- The Chaos Emeralds are powerful jewels that generate unlimited energy and grant incredible abilities to their bearer, such as transforming into Super Sonic or manipulating time and space.
- Dr. Eggman constantly searches for the Chaos Emeralds to power his doomsday weapons and conquer the world.
- The Chaos Emeralds are bound to the Master Emerald, a powerful gem that increases their power and can render them inert, and they have a history that stretches back thousands of years, involving ancient civilizations and cosmic entities.
The Chaos Emeralds have been at the center of just about every Sonic The Hedgehog game, and they’ve made their big-screen debut in the second Sonic movie. They’re clearly of vital importance to the setting, where the race to collect and control the Chaos Emeralds has ramifications felt the world over.
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What are these powerful jewels, and why are they sought so desperately by villains like Eggman? The Sonic games aren’t necessarily known for their narrative, but the Chaos Emeralds have a history that stretches back thousands of years. Let’s take a deeper look at these mysterious MacGuffins.
Updated November 24, 2023 by Bobby Mills: The writers of the Sonicverse have evidently decided to bulk up the Chaos Emerald lore of late; both Sonic Frontiers and Sonic Superstars introduce new elements to these iconic crystals that fans never knew. With additional tweaks to the jewels’ ancient history and the powers they can afford their bearer, it seemed the right time to rejig our piece.
What Powers Do The Chaos Emeralds Have?
The seven Chaos Emeralds are able to generate tremendous amounts of energy, effectively making them a source of unlimited power. The Emeralds become even stronger when in proximity to one another, and having all seven in one place can create miraculous effects. In particular, gathering all the Chaos Emeralds allows the bearer to temporarily gain incredible abilities, an effect most often used by Sonic himself when he transforms into Super Sonic. Shadow is also notable in his power to use the Chaos Emeralds, manipulating time and space via Chaos Control.
Despite their name, the Chaos Emeralds each have a different vibrant color. There is no known difference in power between the different colored Emeralds. The Chaos Emeralds are blue, green, red, purple, yellow, turquoise, and white. A Chaos Emerald that has been drained of power (a state which is always temporary) appears grey. This happens most prominently in Sonic Unleashed, where Eggman diabolically sucks the Emeralds straight out of a trapped Super Sonic, using them to power his Chaos Energy Cannon – which leaves them dry.
In Sonic Adventure 2, Tails is able to create an artificial Chaos Emerald, intended to fool his foes, that has a more subdued hue than the genuine article. While it is less powerful than the real thing, the false Emerald still functions as an energy source. Sonic is even able to use the artificial Emerald to power Chaos Control, despite it being established that such a feat should not be possible. No explanation is given for how Sonic is able to accomplish this maneuver when equally-powerful characters like Shadow cannot, beyond an indifferent shrug of “he just tried really hard; and he’s the protagonist.”
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Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik is constantly searching for the Chaos Emeralds, intent on using them to power his doomsday weapons such as the Egg Carrier. With an unlimited source of energy, his oversized contraptions could easily allow him to conquer the world. In the original Sonic The Hedgehog game, defeating Eggman without collecting all the Chaos Emeralds would result in a bad ending – Eggman would taunt the player with the uncollected Emeralds, suggesting he is able to continue with his diabolical plans despite Sonic’s meddling.
It isn’t just Sonic who can make use of the Emeralds to transform into alternate forms. Knuckles, Tails, and Amy Rose are similarly able to go ‘Super’ when all seven are assembled, though they don’t replicate his Super-Saiyan-style transformation, instead merely sparkling with magical energy. Shadow and Silver, two fellow hedgehogs, share this ability, too, and have employed it on numerous occasions to seal away such foes as Black Doom and Solaris.
Additionally, Super Sonic is far from the only form the Emeralds can spawn. When Eggman saps their energy in Sonic Unleashed, their polarity is reversed, and they amplify the negative influence of the newly-awakened Dark Gaia. The combination of these two dark energy sources pulsing so nearby to him causes Sonic to mutate into the Werehog, a lycanthropic beast that emerges only when the moon is out. It takes the restoration of the Emeralds, and Dark Gaia reclaiming the last of his wayward energy pieces, for the hedgehog to be cured.
Sonic Superstars shows off a whole new host of powers granted by the Emeralds. One of these is Avatar, that generates a swarm of clones identical to the user, while another is Vine, enabling one to cause towering plants to erupt from the earth. Swimming through the water like a fish, darting across the skies as a fireball, seeing invisible objects; the Emeralds offer a veritable laundry list of perks.
The Master Emerald
The Chaos Emeralds are bound to the Master Emerald, an enormous gem enshrined on Angel Island. With the correct prayers and rituals, the Master Emerald can further increase the power of the Chaos Emeralds, granting the user almost godlike power. The Master Emerald can also be used to temporarily remove the Chaos Emeralds’ energies, rendering them inert.
The Master Emerald was first encountered by Sonic in Sonic The Hedgehog 3, when Sonic and Tails pursued Eggman to Angel Island. The devious doctor convinced the island’s guardian, Knuckles the Echidna, that Sonic and Tails had come to claim the power of the Master Emerald for themselves, tricking Knuckles into delaying Sonic while Eggman set about his latest scheme.
Knuckles is the last of his clan – the rest of whom were wiped out by Chief Pachacamac’s warmongering intentions, described below – sworn to protect the Master Emerald and prevent its powers from being used for evil. Upon learning of Eggman’s deception, he joins Sonic in defeating the doctor. Knuckles has been an on-and-off ally to Sonic ever since, but he always makes it clear that his duty to the Master Emerald comes before everything else.
The History Of The Chaos Emeralds
The Chaos Emeralds originated on a distant planet tens of thousands of years before Sonic’s lifetime. It is unknown how they were created, or if there were ever more than seven, but they served as the power source for a vastly advanced alien civilization. These people, known only to modern people as the Ancients, came under attack by a cosmic entity called The End, which manifests as a gigantic, Majora’s Mask-esque moon and which destroyed their planet in a single stroke.
All of these events are revealed for the first time in Sonic Frontiers. The Ancients who managed to escape to space before the end of their civilization took the Chaos Emeralds with them. They traveled through space until the Chaos Emeralds began to react to the Master Emerald when their fleet drew near to Earth.
The Ancients were unaware of the Master Emerald’s existence before stumbling upon it, suggesting that either the relationship between the smaller Emeralds and the Master is either an extreme coincidence, or that there are greater forces at work in the universe that bind the gems together.
The Chaos Emeralds forced the Ancients’ ships to land on Earth, naturally migrating toward the Master Emerald. The Ancients took this as a sign and settled among the Starfall Islands. They remained there for some time, until they learned that The End had followed, slowly encroaching down on them. Using Chaos Emerald-powered technology, they prepared a last stand, ultimately dying out but successfully sealing The End inside of Cyber Space, an immense digital dimension that they had created to archive their history.
The handful of survivors took the Chaos Emeralds to Angel Island and left them with the Master Emerald before disappearing from history. When Sonic and company would, centuries later, visit the Starfall Isles to thwart Eggman’s latest scheme, they would uncover the complete saga of the Ancients – and develop a newfound respect for the sacrifices that had led them to be able to continue using the Emeralds for good in the present age.
In addition, being so close to the homeland of the Ancients boosted the Emeralds’ capabilities, granting Sonic’s Super form an extra ‘tier’ of power, which he employed to definitively finish off The End.
The Echidna Clan
Returning to the past, the Chaos Emeralds next appear in the historical record approximately three thousand years before Sonic’s lifetime, discovered by the civilization that built the Mystic Ruins. The Master Emerald, at that time, existed in a garden inhabited by tiny peaceful creatures called Chao, right where the Ancients had left it. The Chao were protected by a powerful entity called Chaos, and the Mystic Ruins civilization left them all reverently alone.
As Sonic and his companions discover in Sonic Frontiers, the Ancients were identical in appearance to Chaos’ humanoid form. The reason for this is, as yet, unknown, but Chaos does not appear to be fully sentient and is therefore unlikely to be a surviving Ancient.
When Chief Pachamacac, the leader of the Echidna Clan, needed a weapon to fight his enemies, the Nocturnus Clan, he sought to claim the power of the Master Emerald. Chaos would not allow the king’s soldiers into the garden, so they attacked the creature and the peaceful Chao. Pachamacac’s daughter Tikal attempted to stop them, but Chaos became enraged and destroyed most of the Echidna Clan. To prevent Chaos’ anger from consuming the entire world, Tikal bound her spirit to the Master Emerald, trapping herself and Chaos inside the gem.
With their rivals destroyed by Chaos, the opposing Nocturnus Clan would likely have conquered the known world. However, a strange phenomenon called the Argus Event trapped them in a pocket dimension called the Twilight Cage. There, led by their absolute ruler Imperator Ix, the Nocturnus subjugated the alien species they found. The surviving Echidna Clan members assumed that the Nocturnus had been destroyed by Chaos.
In Sonic Adventure, Dr. Robotnik freed Chaos from the Master Emerald in hopes of weaponizing the creature. Tikal’s spirit was also freed, and she guided Sonic and his companions on their quest to defeat Chaos and bind it once more. Using the Chaos Emeralds to transform, Super Sonic stopped Chaos and Tikal was able to calm its rage. Chaos and Tikal vanished after the battle, presumably to a secluded Chao Garden where they would not be bothered.
In Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, warriors of the Nocturnus Clan developed a means to return from the Twilight Cage in small numbers. While they were dismayed to find out that millennia had passed in the real world, they immediately set about gathering the Chaos Emeralds to free the rest of their army.
Shade, one of Imperator Ix’s generals, first battles Sonic and Knuckles for the Emeralds but later discovers that Imperator Ix intends to continue his war of conquest once he is freed. Shade helps Sonic foment a rebellion of the conquered species in the Twilight Cage, and prevent the Nocturnus army from returning, and afterward chooses to live on Earth with Sonic and his friends.
The Sonic Rush series on the Nintendo DS depicts the Sol Dimension, an alternate plane of reality ruled over by Princess Blaze the Cat. Blaze is the Sol Dimension’s counterpart of Sonic, and so too do the Chaos Emeralds have different versions there: the Sol Emeralds. The Sol Emeralds allow Blaze to transform into Burning Blaze.
When not being sought as part of some nefarious scheme, the Chaos Emeralds are usually sought by treasure hunters like Rouge. Knuckles also leaves Angel Island more frequently since his initial encounter with Sonic, almost always in search of the Chaos Emeralds in order to bring them safely home.
The Chaos Emeralds’ Gameplay Effects
The later Sonic games use the Chaos Emeralds as plot points, but the original Genesis titles and later side-scrolling adventures allowed players to use the jewels to their advantage. If the player collected all the Chaos Emeralds in a single run (or, as probably happened more often, entered the right cheat codes) they could become Super Sonic. Jumping with all seven Emeralds and fifty Rings in hand would trigger the transformation, granting Sonic invulnerability and enhanced speed. The effect would slowly drain his stockpile of Rings, and when he ran out, Sonic would revert to his normal form.
Super Sonic and other enhanced characters like Super Shadow remain playable in the later games, but only during certain plot-critical boss fights. These usually happen at the climactic point in the game’s storyline where the extra power is needed by the heroes. And, as previously mentioned, Sonic Superstars allows the hedgehog and his friends to make unlimited use of the Emeralds’ assorted gimmicks throughout the campaign.
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