Written by Paul Monopoli
Sonic & Knuckles
System: Sega Megadrive/Genesis
I think you’ll agree that the Megadrive is THE machine for add ons. You have the Master System converter, the 32X, the Sega/Mega CD, plus any unofficial ones you can think of. Sonic & Knuckles doubles as a game & another add on primarily for Sonics 2 & 3. If you want to put a few of those add ons together with Sonic & Knuckles you might get something that looks like this:
Anyway, we’ll review this game in 4 parts as there are 4 ways of playing it. First we’ll start with the base game itself. I think we’ll use standard model 2 units rather than that hulking mess…
As a game Sonic & Knuckles is an immediate continuation of Sonic 3. That’s right, a continuation of Sonic 3. It is NOT Sonic 4. For those who have never played a Sonic game, it is in simplest terms a platformer. You run, you jump, you spin, you collect things, fight bosses & that’s about it. You run through bonus stages to collect the legendary chaos emerald that allow you to power up your character once all 7 are obtained.
The first 2 games had a basic story, but as this is a continuation of Sonic 3 the story continues: Knuckles, who was the bad guy in Sonic 3 is now on the good side after realising that Doctor Robotnik was deceiving him. Tails is omitted from the storyline & you can choose to be either Sonic or Knuckles as you battle through the worlds to finish what you started in the previous game. It’s fast, furious & fun platforming action at its finest.
If I had to level any criticism at the game it would be the difficulty in getting the chaos emeralds this time around. The bonus stages you obtain them in are pretty much the same as Sonic 3, but with some tweaks & new additions which make it trickier. It’s not impossible by any means, but you only get a certain amount of chances & if you miss a few times you’ll never get all 7. Of course, this is the idea, but it is frustrating when there is no save option. At least with Sonic 3 if you missed it you could load your game again.
It is nice to finally get to play as Knuckles & his abilities take him through a different path to Sonic in most levels, which gives you incentive to play through the game twice. You can either use Sonic to finish off Doctor Robotnik for good (until the next game) or play as Knuckles & take revenge on Doctor Robotnik for deceiving him
As a standalone game it is pretty fun, that can’t be argued. The problem is that the save feature has been removed as has Tails, plus you don’t feel like you’re getting the complete story. That much is true, this is why the lock on technology exists. The game is designed to be played with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 for 1 coherant story. Let’s have a look at that.
Sonic & Knuckles with Sonic 3 (Sonic 3 with Knuckles) locked on it a tour de force in gaming. With a massive 13 zones to explore, 3 characters to choose from & some of the best visuals ever seen on Sega’s 16-bit wonder. Just look at those colours, it’s magnificent. The Megadrive is criticised for having a smaller colour pallette than the SNES, but you wouldn’t know it playing this. This is how the game was originally meant to be played before development issues caused Sega to split it into 2 parts.
The music is another excellent feature in this game. There were rumours of Michael Jackson’s involvement & a YouTube search will bring up a video comparing Jackson’s hits to the music in Sonic 3 (& by extension Sonic & Knuckles) & it does make you wonder. The sound effects haven’t changed all that much from the original Sonic the Hedgehog but well, if it aint broke don’t fix it.
As well as having 13 zones you have 14 chaos emeralds to collect. 7 in the Sonic 3 part of the game, then another 7 in the Sonic & Knuckles part of the game. If you collect the first 7 in the Sonic 3 part you can power up your character throughout the rest of that storyline, but when you hit Sonic & Knuckles you have to start all over again. As mentioned earlier, getting the chaos emeralds in Sonic & Knuckles is hard. The earlier ones in Sonic 3 are much easier, though when locked on to Sonic & Knuckles the bonus levels change from standard Sonic 3.
You can play as Sonic, Tails, Sonic & Tails together & Knuckles. Each have their own abilities. Sonic is the fastest of the 3, & can run faster & jump higher but feels quite generic compared to Tails who can fly & Knuckles who can glide & climb. Control over each character is perfect & you never feel like the game is taking a cheap shot at you. If you die you know it’s your fault.
The difficulty progresses nicely as the game moves along. Throughout the 16 worlds you will notice that it does get trickier & bosses tougher. On repeat plays it gets easier of course & the beauty of this game is that you will want to play it again, all 13 zones of it.
At the end of the Sonic 3 portion of the game the end sequence changes slightly to incorporate the next 7 zones. While I call the first half Sonic 3 & the second half Sonic & Knuckles it really does feel like one game. The save game feature from Sonic 3 is available & usable in Sonic 3 with Knuckles. It will show how many chaos emeralds you have in your save game & whether they are the smaller (Sonic 3) or larger (Sonic & Knuckles) gems. Of course the big change is you can now save & start a game with Knuckles.
Using Knuckles in the Sonic 3 portion of the game is a new experience. Some levels are pretty much the same, but a lot of them are designed so Knuckles can complete them in new ways. This allows you to see parts of the game that Sonic & Tails aren’t able to access, or really… aren’t meant to access.
More of that will be covered in a Sonic 3 review. Next we have Sonic 2 with Knuckles. There isn’t much to say here, it’s basically Sonic 2 but you use Knuckles instead of Sonic & Tails.
The game is extremely easy using Knuckles. You can glide over large gaps, climb up walls & there isn’t really a lot more to mention. As Sonic 2 was made well before Sonic & Knuckles was even thought of there are no special “Knuckles Exclusive” bits in the game that I could find, though the manual does say they exist. Either way, it does give Sonic 2 a new lease of life & it is still fun.
Finally we have Sonic 1 with Knuckles. If you attempt to insert a non Sonic game into Sonic & Knuckles you get the option to play a new bonus level, but when you beat it you play the same level over & over again ad infinitum. If you insert Sonic 1, or Sonic Compilation into Sonic & Knuckles you can play all the new bonus stages of which there are literally millions to choose.
The question is, why not put Knuckles in Sonic 1? Well apart from making an easy game even easier there were technical reasons to do with the palette Sonic 1 uses. With a bit of effort it would have been possible as many sources on the Internet have proven, but Sega decided not to.
Sonic & Knuckles was the final Sonic platform release on the Megadrive/Genesis & it’s a brilliant game to go out on. Lock on Sonic 3 & you have the ultimate Sonic game that hasn’t been beaten since. Forget those rubbish 3D games Sonic Team have been peddling since the Dreamcast days. This is where it’s at. Sonic + 2D = Success.
I give this one 88% add on Sonic 3 & I reckon it’s worth 96%