Sonic the Hedgehog 3
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Genesis
  • Developer:
    • Sonic Team
  • Publisher:
    • Sega
  • Released:
    • US 02/02/1994
    • UK 02/24/1994
    • JP 05/27/1994
Score: 95%

This review was published on 05/26/2012.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is the third entry in Sonic's legendary Sega Genesis line up. This game is regarded as a classic by many, and was one of Sega's most ambitious projects on the Genesis. Sonic 3 was meant to be an enormous game, but according to Sega, it wasn't possible to fit the entire game in one cartridge. As a result of that, Sonic 3 is only half the game it was meant to be. The second half of the game is Sonic and Knuckles, which was released shortly after Sonic 3. The two cartridges can combine via lock-on technology to form a truly immense adventure. Fans wildly consider this combination to be the best Sonic game of all time. It's easy to see why. Despite being a little on the short side, Sonic 3 is awe inspiring and gets even better when combined with its second half.

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The game starts off with Sonic gliding across water in his super form only to be knocked out by a red echidna. This new villain's name is Knuckles, and he steals all of Sonic's Chaos Emeralds, preventing the blue hedgehog from going super. There's a nice bit of continuity here, as Sonic first acquired the seven Chaos Emeralds back in Sonic 2 and still had these mystical gems at the start of his third adventure. It's a nice way to explain why the hero of the game no longer has access to the goodies he collected in his previous adventure. In any case, Sonic must recover the seven Chaos Emeralds and fight against evil. Dr. Eggman, otherwise known as Dr. Robotnik, remains Sonic's arch nemesis. The rotund scientist is attempting to restore his downed Death Egg, so he can... take over the world, or something. Sonic is joined by his pal, a two tailed fox named Tails, whom he first met in Sonic 2. The duo must venture through a variety of zones in order to put a halt to Dr. Eggman's nebulous schemes. With the exception of a few new twists, this is mostly the same story as the previous Sonic games.

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Knuckles is a new character first introduced in this game, and he's at odds with Sonic. The idea is that Dr. Eggman tricked Knuckles into thinking that Sonic is up to no good, so he tries everything in his bag of tricks to impede the blue blur's progress. This doesn't impact the game play much beyond forced cutscenes wherein Knuckles does something to ruin your day. For example, Knuckles likes destroying bridges you're standing on, turning the lights off, and throwing bombs at you. What's weird is that a lot of the mischievous things Knuckles does helps you rather than hinder you. It reminds me a little bit of Wile E. Coyote. Oh, and Knuckles is an echidna. He certainly doesn't look like one. I guess Sonic doesn't look much like a real hedgehog, either. People commonly didn't know what an echidna was until they saw Knuckles and promptly looked it up. I have to say, that's an odd choice for a character in a video game. While Knuckle's character design bears no resemblance to echidnas, he does look pretty cool. Knuckles exudes style with his hip dreadlocks and snazzy sneakers. You don't get to see much of Knuckles in Sonic 3, but his character is further explored in Sonic and Knuckles.

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The graphics are simply amazing. If you're savvy on the specs of the Genesis, then Sonic 3 is a technical marvel. It's got a style reminiscent of Donkey Kong Country on the Super Nintendo. Few people thought such amazing graphics were capable on the SNES, so even fewer people thought a similar effect could be achieved on the Genesis. I would say Sonic 3 has some of the best graphics on the console. There just aren't many games on the system that can even come close. Sonic 1 and 2 were also graphical marvels on the Genesis, so it's impressive to see Sega improve things even further. It's possible you may not dig the new style of these graphics, but you have to admit, they're impressive from a technical standpoint. As for the sound portion of the presentation, the music is fantastic. I've heard rumors that Michael Jackson may have composed some of the songs in the game, and the music was slightly altered at the last second when Michael Jackson decided to pull out of the deal. I can't verify with absolute certainty that this is true, but it does seem plausible. Either way, Sonic 3 makes great use of the Genesis' sound chip. The theme to Ice Cap Zone is particularly good. A nice touch is how the music in act 2 is a remix of the act 1 theme in the various zones. This is a cool improvement over the previous Sonic games, where the same track would be used for all acts of a given zone.

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There are six zones, each one divided into two acts. This isn't too different from Sonic 2, outside the fact that there are far less zones in Sonic 3. Despite that, Sonic 3's individual acts tend to be longer than the ones in Sonic 2, so Sonic 3's length isn't as short as it might seem. An improvement over Sonic 2's level progression is the way in which you progress through acts in Sonic 3: instead of there being a screen transition between acts, the victory jingle will play for a short while and then you can be on your way. The removal of a screen transition really improves the flow of the levels in Sonic 3, making each zone feel like a contiguous area as opposed to a fragmented one. On top of that, there are neat transitions between zones in the game, letting you know how Sonic got from one zone to the next. For instance, at the end of the first zone, Sonic falls down a waterfall and ends up at an underwater city, which is the second zone. This is good attention to detail.

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Naturally, there is a boss at the end of every zone, and that boss is always Dr. Eggman riding one of his ridiculous vehicles. The fights with Dr. Eggman in this game are great. There's one a few levels into the game where Tails carries Sonic around as he flies into the sky to fight Dr. Eggman. That's easily the most memorable fight in the game. Sonic 3 introduces the mid-boss, boss fights that occur between act 1 and act 2 of a zone. These robotic bosses aren't piloted by Dr. Eggman, surprisingly. They're not as exciting as fighting the great Dr. Eggman himself, but they do a good job of ending the first act of a zone. If there's any problem with the boss fights in Sonic 3, it's that they're a mite too easy. That's more of an issue with the Sonic series in general, though.

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Sonic still has his trusty Spin Dash from the previous game, which allows him to curl up into a ball and shoot off into the distance at high speeds. Sonic does have a new move this time around, though. I'm not sure what this is called, but pressing the jump button while Sonic is in the air will have him covered in a shield for a few seconds. The primary use for this is to give Sonic a slight increase to the range of his attack, plus it lets him hurt a few enemies that he can't harm with a normal jump. It's not terribly useful. What's substantially more useful are the power-ups. The last few games had basic power-ups like brief invincibility, shoes that temporarily increase speed, and a shield that can absorb one hit before it's destroyed. This game expands the shield power-up to include three variations, and they each have a unique effect. The fire shield protects you from fire, as its name implies, and allows Sonic to fling himself forward in the air when the jump button is pressed a second time. The thunder shield protects you from electrical attacks or traps, it attracts any nearby rings, and it gives Sonic the ability to double jump. The downside to the fire and thunder shields is that you lose them if you submerge yourself into water. That's a big problem in Sonic 3, as there's water in almost every zone in the game. Lastly, there's the bubble shield, which lets Sonic breathe underwater. This shield is obviously extremely useful during water sections, but it also has a bouncing jump that propels Sonic high up into the air, so it's even useful outside of water. The elemental shields add a lot of variety to the game play mechanics of Sonic 3, making them a welcome addition.

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Tails, Sonic's two tailed fox friend from Sonic 2, makes an expected return in this game. The game can be played with Sonic and Tails together, Sonic alone, or Tails alone. When Sonic and Tails are together, Tails will be controlled by the artificial intelligence, which isn't very intelligent. That ends up being a good thing, though, because it's fun to watch all the ways Tails gets hit or dies. As sadistic as that sounds, it's true. You don't need to worry about Tails, as he can die or get hit an unlimited amount of times. There's no detriment to the first player, for the most part. Well, there are moments when Tails might attack a boss just as you're about to hit it, and this will cause you to fall through the boss, likely into a bottomless pit. In most cases, though, the computer won't be smart enough to have Tails attack the boss. Also like in Sonic 2 is the ability for a second player to control Tails. It's not in a separate mode or anything: you just plug in a second controller and start pressing buttons. This can be a huge asset during boss fights, because Tails is invincible. One major difference about Tails this time around is that the player can actually make Tails fly for a brief period of time. This works whether player one or player two is controlling Tails. It doesn't stop there, either; Tails can carry Sonic around as he flies, provided that player two is in control. This is, by far, the greatest feature of the co-op multiplayer. Of course, player one can just play as Tails and fly about as he pleases. There is one disadvantage to Tails, and it's that he can't use the moves unique to the various elemental shields. It's a small price to pay for the power of flight, I'd say. If co-op isn't your thing, then there's a competitive multiplayer mode where two players can race each other in a small variety of stages. It's done in split screen with graphics and sound inferior to the main game. This isn't a very entertaining mode, but it's there in the event that you want it.

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The Chaos Emeralds are obtained in a different manner this time. Sonic no longer needs to acquire 50 rings to access bonus stages. Instead, there are giant rings hidden throughout the zones in the game that teleport Sonic to a bonus stage if he jumps into one. It all comes down to knowing the locations of these giant rings. There are more giant rings than Chaos Emeralds, so it's possible to miss a bunch of giant rings and still get every Chaos Emerald. The bonus stages themselves are different from the first two games. Players will view Sonic from behind as they maneuver him around to collect blue spheres and avoid red spheres. If you touch a red sphere, then you lose. Once all the blue spheres are collected, you earn a Chaos Emerald. These bonus levels are a lot more forgiving this time around. I like them, personally, but these levels aren't everyone's cup of tea. The stages can be a little awkward, because Sonic is constantly running and can never be stopped. He runs faster the longer you stay in a given bonus stage, too. This can be quite irksome when you're having trouble finding blue spheres. On the bright side, beating the game opens a level select, and you can repeatedly select the first level and re-enter the same giant rings over and over to retry the bonus stages as many times as you want. That makes collecting all seven Chaos Emeralds a cinch. Sonic can transform into Super Sonic upon gathering all of the Chaos Emeralds and getting 50 rings, just like in Sonic 2. Super Sonic is invincible and runs much faster than regular Sonic. The only limitation to Super Sonic is that the ring counter will go down on its own, and Sonic reverts back to his normal self upon reaching 0 rings. It's recommended to beat the game first before you totally break it with Super Sonic. The one thing I don't like about Super Sonic is his music theme; it's a short, irritating loop that covers up the current stage's music. I find this to be a shame, because the game has spectacular music. Otherwise, Super Sonic is a worthy prize for completing all of the bonus stages. Tails can't turn super, sadly.

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This game is incredibly awesome and you should play it. It doesn't matter if you've already played it before, because you should play it again. The only downside to Sonic 3 is that it's a little on the short and easy side. Both of those problems are remedied when Sonic 3 is combined with Sonic and Knuckles. There's a reason why people consider that combination to be the best Sonic has ever been.

Word Count: 2,272

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