RetroVision – Lost In Translation: Meet Knuckles’ Chaotix

Knuckles’ Chaotix is one of the more unique entries within the 25 year history of the Sonic series. What’s more, this is true not only of the innovative dual character gameplay, but also when it comes to the game’s story. In fact it doesn’t even feature Sonic. Well, apart from within a guest cameo within the game’s good ending.

Instead, the game sees the ever popular red echidna Knuckles take the lead. I say lead, as he is also joined on his journey to stop Dr. Eggman by the eponymous team Chaotix. In fact, over the years Team Chaotix have become more well known than the game itself, and in many ways only add to the unique nature of Knuckles’ Chaotix.

Meet Knuckles’ Chaotix

Knuckles Chaotix Start Screen

Made up of Espio the Chameleon, Charmy Bee, Vector the Crocodile, and Mighty the Armadillo, Team Chaotix came at a time when fans were clamouring for new Sonic characters. As such, Sonic Team introduced the eclectic mix of characters in order to breath new life into the franchise. They were also seemingly introduced in order to test new personalities, abilities, and ideas, only adding to the mystical charm of the title and its cast.

Nevertheless, despite members of Team Chaotix having gone on to star in other Sonic titles, such as Sonic Heroes and Sonic The Fighters, their origin story as found in Knuckles’ Chaotix, is still something very much up for debate. This is true not only with regard to the introduction of this electric team, but also in relation to the tale behind Knuckles’ first adventure as the lead protagonist. Ultimately, this is because the plot behind Knuckles’ Chaotix is something that differs drastically depending on which region you bought the game.

knuckles-chaotix-covers
Even within the original box art lies clues about the differing creative direction of the game’s storyline.

Yes, once again we have one of those lost in translation moments. One in which the original Japanese plot did not find itself present upon the game’s western launch, with an alternative vision for the game presented to the west. In fact, much like the naming of Tails, this is very much again a case of the differing creative visions of Sega of Japan and Sega of America.

Eggman & The Chaos Rings

So let’s start with the original Sonic Team developed Japanese story. Knuckles’ Chaotix, or simply Chaotix as it is known in Japan, begins right where Sonic 3 & Knuckles left off. You see, in the aftermath of Dr. Eggman’s defeat at the hands of Sonic in the Doomsday Zone, a mysterious island has now risen from the sea, just as the floating island has returned to the sky. What’s more, in a fortuitous stroke of luck, Eggman happens to be the first to discover this island following his descent back to Earth.

Once on the mysterious new island, Eggman uncovers a mysterious ring which describes a series of ancient rings known as the Chaos Rings. These rings are said to be infused with the power of the Chaos Emeralds, and as such allow Eggman a route back to power despite Sonic currently holding the Chaos Emeralds. Therefore, in order to locate these ancient artefacts, Eggman constructs a brand new base on the island known as the Newtrogic High Zone.

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Eggman is ever present in Knuckles’ Chaotix.

Nevertheless, despite being the first on scene, Eggman isn’t the one who’s curiosity has been piqued by this new island, as Team Chaotix have also head to the island to discover the mystery surrounding it. However, they aren’t prepared for Eggman, having never met him before. And this causes them to be swiftly captured by Eggman and a returning Metal Sonic, before being placed in Eggman’s Combi Catcher machine.

Luckily for the team though, there’s one more who has uncovered the mysterious island. That of course is Knuckles, someone who has recently become enlightened to the truth behind Eggman’s nefarious ways, having just helped Sonic defeat him. As such, curious as to its appearance, Knuckles heads to the island immediately, and upon arrival manages to rescue a trapped Espio. The two then of on to team up using the power of the ring bond in order to rescue the rest of Team Chaotix, and prevent Eggman from gaining control of the Chaos Rings.

metal-sonic-chaotix
Metal Sonic makes a welcome and managing return in Knuckles’ Chaotix.

Carnival Time

Sounds cool right? In fact, it sounds so good you have to question why Sega of America felt the need to change the story, especially given the way it ties into Sonic & Knuckles. Nevertheless, that’s what they did. And as such, let me present to you the completely unrecognisable alternative story given within the English manual.

The English story kicks off an with Knuckles being the guardian of a large hi-tech amusement park known as Carnival Island, alongside of the course the Floating Island. However, just like the Floating Island in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, this Carnival Island becomes a target for Dr. Robotnik. You see, in a similar fashion to Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Dr. Robotnik is looking to steal the Power Emerald that is used to power the island, so that he can instead power his evil contraptions.

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Whilst key to the original Japanese plot, the Chaos Rings aren’t mentioned in the English story. oddly though, whilst never being mentioned for explained, the player can still collect them in the English release.

What’s more, in doing this he also traps Vector, Mighty and Charmy who were all visiting the amusement park. He does this by using his Combi Confiner, and in the process freezes them in time. Fortunately for Espio though, Knuckles manages to interrupt Dr. Robotnik and save him.

In the course of saving Espio though, Knuckles also discovers an ability which can help him rescue all of the members of Team Chaotix one at a time. This ability is a power found within the rings, a power which can bind two partners together like an elastic band. As such, he sets of with Espio in order to save Carnival Island from Dr. Robotnik’s machinations.

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The game’s unique gameplay mechanic certainly takes some getting used to.

Forever Lost In Translation?

So what do you think? They’re certainly different aren’t they? In fact, there’s barely a trace of a connection between the two, outside of Team Chaotix debuting and Knuckles being the lead protagonist. What’s more, whereas the Japanese story nicely fits in with Sonic’s overall timeline, when it comes to the English plot, it’s very hard to tell when, or even if, this fits into the overall story of Sonic the Hedgehog.

In some respects, these dual stories in some way symbolise the troubled Chaotix project as a whole, showing how Sega was more willing to experiment once Sonic and his legacy was taken out of the equation. Unfortunately though, regardless of the differing stories, thanks to the obscurity and rarity of not only the 32X, but the game itself, many have still never experienced this game. An issue further compounded by the fact that Sega have never re-released this rare title.

Either way though, if Sega do get round to re-releasing Knuckles’ Chaotix, and they definitely should, then let’s hope they stick to just the one story. Oh, and please make it the Japanese one.

Simon Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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