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Knuckles’ Chaotix – Sega 32X

Knuckles’ Chaotix – Sega 32X

Knuckles'_Chaotix_CoverartPlatform: Sega 32X

Developer: Sonic Team / Sega AM7

Publisher: SegaProject Obscure

Release Date (NA): March, 1995

Genre: Platformer

Nerd Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed by Nerdberry

The absolute weirdest thing happened to me today… My Sega Genesis 32X decided to work! Albeit a little screwy at times, but it lasted long enough for me to play through Knuckles’ Chaotix for the first time since 1996. That’s right. For the first time in 2 decades I was able to get my 32X to go the distance without knuckles 5freezing. If you’re at all familiar with this mushroom addition to the Sega Genesis, then you know damn well that the little machine freezing is only half the battle. First you have to get it to even turn on, then you have to pray that it doesn’t freeze on you after an hour of gameplay. Truth be told, the 32X is a giant piece of crap, but there are a few games on it worth investing some time, and Knuckles’ Chaotix is one of them… sort of.

How could I be more ambiguous? “The system sucks but be sure to check out a game on the system that’s sort of good…?” Doesn’t make much sense, right? Well let me lay some backstory on you, talk some about the ups and downs of Knuckles’ Chaotix, and then we’ll figure out if it’s worth your time.

knuckles chaotix 6

With the Sonic series sort of running out of steam and the Sega Saturn just on the horizon, the 32X was released as a sort of stopgap to keep Sega’s main asset (Genesis) alive. But what good is a system without good games? A lesson Sega apparently didn’t learn when they released the Saturn, but anywho… Sonic Team released Knuckles’ Chaotix in March of 1995, a few short months after the release of the 32X itself. The sales of the 32X were underwhelming. In fact, they were abysmal considering the investment. But a few rare folks got their hands on the 32X at a low price of $20 in late 1995 when just about all of them were being liquidated. One of those rare persons was myself. And boy oh boy was I excited. I got Knuckles’ Chaotix, Motocross Championship, and Golf Magazine: 36 Great Holes starring Fred Couples (thanks mom. I love you for trying!). Being the obsessive Sonic fans that me and my friends were, we dove headfirst into Knuckles’ Chaotix with extreme vigor. We had some good times with it back then, but even as children we knew it wasn’t quite like a Sonic game.

While Sonic Team did an exceptional job making sure Knuckles’ Chaotix had the look of a Sonic game, the general “feel” of a Sonic game is abundantly absent. Knuckles’ Chaotix is a unique kind of game that requires the gamer to use a “buddy system” where they are constantly linked to their partner via a special ring (it’s more commonly referred to as a “rubber band” due to the elasticity between you and your partner). This creates an entirely new dynamic of gameplay that is refreshingly new for the series yet the execution is anything but spectacular.

knuckles 7

I love the way Sega thinks outside the box and forces new game features and styles onto its gamers because doing the same thing over and over again might be safe but it gets boring. Despite the statement I just made, I personally would have loved to have seen a more traditional Sonic game on the 32X as opposed to this weird rubber band buddy system type of game. When I think Sonic, I think, “fast, aggressive, oft-intricate stage layouts, top-notch graphics, vibrant colors, and truly superb music.” Unfortunately Sonic Team only got the graphics, colors, and music right and the rest falls flat on its face.

knuckles 1

With 5 total worlds (known as Attractions) and 5 acts in each attraction, variety is not the spice of life on Carnival Island, the place where this story takes place.

As is tradition, Dr. Robotnik finds the location of the Power Emerald which is used to power the amusement park on Carnival Island. The diabolical doctor plans to steal the Chaos Emerald and use it for his newest weapons. Dr. Robotnik traps many of Knuckles’ friends until Knuckles shows up and chases him off. Using the Ring Power, Knuckles and his friends work together to stop the Eggman before it’s too late.

Pretty standard Sonic story across the board except Sonic is absent from this shindig. Knuckles is badass enough to handle it on his own, so Sonic Team threw him in the fray. As I mentioned a moment ago, Sonic Team remained very faithful to the overall look of a Sonic game. The colors are extremely vibrant, perhaps a bit enhanced with the power of the 32X, but regardless… Very exciting and fun to look at. But it’s not all perfect. Something about the badniks (Dr. Robotnik’s evil minions) just don’t look and feel quite right. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but they don’t seem to separate from the background well enough and can be a bitch to spot at times. Hm, oh well. You learn to move around a little more cautiously because of it.

knuckles chaotix 9

The 32X was famous for its shitty sound chip, but when you direct your ears past the shitty sound renderings you’ll hear a marvelous soundtrack. The music is beyond great, instantly becoming a favorite of mine in the series as a whole. Masterfully composed and perfectly appropriate based on each Attraction’s settings, the music will have you bobbing your head for the entire 3 hour playthrough. But perhaps the best inclusion was the occasional hip-hop percussion segments in some of the songs which, if anybody remembers, was a standard Knuckles tune whenever he came onto the screen in Sonic the Hedgehog 3. The entire soundtrack is fun and energetic, perfectly setting the mood for your gaming experience and overall love for the Sonic franchise.

knuckles chaotix 8Despite great graphics, brilliant colors, and exciting music, Knuckles’ Chaotix is NOT a great game, especially considering that it’s supposed to live up to the hype of a Sonic game. The overall feel is odd and weird, as I mentioned before. This whole rubber band and buddy system causes some serious slow-down in the gameplay itself. Not saying the framerate slows down or anything, but the pace of the game definitely slows down. By holding B, you can make your partner stand still allowing you to stretch the rubber band (ring) until it is completely taut. This takes about 5 to 7 seconds. Then you can release either the B button or the directional button (depending which way you’re trying to go) and you will both be catapulted. It’s a neat little trick but it really destroys the pacing of the game, something that the Sonic series prides itself on. Furthermore, the rubber band dynamics are overly difficult to master (if they can ever be mastered) globally resulting in poor gameplay mechanics.

The Special Stages are really neat, however, as they include some wacky 3D layouts that come out extremely well on kncukels 3the 32X. Instead of the traditional half-pipe special stage where you collect a certain number of rings to get your Chaos Emerald, here you have to collect blue spheres (like the ones in Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic 3) while going through this wacky hexagon pipe and the occasional open plain. Why is this neat? Because it’s so damn different. Hell, this could have been a game on its own with some more development. There are obstacles to avoid and quick-reaction maneuvers that are required to avoid pitfalls and more. It almost looks like this was originally some sort of beta-testing stage for another game that got scrapped and recycled into Knuckles’ Chaotix. But who cares? It’s fun in this game and boosts it up a notch.

knuckles 2

Overall, Knuckles’ Chaotix is exciting at times and truly frustrating and boring at others. While the stages might look fantastic with their vivid and lively colors, the actual layout of each stage is extremely confusing and tough as shit to navigate at times. While successfully having the look and sound of a true Sonic game, the feel of Sonic is wholly shattered and cast into oblivion. I’m not a fan of the rubber band system as it slows down gameplay and makes for some unnecessarily frustrating moments. The game has a nice polish to it, but for whatever reason, the final boss battle has a stage that looks almost incomplete! Did they run out of time? I know the 32X system was rushed to market, so I guess it’s possible. Moving on…

Knuckles’ Chaotix isn’t the worst and it isn’t the best. Perhaps expectations would have been considerably lower if this weren’t part of the Sonic Universe, but if that were the case, it’d be just another shitty 32X game that nobody bought, wouldn’t it?

Nerd Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed by Nerdberry

Full Circle

So, I told you this game was worth playing… sort of. Remember when I said that? Then I sit here and mostly bash the game for sucking ass. Did you notice that? So why do I recommend it? Because it is a piece of Sega history and a part of Sonic history. If you’re a fan of either, then this is a MUST PLAY. Even with all of the things that I hate about this game, I love the game because it’s Sonic! Furthermore, it is one of the better games for the 32X. It seemed to receive a lot more attention during development than many other 32X games. Although my nerd rating is fairly low, that is simply due to me checking my bias at the door. Knuckles’ Chaotix isn’t a great game. But it is nostalgic for me and could possibly bring back great 16-bit (32x-bit?) memories for you. Give it a shot. I’m sure it can be emulated somewhere… Because playing on the 32X is not a great option.

Trivia

  • Knuckles’ Chaotix is also famous for introducing a number of now-popular Sonic Universe characters such as Espio the Chameleon, Charmy Bee, and Vector the Crocodile. Although Mighty the Armadillo is a playable character, he technically debuted in the arcade game SegaSonic the Hedgehog and subsequently Knuckles’ Chaotix before disappearing along with SegaSonic co-star Ray the Flying Squirrel.
  • Amy Rose and Wechnia were originally planned to be playable characters in Knuckles’ Chaotix but failed to make the final cut.
  • Wechnia can be hacked into the game.
  • Originally Knuckles’ Chaotix was to be called Knuckles’ Ring Star.
  • The game’s roots can be traced back to Sonic Crackers, a Genesis prototype game.

 

Written by Nerdberry

Nerdberry

What’s up yall? David “Nerdberry” here! I am the founder of Nerd Bacon and the current co-owner (and CEO) along with partner David “theWatchman!” I hail from North Carolina, hence my love for all things pork! Oh, you’re not familiar with NC? Well I’m not 100% sure, but I am pretty confident that NC and VA lead the nation in pork production. I could be wrong, but even if I am, I still love bacon!

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