System: Sega Genesis
Release Date: February 2, 1994
First Played: 1999
Status: DEFEATED – October 16, 2014
Video Game trilogies are tricky buggers. Obviously, if you have 3 or more games staring a certain character, and they sell, you know you’re doing something right! But that 3rd game has two other (presumably) great games to live up to! Some have succeeded tremendously, changing the very face of video gaming like Super Mario Bros 3, one of the bestselling video games of all time! Others, well, people aren’t really sure why they even made the first one, let alone 3 (Sorry Bubsy). Then we have this week’s entry, Sonic the Hedgehog 3. With the development of Sonic 3, Sega wanted to make it the biggest one yet, in graphics, game play and length. In fact, the game was becoming so long that the higher ups began to fear that it wasn’t going to be ready for its big release date on February 2, 1994 (which someone cleverly named Hedgehog Day…instead of Groundhog Day…they were paid 10 million dollars……..they weren’t). So, instead they released what they had finished so far, with “Part 2” coming out at a later date. So can this “Finished Product” live up to its incredibly successful predecessors? Even more importantly, how does this game holdup more than 20 years after its release…?
When First We Met…
If you’ve been following this Quest, you know that ol’ Adamus here was silly for Sonic in the early 90’s! In my mind, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was the greatest Sega game I owned; nothing could compare to it! So it was with giddy excitement that I discovered that a 3rd one was coming out!! But here’s the rub…I couldn’t get my hands on it! Stores were sold out of it, flea markets had it listed at ridiculously high prices; even Jumbo Video let me down, every chance I tried to get my hands on it, someone else was able to get to it before me! I wouldn’t get a chance to play this game for 5 YEARS, when during a flea market romp I stumbled upon a reasonably priced copy. Only $15!
It was peeled and dirty sure, (is that an odd hint of cheddar I smell?) and at this point in time I was swaying back to Nintendo (what with my newly acquired N64!), but I wasn’t about to get picky, not since this was the first time I was able to get my hands on it since it was released! So, paying the plump man in the stall (See Quest # 21!), I went home to try it out.
A smile spreads across my face when I hear the classic “SE-GAAA!” sung to me; then Sonic blasts towards me posing for the title screen!
That’s actually some pretty impressive 3D graphics for the Genesis! The music is upbeat and gets my “need for speed” juices pumping! I press start and am greeted by a fantastic surprise…
YOU CAN SAVE YOUR GAME?!?!?! This is a first for the Sonic series (the ones I had played anyway) and right away this encourages a pick up and play feel, not having to worry that I’m going to need to dedicate a whole day trying to beat this thing. I notice that the previous owner has had some success with this! One file shows that all the Chaos Emeralds had been collected! I find an empty file and press start.
Sonic and Tails (ugh, Tails again?) are flying in Tails’ airplane just above the surface of the ocean; Sonic jumps out, GOES SUPER SONIC and starts skimming across the ocean!
So, do I start out as Super Sonic in this game??? Sweet!!! Sonic eventually reaches land, racing along when suddenly he’s attacked by none other than…
…A Single Cherry!
Knuckles!!! Having played the sequel to this game (more on that in the future!!) I’m already a fan of his. I think the one thing I liked most about him was that he was portrayed as even more of a badass than Sonic! Plus he has spikes on his knuckles, hence the name, so this brings to mind another favourite character of mine, Wolverine! Knuckles is an echidna, a type of spiny anteater…
Anyway, after Knuckles attacks, Sonic drops all the Chaos Emeralds! Knuckles quickly steals them and runs away laughing, Tails flies in beside you (Thanks for the assist asshole!) and Angel Island Zone, Act 1 immediately starts. At this point in time, I had yet to defeat Sonic the Hedgehog 2, so I was never able to collect all the Chaos Emeralds to become Super Sonic, but I was impressed that the story continues right where Sonic 2 left off, assuming you completed the game 100% that is.
I’m taken aback by the visuals, there is a lot of depth to the background and the music is really catchy! So far, Sonic controls the exact same way as in the previous games…with one exception! Pressing the jump button twice (once to jump, and then while in the air, press it again) Sonic will produce a quick force field, which is helpful in attacking spiked enemies!
It is apparent quite quickly just how vast this level is; there are several points where my path splits into 3 directions and each direction has its own unique challenges. I do a spin dash (revving it up to its max!) and suddenly I bust trough a wall where I find…
A Giant Ring! Hmmmm, this reminds me of Sonic 1, where at the end of each act, if you had over 50 coins, a ring similar to this would appear and you could play a mini game to try and get a Chaos Emerald! I jump in and sure enough, my hunch was right…
I’m in a world covered with red and blue balls. The words “Get Blue Spheres” appears and soon Sonic and Tails start running forward. Basically, you need to touch all the blue spheres (the number of spheres is located in the top left corner) and turn them red; touching a red sphere will send you out of the Chaos Zone and back to the main game. By accident, I discover that, if you run over all the blue spheres along a patterns perimeter, all the spheres will turn into rings! Here’s a helpful diagram I found from the Sonic 3 Wikipedia page that will help explain…
The more blue spheres you touch, the faster you run! The camera always stays behind Sonic and Tails, meaning that if you want to turn, the entire world rotates in the direction you want to look, and when you need to make quick rapid movements, this can become very disorienting! Needless to say, I did not get an emerald on my first try, and I’m thrown back to the main game.
While running, swinging, and having springs fling me across the stage I come across some welcome additions to the world of Sonic! The first are the mid-way save posts, back from Sonic 2, but instead of giving you access to Chaos Emeralds, they give you access to a pinball game bonus stage where you can gain power-ups!
Which brings me to the best new addition; on top of the usual monitors (rings, super speed, 1-up and invincibility) there are now monitors that contain Water, Fire and Electric Shields!
All shields protect you from projectiles and allow you to take one enemy or spike hit without losing rings. However, each shield as a unique feature:
Fire Shield: Makes you immune to fire and allows you to dive through the air when you double jump. This is especially handy if there is a breakable wall that is just out of reach of your spin dash. If you fall in the water though, it goes away.
Water “Bubble” Shield: Allows you to bounce which adds extra height to a jump. It also allows you to breathe under water!
Electric Shield: My personal favourite. It allows you to touch electrical surfaces without damage and adds extra height by allowing you to do an actual double jump. On top of that, it acts as a magnet that collects rings that are nearby. Like the fire shield, it will go away if you hit the water.
Eventually I run into this thing…
“A mini boss eh?” so I start attacking it. This is a first for the series as well; usually the Act just ends or you only fight Robotnic! Before I can deal any serious damage though, the robot launches missiles into the air and sets EVERYTHING ON FIRE!!
Roasted Hedgehog anyone???
Whoa!!! Somehow Sonic and Tails survive and continue forward. The level is huge, I’m still on Act 1 of the first level and 8 minutes have gone by! My exploring brings me to a couple more Chaos rings, but they all end in failure. By the time I get to the end of Act 1 (and the mini Boss that set everything on fire) I already had run out of time once! Act 1 took me almost 15 minutes to pass! The mini boss is pretty straight forward and he blows up good, ending Act 1. Act 2 starts right away, no loading screen, no black out to a different world, everything is continuous. I like this as it keeps the action moving nonstop! It doesn’t feel like this game has “Levels” but that everything is just one continuous story. This level is more the same, secret passages, multiple roads to choose from, and some crazy loops that make the screen just a giant speed blur! Soon I come to an open field and a giant Zeppelin starts dropping bombs at me!
Take one for the team Tails!!
Once I out run the barrage, in the background flies non other that Dr. Robotnic himself! This leads to the first Robotnic fight in front of a raging waterfall!
Robotnic’s hovercraft looks huge! I don’t remember him using such a big machine in the previous games, at least not till the final fight anyway. He shoots fire at you while ducking in and out of the waterfall. I find nothing overly complicated here, and eventually Robotic explodes and flies away. I pop the container full of animals (which floats down from the sky this time!) and Act 2 ends. There a quick cut scene of Sonic giving chase to Robotnic when suddenly Knuckles appears!!
He laughs and hits a switch which breaks the ground apart and sends Sonic falling into Hydrocity Zone!
This formula repeats throughout the game, mini boss at end of Act 1, Elaborate Robotnic battle followed by Knuckles foiling your attempts at nabbing Robotnic, which inevitably transitions into the next zone. The enemies are frequent but are never anything I can’t handle; for the most part, I’m losing lives by running out of time! I found myself spending the majority of a level searching for Chaos Emerald ring portals, which are incredibly well hidden. I’m also blown away by the Robotnic battles; each fight uses the environment (seemingly) to the advantage of Robotnic. They are tough, and creative, which lessened the frustration and just inspired me to push on! Hydrocity Zone, for example, is all water themed, so Robotnic uses a device that can create a huge funnel of water that sucks you into a propeller! On top of that, Robotnic tries to blow you up with Depth Charges; all while you are sluggishly slow in the water!
My favourite level has to be Marble Garden Zone. You run into Robotnic several times throughout the level where he uses a flying drill machine to manipulate the landscape; often I found myself getting crushed by a descending ceiling or getting stabbed by newly revealed spikes. I think one of the reasons why this Zone is the most unique in the series is that TAILS IS ACTUALLY USEFUL! I know what you’re thinking, Tails has been garbage since day one, and he continues to be garbage for the rest of the game, but this ONE moment could not be as awesome as it is without Tails…
This battle takes place in the sky! Tails flies you around as you dodge Robotnic’s drill and deliver damage. The Robotnic battles in previous games, though mostly entertaining, have always felt confined, since they only took place on one screen. As I played Sonic 3, the boss levels felt so much grander! Though, technically this sky battle is only on one screen, the fast paced boss music and having the scenery speed by makes you think you’re playing an entirely different level! Could it be? Have I found something better than Sonic 2!?!?!? I would never be able to get a final answer though. That amazing sky battle would be my final battle with Robotnic, as I find my demise in *shudder* Carnival Night Zone.
This place is a freaking maze!! And death waits on every corner! If I wasn’t running out of time, I was being crushed by barrel looking elevators, or being hit by a pinball machine bumper into an enemy or a pit of spikes! I would always get turned around; just when I think I’m making progress, I would see a smashed monitor! I HAD BEEN HERE BEFORE!?!?! GRAAAAHH!! Good luck trying to find any Chaos Emerald portals, I couldn’t find one! I would die time and time again, desperately wanting to know what happens next. It helped that I could start right from Carnival Night Zone thanks to the save feature but with frustration grew impatience (I couldn’t even get A SINGLE CHAOS EMERALD!!!) and I decided it was best to leave this game behind and focus on my N64! Instead of beating an incredible game, I merely added another Sonic the Hedgehog to my growing Sega Genesis horde of impossible titles to beat…
Meanwhile in the Present…
When it was time for me to challenge this game for my Quest, I had already defeated Sonic 1 and 2, something I thought impossible to do 20 years ago. I found that the best way to deal with a Sonic game is to take your time, which may seem odd as the point of Sonic is to go through the level as fast as humanly (hedgehogly?) possible. So I decided to use the same tactic, which worked out well for me, and before I knew it I was at Carnival Zone! Leading up to this level, I was also able to be more successful in finding Chaos Emeralds.
The Chaos levels are difficult, but not because of obstacles you face. It’s the camera changing directions that makes this so tough! You need absolute concentration to succeed, something I must have lacked in my younger years. In order to have any sort of luck, I found that I couldn’t blink. When you only have 4 blue orbs left to find, Sonic and Tails run really fast, and making quick turns makes the screen a swirling blur of red and blues and anthropomorphic animals! On one play though, my wife looked at me and said “Are you crying?” “No, why?” “Your eyes are bloodshot!” Sure enough, I looked terrible; like I was having some sort of allergy attack!
So…WORTH IT!!!! AAGGHH!!
By the time I got to Carnival Night Zone, I had 4 Chaos Emeralds (Just 3 left!) I remembered being so turned around in this level…but I don’t know what the problem was because I got through it easily. The mini boss for this level I found was harder than Robotnic:
It took me a bit to figure out that I couldn’t damage it, but that the little spike platform flying around was the only thing that could! Next up is Ice Cap Zone; you begin by SNOW BOARDING DOWN A MOUNTAIN!!!
Now, at this point, I only was able to get one more Chaos Emerald. So before reaching the final battle, I started my game over. I wanted to beat this game 100%, that means all the Chaos Emeralds, so I didn’t really see the point in finishing the game in my current state. So I erased my file and started again. It took me another 2 more play throughs, but finally at the last Chaos ring location, I finally got all the Chaos Emeralds!
Turning Super Sonic is just as fun now as it was in Sonic 2 (you need 50 rings to turn Super Sonic) and I manage to destroy all in my way! My invincible path of destruction leads me to the first of 3 final Robotnic battles!
This one is pretty straight forward, he shoots cannon balls at you either from above or below the ramp that appears, just dodge and hit him. After he escapes, Sonic jumps into one of Robotics floating egg things and we see him fly by a giant rocket…which is Robotnic’s DEATH EGG!
Eventually, you run into Knuckles who tries to block your path, but the blast from the rocket knocks him out of your way, (so much for a boss fight with him!) which leads to the Final Battle.
Robotnic appears in some kind of long tube thing that shoots lasers…it’s not that much of a challenge. His FINAL FORM however…
…..Is not that much of a challenge either…Robotnic with fly back and forth across the screen trying to grab you, if he does he slams you into the ground! You need to time your jump to hit him in the front, not on top as per usual, as he’s covered with spikes! I got slammed a few times but I was always able to pick up at least one ring. Eventually I deliver the killing blow! Robotnic blows up and falls off screen.
Next, Sonic turns and looks in the distance. The Death Egg that Robotnic just launched crashes down from the sky!
I mentioned above that this game is technically Part 1 of 2….and it feels that way. This final Robotnic battle felt lacking. All the previous Robotnic battles in this game seemed new and fresh, like the Marble Garden Zone fight; in Sonic 2, you faced Metal Sonic and a Gigantic Robotnic Battle Droid, this final battle seemed almost thrown in, even the final freeze frame seems like it’s tagged on. This in no way means that I didn’t enjoy playing Sonic 3. All the levels were so big with plenty of places to explore; the cut scenes were also fun and kept the energy building. But the ending…it almost felt like Robotnic was holding back.
The Chaos Emerald mini games are fun, but very stressful on your brain and your eyes!! I think a bird’s eye view would have accomplished the maze aspect better, but I understand that they wanted to give a 3D feel to the game. Still, I think Sonic 2 got it right with its Chaos Emerald mini game. Surprisingly, Tails was less annoying in this game, and even necessary! But Tails is still garbage, so I’m not going to talk about him anymore…
The music is fantastic! Rumour has it that Michael Jackson helped create many of the songs, which seems very plausible, since some levels contain a voice yelling, “Woooo!” and “Come on!”, which are found often in Jackson’s songs. This game has some of the best music in the series, my favourite being Launch Base Zone!
The save feature is a great addition. It gives it a pick up and play feel that is lacking in the previous titles. Should you play this game? Definitely…but you won’t be getting the full experience….is this game the best in the series…not yet…that’s where the sequel comes in!
So what do you think? Are you going to scavenge your local thrift store or flea market in the hopes of finding a copy? Sound off in the comments below!
Stay tuned next time for #9 when we play the sequel, Sonic and Knuckles!!! This time, we’ll be able to get the full package, what Sega originally intended Sonic 3 to be! Anybody else as psyched as I am for some Lock-on technology!!??