The Special Stage in Sonic Advance is modeled after the bonus stages from Knuckles' Chaotix in which the player needs to collect a certain amount of rings across two segments to earn the Chaos Emerald found at the end of the stage. This is all done while sky surfing (possibly a throwback of the opening cutscene in Sonic Adventure 2 where Sonic leaps from a helicopter while riding a makeshift snowboard).
In order to access the Special Stage, you'll have to find the Special Springs scattered through each zone. They are easily recognised by their large, blue appearance, and they are in at least one act of every zone. Once a Special Stage has been attempted, the Special Spring will no longer send you back to the Special Stage unless you lose a life or restart the game from the beginning of the act. The acts to find them in are as follows:
- Neo Green Hill Zone Act 1
- Secret Base Zone Act 2
- Casino Paradise Zone Act 1
- Ice Mountain Zone Act 1
- Ice Mountain Zone Act 2
- Angel Island Zone Act 2
- Cosmic Angel Zone
- Rings - You need to grab enough rings to collect a Chaos Emerald.
- Bombs - Hitting these will make you lose 10 rings from your total amount.
- Technique Barriers - Perform a "technique" by pressing with good timing in order to obtain 12 rings.
- Bumpers - These catapult you backwards. Hold when hitting them to bounce backwards further.
- Springs - These catapult you forwards in a given direction. You won't be able to control your character while being catapulted.
- Chao - Rescue the floating Chao to earn a Continue.