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After a request from Blue-Speeder to move my reviews to my blog, I guess I might as well tweak a few problems from the original trilogy reviews, as well as a few opinion changes here and there, as well as a whole new review!

9/8/14 Sonic the Hedgehog reviewed (remastered)

9/8/14 Sonic the Hedgehog 2 reviewed (v.3)

9/11/14 Sonic the Hedgehog 3 reviewed (v.2)

9/15/14 Sonic 3 & Knuckles (v.1)

SONIC 1

Well, I guess……….

Ever since SOMETHING went wrong with my account, I don’t what happened; I think it’s a good idea to just do a quick re-review of Sonic the Hedgehog. Guess it’s time to once again, review Sonic the Hedgehog, for the Sega Genesis.

I think we all can remember this game. This was the game that welcomed us to the Next Level, the one who Blast Processed through our hearts, and showed us What Nintendon’t. Just had to ;)

With that said a little history. We have the NES. The 8-Bit juggernauts that single handedly revive the franchise with hits like Super Mario Bros. How is this related to our story? Well, its rival is the Sega Master System. Now, I think we understand each other. Sega saw Nintendo’s pool of cash, and was totally down for the money, and they whipped up the Sega Master System. It was technologically superior, but lack of third party support, and their mascot just sucking ass; it doesn’t need a Dick Tracey to figure out why the SMS was a failure of a rival.

However, Sega saw the fortune they could make in the home console market. Now, we have the Sega Genesis. Followed with heavy marketing campaigns, the Genesis’s sleek, sexy black model made Sega fans proud of themselves, and those who stuck with that gray block essentially fell to envy.

Despite the initial success Sega had, Nintendo just was going to be what the Genesisn’t. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System, a console about TWICE as powerful as Sega’s offering, it was also announced to have Super Mario World, and two newcomers, F-Zero and Pilot Wings, as LAUNCH TITLES. Who did Sega have? Let’s think, um, Altered Beast maybe? I know SOME of you guys liked……… um, yeah. Not a lot of great games…

Sega saw what was wrong; a lack of a mascot. So designers pitched ideas left and right, and in the end, a spiky blue hedgehog was selected.

HIS FUR, MADE BLUE TO MATCH THE SEGA LOGO…..

          HIS SHOES, INSPIRED BY MICHAEL JACKSON…….

HIS INABILITY TO SWIM, GIVEN TO HIM WHEN YUJI NAKA HAD AN IDIOT MOMENT AND THOUGHT HEDGEHOGS COULDN’T SWIM….

HIS NAME…………..

Mr. Needlemouse. ? Oh, sorry,

HIS NAME, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG

And thus, a legend was born. Sonic the Hedgehog was a massive hit, and eventually replaced Altered Beast as the bundle for the Sega Genesis. This, alongside ACTUAL QUALITY titles sped the Genesis above the SNES, and before long, Sega had a 65% lead in market share.

 

 

Well, that was a VERY LONG history lesson, and I promise, it’ll never be that long again. But with all this history, does the game hold up? It’s around 23 years old, so let’s dive right in!

 

 

 

 

Story Zone;

Act 1: Simplicity is better than being dark.

The story is rather simple, as most games were at the point. Your once good rival, Dr. Eggm- WHOOPS! Sorry, it’s Dr. Ivo Robotnik, has kidnapped your furry little friends and is transforming them into robots to take over THE WORLD!!! Sonic, being the most capable of the bunch, has survived and is now on a rescue mission to save his friends, drive Robotnik out of his homeland, and crush him! Not too bad, for a 16-Bit game.

 

 

Presentation Zone;

Act 2: Music, Visuals, and all that…

IN 16-BITS!!!!!!!

Let’s get the small stuff put first. Back then, many game characters were comprised of a few dozen pixels, given unique colors and traits, and the rest is left to imagination. With the jump to 16-Bits, Sega wanted to capitalize that while not on par to the SNES, the Genesis here is still very capable. BOY DID THEY PROVE THAT! Ok, let’s begin with the basics.

The character model for Sonic is simply ASTOUNDING. His body was well constructed, and the mere sight of his feet entering the trademark circle animation, or the spin attack shearing through alloy, gives you this feel of power. And I don’t even have to mention the waiting animation. For the first time, our hero is given an attitude not from text, but from his own actions. He provided a cocky, brash, and arrogant hero, who sharpened up (get it?) when action was needed.

The model itself, however, is NOTHING to the gorgeous backgrounds. From the lush, tropical, and instantly recognizable Green Hill, the gloomy, fear invoking Marble, or the urban, starry Starlight zone, this game is a whirl from beginning to end. Every set piece is distinct from the previous, giving the player a WORLD to explore.

And of course, how can we forget the soundtrack? We just can’t. The composer stated that he was composing the music as he would for a movie. It is AWESOME!!!! Ahem, sorry. I actually conducted a poll, and guess what? For, “Most recognizable theme of Gaming”, second place is Green Hill. There you go. Everything, whether it be the wacky, bounding Spring Yard, or the malicious Scrap Brain, this game’s soundtrack is stellar, no objections.

 

GAMEPLAY ZONE;

Act 3: Those were the days…

Good story, great visuals, and perfect sound score, what’s missing? The gameplay. The most vital part of a platformer. How does it do?

The surface controls are simple. You press left or right, and Sonic moves that way. Hit A, B, or C, and Sonic will spin jump. This move will take out enemies in any direction, assuming they don’t have a self defense up. Your goal is to guide Sonic through a level, and then race past the goal post.

Unfortunately for Mario fans, that’s where the similarities end. What looks to be on the surface to be a simple platformer is only but a mask, for a much larger, more complex game. Here is the difference. Momentum based platforming. You see, unlike Mario, Sonic NATURALLY moves fast. On a flat piece of land, Sonic runs at a pretty fast pace. But now, the physics engine comes into play. Try it out! Have Sonic run down a slope, and keep holding forward! THAT is physics. This can even be extenuated EVEN FURTHER, with Sonic’s signature move; the roll attack. Pressing down on the D-Pad will cause Sonic to curl into a spiky ball, useful for offense. But now, try it out going downhill! THAT is what makes Sonic unique. It’s not some stupid sensation of speed. It’s not the ends. It’s the means. It was always about HOW do you achieve your trademark speed? HOW can you take advantage of the level’s design? That is what Sonic is all about. Not a button that essentially turns you into Sonic the unstoppable.

Scattered across the stages are golden rings. These, as well as contributing to your score, act as insurance. Get hit with rings, Sonic drops them all, but survives to run another day. Get hit without any, and… well, we all know. When your score hit every 50000 or so, you score an extra life. You can also net lives by gathering 100 rings, or opening monitors with Sonic’s face. Monitors also include 10 rings, speed sneakers that make Sonic run faster, invincibility, and a shield that neglects enemy attacks for one hit.

At the end of a stage, if you have at least 50 rings, there will be a giant yellow ring. Jump into it to enter the special stage. But here’s a little tip for you;

DON’T DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You have to guide Sonic through acid-trip mazes, and it’s so bad, I consider these one of the worst special stages in Sonic’s history, and is a main factor that brings the game down a bit for me. But if you SOMEHOW manage to tolerate these, well, there’s a chaos emerald. Touch it, you win. Collect all six to change the ending. Yippee. Never even have bothered. Best you don’t either.

Well, that’s a mouthful, so let’s cap this off with the levels!

Green Hill Zone; A lush green hillside out take that is a great intro level, which acquaints you with the game’s physics engine. I NEVER get sick of the vast, open level design, where crafty thinking and manipulation is rewarded with little goodies.

Marble Zone; why does every 8 year old hate this zone? Just because it has platforming doesn’t mean it’s bad. But regardless, we can all agree THE MUSIC IS FRIGGEN EPIC!!!!!

Spring Yard Zone; Pretty good zone IF IT DIDN’T HAPPEN TO HAVE VERY CHEAP ENEMY PLACEMENTS!!!

Labyrinth Zone; I refuse to acknowledge it as a zone. I always use the level select to skip. But if you must know, it’s where we learn Sonic can’t swim.

Starlight Zone; AMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZING!!!! Great use of the physics, large level designs, and the best song in the game, it’s my favorite zone here hands down!

Scrap Brain Zone; Crap Brain Zone. SOOOOOOO many cheap deaths.

Final Zone; It’s you and Robotnik, head to head, toe to toe, no questions asked, just a one on one fight to the end! And the music, THE MUSIC!

 

 

FINAL ZONE;

Act 4: Still Runnin’

After 23 years, this game hasn’t aged in the slightest. When replaying the game for a true, updated opinion, not much has changed. The physics have aged well even by today standards, the graphics and sound still look great, and I got a kick out of a good chunk of the levels.

The game isn’t perfect by all means, but I think any fan of platformers will have a blast playing this game. Until next time. Toodles!

 

 

SONIC 2

 

So as we finish off Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s pretty clear that, to me, the game is just as great as it was back then. Sure, it has aged, but with grace that many games fail to do so.

Well, I guess the history stuff shall go out first. Sonic the Hedgehog was a huge hit, selling over 15 million copies, making it the best selling Sega Genesis title, as well as the best selling Sonic title. So, with that said, Sega had a lot to live up to. Sega began plaguing the streets, newspapers, and TV’s with ads that showed off Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in all its glory. A new character, five more zones, sharper graphics, better sounds, and action faster than before, Sonic 2 was released on Sonic 2sday…… lleeeeeeeehereee Lame Pun. Selling 6 million copies, it is the second placer for the Sega Genesis, likewise for the overall Sonic franchise. With that said, ambition was high, so let’s raise the standards. I expect NOTHING to be dropped from Sonic 1, or I will deem this game a failed sequel. So, can this game not only best time, but its ambition as well?

Plot Zone;

Act 1: George Lucas had influence

So then, the plot is a little more involved. Apparently, Robotnik isn’t done yet. He’s been expecting defeat, and he’s ready to have his Empire Strike Back. With that said, a new vessel, the Death Star (cough), sorry, Death Egg, has launched and attacked West Island. However, The Return of the Hedgehog spoils Robotnik’s master plan, and with him is A New Hope, Miles “Tails” Prower. The only inhabitant that can catch up with Sonic, “Tails” uses his multi-tasking twin tails to slash and fly through more badniks. The stakes have never been higher!

Well, in the end, we all know the Eggman Empire really doesn’t pose much of a threat for Sonic, because despite having more bases and servants, Sonic and Tails blaze through them, driving Robotnik back to his base, but he quickly escapes with a Wing Fortress, where a Sky Chase begins. Tails is shot down, but Sonic manages to land on the flying fortress, and destroys Robotnik’s resistance, forcing Robotnik to play his trump card a little sooner than expected. Robotnik attempts to shake Sonic off by flying off to the Death Egg, but Tails had circled around in time, this time with a jet attachment, and gets close enough for Sonic to fight Robotnik for the final fight.

However, Robotnik deploys his strongest servant, the Silver Mecha Sonic, the Death Egg’s first line of defense. A duel of quills ignites, but it’s clear the robot’s inferiority shows, as the lack of an AI of any sort leads to a quick defeat. Robotnik attempts to flee, causing Sonic to toy with the mad doctor, chasing him, but what he did NOT expect was a giant Death Egg Robot about five times his size! If only he had ran a little faster…

Sonic and Robotnik duke it out, with Sonic destroying both the mech AND the Death Egg, and he barely escapes. Luckily for him, Tails is right with him, and pilots the Tornado under Sonic. The two fly off to the sunset, ready to enjoy their hard earned….

Ok, who am I kidding? We still have four more games to review. So yeah, the story is great in concept. No dark egos, no swearing, aliens, government conspiracy, time travels, or friggen story books, no. Just two brothers and their quest to rebel against the evil doctor. That’s all I need. With that said, Sonic 2 took the overall simple story formula, and improved upon it. Sonic 2 wins the first round.

 

Presentation Zone:

Act 2; SUPER CHARGED!!!!

By the title alone, you should already know how I think of the game’s overall presentation. IT’S GORGEOUS! The graphics are more vibrant and colorful than ever, the frame rate is smoother, no graphical hiccups, and THE MUSIC. THE MUSIC! Everyone remembers Chemical Plant, and I’d be hard pressed to say the Death Egg Robot’s theme isn’t perfect. The soundtrack is simply kickass, no questions asked. The only real problem I have is that the colors for the character models seem more watered down than that of Sonic 1. Still, great overall. Sonic 2 also succeeds.

Gameplay Zone:

Are you UP 2 IT?!?

Sonic the Hedgehog may have been a great game on its own, but Sonic 2 is just so much better! Fast and furious, Sonic and Tails are equipped with slick controls, no speed cap, streamlined momentum, and a new move! The Super Sonic Spindash! Pressing down on the controller and rapidly mashing the jump button will make Sonic and Tails curl up into a ball and charging up a Spindash. Release down, and BOOM! Sonic and Tails will take off at sonic speeds, buzzing through any badnik that doesn’t put up a fight! It’s also great for scaling inclines quicker, and the usual decline that follows result in wonderful physic based speed. Ah….

So, the controls are obviously improved, but they feel like an afterthought when compared to the levels! I LOVE THESE LEVELS! Strangely, most of them are 2 acts per zone, but hey, IT WON’T MATTER WHEN ALL OF THEM ARE QUALITY!

Emerald Hill Zone; Green Hill Zone, but faster, bigger, better, and a gazillion times more colorful! Almost makes my eyes want to bleed…

Chemical Plant Zone; Sonic STILL can’t swim. And that leads us to a section perhaps even more notorious than the infamous Labyrinth Zone; Act 2 of Chemical Plant Zone. Yup, that water climbing. There are, however, two methods to skip those.

Aquatic Ruin; Spectacular level design, that rewards player’s skills by being the fastest level out there. Seriously, chain together a spindash, well timed jumps, and rolling, and you’ll even outrun the screen! You  CAN do that in Chemical Plant, but that’s with speed boosters. In fact, if you’re good enough, you can even never once touch the water! THIS IS AWESOME! Too bad the music is a little ear grading.

Casino Night Zone; And here we are introduced to my least favorite gimmick in the entire Sonic franchise; compulsive gambling. Arg, I HATE bumpers. Other than that, this game got it right, and presentation wise, it’s great. Smooth LA styled music, and the glisten of the cities behind you, greatness.

Hill Top Zone; Lots of chances to pull of some great stunts with all the ramps and slopes. The music is a tad boring though.

Mystic Cave Zone; The pit. There we go. Well, ok, it has great platforming and open level design, as well as a catchy as hell soundtrack. BUT THE PIT!!!!

Oil Ocean Zone; I used to think it sucked, but now I like it. It has loads of action and high-speed antics. The music FITS the tone, so I can forgive it, and overall, I like it.

Metropolis Zone; F*CKING SLICERS!!! I HATE, SLICERS! Ok, let’s back up a bit. Not only does the zone have 3 LABYRINTH LIKE ACTS, THE ENEMIES ARE WHAT DRIVE ME INSANE!!! Asterons are starfish that explode when Sonic gets near. They are easy to avoid if you spot them though. BUT THE OTHER TWO!!!!!!!! Shellcrackers, OH MY- Ok, they’re placements are terrible. They’re only weak side is its back, but it’s always put in a tight corridor! And if you try to attack its front, you’ll get owned by its extendable claw! But trust me, EVEN HE DOESN’T COMPARE TO THE SLICERS! IT’S THESE MEAN MOTHER HUMPERS THAT WILL MAKE SURE YOUR RING COUNT WILL NEVER GO PAST ONE! They toss their claws at you, and they home in. They are always placed in tight corridors, and sometimes even in places that are impossible to avoid! AND THERE ARE SO MANY OF THEM!

Sky Chase Zone; Ok, we went from hell, and now heaven? We have a very peaceful OST, and controlling the plane isn’t half bad. One act only though?

Wing Fortress; Very nerve wrecking. You are almost always traversing over a huge bottomless pit, but it’s overall a great, fun challenge. Also one act. And the music? In Robotnik we trust.

Death Egg Zone; Two steps right, showdown time. The Silver Mecha Sonic always follow a set pattern. Get it down, and he’s a goner. But then, the Death Egg Robot. No rings, tremendous soundtrack, and the thing’s hit box is HUGE. Timing is everything.

To enter a special stage, get 50 rings, hit a checkpoint, and Reach for the Stars. There, you will now guide Sonic through a pre-rendered 3D tunnel. Much better than Sonic 1’s but due to poor draw distance, still not great. Get all seven, we get SUPER SAIYAN! I mean, Super Sonic. TWICE AS FAST, DOUBLE JUMP HEIGHT, INVINCIBLE, I LOVE IT! I have the hardest time trying to hide this odd boner. He’s yellow, flared, and just kickass.

ACT 4; AND THE ANSWER IS!

When I first picked the game up, I honestly didn’t expect much.  I don’t know if that had an effect on my overall experience with the game, but to me, I DON’T CARE. The game improves on Sonic 1 in every way possible. The story is there, the graphics are some of the best in Sonic history, the music is classic, the controls smooth, almost all of the new levels are perfect, and overall,  this is one of the best Sonic games to grace the blue blur’s history.

SONIC 3

So, we all know how awesome Sonic 2 was. Better story, graphics, controls, music, levels, everything. With that said, the trilogy finally closed in 1994 with Sonic the Hedgehog 3, the direct sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog 2. With Sonic 2 being the big hit it was, I had two thoughts. Set my hopes as high as I did for when Sonic 2 succeeded Sonic 1, or lower my expectation dirt low so I don’t get disappointed. I honestly didn’t know what to think until I got the game myself. My initial thoughts were up, down, and all around. There were things I liked, things that annoyed me, AND THINGS THAT COMPLETELY PISSED ME OFF, all at completely spermatic intervals. I honestly didn’t know what to think. Did I love the game as much as everyone else, or was I going to pull a cjzero01 and place it below the other two? Well, with so many years under my belt, let’s begin.

 

ACT 1; Cutscene Zone

You know, what was wrong with being mute?

Unless Sega says otherwise, the story is right after Sonic 2’s. Sonic and Tails have retrieved the Chaos Emeralds, and plan to return them to the source of their power, Angel Island. However, the island had long been sunk, and Sonic investigates. Upon crossing the shores as Super Sonic, a surprise attack from Knuckles the Echidna dislodges the emeralds from Sonic, and steals them while our hero is fazed. With that said, Sonic’s fate is more twisted than ever! Crashed on a possibly hostile island, the Chaos Emeralds stolen, and Robotnik on the loose once more, Sonic and Tails set off to finish the Emerald Arch once and for all!

Sonic manages to snag all chaos emeralds once again, and in time to defeat Robotnik! The island is liberated, and Sonic has defeated his foe, Knuckles. However, Sonic is still on the island, and Robotnik is nowhere to be seen…

While Sonic 1 and 2 had a few cutscenes sprinkled here and there, Sonic 3 tells its story BY cutscenes. Characters will interact and fight with each others in scripted events, making the adventure more immersive than of last time. Well, I say this IS better than 2. So, we have that.

 

Act 2; Graphics Zone

Upgrades

If you’re confused by the title, lemme explain. The environments are lush, gorgeous, and detailed. Everything looks wonderful, and I’m glad the art style took this route. Everything is better than 2 in terms of backgrounds and foregrounds. The models have also taken a massive overhaul. Each sprite is more detailed than the last, and some even are pre-rendered 3D. This is very impressive, especially in the pseudo 3D special stages. The Genesis didn’t have mode seven, so this is a blast to see. Get it? Blast?  Blast Processing? Ok, I’ll just stop. The character models in their entirety? For the most part, they are far superior to Sonic 1 and 2, with longer quills, better animation, even Knuckles looks ok. I just hate Sonic’s idle animation. He goes from, “I’m taking down Robotnik, and anyone in my way!” to, “Let’s go stop that mean ol’ Eggman!” I’ve gotten over it though.

The music is great and all, but I have to say they some sound pretty damn muffled. Whatever. When Michael Jackson himself composed these tracks, you know it’s awesome. My favorites being Angel Island Act 1, Hydrocity Act 2, and both Ice Cap acts.

 

ACT 3; Gameplay Zone

Up, down, all around…

Ok, I guess first thing to tackle is control. Everything is intact, with some new moves and playstyles! Sonic and Tails return, now each with new abilities that let players approach and tackle the levels in brand new ways. Sonic has gained the instant shield, which activates when pressing the jump button twice. It protects Sonic long enough to graze across traps, and adds an inch of extra range to Sonic’s attack range. He also can manipulate shields. See, in this game, the shields are now elemental based; Fire, water, and electric. Fire allows Sonic to do the Fire Dash, and protects Sonic against fire. Press the jump twice, and it acts as the Jump Dash before the Jump Dash. It has great range, and attacks well against air-borne enemies. The water shield prevents Sonic from drowning, and allows the bounce attack. Hold the button down longer for a higher rebound. Ground enemies will have a hard time defending themselves; it’s nearly useless against larger threats. Finally, the electric shield protects Sonic from the rare electric attack, as well as drawing in rings. The double jump is introduced here, and makes platforming a joke, as well as Super Sonic being easier to maintain. Each shield can deflect minor projectiles, and the fire and electric shield will not survive under water.

Tails now has his own unique move set, instead of just having easier control. He can fly for a long time, and while it’s not infinite, it lasts so long he’s the easy mode of the game.

The special stages return, but they’re different this time around. Scattered within the levels are giant rings. Jump in, special stage time. You’re on a sphere, handling Sonic from an overhead view. Collect blue spheres, avoid red spheres. By going around a cross or a 3 by 3, you’ll turn them into rings. Every time you touch a blue sphere less you did the previous strategy, they will turn red. Watch out, get all seven, and you have Super Sonic, who’s just as broken as last time. This time, you press the jump button TWICE. The choices are yours and yours alone! Bonus stages replace Sonic 2’s method, where you play mini-games to win rings and shields.

Then finally, we have the levels. There are only six of them this time around. They are, however, much larger than Sonic 2 and 1 stages, so prepare your ass.

 

Angel Island Zone; The best of the starter stages, which is a beautiful jungle that catches on FIRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRE!

Hydrocity Zone; Great, fast paced level design, with some of the best music ever in Act 2. I never get sick of tying together sequences of jumps and spindashing to achieve high speeds.

Marble Zone; Some confusing level design is still not enough to derail this great level. The music is ear grading though.

Carnival Night is confusing, and I admit, it’s gotten me killed with dead ends, restart paths, and barrels of doom, but distortion is what they’re going for. So I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

Ice Cap Zone is the best zone in the game. Wonderful presentation, off the roof music, and some awesome level design, it’s a joy.

Launch Base Zone; Better than Scrap Brain, but that’s not saying a whole lot. It has a few good moments, and a handful of exciting moments, but it overall is too much of a mess to enjoy, OUTSIDE THE CATCHY MUSIC!

Humph, only six zones? Wow. With that said, however, if you do the sound select, (I googled it) you will actually see that this game actually ended up getting several levels cut. The rest of Sonic 3 is… gone!

To be continued…

 

 

 

SONIC 3(Cont.)

If I had to judge Sonic 3 on its own, it’d actually fare ok against Sonic 1, and Sonic 2. The story is engaging enough, the graphics are the best of the trilogy, the music catchy as hell, and the gameplay is spectacular. If I HAD to harp on one thing, it’s that the levels themselves seem very jarring. 

They are either pathetically easy (though still very enjoyable), to FRUSTRATING AS HELL, with like, one exception. Angel Island is the first stage, so it is meant to be easy, and I got a kick out of the immense level design. Hydrocity Zone feels a bit automated, and while a tad linear, I still think it’s a great zone to race in, especially in the second act. Marble Garden is that one exception. Its design is so… maze like, and many paths have little rhyme or reason. It’s a flip of a coin on whether I’m having a blast, or flat out hating it. But the end boss is awesome, that’s for sure. Carnival Night is like Casino Night on crack. I love the stage quite a bit, but not as much as Angel Island, or maybe even Hydrocity. It’s probably the punishing level design and the barrels of doom, but it’s still loads of fun. Ice Cap is an AMAZING level. It’s so… open. Even the first act, which takes place in a hallway, is wide and expansive, with large space giving it an eerie feel. The second act is fast and furious action, and I love every second of it. Launch Base is flat out INFURIATING. Sometimes, I swear the good parts are the parts where you’re doing nothing but running. As soon as even the most rudimentary platforms are thrown in, the stage bombards me with cheap enemy placements, cheap enemies in general, and loads of unfair traps. However, the final boss, the Big Arm, is EPIC. The atmosphere is just right with its pitch perfect music, the dark sky signifies that this is THE battle, and while the boss design is not scary, the fight is a test of reflexes, a challenge of timing, and I love it.

Overall, I love Sonic 3, about as much as the first game, but I don’t know about placing it above Sonic 2. I recommend it to those who enjoyed the first two, as this does what a good sequel does. I just think if it was less cheap, I’d love it more. And about those missing levels…

 

SONIC &

Knuckles

It turns out Sonic 3 was incomplete due to the developers rushing the game to meet deadlines. This deadly practice not only made Sonic 3 feel incomplete and somewhat inferior, it would also be used again in Sonic’s infamous 15th anniversary run, but I have not completed any of those games, and besides the main course, I have no plans on doing so. However, unlike SONIC THE HEDGEHOG, Sonic 3’s later levels were actually made into its own game. Why they didn’t try fixing SONIC THE HEDGEHOG with patches is beyond me. Funding, I guess.

With that said, the story is directly follows up after Sonic 3, making it more of a continuation than a successor. The graphics are pretty much the exact same, so it’s still the best looking. The music is also awesome. So really, only thing left is the finale to Emerald Arch, the new character, and new levels.

Knuckles the Echidna is now finally playable. He has a gimped jump, no insta-shield, and cannot tap into the elemental shields, but he can glide, climb walls, and maintains the spindash. His story takes place after the main plot has closed, and is just him defending his island against remnants of Robotnik’s empire. This easily classifies the red maverick the hard mode of the game.

Mushroom Hill; Mario was here. The stage is a blast, but it feels rather awkward with the pulleys, and the stage just is trippy. Still good though. Too bad the music is…

Flying Battery Zone; I swear this is just Wing Fortress, and not as fun to boot. It’s still a great challenge, don’t get me wrong, but I think that this, and Mushroom Hill for that matter, are just re-hatched themes. And they have been done better before. AT LEAST THE MUSIC IS AWESOME!

Sandopolis Zone; I HATE THIS LEVEL I HATE THIS LEVEL, I HATE THIS LEVEL. Ok, first act? With a lot of patience, I can pass. But the second act? Kill me. The stage looks pretty, and the music is ok, but…

Lava Reef Zone; this is one of the most difficult stages of the Angel Island sub-plot. The level design is treacherous, yet sparing with rings. The enemies come in all flavors, but if your skill is just right, you’d have a shield of some sort that allows you to bypass the area. I love how much the stage demands from you, yet it never seems unfair. Everything is a well mixed balance, and I love everything it does. The stage looks amazing, and the music? BUY the song.

Hidden Palace Zone; THIS IS WITHOUT A DOUBT THE HARDEST stage of both Sonic 3 AND Knuckles, behind Sandopolis. The music is eerie, the level design strict and punishing, but you really should never be overwhelmed, with the exception of this terribly glitchy launch area. It’s very story and atmosphere driven, and we even fight Knuckles one on one, and THIS is the zone where Knuckles gets betrayed by Robotnik, and teams up with Sonic to bring the doctor to justice.

Sky Sanctuary Zone; WHAT… A BEAUTY! The platforming is perfect, the sense of speed is liberating yet balanced,  the level design fair, the music amazing, the atmosphere build up incredible, and the showdowns with Mecha Sonic is nostalgic, even though Sonic 1 and 2 were released only 3  - 2 years behind.  I LOVE this stage, and this is quite possibly my favorite of Sonic and Knuckles, EVEN Sonic 3! Angel Island and Ice Cap were perfect in their own rights, but THIS blows them out of the water!

Death Egg Zone; No longer a boss rush, this is a full zone. I think it’s very tough, but like Lava Reef, it shouldn’t be hell with careful precision. The music is good, the level design tight, it’s the bosses that really make the stage so insanely hard, as well as some questionable bottomless pits.

Doomsday Zone; the first act is playable as regular Sonic, but the true final area is Super/Hyper Sonic exclusive. Here, you chase Robotnik down as he attempts to steal the Master Emerald one last time. You must use your cunning and speed to finally defeat Robotnik. However, playing Sonic & Knuckles only gets you the neutral/bad ending. Oh. Guess I better explain that…

Sonic & Knuckles has a cartridge slot on the top, which allows you to use LOCK-ON TECHNOLOGY!!! Combine this with Sonic 3, and you get Sonic 3&Knuckles. THIS is the real deal. You get your save files, the Sonic 3 levels, Knuckle’s complete adventure, the true story, and overall, is more kickass than playing Sonic 3 or Sonic & Knuckles alone. Do yourself a favor, and play BOTH of the stories together. THIS is quite possibly my favorite Sonic game of all time. Sonic 2 might be better in terms of not having a single bad stage in the game, and Sonic Adventure and Adventure 2 are still gorgeous, but THIS…

There are also the matters of the Hyper Emeralds. Starting with Sonic & Knuckles, you can enter super stages, and win super emerald there. Unlike the first batch, these are hard, but FUN type hard. I always look forward to a fair challenge.

You can NOT call yourself a Sonic fan, and NOT have played this game. It is one hell of a ride, one I think many gamers will enjoy. While Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles are best played combined, if I had to choose, out of sheer challenge and perfection alone, Sonic & Knuckles is a much better choice.

In addition to locking on to Sonic 3, you can also lock on to Sonic 2, allowing Knuckles to fight through the Sonic 2 stages. That’s cool. Have fun!

While this MIGHT not be my favorite Sonic game of all time, and if it ends up losing to its competition, it’s not gonna go down without a fight. Sonic 3&Knuckles is THE Sonic game, along with Sonic 1, 2, and Adventure, to be the highest recommended Sonic games to beginners. Sonic 1 and 2 gets players familiar with Sonic himself, all the while being a cool game, and Sonic Adventure is essentially the Ocarina of Time for Sonic, but Sonic 3&Knuckles is the best Sonic game to get players in. So next time, before you pick up that copy of Super Mario World on the Virtual Console, go dust your Genesis, and play what I think, alongside Sonic 1 and 2, are the best games of the Genesis, and TRULY show off what platforming fun can be.

As for the two of you guys that actually read my lackluster ramblings, you might notice I am NOT going to review the Little Planet Arch. Not yet, anyway. Sonic the Hedgehog CD is often considered a spin-off/Stop-Get game, and the 4 saga didn’t come until 2010, so… In due time guys, just be patient. Ok, who am I even talking to? This might as well be monologue! If someone is actually reading my reviews, you guys are awesome. Ok, I’ll just stop talking to myself.