Nintendo has always been known for being ahead of the times, trying new and unique things and attempting to go against the grain when it comes to the video game industry, Not everything they have tried over the years has been successful or revolutionary, but they never stop trying to change the game, one invention at a time. Sometimes their ideas are just complete and utter failures, while other times they are just way ahead of the time, and years after an idea "fails," it somehow works out eventually (see 3D technology from the Virtual Boy to the 3DS).
And sometimes, their crazy ideas work out, and are exponentially better than predicted or expected to be, which force competitors to take note and try to capitalize on the success of what Nintendo is bringing to the table. Take for example motion controls, which everyone laughed at and mocked, until the Wii became one of the most successful consoles of all time, mainly because of the motion controllers and Wii Sports.
Now days, Nintendo is constantly trying to reinvent themselves along with the wheel at the same time, mainly because they are trying to stay relevant in the gaming landscape next to the two titans of the industry, Microsoft and Sony. Back in the day, however, the competition was a little less stressful. Sega was winning the market share at one point, sure, but the market was clearly big enough for both companies to co-exist without running the other out of town. Nintendo decided early on that their main focus would be games and the first party titles, while Sega was the company determined to be different and revolutionary. Part of this thinking and business strategy is where the idea for Sonic and Knuckles came from.
Sonic & Knuckles, for the Sega Genesis, incorporated what Sega called "lock-on technology," which acted as an expansion pack for Sonic 2 and 3. All you had to do was stick the cartridges for either one of those games into the game/expansion pack. By doing this, you can play as Knuckles in those games, alternating the gameplay dramatically and opening up unseen and unexplored areas of those games. It was a cool idea, but unfortunately not one that ever really caught on past this trial run of games. Sure, expansion packs continued on, but not quite in the same way, where other games could be combined to practically make new games out of it.
I never played this as a kid, and quite frankly, never knew about this "lock-on technology" until much, much later in life. The Sega friends I had never had this game, from what I remember. Either that, or I wasn't friends with them anymore when it came out. Either way, it wasn't until it was released on the Wii's Virtual Console that I finally got to play it. I enjoyed it then, but I still wasn't unlocking the full potential of the game. You see, if Sonic 2 or 3 are downloaded on the same account as Sonic & Knuckles, the special unlocked versions of the games are available just as if you were plugging them in to the expansion pack "lock-on technology" cartridge they used at the time.
Using Knuckles is just plain fun. Whether it's the Sonic & Knuckles game itself or the unlocked versions of other games, Knucklesis a fun character. He plays completely different than Sonic, and he is a nice counterpart character. Tails was okay to use, but people never really clamored to play as Tails. With Knuckles, however, he pretty much became a fan favorite and cemented his place in the Sonic universe in connection with Sonic for as long as the blue blur continues to run.
Competition breeds inspiration, motivation and a need for improvement. Without Sega being such a wrecking ball force, Nintendo might not have ever realized how important their first party titles would be in the long run. And without Nintendo, Sega might not have felt the immense pressure and need to do new and crazy things. If only they could look into the future and see the path they would continue to blaze going forward.
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