Review by Mister Sinister
"The crowning glory in a wonderful line-up of titles. If you're a fan of the series, you'll love it !!"
Having been a loyal fan of the entire Sonic series, I was keen to get a copy of Sonic and Knuckles when I heard of its forthcoming release - apparently you could use it to convert old Sonic titles to allow you to play Knuckles !! I was sceptical, but keen to learn more ... what did I learn ?? Read on ...
OVERVIEW AND OBJECTIVE OF THE GAME
Sonic and Knuckles was originally intended to be a part of Sonic 3. In Sonic 3, Knuckles was intended to be available as a fully playable character, and the Sonic and Knuckles game levels were intended to be a part of the Sonic 3 release as well - however, time constraints made it impossible to shoehorn all of the information into the cart prior to its intended release date, and so the game was split into two - Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (which I have reviewed elsewhere) and Sonic and Knuckles (released later on).
Since they had a bit of time to jig about with the format, Sonic and Knuckles has been changed so that it is set immediately after the completion of Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and sees Sonic the Hedgehog teaming up with Knuckles the Echidna to do battle YET AGAIN with Dr. Robotnik, and to try and thwart his plans to re-re-build his Death Egg.
The main selling points of this title are that firstly, you can play Knuckles (which many people were disappointed about in Sonic 3), and secondly that this title is backwards-compatible with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 3. You simply open the cover on the top of the Sonic and Knuckles cart, and slam the other game into the top of it, turn it on and away you go !!
This technology is used to allow Sonic and Knuckles to overlay its code onto the original Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 titles, in a manner that has not, to the best of *my* knowledge certainly, ever been repeated on a console ... ever ... and I have to say, it works really well !! I'll go into more detail about that in a minute.
GRAPHICS - 9/10
Graphically this game is like a banquet - there's so much to take in, you just don't really know where to begin. Knuckles is drawn as well as any of the other characters were, and whilst Tails has been removed from play in this title, graphically-speaking, Knuckles makes up for his absence admirably.
The levels through which you play on the regular Sonic and Knuckles cart are HUGELY sprawling, with LOADS of animations going on in the back- and foreground to keep you diverted, which is cool.
Sonic and Knuckles' respective special moves are all well drawn as well ... I particularly like the way Knuckles skids along the ground for a pace or two when he lands from a glide, and this attention to detail (which has always been good in the Sonic titles) continues throughout this cart, surpassing (in my opinion) previous offerings from the series.
SOUND - 9/10
Let's face it, we would be BITTERLY disappointed with a Sonic title if it didn't have fantastic music, wouldn't we ? Well I am glad to say that Sonic and Knuckles maintains the tradition and standards of its predecessors in fine form, with very nice music throughout, and plenty of diverting and sometimes amusing sound-effects to keep you distracted throughout the game.
Musical changes are also made when Sonic and Knuckles is played in conjunction with Sonic 3 (as I have already said, Sonic and Knuckles and Sonic 3 were *supposed* to be one title originally), so when Sonic 3 is inserted into Sonic and Knuckles, Sonic 3's music is overwritten by that of the Sonic and Knuckles cart.
CONTROLS - 9/10
Bringing in another character in Knuckles has given the developers the opportunity to re-examine the play mechanics of the playable characters in Sonic and Knuckles, and they have wisely taken this opportunity to tweak Knuckles slightly so that playing him necessitates the use of different play-mechanics than playing Sonic (or Tails before him).
Knuckles is slower to accelerate than Sonic, and cannot jump as high as Sonic. Therefore there are places that you just won't be able to jump to with Knuckles. To counter this, Knuckles can use his fists to punch into walls and climb up them, and glide (similar to Tails' ability to fly for a short while) from ledges down to terra firma.
What this actually means in-game is that Knuckles can get to areas Sonic cannot reach, rather than the other way around, PLUS that he does so at a more sedate pace, so you have more time to take in the beauty of the scenery.
Aside from these changes in the control systems between characters, Sonic and Knuckles holds firmly true to its predecessors, so you can expect both characters to respond sharply to your directions, and to be light and bouncy with the best of them.
PLOT - 5/10
ALWAYS a let-down with the Sonic titles unfortunately is the plot, and this is no exception.
I would have thought that, having had that little bit of extra time to develop Sonic and Knuckles after making the decision to release it as a stand-alone title, the developers could have tried to make the plot a BIT more engrossing than this, but nevermind. Here we go.
Set immediately after Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (at the end of which, for those of you that forgot, Dr. Robotnik YET AGAIN gets his @ss handed to him on a plate care of Sonic, and his rebuilt Death Egg crashes back into Angel Island), Dr. Robotnik, in a bit to rebuild his Death Egg once more, betrays Knuckles and steals the Master Emerald from him.
SERIOUSLY hacked off about all this, Knuckles teams up with Sonic (overcoming the bad blood between them that was experienced during Sonic 3), and the two set off to find and defeat Dr. Robotnik, destroy his plans to rebuild the Death Egg, and save Angel Island.
It's not really worth even thinking about - just ignore the plot and enjoy the game ;)
GAMEPLAY - 9/10
Fortunately, in spite of yet another shambolic attempt at coming up with a decent plotline, Sonic and Knuckles is an EXTREMELY enjoyable title to play, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the game follows different directions based on the character you choose (not insanely massively different for the most part, but different nonetheless) - Sonic is after Dr. Robotnik throughout the title, whereas Knuckles is hunting down Egg Robo, who blasts him whilst he is chilling out in the Mushroom Hill Zone.
Secondly, both Sonic and Knuckles FEEL like separate characters when you are playing them - they require different playing styles, and you have precious little option when playing them but to do things differently with each one, which is GREAT, and a much-welcomed breath of fresh air to the series.
Then we have the MAIN selling point of the game, which is that you can whack Sonic 2, or Sonic 3 into the top of Sonic and Knuckles, and you can then play Knuckles the Echidna in both of THOSE titles as well, breathing new life into them !!
This FANTASTIC piece of programming GENIUS, which was (as far as I am aware) effectively included almost as an *apology* to Sonic fans for not having been able to whack the Sonic and Knuckles levels and bits into the Sonic 3 title as was originally intended, bolsters the longevity of not only this title, but breathes new life into Sonic 2 and Sonic 3, so DO NOT get rid of them if you buy this game !!!!!
If you put Sonic the Hedgehog, or any other game for that matter, into the top of Sonic and Knuckles, you get a screen that says "No Way ? No Way !", and depicts Tails, Sonic, Knuckles and Dr. Robotnik letting you know that this cartridge (whatever it is) is not compatible with Sonic and Knuckles.
HOWEVER, if you press A + B + C at the same time, you get taken to a mini-game which you can play through, which is also a nice little addition.
REPLAY VALUE - 9/10
Owing to the fact that this title can be played on its own as a standalone game, or in conjunction with Sonic 2, Sonic 3 (or the mini-game with any other title actually), the replay value of Sonic and Knuckles is EXTREMELY high compared with most other games of its generation.
This replay value is (as long as you don't sell off your Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 titles) consistently high as time goes on (unless of course you happen to hate Knuckles, in which case this *probably* isn't the best title for you).
VALUE FOR MONEY - 9/10
Again, when you consider that you're not actually getting just one title with this game, but THREE (plus a mini-game), it really does represent quite amazing value for money. In fact the only reason I've not given it 10/10 for this area is because you might find it rather difficult, and consequently a bit more expensive than it perhaps should be, to track down a copy of Sonic and Knuckles for yourself.
If you can, however, then I would say it's one of the best value for money titles ever released on the Megadrive, hands down.
OVERALL - 9/10 (This is NOT an average)
Sonic and Knuckles delivers in a way that no other title in the series has even TRIED to, to date. The ability to project Knuckles into two previous Sonic games as an incidental bonus to the title is quite simply fantastic, and the title functions perfectly well as a standalone game in its own right, should you either not have Sonic 2 or Sonic 3, or simply prefer to play Sonic and Knuckles on its own.
If you have the other games in the Sonic series, then I would definitely definitely DEFINITELY recommend you pick up a copy of Sonic and Knuckles to compliment them. It's quite simply brilliant.
MAIN GOOD POINTS
* Knuckles is available as a playable character
* Backwards compatibility with Sonic the Hedgehog 2
* Backwards compatibility with Sonic the Hedgehog 3
* Mini-game available when any other cartridge is plugged into the top
* Beautiful graphics
* Fantastic sounds and great music
MAIN BAD POINTS
* If you don't like Knuckles ? You might want to keep away, as he is definitely the focus of this title.
SO SHOULD YOU GET IT ?
Yep, I can't really think of any good reason not to get this title (unless, as I say, you happen to hate Knuckles ... but he's so cuuuuuuuuuuuuute !!). This game should make a worthy and welcome addition to the video games library of ANY Sonic fan, and I will not be parting with my copy any time ... ever !! Heh.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/22/07
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