After the sublime Sonic 2 Sega decided to stick with the same tried and tested formula for the sequel – a move that disappointed many fans that hankered for an experience more akin to Nintendo’s groundbreaking Super Mario World.
Sonic 3, for all intents and purposes, is very much a continuation of the franchise; there’s not a lot of new elements here to be brutally frank, and many hardcore fans of the blue hedgehog still maintain that the second game (not to mention Sonic CD) is better than this third instalment.
That’s not to say Sonic 3 is without merit, however – it certainly retains the killer gameplay found in the previous titles and the introduction of Knuckles (his first outing in a Sonic game) adds something different to proceedings. Gameplay tweaks such as improved shield abilities and a save feature are also very welcome. The plot is also fleshed out more than usual.
Graphically, Sonic 3 has divided gamers for years. Many maintain that it’s one of the best looking 2D titles in the series while others feel it’s inferior to the gorgeous Sonic 2. I’m in the latter camp – the visuals are good but there’s something not quite right here. The main Sonic sprite has also been re-drawn and in my opinion looks much worse as a result; he appears dumpier. Plus, the game showcases the infamous ‘dotty’ textures that many Megadrive/Genesis games were sporting around this time.
If you’re a fan of the previous iterations then this will be a no-brainer – Sonic 3 certainly manages to offer more than its fair share of super-fast entertainment, but those of you that were unmoved by Sonic 1 & 2 should probably give this a miss – it’s not going to change your perception. It's a shame that Sega didn't take the chance to expand the remit of the series in the same way Nintendo did with Mario 3 and SMW, but Sonic 3 remains a worthy Virtual Console purchase.