Special Stage (Sonic the Hedgehog 16-bit)

From Sonic Retro

Sonic Retro emblem.svg Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit)
Special Stage (Sonic the Hedgehog 16-bit)
Special Stage
Special stage level, Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit)
Number of Acts: 6

The Special Stages in Sonic 1 are one of many types in the Sonic series. Here, they are rotating rooms in which the objective is to find and collect one of the game's six Chaos Emeralds. Six stages exist, one for each differently coloured Emerald.

The stages are accessed by jumping into Giant Rings, which appear just after the signpost at the end of each Zone's Acts 1 and 2 if Sonic has 50 or more rings. The exception to this is Scrap Brain Zone, none of whose Acts offer Giant Rings. Each successive Giant Ring that Sonic enters will take him to the next stage, regardless of whether or not he successfully collected the Emerald in the one prior.


The special stages are composed of various types of block, each of which behaves differently (see below). The entire assemblage continually rotates, and Sonic constantly spins and will fall downward if unimpeded. These features make navigation more involved than simply pressing the desired directional button on the controller; in fact, doing so barely affects Sonic's momentum. Jumping, however, works much as in regular gameplay, but of course Sonic can only jump when he has a solid object from which to do so.

Rings are scattered throughout each stage, and cannot be lost as they can in regular Zones, as no hazards are present. As in regular Zones, however, if Sonic collects 100 rings he is awarded an extra Life. Also as normal, and regardless of whether or not Sonic acquires the Emerald, the game displays an end-of-level score tally in which the player receives 100 points for each ring, and a Continue if Sonic collected 50 or more.


The special stages are composed of various types of block, each of which behaves differently. These are as follows:

  • Square blocks are solid, and form the perimeter and main layout of the stage.
  • Goal: These undesirable blocks evict Sonic from the stage before he has the chance to collect its Chaos Emerald.
  • Diamond-shaped blocks imprison the stage's Chaos Emerald. Sonic must roll against or ram into them for varying durations of time (dependent on their colour) to cause them to disappear and gain access to the Emerald within.
  • Bumper: Sonic bounces off these on contact.
  • Jump Stand: Much like squares, but not limited to the maze's perimeter, Sonic can use these solid blocks to halt his downward movement and as launching points for jumps. There are also transparent Jump Stand blocks, which allow Sonic to pass through them, but then become solid like normal.
  • Up and Down blocks change the speed at which the stage rotates.
  • Reverse: Striking this causes the direction of the stage's rotation to be reversed.

Unused blocks

Several unused blocks were left over in the game data. The game's American and European manuals describe a 1-Up block that Sonic can collect for an extra Life, but these are not present in any of the final stages. This block can, however, be implemented through hacking, upon which it will be fully functional, disappearing like a ring when collected.

Other blocks that are not present or documented anywhere comprise 6 Zone blocks, which may have originally been designed to warp Sonic to a regular Zone, and a W block of unknown purpose. No code was implemented for any of these; all of them behave identically to Jump Stands.

List of stages

Number Rings Chaos Emerald
1 104
Sonic1 MD Sprite Emeralds.png
2 125
Sonic1 MD Sprite Emeralds.png
3 172
Sonic1 MD Sprite Emeralds.png
4 187
Sonic1 MD Sprite Emeralds.png
5 146
Sonic1 MD Sprite Emeralds.png
6 108
Sonic1 MD Sprite Emeralds.png

Debug Mode

Upon entering the Sonic 1 Debug code at the title screen (Up, C, Down, C, Left, C, Right, C, A + Start - or a similar variation), and entering a special stage with debug mode enabled, the player can transform into the object placement tool and relocate outside of the level's usual boundaries. This results in the player falling and landing on a long, linear patch of special stage objects, of which there is always a blue chaos emerald; Using this method allows the player to obtain 7 blue emeralds throughout the game instead of the colours intended for the player to collect.

If the user does not collect this blue emerald and falls off the pillar of objects, Sonic builds up gravitational speed again and ends up in a field of random objects, including the infamous (aforementioned) '1-Up', '# Zone' and 'W' blocks (although they are not functional). If sonic does not hit a 'Goal' block in this field, he falls again, this time landing back on the outside of the normal playing area.


Like various other aspects of the original Sonic game (and others), its special stages influenced and are referenced in Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, developed almost 20 years later. In the latter game, special stages (and their music) are similar in design; however, the player must rotate the maze manually, and collect set numbers of rings to open gates that block Sonic's path to the Emerald.

The original special stage also makes an appearance in the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode "Fast and Easy".


Several utilities that allow Sonic hackers to edit these stages and create new ones of their own have been released, including Cyan Helkaraxe's early Sonic 1 Maze-o-matic and the more recent Sonic 1 Special Stage Editor by Mercury.

The latter user also created a 'scavenger hunt' hack entitled Sonic: The One Ring, in which one of the features was that Giant Rings were added to Scrap Brain Zone Acts 1 and 2, affording players two more chances to collect all six Chaos Emeralds. Giant Rings in this hack would continue to send Sonic to the same stage until the player successfully completed it, allowing any acquired practise to remain fresh in their mind.

Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit)
Sonic1 title.png

Main page (Gen|2013|3D|Ages)
Level maps
Cheat codes (Gen)

Print advertisements
TV advertisements
Magazine articles

Secrets (Gen) (2013)
Bugs (Gen)
Hacking guide