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Now playing – Sonic 3 & Knuckles


Old classics never die. Although great, successful game series can.

So it has happened to poor old Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega’s incredibly popular response to the always cheerful Super Mario.

The poor guy has starred in a handful of horrible games in the last 5 years, with it’s Xbox 360 and PS3 next-generation Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) reboot being the most noteworthy. Hey, even I still had faith in the blue blur until I recently tried myself that awful game. I wasn’t even able to complete the very first level!

But it hasn’t always been like that. No sir! Sonic has definitely seen better days, and in this post I would like to mention what to me is still the pinnacle of the series: Sonic 3 & Knuckles.


Let’s make something clear here though. This game was never sold originally as a full one, but instead was split into two cartridges for the old Sega Mega Drive (Sega Genesis in the US). The first one being Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and then the “expansion” Sonic & Knuckles. While both games could be played separately and each contained their own set of levels, owning both of them allowed the player to “lock-on”, that is, to fit the Sonic 3 cartridge inside the S&K one. This would convert both games into a single, complete game with a cohesive storyline and the added extra of playing the entire game as the ever cool Knuckles the Echidna.

What I’m reviewing here though is the recent re-release of this game on Steam (which is, by the way, top-notch and much more compelling than most of the re-releases that have been out there, with extra saving features and some neat graphic enhancements). Luckily this game already has both parts combined, and so it includes every single feature from the original.

That includes the original soundtrack in which Michael Jackson was involved. Yes, ladies and gentleman. Although not credited as such in the game, many of the game’s tunes (which are incredibly catchy, by the way) were originally conceived by deceased star Michael Jackson.

But enough about history lessons. What exactly makes Sonic 3 & Knuckles so compelling?

Simply put: the level design.


This game has some of the most amazing 2D platformers level design out there. The levels are huge, with multiple branching paths and several areas where you can run as much as you want to make Sonic blaze through the environment. Tricks and traps of all kinds hide in every corner, as well as the interesting power-ups that this game offered like the water shield, with its underwater breathing properties and bouncy nature, or the fire shield, with protected you from fire and allowed Sonic to dash in the air in a flame.

Not to mention the great feeling of discovery whenever you came across one of the giant-sized rings that transported you to the special zones, with the (back in its day) impressive 3D visuals and the blue sphere collection. These were used to collect the 7 chaos emeralds (and later on in the game the 7 super emeralds) which would in turn allow Sonic to transform into the yellow-haired Super Sonic (an cool wink to the Dragon Ball series).


The game was made even more complete with the 2-player modes, both in the main story (with the second player controlling the two-tailed flying fox Tails) and in the competitive races. Heck, one of those competitive races levels had such a catchy tune that I couldn’t stop myself from posting a remix from jmr and the entire remix album at!

Sega has kept trying again and again to bring back the old glory days from its Sonic franchise. And while some of their attempts have been really good, especially on handhelds (the Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush series come to mind), the rest have all been awful attempts. Even the much hyped return of Sonic with Sonic the Hedgehog 4 with its return to classic sidescroller hasn’t managed to retain the feeling of this masterpiece.

For all of you out there who enjoyed the Sonic games of yore, I highly recommend giving this one a try (get it on Steam, or on the Xbox Live Arcade!), and if you were never really interested into these games, I still insist that you give this one a try. Grab a friend if you can and play co-operatively!

Give Sonic a reason to stay alive.