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Even you can't breathe underwater, so you'll have to get to the surface. But bubbles like that are a way to grab some air while you're down there.


Miles "Tails" Prower, Sonic Colors (Wii)

The Air Bubble[1] (気泡 Kihō?), alternatively spelled as air bubble, and simply known as the bubble,[2] is an object that appears in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. They are large bubbles in underwater environments that can provide the playable characters with extra air to breathe, thus allowing said characters to stay underwater for extended periods of time. Without using Air Bubbles underwater to breathe, the playable character will eventually drown.

Since their introduction, the Air Bubbles have appeared in almost every underwater-themed level in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. While the Air Bubbles' purpose and functions have remained the same in all games, there have been cases in several games where they have aided the player in other ways.

Description

Air bubbles, from Sonic the Hedgehog 3.

Akin to their real-life counterparts, the Air Bubbles are large bubbles filled with oxygen. They appear exclusively in underwater-themed Zones. Within these levels, Air Bubbles can always be found in the sections of the Zones that are submerged in water or similar liquids such as Mega Mack; they do not appear in all underwater sections though. In gameplay, they periodically rise in small clusters from cracks in the submerged floors. However, there have been cases where Air Bubbles have emerged from other sources. Once an Air Bubble has emerged, it starts rising up towards the surface until it reaches it or simply disperses.

When the player has to stay underwater for longer periods of time without drowning, they can make their character make physical contact with an Air Bubble before running out of air. This will make the playable character automatically inhale the Air Bubble and cause it to vanish, thus restoring the playable character's oxygen supply and extending the time the player can remain underwater. The extended time underwater that Air Bubbles grant the player is limited though, and the playable character will eventually start to run out of air once more. Without using Air Bubbles underwater, the playable character will eventually drown, thus causing the player to lose a life.

While numerous Air Bubbles of all sizes are always released from their point of origin, it is only the biggest of them that the player can use to restore the playable character's oxygen supply, while the smaller ones go unnoticed by them. As such, the player often has to wait until a large enough Air Bubble pops out of the ground to be inhaled.

Air Bubbles are not necessarily needed by the player when passing through underwater sections, and a player can in some cases make it through a Zone without using them at all. However, because some underwater pathways in the Zones can be so long that the playable character cannot make it through them without getting at least one fresh supply of oxygen, Air Bubbles are usually necessary for the player's survival underwater.

Classic Sonic riding an Air Bubble, from Sonic Mania.

Although they mainly serve to extend the player's time limit when underwater, there have been cases in several games where the Air Bubbles have served other purposes. Most noticeably, a few games have featured extra large Air Bubbles, simply known as big bubbles[2] or large bubbles,[3] that can surround the playable character when they touch them. Whilst inside these ridable Air Bubbles, the playable character cannot drown and deflect enemy energy shots, like an Aqua Shield, while floating slowly towards the surface automatically. In addition, while riding these Air Bubbles, the player can move to the left or right and change the speed of the bubble's ascent by pressing up/down on Controlpadds.png. These bubbles can be popped by Spin Jumping out of them, hitting hazards, or colliding with walls or ceilings.

Countdown sequence

Sonic drowns after the countdown ends, from Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit).

In numerous games in the Sonic series, including they early main games for the Sega Mega Drive, if the player is in an underwater section and does not get an Air Bubble within eighteen seconds, a countdown sequence will start. A small two-note jingle can be heard between five, ten, and fifteen seconds before this happens. When the countdown sequence begins, the game will display a countdown from five to zero on the screen. If the player does not get an Air Bubble or gets back to the surface before the alarm music ends and counter reaches zero, then a second later, the playable character will drown.

The alarm jingle, that signifies that the player is about to drown, is believed to be composed by Yukifumi Makino, the sound programmer of Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit)[Note 1] and it has since then been used in many later games through the series.

Countdown jingles

Game Length Composer Music track
Sonic the Hedgehog/Sonic the Hedgehog 2 0:13 Yukifumi Makino
Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure 0:11 Maitaro
Sonic Rush/Sonic Rush Adventure/Sonic Colors (Nintendo DS) 0:12 Yukifumi Makino
Sonic Colors (Wii) 0:19 Amsterdam Session Orchestra
Sonic Generations 0:19 Kenichi Tokoi
Sonic Mania/Sonic Mania Plus 0:14 Tee Lopes

Game appearances

Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit)

Air bubbles, from Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit).

In Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit), and its numerous ports and remasters, air bubbles[4] appear in most underwater sections of Labyrinth Zone and Scrap Brain Zone Act 3.

Sonic the Hedgehog (8-bit)

In Sonic the Hedgehog (8-bit), air bubbles[5] only appear in Labyrinth Zone. Also, instead of hearing the infamous alarm jingle when about to run out of air, the player hears a beeping sound that increases in frequency the closer Sonic gets to drowning.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-bit)

Sonic riding a big bubble, from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-bit).

In Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-bit), Air Bubbles, simply known as bubbles,[2] appear exclusively in the underwater areas of Aqua Lake Zone. Also, in addition to the regular bubbles, this Zone features extra large ridable air bubbles, which are called big bubbles.[2]

When about to run out of air in this game, instead of hearing the infamous alarm jingle, the player hears a beeping sound every time the counter counts down.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (16-bit)

Air bubbles, from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (16-bit).

In Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (16-bit), its numerous ports and remasters, and the lock-on game Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the air bubbles[6] make an appearance in the underwater areas of Aquatic Ruin Zone. In the 2013 remaster, they also appear in Hidden Palace Zone.

Sonic the Hedgehog CD

The Egg Bubble using air bubbles to defend itself, from Sonic the Hedgehog CD.

In Sonic the Hedgehog CD, the Windows 95 version, and the 2011 remaster, the air bubbles[7] appear only in the underwater areas of Tidal Tempest. Also, during the battle with the Egg Bubble, Dr. Robotnik will create a large shield of air bubbles around the boss vehicle. The player is required to inhale the air bubbles in order to create an opening in the shield so they can hit and defeat Robotnik.

When about to run out of air in this game, instead of hearing the infamous alarm jingle, the player will hear an eerie bubbling sound that plays in the background during the countdown.

Sonic Chaos

An air bubble, from Sonic Chaos.

In Sonic Chaos, the air bubbles[8] appear in the underwater areas of Aqua Planet Zone.

When about to run out of air in this game, instead of hearing the infamous alarm jingle, the player hears a beeping sound as the counter counts down.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3

Tails creating Air Bubbles by popping Balloons in Carnival Night Zone, from Sonic the Hedgehog 3.

In Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and the lock-on game, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, the typical Air Bubbles make an appearance in Hydrocity Zone. In addition, in Carnival Night Zone Act 2, the player can release Air Bubbles by popping Balloons whilst underwater. However, in Carnival Night Zone, they are not needed as the underwater sections are rather short.

Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble

Sonic riding a large bubble, from Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble.

In Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble, the Air Bubbles, known as smaller bubbles,[3] make an appearance in Tidal Plant Zone. Also, in addition to regular smaller bubbles, this Zone features extra large ridable bubbles that are known as large bubbles.[3] To release these bubbles however, the player has to press a nearby pink Switch.

When about to run out of air in this game, instead of hearing the infamous alarm jingle, the player hears a beeping sound every time the counter counts down.

Sonic Blast

An air bubble, from Sonic Blast.

In Sonic Blast, the air bubbles[9] play the same role as in earlier games, though they are weirdly enough shaped like sausages rather than being spherical in shape. In gameplay, they appear in the underwater areas of Blue Marine Zone. Also, when fighting the boss of that Zone, the player can make the boss fire harpoons into the ground in order to release air bubbles for the playable character to rely on for air during the boss battle.

When about to run out of air in this game, no special music or sound effect is played during the countdown.

Sonic Adventure

An Air Bubble, from Sonic Adventure.

In Sonic Adventure its enhanced port Sonic Adventure DX: Director's Cut, and the 2010 remaster, the Air Bubbles make an appearance in the underwater areas of Emerald Coast, Icecap and Lost World. In this game, however, they are rather useless as these underwater sections are not too deep and can be gotten out of easily. Also, they appear as 2D objects that are constantly facing at the camera.

Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure

An Air Bubble, from Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure.

In Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure, the only time the Air Bubbles make an appearance in this game are in the underwater sections of Aquatic Relix Zone.

Sonic Shuffle

In Sonic Shuffle, Air Bubbles appear as board Spaces that can be found on the Emerald Coast Board. When a player enters the water, a five-turn counter will be placed on them. By passing over an Air Bubble space, the counter will be reset to five turns. However, if the playable character does not reach an Air Bubble space or reach the surface before the counter reaches zero, they will drown and wash up on the surface, wasting a turn.

Sonic Adventure 2

An Air Bubble, from the 2012 remaster of Sonic Adventure 2.

In Sonic Adventure 2 and its enhanced port Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, and the 2012 remaster, the Air Bubbles make an appearance in the underwater sections of both Aquatic Mine and Cannon's Core.

Sonic Advance series

Sonic Advance

An Air Bubble, from Sonic Advance.

In Sonic Advance, the Air Bubbles are only encountered in the underwater sections of Ice Mountain Zone.

Sonic Advance 3

An Air Bubble, from Sonic Advance 3.

In Sonic Advance 3, the Air Bubbles are restricted to the underwater areas in Ocean Base and Twinkle Snow's Acts.

Sonic Rush

In Sonic Rush, the Air Bubbles only appear in the underwater areas found within Water Palace.

Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood

Air Bubbles, from Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood.

In Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, Air Bubbles appear in the game's last chapter when Sonic and Tails' team enter Prefect Charyb's lair on Nocturne. At that point, Prefect Charyb appears and floods the lair with water, causing Air Bubbles to appear. While moving around the submerged lair, the player's party will gradually lose POW Points (PP). However, the player can refill their PP using Air Bubbles. Once a character's PP reaches zero, that character's HP will then begin depleting until they only have one HP left.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I

An Air Bubble, from Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I.

In Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, the Air Bubbles only make an appearance in the underwater sections of Lost Labyrinth Zone Act 3.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II

Air Bubbles, from Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II.

In Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, the underwater areas in Sylvania Castle Zone and White Park Zone are the only places where the Air Bubbles can be found.

Sonic Colors

An Air Bubble, from the Wii version of Sonic Colors.

In both the Wii version and Nintendo DS version of Sonic Colors, along with in the remaster, Sonic Colors: Ultimate, the Air Bubbles make an appearance. In every version of the game, they mainly appear in the underwater sections of Aquarium Park. In the Wii version and Sonic Colors: Ultimate, the Air Bubbles also appear in the underwater sections of the Game Land.

Sonic Generations

An Air Bubble, from the console/PC version of Sonic Generations.

In the console/PC version and Nintendo 3DS version of Sonic Generations, the Air Bubbles make an appearance. On the console/PC version of the game, the Air Bubbles appear in the underwater sections of Chemical Plant and Seaside Hill and their associated Challenge Acts. In the Nintendo 3DS version on the other hand, the Air Bubbles only appear in the underwater sections of Water Palace and its missions.

In the Nintendo 3DS version of the game, the alarm music for drowning is not featured. Instead, the countdown uses submarine radar noises for each number.

Sonic Lost World

An Air Bubble, from the Nintendo 3DS version of Sonic Lost World.

In the Nintendo 3DS version of Sonic Lost World, the Air Bubbles can only be found in the underwater sections of Tropical Coast.

Sonic Mania

An Air Bubble, from Sonic Mania.

In Sonic Mania, and its expansion Sonic Mania Plus, the Air Bubbles only appear in the underwater sections of Hydrocity Zone. Also, in addition to the regular Air Bubbles, this Zone's first Act features extra large ridable Air Bubbles that can be pushed around by Fans. To release these bubbles however, the player has to press a nearby Switch while underwater.

When facing the Laundro Mobile, the player can create Air Bubbles to rely on for air during the first phase of the boss battle by colliding with water mines.

Sonic Forces

An Air Bubble, from Sonic Forces.

In Sonic Forces, the Air Bubbles only appear in the sections of Chemical Plant that are submerged in Mega Mack.

In other media

Animation

Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog

In the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog television series, Dr. Robotnik and his robot son managed to drop Sonic into the sewer. However, Sonic was later seen inhaling Air Bubbles to survive underwater.[10]

Books and comics

Archie Comics

In the Sonic the Hedgehog comic series and its spin-offs published by Archie Comics, Sonic was once about to drown after keeping himself from being pulled into an underwater Roboticizer by Jaws. Fortunately, thanks to a distraction provided by Tails and Rotor in the Bathysphere, Sonic was able to get some air from some Air Bubbles they made, and destroyed the Roboticizer.[11]

Sonic the Comic

In the Sonic the Comic comic series and its spin-offs published by Fleetway Editions, some stories depict Air Bubbles in flooded Zones and locations. During a trip to the Aquatic Ruin Zone, where he got trapped by debris, Sonic tried to reach some Air Bubbles, but was unable to do so until a Sentinel rescued him from drowning.[12] Later, Grimer invented a trap to catch Sonic within the waters of Labyrinth Zone. There, Sonic was ambushed by new spider Badniks that shot fire, and fell into the water. After fighting a pair of Spikers, he found a vent of Air Bubbles where the trap was located and was engulfed by an impenetrable bubble of ultra-tough plastic. However, he escaped the trap using the flames of the new spider Badniks.[13]

Sonic X

In the Sonic X comic series published by Archie Comics, while trapped underwater in a virtual Labyrinth Zone, Sonic and Amy used Air Bubbles to breathe underwater while Knuckles and Rouge dealt with the surroundings.[14]

Trivia

  • According to Yuji Naka, the idea for Air Bubbles came from thinking of ways to make the playable character have a weakness, as the developer team implemented it to the Labyrinth Zone.[15]
  • In most of 3D games, the player instantly dies when falling into the water. They can, however, run across the water at a certain speed and at right angles.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Air Bubbles exist within the sprite list of Launch Base Zone Act 2, even though none are ever encountered within this zone, despite there being underwater segments. They can be placed using Debug Mode.

Notes

  1. The drowning theme, along with the Chaos Emerald jingle, is not known to be composed by Masato Nakamura. Any of these two jingles aren't featured in Sonic the Hedgehog 1&2 Soundtrack album, as these jingles can be assumed to be composed by Yukifumi Makino.

References

  1. Sonic Team (4 November 2011). Sonic Generations. PlayStation 3. Sega. Area/Level: Chemical Plant (loading screen). "Omochao: You need air to stay underwater. Use Air Bubbles to catch your breath!"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Sega Game Gear) United States instruction booklet, pg. 12.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble (Sega Game Gear) United States instruction booklet, pg. 14.
  4. Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Genesis) United States instruction booklet, pg. 7.
  5. Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Game Gear) United States instruction booklet, pg. 10.
  6. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Sega Genesis) United States instructions booklet, pg. 13.
  7. Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Sega CD) United States instruction booklet, pg. 13.
  8. Sonic Chaos (Sega Game Gear) United States instruction booklet, pg. 15.
  9. Sonic Blast (Sega Game Gear) United States instruction booklet, pg. 11.
  10. Askin, Robert (22 October 1993). "Robotnik, Jr.". Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Season 1. Episode 29.
  11. Sonic the Hedgehog #1, "Something Fishy"
  12. Sonic the Comic #29, "The Sentinel"
  13. Sonic the Comic #83, "Bubble Trouble"
  14. Sonic X #11, "No Thanks for the Memories! Part Two"
  15. Yuji Naka; Sonic Team. Sonic Jam Strategy Guide. "As for the air bubble idea, we were thinking of ways to make the character more unique, so we thought giving him some sort of weakness would be a good idea, and since there was a water stage, why not have him sink? So what to do when he gets in the water stage, we wondered, and after some deliberation we came up with the air bubbles."
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