This game came up in conversation with a friend of mine last year. We had been spending the day trying to come up with a list of our top 10 games of all time, which wasn’t an easy task. One of the games on his list was Sonic 3 and Knuckles (it was number 6 on his list) which surprised me a little. I asked him why that particular game was on there and he responded with ‘I just like it’… fair enough I suppose.
Not owning a Mega drive/Genesis I was unable to play Sonic 3 and Knuckles, however I spotted Sonic and Knuckles on the Microsoft store early this year so thought I’d download it and give it a go to get a feel for the game.
I have played Sonic 2 to death, on both the master system and the Genesis version, and had also completed Sonic Advanced so had played as Knuckles previously. Safe in the knowledge that I was well equipped to play a Sonic game, I selected Knuckles and raced through the first level.
I died. A lot. And often. This was the first level of the game and I had lost almost all of my precious lives. Essentially as I charged through the level I bumped into enemies, spikes and obstacles that killed me. I set the game down and left it. Annoyingly I had read reviews about this being one of the easier games in the Sonic franchise.
Returning to the game I approached it like a platformer, actually taking the time to see where I was going and timing my jumps, avoiding enemies etc etc. Suddenly I was able to play! I suppose I had gotten so used to the routes in Sonic 2 I was able to hurl myself through the game at speed. This game I found required a more measured approach. However once I realised that I was able to progress at a reasonable rate.
In this game we have the choice of the two characters, Sonic and Knuckles with their slight different abilities. Sonic has a shield that can be activated mid jump and is faster, Knuckles can climb walls and glide. Personally I found using Sonic easier, his instant shield provides brief invulnerability.
The story is a classic Sonic story, save cute animals from Dr Robotnik and his army of machines while chasing a Master Emerald that he has stolen. However it develops as the game progresses, something I hadn’t seen in the Sonic games I had played before. The Hidden Palace zone for example serves the single purpose of moving the plot forward. This keeps the story engaging as you play, a nice addition. The graphics are well done, certainly a step up from previous Sonic games. The backgrounds vary as you progress through a zone Little details keep the story moving, such as the continuation between levels rather than a screen fade to black. It is nicely done and keeps the story moving along and gives you the feeling that you are really in a chase, and hunting down Robotnik. The levels themselves are large (large enough that I was embarrassingly ‘timed out’ in one!) and non linear, which is a nice touch. There are various routes to go through and certainly in the later stages are not as simple as running from left to right. The zones also have their own obstacles and strategies to use. The Sandopolis zone for example I did not enjoy initially (this is where I timed out!) as it is slow and based on hitting switches and solving puzzles. However once I accepted this fact, I found it nicely designed and interesting to play through. Similarly I hated the inverted sections of the Death Egg, but can see that they serve a purpose and are just another obstacle to overcome.
This is a nice game, which I have yet to master. I still have numerous secrets to obtain, chaos emeralds that I have not collected. I will certainly be playing through again to try and achieve some of this. Unfortunately however I think I am missing the point a little in the beauty of this game. The fact that you could load it with your Sonic 3 cartridge on the Sega Genesis must have been an absolute delight for fans of the franchise. I suppose the next step for me is to ask my friend to dig out his Mega Drive so we can play it the way it was intended. In the meantime it was certainly a worthwhile addition to my collection.