Review by GavLuvsGA
"Lock in to Sonic 3 for one of the best games ever."
When I first saw this game on sale in shops, I felt angry. It appeared to me that Sonic Team had decided to ditch Tails, my favourite character. But I needn't have worried; Tails makes some cameos here and, if you insert Sonic 3, you get one of the best Sonic games ever.
Gameplay - 8/10
It is much the same as for all previous Sonic games, but there are a lot of interesting new ideas. This is the first Sonic game to feature bosses mid way through acts (with the exception of Silver Sonic in Sonic 2's Death Egg). For example, in one level, the normal gameplay breaks off while Robotnik (Eggrobo if you play Knuckles' game) tries to fry you with a giant laser.
Another cool idea is found in the pyramid stage of Sandopolis Zone, where ghosts are released as an extra hazard and will literally fill the screen and attack you if you don't switch the lights on regularly.
The bosses are more innovative, such as the almost invincible mid-boss on Sandopolis, the fight against Knuckles, and the appearance of Mecha Sonic, who brings back a few nostalgia attacks from old Sonic games (the classic ball and chain from the original, for example). The final level, if you manage to unlock it, is simply stunning, and bought about a tradition for Sonic games, of having a level played as Super Sonic. However, this is only available in Sonic's game.
The two different versions of the game are somewhat different; Knuckles has a different route at the start of the first level, with extra obstactles because of his increased abilities (flying, gliding and punching down walls), but for most of the first few levels things are the same, before Knuckles takes a totally unique route on his last proper level. Knuckles' game is harder in places, which some very challenging moments, but in this cart alone, it is just too short, with just four full levels and two very small ones to finish off, and the final boss for Knuckles' game is somwhat anti-climatic.
Another thing I didn't like was the fact that the game had made it easier to get into the bonus levels by reducing the requirement from 50 rings to just 20. Having said that, the bonus levels are cool, which a rotating maze reminiscent of the classic special stages from the original with a pinball machine, and one where you climb up using rotating spheres, grabbing gumballs. The special stages are exactly the same as in Sonic 3, but that's not a bad thing.
The really great thing about this game is the lock-on feature. You can play a large number of special stages locked on to Sonic the Hedgehog. Locking on to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 allows you to play the game as Knuckles, and locking on to Sonic the Hedgehog 3 allows you to play it as one whole game with Sonic and Knuckles, which is cool. The bonuses to this include playing the Sonic 3 Zones as Knuckles. Having looked at level maps for Sonic 3, I was completely baffled by the redundant, and impossible - to - reach areas at the bottom of Mushroom Hill, Carnival Night and Launch Base Zones, and here, you play these areas as Knuckles. It isn't all great; some of these secret bits are too straightforward, particularly Carnival Night's (and in this case, Knuckles doesn't even have to fight a boss, though it is possible to reach Sonic's boss). Knuckles gets some cool extras, though. A new end boss in Marble Garden Zone, and an insanely hard (if you can't go super) mid-boss in Launch Base Zone. Getting to play through Sonic & Knuckles levels as Tails (or Sonic and Tails) is fun too; Tails allows you to reach some cool secrets.
Further to this, this lock on allows you to collect a new set of emeralds, the Super Emeralds, which allow you to access Hyper Forms. Hyper Sonic is fun to play with, and Hyper Knuckles has an amazing earthquake attack. However, much to my disgust, poor Tails needs all the Super Emeralds just to get a Super form. Even though he is a vet to the series compared to Knuckles, he still gets the raw deal. Super Tails, however, is well worth getting and in all honesty, a Hyper version of Tails would probably eclipse even Hyper Sonic (I'm not a Tails fanboy or anything, just my opinion).
My other complaint about the Super and Hyper forms is simple. You have no control over whether or not you actually want to use them; the game just assumes you will want to do so, and it can take away the challenge from the game. Playing as Sonic, you cannot use these forms when you have a shield (and when you start collecting Super Emeralds, you lose your Super form since your character gives up their emeralds). However, as Tails and Knuckles, as soon as you get 50 rings, double jumping will automatically transform you. For those that don't know, you have to double jump to make Tails fly, and make Knuckles climb or glide and while you can get through Tails' levels easily without flying (most of the time), many of Knuckles levels require climbing or gliding. The only way to stop yourself transforming is to wait until the last minute to get all the emeralds or to take hits on purpose (which, if like me, you like to play to see just how many rings you can get, this is not good).
Story - 9/10
The story is more watertight than in previous games. This is a continuation from Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and the story is definitely best if locked into its predecessor so you can include Tails (Tails will show up at the end of Sonic's game in Sonic & Knuckles alone, just to prove he isn't dead). Dr. Robotnik's Death Egg (that again) has crashed, and he needs to relaunch it. Sonic's story gets somewhat interesting in Hidden Palace Zone (yes, that zone that was ditched in the final version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2), where the game turns into a storyboard, and there are some great twists. Like other games, Sonic/Tails/Sonic and Tails' games take place in alternate realities (I prefer Sonic and Tails together). Knuckles' game takes place after Sonic's, with the Death Egg and Robotnik out of the picture. Here, Knuckles has to pursue Eggrobo (one of Robotnik's robots modelled on himself) to stop him wreaking havoc. It isn't as good as Sonic's game, but it'll do.
Graphics - 10/10
Simply great, from the backgrounds (expecially inside the pyramid stage) to the sprites themselves. The animation is excellent. Hyper Sonic is amazing just to look at.
Music - 9/10
Okay, it still isn't a patch on the music for the original, but it is certainly good. Knuckles gets a new theme, which I personally think is better than the old one. The main boss music from the original appears again, but it was good before and is good here.
Play Time/Replayability - 10/10
Okay, it won't take long to beat, but you will want to play this again and again, especially with Sonic 3 locked in.
Buy. Preferably with Sonic the Hedgehog 3; this is one game that proves it is still worth owning a Sega Genesis.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 10/10/04
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