Welcome to “The Ten Reasons,” where I discuss ten reasons why I like or dislike a particular game… Wait a god-darned minute! I’m not Michael Gray! Whose responsibility is this article now, anyway?
This month, I’m discussing Sonic 3 & Knuckles. You know, when it comes to fans of the classic Sonic the Hedgehog games, they usually pick either this or Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as their favorite. Does this game deserve that title? I’m not sure. It’s not flawless, but then again, not every game can be perfect like Shatterhand. So without further ado, here’s something I’ve always wanted to say… Onto the ten reasons!
Reasons Why I Like Sonic 3 & Knuckles
Unlike Sonic, he don’t chuckle; he’d rather flex his muscles.
Knuckles the Echidna is RED, which is one of my favorite colors. RED signifies danger! RED means destruction, domination, flame, desire, pain and trauma! Knuckles the Dominator.
He’s got two claws that will pummel you into next week. His physical strength is truly unmatched. What makes Knuckles so damn awesome is that he does what he thinks is right…even if it is all part of being fooled by an egg-shaped evil dictator.
Although he does some pretty nasty things to you, he turns to your side and shows his true colors by helping you defeat Dr. Eggman and put an end to all the tyranny. It’s a true friendship, and it almost brings (manly) tears to my eyes.
Also, he sports that cheeky, Muttley-esque grin. Sonic has attitude—Knuckles has charisma.
2. Spinning Signpost
Watch out below—it’s a spinning bloody signpost. How cool is that?!
So you beat one of the awesome minibosses in Sonic 3 & Knuckles (more on those in a moment), and then all of a sudden—phwoosh! A signpost comes spinning down from the air, outta nowhere. It’s like Christmas, your birthday and Hanukkah all at once!
Although I’ve never given thought as to how or why, on some occasions, the signpost spawns monitors when it collides with the ground! It’s amazing. The most fun part is keeping the spinning signpost floating in the air for massive points (OK, that’s a lie; it’s pretty sad if you spend thirty minutes doing that.).
It’s like—”Well, we just made them fight a giant stone Golem outside a frickin’ pyramid, so let’s go one better and make the signpost bloomin’ drop outta thin air!” “Great idea, Sega Man #1.” “Thanks, Sega Man #2!”
Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 had end-of-zone run-of-the-mill Eggman encounters. Dr. Eggman turns up with some wacky machine and attempts to clobber Sonic the Hedgehog & Co., forgetting that his new gimmick creates a brand-new weak spot and attack pattern. So, he tried something new:
While he obviously hasn’t learned his lesson (and battles are still as formulaic as ever), Dr. Eggman has now made each first Act host to one of his new non-piloted robot bosses, usually zone themed. They are awesome. …Wait, I’ve said “awesome” a lot in this article, haven’t I? I’ll think of a different word next time.
This may look like a staring match, but it isn’t. Knuckles totally wouldn’t lose a staring match either, because he’s so awesome…great (see Reason #1). This robot, shaped like an Egg Capsule (like the one at the end of a zone), grows arms and tries to hit you. Inflicting damage on this invincible behemoth is so cool; you have to get him to hit himself! That’ll serve him right. It is such an ingenious idea for a boss battle.
All the minibosses are inventive in their own way. Some are fairly easy, others are pretty frustrating, but they’re all very different from the Eggman bouts, and that’s why I love them so much. A little freshness that the prior games were missing, I think.
4. Super Secret, Uh, Secrets
Where would a platformer be if it didn’t have cool super-hidden secrets? BORING PLATFORMER TOWN, that’s where. What about the crazy points bonus at the start of Mr Gimmick, or the hidden exit in the first level of James Pond II? Learn from the best when you’re making platformers; the secrets are half the fun of playing. Sonic 3 & Knuckles has a load of secrets stuffed inside (OK, very few really, but they’re really cool and well worth noting).
I mean, seriously, this is incredibly well hidden, right? What do you mean, “this one is obvious”? I didn’t know about this secret for over a decade. Does that make me dumb, or does it make you clever?
Little secrets are the reason I still play the oldies. Oh, and to help me vent after playing that total log of a game Sonic the Hedgehog 4.
5. The King of Pop/Soundtrack
Michael Jackson died a while ago now, and he was a good man. Jokes about his favorite after-dinner mints aside, he was the greatest musician to have ever lived, and I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that his music is the best to grace the ears of anyone, ever. Exaggeration (because we all know Chris Clouse is the best musician ever), but it helps move this point along.
It is rumored confirmed by Brad Buxer that Michael Jackson lent his musical genius to this game, under a few pseudonyms. Why pseudonyms? Well, because once allegations arose about Michael and small perky bottoms, Sega cut him from the production team.
So Michael Jackson was Cut From The Team after having composed several tracks for the game. So there is the reason why is Ice Cap’s music is so reminiscent of “Who Is It” and “Smooth Criminal.” The hard evidence is the Sonic 3 credits theme, which is identical to “Stranger In Moscow.”
We also can’t ignore Jun Senoue and Howard Drossin’s inputs for the soundtrack, which are totally bodacious.
6. Extreme Sports
Skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding are so brilliant! Sonic being the radical and, dare I say it, “awesome” hedgehog he is, he must obviously be a fan of extreme sports! And although his surfing intro was half-cut from Sonic 3 due to time constraints, he still manages a spot of EXTREME SNOWBOARDING ON AN ICE MOUNTAIN TO THE MUSIC OF MICHAEL JACKSON.
As this sequences requires the Genesis to totally outdo itself, it’s definitely the coolest thing to hit the whole system, and it’s super duper awesome.
In retrospect, if I had been developing this game, I’d have made this section longer, or added another one mid-way through Act 2.
If Sonic 3 & Knuckles were an action movie, this would be the bit that appears in all the trailers. No wonder Sega re-used it for Sonic Adventure! Oh yeah, they tend to recycle a lot, don’t they? *cough* Sonic 4 *cough*
Reasons Why I Dislike Sonic 3 & Knuckles
7. Character Imbalance
OK, Tails can fly. Pretty cool, huh? Not when that puts him at a total disadvantage. Cue slide:
This boss is a curse for Tails. When you’re Sonic, it’s as simple as jumping at Eggman—but for Tails, let’s just say you gotta hit him in the right place with your rotating tails. You gotta hit a small pin-point of an area whilst trying to move, but then you gotta drop straight away or you fly up into him and get hurt. There are many more other places where Tails is rubbish, too.
Seriously, who likes Tails? There’s two kinds of people in this world:
- People who hate Tails
For a fox with two tails (therefore with an advantage over his ground-bound hedgehog friend), he can’t even attack the Marble Garden Zone boss. What is he, an alcoholic? Probably.
Sega is very well known for recycling things these days. Just earlier I noted that Sonic Adventure recycled the Ice Cap snowboarding sequence (and indeed the zone itself)! Well, Sega was already at the recycling stage with Sonic & Knuckles, and this thoroughly upsets me.
It’s the Metal Sonic boss that is the prime offender in Sonic & Knuckles. I’m fine with the recycling of the Metal Sonic idea (from Sonic CD and “Silver Sonic” from Sonic 2), but I’m not happy with the blatant boss recycling.
Part 1 of the boss battle sees the original “Ball & Chain” boss bout from Sonic 1.
“So long as they don’t keep this up, it’ll be fine.”
Then Part 2 sees the boss from Metropolis Zone in Sonic 2, with the fake balloons.
“At least they can’t recycle a third boss battle, surely.”
Then Part 3 is the same move-set from the Silver Sonic battle in Sonic 2. So this boss is a complete recycle of earlier bosses. Glad we’ve got that covered now.
9. The Totally and Unnecessarily Haunted Pyramid
Why-why-why-why—what the hell are those!? Ghosts, presumably. Ghosts that are a right menace. It’s true that you can almost entirely avoid them getting to this state, but that isn’t an argument justifying their existence. They are the worst enemies in any videogame ever!
Worse than the Sun! Worse than King K.Rool! Worse than…the despicable CRYSTAL DANTE! At least those three can actually be killed.
What makes this level so frustrating is not just these ghosts, mind—the layout is horrible, the background art is boring and the scorpion badniks make the whole thing a chore. And then, the boss of the zone itself is just…weird.
It’s a really scary level. Even now I still get the chills. Suspense and fear are all very good, but this zone isn’t. The only zone in Sonic & Knuckles where a Time Out is actually feasible.
10. Lock-On “Technology”
I am so at the end of my tether when it comes to this. When I was younger, all I had was Sonic & Knuckles, which is only “half” of this game—to get the full game, you have to lock Sonic 3 onto Sonic & Knuckles.
Why did Sega do this? There are many theories:
- Maybe Sonic 3 wasn’t going to be finished in time, so they halved the project.
- Perhaps the Michael Jackson issues may have caused the game development to get slowed down.
- Games are stupidly expensive, so it doesn’t take much to assume that Sega just wanted double profits.
I look at the Lock-On technology and I can imagine the good ideas they could have employed with it, but it also just reeks of money making. True there’s a neat engine in Sonic & Knuckles just waiting to have another expansion pack, but Sega never got that idea. Would have been great to have a further Sonic the Hedgehog game using this engine, other than Sonic Jam.
Sonic the Hedgehog 4 would have been a much better game if it had used the Sonic & Knuckles engine. Also, who likes crappy 3D graphics, anyway? Back in my day, if we had 16-bits, we were ecstatic! You had to be rich to afford that.
So that’s my ten reasons why Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles is a videogame.