Sonic & Knuckles
Sky Sanctuary Zone (スカイサンクチュアリー ゾーン Sukai Sankuchuarī Zōn?), also known as the Sky Palace, is the sixth overall Zone of Sonic & Knuckles and the twelfth of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. It is an ancient ruin scattered throughout the sky above Angel Island. It is considered to be sacred ground which is forbidden for anyone except Knuckles the Echidna to enter or walk on.
Sky Sanctuary is composed mostly of pillars and towers that appear to bear some type of Roman or Gothic-style architecture. The Zone features sparse bridges and beams connecting them. Only the tops of the towers are ever seen, as the Zone takes place towering above a thick sheet of clouds, but the whole of the sanctuary is believed to float in a manner similar to Angel Island. The stone pillars are all a weathered yellow in color, and vines grow unrestrained everywhere.
In Knuckles' story, the Zone overlooks Angel Island, floating far away amongst the clouds. All that is seen of the Zone is a dull, flat arena where Knuckles faces Mecha Sonic Mk. II. The Master Emerald sits near the right of the arena. Also, in Knuckles' version of the Sky Sanctuary Zone, Angel Island continually descends in the background as the player spends more time in the Zone. At ten minutes, which is the normal time limit for the Zone, Angel Island disappears under Sky Sanctuary Zone.
Having arriving in Sky Sanctuary Zone via a Warp Point, Sonic and Tails are subsequently forced to jump from platform to platform, climbing up the Zone and chasing the ascending Death Egg before it rises too high into orbit. Knuckles briefly helps Sonic and Tails by activating a bridge in the Sky Sanctuary Zone, but he is not able to continue any further due to exhaustion from the events in Hidden Palace Zone. Along the way, Sonic and Tails are also forced to battle numerous Eggrobos. At various points of the Zone however, Sonic is forced to fight Mecha Sonic Mk. II. After the series of battles however, Sonic defeats Mecha Sonic Mk. II. Following their final battle, Sonic and Tails run up a corkscrew ramp to the top of a tall floating landmass that literally crumbles and falls beneath them, then leaps aboard the Death Egg.
Having arrived in Sky Sanctuary Zone via a Warp Point, Knuckles finds himself looking for the Eggrobo he has been chasing all over the Floating Island. Immediately after however, said Eggrobo appears in an Egg Mobile with a hook claw attached to it. Knuckles tries to get away, but is grabbed by the Eggrobo with its Egg Mobile's hook claw. Knuckles is then carried before Mecha Sonic Mk. II, who is revealed to have stolen the Master Emerald, meaning that it is only a matter of time before the Floating Island falls down from the sky. As Mecha Sonic Mk. II moves in and gets ready to finish Knuckles off with a Spin Dash though, Knuckles breaks free from the Egg Mobile's claw in the last second and glides away while Mecha Sonic Mk. II rams into the Egg Mobile, destroying it and the Eggrobo. Afterward, Knuckles begins his fight with Mecha Sonic.
At Knuckles brings Mecha Sonic Mk. II on the verge of defeat, the robot retreats and uses the Master Emerald to enter its Super State. With his opponent stronger than ever, Knuckles is forced into a race against time to get the Master Emerald before the Floating Island falls into the sea, which is visible to him in the distance. After Knuckles defeats Mecha Sonic Mk. II though, it detonates with a large explosion, initiating a cascade effect that destroys any remainder of the Zone; Knuckles barely escapes unscathed thanks to a timely assist from Sonic and the Tornado.
If Knuckles has all of the Chaos Emeralds, he also manages to salvage the Master Emerald from the chaos; as he and Sonic fly back to Angel Island, they rightfully deposit the sacred gem back into its home island, causing the Floating Island to flash and rise higher into the sky. If Knuckles does not have all of the Chaos Emeralds, the Master Emerald is left behind while a tired Knuckles is escorted away as Floating Island falls into the sea below. After the credits, Mecha Sonic Mk. II is then shown to have the Master Emerald in its possession.
While there are very few features to note about in Knuckles' version of Sky Sanctuary Zone due to its very small size, Sonic's version of the Zone is a very tall Zone split into a few sections. There are Pole Elevators that the player can grab onto and then jump off to reach higher places. The player can also jump on Clouds which will flip the player into the air. There are also spinning platforms that revolve the characters around. Warp Points appear as well throughout the Zone, which transport the player vertically upwards to the higher sections of the Zone.
The floating gray stone pillars serving as mid-air platforms crumble as soon as the player steps on them. There are also small black platforms with spikes beneath that swing along a fixed arc. The player can jump on them, remaining in their Spin Attack form as they ride them and can jump off of at any time or wait to dash right off of them as soon as the swinging platform touches the ground. It is also possible to be crushed by them. There are also yellow grass paths that crumble shortly after the player runs on them.
This Act is exclusive to Sonic's storyline. However, note that, in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, playing as Tails will initiate Sonic's version of the Act. Sonic's version of the Zone acts like just about any other Zone Sonic has passed through, with only one Act to clear. Many pitfalls and the danger of falling down to a lower elevation, as well as the threat of Time Overs, are present in this Zone. Spikes and one type of Badnik are the obstacles Sonic (and Tails) must overcome, with the occasional threat of being crushed by moving spikes or rotating spike platforms.
After making it to various sections of Sky Sanctuary Zone, Sonic is forced to fight Mecha Sonic Mk. II, in three separate boss battles. At first, Mecha Sonic Mk. II pilots the Egg Wrecker, then the Egg Bouncer, and in the third battle, it attacks on foot without assistance, proving itself a dangerous enemy in its own right. After winning this last fight against the robot, Mecha Sonic's unresponsive body is seen falling along with the crumbling ground, while Sonic (and Tails) proceeds upwards into the Death Egg hovering above.
As Knuckles, this is the final Act of his story, and consists of boss fights against Mecha Sonic Mk. II and Super Mecha Sonic Mk. II. The Act is very small; it consists of three flat, bounded sections; the first for the initial cutscene with EggRobo and the remaining two for each of the boss fights. The first section contains only three Rings above the Warp Point that Knuckles emerges from which he collects automatically to help him survive through both fights. The trigger for the first Mecha Sonic fight occurs immediately right as Knuckles emerges from the Warp Point, where EggRobo appears to pick up Knuckles, the first boss fight against Mecha Sonic following after this. After winning the first Mecha Sonic fight, the Zone will transition him into the furthest section of the Act where the Master Emerald can be seen for the second Mecha Sonic boss fight.
- Sky Sanctuary Zone's background music featured in Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic the Hedgehog 3 soundtrack album is arranged by Akinori Minami. The November 1994 issue of Beep! MegaDrive had a promotional interview for the music album, where the sound director referred the track as "Castle in the sky" (天空の城 Tenkū no shiro?).
- All three of the fights with Mecha Sonic Mk. II bear some similarity with bosses in earlier games, although the second fight is made much easier by the Insta-Shield move, something which Sonic did not have when facing the original version in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The last battle with the two Sonics on foot can be likened to the fight with Mecha Sonic in the Death Egg Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
- If the player plays this Zone as Sonic and/or Tails and crouches at a certain location after Knuckles activates the bridge, Knuckles will make a "shooing" gesture at the player's character(s) before turning to the player themselves.
- If the player finishes the stage with a shield power-up, they will notice that when the playable character leaps off the corkscrew, his sprite is just left suspended barely off screen, and half of his shield will remain visible in midair.
- In Level Select, the Sonic (and/or Tails) and Knuckles versions of the Zone are separated as Act 1 and Act 2 respectively. With Debug Mode enabled, it is possible for Sonic and/or Tails to play through Knuckles' version of the Zone and vice-versa.
- When Knuckles plays through Sonic/Tails' version of Sky Sanctuary Zone in the original version of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, both the player's Knuckles and the "non-playable" version of (NPC) Knuckles appear in the introduction sequence of the Zone, the latter behaving as if he was helping Sonic and/or Tails in their scenarios. In the 2022 remaster of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles in Sonic Origins though, the NPC Knuckles is entirely absent from the introduction sequence; the bridge is still created automatically after the rising Death Egg moves offscreen.
- The music for the Sky Sanctuary Zone was remixed for Chaotic Space Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure.
- If the player triggers the sound effects (i.e. collecting Rings, destroying Badniks, etc.) during the music of Sky Sanctuary Zone, the trumpet instrument of the track will momentarily disappear, with the bass still playing.
- The music for this Zone is used for the first portion of the ending cutscene of each character's story in the original releases of Sonic & Knuckles (and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles) before the credits medley begins. In the 2022 remaster of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles in Sonic Origins, the Sky Sanctuary Zone music is no longer used in said portions if the player obtains all of the Chaos Emeralds; instead, the ending music from the November 1993 prototype of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is used.
- According to an interview with with Takashi by Game Informer, Sky Sanctuary Zone's theme is Iizuka's favorite amongst the songs from the classic Sonic era.
- The center pillars of the spinning platforms bear a similar design as the spinning pillars seen from Hydrocity Zone.
|"Sky Sanctuary Zone"||Tomonori Sawada||2:09|
|"Sky Sanctuary" (FM Synthesizer)||2:03|
|"Sky Sanctuary" (General MIDI)||2:03|
- Sonic & Knuckles (Sega Genesis) United States instruction booklet, pg. 13.
- Sonic & Knuckles (Sega Mega Drive) Japanese instruction booklet, pg. 36.
- (in Japanese) ソニックジャム オフィシャルガイド. SoftBank. 2 October 1997. p. 86. ISBN 978-4797303377.
- "ゲームサウンドから見んてくるソニック&ナックルズの全統". Beep! MegaDrive (SoftBank): 32. 8 October 1994. "編集部 8曲目はどういう意味なんだろう。 セガ 我々は「天空の城」って呼んでましたね。 イメージは、青い空があって、雲がブァーッと浮いてて、上へ上へと昇っていくような。 これはアナログシンセサイザーの音をイメージして音を作っています。 プアーッと広がるという。 個人的に気に入ってますし、一番聴いてもらいたい曲です。"
- Sonic Frontiers: 123 Rapid-Fire Questions With Takashi Iizuka. YouTube. Game Informer (12 July 2022). Retrieved on 13 July 2022.