also a reference to one of the names of the Special Stages in the early Sonic canon, which was used in documents such as the Sonic Bible, promotional comic and UK 1991 Yearbook.
The first instance of a "Special Stage" happened in issue #4, where Sonic enters the Special Zone to become Super Sonic to stop the robotic Universalamander. It's more of a passing glance at the Special Stage than a huge plot point, but the scene resembled the Special Stages from Sonic 2.
Special Stages were not in the comics until after 170. They were created to make the comics more similar to the games.
In the Archie comics, there were many Chaos Emeralds, until Tails and Shadow created the Great Harmony, causing the Emeralds to be sent to the Zone of Silence. An inhabitant, named Feist, recreated the Zone using the Emeralds to create the Special Zone. He gave Sonic and Tails an Emerald for their efforts but told them that he would judge them next time.
Later on, when Shadow and Rouge came to the Zone for an Emerald, Feist created a 'test' that was similar to Mega Drive version of the Special Zone in Sonic 3D Blast, with them traversing over both a lava pit and the sky, while dodging obstacles. A later 'test' is based off of that of the original Sonic the Hedgehog game with a rotating maze and a Chaos Emerald in the center.
- The Japanese game guide of Sonic Triple Trouble states that Nack hails from an another dimension. This dimension might be the Special Zone.
|Features of Sonic the Hedgehog|
|Chaos Control | Chaos Emeralds | Master Emerald | Rings (Red Star Rings) | Special Stage | Star Posts | Item Boxes | Super transformation | Piko Piko Hammer | Miles Electric|
|Earth | Angel Island | South Island | Space Colony ARK|
|Egg Mobile | The Tornado | Egg Carrier|
|Aliens (Wisps) | Eggman's robots (E-Series) | Eggman Empire|