Sonic & Knuckles

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Sonic & Knuckles
Sonic & Knuckles cover.jpg
Cover art
Developer(s) Sonic Team
Publisher(s) Sega
Director(s) Hirokazu Yasuhara
Producer(s) Yuji Naka
Designer(s) Hirokazu Yasuhara
Hisayoshi Yoshida
Takashi Iizuka
Programmer(s) Yuji Naka
Takahiro Hamano
Masanobu Yamamoto
Artist(s) Takashi Yuda
Satoshi Yokokawa
Composer(s) Sachio Ogawa
Tatsuyuki Maeda
Tomonori Sawada
Jun Senoue
Miyoko Takaoka
Masanori Hikichi
Howard Drossin
Series Sonic the Hedgehog
Platform(s) Sega Genesis, GameCube, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Sega PC, Sega Saturn, Wii (Virtual Console), Xbox, Xbox 360
Release date(s) Sega Genesis
  • INT October 18, 1994
  • AUS November 1994
PlayStation 3
  • NA February 10, 2009
  • EU February 20, 2009
  • AUS February 26, 2009
Xbox Live Arcade
  • NA September 9, 2009
Wii Virtual Console
  • JP October 27, 2009
  • PAL February 12, 2010
  • NA February 15, 2010
Genre(s) Platform
Mode(s) Single player
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.[1] 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.[2]


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.


Knuckles explores Flying Battery, the second zone.

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;[3] 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.[4] The first act of each level is punctuated by a miniboss fight with one of Dr. Robotnik's robots,[5] 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.[6] 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.[3]

A diagram of the strategies inherent to one type of special stage, also present in Sonic 3

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.[7]

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.[7]

Lock-on technology[edit]

"Blue Sphere" redirects here. For the video game in the Star Ocean series, see Star Ocean: Blue Sphere.

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.[3]

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,[3] such as slight changes to the level design,[8] being able to play through Sonic 3 levels as Knuckles[3] or Sonic & Knuckles levels as Tails and the ability to save progress in all of the game's levels.[9] 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.[10] Inserting Sonic 2 unlocks Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, wherein the player can complete Sonic 2 using Knuckles' abilities.[3]

If the player uses the original Sonic the Hedgehog[11] or Sonic Compilation, a screen with Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Robotnik stating "No Way" repeatedly is displayed.[12] 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.[11] 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.[10]


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,[13] resulting in Sonic & Knuckles being the second instalment to the Sonic 3 story-arc.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17] A special on the game showing the tournament finale, "MTV's Rock the Rock", was aired shortly before the game's release.[17]

Alternate versions and ports[edit]

Compilation releases[edit]

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;[18] "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".[19][20]

Digital releases[edit]

The game has been re-released through the Wii's Virtual Console and Xbox 360's Xbox Live Arcade.[21][22] 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).[21]

When released for PC via Steam network, the game was combined with Sonic 3 as originally intended, and published as Sonic 3 & Knuckles in one digital product.[23]


Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 3.5/5 stars[11]
Electronic Gaming Monthly 9.25/10 stars[24]
Famitsu 30/40[25]
GamePro 5/5 stars[26]
IGN 9/10[3]

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."[24] 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."[26]

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.[27] 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".[3]


For Sonic's twentieth anniversary, Sega released Sonic Generations, a game that remade aspects of various past games from the franchise.[28] A remake of the "Sky Sanctuary" level was made for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC versions of the game,[29] while the "Mushroom Hill" level was remade for the Nintendo 3DS version of the game.[30] Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing features a track inspired by the Death Egg as downloadable content along with the Metal Sonic character.[28] Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed also features "Sky Sanctuary" as a racetrack, with the Death Egg track returning for this game.[31]


  1. ^ "GameSpy: Sega's Yuji Naka Talks!". Retrieved 2012-03-14. 
  2. ^ "SEGA Vintage Collection 2 to be Made Available This Summer!". Sega. 2009-05-11. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Thomas, Lucas M. (February 22, 2010). "Sonic & Knuckles Review". IGN. Retrieved November 17, 2014. 
  4. ^ Sonic & Knuckles (Genesis) instruction manual, pp. 12–15.
  5. ^ Sonic & Knuckles (Genesis) instruction manual, p. 9.
  6. ^ Sonic & Knuckles (Genesis) instruction manual, p. 15.
  7. ^ a b Sonic & Knuckles (Genesis) instruction manual, pp. 16–18.
  8. ^ Sonic & Knuckles (Genesis) instruction manual, p. 22.
  9. ^ Sonic & Knuckles (Genesis) instruction manual, pp. 22–24.
  10. ^ a b "Sonic And Knuckles Collection Cheats". GameRevolution. Crave Online Media. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  11. ^ a b c Thompson, Jon. "Sonic & Knuckles - Review". Allgame. Archived from the original on November 17, 2014. Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Sonic & Knuckles Cheats and Overview". GameRevolution. Crave Media. Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  13. ^ Sonic & Knuckles (Mega Drive) instruction manual, p. 4.
  14. ^ "Sega's Yuji Naka Talks!". GameSpy. Retrieved December 31, 2014. 
  15. ^ "When Knuckles Met Sonic". GamePro (66) (IDG). January 1995. p. 20. 
  16. ^ "Sonic & Knuckles". Mega Zone (44): p. 34. October 1994. 
  17. ^ a b "The Sega Man of Alcatraz". Electronic Gaming Monthly (65) (EGM Media, LLC). December 1994. pp. 186–187. 
  18. ^ "Sonic Jam overview - remix options". GameRevolution. Crave Online Media. Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  19. ^ Gillbert, Henry. "SONIC'S ULTIMATE GENESIS COLLECTION REVIEW". GamesRadar. Future. Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  20. ^ "Sonic's Genesis Collection Not So Ultimate; Leaves Out Sonic 3 & Knuckles Lock-On". GameZone. Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  21. ^ a b "Sonic & Knuckles - Wii release". IGN. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  22. ^ "Sonic & Knuckles (Xbox 360)". IGN. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ a b "Review Crew: Sonic & Knuckles". Electronic Gaming Monthly (65) (EGM Media, LLC). December 1994. p. 34. 
  25. ^ "NEW GAMES CROSS REVIEW: ソニック&ナックルズ". Famitsu (309): 37. November 11–18, 1994. 
  26. ^ a b "ProReview: Sonic & Knuckles". GamePro (IDG) (64): 72–73. November 1994. 
  27. ^ Newton, James (February 16, 2010). "Review". Nintendo Life. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  28. ^ a b Nunneley, Stephany. "Sonic Generations - Green Hill, Chemical Plant, and Sky Sanctuary remakes". VG24/7. Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  29. ^ "Sonic Generations Sky Sanctuary". GameTrailers. Defy Media. Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  30. ^ "Sonic Generations - Mushroom Hill Special Stage Clip". IGN. Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  31. ^ Schilling, Chris. "Rev up For Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed". IGN. Retrieved 27 January 2015. 

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