From Sonic Retro
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Quick-time events (QTEs) are a video game mechanic where the player has to push a single button at the right moment or a sequence of buttons in the right order to progress in a cut-scene. Failing a QTE will usually result in the player missing out on a valuable shortcut or attack opening, or in the character's death.
In the Sonic series
QTEs were introduced to the Sonic the Hedgehog game series in Sonic Unleashed, where the player has to push the right set of buttons in a small time frame to make jumps from ramps and jump panels in day stages, inflict Critical Attacks in night stages, or do certain boss hits. The Tornado Defense levels use this heavily as a minigame to get people used to them. There are even some QTEs where the player must mash a certain button multiple times before time runs out, such as having to press / 60 times to finish off Perfect Dark Gaia.
Sonic Colors streamlines the QTEs by requiring the player to only press the button at least 5 times, instead of multiple ones, to clear jumps. In the DS version, the player is given a QTE in the form of mashing to defeat the Nega-Wisp Armor with the Final Color Blaster.
Launching off certain ramps or flying through Rainbow Rings in the console/PC versions of Sonic Generations activates a sort-of QTE where the player can tilt the left stick to perform tricks and fill up the Boost Gauge, even beyond the gauge's limit, then finish the combo by pressing the shoulder buttons simultaneously. Each direction pulls off a different trick, and performing the same trick twice in a row will give diminishing returns. In the 3DS version, a QTE happens at the end of Emerald Coast Act 2 where the player must press the button three times to avoid being eaten by an Orca.
In Sonic Forces, QTEs occur in certain stages such as Spaceport. These take the form of a dark green circle with a lighter green circle that forms around it and slowly closes in on the dark circle, requiring the player to press (PS4)/ (XB1)/ (Switch) to complete. The closer the circle is to aligning with the dark green ring in the center when the appropriate button is pressed, the more points the player will be awarded with. This type of QTE is failed if the player does not press the appropriate button by the time the shrinking circle reaches the center, normally resulting in death. Due to the presence of QTEs in Egg Gate and Luminous Forest, Shadow cannot be used in those stages.