As great as Sonic 3 was, I can't help but feel that something was just...
missing. The game just seemed way too short...I beat it in a day.
Apparently, from what I've read, the game was actually released in
America first...then a few extra levels were added in and published in
Japan later (hence the missing levels and strange tunes in the Sonic 3
sound test/level select mode.) Plus, there were whole sections of levels
you could NEVER get to, unless you cheated with the Debug mode. Sonic 3 was,
essentially, not finished.
And you know what? Sonic & Knuckles more than makes up for it.
Sonic & Knuckles works as a stand alone cartridge and starts off with the
ability to choose Sonic or Knuckles (Tails is absent...more on this
later.) There are plenty of new zones to play through, many were the
ones mentioning in Sonic 3 (Mushroom Hill, Flying Battery, Sandolpolis...
even some rendition the mystical Hidden Palace zone deleted from Sonic 2,
even though it's nothing more than a transition stage and looks
nothing like the old pictures.) The storyline's
the same for Sonic (blow up Robotnik's Death Egg that's wreaking having
on Floating Island) but Knuckles, the previously evil Echidna, now
learns of Robotnik's evil schemes and goes up against him. Knuckles
can crash through certain walls that Sonic can't, can climb vertical
surfaces, and do a floating jump. On the other hand, he can't use
some of the special shield powers like Sonic could (no bubble bouncing
or anything.) There's actually plenty of differences between Sonic's and
Knuckle's adventures, in addition to the gameplay. There are places
Sonic can go that Knuckles can't, and vice versa. And sometimes the
characters start in different places, leaving each playing exploring
different places of the same zone. The mini-bosses are actually harder
with Knuckles, plus you get to play through different levels near the end
of the boss (and totally different last bosses.) The Knuckles game is
a bit short, but since there's the Sonic game and the Lock-on (mentioned
below) it's OK.
Now, what am I so excited about otherwise? Using Lock-on Technology (great
buzz-word) you can put a Sonic 3 cartridge on top of it (it's similar to
what a Genesis Game Genie looks like.) Now, you have Sonic 3 and Knuckles.
He's a playable character now. And it opens up a whole new world to
Just like in the Sonic & Knuckles level, there are plenty of new places
to explore in the old Sonic 3 levels. The mid-bosses are still tougher (the
first level mid-boss now shoots napalm in addition to floating around
spewing fire) and Knuckles can access all of those previously unaccessable
areas. In fact, Angel Island Act 2 is TOTALLY different with Knuckles
than it is with Sonic. Many other levels follow that same pattern. It's like playing
a totally new adventure. And it's huge too. There are a total of 12 zones
with the Knuckles game, and 13 with the Sonic/Tails...much better than
the pitiful six on the original Sonic 3 cartridge. Plus, with Sonic 3,
you can know same the game (there's no battery in the Sonic & Knuckles
game) and add Tails to it too.
You can also attach it to Sonic 2 and play as Knuckles in there. But
there's no new levels or anything to explore, so it isn't quite the same.
Still, it makes for a slightly new gaming experience, with Knuckles new
The new levels themselves on Sonic & Knuckles are great. Thoughy Flying
Battery is essentially similar to the Flying Fortress zone, and Mushroom
Hill is your typical light-hearted foresty zone, the rest are great.
I like pyramids so Sandopolis was cool, and Lava Reef reminded me of
a better designed Marble Zone (from Sonic 1.) And the Death Egg...I haven't
seen a last level designed this well since the Scrap Brain (again, from
Sonic 1.) On a whole, it rejuvantes what seemed to be degenerating into
a stale series.
In fact, there's only one problems with the game, and that's the timer.
Like Sonic 3's levels, the areas you must travel are huge. Apparently
the designer forgot about the 10 minute time limit, because some levels
can barely be completed in this amount of time (especially the second Sandopolis
zone, since it has some puzzle element to it.) While additions like these
add to the gameplay, it's frustrating to not finish in time.
The graphics are on par with Sonic 3, with means they're excellent.
I personally love the music...the new mid-boss theme is tons better than
the old one, and each of the zones music all have a nice ring of them
(Flying Battery is especially awesome in this respect.) Just like Sonic 3,
the music changes to a remix in the second half of the level, so you're
never left with hearing the same tune over and over.
Although I hate giving two ratings. Sonic & Knuckles really deserves it.
As a stand-alone catridge, it's a superb game and could be called Sonic the
Hedgedog 4. But when attached to Sonic 3, it becomes a whole new experience
by taking an old game and rediscovering it, adding new adventures, long
levels (and plenty of them)...making one of the best
undertakings on the Genesis system. Fully recommended in all respects.