There was a time when Sonic the Hedgehog games were great, a time when they were 2D, with high speed loops, speed running records, and fun special stages. That was in the 90s, before we saw Sonic venture into 3D, dividing the player base, and leading to Sonic’s snowballing downfall. Here, we shall celebrate Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
Released in 1994 by SEGA for the Genesis/Mega Drive, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 carries on directly after the events of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 seeing Sonic and Tails land on Angel Island Zone, before bumping into the newest character in the franchise, Knuckles. Knuckles knocks all of the Chaos Emeralds out of Sonic’s possession, grabs them all up, and that’s where the game begins.
Dr Eggman or Dr Robotnik at the time, convinces Knuckles that Sonic is the bad guy and wants to use the Chaos Emeralds for his own selfish acts. Knuckles is the protector of Angel Island and does everything in his power to stop Sonic from progressing through that zone, and the rest that follow. Cheeky git.
It was developed simultaneously with Sonic & Knuckles; the games were originally developed as a single game until time constraints and cartridge costs forced the team to split it in two. The Sonic & Knuckles cartridge features “lock-on” technology that allows it to be physically attached to the Sonic 3 cartridge, creating a combined game, Sonic 3 & Knuckles. You could also combine Sonic & Knuckles with Sonic 2, allowing you to play as Knuckles in that game. Brilliant stuff back in the day!
Sonic 3 introduced more new gameplay elements than previous entries, adding a bubble shield that let Sonic bounce higher, a lighting shield that drew rings into him like a magnet while the shield itself could hurt Sonic’s enemies. A fire shield let Sonic move through fire unhindered and gave him access to a fireball jumping attack. Sonic 3 also allowed players to fly as Tails by double tapping the jump button. Tails could carry Sonic to hard to reach places, adding an extra element of co-op, and making Tails players feel more useful (unlike in Sonic 2).
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 kept up with the tradition of adding a new Special Stage, which allowed Sonic to win the Chaos emeralds and turn into Super Sonic. These special stages were giant orbs, requiring you to collect a number of blue orbs, while avoiding red orbs which would take you out of the stage, making you fail. The checkpoint lampposts also included their own special bonus stage, putting Sonic inside a bubblegum dispenser where he could collect shields, lives, rings and other useful items.
The soundtrack for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was phenomenal, like in previous Sonic games. A heavy rumour suggests that the King of Pop Michael Jackson was involved with the score for the game, which was never confirmed or denied to my knowledge. Listening to certain songs in the game, you can hear an uncanny resemblance to some of MJ’s hits, which I will include below.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was a massive game. So much in fact, that it was the first Sonic title to include save slots, allowing you to stop playing and continue on at a later time. With Sonic & Knuckles connected to Sonic 3, the game got a whole lot bigger. It allowed you to play through the whole of Sonic 3, and then proceed into the Sonic & Knuckles levels, bringing Tails in as well. Sonic & Knuckles was a single player title allowing you to play as either of the characters, who each possessed their own skills and abilities. The Sonic 3 and Knuckles combination also added ‘Hyper emeralds’ to collect, turning Super Sonic and Super Knuckles into even more powerful adversaries.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was a blast to play, whether that was in the immense single player or co-op game, or the competitive splitscreen racing mode. The music was fantastic, the graphics and environments were brilliant, and it represents the most epic time in Sonic’s lifespan to date. If you never got around to playing it, I would highly recommend you to do so as soon as you can.
Below, you can find a full medley of Sonic 3 and Knuckles tracks: