Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is a 1994 platform video game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series for the Sega Genesis. It was developed by members of Sonic Team working at Sega Technical Institute, and was published by Sega. The game is a direct sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and follows the end of the game in which Sonic defeated his enemy, Dr. Robotnik. After crash-landing on a floating island, Sonic encounters a new character named 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 developed as a single game until time constraints and cartridge costs forced them to be split into two interlocking parts.
After Sonic defeats Dr. Robotnik at the end of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, his space station, the Death Egg, crash-lands on a mystical floating landmass called Angel Island (or simply 'the Floating Island' as it's called in the game manual). As Dr. Robotnik begins to repair the damaged station, he meets up with Knuckles the Echidna, the last surviving member of an ancient civilization of Echidnas that once inhabited the island. He is also the guardian of the Master Emerald, which grants the island its levitation powers.
Knowing Sonic and Tails will try to track him down, and realizing he can use the Master Emerald to power the ship, Dr. Robotnik dupes Knuckles into believing Sonic is trying to steal his Emerald. Shortly after, Sonic and Tails in their biplane, the Tornado, are in search of Dr. Robotnik. Sonic, possessing the emeralds from the events of Sonic 2, then turns into Super Sonic. As soon as they arrive, Knuckles ambushes Sonic from underground and knocks the Chaos Emeralds from him, returning him to normal. Knuckles steals the Emeralds and disappears inland. As Sonic and Tails travel through the levels, they encounter Knuckles in almost every level, hindering their progress.
In the last level, the Launch Base Zone, the Death Egg launches off for the second time, knocking Knuckles off a pole and sending him plummeting into the water. Sonic travels to a platform on the Death Egg, fights, and defeats Robotnik for the last time. The Death Egg is seen damaged and falling after Robotnik's defeat, after which it crashes back onto Angel Island- leading into the second half of the story in Sonic & Knuckles.
Sonic 3 improves on the gameplay of previous Sonic titles, in which players collect rings and spin their way through six zones in order to defeat Dr. Robotnik. Like the previous game in the series, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, players can choose to play as either Sonic or Tails, or have Sonic paired with Tails, who can be controlled either by the computer or a second player. Each of the six zones consist of two acts, each with a boss at the end. At the end of every first act boss, players can hit a falling panel to earn points before it hits the ground, where it may sometimes bounce to reveal item monitors. New to the series is the ability to save your progress, with players able to resume their game from the last zone played. If the player clears the game, they can start from any level from their save file.
Characters now have unique abilities, performed by pressing the jump button a second time while in mid-air. Sonic can perform a split second 'shield' move that provides both burst of protection and expands his attack range. Tails has the ability to fly in the air or swim underwater for a short amount of time before he gets tired and comes back down, allowing him to explore areas Sonic cannot. While flying, his tails can be used to attack enemies. Additionally, if a second player controls Tails, they can carry Sonic while flying. The standard shields from the previous games are replaced by three new elemental shields that can all protect the user from energy weapons without breaking, and when used by Sonic, feature new abilities that replace his Insta-Shield move until he takes damage. The Fire Shield protects the player from heat-based hazards like flames or magma and allows Sonic to perform a midair 'Fireball Spin Dash' that launches him forward to extend his jumps or to attack enemies, but will extinguish upon touching water. The Lightning Shield protects the player from electricity, attracts nearby rings like a magnet and allows Sonic to perform an additional jump in mid-air, but will short out on contact with water. Finally, the Bubble Shield allows its user to breathe whilst underwater, stays with the user even after being submerged unlike the other two Shields, and lets Sonic bounce on the ground like a Basketball to reach higher areas and stomp on enemies directly below him. Hitting Star Post checkpoints while possessing 50 or more rings allows the player to access a bonus stage, in which players bounce around a gumball machine that dispenses items like shields, rings, and extra lives.
Special Stages can be entered by finding giant rings hidden throughout each stage. In these stages, players navigate a three-dimensional space where the goal is to collect all the blue spheres in the level without touching any red ones. Collecting blue spheres transforms them into red ones, but if a player goes around the edge of a group of blue spheres at least 3x3 in size, all the spheres in that group will transform into rings, which can earn continues if enough are collected; there are also bumper spheres that bounce the player backwards. Successfully completing these Special Stages earns the player a Chaos Emerald, which enables players to access the good ending if all seven are collected. Additionally, if Sonic collects all seven emeralds, he can transform into Super Sonic after collecting at least 50 rings. Additional emeralds known as Super Emeralds can be obtained if the game is locked on with Sonic & Knuckles, which enable Sonic and Tails to become Hyper Sonic and Super Tails with unique abilities.
Competition Mode is a competitive mode in which two players, playing as either Sonic, Tails or Knuckles, race against each other through five laps on an endless level, unrelated to the levels played in the main game. During the game, players can collect items to either help themselves or hinder their opponent. There are three game types available: Grand Prix, in which all five tracks are playing continuously, Single Race, where a single track is chosen to race on, or Time Trial, a single player mode in which players try to clear the five laps in the quickest time possible.
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