|Posted by Kelsy on January 12, 2020 at 9:50 PM|
16 Bit Processing Power to the MAX
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles Review
Written by Kelsy "SuperGirlKels" Medeiros
Version played: Steam: SEGA Megadrive and Genesis Collection (PC)
Once upon a time in the year 1994.... it was a time when SEGA ruled the video game market with a 55% share. After the release with their SEGA Genesis and Master system in Japan alongside their new cool dude with an attitude: Sonic the Hedgehog, SEGA became one of pop cultures' greatest icons with Sonic as their mascot. The first two Sonic games were monster hits selling over 10 million total. Where Sonic 1, and 2 came out with only 1 year apart.... Sonic 3 on the other hand wanted to tell an entire different story. SEGA didn't it just wanted it to be the "next" Sonic game, they wanted it to be the goodbye to the SEGA Genesis (as the Saturn was releasing later that year...) and for it to be the ultimate adventure yet. They wanted story, and for the map size to be triple times bigger than the first two games. It wasn't going to take just a year to make, but several. New animations, designs, items, mini games, special zones, bosses and music composed by Michael Jackson all took part in this project. In fact, the project was so big... that it needed to be split into two games. The cartrige for the game was too small for the size of the game.... Sonic 3 released in early 1994, giving players 6 zones, a different final ending and more. What players were about to be given, was a huge surprise 6 months later with Sonic & Knuckles... not only the other half of the game... but the first ever DLC to a video game series. Sonic & Knuckles released as an expansion pack, where Sonic 3 can be placed on it unlocking 6 new zones, th true final boss, the ability to play as Knuckles in his own story in Sonic 3, and 2... and... the hyper emeralds. There was so much promise to this game and was said to be delivered by millions of fans and critics that even to this day, still hold this as the best Sonic game of all time... I'll be the judge of that.
After defeating Robotnik in space (Sonic 2 ending), Sonic and Tails were headed home when spotting a floating island in which they decide to check out and explore! Upon landing, a red echidna who claims to be the island's protector... forbids Sonic from entering and seems dead set on the idea that Sonic is the enemy... the red echidna steals Sonic's recently collected chaos emeralds, and flees away! As Sonic and Tails chase ahead, they soon realize Dr Robotnik's goons are all over the island! This seems fishy... and the two are set off on their new adventure to find out what Robotnik is up to on the island, and find the mystery of this red echidna figure!
Music & Sound Effects
There's no doubt that Sonic 3's music is the best in the classic series... it holds the secret of Michael Jackson! Pop legend Michael agreed as a Sonic fan to help compose for the soundtrack. Even tracks to this day can be heard in some of his music released after the album "BAD". The pop styled sound with the genesis melody, while contrasting with every environment really blended in well with every zone. The beginning island msuci really feels like you're in a jungle... and as for Ice Cap Zone? My favourite piece of classic music by far. It's so precious... and the usic is so good you refuse to pause even after the 4th time playing it. It's something that gets stuck into your head and if lyrics were done for the levels themselves... they can sell this as a Billboard hot 100 #1 platinum album. It's oustanding.. it's all so different from each other, yet the themes are the same so you never feel caught off guard, guaranteeing that you will adore every track. As for sound effects, all return from the classic jumps to spinning, ring collecting, and pouncing off of enemies heads!... which is all so satisfying. Something about the classic Sonic games are the sound effect every action that you do having such a big impact on your gameplay. The sounds MAKE you want to collect 100 rings to hear that 1 up theme.. (which is the newest sound effect in this game!) , or to hit a dozen enemies to hear them kapoof into thin air, freeing the flickies! Bumpers, and springs and even the new special zones... having to collect blue spheres are all so satisfying. It's the kind of sound effects that remind me as to why I am a gamer, and why I can't stop playing for hours because I want to keep collecting, exploring, and getting better. Good sound effects only motivate these goals, and goals were for sure achieved with this beautiful masterpiece of a soundtrack, and sound effects.
The kind of graphics you are seeing here are still being done in today's time with sprite indie games. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles was unbelievably advanced for it's time. 3D games were starting to become mainstream, but even those couldn't compared to the way Sonic and friends looked and felt in this game. The way Sonic glowed in the environment, you could even see his smile from afar. His attitude and expressions on his face as he ran, jumped and spinned. The glow on his shoes, and shadows on his quils. The background of every level is constantly moving... is constantly shaded and moves along with Sonic in the level to give a sense of dept and progression. The landmarks Sonic would run across were detailed and realistic. Some had patterns to represent ice and others were jungled themed. If Sonic ran on snow, traces of snow ran behind him. The 3d section was also only inviting.... players must collect all blue spheres on the 3D map to collect a Chaos Emerald. It's clear to see, and even when the game speeds up as you take longer to collect the spheres you can see clearly up ahead, and all around you. Sonic's model in 3D is also beautiful to look at, as Sonic runs back and forth you can see the shading, the movement and dept in his model giving you a sense that you ARE Sonic the way the camera is looking at. The only issue I had at times with the camera were the positioning of some enemies. It's annoying still to this day to be running on a straight line and an enemy appears out of nowhere while you're at top speed causing you to lose your rings. It's not much of an issue in today's Sonic games, but back then? This was a huge complaint and I have to agree. To be rewarded with speed just to have it taken away from you without warning feels like a little cheat, and I'm glad SEGA focused on their badnik positioning over time. It slows down the pace and constantly made me hesitate weater to move forward or not. Over all, the graphics inspire many to even try to come close to how this game looks even to today's standards. There's a certain buzz with Sonic 3 that's so hard to put your finger on exactly... that makes it so alive... so unique.. and so Sonic!
When it comes to any platformer, especially in 2D.... level design is 80% of your game. The positioning of items, bad guys, what makes you turn left, and right and what will make the player feel so amazing that they won't stop playing your game? Sonic has had this effect in both Sonic 1 and 2, and I believe it's an even greater effect in Sonic 3. In Sonic 1, I felt there wasn't enough speed. I was rewarded with a few glimps here and there when finishing off a platforming area but never quite felt the sensation as to why Sonic is... Sonic. In Sonic 2, this was fixed but... it felt too easy. Sonic 2 focused more on holding right, and I felt that challenge of Sonic 1 disappear. But Sonic 3 and Knuckles? It hits the spot right on. The balance in between platforming, and reward with speed is perfection. Moving right, and left to uncover secrets and be rewarded with items for exploring a new world of Sonic in which is much greater than his previous adventures, feels amazing. I played through this game 4 times (4 characters), and I was on a new path almost every time. The game felt much larger, and I always felt there was something new for me to enjoy. Knuckles' stages are entirely different but with the same zone name, and music. As for Tails, he can reach high places and uncover secrets and items in which the other characters don't have access to. As for Sonic, he's the funnest because he's the perfect challenge in between platforming, patience, speed, and exploring. Every level feels like it's been made for Sonic and his friends, and bosses as well are entertaining, new and fun. Sonic 3 & Knuckles introduces cutscenes and no loading screens. Instead of loading level by level... Sonic 3 and & Knuckles plays each level as a story to know how Sonic and friends achieve these areas through cutscenes and bosses. There are also hidden areas that contain huge gold rings to find Chaos Emeralds. My only complaint has to come back to the enemies being randomly in the way of a rewarded area. It makes it hard for you to enjoy rewards at times when it's constantly being taken away quickly. Some areas you're supposed to go fast, and you're just not prepared for it because you're scared to get hit for the billionth time ina row from the same badnik. But with practice with each character, I got to learn the layouts of stages, and the positioning of some badniks in which I could avoid! I learned so much about level design just through this game, that I only want to keep playing to find areas that I have not yet ever been to!
The same series, the same canon, the same gameplay! Sonic and friends control the same but with added features! Of course as series continue, new features must be added in order to keep the audience engaged! As for Sonic, A spin attack extended hit was added. When pressing A in the air, Sonic will release a wider hitbox of his spin attack to hit enemies that may not be quite in range! As for Tails, he can now fly on his own! Flying with Tails is amazing because if you ever want to reach an area in the game or avoid slow downs that you had with Sonic... Tails is here for the job! He can also swim under water when not flying in the air. Knuckles has quite the arsenal, he can break walls and unlock new paths for only he himself can explore. He can climb walls, and can glide in the air hitting enemies in his path if neccessary. Though with all of this power... of course comes weaknesses. As for Knuckles, he just... can't jump high at all. He jumps very low, and has a harder level design and story if I may add! It seems this was on purpose. Tails seems to be "Easy" mode in which you can fly over any obstacle. Sonic seems to be the "Normal" mode of the story giving you what the intended gameplay is. and Knuckles seems to have the "hard mode" difficulty giving more advanced players a bigger challenge! There are also other gameplay features added such as the elemental shields that make their huge debut! The water shield allows the player to breathe under water while giving Sonic a bounce option! The Flame shield allows players to be invincible to lava, heat or fire attacks. Sonic can also burst in a ball of flame forward while moving at incredible speed instantly. As for the lightning shield, it is a magnetic pull to rings! Rings for everyone! For Sonic, it allows him to have a double jump! Having him being able to access areas he may not have been able to reach without the shield! The final new gameplay features are the bonus rooms and the special zones. The Bonus rooms have replaced the Chaos Emerald Special Zone entrance in Sonic 2 by hitting a checkpoint once you earned 50 rings. They are now mini games in which players can play a series of games on random to earn rings, items, shields, and more to help them on their journey! Some involve propelling into the air while bouncing off of springs to gather items, there's this magnetic pull game where an electric serge is chasing you and you must make your way to the top while getting as many items as possible... and finally the pinball area where you can basically.. play pinball to gather rings and more before hitting the goal (Similiar to the special stage in Sonic 1) The Special stages now, are completely new. Players must hunt down secret, and hard to find giant gold rings in each zone. There are many scattered, but only some are found! Once found, players must collect all blue spheres in the area without hitting any reds (the goal) to collect a Chaos emerald. It's super fun, challenging, and really easy to control since Sonic moves automatically and you just need to turn right or left in which he does by squire foot and patter n on the floor (image below).
Sonic 3 and Knuckles provides something for everyone. Weather you're a gamer who wants to complete this game and have a great story, or to just wanna hang out with your cousin in a co op adventure.... OR to challenge your friends to see who's the fastest -------- never mind don't play the multiplayer wow it sucks. we're just... no.
12 Zones. 7 Chaos Emeralds, 3 grand finales... and Hyper Emeralds to collect (which I won't spoil) to unlock the true final ending..... Sonic 3 and Knuckles had continuously surprised me through my entire lets play. Trying to 100% was the best reward I could have asked for in this game in every way not only being rewarded with items.. but even within the story!
Road to 100%
- Complete Story Mode with all 4 Characters: (Sonic&Tails, Sonic, Tails, Knuckles)
- Complete Story Mode with all Chaos Emeralds every time
- Collect all 7 Super Emeralds after the 1st half of the game
- Defeat the final boss for each character
Sonic 3 and Knuckles was the perfect goodbye to the SEGA Genesis. It took all of it's power, and put it into one game. It pushed passed limits not only in the gaming industry, but in Sonic's history. To be able to come up with new ideas, on how to keep something so familiar... yet so different is very hard to achieve, but this is as good of an example as it gets. Sure the multiplayer was a huge screwup, but the co-op was much improved, containing teamwork from Sonic and Tails with Tails' flight, and having Knuckles to be able to connect to Sonic 2 and 3 was truly game changing. Seeing every character in their own light too really made me appreciate every character just a bit more, especially Tails! Wow Super Tails is actually busted... The zones are so well thought out, keeping it Sonic, but keeping it fresh. The music couldn't have been composed by a greater legend, and the graphics at the time must have made Mario shit balls.
Amazing job SEGA, and Sonic Team. This truly is, the greatest 2D Sonic Game of all Time.
+ New Gameplay Features
+ Story Cutscenes
+ Explore, and Reward / Level Design
- Multiplayer Mode