|Special Stage (Sonic 3 & Knuckles)|
|Special level, Sonic 3 & Knuckles|
|Number of Acts: 14 + 2 hidden|
In Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic 3 & Knuckles, the Special Stages (sometimes known as Blue Sphere, the name of the standalone game featuring only such special stages) are used to collect Chaos Emeralds and Super Emeralds in the game. There are seven Chaos Emeralds, seven Super Emeralds and one Special Stage for each one. To enter the Special Stage, a giant ring must be found and then jumped into. These rings are well hidden - usually in secret rooms. Luckily, there are giant rings in every act, and there are actually more rings available than there are Special Stages, so there will be more than enough chances to get the Chaos Emeralds.
Humorously, the "Get Blue Spheres" message was "Get Blue Balls" for a time during development.
All the Special Stages are in the form of a gigantic globe that will turn as it is walked on. The color of the globe's checkered floor differs in each stage. There are individual intersections, or points which in the character can turn to either side. To turn press or on the directional pad when you come to a point. It's best to hold or when going between points to turn rather than just tapping it. It is also possible to jump at any time, but it's not possible to turn in mid-air. The screen will speed up as the number of blue balls available decreases. The length of the special stages are at a fixed length and when you reach the end of it the level will wrap you around to the other side so it is not possible to walk off the side of the level.
Some sections of the level are empty but most have something on them. There are red spheres, blue spheres, white spheres with red stars on them, gold spheres (in Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and Blue Sphere only), and gold rings. The goal of the level is to avoid red spheres at all costs and collect blue spheres. If a red sphere is touched the level immediately ends. If a blue sphere is touched it will turn to a red sphere. If a white sphere with a red star on it is touched it will cause the character to bounce backward and he will continue to move backwards until is pressed on the directional pad, or until the character runs into another such sphere behind him. Red star spheres are bumpers that often seal off masses of red spheres. If a gold sphere is touched the player will be launched, like when touching a spring in the Zones, five spheres forward or backward (depending on what direction you're moving). The number of blue spheres remaining is shown in the top left corner. Once every one of these are collected and there are no blue spheres remaining in the Special Stage, all the spheres disappear and the player is rewarded the Chaos Emerald.
Rings are sometimes found at the beginning of a Special Stage, but usually they are obtained by transforming groups of spheres into them. This is done by touching the blue spheres on the outside of a mass of blue spheres that are at least 3 by 3 in size. All the spheres will then change into rings, although if some of the inside spheres were red then this may not work, depending on the size of the formation. This is also possible in a formation of the appropriate size in which some of the spheres on the perimeter are already red. This sounds tricky but soon becomes second nature. It is never necessary to collect rings but it is usually best to do so if possible, both to eliminate a mass of red spheres and because rings give a point reward at the end of a Special Stage. Collected rings will not add to your ring tally once you exit the stage, however.
At the end of a Special Stage 100 points per ring are added to the score, even if the Chaos Emerald was not collected. If all the rings in the level are collected a Perfect Bonus of 50,000 points will be rewarded, which will result in one free life. Collecting 50 or more rings is also worth a continue (This is indicated by a tune being played along with a sprite of Sonic dancing after the point tally) and collecting 100 rings (when possible) will earn you an extra life (This is indicated by a sound similar to when you lose rings in a normal level). The second time a Special Stage is entered the second special stage will start regardless if the first Chaos Emerald is collected or not. The only way to collect Emeralds missed is to go through all the available stages until it laps back to the first levels. Once a Chaos Emerald is collected in a stage this level will never appear again.
|Number||Blue Spheres||Rings||Emerald colour|
When playing Sonic 3 & Knuckles and getting to Mushroom Hill Zone with any or all Chaos Emeralds, all giant rings will now flash rainbow colors, and instead of transporting you to a Special Stage, they transport you to the Emerald throne room of Hidden Palace Zone. All the Chaos Emeralds collected in the Sonic 3 levels will disappear, but for each one collected, a gray Super Emerald will be beamed down onto a pedestal in the room corresponding to the emerald collected previously. After jumping into a giant ring in Sonic 3 & Knuckles for the first time, your character can no longer go "Super" as all collected Chaos Emeralds are no longer in your possession. While in this room, every time this room is entered by jumping into a giant ring, the remaining Special Stages of Sonic 3 can be played by jumping on an empty pedestal. If you collect a Chaos Emerald in that stage, a gray Super Emerald will appear on the pedestal. If you jump on a gray Super Emerald instead you will play a Sonic & Knuckles Special Stage corresponding to the pedestal that the Emerald was on, and if the stage is completed successfully a Super Emerald will be rewarded and the gray Super Emerald will become colored in. It is also possible to exit the room in Hidden Palace without playing any Special Stage by stepping on the spot your character get beamed down onto.
The goal is to collect all seven Super Emeralds, although doing so may require playing through more than seven Special Stages if the Chaos Emeralds in Sonic 3 were not collected first. However, Super Emeralds cannot be collected until the Sonic & Knuckles levels are entered. If all the Super Emeralds are collected, the Master Emerald will start glowing and this room will no longer be accessible until reaching Hidden Palace Zone. Any future giant rings touched will reward fifty rings instead.
|Number||Blue Spheres||Rings||Emerald colour|
Hackers discovered that there were an 8th Chaos Emerald and an 8th Super Emerald in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Enable Debug Mode and Level Select and set "Sound Test" into "07." Hold A and go to the special stage (Act 1 is the Sonic the Hedgehog 3 special stage (Chaos Emerald) and act 2 is the Sonic & Knuckles special stage (Super Emerald)). The color of both emeralds is gold. You can find the special stage map here.
|Sonic the Hedgehog 3|
|Sonic & Knuckles|