Sonic 3 & Knuckles, developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega, was released in 1994… Well, that’s true, but here’s what really happened. Sonic 3 & Knuckles was originally developed as one game, but due to time constraints and the fact that the game would have been 34 megabits, meaning that cartridge costs would have been expensive, the game was eventually split into two, starting with Sonic The Hedgehog 3, released in February 1994, then Sonic & Knuckles was released in October 1994. That's why Sonic 3 alone feels so incomplete.

Now, you're probably wondering, "How are we suppose to play Sonic 3 & Knuckles?" If you have

a Sega Genesis, grab your copy of Sonic 3, then get your Sonic & Knuckles cart, now on the top of the Sonic & Knuckles cart there is a slot, this is known as "Lock-On Technology." Sonic & Knuckles is the only cartridge to use this in the history of gaming by the way. Anyways, you place Sonic 3 on top of Sonic & Knuckles and turn the Genesis on and you’ll get Sonic 3 & Knuckles as long as both cartridges are clean. Or you can get it on Steam, to make it easy for yourself nowadays. Anyways, on to the game itself!

1) Story

So this game follows the events after Sonic 2. The story is that Sonic defeated Dr. Robotnik and this somehow causes the Death Egg to crash-land on a floating mass land known as Angel Island. Whilst repairing the Death Egg, Robotnik finds Knuckles the Echidna, the last survivor of an ancient civilization who happen to be Echidnas too, and is also the guardian of the Master Emerald (which controls the power of the Chaos Emeralds) in Angel Island. When Robotnik finds out that the island is powered by the Emeralds and can use them to power the Death Egg again, and knowing that Sonic & Tails could return, he allies with Knuckles by lying to him, saying that Sonic & Tails are the enemy and want to steal the Chaos Emeralds, just so Robotnik can take both the Chaos Emeralds and the Master Emerald himself in front of Knuckles’ nose.

Meanwhile, Sonic & Tails arrive with Sonic using the Chaos Emeralds to turn into Super Sonic to storm through the island. But Knuckles ambushes him, knocks the Chaos Emeralds out of Sonic and takes them from him.


Knuckles: "Sup?! I'm going to steal your s***!!

So, Sonic & Tails venture through the island, with Knuckles constantly hindering their progress. So, NOW we have a proper story but if you play the game overtime, more of the story will unfold in a way that you’d least expect: Level Design.

2) Gameplay

The gameplay is similar to Sonic 2 and not Sonic CD, though somehow the physics feel a bit better since then. As always, you do what you always do, run, jump, bop enemies, collect Emeralds, and defeat Robotnik. It’s kind of difficult because I don’t want to repeat everything. All I can say is that it’s a 2D platform Sonic game and it’s improved in terms of story, graphics, level design and physics. Along with playing as Sonic, you can also play as Tails (who can fly in the air for a short period of time and swim underwater) and newcomer, Knuckles (who can glide in the air and climb up walls).

Also, you get to choose one of our bachelorettes...in shield form!!!

We now have some new shields of the elemental form. The flame shield will give you a Fire Dash attack and will protect you from fire and lava, the bubble shield will give you a bounce attack and will prevent you from drowning underwater, and the electric shield will protect you from rare electric attacks and will give you a double jump which can be very useful.

For the multiplayer, we have Competitive Mode where you can race through five stages that are not in the main game. I’d say it’s a lot better than Sonic 2’s multiplayer mode, but no one would miss it if it was left out.

The gameplay is varied for everyone of all types of gaming can adapt to, so if you want to explore or run through it, you can do just that.


Angel Island Zone
– Take Green Hill and make it ten times better by design. While I love Green Hill, I adore Angel Island in terms of design and perfect level design. A tropical jungle, a lush, green area, it’s so beautiful…And then halfway, the place gets caught on FIRE!!! That’s never happened in a Sonic game before.

Hydrocity Zone – Probably the best water level in Sonic history. Why is that? Well as well as having an Atlantic like area, or better off, a technologically advanced Aquatic Zone, it’s also an example of a water level done right, a far cry from Labyrinth Zone. Highly memorable, highly fun. Also, it's pronounced "Hydro-City", guys... NOT "Hydrocity".

Marble Garden Zone – A much better version of ‘once inhabitable lands’, this one feels decayed and looks like it could fall apart…and it does. It has many parts, many tricky situations but I enjoy all of the situations coming my way.

Carnival Night Zone – So in an island where we have near enough ancient ruins at this point, how did they get a Carnival? Who cares, it’s a Sonic game and Sonic games needs at least one Vegas-style game and here it is. In terms of foreground, it’s highly vibrant, has all of the objects from every single one of these types of levels and it’s quite fun. The background looks like Vegas, dank, few colors and you can feel your wallet wasting away. And yes, I was one of those children who was a victim to ‘The Barrel’. It took me 8 hours to do...and just move up and down.


Ice Cap Zone
– When Sonic snowboards to his stage, you know it’s going to be good. And oh boy, it is as it’s one of the best ice levels in a video game. We’re inside an icy mountain, a cave-like structure, it’s so beautiful and upon going outside, you see the arctic…modern day (we need to protect the environment, a message less subtle than how Sonic portrays it with no words what-so-ever. And most importantly, it has the best piece of music in classic Sonic games. It’s one of my favorite stages and a true beauty in level design.

By the way, Sonic Adventure fans... THIS GAME DID IT FIRST!!!

Launch Base Zone – The crash site of the Death Egg, construction pieces replaces the lush beauty of Angel Island. The level is…OK, I mean I’m not too much of a fan of the level overall. But at the end, you battle the final boss before battling the final, final boss…if you’re playing Sonic 3 only, but I played this game with both cartridges to get the full experience. Soooooooo…

Mushroom Hill Zone – …ooo we have a forest level full of giant mushrooms…probably a middle finger to the Mario series. If you started the game as Sonic & Knuckles, this would be the first level. But playing Sonic 3 & Knuckles, it feels like a ‘break time level’; a game that gets challenging, though not that much, and then the game goes, ‘hold up, this is too much, let’s lighten the mood again before another storm. Act 2 changes the colors to change the season, what would be summer ends up being autumn and I love it.

Wait... THIS ALSO MEANS MARIO WAS HERE!!!

Flying Battery Zone – Strange seeing a level so early like this, but it’s not too hard and if you played the game as Sonic 3 & Knuckles, you won’t get that effect. So we’re inside a big battleship. There are loads of traps that may hinder the first-time player and may have capsules that may not have innocent animals because Robotnik is a jerk. It also has the worst mini-boss in the Zone, not because it’s hard but more stupid.

So, this is what the inside of an Energizer looks like.

Sandopolis Zone – We’re in Egypt! In Act 1, we have ancient Egyptians artifacts and buildings, we have quick sand and a background desert, Act 1 gameplay-wise is OK, yet a bit long. It’s Act 2 that I absolutely hate; it just overstays its welcome. In Act 2, we’re inside a pyramid, with ghosts, and they’re annoying. It’s where they put more puzzle elements and whilst I don’t have too much of an issue with it, I just got bored with it pretty quickly. In short, I HATE THIS LEVEL!!!

Lava Reef Zone – The fire level and a great one at that, in fact, you’re in a volcano. Many rocky paths and lava aplenty. Act 1’s music is just incredible; it’s probably my second favorite music pieces in this Sonic game. Act 2 completely changes everything as the molten cools and crystallized rocks form, the setting has changed and so has the music, you can get a bit of Act 1 in this new music, but it’s such a strange transition compared to the other music in this game. By the way, unless if you have the Fire Shield you're going to get hit... A LOT!!!

Hidden Palace Zone – So we have a one act level, but it’s an important one as it’s a story transition and Knuckles is a boss. It’s near enough of a continuation of Lava Reef Zone Act 2 design-wise. Also, we fight with Knuckles, and see Robotnik stealing the Master Emerald, which lets Knuckles realize that he is the true villain.

Sky Sanctuary Zone – ANOTHER uninhabited level and it crumbles, though this seems to fit the one-man guardian in a floating island that no one uses. But it’s near enough another one act level that’s another story transition.

Death Egg Zone – It’s a final Zone that’s worthy of a final Zone! It's just a hallway anymore (like it was in Sonic 2). We have 2 acts for Death Egg and I love it and it has some challenge to it, mostly the conveyor belts with missiles shooting at you. It’s a mechanical fortress and it’s dark and gloomy but the design for it is epic with a background that barely ever moves, giving you that feeling of... "YOU'RE IN SPACE NOW, LITTLE MAN"! We then go outside into space where we see the introduction of gravity changing areas where we can run on the ceiling, and we get to move around IN LOOP-DE-LOOPS... You have to play this zone to get what I mean. Afterwards, we get a number of bosses and we can finally make Robotnik drop the Master Emerald.

Doomsday Zone – At this point, my heart was pounding, this has never happened before. I wasn’t too worried but I had enough lives to spare. So with the powers of the Chaos Emeralds combined, I turn into Super Sonic, and the race begins in space where you chase down Robotnik and defeat him once and for all. Pretty epic stuff and I love the music.

3) Special Stages

These are probably the best Special Stages in a Sonic game, yep, much better than Sonic CD. It’s like running on a giant checker ball and you have to collect blue balls (Sonic’s Blue Balls, haha). Collecting them all will give you a Chaos Emerald, but don’t touch the red balls or it will end the stage, they’re challenging but you feel good when you get the Chaos Emeralds. Once you get all seven emeralds, you'll get the chance to be Super Sonic again, but that's not all! If you get all the Chaos Emeralds by the time you get to Mushroom Hill Zone, you'll be introduce to Super Emeralds. Collecting all seven Super Emeralds will result in having the best forms in Sonic history.

4) New Forms

Hyper Sonic - He's pretty much Jesus, in hedgehog form!!! Besides being just as fast as Super Sonic, he's also completely invulnerable to drowning, and he can do a mid-air dash attack (which not only doubles his second jump, but also kills every robot on the screen... DAMN). However, he can still die through bottomless pits and being crushed. Also, keep an eye on your ring count (same goes for the other forms)! The thing that bugs me a bit is that Sonic needs Super Emeralds to survive underwater, and that's kind of pathetic.

Hyper Knuckles - In addition to running faster, he can also climb walls and glide faster than he usually does. Also, he can cause an earthquake (which can kill every robot on the screen) when he collides with a wall.

Super Tails - Tails, who never had a super form with the Chaos Emeralds (unless if you want to count Sonic Heroes, which I don't), now has a super from with the Super Emeralds. This always confuses me as to why that is, but getting the emeralds with Tails is well worth the effort. In addition to having all the benefits of a super form, Super Tails can fly much faster and he has a FLICKY ARMY OF DEATH!!! The Flickies (A.K.A. birds in the Sonic universe) will attack anything that moves and completely destroy bosses... Trust me, Tails doesn't even need to move!!! In short, Super Tails is ridiculous, but fun!

5) Other Tricks with the Sonic & Knuckles Cartridge

Knuckles in Sonic The Hedgehog 2 - Along with putting Sonic 3 on top of Sonic & Knuckles, you can also attach Sonic 2 to the cartridge. Doing so will allow to play Knuckles in Sonic The Hedgehog 2, and... There's not much of a difference. It's just Sonic 2, but you play as Knuckles... Have fun!

Blue Sphere - You can also play the Blue Sphere game by putting any other Sega Genesis game on top of the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge. It's just Sonic 3 special stages with different layouts, but if you lock in Sonic 1 with Sonic & Knuckles the amount of levels can reach to millions, and you seriously have no life if you have played them all...like me.

6) Overall

As of right now, this is an unbelievably long review but it deserves it. Overall, this is the best 2D Sonic game of all time, and truly one of my favorites. The graphics are fantastic, the music is some of the best of what the Genesis’s sound chip had to offer (although I wouldn't suspect a video game soundtrack done by Michael Jackson himself), and… It’s just a perfect game. And remember, if you’re going to play this, do not play Sonic 3 alone, or just Sonic & Knuckles... OH NO, HELL NO!!! Use the Lock-On Technology and play both games at the same time! It’s the true experience and well worth your time! This game is one of the reasons why I became a definite of Sonic. I mean... WOW!!!

Rating: 5 / 5