Special Stages, also called Special Zones,[Note 1] in Sonic the Hedgehog CD are a series of seven extra levels. In order to access them, the player must jump into the Giant Ring that appears at the end of each Zone while in possession of at least fifty Rings.
The objective in the Special Stages is to chase down and destroy all six UFOs in each of them. The player will then be rewarded with one of the seven Time Stones. Like destroying all robot transporters in the Zones, getting all Time Stones automatically changes each Round's Bad Future to a Good Future.
The Special Stages are ominous environments with winding roads on top of pools. Each stage features different layout and futuristic visual setting viewed from a parallax background.
When entering the Special Stage, the player stands on a square, pseudo-3D board. The player is then tasked to destroy all six UFOs that hover around the stage within 100 seconds. Since the playable characters are constantly running here, the player can only turn left and right with the and use the Spin Jump to leap or destroy UFOs.
Running on the grassy sections of the boards lowers the player's movement, while touching the water surrounding the boards will decrease the player's time by ten seconds. Destroying different UFOs will also grant different power-ups. There are likewise various gimmicks set around the Special Stages that the player can use to navigate the boards and reach UFOs.
If the player fails to destroy all the UFOs in time, they will exit the Special Stage. Destroying all six UFOs rewards the player with a Time Stone that falls into the playable character's possession. As the player exits the Special Stage, their Ring and Time Bonuses (based on the player's performance) are added to their Total Score. Should the player collect all seven Time Stones, the Round's Bad Futures in each Zone automatically change to Good Futures. However, the player cannot enter the Special Stages again in normal gameplay. The game's ending will also change drastically.
Gimmicks and obstacles
|Chopper Block (ダメージブロック
Damējiburokku?, lit. "Damage Block")
|Obstacles placed in rows. Passing through a Chopper Blocks makes the playable character come to a complete stop and lose Rings.|
|Fan Block (扇風機ブロック
Senpūki burokku?, lit. "Fan Block")
|Moving over Fan Blocks sends the player floating into midair. The player can use them to reach far away UFOs.|
|Spring Block (スプリングブロック
|Moving over Spring Blocks bounces the player high into the air.|
|Dash Zone (ダッシュゾーン
|Dash Zones give an extra boost of speed, usually in their indicated direction.|
|Mini Dash Zone (ミニダッシュゾーン
|A miniature Dash Zone that gives an extra boost of speed, usually in its indicated direction.|
|Bumper||Flashy borders in each Special Stage board that can bounce the player backwards or sideways. Depending how fast the player move, the further way they will bounce.|
|Water||Causes the time limit to decrease more rapidly.|
Three items are available in the Special Stage, each of which are hidden inside UFOs:
- Super Ring (スピードアツブ Supīdoatsubu?, lit. "Speed Up"): Gives the player twenty Rings, or a multiple of twenty Rings if the player hits more than one ring UFO in succession. UFOs containing Super Rings are identified by their yellow stripes. The player can get a maximum of 300 Rings here if they consecutively hit all 4 UFOs containing Super Rings.
- Sneakers (スピードアップ Supīdoappu?, lit. "Speed Up"): Makes the playable character run faster. UFOs containing Super Rings are identified by their white stripes.
- Time Bonus (タイムアップ Taimuappu?, lit. "Time Up"): Extends the time limit. This is only available in a blue UFO that appears in the center of the Special Stage once the time limit drops below twenty seconds, and is not available in Time Attack mode. Destroying it will not contribute to the total number of UFOs required to complete the Special Stage.
Special Stages can be replayed in Time Attack after the player clears Time Attack in less than 30'21"05. Pressing left on on the menu screen will view a list of the game's seven Special Stages. Unlike in regular Zones, Special Stages in Time Attack have the "Next" option removed from the top menu.
In Time Attack, the gameplay of the Special Stages has been changed slightly: the time limit is removed and water will not affect the player's progress. Blue UFOs are also not present here.
- The Special Stages originally featured two independently rotating mazes that Sonic would have to travel through to find a Time Stone. This concept was changed due to Super Mario Kart.
- The Special Stages are accessed in the same way as those in Sonic the Hedgehog (1991).
- By adjusting the codes FM#07, PCM#07, DA#07 (PCM#07, DA#07 for the 1996 PC release) in the Sound Test and pressing START button, it will activate a secret Special Stage with its own board layout and a gigantic Eggman head looking at the screen from the horizon. Completing this secret Special Stage will unlock additional credits where the development staff behind the game's Special Stages are included.
- The 2011 re-release of Sonic the Hedgehog CD features consistent 60 FPS frame-rate that support the widescreen format during the Special Stages. The re-release also includes the following alterations:
- The UFOs that carry the Sneakers are blue, most likely to better differentiate them from the purple ones, which carry Super Rings. In the original, gold and silver stripes on the UFOs (which could only be seen close up) indicated this difference.
- In the Special Stages, the "warning" sound for when time is running out starts when four seconds are remaining, as opposed to the original's fourteen seconds.
- In order to access the Special Stage's Time Attack, the player has to select the "Next" icon, rather than pressing left on .
|Special Stage (US)||Spencer Nilsen, David Young||2:20|
|Special Stage (JP)||Masafumi Ogata||3:45|
- Although titled as Special Stages in manuals, the results screen and Time Attack menu refers to them as Special Zones.
- Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Sega CD) United States instruction manual pg. 15.
- Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Sega CD) United States instruction booklet, pg. 16.
- Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Sega CD) Japanese instruction booklet, pg. 23.
- Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Sega CD) United States instruction booklet, pg. 15.
- Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Sega CD) Japanese instruction booklet, pg. 22.