System: Sega Genesis
Release Date: October 18, 1994
First Played: November 1994 (Owned 1998)
Status: DEFEATED – October 27, 2014
If you read my previous entry on Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (if you haven’t, get over there and read it!!) you’ll know the dealy-o with this game. Briefly here’s the low down: Sonic 3 and this game were meant to be one big game, but time constraints (and cost) forced them to release Sonic 3 (what they finished so far) and then this game (the rest of the game) 8 months later. The kicker and main selling point for this game was 1) not only was this a brand new Sonic game and therefore sure to be awesome but 2) it could connect with Sonic 3 AND Sonic 2 via “LOCK-ON TECHNOLOGY!!!” It was innovative, unique and proved once again that Sega does what “Nintendon’t”. But you can throw in all the bells and whistles you want, the only thing that matters in the end is game play. “The name of the game is the game” as one enlightened gentleman once said, so with all said and done, is this game the work of art it was advertised to be or just a desperate ploy by Sega in their battle with Nintendo; to throw everything they could think of at the wall and see what would stick?
When First We Met…
I actually played this game before I played Sonic the Hedgehog 3. As I said previously, Sonic 3 was next to impossible to get a hold of; however, I managed to luck out with Sonic and Knuckles, finding a very well used copy at my old reliable, Jumbo Video…
Now Sonic 2, in my mind, was by far the greatest Sega game in my library of fun. But that game was a couple of years old by this point and surely with all this modern technology flying around, this game would only improve upon the past!! So I quickly popped it into my Sega. After the necessary singing of the word Sega (I just love that intro so much!), Sonic and Knuckles drop down into the screen in all their 3D glory!
Ooooh baby!! Look at them graphics! From here you are presented with 2 options: a Sonic game or a Knuckles Game. Hmmm, I’m tempted to play as Knuckles, the new comer to this game. From all the advertisements I’d seen and from word of mouth of friends or friends of friends that have played Sonic 3, Knuckles is pretty bad ass…but I got to give Sonic the right of way, so I select the Sonic game. You open immediately into Mushroom Hill Zone Act 1
A video game where the protagonist is surrounded by mushrooms……how original!
It’s at this point I notice something…it’s just Sonic…NO TAILS!!!! I’m overjoyed!! Ha HA!!! So Miles “Tails” Prower gets the boot to make room for the much more awesome Knuckles! I am very fine with that. The music is catchy, as I find is the case with many of the Sonic levels and the graphics are incredible!! There’s so much depth which just brings the stage alive, not just a flat generic background. I discover Sonic’s new double jump shield attack as well as the fun force field additions (which were originally in Sonic 3; see previous blog for more details) as well as the sheer size of the level! It’s huge! There are so many different paths to choose from, I find that I end up getting turned around, which honestly is a bit frustrating, especially since every other Sonic game I played had (for the most part) very linear levels. The enemies are much more difficult as well…especially this guy…
So help me I can’t kill this thing!!! Just when I think I’ve landed on its head, its tail gets in my way and BOOM, bye-bye rings!! I die many times with these enemies, but eventually my travels bring me to a boss fight who to my shock is NOT ROBOTNIC!!
It’s some kind of Lumberjack Robot Boss…interesting, this is a first for me; previous games only had you fight Robotnic! I like how they mixed up the formula! This guy is tougher than he looks, and I die and to my shock need to start over! Geeze, they made this game way harder than Sonic 2!!
With timing though, I’m able to overcome RoboChop and he blows up good! Act 2 starts right away and I’m off; spin dashing and swinging my way through this incredibly long level! Then I notice something…are there Chaos Emeralds in this game? I have no clue. It’s when I’m about 6 minutes into Act 2 when I realize that something is bothering me. In Sonic 2, I would already be on the next zone…but these levels are so long, it’s almost as if Sonic’s speed does nothing! But after plenty more deaths and crazy spring jumps and loop-de-loops I run into a satellite dish. Hmmm, well you know what they say, “When in Rome…Smashy Smashy!!” I attack it, it explodes. Suddenly Robotnic erupts from the ground, the boss music starts and he flies away! I give chase…..which leads me to the end of my journey…
That’s right, I COULD NOT GET PAST THE FIRST ZONE IN SONIC AND KNUCKLES. You have to try to hit Robotnic while dodging these spiked poles, which I found impossible! Ok…Sonic has failed me…time to bring out the big guns! KNUCKLES!!! Knuckles plays a lot differently than Sonic…which throws me off a lot. He can’t jump as high and the added perks of the force fields (which include bouncing, gaining extra height during a jump or diving forward) are nonexistent. But, he can glide and climb walls!
Climbing the walls and gliding were cool…but they seemed really slow…and I hate to say it, but I got bored with playing as Knuckles. Why was everyone so Kookoo for Knuckles? I just didn’t get it. I was also frustrated that I couldn’t get past the first level, not to mention the length of the levels themselves! Come on!! I just want to run as fast as I can!! I would return this game early to Jumbo Video…a first for me. I usually play a game until the last possible second before a late fee could be applied! But not with this one, I was shocked; a Sonic game had let me down.
Now I know what you’re thinking; WHAT ABOUT THE LOCK-ON TECHNOLOGY!?!? Well, seeing that I only had Sonic 2 at this time, I locked that on…
This reminded me of using a Game Genie! For those of you who don’t know, a Game Genie was a cartridge looking device that you would place a game into, and then place the whole shebang into the system, in my case the NES. You would then enter codes which would unlock awesome cheats, like invincibility or walking through walls or what have you!
Again, it was fun at first, but the novelty wore off quick. I much preferred Sonic 2 on its own, even if it means that Tails was in it! I would find this game at a flea market several years later (1998) at a hefty $20 (I traded in a game to bring it down to $15), but still I could not get past that level. I think I bought it more just to say I had it, and when I did eventually get Sonic 3, I remember just trying it out to see if it worked and then focusing on the much more popular Goldeneye 007 for Nintendo 64!! I was disappointed, so I tossed it aside, with my other Sega games to collect dust…and fade into memory…
Meanwhile in the Present…
Knowing what I know now about Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles, I didn’t bother playing Sonic and Knuckles by itself, but instead went straight for the lock-on so I could get the truly completed form of the game! I did give it a try though, and I discovered (or rediscovered I guess) that it didn’t have a save feature like Sonic 3 did! What this means is that if I wanted to save my game, I needed to have Sonic 3 attached to it…so (when this came out) you basically had to spend extra money on Sonic 3 if you wanted to save your game…
This didn’t dissuade me though; I had just beaten Sonic 3, with all the Chaos Emeralds! So I locked them together…
…and went to load my save file! This is going to be easy! I’m already Super Sonic! I’ll beat this game in half an hour!!! As usual I spoke too soon…for you see…MY SAVE FILE WAS GONE. Well, not gone, it existed in Sonic 3, and couldn’t be transferred over to Sonic and Knuckles, or as the game now calls itself, Sonic 3 and Knuckles.
Sonic 3 and Knuckles starts you from the very first stage of Sonic 3. So……..I need to beat Sonic 3 and get all the Chaos Emeralds…AGAIN!?!?!?! Yes…yes I do. In the file screen you can choose who you want to play as: Sonic, Sonic and Tails, Just Tails (why would I even…) or Knuckles. Naturally I go with Sonic and Tails. Incredibly long story short, I beat Sonic 3 in its entirety once again, though when you reach the “final” boss fight in Sonic 3…it doesn’t happen…Sonic jumps off the platform and into Mushroom Hill Zone, which is where regular Sonic and Knuckles begins. Right away I’m surprised as a cut scene is added right after I start the level…
That’s not suspicious…
Knuckles pops out of a hole in the wall, hits a switch which closes a door and runs away…what’s that all about? So I enter the room he tried to hide from me and there’s a Chaos Ring! But it’s flashing white and yellow…I jump in and…
…I’m in a room full of giant diamonds…a quick Google search revealed them to be…SUPER EMERALDS! Suddenly, my hard earned Chaos Emeralds leave Sonic and float in the air, quickly merge with the Super Emeralds, making them shimmer different colours. Now being able to move, I jump on an Emerald and am blasted to a Super Emerald bonus stage! It plays the same as the Chaos Emerald stages in the “Sonic 3” part of the game, with the exception that yellow orbs have been added. This orb acts as a spring which launches you forward in the direction you’re travelling. Oh, and did I mention that these levels are STUPID HARD??? My first attempt at this level ended with me being launched by a yellow orb and then quickly running face first into a red one, returning me to Mushroom Hill Zone. Though to my credit, I think I managed to snag two blue orbs…..hooray? I thought you had to think fast before, these stages are mind boggling, with even more rapid movements required. Guess that means I’m not going to be blinking for a while! Blinking is over rated anyway.
Maybe it was my many play throughs of Sonic 3, but I’m able to find a lot of Super Emerald Rings. I’m able to snag one before I get to the impossible Robotnic battle…which was really easy. I don’t know why I had such a hard time with this before, but I easily dodge the spiked poles and Robotnic slams into a tree and blows up. Robotnic tries to escape in a Zeppelin, but Sonic grabs onto the side, leading into the next level. From this point on in the game, there is a dramatic shift in the way the mid boss and Robotnic battles play out. As in every single previous battle you defeat the mid boss or Robotnic by hitting him a certain amount of times, some battles are tricky in that you have to wait for a weak spot to open up. But now many of the Mid bosses CAN NOT BE DAMAGED…by you anyway. Here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about:
This boss disguised itself as the animal prison you pop open at the end of an act; but it transforms into this thing!! Ramming into it or any kind of attack is useless; the key is to use its own weapons against it, I.E. his giant wrecking ball hands. You need to sit on top of his head; when he winds up to hit you, quickly spin dash out of the way and he’ll hit himself on the head! Another great example is in Sandopolis Zone
You can’t hurt this guy; you coming in contact with him in any way is a bad idea. To defeat him, you have to lure him to the far left of the screen where he will get trapped in quick sand and sink! These new mid boss strategies really come out of left field, but that’s not a bad thing. It forced me to get out of my comfort zone and start to really strategize and think on my feet! It’s a welcome addition, I just wish that these were spread out throughout Sonic 3 and Knuckles and not just the latter half of the game. Speaking of Sandopolis Zone, Act 2 puts you into a massive pyramid labyrinth where you have to deal with these things
This level is full of ghosts that appear as the stage gets darker (you need to find light switches to turn the lights back on which keep the ghosts at bay). They look like little Sonic devils! Are these Sonic’s ancestors? Or ghosts of the animals that Sonic didn’t save in past games by breaking them out of their robotic prison and now they are itching to expel their undead frustration and anger by feasting on Sonic’s soul!?!?!? Probably not, but they look cool!
The Robotnic battles also take a massive difficulty spike, and a creative one as well! Gone are the days of just rapidly hitting him until he blows up, case in point, Robotnic in Sandopolis:
At first glance you think this is just a bigger version of that rock guy from before. But by jumping quickly on the statues fist and then hitting the jewel on the forehead, the façade briefly fades away to reveal Robotnic within! You only have time to deliver one hit per reveal, and time is of the essence because he’s gradually pinning you against the wall! But with patience, Robotnic’s Golem gets exploded all nice like! By far, my favourite Robotnic fight takes place in Lava Reef Zone:
You are in a sea of lava and Robotnic is covered in spikes, YOU CAN’T HURT HIM. He changes the direction of the lava flow to pull you toward him and certain doom all while firing spiked balls at you! But, he’s a lot easier than he looks. I managed to snag a fire shield prior to the fight…so the lava couldn’t hurt me; also the very same spike balls he fire at you eventually flow back towards him and deal damage! All I had to do was just make sure I didn’t touch any spikes and Robotnic bites the dust! Once again, the game forces you to use quick thinking and strategy in order to prevail instead of relying on speed.
Lava Reef Zone leads into Hidden Palace Zone, which I soon discover is the location of the Super Emeralds (that room I always get zapped to before I can play the “Collect the Sphere’s game”) At this point, I was able to get 4 of the 7 Super Emeralds, so the ones I got appear as solid colours. But I’m not alone…after 10 levels of randomly popping up and being a dick….Knuckles is standing at the end waiting for me…AND HE WANTS TO FIGHT!
Oh IT’S ON!!! (Notice the funky paintings in the back? It suggests that Sonic is some kind of chosen one to wield the power of the Super Emeralds!)
You’re gonna be eating ants through a tube when I’m done with you, you God Damn Echidna!! I’m nervous though; with so much build up to this moment, this is going to be intense!!…….it’s not. Knuckles mostly just stood there as I jumped on his head. I think he did an air glide at me…but it was easily dodged it and before I know it, Knuckles is defeated. He didn’t even touch me!!! He’s like school in the summer time…NO CLASS. There’s no time to complain though, because in comes Robotnic and steals the MASTER EMERALD, which Knuckles has dedicated his life to guarding! It’s important to note that the whole back story with this game is that Robotnic tricks Knuckles into thinking Sonic is the bad guy trying to steal the Master Emerald, which is why Knuckles has been “helping” Robotnic.
Knuckles finally sees the light, and together, we teleport to Sky Sanctuary Zone, where you face EggRobo’s which are Robotic Robotnic Clones. Visually, this level is the best so far. When you start the level, the Death Egg that crashed in Sonic 3 slowly raises off the ground and into the sky! Along with the Eggrobos is a very special guest…Metal Sonic!!! And you have to face him in 3 SEPARATE BOSS BATTLES!!!
His use of weapons mimic those used in Sonic 2, so this is a fun nostalgia blast, though this also means I know immediately how to beat him. The final fight is more tricky, but again, using the same strategy that I used to beat him in Sonic 2, he goes boom. His design has improved greatly from his first appearance, which is a nice touch! His death causes the whole place to fall apart! There’s a fun cut scene of Sonic and Tails running up a spiralling path that is quickly collapsing and they jump just in time into the Final Zone…Death Egg Zone.
This is your typical “hyper industrialized” Sonic level, and it’s not that difficult, it has a really fun mid boss that clearly gets its influence from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey
After some more antigravity fun and another Mid boss….you finally get to the FINAL ROBOTNIC BATTLES!! Remember the final boss from Sonic 2…well, Robotnic has learned from his past mistakes…
This boss is MASSIVE!!! It can’t even fit on the whole screen, luckly, round one is very straight forward, he tries to smoosh you with his giant robot fingers, so just take out his fingers after you dodge them. Round 2…that’s a whole new ball game. The boss changes to a side view and chases you, every step it takes destroys a section of platform. On top of this, the Master Emerald, housed inside the robots mouth, fires a massive laser that is incredibly difficult to dodge! After many deaths, I figure out that, I need to hit his robot nose, jump at the very last moment before the laser fires and then quickly hit the exposed Master Emerald! This is tough, I’ve never experienced a boss battle like this in a Sonic game…AND IT’s NOT OVER YET.
After far too many deaths, I land enough hits and the big bot explodes…but Robotnic escapes carrying the Master Emerald! The whole place is falling apart and I need to run at top speed to keep up with him. I need to deliver another 8 shots in order to take him down!
Thank god I was able to rack up the lives and continues! It takes me another 5 tries, but I BEAT HIM!!! But we’re not done yet kids…
Since I was able to find all the Chaos Emeralds (I’m still missing 3 Super Emeralds though) I gain access to the Final Final Ultimate Level…THE DOOMSDAY ZONE…
Robotnic is STILL escaping with the Master Emerald! As Super Sonic, you need to navigate an asteroid field and try to catch up with him all while collecting rings because you need 50 rings to be Super Sonic and they gradually depleat as time goes on. If you run out, instant death. I try to keep my ring total around 80 and catch up to Robotnic’s Spaceship. I try hitting him, but nothing seems to work! It’s also hard to get near him as he is constantly firing homing missiles at you…that’s when I realize what I need to do! I lure a missile towards Sonic as he floats near the cockpit of the ship…BANG!! Direct hit! You sneaky bastard! So I keep this up, having to fall back every now and then to get more rings. But finally I deal enough hits and he explodes!! YYYEESSS!!! GAME OVER!!!
Except it isn’t.
Oh for….DIE ALREADY WOULD YOU????
His Spaceship breaks away to reveal a tinier version of the Robotnic Robot we all know and love. I need to keep doing my missile luring skills, but my hands are sweaty, my eyes burn…forgot to blink again!! My ring count gets lower and lower, the music speeds up as my rings go down, the background is flying by far too quickly to comprehend any kind of detail, I’m flying and dodging, I’m hit by a missile!! 5 rings left…2 missiles locked in on me…THIS ENDS NOW ROBOTNIC!!!
The first missile misses..No! NOO! But the second connects, followed by a mighty explosion!!
I picture Robotnic screaming as he’s rippied from the gutted husk of his machine, sucked out into the unforgiving and uncaring vaccume of space!! Now Sonic is falling with the Master Emerald! At the last possible second, Tails snags you and the Emerald.
Ugh, thanks I guess…
You fly back to Angel Island, bringing the Master Emerald back where it belongs, which causes the Island to float in the air, like it was before Ronbotnic’s arrival.
Sonic and Tails fly away, but not before Sonic gives a well deserved freeze frame. Credits…Fin…wow……WOW. I can say with out a shadow of a doubt, THIS IS THE GREATEST BOSS FIGHT IN THE ENTIERTY OF THE SONIC FRANCHISE!!!
Is…is it hiding in a pile of robot corpses…!!!???
What the…that’ s one of the EggRobo’s from Sky Sanctuary Zone??? What’s that all about? I’d find out soon enough, but first, I need to get the rest of the Super Emeralds! As luck would have it, after you beat the game, you can select any level to play, so I just picked Mushroom Hill Zone over and over again until I got all the Super Emeralds, and when you do…
Now you can become…HYPER SONIC!?!?!? All I can picture is Sonic just running up to things and ripping them in half (though that’s not what happens). Basically, Hyper Sonic is the same as Super Sonic but faster, and he can dive forward when you double jump. Also, he flashes white and gold rapidly and a double image appears while he’s running. So, now that I have all the Super Emeralds, I make my victory official and beat the final boss again. Nothing different happens during the battle. He flashes different colours during his freeze frame at the end, but a new animation is added!
Knuckles gives a wave as Sonic and Tails fly off. Then credits and another Fin
Well, Sonic’s portion is 100% completed…I guess this means I need to try the Knuckles side of Sonic 3 and Knuckles!! You start out at the beginning of Sonic 3. I should note that apparently the Knuckles game takes place after the Sonic game. I wasn’t sure how that would work…until I see the boss of Angel Island Zone Act 2
Wait a minute…THAT’S NOT ROBOTNIC!! That’s the Eggrobo I saw at the end of the credits in Sonic’s game! So…Robotnic is actually gone…..well, until they bring him back in the less awesome 3d Sonic games…The Sonic 3 levels have been tweeked slightly; when ever there was a section where Knuckles would pop up and taunt you, you can actually bust through a wall and access an entirely different part of the level, one that requires use of Knuckles wall climbing and gliding abilities. Even the boss fights change: remember that one boss fight where Tails carries Sonic in the air as they fight Robotnic? Well, there is no Tails to carry Knuckles, so this is the boss fight instead.
It’s an interesting divergence, and it makes me feel like I’m not just replaying the exact same game with a different looking character…though for the most part, that’s exactly what you’re doing. I easily get all the Chaos Emeralds (it’s the same deal as with Super Sonic, except he’s pink)…
…and make it to the final Sonic 3 boss. Interestingly, the 3 boss fights here are the exact same as when you play Sonic 3 on its own. I guess since there is no Deathegg, you fight this one the ground instead of in the air on a platform.
The Sonic and Knuckles portion of the game plays basically the same, with slight tweaks that force you to use you unique Knuckles abilities. The one big exception happens in Lava Reef Zone. Now, I’m not sure if I found some sort of secret exit or if this is just how it is supposed to be played out, but I broke through a wall which brought me right to Hidden Palace Zone. Did I skip over the Lava Reef Boss fight? Too bad, I really liked that one. Plus, I yet again was unable to get all the Super Emeralds on the first go. Hidden Palace Zone is even shorter; after you enter and notice that the Master Emerald has yet again been stolen, you jump into a teleporter and are beamed to Sky Sanctuary Zone. Once you arrive, there’s no level, Just boss battles!
Eggrobo arrives with a claw to capture Knuckles. It’s unavoidable, he will catch you. This makes me think, “Why didn’t they just use this machine at the beginning???? You could have just picked him up and dropped him in the ocean or a volcano!!” Well, you get captured and are slowly lead away…towards METAL SONIC!! I guess he survived his fight with Sonic! With Knuckles still trapped by Eggrobo, Metal Sonic revs up and dives at Knuckles, looking for an easy kill! But, in a classic action movie moment, Knuckles breaks free at the last second, and Metal Sonic destroys Eggrobo instead!!
WHOA!! That was heartless Metal Sonic! Well, he doesn’t shed a tear for his fallen “ally” because he starts to attack. His pattern is the same as before, so I take him down quickly. Now what? I’m expecting a surprise resurrection of Dr. Robotnic, but I’m greeted with an even bigger shock! Metal Sonic jumps right, revealing the Master Emerald. He jumps on top and powers up, going full blown SUPER SAIYAN!!
Cool!! Oh, wait, I mean, AAAGGGHHH!!!!
Metal Sonic flies around the screen, sometimes swooping down at you or shooting energy bolts that cover the entire stage. Any attack I try leads to me being damaged! He’s got to have a weak point…right? Then I see it, Metal Sonic unleashes a powerful attack, which drains his powers! In that brief moment of weakness, I attack, I can only get in one shot before he jumps back onto the Master Emerald to recharge, and the deadly dance is repeated once again. I catch onto this pattern fairly quickly, and before I know it…
Booya!! But then the whole place starts to explode and before I know it, Knuckles is falling. But, he can glide through the air, right? So…this isn’t that big of a deal…still, Sonic shows up and catches him in Tails’ plane
They fly off to Angel Island and once again, make it float in the air, except this time it goes all the way into the stratosphere!! This all happens while the credits roll. Fun freeze frame. Fin
Just like with the Sonic game, I’m able to replay Mushroom Hill Zone repeatedly until I snag all the Super Emeralds…where you become HYPER KNUCKLES!!!
I Beat Metal Sonic again to see if there is any secret cut scene, but there’s not. It’s just a freeze frame of Knuckles all pink and powerful.
After nearly 2 weeks of playing, I finally get the perfect ending. Fin. For real this time!
Wow. Simply wow. The combined form of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic and Knuckles, in this humble gamers opinion, is the best instalment in the Sonic Genesis era…and arguably the entire franchise! Where individually the games may seem lacking or unpolished, the combined “final” product surpasses the previous Sonic titles by leaps and bounds in game play, quality, music, variety, boss fights, as well as intensity and excitement! The Sonic adventure is the clear winner; I’m not knocking the Knuckles adventure; what’s great about it is that it isn’t just Knuckles playing the same level as Sonic did, the unique Knuckles areas make it feel like a completely different game, and Knuckles unique abilities add a challenge not found in the Sonic levels.
This is how a game should be done! Every new form of Robotnic just kept getting crazier and crazier, and the climactic battle in space is the ultimate cherry on top of this action packed sundae! You can tell just by playing all the hard work that went into its development, that Sega didn’t just want to capitalize on the popularity of Sonic the Hedgehog, but wanted to create a fantastic game. If I could pin point a down side, it would be the length of many of the levels, but the save feature makes up for this; this game would be unbearable if you had to do it all in one sitting.
After playing this, I couldn’t help thinking of a more recent Sonic title, “Sonic: Lost World”. It looked great, but it lacked the polish and just plain awesomeness that Sonic 3 and Knuckles has. “The name of the game is the game”, and let me tell you, THIS IS THE GAME. I’m actually surprised at how much I enjoyed this; move over Sonic 2, there’s a new king in town! This game definitely stands the test of time and my previous woes did not last!
So what do you think? Are you going to track down Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles, lock them together and play the best Sonic game of all time? Are you more a Sonic or a Knuckles fan? Do you also think current Sonic games lack that Sega magic of yesteryear? Sound off in the comments below!
Stay tuned next time for # 8. My personal “V” for Vendetta. This game was touted as a visual masterpiece…and even had a contest where some cartridges gave you a phone number where you could win $25,000.00!!!! It’s also known to be a huge pain in the Vec…I mean neck!!