Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Sonic the Hedgehog 3, often abbreviated and officially titled in Europe as Sonic 3,<ref>Japanese title:ソニック・ザ・ヘッジホッグ3 (Sonikku za Hejjihoggu Surī)</ref> is a platform game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. It was developed in the United States by members of Sonic Team working at Sega Technical Institute, and was published by Sega,<ref>Development history from theghz.com</ref> debuting worldwide in the first half of 1994. The game is a sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and follows on directly from the end of the game, in which Sonic defeated his enemy, Dr. Robotnik; crash-landing on a floating island, Sonic encounters new character Knuckles the Echidna, and must once more retrieve the Chaos Emeralds while also working to stop Dr. Robotnik from relaunching his ship, the Death Egg.
The game is closely tied to its direct sequel Sonic & Knuckles, as the two games were originally one until time constraints and cartridge costs forced the game to be split into two interlocking parts. Combined, both games have sold over 3.5 million copies.Template:Citation needed A version re-worked for Xbox 360 was released via Xbox Live Arcade on June 10, 2009 with support for HD televisions.<ref>Template:Cite news</ref>
In single player mode, the player can choose to play solo, as either Sonic or Tails, or as a team, controlling Sonic, with the AI controlling Tails, which is the default configuration. Another player may take control of Tails at any time by using a controller plugged into port 2. The object of the game is to progress through the levels. In order to completely finish the game, seven Chaos Emeralds must also be collected from the special stages.
The gameplay builds on the formula laid down in Sonic 2. Sonic and Tails are now equipped with special moves that are activated by pressing the jump button a second time while in mid air. Tails will fly if he’s out of water, or swim if he’s in water, both for a limited amount of time. In a team game, a second player can use Tails to "airlift" Sonic for a short amount of time. Both characters can gain one of three elemental shields (fire, lightning, and water) which protects against damage from that element, with sonic gaining an additional attack from each one. If Sonic has no shield equipped, he can generate an Insta-Shield, giving him a split second burst of protection from projectiles and increasing Sonic's attack radius.
Based on an improved Sonic 2 game-engine,<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Sonic 3 included more scope than any other game in the series to date: the play fields were three times larger than previous games, with multiple paths for different characters, more environmental elements with which to interact, faster maximum speeds, more end-of-level bosses, and more setpieces, all without any of the framerate issues that plagued certain parts of Sonic 2.
The game introduced many staples to the series, such as an increasingly story-driven game, multiple shield types, several musical indents and themes used in most subsequent games, and introduced Jun Senoue to the series, who would later become sound director of the 3D Sonic games, lending them their signature rock-inspired soundtracks.
Each stage connects to the next, via continuation, backdrop elements or a cut scene to convey spatial relation between the levels. The game conveys a sense of existing in an interconnected geographical location, as opposed to separate, disconnected zones. With these transitions between the levels, the game developer expanded the idea initiated in the final levels of the original title and its sequel. A similar concept was used in NES game Little Samson.
Bonus & Special Stages
As in previous Sonic games, star posts are scattered throughout each level to act as restart points. If Sonic has collected at least 50 rings when touching a star post, a bright halo of stars will float above it, which Sonic can then jump through to access a bonus stage based on a gumball machine, where rings, 1-Ups, and shields can be won.
Hidden in most acts, are multiple large golden rings, which act as special stage entrances.
Each of the special stages are based on a 3-dimensional, checkered sphere,<ref>Topologically, it behaves like a torus rendered as a sphere, as the lines normal to each other intersect once instead of twice, and it has no poles, which would be expected when mapping a grid onto a sphere.</ref> of which only a small surface portion is visible at any given time. The surface of this sphere is covered in rings and smaller spheres which the player can collect. The smaller spheres are colored blue, which need to be collected in order to successfully complete the stage; red, which results in instant retirement from the stage, or red-and-white stars, which act as bumpers, and will send the player backwards.
The player moves across the surface automatically, following the edges of the checkered squares. At each corner, they can turn left, right, carry on straight, or jump forward by a distance of one or two squares. As players collect blue spheres, they will turn into red spheres behind him. However, if the player goes around the outline of a group of spheres with at least one blue sphere inside (see diagram), all the spheres in that group will turn into rings. As time goes on, the player will move increasingly faster, making it easier to make a wrong move and run into a red sphere.
The stage ends when all the blue spheres are collected, which results in a Chaos Emerald, or a red sphere is touched, which prematurely ends the stage. In addition, earning 50 rings grants the player a continue, and collecting the maximum amount of rings in a stage results in a perfect clear, which adds 50,000 points to the total score, granting an automatic extra life.
There are 7 special stages, one for each emerald. When all emeralds are collected, Sonic can become Super Sonic by collecting 50 rings and performing a double jump. At this point, any additional giant rings found will add 50 rings to the player's total, instead of starting a special stage.
Super Sonic is nigh-invulnerable, and can run faster and jump higher than normal Sonic. While playing as Super Sonic, the ring count is drained down to zero at a rate of one ring per second, and once all rings are lost, Sonic reverts to his normal form.
Sonic 3 has a head-to-head, split-screen 2-player mode similar to the one in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. However, instead of using levels from the single player game, a set of short wrap-around tracks and scaled-down character sprites were created, in addition to making Knuckles a playable character.<ref>In both Sonic 3 and Sonic 3 & Knuckles Vs Mode, Knuckles cannot climb or glide. He does, however, gain Sonic's Insta-Sheild move</ref> Players can select to play a Grand Prix of all five tracks, a single track to race on, or race the clock in time trial. The aim of all modes is to complete 5 laps of the track as fast as possible.
The Sonic 3 storyline commences shortly after the end of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 - Dr. Robotnik's<ref>As with most pre-Sonic Adventure Sonic games, the doctor was called Eggman in Japan, and Robotnik in the west.</ref> space station, the Death Egg, has fallen out of orbit after his mech suit exploded in his final showdown with Sonic, causing critical damage to the ship.
However, instead of impacting the planet, the Death Egg crash-landed on Floating Island,<ref>Angel Island was originally referred to as "Floating Island", but the name has since been retconned to Angel Island. See Sonic 3 European Manual (Page 8), and Knuckle's story from Sonic Adventure.</ref> a mystical floating landmass that had previously been reputed only by legend to exist. As Dr. Eggman begins to repair the ship, he meets up with the Island’s sole inhabitant, Knuckles the Echidna. Knuckles is the last surviving member of an ancient civilization, whose ruins and relics are scattered throughout the island. He is also the guardian the Master Emerald, which grants the island its levitation powers.<ref>The storyline in Sonic & Knuckles would clarify that it's actually the Master Emerald that keeps the island afloat, while the Archie comic included with Sonic Mega Collection infers that a sole Chaos Emerald keeps the island floating</ref>
Knowing Sonic and Tails will try to track him down, and realizing he can use the Master Emerald to power the ship, Dr. Eggman tricks Knuckles into believing Sonic is trying to steal his Emerald. Shortly after, Super Sonic and Tails land on Angel Island in their bi-plane, the Tornado, in search of Dr. Eggman. As soon as they arrive, Knuckles ambushes Sonic from underground with such force, he knocks the Chaos Emeralds from him, returning him to normal. Stunned, Sonic can only watch as Knuckles steals the Emeralds and disappears inland. Once recovered, Sonic and Tails set off in a race against time to stop Knuckles, Dr. Eggman and the relaunch of the Death Egg.
Yuji Naka and Hirokazu Yasuhara were mainly responsible for the Sonic 3 design document and project schedule.<ref>http://sost.emulationzone.org/sonic_3/interview/rogerhector.htm - "Once Naka & Yasuhara agreed on a general design approach, they drew up a schedule and started working"</ref> Sonic 3 originally began as a top-down, isometric game, similar to what would eventually become Sonic 3D This concept was abandoned early into development, after the team did not want to change the Sonic formula too radically for a sequel.<ref></ref>
According to STI director Roger Hector, Michael Jackson was brought in initially during development to compose music for the game. However, due to the scandals that arose around Jackson at the time, his involvement was removed from the title, and much reworking had to be done.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> These claims are dubious, however, and various interviews have made it clear that any involvement Jackson may have had was done without the knowledge of Sega's executives or marketing staff, and no contracts or formal agreements had ever been made.<ref name="sega-16.com">http://www.sega-16.com/feature_page.php?id=392&title=Sega%20Legends:%20Michael%20Jackson%20&%20Sonic%203</ref> James Hansen, of Sonic Stuff Research Group, retorts that Cirocco (credited as "Scirocco" in Sonic 3) still has possession of presumably a demo version of fabled soundtrack. "I actually have "ALL" of the tracks...," he writes, "from the original humming of Michael calling in the middle of the night leaving messages, to his ideas at Record One with Matt and Bruce. - BUT, I don't think I can let any of that out to the public without permission." <ref name="sega-16.com"/>
Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles were originally planned as one single-cartridge game. However, as time constraints and the manufacturing costs of a 34 megabit cartridge<ref>Sonic & Knuckles UK Manual, Page 4</ref> with NVRAM would have been prohibitively expensive, the decision was taken to split the game in half, giving Yuji Naka and the other developers more time to finish the second part, and splitting the high cost between two cartridges.<ref>Information on the game split are mentioned in this Interview with Roger Hector</ref><ref>GameSpy: Sega's Yuji Naka Talks!</ref>
Sonic & Knuckles was released worldwide in November 1994, as a lock-on cartridge: There is a cartridge slot built into the top, into which Sonic 3 can be inserted, forming the 34 megabit game, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, which completes the original scope and intentions of the project.
Because of the split development, a lot of extra data from Sonic & Knuckles is still present on the Sonic 3 cartridge. Several pieces of music and three unplayable levels from Sonic & Knuckles are listed on the level select and sound test screen, including Mushroom Valley, an early name for Mushroom Hill Zone. In addition, by utilizing a glitch in Hydrocity Zone, the Sonic & Knuckles mini-boss theme can be heard in Sonic 3. An unusual quirk is that, as game manuals have a longer lead time than game cartridges, the Sonic 3 manual included some Badniks that only appear in Sonic and Knuckles zones.<ref>Sonic 3 European manual</ref>
When plugged together, the data from Sonic 3 is appended to the data from Sonic & Knuckles, as the latter was designed to reference the correct data from the former. Sonic 2 & Knuckles works in a similar fashion by firstly appending the Sonic 2 ROM to the Sonic & Knuckles ROM, and then patching another, extra ROM present in the game cartridge to the end, containing an updated game engine allowing Knuckles to be played.
Sonic 3 was the second Sonic game to save game progress (after Sonic CD), and would be the only cartridge-based Sonic game to do so until Sonic Pocket Adventure.
The cartridge has a small amount of non-volatile RAM built into it, in the form of a Ramtron FM1208S-200CC CMOS module.<ref>Part Specsheet and Cartridge scan, showing Ramtron memory chip</ref> This allows the player to save game progress. Depending on whether Sonic the Hedgehog 3 or Sonic 3 & Knuckles was being played, the game-save options will differ. Sonic 3 & Knuckles has 8 save slots instead of 6, and saves the number of lives and continues gained, as well as progress. Regardless of the game being played, all the save data is stored in the Sonic 3 cartridge.
The game's title screen featured a pseudo-3D render of Sonic looking like he will jump out of the players screen, a relatively advanced technique for the Mega Drive/Genesis to pull off. This technique was incrementally improved on in both Sonic & Knuckles, and Sonic 3D.
Release and reception
Sonic 3 was released in the US on February 2, 1994, dubbed "Hedgehog Day", a reference to Groundhog Day. Toys "R" Us rewarded preorders with the limited edition CD Sonic Boom, containing music from and inspired by Sonic CD and Sonic Spinball.<ref>Sonic Boom CD Information</ref>
In Europe, Sonic 3 released on February 24, 1994. To help promote the game, Right Said Fred wrote the song Wonderman, referencing many aspects about Sonic the hedgehog.<ref>CD Cover and information scans</ref> The song was used both in the game adverts, and released as a single, which charted in the UK at number 55. In the music video, both Sonic and Fez and Skull from the Pirate TV Sega ad campaign appeared.
Although Sonic 3 did not perform as well as Sonic 2 in terms of sales (6.3 million to 1.8 million),Template:Citation needed the game was mainly well-received by fans and critics alike, scoring aggregate reviews of above 80%.<ref> GameRanking's page</ref><ref>Mobegames Page</ref><ref>Archived reviews</ref>
Ports and rereleases
Sonic 3 has subsequently been re-released several times, first in 1997 for the Sega Saturn as part of the compilation game Sonic Jam. In 2002, it was part of the Sonic Mega Collection for GameCube, in 2004, as part of the Sonic Mega Collection Plus on PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Microsoft Windows for PC. An earlier Microsoft Windows running PC port was also released as part of the Sonic & Knuckles Collection. All versions are faithful ports, apart from this specific PC version featuring different music for any songs that simultaneously use music and voices (MIDI and PCM), like Ice Cap and Launch Base. This was a technical limitation: to play these songs using the correct "drum" sounds, which were voices and other sound effects, would have required the sound card to simultaneously use MIDI and Wave output, a feature not available on all sound cards at the time. Sonic 3 was released on the Wii Virtual Console in Japan on August 21, 2007, in Europe on September 7, 2007, and in North America on September 10, 2007.<ref>~DcD~ - Game News - New list of SEGA Genesis titles revealed for the Wii</ref><ref>Virtual Console Release information from IGN</ref>
The game was announced for the Xbox Live Arcade in May, 2009.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>. It was released on the 10th of June, 2009. This version has enhanced graphics for high definition displays as well as online leaderboards and support for multiplayer via split screen and Xbox Live. The original savegame slot feature of Sonic 3 in previous incarnations was replaced with the 'Vintage' savegame functionality which was used in Xbox Live Arcade versions of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic 2. While this allows progress to be saved anywhere during play, the possibility to replay levels after the game has finished with the current number of collected emeralds, extra lives and continues is lost.
Notes and references
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