Sonic & Knuckles
|Sonic & Knuckles|
|Series||Sonic the Hedgehog|
|Release date(s)||Sega Genesis
|Distribution||16-megabit cartridge, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, DLC, Blu-Ray Disc.|
Sonic & Knuckles (ソニック&ナックルズ Sonikku to Nakkuruzu?) is a 1994 platform video game developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. The fourth instalment in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, it was developed at the Sega Technical Institute by members of Sonic Team, in the United States and was released worldwide on October 18, 1994. It is a direct sequel from Sonic the Hedgehog 3, in which the game follows both Sonic and Knuckles the Echidna to stop Dr. Robotnik's orbital weapon, the Death Egg, from destroying Angel Island.
Sonic & Knuckles utilises "lock-on technology" that allows the game to access data from both Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 so that elements of both Sonic & Knuckles and the locked-on game are combined. During the development of Sonic 3, both games were originally planned to be a single story within the same cartridge, however, time constraints and costs of a large non-volatile RAM cartridge would have been considerably expensive, Sega made the decision was made to split the game into two separate instalments.
The game received considerable praise upon initial release, with critics being impressed with the "lock-on technology" and claiming that despite the similarities with that and its predecessor, it was still an "exceptional game". It has since been re-released through various Sonic and Sega themed compilations over the years, and digitally for the Wii's Virtual Console, and Xbox Live Arcade.
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 the Floating Island (or, Angel 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 Sonic and Knuckles return the Master Emerald to the Floating Island.
Since Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 were developed initially as a single title, their gameplay is similar: both are 2D, side-scrolling platformers with similar level design, graphics, and game mechanics. However, the player chooses either Sonic the Hedgehog or Knuckles the Echidna at the title screen; unlike in Sonic 3, Tails is not available, and the player cannot control two characters together or use any other multiplayer modes. There is also no save feature.
The player character moves through seven levels, each divided into two acts. The first act of each level is punctuated by a miniboss fight with one of Dr. Robotnik's robots, while the second ends with a regular boss fight with Robotnik, and there is a final boss fight with Eggman at the game's end. The two traverse levels differently: Sonic can jump slightly higher, but Knuckles can glide downward—by letting the wind run under his dreadlocks—and climb most walls. Their levels also include a few cutscenes that differ based on the character selected, as Sonic and Knuckles are rivals for most of the game.
The game contains two types of "bonus stages". The first type, accessed by passing a checkpoint with at least 50 rings, has the character orbit around floating, glowing spheres, jetting off each one when a button is pressed, while a fence of light approaches from the bottom and will remove the player from the stage if touched. Collecting 50 rings in this stage earns the player a continue. The second type, accessed the same way, involves bouncing around a room with a slot machine in its center with the intention of winning extra lives and power-ups from it.
Special stages are entered by finding giant rings hidden in secret passageways and works similarly to its counterpart in Sonic 3: the player is placed in a 3D environment and tasked to turn all of a number of blue spheres red by running through them, but must avoid all red spheres, including formerly blue ones. Completing this task earns the player a Chaos Emerald, and collecting all seven Emeralds allows the player to turn into Super Sonic or Super Knuckles, more powerful versions of the characters. This version of these stages, unlike the one in Sonic 3, features yellow spheres that bounce the player long distances.
Sonic & Knuckles utilizes "lock-on technology" that lets the game 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.
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 slight changes to the level design, 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 is 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. Inserting Sonic 2 unlocks Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, wherein the player can complete Sonic 2 using Knuckles' abilities.
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. The player can also access a minigame based on Sonic 3 's and Sonic & Knuckles 's Chaos Emerald special stages by pressing the Genesis' A, B, and C buttons together. Here, the player can enter a twelve-digit code, with every number combination generating a different variation of a special stage. This game is retroactively known as Blue Sphere in Sonic Mega Collection. If any other game is inserted, the "No Way" screen is displayed with faded colors. However, by pressing the A, B, and C buttons together, the player can access a randomly generated Blue Sphere stage.
Sonic & Knuckles and its predecessor were originally planned to be a single story built within the same cartridge. However, as time constraints and the manufacturing costs of a larger cartridge with non-volatile RAM (NVRAM) would have been prohibitively expensive for Sega, the decision was made to split the game in half, resulting in Sonic & Knuckles being the second instalment to the Sonic 3 story-arc. As with its predecessor, the cartridge contains small amount of NVRAM, allowing the player to save game progress to the game cartridge.
According to Roger Hector, vice-president and general manager of Sega Technical Institute, the idea of the lock-on technology was first conceived two and a half years before the release of Sonic & Knuckles, between the releases of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Early development screenshots suggest Knuckles was planned to be playable in the first Sonic the Hedgehog via Sonic & Knuckles ' lock-on technology, but this feature was removed prior to release.
Prior to the release of Sonic & Knuckles in North America, Blockbuster Video and MTV co-sponsored a tournament contest where children were allowed to play a pre-release of the game, leading up to a final tournament held at Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, California, with a winning prize of $25,000 and being called "The World's Most Hardcore Gamer". The two finalists were additionally awarded a copy of every Sega product released for the next year. A special on the game showing the tournament finale, "MTV's Rock the Rock", was aired shortly before the game's release.
Alternate versions and ports
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".
The game has been re-released through 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 received positive reviews. The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly named it their "Game of the Month". They highly praised the "lock-on technology" and remarked that "Even though S&K seems to be more of the same, it still is an exceptional game." GamePro gave it a perfect score, commenting that the ability to play as Knuckles makes it essentially two games on a single cartridge, the game is more challenging than Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and the ability to hook the cartridge up to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and 3 makes those games "worth playing again."
Reviewing the Virtual Console release, Nintendo Life applauded its support for the old lock-on feature of the original release, claiming that the game does not truly shine without having purchased Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and 3 to activate this feature. IGN praised 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".
For Sonic's twentieth 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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