There are 3 playable characters in Sonic 3 (and Knuckles). Each has a unique signature ability with different strengths and weaknesses that result in a different playing experience. Let's start by examining those abilities in detail. Character: Sonic Ability: Insta-Shield Use: By pressing the jump button during any jump Reset: Once per jump Cancel: N/A Effect: Causes a brief moment of invincibility against all forms of damage Effect: Increases range of Spin Jump, allowing it to affect enemies from slightly further away, and thus penetrate certain enemy resistances to Spin Jump Note: With an Elemental Shield on, Insta-Shield is disabled and replaced by the Elemental Shield's Active effect (which only Sonic can use) Comment: It's like Sonic's real ability is having 4 different ones. Character: Tails Ability: Fly Use: By tapping a jump button Reset: Every time Tails is hit or touches the ground Cancel: Cannot be canceled once it's initiated except by being hit or touching ground Effect: Able to carry Sonic during flight or just fly around alone, for up to about 8 seconds, after which time Tails will quickly descend Effect: Hitting an enemy by flying into them from below causes damage, with rebound Note: If underwater, Tails will swim instead but while swimming Tails can't carry Sonic or damage enemies from below Comment: Mainly only useful for bypassing platforming sections and avoiding death by enemies/drowning, ineffective and impractical to use offensively Character: Knuckles Ability: Glide Use: By pressing and holding the jump button during any jump Reset: Once per jump Cancel: Taking damage cancels the glide and causes knockback, automatic cancellation and rebound against bosses Cancel: Releasing the jump button will instantly cancel the Glide, causing Knuckles to drop straight down and briefly pause (crouch) upon landing Effect: Steadily descend through the air while moving forward at near running speed Effect: Damages enemies and reflects projectiles from the front without interrupting the glide or momentum Effect: Gliding into or attempting to glide while touching most walls will cause Knuckles to grab onto the wall which he can then climb up or down Note: Spin jumping onto an enemy/monitor and activating Glide just as Knuckles makes contact will launch him high into the air Note: Since Knuckles always crouches when Glide is canceled manually, it's sometimes possible to quickly perform a spin dash even on steep slopes Comment: Instant acceleration/deceleration make it a lot like a slower but more controllable super spin dash Next, let's take a quick look at the Elemental Shields: Type: Fire Active: Jump horizontally Passive: Immune to fire Note: Canceled by water Type: Lightning Active: Jump vertically Passive: Attract nearby power rings Note: Canceled by water and taking damage Type: Water Active: Jump straight down with rebound Passive: Breathe underwater Note: Canceled by taking damage So far we've looked at what we already know about the various abilities and shields. Now it's time to get a little bit more subjective. If anyone is still interested, I'd like to encourage you to weigh in with your thoughts and opinions about what all of the above means for the gameplay experience with the different characters. I'll start by submitting my own observations below. I'll admit I'm somewhat biased as Sonic is my favorite character. He feels powerful and untouchable, better able to race through levels destroying everything in his path than the other characters. With the E. Shields at his disposal, it's really like he has 4 signature abilities. Except that he can only use 1 at a time, and most of them are inherently unreliable to the extent that they're dependent on having an E. Shield, which depends on which level is being played and whether or not any E. Shield monitors have been reached yet. Plus, there's always a chance of getting hit and losing the shield at any time. This unpredictable nature can be mitigated substantially by skill and experience, however. Overall, Sonic probably has the greatest fun factor, versatility (he can do a lot of stuff), and offense of anyone despite the fact that he can't glide, climb, swim, or fly. No offense to Tails fans, but IMO Tails has the simplest ability and the most boring gameplay. Flying makes platforming easier and more forgiving than for anyone else, and also gives him the greatest survivability underwater and in boss fights. However, flying is really the only thing he can do for the whole game, and on top of that, it tends to slowdown the action when he does. He has the most raw mobility, but he's seriously lacking in utility and offense compared to Sonic and Knuckles. In a way, he's kind of hard to play in that his weakness in other areas helps offset the helpfulness of Fly. Still, if Sonic 3 had a difficulty setting, playing as Tails would be like playing on easy mode. Knuckles has good mobility, partially due to his excellent utility (the stuff he can do, is useful in a lot of ways), and he has great handling/control. Glide adds a little bit of improvement to a lot of different attributes. As we all know he can't jump as high as Sonic and Tails, and I don't think he can run quite as fast, and he seems to be slightly more heavy in general. His campaign is also shorter and consists of more difficult boss battles, so I'm not sure whether this makes it harder or easier to complete the game with him. I'd really like to think more about the idea of skill floors/ceilings for each character too. And I haven't even mentioned transformations. Perhaps a chart is in order to illustrate more clearly what I mean? IDK, anyway I might think of more to say in a later post but for now this is all I can do as writing this has slowly turned my brain to mush and I need to stop now.