Review by Dark33
"All hail the greatest Sonic game ever made!"
The Sega Genesis got two of the greatest games ever in 1994 when both Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles were released in the same year. These two games took full advantage of Sega's new lock-on technology in which one cart was placed in the system and the other cart placed right on top of the first cart! This was nothing new to Game Genie owners, but Sega innovatively used this technology for two full-fledged games. Sonic and Knuckles is basically overall an add-on to Sonic 3, but it nearly doubled Sonic 3's size with 6 all new zones (plus a few bonuses). And even if you don't own Sonic 3 (although you should), Sonic and Knuckles can be played as a standalone game.
Sonic and Knuckles follows the same pattern of Sonic platformers, providing huge zones for Sonic to use his speed to explore. The new zones are beautiful and creative and a ton of fun to play. The sense of speed is there as always with Sonic's trademark spin dash, loops, slides, and other paths. Sonic and Knuckles adds the ability to of course, play as Knuckles, which is like a whole new playing experience. Knuckles is slower than Sonic, but can break through rocks and walls that Sonic can't and also glide in the air. This opens up new areas to explore in the already huge zones. Sonic 3 & Knuckles is a totally different experience with the different characters. And of course, you can always play as Tails, Sonic's flying little buddy.
This game is really meant to be played as Sonic 3 & Knuckles, as the standalone game is good, but it really completes Sonic 3. Sonic 3 & Knuckles as one game is one of the best platform games of all time with 14 huge zones, 3 playable characters, and a few minigames and bonus stages. Sonic & Knuckles can also be attached to Sonic 2, which allows you to play as Knuckles in Sonic 2. This is also fun and adds to the replay value of both games.
Now for some individual ratings.
Yes, Donkey Kong Country over on the Super Nintendo may have been the king of 16 bit graphics, but Sonic 3 & Knuckles was certainly no slouch. The new levels that Sonic & Knuckles added are among the best designed levels of all time and the graphics help a lot. The backgrounds are beautiful and varied, the enemies and bosses look great, and the heroes as always, still look good. The improvement in graphics over the standalone Sonic 3 is minimal, but overall as a combined game, Sonic 3 & Knuckles offer some of the very best graphics you'll see on the Sega Genesis.
Play Control: 9.0/10
As always, Sonic (or Knuckles) is easy to control. Tap the jump button twice and Sonic will shield himself for a split second, Tails will begin flight, and Knuckles will begin to glide. The spin dash is another useful move that is vital for Sonic to speed through levels. The controls are simplistic but this is for the best as they give the player easy and complete control of Sonic and Knuckles.
Sonic 3 had some great tunes, and Sonic & Knuckles adds some more memorable ones. In particular, I loved the Lava Reef Zone's music, amongst many others of course. The sounds are done well, although nothing outstanding is here. Much is recycled from Sonic 3, but I'll give Sonic Team the benefit of the doubt. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Sonic 3 and Knuckles is a blast to play. Navigating through the levels usually requires speed, and the game certainly delivers. Enemies aren't as important in the Sonic games as they are in the Mario games. Sonic games usually rely more on traps and speed rather than enemies to challenge the player. This approach is a breath of fresh air as it distinguished the series from Mario and gave Sega its own identity. If you've never played a Sonic game before, this approach to the platform genre will definitely feel new and unique. The sense of speed and zone size has never been done as well as this, and Sega has been unable to capture the magic in the 3D versions of Sonic.
If you're playing Sonic & Knuckles as a standalone game, the relatively short size of the game may be disappointing. Sonic 3 & Knuckles feels huge by comparison, and as a standalone game, Sonic & Knuckles is definitely lacking. This is amended by simply picking up a copy of Sonic 3, which you should own anyways, in order to deliver the ultimate in Sega platforming experience. It's a blast to explore the old Sonic 3 levels with Knuckles (and Sonic Team designed some areas to be explored ONLY by Knuckles). It's easy to play the combined game over and over to collect all the chaos emeralds and simply explore the beautiful levels.
Sonic & Knuckles offers another bonus in the form of being able to play as Knuckles in Sonic 2. This can liven up the game by again offering a fresh experience. It's like teaching an old dog a new trick. Sonic 2 with Knuckles is fun and feels very different than exploring the old levels with Sonic.
The game isn't overly hard, nor is it too easy. The difficulty level feels just right and is great for replayability.
Replay Value: Very High
Due to this game being extremely fun and well designed, the replay value is great. It adds to Sonic 3 and Sonic 2's replay values as well. There's plenty of stuff to do and the whole Sonic 3 & Knuckles quest is a blast and does not get old quickly at all. I personally have probably played the combined game at least 15-20 games, it's just that fun.
Overall (not an average): 9.1/10
To sum it all up, if you haven't played this game yet, you're missing out on a unique and very fun gaming experience. If you can't find this game anywhere, I recommend Sonic Mega Collection for GameCube, which includes a bunch of old Sonic Games (including, unfortunately, Sonic 3D Blast). Excellent level design, fun and unique characters, and exploration all come together in Sonic (3) & Knuckles to provide a great game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 06/10/04
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