Sonic the Hedgehog 3 Review Part 1

Posted: February 8, 2014 in Game reviews
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Greetings mortals, I am DracoJames102 and welcome back to the Sonic the Hedgehog marathon.

Sonic marathon title card

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a massive success on the Sega Mega-Drive. It sold over six million copies and it is known to be the best selling game ever on the Sega Mega-Drive. In 1994, Sega released a sequel called Sonic the Hedgehog 3 for the Sega Mega-Drive after realizing that releasing Sonic CD for the Sega CD was a bad idea. Now before I continue on, I am pointing out right now that I will be breaking this review into two parts for reasons you probably know already. For those of you who don’t know, I will explain in Part 2. Many of you may disagree with this but shove it. My review section, my rules! So without any further delay, let’s see if Sonic 3 manages to improve upon the gameplay standards that Sonic 2 introduced.



The story takes place after the events of Sonic 2. After Sonic trashed the Death Egg in the last game, it has landed on a floating island which causes the island to land into the ocean.  The story elements are actually implemented into the gameplay this time. The game begins with Sonic and Tails flying to the island to see what has been going on and Sonic uses  the Chaos Emeralds to transform into Super Sonic to get to the shore of the island. Immediately after he arrives on the island, a red echidna named Knuckles surprises Super Sonic by coming out of the ground which causes Sonic to go back to being blue. Knuckles immediately steals the Chaos Emeralds, laughs in your face and runs off. Now it is up to Sonic and Tails to find out what Doctor Robotnik is up to, put a stop to it and get revenge on his new partner, Knuckles the Echidna.


I feel that the story was implemented into the gameplay rather well. It doesn’t really break the pace of the game and although the story itself is still about as simple as the stories in the last games, it still works pretty nicely.


Sonic’s control scheme is still the same as the last games. The spin-dash works exactly like it did in Sonic 2 but the Super Peel Out is gone. Sonic does gain a new move called the insta-shield where Sonic puts up an invincibility shield for only a couple of frames. It’s nothing game-breaking but it is good for taking out a few bosses. The HUD has received no changes and the score bonuses that can get you extra lifes make a return from Sonic 2.


Sonic 3 is the first Sonic game to use a save feature. After the title screen, you are taken to a menu where you choose a save file to begin a new game or to continue from where you left off. By pressing up or down on the D-Pad when you have a new save file selected, you can choose to play as Sonic with Tails as a buddy, Sonic alone or you can play as Tails. Once you have beaten the game, the completed save file has a level select feature so you can go back and replay your favourite stages.


Tails controls exactly like he did in Sonic 2 only he has some new gimmicks that make him more than just a Sonic clone in terms of control. By rapidly tapping the jump button in mid-air, Tails can actually fly and if you are underwater  while tapping the jump button, Tails can actually swim. Tails did have a flying animation in Sonic 2, but you can never actually fly with Tails in that game. If you have Tails as a partner when you play as Sonic, you can have a second player take control of the Tails AI just like in Sonic 2. The second player can fly with Tails and if Sonic jumps up to Tails while he is flying, Tails can grab Sonic and take him up to higher pathways in the level assuming you want to explore the level. Because of Tails’ ability to fly, he can ignore a lot of platforming challenges thus making him the easy mode of the game. Tails cannot fly forever though so be careful that you are not flying over any bottomless pits.


The game also introduces some new power-ups. The shield power-up is replaced with three new kinds of shield power-ups. The first is the fire shield which allows Sonic to perform a fire dash by pressing the jump button in mid-air. The bubble shield allows Sonic to breath underwater and perform the bubble bounce which bounces him higher which is good for reaching higher platforms. The final shield is the electric shield that allows Sonic to perform a double jump and it acts as a magnet where it automatically draws nearby rings to you. Tails cannot use these special abilities when he is equipped with these shields. Each shield protects Sonic and Tails from hazards corresponding to their element and they protect them from projectiles.


The goal of the game is the same as the last games, minus the time traveling gimmick from Sonic CD. You simply have to reach the end of the stage ploughing through enemies and avoiding hazards as you go. There are six zones in this game and each of them has two acts. Angel Island Zone is a good starting level just like Green Hill Zone only there is one cosmetic difference. Half-way through the first act, this zone catches fire.


Hydrocity Zone is probably the most fast-paced water based zone in any 2D Sonic game. The level design is not as confined as Labyrinth Zone, you don’t spend too much time in the water and it is actually possible to have Sonic run on the water.


Marble Garden Zone has rotating top-spin platforms which you need to use in order to proceed with the level but it doesn’t slow down the pace that much. It has one of the oddest Badniks that has ever been created which is robot that shoots projectiles out of its sides and it has rubber spikes on top of it. This zone does however contain the most annoying enemy in the game called Bubbles. These little blue spiked scum-bags will  usually be in your way and there is a high chance that you will run or jump into their spikes which hurts you as a result. But aside from what I mentioned, the zone itself is pretty fun to travel through.


Carnival Night Zone has a level theme that’s similar to Casino Night Zone, minus the pinball gimmick. It has balloons that you can bounce on, rotating platforms and the infamous barrels. Many first-timers playing this game usually gets stuck on a barrel platform that gains vertical momentum but then it completely loses that momentum. Here’s a tip. You can actually control the momentum of the barrel by rhythmically pressing up and down on the D-Pad. Aside from the barrel, the zone is pretty fun.


Ice Cap Zone is a snow-based level but oddly enough there are no ice gimmicks in this stage. There are no slippery surfaces and the water is okay to travel through despite this being an icy zone. There are springy platforms that you can use to bounce to higher areas but besides that this level doesn’t really have its own unique gimmick.


As the final zone of the game, Launch Base Zone is nowhere near as difficult as the previous zones. This zone is full of sections where you can speed up and it is actually pretty fun to travel through despite the hazards you will encounter.


This game introduces new bonus stages that you can enter via jumping into the swirling stars at checkpoints when you have a certain number of rings. There are three different bonus stages that you can go to and I’m not entirely sure on this but the stage you go to does depend on the number of rings you have. These stages can range from a slot reel inside a stage similar to Sonic 1’s special stages where you can score extra rings, a stage where you rotate around electric balls to get higher to the top of the level while scoring some shield power-ups, rings or even extra lifes and playing with a capsule machine where you can score everything you could get in the electric ball stage.


The special stages where you can obtain the Chaos Emeralds make a return only in order to enter them, you need to find a giant ring that’s hidden somewhere in the levels and some levels contain more than one giant ring. In fact it is actually possible to collect all of the Chaos Emeralds before you complete Hydrocity Zone if you know where all of the special rings are. The special stages require you to collect of of the blue spheres in a 3D plain. You use the D-Pad to turn corners and you can jump in these special stages. Along your journey to collect all of the blue spheres, you will notice red spheres and white balls. Touching the red spheres will automatically end the special stage and the white spheres send you backwards. There are yellow spheres which bounce you further down the stage, but they don’t appear nearly as often as the other spheres. You can collect all of the rings which grants you bonus points and a continue, but Sonic’s speed will increase the more you stay inside the special stage meaning that you need to time your turns more carefully to make sure you win and get the Chaos Emerald. Just stick to collecting all of the blue spheres as the save feature pretty much makes continues worthless.


Collecting of the Chaos Emeralds will unlock Super Sonic, who performs exactly like he did in Sonic 2. This game allows you the choice of becoming Super Sonic this time. Back in Sonic 2, as soon as you collected fifty rings and jumped, you automatically transform into Super Sonic against your will. In this game, you can choose to turn into Super Sonic by jumping and press the Jump button again in mid-air so you can save Super Sonic for the bosses at the end of the stages. Also I forgot to mention before that when you are Super Sonic, your ring meter will decrease and if it reaches zero, you will revert back to normal Sonic. Collect more rings if you want to stay a god.


The boss fights in this game are a lot more entertaining than in the last games. This game introduces mini-bosses that you fight at the end of Act 1. Most of them are pretty easy but some of them can actually be fun to fight. Doctor Robotnik has also upgraded his array of gadgets to use with his Egg-O-Matic so it’s more about timing your hits this time around if you want to beat him.



The graphics are amazing for Sega Mega-Drive standards. They are more vibrant and colourful than the previous Sonic games without being an eye-sore and the sprites are very nicely done.


This game’s soundtrack is awesome. It still doesn’t beat out Sonic CD’s Japanese soundtrack, but it comes pretty damn close. I love almost every track such as the final boss theme, Hydrocity’s two themes and Launch Base themes. Each act now has their own piece of music with the second act of each zone being a variant of the previous theme which I think works pretty nicely.


Sonic controls just as smoothly as he did in the previous games so I have the same opinion as I did about it in the previous reviews. Tails controls just as smoothly too. He flies with just the right amount of momentum and his flying control doesn’t feel stiff in the slightest.

Final thoughts

Sorry guys but I am not giving my final thoughts on Sonic 3 as a whole just yet. I’m saving that for Part 2. But if I could comment on this half as a stand alone title, it’s really great. The game feels somewhat incomplete though and there are times where you will come across pieces of level design that Sonic and Tails cannot explore yet. There’s even a multiplayer feature where you can play as Knuckles even though you never play as him in this game. What can all of this mean? Find out next time.

To be continued in Part 2…

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