North American 32X cover art
|Series||Sonic the Hedgehog|
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
Knuckles' Chaotix, known as Chaotix (カオティクス Kaotikusu?) in Japan, is a platform game developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega for the Sega 32X in 1995. It is the only game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series to be released for the system, and one of a few that do not feature Sonic himself (although he and Tails make a cameo appearance in the game's good ending). Instead, the game stars Knuckles the Echidna and the Chaotix team of characters. Gameplay is similar to earlier Sonic titles, however, the game introduces a partner system in which the player's character is connected to another via a ring force bond with "rubber band" physics. Most of the gameplay is based on using this mechanic to maneuver the characters through the stages.
Upon release, Knuckles' Chaotix received mixed reception, with most of the criticism directed towards the level design and partner system. However, the game remains one of the most popular titles in the small 32X library. Contrary to most other classic Sonic titles being re-released in modern video game compilations, Knuckles' Chaotix was only re-released through GameTap's PC service for a brief period in 2007. Roots of the game's development can be traced back to the Sonic Crackers prototype for the Sega Genesis.
The primary objective of the game remains unchanged from previous Sonic titles. The player must finish each level in under ten minutes and defeat Dr. Robotnik's badniks along the way. Rings still constitute the player's life energy and can be collected to enter special stages. If the character has no rings, getting hit will temporarily cause the player to lose his partner, who will return eventually, effectively making the partner an extra hit point. If the player is damaged when he has no rings and his partner is absent, he will automatically be taken out of the level, requiring the player to restart their progress with the level. Unlike previous games in the series, there are no "lives". The game cartridge features battery-backup saving, which allows the player to save their progress either manually (by passing the Exit sign) or automatically (after clearing an Act or Special Stage).
The game comprises 5 worlds (called Attractions), each with 5 levels. Levels are set at different times of day (morning, day, evening and night), which are determined by the time spent in the previous level and affect enemy placement and boss difficulty. At the end of Level 5, the player confronts Dr. Robotnik in one of his contraptions.
The most fundamental change in Knuckles' Chaotix how multiple characters interact, which involves two characters being connected with an elastic bond. Both players are connected on one single screen while neither player acts as the dominant force to move the game forward. In addition to character's individual abilities, other tricks can be executed with the elastic force of the ring bond. For example, player 1 can hold his position while player 2 runs forward and stretches the bond to gain maximum speed, creating a sling shot effect. In mid-air the bond can be used to generate upward momentum. Additionally, players can toss each other toward platforms or use the call-button to reunite (at a cost of ten rings).
The bonus stage can be accessed by collecting 20 or more rings and jumping through one of the large rings found hidden throughout a level. In the stage, the character free-falls down a long spiral of rings, power-ups, blocks and exits while the player's rings gradually count down to 0. The stage ends when the ring count reaches 0 or when the character hits an exit. Possible bonuses include a slow-down at the attraction roulette screen or a free pick from the Combi Catcher.
In the special stages, the player moves his character through a hexagonal, fully rendered 3D course to collect a specified set of blue spheres. Rings are collected as seconds and when the count reaches zero or the player falls from the course, the stage ends. When successfully completed, the player is awarded one of six Chaos Rings. Contrary to earlier games in the series, collecting all Chaos Rings does not award the player with special powers (but it does reward them with the best ending, in which Sonic and Tails make cameo appearances).
Special stages can only be accessed through a single large ring at the ending of each level, but the player must have collected at least 50 rings for it to appear. The starting ring count that is used as time in the special stage is based on the amount of rings collected in the previous stage (if a player collects 180 rings, then the player will have 180 rings/seconds in the special stage; however, if a player has more than 200 rings at the end of the stage, then the player will start the special stage with 200 rings/seconds). After a player wins all six Chaos Rings, the special stages start over in a wireframe mode.
The story varies between the Japanese and English releases of the game. In the Japanese manual, a mysterious island rose from the sea shortly after the events of Sonic & Knuckles. Dr. Eggman discovered the island, and found a mysterious ring inscribed with descriptions of the "Chaos Rings", ancient Rings infused with Chaos Emerald energy. Robotnik theorizes that he can not only discover the secret of the Rings, but also summon the Master Emerald. In order to find these rings, Robotnik built his base on the island. Mighty the Armadillo, Espio the Chameleon, Vector the Crocodile, and Charmy Bee also arrived at the island, and ended up being captured by the Doctor and Metal Sonic, and frozen in his machine. Knuckles, curious about the strange island, goes there as well, and manages to rescue Espio. The two then go on to stop Eggman from getting the Chaos Rings.
In the English manual, Knuckles guards Carnival Island, a large high-tech amusement park. Dr. Robotnik goes there to find the Power Emerald that supplies electricity to the whole island so he can use it to fuel his evil devices. Dr. Robotnik traps Vector the Crocodile, Charmy Bee, and Mighty the Armadillo, who were visiting the island, in his Combi Confiner that freezes them in time and is about to do the same to Espio the Chameleon until Knuckles chases him away. Knuckles then discovers that he can rescue one friend at a time using Ring Power, which holds the two partners together like a rubber band. All the characters then work together to save Carnival Island from Robotnik before tomorrow's grand opening.
Knuckles' Chaotix marks the debut of the Chaotix. The group has five members, including Knuckles the Echidna, Mighty the Armadillo (who previously appeared in the 1993 arcade game SegaSonic the Hedgehog), Vector the Crocodile, Espio the Chameleon and Charmy Bee. The game also featured two additional partners known as Heavy and Bomb.
Vector and Charmy did not return to the Sonic video game universe until Sonic Heroes in 2004. Espio made an appearance as one of the playable characters in Sonic the Fighters a year later, and went on to join his friends in Sonic Heroes. Mighty shortly appeared in Sonic Generations on a wanted poster in both acts in City Escape. Heavy and Bomb have not appeared in another Sonic game since Chaotix.
Each character in Knuckles' Chaotix has his own special abilities. Knuckles still glides and climbs as he did in Sonic & Knuckles. Espio has the ability to walk upright on walls and ceilings, and instead of curling up into a ball when performing the spin dash, he twists into a tornado, and can destroy unguarded enemies by running headlong into them at full speed. Mighty is the fastest runner in the game, and he has the ability to scale walls with his feet and push himself upward. Vector is the largest member of Chaotix. His moves include a mid-air dash and the ability to climb on walls. Charmy is the smallest character in the game but his ability to fly gives him a definite edge over the other characters.
Heavy and Bomb are two robots who claim to have escaped from Dr. Robotnik's evil clutches and want to help Chaotix. Heavy and Bomb cannot be selected from the character select screen, but instead are picked up through the combi catcher. Neither of the two robots can attack. As his name implies, Heavy is heavy and slow, yet he is indestructible and has the ability to destroy enemies and monitors by simply walking into them. Bomb is tiny and quick, but he explodes when he's hit, hurting friend and foe alike. Both of these characters can only be playable directly if the Stage Select is activated through the game's Color Test. They can also be played as normally in Special Stages if the player has one of them as their partner and throws them into the Special Stage ring.
Knuckles' Chaotix received mixed reviews. On release, Famicom Tsūshin scored the 32X version of the game a 25 out of 40. The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly praised the game's graphics but criticized the level design as bland, and felt that while it was one of the best games released for the 32X up to that point, Chaotix did not live up to previous entries in the Sonic series. They praised the second character concept as adding a breath of originality and "spice", though they also commented that it often slowed the gameplay down. They gave the game a 7.375 out of 10. Next Generation gave the game an overwhelmingly negative review. The reviewer insinuated that the rubber bond mechanic is not truly innovative, and summarized that "The much too colorful backgrounds, unimpressive attempts at showing off, and tiring gameplay leave Knuckles as a great game - five years ago." He gave it two out of five stars. GamePro panned the game as well, citing the lack of graphical effects, the "Genesis quality" audio, and the level design, elaborating that "True, the levels are fairly large, but they're simply laid out with too few enemies and hidden secrets." They added that "Chaotix's biggest problem is its choppy controls. Another operative word comes to mind - annoying - because being handcuffed to another player makes gameplay very difficult."
IGN offered similar sentiments in a 2008 retrospective review, admiring the attempt to both "breathe life into a series that was running out of steam" and fix the lopsided multiplayer aspect of Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 where Tails would always get lost off-screen, but disliked the actual clunky nature of the "rubber band" physics of the game's "buddy system", and the lack of variation between acts of each world. Gamesarefun called it a "love it or hate it" type game, that would be fun for hardcore Sonic fans, but would likely scare off casual ones due to the hard-to-master "rubber band" mechanic.
Characters created in this game were later used in several other Sonic-related games. Mighty made few other appearances: as a playable character in 1993's arcade game SegaSonic The Hedgehog, and on a 'Missing Persons' poster in Sonic Generations. All the Chaotix members, with the exception of Mighty, appear in Sonic Heroes, Shadow The Hedgehog, Sonic Rivals 2, and Sonic Generations. Espio is a playable character in the arcade game Sonic the Fighters. Vector is playable in Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games and its sequels. The characters from Knuckles Chaotix also had frequent storylines in Fleetway's Sonic The Comic, in the UK.
The story for Knuckles' Chaotix was adapted into the Sonic the Hedgehog comic by Archie Comics. The Chaotix-namely Vector, Mighty, Charmy, and Espio-become Knuckles the Echidna's support team in various stories, serving as counterparts to Sonic the Hedgehog's Freedom Fighters. Heavy and Bomb, while part of the group at its inception, end up serving alongside other heroic groups in the comic, though they are destroyed and rebuilt twice after being reprogrammed by Dr. Eggman. The Chaotix group see a number of additions in subsequent years, namely Knuckles' girlfriend Julie-Su, Mighty's friend Ray (featured alongside Mighty in SegaSonic the Hedgehog) and Charmy's girlfriend Saffron.
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