28 Years Later, I’ve Finally Finished Sonic 3

The original Sonic games remain some of my favorites of all time. It's why every time they are bundled together and resold on a new platform, I'm the first in line throwing my money at Sega. Despite some of the bad things being said about it, Sonic Origins has been no different. In fact, right before I started writing this, I finished the game's story mode. Four titles – or five if you consider Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles two different games – stitched together for a new generation. Or, you know, an old generation that has played the games a thousand times before but will forever jump at the chance to play them again.

Origins allowed me to experience the original Sonic games like I had never experienced them before, but not for the reasons you might think. Yes, speed dashing from one game into the next was pretty neat, but that was only one of the new things Origins allowed me to do in some of my favorite games of all time. That's because, even though I claim the titles to be among my favorite games of all time, that label really only applies to Sonic and Sonic 2.

That's because five-year-old me was unable to complete Sonic 3. Turns out I wasn't even close. Sonic 2 was my absolute favorite game, and by the time I was old enough to have a console of my own, it had already been on the market for a couple of years. Sonic 3 was really the first big video game launch of my life. A sequel I was very excited about when my best friend's dad told told me about it. Then, when I finally got my hands on it, I played through the first three zones and cast it to one side.

I don't know how or why, but for seven years, I repressed the memory of whatever it was that put me off Sonic 3. It also seemed to sully my opinion of the series in general as I treated Sonic & Knuckles the same way, likely because the it and 3 were designed to be played together. Then, in 2002, the Sonic Mega Collection launched on PS2. Whatever memory I repressed was buried so deep, it didn't even occur to me as I requested the collection for my 13th birthday. I played through the first two games, dabbled with Sonic Spinball, even fired up the Mean Bean Machine. Then I played Sonic 3, blissful in the ignorance that I thought I had simply forgotten what comes after Carnival Night Zone.

Then it happened. The moment in that aforementioned level that stumped me as a five-year-old, and despite having eight more years of video game experience, I was stumped again. The level is filled with rotating red and white barrels that move up and down when you jump on them. Time your jumps well enough and the barrels will fire you up into the air. There was one barrel, though, that I couldn't figure out. I spent hours (literally) jumping up and down, but no matter how well I timed Sonic's jumps, I would always fall short of the ledge I thought I need to reach.

The internet was a thing in 2002, of course, but not to the same extent it is today. In fact I didn't have internet access at home at that point in time. The only opportunity I had to surf the web was during IT lessons at school, and even if it had occurred to me to look up how to progress past Carnival Night Zone, my IT teacher would have been on me like a shot. That's if the site wasn't already blocked anyway. Not to mention, in a time before game guides were readily available, it just wouldn't have crossed my mind to research a problem I assumed no one else in the world was struggling with.

That all led to me leaving Sonic 3 behind for a second time, and while getting stuck in the same spot for a second time seven years later played on my mind less and less as time passed, I didn't forget about it entirely like I did the first time. Then, well over a decade later, it happened. I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw a 3D recreation of that moment. The rotating barrel in Sonic 3, still spinning, music playing, but not the blue blur standing on top of it. Instead, the artist who created it – I wish I could remember who it was – had added Sonic's skeleton, complete with fast boots, representing that they too had reached the same point in Sonic 3 and never made it further.

Eager to find out just how widespread the issue was, a quick Google search revealed it wasn't just me. Far from it. 20 years prior, hundreds, maybe even thousands of Sonic 3 players had been stumped by the very same thing. That in turn led me to the solution, a short video that made me feel incredibly silly. Turns out you don't need to jump to make the barrels move up and down. You simply need to stand on them and hold up, then down, then up, and so on until it is moving so much that you can reach your destination. It also wasn't the ledge I had been striving to reach years before that leads to the rest of the game. You need to get the momentum going to such a point that you jump off underneath the barrel's starting point and continue on.

I didn't get the chance to put this to the test myself until Origins launched last month. Needless to say I loved playing through the first two games again, and Sonic CD for the first time, but my excitement peaked when I finally reached Carnival Night Zone, even if the music wasn't the same. I got to that point, still filled with an irrational fear that I would get stuck for a third time, and I finally did it. It took me seconds. An area of a game I had probably spent more time in than any other in my life to no avail, and equipped with the right knowledge, it was something I moved past almost immediately.

That meant I was able to experience the rest of Sonic 3 for the first time. I now understand that the snowboarding scene in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was an homage to Ice Cap Zone. I got to play through what is a terrific final boss. The rest of the game I had been so excited for in 1994 finally paying off. That led me onto Sonic & Knuckles which I was now able to enjoy, safe in the knowledge that everything that had come before it had been dealt with. My 28 year journey was over, and it will likely be an issue in video games that is lost to history. Now if we get stuck in a game, even if it has only been out for a matter of hours, there will likely be a solution online. A blessing for sure, but on the other hand, had I not been at loss for how to progress in Sonic 3 for so long, perhaps I would be nitpicking all of the issues others have found with Origins and not enjoyed it nearly as much.

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