Happy 20th Birthday Sonic!: A Retro Lookback

Happy 20th Birthday Sonic!: A Retro Lookback


Gaming's favourite blue hedgehog reaches the grand old age of 20, and boy has he aged. Time to take a lookback over Sonic's golden years; when Sonic was the king of platformers...and was a little chubbier.

Locking On

Sonic and Knuckles was unleashed upon the world in October 1994, bringing with it an amazing new concept. The Sonic and Knuckles game cartridge had a slot in the top of it so you could connect either Sonic the Hedgehog 2 or Sonic 3 and add extra content to them. When connected to Sonic 2, Knuckles was enabled as a playable character - he could climb walls, making the game a breeze - but when connected to Sonic 3 there was a whole LOT more.

Happy 20th Birthday Sonic!: A Retro Lookback

Before I explain the benefits of Sonic 3 and Knuckles, I will point out that Sonic and Knuckles is its own stand-alone title with a story that takes place on Angel Island. Sonic and Knuckles land on Angel Island after destroying Robotnik’s flying fortress, the “Death Egg”. Sonic quickly learns that Robotnik plans on seizing control of both Angel Island’s own Chaos Emeralds and the powerful Master Emerald in order to power his machines. Not missing a beat, Sonic sets off on another adventure, inadvertently working alongside his rival Knuckles who wants to stop Robotnik for his own reasons.

Yes, this meant there were two playable characters and the inclusion of Chaos Emeralds meant both the return of the always-popular Super Sonic and now Super Knuckles too! Whilst both characters visit the same zones, the path taken through the zones and the bosses encountered changed based on who you were playing as. Sonic and Knuckles was the king of cool during its heyday, but as said, it was when Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles were combined that the fun really started.

Sonic 3 & Knuckles

Sonic 3 and Knuckles is by far some of the most interesting and impressive design work in videogame history. When players inserted their Sonic 3 game cartridge into their Sonic and Knuckles cartridge they were treated to an expanded game called Sonic 3 & Knuckles. S3&K is essentially the stories of Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles played back-to-back, with Sonic and Knuckles starting immediately after the final battle with Robotnik in Sonic 3.

Key additions included the ability to save your progress (a feature of Sonic 3 that was sadly excluded from Sonic and Knuckles), having Knuckles as a playable character in Sonic 3, and having Tails as a playable character in Sonic and Knuckles.

Happy 20th Birthday Sonic!: A Retro Lookback

But most importantly with the inclusion of two sets of Chaos Emeralds (the second set being dubbed “Super Emeralds”) came the ability to unlock Hyper Sonic (and Hyper Tails and Hyper Knuckles, too)!

Yes, for when the player collects all of the Chaos Emeralds in Sonic 3, then all Super Emeralds in Sonic and Knuckles, they are granted the awesome power of Hyper Sonic. Hyper Sonic quickly shifts colours, can move at unbelievable speeds, is totally invulnerable and when he double-jumps everything on the screen explodes (I kid you not, it’s awesome!). It goes without saying that this is a real spectacle to watch and comes with a tremendous sense of achievement, standing out as the most memorable moment in Sonic history.

Looking Forward

For me, that was the all-time height of Sonic the Hedgehog’s time as a gaming icon. Sonic stood above all other characters as the coolest and the fastest mascot in videogames. On top of the Sonic game’s memorable locations, soundtracks and characters, he was also in the only game in the west with lock-on technology (this is what console players had before downloadable content, guys). Little did we know that Sonic would be facing one of the roughest transitions to 3D ever, but at the end of 1994 he was unbeatable.

Sadly, I am not going to go into his troublesome teenage years, the less said about games such as Sonic and the Black Knight and Sonic Heroes the better, but we will always remember him from way back in the good old days, when Mario could not even hold a candle to Super Sonic.

So here’s wishing our favourite blue dude the best for the future, SEGA seem to be starting to turn things around for him with Sonic 4 and Sonic Generations, so fingers crossed that he will get his long-awaited second coming and we can once again see Hyper Sonic explode onto our screens once again.