Sonic and the Black Knight
As predictable as it may be, no Sonic review these days is complete without an introduction bemoaning the current state of this once great series. It has now been 10 years since SEGA launched Sonic Adventure onto the world, amid the developer’s unconvincing battle cry that it would be the “best game ever” and provide the much-needed sales boost Dreamcast would have appreciated at the time. Back then this writer had nothing but cynicism for SEGA’s pre-release hype, driven in part by an ingrained Nintendo fanboyism, but largely because in the preceding 24 months both Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time had utterly redefined the design possibilities for taking beloved characters into a third-dimension.
Sonic Adventure was neither the world-beater SEGA had hoped for, nor was it Dreamcast’s initial death-knell (it remains the console’s biggest-selling game in the U.S.) – with the benefit of hindsight it was instead the first sign that everyone’s favourite blue and white hedgehog was flailing to keep up with the rapid rate of change in the industry. In the ensuing decade only a handful of Sonic titles have arguably managed to retain some of the brand’s respectability (and even they were far from perfect): Sonic Rush on the DS, the recent Sonic Unleashed and the first Wii title, Sonic and the Secret Rings.
Sonic and the Black Knight is the follow-up to Secret Rings, and the second in what has now been christened the Storybook series. Where that first game focused on the Arabian Nights, Black Knight takes the legend of King Arthur and his round table for inspiration. The medieval setting is a quantum leap from the world of Dr. Robotnik and pinball machines; here Excalibur talks, Tails has found work as a blacksmith, while Shadow and co are all armour-wearing knights. Not only this, but the bizarre story appears to act as a flimsy device/handy pretext for the introduction of swordplay. It’s a traditionalist’s nightmare.
The sword that Sonic carries with him at all times is a cheap use of the Wii’s unique controls. The poor response times and very limited move set lead us to believe that the feature only exists because Sonic Team think giving the player another reason to shake the remote adds a layer of immersion; it doesn’t, it just makes the experience that more annoying.
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