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At this point in development, the Sonic & Knuckles Bonus Stages are very unfinished. In normal play, Star Posts will randomly send the player to either the Gumball Machine or the Slot Machine when they pass them with at least 50 Rings. The color of the stars is always white.
|Sonic 3 1993-11-03 prototype
This Bonus Stage is vastly incomplete and thus does not appear in normal play, therefore the only way to access it is via level select with debug mode active. The 1993-11-03 prototype of Sonic 3 had early graphics for this Bonus Stage that were deleted in the final Sonic 3, and this prototype would retain those graphics along with a preliminary animating background. There is still no collision nor are there any objects besides a few placeholder Rings, and as a result, the player can only really die here.
The palette used here is exactly the same as the one that remains unused in Sonic 3 final and does not cycle.
There is a higher chance of getting 3 Robotnik/Eggman pictures on the slots than in the final version.
Using debug to fall out of the stage causes the game to crash. In the final, it takes you to a glitchy area with randomly placed tiles, a la Sonic 1.
The layout for this Bonus Stage is vastly different, with more Rings (a total of 64 compared to S&K Final's 24) and no GOAL blocks when starting the level (the borders still turn into GOAL blocks, though). The background is also completely static; the little objects don't rotate and nothing scrolls.
This Bonus Stage will see many more layout revisions throughout later builds before finally settling on the final layout in the 0608 build of Sonic & Knuckles.