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Arguably the Best Game in the Series - Sonic the Hedgehog 3 Review
For over one year, Genesis owners thought that what Sonic the Hedgehog 2 brought to the table could never be topped. As far as gamers were concerned, that title’s speed and thrills could not be duplicated. All of that changed with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 on the Genesis, a game that not only met the standards set by its predecessor, but managed to create both its own standards as well as a Sonic experience that to this day is considered the best in the series by many. Sonic 3 is a special game that fans of the series will never forget, especially now that it is available on the Virtual Console.
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Sonic the Hedgehog 3 Storyline
Sonic 3 picks up right where the previous game left off. Sonic and Tails have defeated Dr. Robotnik, who crash lands on Angel Island, a floating land that is guarded by Knuckles the Echidna. Robotnik learns of the Master Emerald, the source of power for the Chaos Emeralds, and plans on using it to fix his damaged Death Egg. Sonic and Tails immediately set out after their nemesis, but their progress is halted by Knuckles, who has been tricked by Robotnik into thinking that the heroes are actually out to do harm to Angel Island and the Master Emerald.
This paves the way for one of the more cinematic Sonic games on the Genesis, and looking at today’s Sonic games, which are plagued with cheesy dialogue, it’s easy to appreciate the storytelling in Sonic 3, which is a lot darker than in previous games. There’s no speech here; just a few “cut scenes" here and there that show Sonic and Tails running into Knuckles. As simple as this setup may be, though, it works well enough to create a story that you literally want to see the ending of.
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Sonic the Hedgehog 3 Gameplay
Like its predecessor, Sonic 3 features blinding speed, fun loops, and colorful environments. However, what sets Sonic 3 apart from the games before it is its massive world. The game features six zones with two acts each. While this may seem rather small, each of the game’s acts are three times the size of those found in Sonic 2, so the Blue Blur and his two-tailed buddy literally have a lot of ground to cover and large areas to explore. Each of the game’s stages blends in with the next perfectly, making the whole thing flow a lot better too.
Larger levels mean different play styles. One moment you’ll guide Sonic through loops and down hills at dizzying speeds, only to perform some careful platforming the next. Hidden areas with rings and power-ups warrant some exploration, and seeking out the game’s Special Stages is fun and requires a sharp eye and some quick thinking. That’s one of the things that makes Sonic 3 one of the best games in the series. Even when you’re going at a super fast speed, your mind has to be just as fast if you don’t want to miss that moving platform or high ledge.
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Graphics and Sound
Each of the zones in Sonic 3 has a distinct look and feel, and they all carry their own ambience. It’s hard not to be impressed by the game’s beautiful worlds, each of which is rich in color and 16-bit detail. While not as big of a leap as Sonic 2 was from the first game, there is plenty to be impressed with in Sonic 3. Tiny details are sprinkled literally everywhere, everything in the game has a crisper look, and enemy sprites are even more unique than they were in past Sonic games.
The game’s soundtrack is equally impressive. There are some lighthearted themes here and there, but serious tracks throughout Sonic 3 exude this game’s darker tone well. Additionally, the music in the game spans a number of different genres. The tropic-inspired beat of Angel Island Zone is nice to listen to, as is the music in Icecap Zone, which has a distinct ‘80s new wave sound to it. And a lot can be said for the boss battle theme, which is quite possibly one of the greatest, catchiest boss themes ever created.
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With levels three times larger than those in Sonic 2, this game is a considerably long-lasting affair. There are also even more branching paths this time around, so exploration and multiple playthroughs are not unlikely. Sega’s inclusion of a save file system is one of the best things they could have done for Sonic 3, and being able to stop playing—not that you’d want to—and picking up right where you left off at a later time is great. Additionally, once you’ve completed the game, you can visit all of the game’s stages and capture any of the seven Chaos Emeralds which may have eluded you.
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Sonic the Hedgehog 3 Overall Score
It’s hard not to be impressed by the effort put into Sonic 3 by Sega and Team Sonic. The game is longer, more challenging, and more gripping than the two games before it. Something really special was crafted here. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is a fitting addition to the Virtual Console library, and any gamer would do well to have this gem of a game taking up a bit of space as a channel on his or her Wii.