Sonic the Hedgehog 3After a line of moderately successful Sonic games, Sega decided it was time to bring out a third round of classic Sonic goodness. At the height of Sonic-mania, Sega convinced Yuji Naka to return to Sega (again) with the promise of a promotion and total control of Sonic 3's direction. The game was once more developed at STI in California, but Naka insisted that no Americans be on the main team. The exact reasons for this aren't clear, but some people attribute this to the stereotypically Japanese xenophobia rather than blatant racism. Whatever the reson, Sonic Team was more or less back together to work on Sonic's largest adventure yet. Larger than they had planned, it seems...
As usual, Sonic 3 starts with a tropical setting, this time on the mystical Floating Island. Immediately in the first level, a new character is introduced: Knuckles the Echidna, a red... well, echidna. Throughout the game, he hassles you and hinders your exploration in a variety of ways, convinced by Eggman that he's protecting the Master Emerald from these two thieves, Sonic and Tails.
A save game feature was implmented, which proved to be very useful, since Sonic 3's levels had grown significantly since Sonic 2. Different paths were planned out for both Sonic and Tails... and, as everyone found out later, for Knuckles as well. However, while the levels had grown, the number of them had decreased. There were only six zones, compared to Sonic 2's ten and a half. It seemed odd that the number of levels dropped, even if the quality and size of the new ones were improved. Sonic 3 also improved the two-player mode, introducing original levels and music, as well as different powerups and hindrances for your opponent.
For those who felt that the game was shorter than it should have been, Sega soon released a treat that surprised everyone, in the form of Sonic & Knuckles.
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