EXCLUSIVE: Sonic & Knuckles Rock the Rock Revisited with Chris Tang – Beating the Previous Record!

High Score is a new documentary series on Netflix charting the history of video games. While the whole series is recommended to SEGA fans, the fourth episode in particular is a must watch. The episode, titled “This is War”, covers the console wars of SEGA’s push to outsell Nintendo in the United States. SEGA all-stars, and friends to the site, Tom Kalinske (former President and CEO of SEGA of America) and game designer and gaming tournament champion Chris Tang are featured in the episode. Chris is known best to Sonic fans as the winner of SEGA and MTV’s Rock the Rock competition in 1994.

Following the Netflix series debut, I got to talking to Chris and he revealed to me that the production of the documentary prompted him to revisit Sonic & Knuckles and redo the Rock the Rock’s finals competition run. The rules being collect the most rings in Launch Base Zone in 3 minutes as Knuckles. Chris, always the competitor, wanted to go up against himself and see if his current skills and abilities could outdo his previous win. After a day of practice, Chris fired up his recording devices and recorded this run that we are proud to debut exclusively here at SEGAbits!

The video above features Chris’s new run, and if you want to avoid spoilers why not give the video a watch and then continue reading. Back? Okay, so as you saw above Chris shattered his original competition winning run. The original run saw Chris collecting 153 rings in 3 minutes, and his new run saw 274 collected in that same time! Chris tells me he used no guides or external resources. He did not use emulation or any TAS methods, because in his words “that would have been cheating or impossible under the tournament conditions.”

SEGAbits: How does the planning for a competition with a specific goal, like collecting items, differ from a speed run? Which is more difficult?

Chris Tang: For these major platform holder’s competitions, the games and rule sets weren’t always something you could properly practice for. In the NWC, the competition cartridge was different from the normal games and Sonic and Knuckles wasn’t released when Rock the Rock happened – so its a valuable skill to be able to adapt on-the-fly and learn what you need to on-site or in the heat of the moment. Sometimes rules, goals or what level you’ll need to play on won’t be known till right before you have to play. Because many of these rule sets require you to outdo opponents in real-time, you need to manage your risks and pushing your limits based on that, which makes it very different from a speed run. If you play too risky, a mistake could kick you out of an elimination round and that will end your run and participation.

Also, in those those live competitive events, you didn’t want to reveal your strategies to the other contestants since they might be able to use it against you – and that’s one big difference I see in what we did as competitors versus the sharing of information to improve speedrun records in the present day. What the two types of play share in common is that you’re trying to squeeze as much perfection as possible within your limits, and the game’s limits.

The higher stakes of live competition, having to adapt to changing rule sets, having to throttle risk-management against opponents, and the one-shot nature of each potentially eliminating round – is what I feel would make it harder than speedrunning.

SEGAbits: What advice would you give to gamers who want to beat their own records?

Chris Tang: Always take videos and take notes on your performance; recognize time checkpoints and scores at key points in your runs. Sometimes tightening timings and spacings in one area will let you take advantage of the time or resources somewhere else that you might not have thought possible previously.

Look for possibilities that are scary but might just be possible. In some cases I would try to do something super dangerous that no other player would try to do – and then get really good at it; once I could do it consistently I felt a lot more comfortable about my routine or pattern becoming unbeatable.

Chris also told me: ” I wanted to challenge myself to see how much better I could do now, as a gamer, and I’m pretty proud of the result.” Chris even mapped his original run and his new run, both for the benefit of those who view his revisited run and for the Netflix producers who opted not to use the maps for the program.

1994 Map Pattern:

View Full Size

2019 Map Pattern:

View Full Size

View the direct feed video below:

And here is the full Rock the Rock television special from 1994:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *