Knuckles’ Chaotix (Sega 32X) Review

Click here if you wish to visit the Knuckles’ Chaotix description page for screenshots and more information.

Review by The Every Gamer (February 2017)

Score: D-

   I finally get to review a game from the Sega 32X…and it’s hard to find this peripheral, in fact, the Sega Mega-CD was easier to find. Anyway, this was the final add-on for the Mega Drive, also known as Sega taking the Mega Drive to the back garden and doing an Old Yeller on it, then onto themselves. There are barely any games I know from this system other than Doom, Star Wars Arcade and some Spider-Man game, mostly because not a lot of games were released for the system. I mean, why spend around $150 on an add-on when I could save my money on a much better console like the PlayStation or the Sega Saturn? Well…there is one other game I know from this system, and it’s a Sonic game. Of course in order to sell a Sega console, you must have a Sonic game…though they pulled a Luigi’s Mansion and made a game starring one of Sonic’s friends, because of course that will work…right? Knuckles’ Chaotix (aka Chaotix) was developed by the Sonic Team, published by Sega, and released in 1995 worldwide.

   Oh, I remember this game, I didn’t have the game, but like everyone else, because this game has never been re-released for some reason, I played it on an emulator and I remember enjoying it. But will it still be enjoyable now that I’m older and wiser?

   Before I talk about this game, how about I talk about the beta for this game, Sonic Crackers (sometimes known as Sonic Stadium due to the ROM header containing the titles Sonic Studium). The beta is a Sega Mega Drive prototype game that pretty much has similar gameplay to what I’m reviewing today. Many people thought this was Sonic 4 or even a hoax; fortunately Sega did confirm that this was a prototype for a Sonic game that led to the development of Knuckles’ Chaotix.

   Now here’s where Sega were taking the mickey and changed the story for the Japanese and English versions, because the localisation team just wanted to do so. In the Japanese version, it’s set after the events of Sonic & Knuckles. An island has risen and Dr. Robotnik…oh, this is the Japanese story, so I really do need to call him Dr. Eggman…sigh…anyway, Eggman discovers the island and investigates it. He finds a magical ring, which has engravings of the Chaos Rings, which have been infused with the energy of the Chaos Emeralds. Eggman has a theory, what if he can use this to find the Master Emerald, the big green source of power he lost to Super Sonic in Sonic & Knuckles? …go to Angel Island, it might be there.

   The Chaotix Team, consisting of Mighty the Armadillo, Espio the Chameleon, Vector the Crocodile, and Charmy Bee enter the island, but they suddenly get kidnapped by Eggman and OH HEY, Metal Sonic is back. Eggman takes the captured team and freezes them. Knuckles arrives, rescues Espio, and they team up to defeat Eggman and save the others.

   Now for the English story. Instead of guarding the Master Emerald, Knuckles is guarding an amusement park, Carnival Island. But Dr. Eggman…oh wait, now I can say Robotnik again, thank goodness for that. Anyway, Robotnik arrives to try and find a Power Emerald, which is the source of power of the entire island, so he can use it for himself. The Chaotix Team enter the island, get kidnapped by Robotnik and Metal Sonic, Robotnik takes the captured team and freezes them in machines known as the Combi Confiner (I don’t know). Knuckles arrives and rescues Espio and they team up to defeat Robotnik and the Chaotix Team. But because plot, Knuckles gives Espio Ring Power, which they can pull like a rope. Seriously though, why isn’t Knuckles guarding the Master Emerald…but then again, this is the English story since the Japanese story feels more like a Sonic game in terms of continuity.

   So the game is a Sonic game…but there’s no Sonic in this game so you have Knuckles and his friends, but here’s the unique part of the game. You have an elastic bond, the Ring Power, where you’re tethered to one of the characters and you run around with that character. With this power, you can make your partner stay still and perform a sling-shot effect, or call for the character to where you are, though at the cost of rings.

   Each character has different abilities, Mighty the Armadillo is basically Sonic that can jump on walls, Espio the Chameleon can walk up walls and ceilings, Vector the Crocodile is like Mighty and Charmy Bee can fly. I recommend Charmy Bee and Espio the Chameleon as the game gets done quicker with them.

   Oh boy, this game isn’t good, I mean it’s not the worst game in the world, but I ended up getting bored with the entire experience, and here’s why:

5 Zones, 5 Acts?: Remember in the original Sonic games, most preferably Sonic 2 onwards, you played in 2 acts? Well there’s 5 acts in this title and this is one of the reasons why it gets boring overtime, though in the menu before you start a level it gets picked at random, so you’ll go to a different zone you haven’t beaten and not to the next act. However…

The Level Design: It’s awful, it’s way too spacious and there’s a lack of enemies, no bottomless pits, there’s barely any challenge to it apart from the bosses in act 5, and even then, they’re simple when you know what to do.

The Gameplay: Does this ring power feature work? Yes and a whole lot of NO! I mean you can use the slingshot to gain speed which is cool, and you can use a friend to gain some height to get to a higher platform, and you can jump up…it can be finicky, but it works. Ultimately, it’s the rubber band physics that are terrible, flawed, unpredictable, and unreliable. In some intense situations you swing around, sometimes uncontrollably. Heck, what happened to the spin-dash, it’s useless now, but I guess that was done so give you more incentive to use the slingshot dash which you can’t always control if you want to go vertically.

Controlling two characters: Playable characters do have their own mechanics which is great, but the problem is, you mostly control one character and have little control over the other, so if you want to jump on a bounce pad, you won’t go far due to the other character probably not being well programmed to bounce too, so you bounce higher than the other character or you bounce and then the other character bounces and it can sometimes get messy. Basically, the simplest things that you do in a normal Sonic game have become overly complicated in Chaotix.

Clipping: Yep, there are clipping issues, for those who don’t know, clipping is where a character or an item collides with something and sometimes it may go through it. Anything can happen with this, but the worst case scenario is that you can get stuck on something and your partner can indeed get stuck. I mean sure, you can use the call feature and your friend can revert back to you…at the cost of rings you didn’t want to waste… OH THAT WAS A STUPID IDEA!

How great is thy art?: I wrote an article on how I hated the level design for Sonic CD, because it had a bit too much going on, too colourful and no balance. With this game, I know it’s set in a carnival island, but looking at this it’s less of an eye-sore in comparison to Sonic CD. There are times that can be the case again, but moreover the fact that they get dull and the level design barely changes, which again adds to the boredom.

Do I go here or there?: The level design is so bad and so samey that I sometimes get lost, I never know where to go half the time and it can get annoying, I mean I do eventually get to the goal, but not without pain and suffering and tears. I guess they wanted to do a Sonic CD and let you explore, but 1. The levels aren’t interesting enough to explore, and 2. YOU HAVE A TIME LIMIT, do you really think I have time to explore when you give me a time limit, especially when I have 10 minutes to finish a level, ESPECIALLY when trying to find the exit in the first place!?

Some of the new power-ups and items: Whilst we get the same item boxes from the other Sonic games, we do get new ones and…these are pointless, like the Partner Change which will change your partner to someone else, possibly to freshen the experience, but I picked my character, please leave me be, game. Swap Partners will switch characters, so you’ll play as your partner and the partner will play as you and vice versa, again, I picked my character, PLEASE LEAVE ME BE! And then there’s the Shrink/Grow boxes, which will cause one of you to either shrink or grow depending on what box you picked. Now to be honest, grow isn’t too bad but it’s shrink I absolutely despise, you shrink and you’re unable to jump that well, this really kills the pacing of the game for a short period of time, they’re a waste of existence and are only there to hinder you, IT’S SO STUPID!!!

   Are there any positives? Well when you can gain speed, it’s really fast and I like it, even if half the time it can be pointless eventually. The graphics do look fantastic and there are some 32-bit show-off moments that I do enjoy. There is one item that I do like and that’s the Combi Ring, so you’ve collected 100 rings for example and you get this item, so if you get hit, this shiny ring will pop out and you got one last chance to collect it, you get your 100 rings back without them flying all over the place, I really wish this was implemented in other games…well they have kind of but not to this degree, which is a shame.

   The music is really good, the added hardware has led to some fantastic music, it’s not my favourite soundtrack in the Sonic series, but they’re a good listen to.

   Oh, and finally, we have the extra stages, two to be exact. The Bonus Stage consists of getting 20 rings to access them, they’re big rings hidden at random areas of the game and you can jump in them like Sonic 3 & Knuckles. You basically free-fall and collect rings and all sorts of items like the Slow Level Select, where the stage select screen will move slowly, there’s other obstacles and all, but the downside to this is that I lose rings doing this stage…WHERE’S THE LOGIC IN THAT? This is a bonus stage, I should to be rewarded with stuff, don’t reward me at the cost of my rings; this Bonus Stage is the video game equivalent of Las Vegas, the cheaters, the ones who make up all the rules always win and you come out with the bare minimum or the worst ever case scenario: nothing. It’s a waste of time and it’s one of those areas I may jump in by accident and try everything to exit before I lose my rings.

   The second extra stage type is The Special Stages. These stages are fully rendered hexagonal 3D courses where you have to collect a set number of blue balls to get Chaos Rings…heh…blue balls. These stages are OK, but sometimes perspectives due to poor draw distance can be annoying. Sometimes a blue ball will be at the ceiling and you try to go up to reach it, but you miss it. It’s very flawed and nothing like Sonic 3 & Knuckles’ special stages. So what’s the reward for finding the Chaos Rings? A good ending, and it sucks as much as the bad ending…there’s no point to anything in this game is there?

   Overall, Knuckles’ Chaotix is a mixed bag of frustration…kind of. It’s not the worst game ever made, but there’s so much wrong with it to the point where I wouldn’t ever touch it again. I didn’t have fun with it, but I guess it could have had potential if the physics were tweaked correctly, but it wasn’t, it was made for the Sega 32X, Sega knew it was flawed and they’re trying to bury it as best as possible, along with Sonic 06. Again, it isn’t the worst, but I just don’t like it. And sadly, this was Mighty’s only appearance on a console…an add-on even, he died along with the 32X, what a shame.

Rating: 2.5/5

You can get Knuckles Chaotix on the Sega 32X.

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