Sonic & Knuckles
|Sonic & Knuckles|
|Series||Sonic the Hedgehog|
|Release date(s)||Sega Genesis
Sonic & Knuckles (Japanese: ソニック&ナックルズ Hepburn: Sonikku to Nakkuruzu?) is a 1994 platform video game developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. Released on October 18, 1994, it was the fourth installment in the main Sonic the Hedgehog series. The game is a direct sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and follows both Sonic the Hedgehog and Knuckles the Echidna in their respective quests to save Angel Island; Sonic tries to prevent Dr. Robotnik from re-launching his orbital weapon, the Death Egg, while Knuckles scuffles with Robotnik's minion, EggRobo.
Sonic & Knuckles utilizes "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, it and Sonic & Knuckles were intended to be a single story within the same cartridge. However, due to time constraints and the fact that a large memory capacity cartridge would have been expensive, Sega split the game into two separate installments.
The game received considerable praise upon initial release; critics were impressed with the lock-on technology and hailed it as "an exceptional game" despite its similarity to its predecessor. It has since been re-released through various Sonic and Sega themed compilations over the years, as well as being digitally released through Xbox Live Arcade and the Wii's Virtual Console. It was released on Steam as Sonic 3 & Knuckles on January 26, 2011, marking the first time the game was officially released as originally intended.
The game follows both Sonic the Hedgehog and Knuckles the Echidna in their respective quests to save Angel Island. Sonic's side of the story picks up immediately after the events of Sonic the Hedgehog 3, where Dr. Robotnik's orbital weapon, the Death Egg, is damaged in a battle with Sonic and crash-lands back onto Angel Island, landing in a volcanic crater. Sonic travels through each zone looking to retrieve the Chaos Emeralds to defeat Robotnik, and once again comes into conflict with Knuckles, who believes Sonic is trying to steal the Emeralds for himself.
In Hidden Palace Zone, Sonic fights and defeats Knuckles. The two hear a disturbance outside of the chamber, and go out to find Dr. Robotnik stealing the Master Emerald, the secret to the island's levitation powers. Knuckles attempts to attack Robotnik, but is electrocuted in the process, and is trapped with Sonic in an underground passage. Knuckles, realizing Sonic is on his side, shows him a portal that leads them to Sky Sanctuary, where the Death Egg is relaunching.
At Sky Sanctuary, Sonic battles against Robotnik's robotic EggRobo minions and Mecha Sonic. Mecha Sonic is left behind in a damaged state as Sonic boards the relaunching Death Egg. Robotnik uses the power of the Master Emerald to fuel a giant mech, but Sonic uses the power of the Chaos Emeralds to transform into Super Sonic. Super Sonic stops Robotnik, destroys the Death Egg, and returns the Master Emerald to its rightful place. If the player collects all the Chaos Emeralds, an ending is shown where a lone EggRobo rises from the wreckage of Robotnik's mech. This leads into Knuckles' story.
Knuckles' story begins in Mushroom Hill, where he is relaxing with his animal friends but is interrupted by a bomb dropped by EggRobo. This prompts Knuckles to chase after him, leading him through most of the same zones Sonic went through. The chase ends at Sky Sanctuary, where Mecha Sonic attacks Knuckles but accidentally destroys EggRobo instead. After a short fight, Mecha Sonic uses the power of the Master Emerald to achieve a Super form similar to Sonic's. Knuckles manages to defeat Super Mecha Sonic, who blows up. Sonic flies in piloting the biplane Tornado and Knuckles hitches a ride to return the Master Emerald to Angel Island. If all the Chaos Emeralds are collected, Angel Island rises upwards, into the sky. However, if the player has not collected all the Chaos Emeralds, Knuckles cannot redeem the Master Emerald, and Angel Island plummets into the ocean.
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, in Sonic & Knuckles, unlike in Sonic 3, the player chooses either Sonic or Knuckles at the title screen. The game differs from Sonic 3 in that Miles "Tails" Prower is not available to select, and the player cannot control two characters together or use any multiplayer modes. There is also no save feature.
The player character moves through eight 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 Robotnik at the game's end. The two characters traverse levels differently: Sonic can jump slightly higher, is faster and can use the Insta-shield ability returning from Sonic 3 which makes him invincible for a split-second, but Knuckles can glide—by letting the wind run under his dreadlocks, break fragile walls and climb most walls. The 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", both accessed by passing a checkpoint with at least 20 rings. The first type 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 involves bouncing around a room with a slot machine in its center with the intention of winning extra lives and power-ups from it. The amount of rings held by the player determines which bonus stage is accessed. This is made visible by the colour of the stars floating around the checkpoint, red denoting the glowing spheres stage and yellow denoting the slot machine stage.
Special Stages are entered by finding giant rings hidden in secret passageways: 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. These special stages feature yellow spheres that bounce the player long distances.
Sonic & Knuckles features "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 otherwise available, 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, locking-on 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 attaches 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 named 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 was developed at the Sega Technical Institute by members of Sonic Team in the United States. It and Sonic 3 were originally planned to compose a single story within the same cartridge. However, due to time constraints and the fact that the manufacturing costs of a cartridge with more non-volatile random access memory (NVRAM) would have been prohibitively expensive for Sega, the decision was made to split the planned game in half, with Sonic & Knuckles as the second part of the Sonic 3 story-arc.
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 the title "The World's Most Hardcore Gamer". The two finalists were additionally awarded a copy of every Sega product released for the next year. MTV broadcast the finale of this tournament along with other footage of the game; titled "MTV's Rock the Rock", this video was aired shortly before the game's release. The game was released worldwide on October 18, 1994.
Alternate versions and ports
Sonic & Knuckles has been released as part of numerous compilations of Sega games including 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.
Sonic Jam, in addition to featuring the original release, included some new "remix" options to modify the game: "Normal" mode alters 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 are programmed such that, if any of the "Lock-on" games are also downloaded on the same account, the "connected" versions of the game are also available. For example, if one downloads Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic 2, they have the option to play the corresponding Knuckles in Sonic 2 game. When the PC version was released via the Steam software, the games were released together as Sonic 3 & Knuckles as originally intended, with the player (even if playing as Tails) simply continuing at the beginning of Sonic & Knuckles after finishing Sonic 3.
Critics praised Sonic & Knuckles, despite its similarity to its predecessor. The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly named it their "Game of the Month". They lauded the lock-on technology and remarked that despite that being "more of the same, it still is an exceptional game." A reviewer of GamePro, who gave it a perfect score, commented that the ability to play as Knuckles makes it essentially two games on a single cartridge, the game is more challenging than Sonic 3, and the ability to hook the cartridge up to Sonic 2 and 3 makes those games "worth playing again."
Critics praised the lock-on technology the game offered. Lucas Thomas of IGN said it was "a great game on its own", but the lock-on feature completely revamped the overall experience. Dan Whitehead of Eurogamer preferred Sonic & Knuckles to Sonic 3, stating that he could not fully appreciate its predecessor without its "companion piece". Sega Power's review praised the game's harder difficulty in comparison to its predecessor and the new expansion of levels, admitting that the expansion would not have been possible had Sonic 3 been a single game. Sega Magazine's review similarly praised the lock-on technology and the new innovation the unique cartridge offered, adding that Sonic & Knuckles' hidden stages and bosses would strongly add to the replay value of the combined title.
Reviewing the Virtual Console release, Nintendo Life writer James Newton praised 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. Thomas 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.
The Genesis version sold 1.24 million copies in the United States.
For Sonic's twentieth anniversary in 2011, 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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