Sonic Mania’s Special Stages are a massive improvement to the Sonic the Hedgehog series in that they’re Special Stages that aren’t complete trash. They’re actually really fun to play as they reward cornering through the map and and speeding through rings just like in the main game.
Special Stages are entered by finding giant golden rings hidden in levels. Once inside, you have to chase down a UFO holding a Chaos Emerald. You do so by collecting blue spheres to increase your speed and rings to extend your time in the level as you run around a 3D map. If the timer runs out, you lose the stage. If you manage to catch up to the UFO, you’ll retrieve the Chaos Emerald.
While Special Stages are fun, they’re also surprisingly tricky. Here are five tips and tricks to help you nab that emerald.
1. Prioritize Rings
Blue spheres are essential to reaching the UFO. However, rings will keep you in the stage for longer and give you a better chance of actually reaching the UFO. So prioritize collecting rings over spheres.
2. Cut Corners
Anything that isn’t the main track will slow you down. So if you see a turn with a patch of dirt, jump over the patch of dirt as you turn so you can turn around quicker and catch up to the UFO faster. Think of it as using a mushroom boost to cut corners in Mario Kart.
3. Go Off the Beaten Path in the Beginning
Special Stages take place in a circuit with some branching paths. While many of the branching paths put you further away from the UFO, they often contain most of the stage’s collectible goodies. That’s why you should take the detour to collect spheres and rings and then spend the rest of the stage catching up to the UFO along the most optimal path. However, don’t be afraid to duck back into branching paths if you’re running out of rings.
4. Don’t Get Nervous When You Speed Up
Once you collect enough spheres, you’ll start to get really fast. While it will be much harder to dodge obstacles, don’t panic. Start focusing less on your player character and more on what’s in front of them so you can see and dodge obstacles sooner.
5. Practice Makes Perfect
Since every Special Stage takes place on the same track, you’ll start memorizing their layouts the more you play them. That way, you know where each obstacle and pocket of rings are. So if you don’t get the Chaos Emerald the first time, don’t sweat it because you’ll get better at retrieving it the more you play Special Stages.