October is a crowded month. Most significantly, it is LGBT History Month, which, seriously, get on that, people, it’s not like we have any LGBT commemorative holidays (is Lincoln’s Birthday still a thing?). October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Bullying Prevention Month, Cyber Security Awareness Month, and Disability Employment Awareness Month. I’m not going to get into it, but all four of those things I am very aware of. It’s also Polish American Heritage Month, and, ugh, I guess this means it would be in poor taste to make a Polak joke. October is also the general home of pumpkin spice and the great holiday of Halloween. And I guess Columbus gets a holiday somewhere in there, too? Was he gay? I feel like we’d know if he was.
Incidentally, August isn’t bloody anything.
But, thanks to the capricious choosing of a random robot, I’ve got one more for October. I propose that October be Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles Awareness Month. I have prepared a FAQ for your inevitable questions.
Why Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles Awareness Month?
Because StH3&K is a game that should be celebrated. It is the finale of the Sonic the Hedgehog Sega Genesis glory days, and, in my humble opinion, it’s one of the best Sonic games in existence. Sonic the Hedgehog has its share of problems, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is great, but it contains those hateful half pipe bonus stages that preclude Super Sonic’s involvement for all but the most dedicated players. It also lacks that certain je ne sais quoi that only a belligerent echidna can bring to the table. StH3&K is one of the few Sonic the Hedgehog games throughout history to feature a final boss that is anything but a grueling slog of memorization or tedium, too. And I’m pretty sure there are like four final bosses in this game, so that’s kind of an accomplishment.
How are there four final bosses?
Well, there’s the final boss of the Sonic 3 portion, the final boss of the & Knuckles portion, the “secret” final boss that can only be fought by Hyper Sonic, and the final boss of the Knuckles portion, Super Metal Sonic. I realize this may be confusing, but we have an entire month to work out the details.
What’s this about portions?
StH3&K is a hybrid game. In the beginning, there was simply Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and it was good. Then Sega begat Sonic and Knuckles, a game with hitherto unforeseen lock-on technology, which allowed the two games to combine into one shining gestalt of a gigantic adventure. Once combined, the two games allowed the player to play through every level in both games, collect double the chaos emeralds (well, technically the same number of emeralds, the emeralds just got bigger), and play the stages as Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles, all with slightly different gameplay styles. This effectively made Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles (the completely combined form) its own game separate from both Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles.
Does this make StH3&K some kind of perfect, super game?
Not quite. There can be issues with combining two comprehensive games. Related to the multiple final boss “problem”, there is a definite climb in difficulty to reach the final stage of Sonic the Hedgehog 3… and then you’re right back at the relatively easy difficulty of the start of Sonic & Knuckles. And, while S&K may be a shorter, faster game than StH3, it still feels rather limiting to conquer the Death Egg and Heavy Arm, only to float down to a stage that is roughly as difficult as cooking ramen. And I don’t care what anyone says, it sucks to arbitrarily lose Super Sonic/Knuckles between games because you’re trying to earn Hyper Sonic. I want to run around at the speed of sound right now! Oh, and somehow the two games contain two zones that are mostly ice stages, and that’s one ice stage too many.
So we should be aware of StH3&K just because it’s a mostly good game?
A chief reason the Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles Awareness Campaign exists is that it seems like Sega itself randomly forgets about StH3&K. Sega has a tendency to rerelease Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles separately, but offer no way to combine the two games. This is preposterous! Yes, there are versions (on Wii and Steam, if memory serves) that allow for that all important lock-on, but there are many compilations and downloadable releases that forsake the game’s greatest contribution. We must be aware of StH3&K because, unless we are ever vigilant, Sega will again forget to release the greatest entry in the Sonic canon. As it currently stands, it would be akin to Nintendo repeatedly releasing Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, and World, but never 3. Do you want to live in a world like that? No! What’s the point in breathing if you can’t steer Knuckles through Marble Garden Zone? And the idea that you wouldn’t be able to revisit Mushroom Hill Zone as Hyper Sonic? Preposterous.
So it’s all about bullying Sega into releasing the game you want?
Well… Yes. But there’s more to it than that. It’s because we must never forget.
Have you gone insane?
I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about properly remembering the past, and not just conveniently forgetting the ugly parts.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is a famously incomplete game. It was originally intended to be the whole of StH3&K from the get-go, but a Christmas season and Sonic’s unbridled popularity pushed the game out the door before it was truly “done”. Sega made lemonade out of these lemons, though, and released Sonic & Knuckles and its lock-on technology shortly thereafter, thus making the game complete with the kludgiest of kludges.
And we, the good little Sega brats of the day, had to buy an entirely new game to get one complete game.
If this kind of thinking sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because it’s very similar to how DLC works nowadays. Released an incomplete game? No problem! We’ll patch in the whole version later, and you can download ten gigs of updates to make the fractured whole. Maybe extra levels cost some extra dough, maybe you’re getting a new story mode for free because the original game is so lacking, but, one way or another, developers know they can release “partial” games, and make it up to the player later. Hell, it might even help with that damn used game market. Hang on to that copy of Street Fighter 5 until it’s actually a viable game, kiddies!
But, as much as anyone ever complains about DLC or developers releasing incomplete games, it used to be so much worse. If your copy of Pokémon Red kept deleting your save file because you surfed into a Missingno, bad news, that’s not getting better. Boobeam Trap is the worst part of Mega Man 2? Well, there’s no patch coming that makes that better, it’s a scar forever. And you say you’d step over your own mother just to get more Super Mario Bros. 3 levels? Well good luck there, the next Mario is going to have completely different gameplay, though you might get some new challenges through playing cards in about a decade.
There are more levels available for Sonic the Hedgehog 3? And a new playable character? That’s great! You only have to buy an entirely new game. Hope it’s in your budget to buy the same game twice!
So the next time some new game promises the full experience with additional DLC, or an Assassin’s Creed is released without faces, remember that that used to be it. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles is proof that, even going back to the ol’ 16-bit days, sometimes a game needs a little more time in the oven to be perfect, but how that “update” gets to the player (and its cost) can change drastically. Which is worse: “Game of the Year Edition” or “Buy an Entirely New Game”?
I think that’s something worth remembering.
So why not Old DLC Methods Awareness Month?
That doesn’t include Knuckles the Echidna, now does it?
FGC #189 Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles
- System: In honor of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles Awareness Month, the only systems that support the full game are: … Okay, there’s too many to list. Sega Genesis, Wii, and Steam are relevant to this article, but I’m also going to include the Sonic & Garfield Pack for PC.
- Number of Players: One real player, and a second Tails that can do whatever he wants. That should be in more games
- Favorite Character: Knuckles gets the respect knux.
- Sonic 2 & Knuckles: You may also combine Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic & Knuckles to get Knuckles to play through Sonic the Hedgehog 2. It’s not that exciting, but it makes that one bit in Chemical Plant Zone a lot more tolerable. … Has this “version” ever appeared on rereleases?
- Favorite Zone: I realize that this is most people’s most hated zone, but Sandopolis Zone is my favorite. I love how the pyramid puts an emphasis on “gotta go fast” without some lame timer or generic flooding segment. Sand flooding is a totally different thing.
- Just play the gig, man: Famously, Michael Jackson did or did not contribute music to Sonic the Hedgehog 3. It apparently got downplayed thanks to… personal matters… in Mr. Jackson’s life, but he did at least contribute background tunes for… Carnival Night Zone?! That’s that worst one!
- Did you know? You may access the “locked to a character” stages through the debug cheat code. This means that Sonic can fight Super Metal Sonic, and Knuckles can explore the Death Egg. Wouldn’t recommend taking Tails to the Doomsday Zone, though.
- Would I play again: Well, now I have to every October, right? I can live with that.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Street Fighter EX 3 for the Playstation 2! That’s… not Street Fighter 3, is it? Why is everybody so blocky? Oh well, guess we’ll find out. Please look forward to it!