To access the Special Stage, the player must clear a normal Zone with at least fifty Rings. After result screen, a message saying that an entrance to the Special Stage has opened will appear. Accepting the invite causes a Giant Ring to appear, and Sonic jumps into it. The Special Stages are also featured in the VS Mode.
The Special Stages take place in a space-like void with floating blue spheres, red spheres, yellow spheres, white spheres, and rainbow-colored spheres, which the player has to collect within a time limit. While the Chaos Emerald hangs out in the open, it is protected by a force-field that remains until the player collects every sphere. Collecting 5 of a certain colored sphere (as rainbow spheres contain each color, one does not have to make a group of only rainbows) creates a magnetic field that attracts nearby spheres (or in VS Mode, attracts items). If the player does not maintain the chain for a certain amount of time or replace it with another single-colored chain, the field will disappear. There is also an electric item that temporarily grants its own field, and will grant one from a sphere extra reach. Finally there are time items, some that will increase the time limit, and some that will decrease it. In some areas there are walls that will temporarily stun the player if they run into it. The player is able to move Sonic through the void by using the gyroscope to direct Sonic and can speed up by boosting, executed by holding the R trigger.
The Material collected from the Special Stage depends on their number: