Competition Mode Guide by AJBSONIC

Updated: 10/14/10 | Printable Version

>>Sonic 3
>>Competition Mode FAQ

>>©2010 AJBSONIC ( 

This FAQ can only be posted on GameFAQs. Relevant, constructive email 
regarding this FAQ (such as new tactics or revised information) must have 
ďSonic 3 Competition FAQĒ as the subject. Please donít send me elitist emails 
bragging about your best times, this isnít a contest.

I: Intro
II: Fake Story
III: Basic Information
IV: Characters
V: Items
VI: Course Overview
VII: Advanced Techniques
VIII: Special Thanks

I: Intro

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (& Knuckles) is undeniably one of the hallmark games of 
the Sonic series and one of the strongest offerings the Sega Genesis has to 
offer. Sonic 2 was the first of the series to offer a splitscreen multiplayer 
mode, and remains a fan-favorite mode to this day. Sonic 3 continues the 
multiplayer tradition but takes it a step further. Instead of racing through 
condensed versions of the main game zones, Sonic 3 offers 5 unique, made-for-
multiplayer zones and 3 playable characters, each with their own special 
attributes. Also taking advantage of Sonic 3ís save features, best times for 
each zone are saved, enticing you to perfect your runs and get your time 
lower and lower.

Sonic 3ís Competition Mode may not have gained as much popularity as Sonic 
2ís multiplayer mode, but itís still nothing to ignore. I personally prefer 
Sonic 3ís mode over 2ís, mainly because the courses are designed for pure 
speed and have been optimized to run in the multiplayer game engine (with no 
framerate drops to speak of, something Sonic 2ís VS mode cannot boast). This 
FAQ will cover as much of the mode as possible and offer strategies to get 
your times as low as possible.

II. Fake Story

The game manual never mentions a story to go along with this mode, so Iím 
making one up that happens to fit quite nicely between the storylines of 
Sonic 3 and Sonic 4.

>>Competition Mode...aka Sonic 3.5

After destroying the Death Egg and saving the Master Emerald, Sonic, Tails, 
and Knuckles return to the Floating Island to celebrate their victory. Sonic 
is one who hates to sit still, so the trio sought out for something fun and 
light-hearted to do when Knuckles realized there were still parts of the 
Floating Island that they have not explored together. With no Badniks and no 
Robotnik influences, the three decided to hold friendly races in these new 
zones. Sonic, Tails and Knuckles all raced their hardest and won various 
zones based on how the zones played upon their unique abilities. In the end, 
they mutually decided to take a small break from each other and venture off 
solo. Thatís when Sonic stumbled upon Splash Hill Zone...

III: Basic Information

Competition Mode consists of short, specialized zones designed to infinitely 
loop. Each zone begins at a unique starpost (sans the star). An eggcrate-
styled font will appear on your half of the screen counting down 3,2,1,GO! 
During this time you have full control of your character; if you step past 
the post before the GO!, you will FAULT and the zone and countdown will 
reset. There is no real penalty for faulting, but no gain to it either. Each 
zone lasts 5 laps, your lap counter appears on the top-right of your screen 
and your timer clearly appears on the top-left. In the bottom-center of the 
screen is a small box, this shows what item youíre currently holding (more on 
items in Section V).

Although there are no Badniks, some zones still have environmental hazards, 
and you can die from them. Losing a life forfeits the lap and you must 
restart from the post.

Entering the Competition Menu from the Title Screen gives you three modes of 
play (and one of my favorite music tracks from the game):

	>>Grand Prix: A 2P mode where you play through the zones in order, with 
	the winner calculated by shortest overall time. Frustratingly, after 
	one player wins, the other has a few seconds to finish before the game 
	automatically retires him/her, resulting in a time of 9í49Ē99.

	>>Match Race: A 2P mode where you race through one zone of your choice. 
	Unlike Grand Prix, the loser has a chance to fully finish his/her race.

	>>Time Attack: Essentially a 1P-only version of Match Race. Your best 3 
	times in this mode are saved, along with the character you used. This 
	mode is what truly saves Competition Mode and extends the replay value 

Pressing up and down will change the mode, and left/right will toggle the use 
of items in 2P modes (more on that in Section V). Items are automatically 
disabled in Time Attack. (A and C confirm menu choices and B cancels.) After 
deciding your mode, You then select your character with left/right. Then you 
choose your zone and the game begins (Grand Prix begins immediately after the 
character select).

Characters handle very differently than they do in the main game, mainly, 
momentum and jump height are noticeably exaggerated. As in the main game but 
more noticeably in Competition, jumps are indicative of how long the button 
is held down. A light tap gives a small jump where a hold down gives a large, 
hangtime jump. Mastering the slippery controls is key.

IV: Characters

Competition has 3 playable characters: Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles. Notably, 
this is the only way to play as Knuckles in Sonic 3 without being locked-on 
to Sonic & Knuckles. I assume that Competition Mode was already completed 
when Sonic 3 & Knuckles was intended to be one game, so naturally Knuckles 
would be a playable character. When the decision was made to split the game, 
Knuckles stayed in Competition, although he did sacrifice some of his 
signature moves in the process.

	>>Sonic: A speedy blue hedgehog constantly defeating his nemesis Dr. 
	Robotnik and foiling his evil plans. In Competition, Sonic is the 
	fastest of the three characters but also has the weakest traction. As 
	in the main game, Sonic can spindash by pressing down and jump (more 
	jumps, higher rev). It appears that Sonic also retained his insta-
	shield by pressing jump twice, however the move is completely useless 
	and isnít even visually recognized (you just hear the sound effect).

	>>Tails: Sonicís right-hand man, first introduced in Sonic 2. In 
	Competition, Tails is the slowest to reach full speed but boasts the 
	highest jump. Tails can spindash just like Sonic and also retains his 
	flight abilities using his trademark two tails. Flight operates just 
	like in the main game (press jump twice, more jumps will fly higher and 
	Tails will eventually tire out) and is just as useful, but in a mode 
	that relies solely on speed it is generally unadvised as the move is 
	rather slow.

	>>Knuckles: The newcomer to the Sonic franchise and guardian of the 
	Floating Island and Master Emerald. In Competition, Knucklesí speed 
	falls between Sonic and Tails but he has the most traction. Knuckles 
	can also spindash, and his jump is about the same height as Sonicís, a 
	vast difference from the main game. Since Knuckles didnít make his true 
	playable debut until Sonic & Knuckles, his wall climbing and gliding 
	moves are absent from this mode. It is unclear if Knuckles would have 
	had these moves if Sonic 3 & Knuckles was not split, but the lack of 
	moves is not detrimental to his Competition performance.

Although each character has advantages over the other, they are ultimately 
well-balanced against each other and each character has at least one zone 
that they perform best in.

V: Items

In the 2P modes, you have the option to play with items. Items have always 
been a curious oddity to Competition since the game manual makes no mention 
to them and some of the items are difficult to comprehend. I personally think 
the items were a lame-efforted addition to the mode since the laps move too 
fast for the items to really have full effect, but they can be fun to play 

Starting with the second lap, two items will circle in the air nearby the 
post. Grabbing the icon activates the item. Items can be offensive or 
defensive and may be one-time use or held (in the HUD box mentioned earlier).

>>Red Shoe: This item is held in your HUD box and drastically increases your 
max speed. Coupled with the exaggerated physics of Competition, you will move 
*extremely* fast. However this can prove to backfire on you since youíll be 
much more vulnerable to extended hangtime after shooting off of ramps. 
Eventually the item will flash and fade away.

>>Silver Shoe: This item is held in your HUD box and drastically decreases 
your max speed. Coupled with the exaggerated physics of Competition, you will 
move *extremely* slowly. You will have to rely on your spindash (or Tailsí 
flight) to overcome even the smallest of ramps. Eventually the item will 
flash and fade away.

>>Circular Arrows: This one-time use item is a blue circle with arrows inside 
pointing around in a loop. This item steals what your opponent currently has. 
If your opponent is not carrying an item, then this does nothing.

>>Spring: This one-time use item falls to the ground after being touched, and 
sends whoever hits it high into the air. This is simply meant to shake off 
your opponent.

>>Banana Peel: This one-time use item also falls to the ground after being 
activated. Whoever touches it next will get slipped up momentarily.

>>Ring: This item is held in your HUD box and acts as a hit point from 
opponent tactics.

>>Bomb: This sinister one-time use item looks curiously like an evil 
Knuckles. When touched, it will lower to the ground and accelerate through 
the course backwards. Anyone who touches the bomb will lose a life and has to 
restart their lap.

VI: Course Overview

Competition Mode features 5 completely unique zones based on classic Sonic 
clichťs. This section will outline each one individually and highlight key 
features, traps and the like. For fun Iíll also list my personal best time. 
Though Iíve played these courses for over 15 years, Iím by no means bragging 
that my times are the best and can definitely be improved upon.

ZONE 1: Azure Lake
Aesthetic: A mountainous Angel Island turned purple
Difficulty: Easy
Best character: Sonic
My best time: 0í22Ē55 (Sonic)

Run-through: Azure Lake starts with a drop loop followed by a standard loop, 
then a 90-degree ramp shoots you in the air. Your momentum will bring you to 
the top of 2 layered platforms with a large orange tree blocking your 
progress, forcing you to zigzag down the platforms to the ground. Following 
this is another 90-degree ramp completing the circuit.

Traps: A switch on top of the layered platforms triggers a red spring in the 
middle of the loop section, knocking your opponent backwards. There is also a 
small pool of mud immediately following the first 90-degree loop, taken right 
from Oil Ocean. You can bounce up the oil but if you sink all the way through 
youíll die (though itís very hard to do this accidentally).

ZONE 2: Balloon Park
Aesthetic: Carnival Night with a heavy circus theme
Difficulty: Medium
Best character: Knuckles
My best time: 0í35Ē79 (Knuckles)

Run-through: Balloon Park also starts with a drop loop that leads into a 
large pit. 2 large platforms making up the floor move left and right, with a 
small gap just big enough for your character between them. Falling through 
the gap leads to another pit with 3 bumpers. To the right is a 90-degree ramp 
leading to shaft with 2 yellow balloons. Bouncing directly on top of the 
balloons will shoot you straight up back to the post.

Traps: Bumpers will not hurt you but can annoyingly get in the way. The real 
trap of this level are the balloons. Hitting them anywhere than directly on 
top will shoot you in the opposite direction, bouncing you all over the lower 
pit and bumpers. Thereís also a small delay between breaking a balloon and a 
replacement inflating, which can lead to errors in timing when getting up the 

ZONE 3: Chrome Gadget
Aesthetic: Industrialized Star Light
Difficulty: Hard
Best character: Tails
My best time: 0í34Ē48

Run-through: My personal favorite, Chrome Gadget starts with a platform that 
sinks downwards to the level proper. To the left of the platform are two 
floors with red springs at the end. To the right are 3 industrial fans that 
lift you up to the next platform, with red springs leading up to a higher, 
smaller platform. Across this platform is a small, narrow passageway, and 
between you is a very narrow U-shaped pit. Through the passageway is a small 
shaft of Metropolis-style yellow bumpers, leading down to the post.

*Point of Interest*: This is the only zone that loops vertically rather than 
horizontally, resulting in a small graphical glitch: the moon is only visible 
in the background for the first lap, since the backdrop is moving down as you 
run down the course.

Traps: The underside of the sinking platform is electrified and will kill. 
(Also note that the platform sinks faster with 2 characters on it.) The 
narrow pit is very problematic, to make it worse there is a spring hidden 
under the entrance of the passageway. Itís controlled by a switch on the 
platform after the fans, and can be pointed up towards the passageway ceiling 
(stalling your opponent), or jutted out (pointed up or down) into the pit. 
This is hands-down the trickiest section of Competition Mode. This switch 
seems to be the only one that also activates in Time Attack (generally traps 
are deactivated in 1P mode), and is just as likely to trip you up as badly as 
your opponent, so be very careful.

ZONE 4: Desert Palace
Aesthetic: Sandopolis with Chemical Plant/Aquatic Ruin level design
Difficulty: Easy
Best character: Sonic
My best time: 0í34Ē08 (Sonic)

Run-through: Desert Palace starts with a ramp leading down and then straight 
up a 90-degree ramp. Then comes a huge downward ramp leading to a very tall, 
narrow loop that ejects you into a large quicksand pit. Following the pit is 
a semi-sharp upward ramp and slightly-downward path, leading to another 90-
degree ramp. A long collapsing bridge then leads you back to the post.

Traps: The quicksand is as deadly as the mud from Azure Lake. To aid you out 
of the sand is a small platform that collapses when you step on it; a red 
switch following it restores the platform. This switch also activates a red 
spring just before the tall loop, pointing backwards. Finally, the collapsing 
bridge at the end stretches over the quicksand, and regenerates on its own.

ZONE 5: Endless Mine
Aesthetic: Lava Reef Act2 colored green and even more demure
Difficulty: Easy
Best character: Sonic
My best time: 0í46Ē78 (Sonic)

Run-through: Easily the longest of the Competition zones, Endless Mine starts 
with a few steps downwards leading to a red spring that sends you up a shaft. 
Following the path, 3 yellow rocks block your way downward, reminiscent of 
Marble Zone. Breaking the blocks and continuing right is a very broad U-
shaped pit with the path following on the upper landing. This path leads back 
down to the ground behind the foreground imagery, ending with a basic loop 
before joining back up with the post.

Traps: There really arenít any here. The yellow blocks are hardly a challenge 
and there are no switches. The only true detriment is that you might get 
caught up in off-screen hangtime after going back up the U-shaped pit, as the 
passageway is rather narrow (but not nearly as bad as Chrome Gadgetís).

VII: Advanced Techniques

Now that we know what each course is like, here are the master tricks of the 
trade in order to get your Time Attack scores as low as possible. These 
techniques are generally meant for optimal performance in 1P mode; offensive 
tactics when racing another character were outlined in the previous section.


>> Avoid running straight up a 90-degree ramp, as this will generally result 
in you flying up in the air and caught in off-screen hangtime for a few 
seconds. Instead, jump just before the ramp, right onto the landing without 
sacrificing speed.

>> A common speed trick used by Sonic speed-runners, when going around a 
loop, jump very lightly *just after* passing the 9:00 position. If done 
correctly, youíll jump for a split second but immediately land on the curve 
leading back down to the ground, going about twice your usual max speed.

>> Although it is tempting, never use Tailsí flight ability. Itís just not as 
fast as using proper timing, even in the tricky sections of Balloon Park and 
Chrome Gadget.

>> During the countdown, donít hesitate trying to get as close to the post as 
you can before you can actually start. Faulting has no time penalty.

ZONE 1: Azure Lake

>> Sonicís high acceleration works best in this speed-driven course.

>> Spindash right from the start and use the loop trick on the first loop but 
not the second or else youíll probably get hangtime and miss the shortcut.

>> After the second loop, jump the 90-degree ramp and run straight ahead. 
Your speed will cruise right over the mud pit and place you immediately on 
the ground, avoiding the layered platforms entirely.

>> Once you get a good feel for the zone youíll be able to complete it by 
holding right the entire time.

ZONE 2: Balloon Park

>> Knucklesí traction really helps in this tactical course.

>> Spindash up the initial drop loop but jump immediately once you clear it 
to land directly on the ground. Going too fast will send you straight up the 
other side, hitting a bumper and losing time.

>> Getting past the narrow gap quickly involves a small amount of luck. It is 
possible to go directly through it from the jump following the drop loop if 
youíre lined up perfectly. Try to fall through when the gap is off-center to 
help avoid the 3 bumpers lined up beneath you.

>> The 90-degree ramp preceeding the first balloon is probably the only time 
youíll want to run straight up it, as you can use the minimal hangtime to 
line up your balloon break. Do *not* spindash up this ramp thinking you can 
bypass the first balloon. For a true time attack, you have only one chance to 
break the balloons cleanly. Donít rush.

ZONE 3: Chrome Gadget

>> Tailsí high jump is a godsend in this even more tactical course.

>> Spindash immediately to the platform and then immediately run (donít 
spindash) towards the first left-side floor. (Roll along the floor once you 
have enough speed). You want to hit the red spring on the bottom floor, 
sending you straight toward the fans. The timing can be a little tricky, 
moving too fast or too slow can send you back onto the platform or even 
worse, underneath it without clearance, killing you.

>> Hold right as you go up the air current. At the top, Sonic and Knuckles 
usually get caught on the lip of the platform due to the switch being right 
on the edge, but Tailsí size allows him to land on the lip easily. From here, 
Tailsí jump allows him to clear the spring pit entirely, something Sonic and 
Knuckles cannot do.

>> Jump a little past halfway on the tall landing to clear the U-shaped pit 
and slip into the narrow passage. It may take you a few tries to determine 
your exact spot. Allow the yellow bumpers to knock you down the shaft as 
youíll want the speed boost they give you.

>> Do *not* hit the white switch as it can make the tricky jump even more 

ZONE 4: Desert Palace

>> Sonic works best in this speed-driven course.

>> At the start, jump right across the small pit. The 90-degree ramp heading 
out of it is notorious for bad hangtime. No spindashing.

>> Run straight down the steep drop. The Aquatic Ruin-style huge loop is too 
big to take advantage of so just run it as well. Run about halfway across the 
sand pit and time your jump so you land just past the red switch, right onto 
the ramp.

>> Just as you start climbing the steep upward ramp, jump. Youíll bypass the 
climb and wind up right at the top. Continue running until about the halfway 
point of the shallow path and youíll bypass the 90-degree ramp leading 
towards the collapsing bridge.

>> Run straight across the collapsing bridge towards the post. At full speed 
the bridge will hold long enough for you to cross it.

ZONE 5: Endless Mine

>> Though neither a highly speedy or tactical course, Sonic still works best 
because there is a lot of ground to cover.

>> Spindash at the post towards the spring. The ceiling drops down just 
before the spring making a wall, and unless youíre moving at a faster-than-
running speed youíll smack into the wall. If youíre really fast your momentum 
will clip you just underneath the wall and directly onto the spring.

>> Thereís no shortcut around the rock-breaking section. Breaking all 3 
blocks doesnít take up much more time than breaking just the 2 right-side 
blocks, so just get through this section as fast as you can.

>> Maintain a normal running speed through the broad U-pit. If you go too 
fast youíll miss the exit at the top-right and fly off-screen for a few 
precious seconds.

>> Do the loop trick at the very end to get to your faster-than-running 
speed, setting you up to bypass the wall at the start of the next lap.

VIII: Special Thanks

SEGA/Sonic Team: For creating some spectacular games, especially Sonic 1-3&K.
Parents: For making this game one of my Christmas presents back in 1995.
You, the Reader: For allowing this FAQ to have a purpose.