Episode 01 - Stellar Performance
Episode 02 - HELPING
Episode 03 - Grasshoppers of Doom
Episode 04 - Gravity Carnival
Episode 05 - Sonic the Wolverine
Episode 06 - Too Fast
Episode 07 - A Change of Seasons
Episode 08 - Two Player
Episode 09 - A Nuanced Critique
Episode 10 - Elusive Rings
FINAL Episode - Phil is the Man
Super Bonus - Chaos Marathon
Super Bonus - Knuckles Showcase
Super Bonus - Debug Mode Engage
In 1994 Sega planned to release the largest, most expansive Sonic game in franchise history. The game would feature a new playable protagonist, Knuckles, and it would be just about the raddest thing anyone had ever seen. Unfortunately reality kicked in when Sega had to pay the bills and cut the development short. Said Sonic game was split into two games and released as what we now know as "Sonic The Hedgehog 3" and "Sonic & Knuckles". One amazingly brilliant thing they managed to do with the release of Sonic and Knuckles, however, was enable owners of both games to experience their original vision. In an age long before DLC, how did they manage this? For those of you too young to have seen a cartridge of Sonic & Knuckles, it looked
The top had a hinge and when you opened it the inside looked auspiciously like the slot in your Sega Genesis...
By using what they dubbed "Lock-on Technology" players could physically attach the Sonic 3 cartridge to Sonic & Knuckles, thus unlocking all sorts of goodies. You could play through the entirety of Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles back to back as Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles. Previously Knuckles was not playable in Sonic 3 and Tails was not playable in Sonic & Knuckles. The lock on also allowed you to save your progress in Sonic & Knuckles, which was a feature unique to Sonic 3. Finally for those skilled enough to complete all the "blue sphere" challenge stages in both Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles they would unlock Hyper Sonic, Hyper Knuckles, or Super Tails respectively. The three are essentially suped up versions of their normal chaos emerald induced states.
But what happens if you put in games besides Sonic 3, you ask? Each of the previous Sonic games had their own specific effect. With Sonic 2 inserted you could play a "what if" scenario of Knuckles in Sonic 2. If you inserted Sonic 1 a screen showing Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Dr. Robotnik would show up and the message "No way!" would scroll across the bottom of the screen. If you pressed A, B, and C together on this screen a set of numbers would show up and you could input a numerical code to play any of the game's challenge stages, which would later become known as the "blue sphere" mode in the Sonic Mega Collection. Other Genesis cartridges would just result in the "No way!" screen as well, though allowing access to other blue sphere levels, most likely generated by their cartridge data. Trust me, I spent many frustrating hours as a kid trying to play "Altered Beast & Knuckles". But enough of that, let's meet the cast!
Sonic Maurice Hedgehog is our titular character and protagonist of the series. The topic of Sonic's real name is debatable considering it changes from series to series. In the Archie comics it is revealed that his full name is Olgilvie Maurice Hedgehog, with "Sonic" being an assumed nickname. However he is only ever referred to as "Sonic" in the games, so that name is generally not considered canon outside the comic. I just like calling him Maurice.
Sonic was created to be the exact opposite to Mario. Aside from the obvious red / blue comparison Mario was created without much personality to him. This is a common practice in games as it allows the player to assume the role of Mario and project themselves onto him. It is also why Mario never has any dialogue (the same rule applies to Link as well). Sega took a completely different approach with designing Sonic. He's edgy, he's got an attitude, and above all he is memorable. In 2008 MSN held a poll to determine the most iconic video game character of all time in which Sonic took #1, beating out Mario at #2. In 1996 he was the first video game character to get a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I could go on about Sonic's accomplishments, but for now let's move on to the next hero.
Miles "Tails" Prower (get it? Miles per hour?) is Sonic's close friend and the second playable character. Sonic 3 marks the first time he can be played solo without accompanying Sonic. His trademark feature is his twin tails which he can spin like helicopter blades and use to fly. Tails is much younger than sonic and very naive and optimistic. He looks up to Sonic as a role model and an older brother. Tails is also a technological genius, though it is not touched on heavily in the Genesis games. The only real clue we get is the fact that Tails pilots the Tornado, the biplane seen in the into.
The Not So Heroes
Knuckles the Echidna falls into a kind of grey area in these games. He is a playable character but he also spends the entirety of Sonic's campaign as an antagonist. In the end though Knuckles' intentions were noble as he was tricked by Dr. Robotnik into thinking that Sonic was the one after the master emerald, thus he gets his own special category. Knuckles is a hot head and a little thick at times (as evidenced by Robotnik tricking him) but he is generally a good guy. He guards the master emerald that resides in the Floating Island. The master emerald is a source of incredible power and must be kept from falling into the wrong hands. Knuckles is the latest in a long line of guardians pledged to protect the master emerald from those who would wish to steal its power. Knuckles is also the only reason anyone in the 90s knew what an echidna was.
The Definitely Not Heroes
Dr. Robotnik is the series' antagonist and general bad guy. He has a thirst for world domination and a penchant for robotics. The only reasonable outcome of that combination is of course a mad man building robots to take over the world. After being beaten by Sonic time and time again Dr. Robotnik has devised a new robot that would utilize the power of the master emerald to fuel an engine of unimaginable destruction. By tricking Knuckles into going after Sonic he effectively took out two birds with one stone.
It is worth noting that in Japan he was called "Dr. Eggman" due to his rotund, egg-like shape. Later the American translations would adopt this name but in this game he was referred to as Dr. Robotnik still, so that is what I will be calling him. Also he will always be Dr. Robotnik to me.