Spheres (スフィア,Sufia?), also called Balls (ボール,Bōru?) and Orbs, are objects that appear in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. Most of the time being found in Special Stages, Spheres come in different colors and numerous variations, that in each game serve a different purpose for the player. Spheres have made their first appearance in Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
First appearing in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, its add-on continuation Sonic & Knuckles and the lock-on Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, the game introduces to three different type of Spheres, that are featured in the game's Special Stages: blue, red and dark yellow. The blue ones are collectible, which will transform to the red sphere after running over them. The player has to avoid red spheres, as they can transport them out of the Special Stage to the regular Act. Orange/Dark Yellow spheres can only be found in Sonic & Knuckles, as the player runs toward it, he/she flies to the air and lands after flying over six rows of spheres.
The goal of the Special Stages is stated at the beginning of the level: the player has to collect all blue Spheres from the arena in order to complete it and get rewarded with one of seven Chaos Emeralds, while the player has to avoid all red spheres at all costs, which also appear after the player runs over blue spheres. The player is also able to avoid red spheres by Spin Jumping over them. The counter at the upper left corner tells to the player how many blue spheres are left. There are numerous red sphere groups in the Special Stages, as the player has to follow the routes and find blue ones, that can be found mostly in groups. If the player runs over blue spheres along the borders of a rectangular shape, all of the blue spheres in the group turn into a Ring. This technique does not work on small groups of blue spheres though, where there are four or less blue spheres. Once all blue spheres are collected, all objects in the Special Stage rise up and disappear and the player has successfully earned a Chaos Emerald.
Blue spheres make an appearance in Knuckles' Chaotix, where they are also featured in Special Stages. Like in their previous appearance, the player is required to collect a certain amount of Blue Spheres from the Special Stage before the player passes each checkpoint. They are simply laying around the route of the Special Stage and can be found on ceilings and other tricky places. When a blue sphere is collected in this game, it does not turn into a red sphere. There are two other different colored spheres in the sixth Special Stage, which function as springs. Yellow spheres bounce the player to an average height, while green spheres bounce the player to a higher height.
If the player does not collect enough Blue Spheres after passing the checkpoint, the player has to repeat the section to get enough Blue Spheres before the ring count ticks to zero (which functions as a second timer in the Special Stage). If the player collects all Blue Spheres after two checkpoints, the player is rewarded one of the Chaos Rings.
Sonic Jam (Game.com)
In Sonic Jam (Game.com), spheres (referred to as balls) make an appearance in the game's Special Stages, where they work exactly like in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. In gameplay, they only appear in black and white due to the Game.com's monochrome graphics. The black ones are collectible, which will transform into white ones after running over them. The player has to avoid white balls, as they can transport them out of the Special Stage to the regular Act.
In gameplay, the player's objective is to collect all black balls from the arena in order to complete the Special Stage while avoiding the white ones at all costs, which also appear after the playable character runs over black balls. The player is also able to avoid white balls by Spin Jumping over them. The counter in the upper left corner of the HUD tells the player how many black balls are left. There are numerous white ball groups in the Special Stages, as the player has to follow the routes and find black ones, that can be found mostly in groups. If the player runs over black balls along the borders of a rectangular shape, all of the black balls in the group turn into Rings. This technique does not work on small groups of black spheres though, where there are four or less black balls. Once all black balls have successfully been collected, the player will have completed the Special Stage.
Multiple types of Spheres make an appearance in Sonic Heroes, where once again the player can find them in the game's Special Stages. Here, there are three different kinds of Sphere types, which all serve the same purpose: to fill the Power Dash Meter with energy and grant additional points. The first ones are Multicolored Spheres; which are different colored Spheres in groups or long strings. These spheres will give a small amount of energy to the Power Dash Meter. The slightly larger red spheres with star prints are called Super Spheres (スーパースフィア) which give a large amount energy for the Power Dash Meter (equivalent to that of ten normal Multicolored Spheres). The blue spheres with the star prints called Score Spheres (スコアスフィア) can give even more energy than the Super Spheres.
These two last mentioned variants can be also found floating in the middle of the route, which are able to be collected by bouncing on springs or hanging on pulleys and moving it to the left and right while collecting spheres (the latter gimmick only appearing in Bonus Challenge stages). Some of these are set on pillar formats, which can be collected by using the Fly Type character. At some points of Bonus Challenges, a Neutral Chao and a Dark Chao appear in a large balloon and both of them start throwing spheres or bombs. Normally if the player keeps running past the numerous sphere strings, it will give a huge amount of points and extra time for the player in Bonus Challenges. In Emerald Challenges, there are long trails of red Super Spheres usually placed near towards the end of the Special Stage to help the player catch up to the Chaos Emerald.
Spheres make another appearance in the Nintendo DS version of Sonic Colors, as they they are featured in the game's Special Stages. There are three different colored Spheres: blue, red and yellow. The player has to collect Spheres in a certain order, as the player has to collect red ones and avoid other colored ones. After the checkpoint, the player will keep looping on the same track, but this time the player has to collect blue colored Spheres (while avoiding others) and after the second checkpoint, the player has to collect yellow Spheres. If the player has the required number of Spheres or higher on all three checkpoints, the player will be rewarded with a Chaos Emerald.
Spheres make yet another appearance in the Nintendo 3DS version of Sonic Generations in the game's Special Stages, which are based on the ones from Sonic Heroes. All three types of spheres (multicolored, Super Spheres and Score Spheres) make an appearance with the same functions as well, as they can increase the player's Boost Gauge.
Sonic Lost World
In Nintendo 3DS version of Sonic Lost World, spheres make a reappearance as collectable items in the version-exclusive Special Stages, where blue and red types of spheres are seen floating around in a space-like void, which the player has to collect in order to get the Chaos Emeralds.
In the Special Stages, the blue Spheres fill a gauge at the top of the screen that represents the player's Mach speed. Filling up this bar all the way increases the player's speed from Mach 1 to Mach 2, and then to Mach 3, allowing them to catch up to the UFO easier. Continuing to collect Spheres will award bonus points for each subsequent time the gauge is filled. A Sphere capsule also appears in some Special Stages, which automatically fills the Mach gauge by a large amount.
In the Bonus Stages, the spheres work just like their Sonic 3 & Knuckles Special Stage counterparts, as the Bonus Stages are derived from these stages. In the Mania mode of the unlockable Blue Sphere side mode in the game, two new kinds of spheres are introduced: green Spheres that turn into blue spheres when collected, and pink spheres that act as warps.
The Japanese instruction manual of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 referred to the Spheres as Balls (ボール,Bōru?), but in the games following Knuckles' Chaotix, Japanese manuals have referred to them as Spheres. In the same matter, the line "Get Blue Spheres" was originally "Get Blue Balls" during game's development, which was then changed for the final version.
Despite being collectible orb-shaped objects, spheres are not to be confused with Gumballs from Bonus Stages in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. Gumballs give items that are inside of them; Spheres only give power for boosting or points.