Sonic & KnucklesIn Sonic 3, the fact that Knuckles was available in two-player mode, that missing levels and unused music were present in the (hard to enable) level select screen, and that the few number of levels led many people to believe that the game was rather... incomplete. Like it was half-missing, a ying without yang, a blue without... red.
Sonic & Knuckles appeared on the market by surprise soon after Sonic 3, bringing with it a new innovation to cartridge games: the ability to 'lock-on' other games to Sonic & Knuckles. Play Sonic & Knuckles by itself and play six (or seven, with all Chaos Emeralds collected) new levels as either Sonic or Knuckles, the new 'villian' introduced in the previous game. Lock on Sonic 3 with it, and play the biggest 2D Sonic game ever, with 12 (or 13) zones as any of the three main characters, with full ability to save game. Lock on to Sonic 2, and Knuckles is now playable in the classic game, with slight level changes and Knuckles' full abilities. Lock on to Sonic 1 and play an infinite number of the popular Sonic 3-style special stage (commonly called Blue Sphere). It was a good time to be a Sonic fan, as S&K provided a reason for us to dig out our carts that had quickly been gathering dust and start over.
Sonic & Knuckles is, at it's heart, a continuation of Sonic 3; or rather, a collection of Sonic 3's lost levels and then some. Mushroom Hill and Flying Battery (the two mysterious levels in the S3 level select) made their appearance as well as a plethora of other uniquely designed levels. Two new bonus stages were introduced. You were also tasked with collecting seven more chaos emeralds (called Super Emeralds) in special stages designed to be nothing but difficult. Of course, unlocking ALL the emeralds now had major rewards: the unlocking of Hyper Sonic, Hyper Knuckles, or Super Tails and the hidden final stage, Doomsday Zone. This was needed if you wanted to see the REAL ending.
Both Sonic and Knuckles have decidedly different games. Playing as Sonic or Tails is only half the story; you need Knuckles to fight the insanely cool looking new Mecha Sonic and to get a different ending. Locked on with Sonic 3, S&K was definately an epic game. It was, however, Sonic's last great stand before he took a depressing plummet into terrible games using his name to make money.
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