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I love the Sonic series. I always find myself able to enjoy a decent portion of each game. And then... there's this game. Yea I haven't played 06 or Rise of Lyric, but S3&K has to be the worst experience I have had playing a Sonic game. I can say that I enjoyed the Flying Battery music, but that's about it. I hate the rest of this game. I'm admittedly not a fan of classic Sonic and prefer the Adventure era stuff, but Sonic 1 is a decent game with its main flaw being first game syndrome, the first half of Sonic 2 was perfect with the second half dragging it down but not enough to make it bad, and CD is kinda messy but still pretty fun. This game is just boring and tedious all-around.
Let's start things off with the earliest form of a game being released incomplete and using DLC to fix itself. The first half is an Obvious Beta that had to Hand Wave its many glitches as "diabolical traps" and never got a fixed edition with the only solution being to buy a second game. I've played a lot of retro games and S3&K when locked on is too glitchy even compared to those. The Carnival Night Zone Act 2 boss flying off screen and never returning to render the level unwinnable was the first game-breaking glitch I encountered in a non-licensed game, and I managed to break the game several more times while playing normally. Seriously, the Adventure games are more stable than this, and those had the growing pains of the 3D transition. Of course, I can look past glitches if the game is still fun, like with the Adventure titles. That doesn't describe S3&K.
I've always preferred 3D Sonic because 2D Sonic relies too much on trial-and-error, but CD offered a good solution by having a panning camera to help see what's ahead and make it harder to get caught off-guard. So why'd they get rid of it? We get far more scripted sequences, which wouldn't be all that bad if they didn't copy-paste the exact same ones in the same fashion multiple times in the same level. You will get sick of seeing Marble Garden's pulleys and Death Egg's ring shooters before you are even halfway through their first acts. And it's not just scripted sequences. The same level layouts get copy-pasted to result in lots of padding for what would otherwise be short levels. Combine this with lots of time-wasting gimmicks, and levels just drag. Bosses indulge in time-wasting too, which makes this worse. I'd be fine if each level was long but had diverse content where no two sections feel the same, but instead...
Remember how I singled out Flying Battery's theme? That's because the rest of the soundtrack is either forgettable or grating. Carnival Night and Blue Sphere's themes just drive me crazy. Doesn't help that Blue Sphere itself is a motion-sickness magnet. Oh yea, and Super Sonic locks you out of special actions once you hit 50 rings. Not as intrusive as it was in Sonic 2 where jumping triggered the transformation, but still ruins the mechanic for me.
Looking over S3&K, I don't find myself having fun with anything and instead remembering tons of tedious and annoying stuff. The worst part? Everyone always talks about how awesome this game is and how it is the best thing ever. Seeing everyone praise the game to such a degree when I strongly oppose them feels terrible, because I want to enjoy the game as much as they do. But no, instead it's garbage. I really don't understand what people see in this game, and really wish that I could. Instead, I am finding myself almost wishing that this game would suffer Hype Backlash a thousand times over while also wishing for others to still be able to enjoy it.
Bottom line: I think that S3&K is awful and that you should stay away, but I say that with a tinge of sadness.
Sonic 1 and 2 had been excellent games, despite a few issues such as occasional pacing problems. All too often a third entry is adequate, but not up to the standard of it's predeccesors. Here, however, is where the Sonic series perfected it's craft. It is likely that the series will never reach so high a tier as this again.
Note that I am reviewing the locked on version, as it is how the game was originally planned before time constraints necessitated using the lock on function.
I will begin with the game play. The player now has the choice of Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. Sonic plays as we have always known him, apart from a new "insta shield" move and new elemental shields that give Sonic new abilities.
Tails now has control over his iconic flying move, which was surprisingly unusable when playing as Tails in Sonic 2.
Knuckles is the new character, and his gliding and climbing abilities change the game play considerably. Knuckles's levels are also designed differently, differentiating Knuckles's campaign from Sonic's and creating replay value.
The level design is sublime, finally perfecting the balance between large amounts of speed, excellent platforming and exploration. In particular, the exploration in the game has increased from the previous entries, and there are several routes through levels, along with hidden areas to explore, usually leading to special stages. The reason the level design here has so much more of an impact than previous installments is that the three elements I mentioned earlier, Speed, exploration, and platforming are now in correct balance, whereas I thought that the previous games occasioanlly failed to balance these. The levels are much more expansive and can be awe inspiring.
There are 13 zones, not including the True final boss. These are varied and make good use of level tropes that the series had not used by this point, such as wintery areas and deserts, and most zones have their own small gimmick allowing things to feel fresh.
The bosses are also much more inventive and there are also now minibosses in Act 1 of each zone. These feel unique and fresh compared to the rather standard bosses of the previous games.
The graphics are vibrant and glossy, and show flair and style. The music is classic and memorable, containing emotion and atmosphere.
An excellent game overall.
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