Sonic & Knuckles
Hidden Palace Zone is the fifth overall Zone in Sonic & Knuckles, and the eleventh of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. It is the shortest zone in the game, featuring a single brief act, and solely functions as a qualitative transition between the Lava Reef and Sky Sanctuary zones. A unique feature that sets it apart from all other zones of the Sega Mega Drive-era Sonic the Hedgehog games is that it is purely devoted to the plot progression of the game. Hidden Palace is based off of a deleted zone with the same name from Sonic the Hedgehog 2; although, that is considered a separate location as it would have likely been located on West Side Island (as the 2013 mobile re-release of the game reveals).
Hidden Palace Zone takes place in a massive subterranean cavern populated by plateau-like formations of crystalline rock that line the floor and ceiling for as far as the eye can see; far in the background, a large, luminous entrance shines light into the cave. The Death Egg, face-down, sticks through the entrance so that it is visible from the player's perspective. The Death Egg is present in Sonic's Story, but absent in Knuckles'.
The Hidden Palace itself is depicted as a large castle-like structure. Sonic and Knuckles's image of the palace is a castle-like stronghold that houses the Master Emerald and seven smaller gems known as the Super Emeralds. The palace's architecture is adorned with pillar walls and a multitude of bright neon colors.
In Sonic's storyline (which can also be played as Tails in the lock-on Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles), Sonic arrives in Hidden Palace Zone after defeating Doctor Robotnik in Lava Reef Zone in his latest vehicle, the Hot Mobile. He encounters Knuckles the Echidna, who still believed Robotnik's claims that Sonic is evil, and the two proceed to fight each other. The room of the boss battle is particularly notable for a large stitched mural (possibly created by the now defunct Echidna Society) abstractly depicting what appears to be Sonic confronting Robotnik in a large robot, holding the Master Emerald.
After Sonic/Tails wins the fight against Knuckles, Knuckles flees the scene, quickly followed by the player. The protagonist moves into an open-air room of the palace where he finds Knuckles, angrily cursing Robotnik. The furious echidna watches spitefully as Robotnik tears the Master Emerald from its shrine with his Egg Mobile (which reveals to Knuckles that Robotnik is truly the antagonist, not Sonic) and begins to escape. Knuckles then attempts to attack Robotnik and grasps desperately onto the stolen Master Emerald, but cords snake down from the Egg Mobile and latch themselves onto Knuckles. Knuckles gets zapped, is knocked unconscious, and Robotnik gets away without any further resistance. The floor underneath Sonic and Knuckles then suddenly collapses and sends them plummeting into the palace's basement. Knuckles regains consciousness and leads Sonic/Tails to the palace's teleporter orb. He then jumps into the active teleporter, quickly followed by Sonic/Tails, into Sky Sanctuary Zone. No "Act Clear" screen is present for this act.
Hidden Palace Zone through Knuckles' perspective is a largely abridged version of Sonic's journey through the zone; no enemies or bosses are present, and the act ends immediately when Knuckles jumps into the transporter, teleporting him directly to Sky Sanctuary. The teleporter that warps Knuckles to Sky Sanctuary is the same teleporter that Sonic uses mid-act to teleport him onto the palace's roof.
A cutscene of Hidden Palace Zone also appears throughout the second half of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles (after the beginning of Mushroom Hill Zone), when the player successfully collects one of the Super Emeralds. When entering the first Special Stage after defeating Big Arm in Launch Base Zone, the Chaos Emeralds are transported to the Hidden Palace Zone's Emerald Shrine and transformed into Super Emeralds, although they have lost their potency and are a discolored gray hue. Jumping on a grey Emerald will transport the player to that Emerald's Special Stage, the completion of which will grant the player a Super Emerald and restore the null Emerald into its original color. When all seven Super Emeralds are restored, the player unlocks Hyper Sonic (or Hyper Knuckles, if playing as Knuckles), a more powerful form of Super Sonic/Super Knuckles.
Other game appearances
The Hidden Palace Zone returned in Sonic Mania as part of Lava Reef Zone. The Hidden Palace has two different entry points depending on if the player is controlling Sonic/Tails or Knuckles, leading to two different versions of the area, much like in Sonic & Knuckles. The rocket bound for Little Planet near Hidden Palace serves as the location for the boss battle of the Zone, with Sonic/Tails fighting the Heavy Rider, whilst Knuckles faces off against the Heavy King in front of the Master Emerald.
In other media
Sonic the Comic
- The prophetic mural in the background when the player is fighting Knuckles actually foreshadows the final boss fight in The Doomsday Zone.
- The player cannot beat Dr. Robotnik while he is stealing the Master Emerald. However, if the player can somehow get to where the trap is without Knuckles, the player character can hit Robotnik as many times as they want. Strangely, when the player hits him 256 times, he poofs into a Flicky like his Badniks. This triggers a glitch, where if the player uses Debug Mode and puts something in, Dr. Robotnik will be on it.
- Additionally, If the player defeats Knuckles while using Tails to keep Sonic in the air, the player can access the cutscene. If the player jumps into Robotnik, they may be taken to a Special Stage. After the Special Stage, the game will place the player back on Angel Island, the game will buzz and the ground will rise up before turning red. The sound of the Flying Battery airship will play, and the game will crash and reset itself.
- After the first teleporter, there is a secret area that only Tails (or Sonic with Tails) can reach without using Debug Mode, consisting of two ledges either side of a large gap. This contains 20 rings, invincibility, an extra life, a speed boost and all three kinds of shields.
- If the player plays as Knuckles, the Death Egg is gone from the background, most likely due to the fact that Sonic's story takes place before Knuckles', thus the Death Egg had already been destroyed at that point in time.
- In the Sound Test option, it is considered the fourth act of Lava Reef (the Lava Reef boss fight area is coded under "Lava Reef 3").
- This stage uses the same theme that plays during the second act of the Lava Reef Zone.
- In the beta versions of Sonic 3, this stage uses Sky Sanctuary's theme.
- The Hidden Palace Zone appears as a part of the Sonic the Hedgehog Adventure World in LEGO Dimensions. It contains a puzzle in which the player must memorize the order that the Super Emeralds light up in and mimic it.
- In Sonic Mania's Debug Mode Level Select, the Hidden Palace Zone portion of Lava Reef is listed as Act 3 of the Zone.
|Lava Reef Zone (Act 2)||Masayuki Nagao||1:43|