By Joseph Walter
While I was enamored with "Sonic the Hedgehog 2's" Special Stages as a kid, it took 2002's "Sonic Mega Collection" on the Gamecube for me to truly appreciate the awesomeness that is "Blue Sphere," the Special Stage from "Sonic the Hedgehog 3," "Sonic & Knuckles," and, in the fusion that's far too powerful for even Gogeta, "Sonic 3 & Knuckles."
While "Sonic 1" had the hedgehog swirling around in a spinning maze, and "Sonic 2" had the blue lad and his two-tailed comrade running down a half-pipe, "Sonic 3" (along with its semi-sequel and fused form) had whatever character you chose to play as running around a small, checkered planetoid in pseudo-3D, deep in space. The object was to turn each of the titular blue spheres into red ones by touching them in order to get the mythic Chaos Emerald. This was a far more difficult task than it seemed: Aside from obstacles like bumpers, once a sphere turned red, touching it would end the Special Stage in failure. To add to the exponentially increasing danger, the stage would gradually speeding up, forcing you to make quick decisions with lightning-fast reflexes.
Click the video below to listen! (And if you want to know what it's like to experience the ever-increasing speed, click the prompt in the video for the "true speed" version.)
I can't say for sure what it is about that particular section that resonates with me so much, but it's like a direct current to the center of my nostalgia. There's even a sense of sadness about it. It's as if you're starting to wake during a wonderful dream, and then desperately try to chase it down, finding yourself falling further and further behind.
And, of course, you gotta just love the tinny clap effect and that sweet baseline.
Aside from the dreaminess, it manages to be both relaxing and exciting simultaneously, just as the Blue Sphere stages themselves somehow manage to be.
I hope this week's edition of the "Soundcheck" finds you in good spirits and, if not, I hope this song helps turn things around.