Sonic & Knuckles
|Sonic & Knuckles|
Sega Technical Institute
|Release date(s)||Sega Mega Drive/Genesis
|Media/distribution||16-megabit cartridge, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, BD-ROM, DLC, Blu-Ray Disc.|
Sonic & Knuckles is a 1994 platform video game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. It was developed in the United States at Sega Technical Institute by members of Sonic Team, and was published by Sega worldwide on October 18, 1994.
In addition to being a standalone game, through a system dubbed "lock-on technology," Sonic & Knuckles acts as an expansion pack to both Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 3, the latter with which it was developed in tandem.
Main game 
Because Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 were originally going to be one game, gameplay is nearly identical to Sonic 3. The game still plays as a 2D sidescrolling platformer, with the player directing Sonic through levels and around obstacles within a time limit of 10 minutes. However, while Tails is no longer a playable character, the game does introduce Knuckles the Echidna as a playable character.
Gameplay slightly differs between playing as Sonic or Knuckles. Sonic is able to run faster and jump higher than Knuckles, and can also utilize the special abilities of elemental shields. Meanwhile, Knuckles has the ability to glide downward through the air, climb up most walls, and break through certain barriers, occasionally allowing him to access areas Sonic cannot; Knuckles' limited jumping ability renders him unable to access certain areas that Sonic can. Knuckles' levels are noticeably more challenging than Sonic's, with certain bosses made more difficult.
The game has 2 bonus mini-games that can be accessed by hitting checkpoints with 20 or more rings and jumping through the stars. The first involves players attempting to earn rings in slot machines, where the other type sees the player traveling upwards through the use of magnetic orbs and flippers, collecting rings while avoiding a slowly rising forcefield that ends the mini-game.
The "special stages", the method in which Sonic collects the Chaos Emeralds in the game, play exactly like they do in Sonic 3, except with different layouts and the addition of yellow spheres which act as a 'spring', allowing the player to jump the distance of several red or blue spheres.
Lock-on technology 
Sonic & Knuckles utilizes "lock-on technology" that lets the cartridge plus the Mega Drive/Genesis access data from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 so that elements of both Sonic & Knuckles and the locked-on game are combined. To play these combined games, the hatch on top of the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge can be flipped open and the second game placed inside.
With Sonic the Hedgehog 3 
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles were originally to be released as one game, but due to time and financial constraints, it was later split into two separate games. However, Sonic & Knuckles contained "Lock-on Technology", where the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge would be put in the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis system, and then another game could be placed onto the top of the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge itself. When Sonic 3 is used in this manner, it enables the player to play through both games as one, titled in-game as Sonic 3 & Knuckles. This features several additions to the games not available otherwise, such as small alterations to the levels, and being able to play through Sonic 3 levels as Knuckles, or Sonic & Knuckles levels as Tails, and the ability to save progress in all of the game's levels.
Additionally, this was the only way to collect Super Emeralds, which are earned by accessing Special Stages in the Sonic & Knuckles levels after collecting all seven Chaos Emeralds from Sonic 3. When all Super Emeralds have been collected, Sonic, Knuckles and Tails can transform into Hyper Sonic, Hyper Knuckles and Super Tails respectively, each with unique abilities.
With Sonic the Hedgehog 2 
Referred to in-game as Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the game is largely identical to Sonic the Hedgehog 2, with the exception that gameplay is altered due to Knuckles having separate abilities from Sonic or Tails. Knuckles can glide and climb walls, allowing him to gain access to areas that had been otherwise hidden or unreachable. Conversely, he cannot jump as high, making some situations, such as certain boss fights, especially the final one, more difficult. In this version of the game, the two player mode has been removed.
With Sonic the Hedgehog 
If the player uses the original Sonic the Hedgehog or Sonic Compilation, a screen with Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Robotnik stating "No Way" repeatedly is displayed. By pressing the A, B and C buttons together players can access all the available levels by inputting a twelve digit code, every number combination a different variation of a Special Stage level. This game is retroactively known as Blue Sphere in Sonic Mega Collection.
With any other game 
If a Sega Mega Drive/Genesis game besides Sonic 2 or Sonic 3 is placed into the Sonic & Knuckles lock-on cartridge, the screen with Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Robotnik stating "No Way" repeatedly is displayed with faded colors. However, by pressing the A, B and C buttons together, players can access a randomly generated Blue Sphere stage, based on the Special Stages of Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. Only one random stage can be accessed with this method per cartridge.
In Sonic the Hedgehog's side of the story picks up immediately after the events of Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Dr. Robotnik's orbital weapon, the Death Egg, which was damaged by Sonic, crash lands back on Floating Island, landing in a volcanic crater. Sonic continues to track down Robotnik as he travels through each zone looking for the Chaos Emeralds, once again coming into conflict with Knuckles the Echidna, who believes he is trying to steal them. However, Robotnik reveals his true intentions and steals the Master Emerald, the secret to the island's levitation powers, causing the island to fall into the ocean. Realizing he has been tricked, Knuckles assists Sonic in chasing after Robotnik as he once again launches his Death Egg into space. Robotnik uses the power of the Master Emerald to power up a giant robot, but Sonic manages to use the power of the Chaos Emeralds to transform into Super Sonic in order to stop Robotnik, destroy the Death Egg and return the Master Emerald to its rightful place.
In Knuckles' side of the story, following on after Sonic's, his peaceful life is disrupted when a surviving robot, called an "Egg Robo", attacks him, taking Robotnik's place as the main antagonist. As Knuckles chases after the Egg Robo, it is soon destroyed by Mecha Sonic, who uses the power of the Master Emerald to give him more power. However, Knuckles manages to destroy him and return the Master Emerald to the Floating Island.
Prior to the release of Sonic & Knuckles in North America, Blockbuster Video and MTV co-sponsored a tournament contest where kids were allowed to play a pre-release of the game, leading to a final tournament held at Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, California. A special on the game showing the tournament final, "MTV's Rock the Rock Warning", was aired shortly before the game's release.
Alternate versions and ports 
Compilation releases 
Compilations that include the game are Sonic Jam (1997) for the Sega Saturn; Sonic & Knuckles Collection (1997) and Sonic & Garfield Pack (1999) for the PC, Sonic Mega Collection (2002) for the Nintendo GameCube; Sonic Mega Collection Plus (2004) for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC; Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3; and Sonic Classic Collection (2010) for the Nintendo DS.
Most compilations feature the game largely unchanged. However, Sonic Jam, in addition to featuring the original release, also had a few new "remix" options; "Normal" mode altered the layout of rings and hazards and "Easy" mode removes certain acts entirely from the game. The version in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection does not retain the lock-on feature included in other versions of the game, because of "tight development times".
Digital releases 
The game has been re-released on the Wii's Virtual Console and Xbox 360's Xbox Live Arcade. Both releases have it programmed where, if any of the "Lock-on" games also downloaded on the same account, the "connected" versions of the game are also available. (If one downloads Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic 2, they have the option to play the corresponding Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 game.)
Sonic & Knuckles was mostly received positively upon its release, although the game wasn't as successful as its predecessors Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 3. On release, Famicom Tsūshin scored the MegaDrive version of the game a 30 out of 40. IGN gave the game a 9 out of 10, praising the game for "...Impressive visuals that pushed the Genesis to its limits" and for the value added in the content unlocked with the "lock-on technology". Similarly, Electronic Gaming Monthly rewarded the game with 9.25 out of 10.
For Sonic's 20th Anniversary, Sega released Sonic Generations, a game that remade aspects of various past games from the franchise. A remake of the "Sky Sanctuary" level was made for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC versions of the game, while the "Mushroom Hill" level was remade for the Nintendo 3DS version of the game. Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing features a track inspired by the Death Egg as downloadable content along with the Metal Sonic character. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed also features "Sky Sanctuary" as a racetrack, with the Death Egg track returning for this game.
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