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The Special Stages (スペシャルステージ) in the 8-bit versions of Sonic the Hedgehog are stages which can be entered by collecting 50 or more rings (but less than 100, as the ring counter resets after collecting 100 rings) at the end of the first two acts of the first four levels.
When Sonic reaches the end of the act, the end sign will display an exclamation mark (!), indicating that he has collected enough rings to go to the Bonus Stage before progressing to the next act. There are four unique Bonus stages, and since there are eight acts from which they can be accessed, two runs of each Bonus Stage can be achieved if (at least) 50 rings are collected in all eight of these acts. However, when the first Bonus Stage is re-entered (making it the fifth Bonus Stage), moving platforms will have been added, thus making the stage slightly more complex. The same applies for Sonic's second trip to Bonus Stages 2, 3 and 4 (making them Bonus Stages 6, 7 and 8). Since Chaos Emeralds are found within regular stages the Bonus Stages exist merely as a place to gain lives, points, and continues within a time limit of one minute (or two minutes in the Game Gear version). An end sign is also featured in these stages, but the chances for a bonus are significantly lower and obtaining 50 or more rings will not take you to another Bonus Stage from the one you are already in.
Bonus Stage 1
Bonus Stage 2
Bonus Stage 3
Bonus Stage 4
Bonus Stage 5
Bonus Stage 6
Bonus Stage 7
Bonus Stage 8