This post is awesome, and so are you. Perhaps there needs to be a topic on the subject, I think. I swear, I wake up to see this topic, and I see, of all things, people using the fucking "hardcore vs. casual" argument. Christ. I can't believe some people actually think this is about difficulty, because, for the most part, it really isn't. At all. And then there's people suggesting that the time limit isn't strict enough. Seriously, are you fucking kidding me? The time limit death is a relic of the arcade era that should only be included if it's done in a way to make a game more fun, like in Mario 3D Land's special stages. But in Sonic, it's pretty much near-pointless, it's not at all integral to the difficulty or the design. I should point out that the stone is a type of mechanic that Nintendo have been putting in some of their games lately - a "super guide" feature that is added purely for accessibility. Mario Galaxy 2, NSMBW and 3D Land have "super guide" mechanics that appear from dying several times in a single level, and even then, players don't even need to use it at all. It's there to help out players who aren't as good at a game while preserving the challenge for people who actually desire said challenge, mostly to deal with complaints of Nintendo games becoming "too easy" while simultaneously accommodating newer players. I think it works, since 'hardcore' players don't even need to use them if they don't want to. It's not meant to be an insult to anyone's skill or intelligence, but rather a compromise, since Nintendo are trying to make their games accessible to as many people as possible.