Sonic & Knuckles
Review by PickHut
"End of an Era"
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 should never be played by itself. Ever.
Well, maybe just once.
Playing Sonic 3 is basically playing through an unfinished game; by the time you finish it, you'll feel incomplete, like there should have been more. Thankfully, there actually is a second part of the game, Sonic & Knuckles, and with its lock-on technology, you can simply plant the Sonic 3 cartridge on top to make it a complete title. A title called Sonic 3 & Knuckles. This was the way it was meant to be played.
Having said that, S3&K is the best action platforming game the Genesis gave us. Period. With a grand total of 14 zones to zoom through, this is also one of the more longer ones I can recall, taking almost up to 4 hours to complete. Now some would think that it would be overkill for a title like this to be that long. Amazingly, you never tire of the game as you play through it. Each zone is a beast of its own, offering you a giant map to roam through. Some people would say that one of the best things about a Sonic game is speeding through an act as fast as possible (others would even say it's a flaw), however, I disagree. The best aspect of playing through a Sonic game for me is the ability to explore so much of these gigantic maps. With each layout not only going for long stretches horizontally, but vertically as well, searching for different pathways, items, and hidden passages will take quite awhile. Shoot, the time limit actually posses a treat in some zones because of this.
In the very first zone alone, Angel Island, I almost always spend up to 20 minutes completing it due to its size. On the surface, I'll destroy monkeys hanging from trees with my spin attack, jump across waterfalls to avoid deadly spikes, and explore underwater for more rings. And in the same act, I'll also venture as high as it can take me, run loops, and locate secret caves containing giant Gold Rings. Jump into these rings, and you'll be transported to a special stage where you have to collect every blue sphere in an attempt to capture a Chaos Emerald. It's not as easy as it sounds, with stage-ending red spheres littered everywhere, and with every second you linger in one of these stages, the faster your speeds will get, forcing you to stay cool under pressure. Shoot, if you're really good, you can collect all 7 Super Emeralds in the Mushroom Hill zone, where they make their first appearance, with enough exploration. That's really how big these zones can get.
It never gets dull when playing, since each zone offers something different. In the Carnival Night zone, you'll be thrown all over with the various bumpers placed everywhere, shot out of rotating cannons into the unknown, and whisked to higher levels through suction hoses. Granted, this is basically a remixed version of Sonic 2's Casino Night zone, but it's still enjoyable. You also gotta love the funky circus music that plays through each of its acts. In Sandopolis's second act, you'll be stuck inside a pyramid, where you'll have to turn on switches to temporarily open doors, then race towards them before they close again. And as you do this, you'll have to worry about a constant threat: ghosts. As you fight your way through this act, the lights inside will slowly go out, making the ghosts appear more vicious the darker it gets. And once the lights finally go out, they attack. Thankfully, there are light switches throughout this act, so it's all a matter of getting to one in time before the lights disappear.
Thank goodness there's a save feature in S3&K, because with how big everything is, there's just no way you'll finish the game in just one sitting. You won't even be able to discover everything in one complete playthrough as well, especially if you're playing only as Sonic. Before the start of a new game, you can choose either Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles, and with the latter two, you get different experiences than with Sonic. Of course, with Tails' ability to fly, you can reach platforms that were impossible for Sonic to jump to. And with Knuckles, you can do even more exploring with his abilities to glide and climb walls. He can even break walls that Sonic and Tails couldn't even do, revealing brand new areas to travel through. Again, it's a very big game, and with these three differing characters, you can play through this title over and over again without ever getting bored.
The main game itself would've been just fine, but Sega went the extra distance with its lock-on technology. If you also have a Sonic 2 cartridge, plug that sucker on top of Sonic & Knuckles and you'll get to play as Knuckles in Sonic 2. It provides quite an interesting experience, considering the game wasn't originally developed with a character with the power to climb and glide in mind. Also, if you attach Sonic 1, or any other Genesis cartridge, to S&K, you'll have the opportunity to play a bunch of new, blue sphere special stages. Though it isn't really all that great of an extra, it's still pretty neat of Sega to include something like that. However, once you're done fiddling around with these two bonuses, you'll come back to the main game, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, because you just can't get enough of its impressively-made acts. You'll speed through baddies with Sonic, fly to new heights with Tails, and discover new territories with Knuckles. And then you'll start all over and do the exact same thing.
Sonic 3 & Knuckles never gets old. Ever.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 01/22/08
Game Release: Sonic & Knuckles (US, 10/17/94)
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