Sonic & Knuckles (ソニック＆ナックルズ Sonikku to Nakkuruzu?) is a platform game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, developed by American studio Sega Technical Institute in collaboration with Sonic Team, and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive in 1994. It serves as the direct sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog 3. The game features unique "lock-on technology" which enables another cartridge to be plugged in via the socket on top.
Sonic & Knuckles carries on from where Sonic the Hedgehog 3 left off. At the end of Sonic the Hedgehog 3, after Dr. Robotnik's defeat at his Launch Base, the revived Death Egg fell back onto the Floating Island and crashed on top of the Lava Reef's volcanic crater (apparently retconning the ending of the standalone Sonic the Hedgehog 3, in which the Death Egg vanishes in a flash and is seemingly totally destroyed). The evil doctor resumes his goal of restoring the Death Egg, this time by stealing the Master Emerald to limitlessly fuel its engines. This all-powerful jewel, upon which the other Chaos Emeralds base their powers, is guarded by Knuckles. Dr. Robotnik was able to fool the echidna into working for him and against Sonic. Upon landing in Mushroom Hill, Sonic discovered a Giant Ring that took him to the Master Emerald. Realizing that this is the object of legend that Dr. Robotnik must have set his sights on, he rushes to prevent Dr. Robotnik from taking it.
In the underground Hidden Palace, Dr. Robotnik takes advantage of the confusion between Sonic and Knuckles in order to obtain the Master Emerald. Knuckles then realizes that Dr. Robotnik has been tricking him all along, and he is electrocuted while trying to stop Robotnik from stealing the Emerald. Knuckles helps Sonic to get to Sky Sanctuary, then leaves him to defeat Robotnik and trusts him to return the Master Emerald. Sonic takes on the Death Egg and defeats Robotnik's escape mech to bring back the Master Emerald, making the Floating Island regain its namesake. However, a lone Eggrobo takes up the Doctor's mantle. (Note that Tails accompanies Sonic during his adventure up until The Doomsday Zone in the complete Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles - otherwise, he is only seen piloting the Tornado in Sonic's ending.)
A while after this event, Knuckles is seen relaxing with the Animals in Mushroom Hill. Suddenly, the remaining Eggrobo throws a bomb. Knuckles becomes angry at the Eggrobo and chases after him, starting Knuckles' storyline in the game. (Note that this event only takes place in the standalone Sonic & Knuckles - in the full game, he begins at Angel Island Zone without this intro.) As Knuckles races through the zones, Knuckles accesses new places Sonic could not. After Knuckles exits Hidden Palace through the teleporter, the Eggrobo grabs Knuckles and is faced with Mecha Sonic. Knuckles glides out of the way as Mecha Sonic destroys the Eggrobo, and the two fight. After defeat, Mecha Sonic dashes to the Master Emerald and uses it to achieve its Super State. Knuckles defeats Mecha Sonic, which makes the platform collapse. However, Sonic arrives with the Tornado, saving Knuckles. Knuckles returns to the Floating Island with the Master Emerald, making it maintain its flight.
- For a more detailed examination of gameplay, see Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
Gameplay focuses on Sonic and Knuckles; Knuckles was not playable in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 because he antagonized Sonic and Tails. In addition, Tails has been removed from play. Essentially there are two separate games to tackle, depending on which character is selected at the start of the game. Although the appearance of the Zones is the same for either character, their layout and some of the bosses' tricks differs noticeably at a number of points in the game (especially noticeable difference is that Knuckles fights Eggrobo, who has different and particularly smarter strategies). Zone differences increase starting from the Lava Reef Zone onwards. Objectives, however, do not differ significantly from one character to the next as they do, for example, in Sonic Adventure.
Despite no save file slots, gameplay is much expanded than in other games, as Sonic and Knuckles do not play all of the same levels. A significant difference between Sonic and Knuckles is that they don't have all of the same moves: Sonic can jump higher and run a little faster than Knuckles, and Sonic has the Insta-Shield, while Knuckles can climb walls and break through some of the blocked entry ways. While Sonic has the gift of speed, Knuckles can glide through the air with the greatest of ease.
Although perhaps not intentionally, none of the zones of Sonic & Knuckles have water, which somewhat reduces the significance of the Bubble Shield, especially for Knuckles, and for Tails in the locked-on game Sonic 3 & Knuckles, as they cannot use any of the shields' abilities which can only be used by Sonic.
As in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, there are two types of Stages: Bonus Stages and Special Stages. The Bonus Stages are entered by collecting at least 20 rings (or at least 35 to access the second Bonus Stage), and jumping through the bright ring of stars that appears above each checkpoint in the Zones. This time however, the gumball stage has been replaced by two new Bonus Stages. The first combines the slot machines of Sonic the Hedgehog 2's Casino Night Zone and the 360° tumbling labyrinth Special Stage (to retrieve the Chaos Emeralds) of the first Sonic the Hedgehog. If three Robotniks appear on the slot machine, the player loses 100 rings, or all of your rings if you have 100 or less (this does not result in losing a life). The second Bonus Stage is a large vertical course with magnetic orbs that Sonic/Knuckles can use to propel himself upward. Along the way he can pick up shields, rings or lives. Many rings could be collected in this Bonus Stage due to the rising value of the ring gumballs as the player ascends the course - at the very top they can be worth as many as 80 rings. He is chased by a horizontal force field that slowly moves up and when Sonic is caught in it, the Special Stage ends. Reaching the top of the stage ends it as well.
Sonic runs slightly faster and jumps slightly higher than Knuckles, but lacks Knuckles' special abilities to glide and climb. Sonic can use the W spin attack and all the special attacks associated with Barriers.
Newcomer Knuckles is slower than Sonic and doesn't jump as high, but he can glide through the air, climb up walls and punch through barriers Sonic would not be able to spin dash through. Knuckles' story is shorter, but it is more difficult than Sonic's.
The first four zones all have two acts each. As with Sonic 3, there is a mini-boss (or minor bosses, as they are sometimes called) at the end of the first act and Robotnik (or Eggrobo) at the end of Act 2.
- Mushroom Hill Zone: A lush forest, with pump elevators, sticky vines, and filled with mushrooms that also serve as trampolines or parachutes. The miniboss is a woodcutter robot, and for the fight with Robotnik, the player must avoid the spiked bars and cannon shots while hitting the satellite-enhanced Eggman Mobile.
- Flying Battery Zone: The player is propelled to this flying fortress with electrified robots. The mini-boss looks like the Flicky-capsule and must be tricked into hitting itself. Robotnik is fought twice: first, he traps the player in an arena with a moving laser blaster on the ceiling, very similar to the Wing Fortress Zone boss. Then, it goes to an exterior platform which Robotnik latches onto from below and crawls along, spouting flame from the top of the pod every time the character attempts to jump over, and swinging upwards to be hit. This zone is the only zone where Knuckles faces Robotnik instead of Eggrobo, due to his access to the blimp being a last-minute decision.
- Sandopolis Zone: The heroes fall in this desert zone, which houses a haunted pyramid which the character enters after beating the Guardian mini-boss. The boss, Egg Golem, must be hit in the face so Robotnik is exposed.
- Lava Reef Zone: The interior of a volcano, on which the Death Egg had crash-landed. The miniboss consists of mechanical hands that hit the player and orbs that shoot fireballs. Knuckles doesn't face a boss, but Sonic faces Robotnik in an invincible machine, which is only harmed by the landmines it drops.
- Hidden Palace Zone: The old Echidna temple. Knuckles just traverses the zone. Sonic and/or Tails however, has to fight Knuckles. After he is defeated, Robotnik steals the Master Emerald to deceive the echidna; Knuckles decides to help the heroes instead.
- Sky Sanctuary Zone: A secret passage leads to these crumbly aerial ruins. Knuckles just faces his final boss, Mecha Sonic, which uses the Master Emerald to go Super. Sonic and/or Tails has to climb the zone facing Mecha Sonic three times - one in the first flail-swinging mobile, another in a "Flying Eggman" and finally on foot.
- Death Egg Zone: Robotnik's space station, with electric traps, a vacuum chamber and sections with altered gravity. Two minibosses - Red Eye, a vulnerable laser shooting eye surrounded by spiked orbs, and Death Ball, which is only hit when the rotating shield bumpers are away - before facing a Robotnik-shaped mecha, Kyodai Eggman Robo.
- The Doomsday Zone: Only accessible as Super Sonic, this zone has Sonic chasing Robotnik through space, avoiding meteors and missiles, and trying not to get his rings depleted.
- The Special Stages in this game are essentially the same as in Sonic 3. There are a few differences though; mainly they are considerably harder than their Sonic 3 counterparts. As well as having the blue, red and grey-and-red bumper spheres, a new kind has been introduced: yellow spheres act as springs and propel the character a set distance across the stage (a distance of five spheres, according to the US manual). Most yellow spheres are helpful, however there are a few that will catapult the player into red spheres, spelling failure for the player.
The Chaos Emerald appears at the end of the Special Stage just like in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, although when playing the complete game Sonic 3 & Knuckles this will be a Super Emerald. The same rules apply throughout; enclosing a patch of blue spheres by touching the ones on the outside will turn all those spheres into rings, and collecting all rings in a stage awards a Perfect bonus of 50,000 points (an extra life). 50 rings awards a continue.
The Special Stages in the Sonic & Knuckles zones are not quite as straightforward as in Sonic 3. The player will often have to perform clever tricks to complete them, such as making several jumps and turns in succession. As well as being harder in difficulty themselves, there are fewer opportunities to even attempt to get Emeralds. They all have to be collected before the end of Lava Reef Zone and the Giant Rings can be hard to find.
|English name||Japanese name||Sprite||Description|
|Dragonfly||Tonbar (トンバー)||Dragonfly bots that hover up and down. They can only be damaged on their heads - venture a poke anywhere else and you'll find yourself bereft of Rings. ("Tonbo" is Japanese for dragonfly.)|
|Butterdroid||Tefu-Tefu (テフテフ)||Butterfly bots that flutter delicately through the air, slowly spiraling in on Sonic/Knuckles. ("Tefu-tefu" is Japanese onomatopoeia for a fluttering noise.)|
|Mushmeanie||Hidden (ヒドゥン)||Springy sphere bots that hop around covered with a mushroom cap. Bop them once to knock their headgear away and make them vulnerable to attack.|
|Madmole||Mogu-Mogu (モグモグ)||Mole bots that pop in and out of holes in the ground to chuck mushrooms at invading corporate mascots. The mushrooms don't inflict damage, but knock their unfortunate victim back, potentially into other hazards. ("Mogura" is Japanese for mole.)|
|Cluckoid||Kekko (ケッコー)||Stationary windvane rooster bots that periodically inhale deeply, then release with a gust of wind. The gust doesn't inflict damage, but can blow Sonic/Knuckles into nearby obstacles. ("Kekko" is Japanese for cluck.)|
|Technosqueek||Chu-Chu (チューチュー)||Mouse bots that scutter along the floors/walls/ceiling. ("Chu-chu" is Japanese for squeak.)|
|Blaster||Pon-Pon (ポンポン)||Rolling beetle bots that fire flashing projectiles from their cannon-like snouts.|
|Skorp||スコープ||Scorpion bots that roll along the ground, occasionally pausing to whip out their probing stingers at nearby hedgehogs. It's a very difficult attack to avoid.|
|Sandworm||Nal (ナール)||Giant caterpillar bots that swim around in quicksand and only occasionally leap out to attack. Like the original Nal (Caterkiller) bots, they can only be damaged on their spike-free noggins.|
|Rock'n||ロックン||These heavily guarded bots charade as plain rocks until you get close enough. They're incapable of inflicting damage, but can push Sonic/Knuckles around. Rolling into them is the only way to destroy them.|
|Hyudoro||ヒュードロ||These ghosts inhabit the pyramids of Sandopolis. They hover harmlessly in the air until the lights go out, then attack en masse. They can be momentarily scared away with a spin, but only turning on the lights will curb their assault. ("Hyuudoro" is the sort of noise a ghost would make.)|
|Fireworm||Mamba (マンバー)||Fiery caterpillar-esque bots more or less identical to Sonic 3's Meramora. Only their heads are vulnerable.|
|Iwamodoki||イワモドキ||Self-destructing bots that charade as plain stones until approached, then blow themselves up into a rocky shower. They can't be destroyed, only avoided, but you still get 100 points when they explode.|
|Toxomister||Puwazone (プワゾーン)||Bizarre eye bots that release little clouds of vapor. Step into a cloud and it slows your character down almost to a halt, siphoning Rings out one at a time. Jump or Spin Dash to brush away the cloud.|
|Eggrobo||Eggrobo (エッグロボ)||Robotnik-shaped robots that fly down from the sky and fire laser blasts at approaching hedgehogs. When playing as Knuckles, these guys usually take Robotnik's place in the boss fights.|
|Spikebonker||Guardy (ガーディ)||These bots hover slowly through the air, but halt to fling a spiked mace as soon as Sonic approaches. They'll repeat the attack constantly until destroyed.|
|Chainspike||Crow (クロウ)||These bots zip by and pause briefly to prod Sonic with one of their pointy spear tips. They're difficult to hit.|
The same rules from Sonic the Hedgehog 3. At the end of Act 1, a sub-boss is encountered and needs to be damaged 6 times to destroy it.
- Hei Hou: Mushroom Hill Zone
- Gapsule: Flying Battery Zone Sub-boss 1
- Barrier Eggman: Flying Battery Zone Sub-boss 2
- Guardian: Sandopolis Zone
- Heat Arms: Lava Reef Zone
- Mecha Sonic: Sky Sanctuary Zone
- Red Eye: Death Egg Zone Sub-boss 1
- Death Ball: Death Egg Zone Sub-boss 2
As with Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Robotnik is waiting patiently for Sonic, while the Eggrobo usually waits for Knuckles, each in Act 2. Each main boss is required eight hits before exploding into flames.
- Jet Mobile: Mushroom Hill Zone
- Hang Mobile: Flying Battery Zone
- Egg Golem: Sandopolis Zone
- Hot Mobile: Lava Reef Zone
- Knuckles the Echidna: Hidden Palace Zone
- Mecha Sonic: Sky Sanctuary Zone Hammer Ball rematch
- Mecha Sonic: Sky Sanctuary Zone Flying Eggman rematch
- Mecha Sonic: Sky Sanctuary Zone
- Mecha Sonic's Super State: Sky Sanctuary Zone (Knuckles' final boss)
- Great Eggman Robo: Death Egg Zone Final Boss
- Eggman Mobile: Death Egg Zone Post-Final Boss retreat attempt
- The Doomsday Zone Extra Zone and True Final Boss (Sonic)
Sonic & Knuckles utilizes "lock-on technology" that lets the cartridge plus the Genesis/Mega Drive access data from Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 so that elements of both Sonic & Knuckles and the locked-on game are combined. To play these combined games, the hatch on top of the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge can be flipped open and the second game placed inside.
The lock-on technology was actually a way of making up for the fact that the developers could not meet the deadline for Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Originally, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was to be released with Knuckles as a playable character, and with all the Sonic & Knuckles levels playable (the level select screen in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 features inaccessible Sonic & Knuckles levels and music for said levels can be played in the sound test). Time constraints forced them to split the project in two, releasing Sonic the Hedgehog 3 with the completed levels and continuing work on the uncompleted ones, plus adding the Super Emeralds and the lock-on feature. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had once run into similar problems, resulting in the original Hidden Palace and several other levels being removed.
Notably, no other video game in history features a "lock-on" feature quite like Sonic & Knuckles. Some NES games released by HES, as well as the Super Nintendo game Super 3D Noah's Ark, feature a cartridge port on the top to accept other games for the system, but this was purely to override the systems' respective lockout chips, as these games were not licensed by Nintendo. Some video game peripherals require being joined with a cartridge in a similar manner (i.e. Game Genie; GameShark), or transfer data between games (the Transfer Pak) but don't allow the "lock on"-style merging of data from 2 different video games. The technology was considered ahead of its time.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles is the combination of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles in one large game. This would have been the Sonic the Hedgehog 3 that was originally meant to be released until time constraints caused the game to split into two. While gameplay remains identical, there has been several gameplay changes to accommodate the combination of the gameplay of both Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, especially the level layouts. New features have being added as well, most notably the Super Emeralds.
Also known as Knuckles in Sonic 2 for short, Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is identical to Sonic 2 (aside from a few changes to make it more playable with Knuckles) but with Knuckles now playable instead of Sonic or Tails. The title screen features Knuckles and the only option is "Press Start" (Options and the versus mode have been disabled but the level select is intact). There are no new Zones. The only differences in gameplay are that Knuckles can explore once inaccessible areas (where secrets such as 1-Ups have been added for Knuckles), some areas are harder because Knuckles cannot jump very high (in particular, the final boss).
In the development of Sonic & Knuckles, Sega attempted to implement Knuckles into the original game, but decided to leave him out. According to several programmers and hackers, the reason why Knuckles could not be placed into Sonic the Hedgehog like he was in Sonic 2 was that the palette colors of Knuckles' sprite would have, in fact, completely altered the palette scheme of the entire game. Therefore, instead of a Knuckles in Sonic 1 feature, fans were treated to a full version of Blue Sphere which means that by locking on Sonic 1, It is possible to play all 100 million+ unique Blue Sphere levels. Hackers, however, succeeded several years later in making a game hack called Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog. The color palette problems are overcome by only using two shades of red for Knuckles' body, rather than four or five. There was also the Spin Dash technique that could abuse the entire game by running at greater speeds than Sonic could.
In 2013, Knuckles was officially made available in Sonic the Hedgehog via its re-release on mobile devies.
Any other Genesis/Mega Drive game
When using most other Genesis/Mega Drive game cartridges on top of Sonic & Knuckles, players are still treated to Blue Sphere but will only play one randomly generated level per cartridge. Again the only way to play all Blue Sphere levels off one cartridge is locking on to Sonic 1.
These are the achievements that are added to the player's Gamerscore on the Xbox Live Arcade version of Sonic & Knuckles.
The soundtrack for this game was released as the album Sonic & Knuckles • Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
- According to the English manual and the Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I website, both Sonic's story and Knuckles' story occur at the same time. However, it is strongly implied in-game that Sonic's story happens first, causing confusion.
- Strangely, Amy Rose appears in the French guide for the game.
- Knuckles was intended to face Eggrobo in Act Two of each zone, but he ends up facing Robotnik at the end of Flying Battery Zone. This is likely due to the fact that Robotnik's sprite in the Hang Mobile is at a unique angle. Dr. Robotnik also occasionally appears in Mushroom Hill and Sandopolis. On the other hand, if Knuckles manages to cross into Sonic and Tails' route in Marble Garden and Carnival Night, Eggrobo will still be Knuckles' opponent despite it not showing up normally.
- As of 2019, every Zone in Sonic & Knuckles except Doomsday Zone has returned in some form.
- This is the first game in the series where a super transformation is exclusively playable during the final boss. This gameplay was later implemented in most Sonic games starting with Sonic Adventure.
- Matthew Felix holds the world record for the highest score at 2,359,170 points achieved on 21 April 2014.
- This is the first title in the classic era of Sonic games to not feature a carnival-themed level.
- Despite Sonic & Knuckles being considered a direct sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Tails is absent until the cutscene after Robotnik is defeated for the final time.
- However, Tails is playable in the lock-on game Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, the true form of both games, with the full story.
- The achievement icon for collecting a Chaos Emerald for the XBLA version of Sonic & Knuckles, is the same as the one for completing IceCap Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 for XBLA.
- For some reason, Knuckles' look up sprite is one pixel in front of the others.
- In the US manual for Sonic & Knuckles, the sprites for the Lightning Shield and Flame Shield are erroneously swapped.