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May 1, 2020

Sonic Month: Sonic and the Black Knight (Part 3)

Part 1Part 2Part 3

The plot has been covered, and I discussed most of the missions. Is there anything else to talk about? Oh, enough for a Part 3, don’t worry.

Just because the adventure is over doesn't mean the
adventure is over!

And sometimes, you get a lot of items.
I finished Part 2 talking about the weapons crafted at the Blacksmith’s shop, and I have more to say here. So! 33 weapons to craft, all of which are made using items found in the levels after identification. Problem one, here, would be that you need to identify each item, and you are very likely to be unable to identify every item obtained at the end of every level, since you need identification points to do that. Some items that can be equipped increase the number of identification points, others decrease the number of points required for a category of items, but it might not always be enough – and also, you frequently get the same items over and over.

What’s more, the crafting screen only shows which items that you've already collected before are needed to craft a weapon. Any item you haven’t discovered yet will be hidden under ????????. Good luck finding them! As for items you have discovered, neither the Treasury nor the crafting screen tell you where you got them originally. So, unless you keep a list of where you find what, from the start of the game (before you even know you can craft weapons), or look up that information from the Sonic News Network wiki, good luck figuring out how to craft everything.

Also, each Knight has its associated Medal, which is earned by beating that Knight for the main plot and getting a good score in that fight. To craft a Knight’s best weapon, you need both Medals earned from these battles. As an example, to craft Sir Lancelot’s Ddraig Goch, you need two Medals of Lancelot plus other materials. I hope you’re good at complex sword dueling.

Pictured: "Complex" sword dueling.

There’s a lot more missions in the single-player campaign, several of which I haven’t covered, but then again, I don’t really need to – most of the postgame missions have a minigame-like feel to them, and there's enough variety to keep a player interested. The actual place for "minigames" here is the Battle Mode.

Shadow VS Lancelot: Someone's a faker here!
Sonic and the Secret Rings had a full-on Mario Party section with mini-games, various modes, and lots of fun to be had. Sonic and the Black Knight trades it for a Battle Mode without a lot of flavor to it. Sure, it can be pretty fun, but it’s overall somewhat bland. First issue; it’s multiplayer-only. You need to be two players or more, as there are no options to add CPU battlers to a game; no playing by yourself! Second issue; there are seven arenas to play in, but the only changes are cosmetic. All stages are a bland ol’ square the battlers fight in.

Now, the first plus: There are 12 playable characters, 8 of which can be unlocked in the Story Mode. The base 4 are Sonic, Sir Lancelot, Sir Gawain and Sir Percival. The other ones are the Blacksmith, Amy, Sir Lamorak, Sir Galahad, Shadow, Knuckles, Blaze, and King Arthur (the only non-Mobian character available in that mode). Most of them are unlocked through the Story Mode. I mentioned the plot had room only for three Knights of the Round Table? Well, this mode adds Lamorak (portrayed by Jet the Hawk) and Galahad (portrayed by Silver the Hedgehog). The only two characters who are tricky to unlock are Sir Lamorak and King Arthur. Personally, I find it hilarious that the Knights get to exist in this world alongside the original Mobians – Lancelot and Shadow, Gawain and Knuckles, Percival and Blaze. Shouldn’t that create some sort of paradox?

Second element to discuss: There isn’t much variety in stages, but there’s a lot of modes to play in. Character usually start with Rings, a full Soul Gauge, and sometimes three lives represented as Hearts. A character loses a Heart if they’re hurt while they carry zero Rings. Some of these parameters can be edited before the  match, based on the type of match. All modes have a timer, and the match ends either when the battle’s goal has been reached or the timer hits zero. A quick description of the modes:
Sheesh, Arthur isn't playing around.
-Battle: No Hearts; the goal is to kill as many opponents as possible, so everyone has infinite Lives. The player with the most kills at the end of the timer wins.
-Survival Battle: Everyone has only one Life/Heart. Last player standing wins.
-Ring Battle: Bags of Rings fall on the arena once in a while; players must collect them, and the character with the most rings at the end wins. However! Characters can still attack each other to take rings away from someone’s stash. Also, some bags are explosive traps…
-Goblet Battle: Holy Grail Batman! It’s a chase for the Goblet that’s moving around the Arena. The player who catches it must keep it as long as possible, while the others try to attack them to steal it. At the end, whoever kept the Goblet the longest is the winner.
Aaaaaah! The ghost is chasing us!
-Evasion Battle: Opposite of Goblet Battle, and basically a game of Tag. An evil spirit targets someone, and that someone must bump into someone else to transfer the spirit. Whoever had the spirit the smallest amount of time (or avoided it entirely) wins.
-Trap Battle: The characters are separated by breakable blocks, and must hit the others by blowing up blocks, while they avoid getting caught in explosions themselves. The player with the most kills wins – and if a tie occurs, the winner is the one in the tie with the most Rings left.
-Battle Phantoms: Underworld Knights appear at intervals on the field, and the Knights must destroy them. When the timer hits zero, the victor is the one who killed the most monsters. Why, yes – it’s still possible to attack other players.
Oh, that's a giant alright. A giant pain in the ass!
-Sudden Death: No extra lives, no rings, no Soul Surges either; Last Man Standing is the champion. The timer is shorter, starting at 60 seconds, and a tie is possible if two characters still remain on the field when it hits zero.
-Battle Giants: A cooperative mode in which players work together to kill a Giant monster. If a player is captured, the others must attack the monster to free that player. The goal is to kill the Giant in the shortest amount of time.
-Battle 100: Monster knights appear in a constant stream, and for 120 seconds, the players must kill every monster they can. First player to kill 100 monsters wins. But careful; a player that gets defeated won’t return…

Many options, but they all end up feeling rather samey and bland. Ultimately, I do feel that the Battle Mode isn’t as impressive or interesting as the extra mode in Secret Rings, but at least it’s something extra to try out. I can’t complain about a game having more content than just a base single-player campaign.

Several more missions are available in Ranking Mode, though those existed mostly so one could compare their scores with other players by using the Wi-Fi Connection, the one that got terminated in 2014. There was also a way for different players who owned the game to trade Treasury items, likely to help each other complete the Treasury and craft weapons, all done by sharing Wii friend codes.

Is there anything else to be found in the game? Well, if you like extra challenges, try to complete the Gallery. It’s split in several sections. On several pages, most content has to be unlocked by getting 5 stars on a precise mission in the game.
-Developer data: This section shows development sketches and art from the game’s production.
All of the music!
-Movies: All the animated segments and movies from the story, as well as the credits. The third page of movies instead shows a skilled player’s techniques in order to get 5 stars on a mission. This is also where one can watch three movies of fan art made by fans in Europe, in North America, and in Japan – imagine being a Sonic fan and seeing your art make it into a Sonic game.
-Books: Consists of 10 character profiles. The last 5 are the Books of Arthur’s Legends, obtained as items to be identified after missions. Gathering all 5 unlocks King Arthur in Battle Mode.
-Music: The music track to each World in the game. The last one is harder to unlock, as it involves getting 7 items that are tough to find.
-Flags: Achievements that involve beating the Story Mode, using either Knight 10 times in Adventure Mode, mastering a Style, getting 25,000 followers, beating all missions, completing the Treasury, crafting all the weapons, and so on.
-Microphone: The Sound Test for the characters’ voices.

So that’s about it. Before I go on to my final words, something sounds odd about the game; it’s supposed to take place after Arthur became King, even though it’s a fake Arthur in this version, and now we’re following Merlin’s granddaughter (by the way, I wonder if she sees time backwards too?), and the Knights of the Round Table are already a thing… Then there’s Sonic who’s the actual King Arthur, and the plot hinges on Merlina fearing that the Kingdom may come to an end someday. And this, even though there’s no Guinevere in sight in the entire game, yet it’s Lancelot and Guinevere going at it behind Arthur’s back that ends up causing the Kingdom’s downfall, implying whoever Arthur-Sonic ends up marrying and taking for Queen, it’s Lancelot-Shadow who can’t keep it in his pants and provokes the destruction of the Kingdom. Then Mordred, also not in the story, would end up killing Arthur, who is Sonic here... Ouch, my brain. It's like a weird fanfiction just waiting to happen.

Also, each game came with its mandatory
special, unique Super Form.
Wait, where was I going with that? Oh right! The Sonic Storybook series is really weird by design, and things don’t really mesh together too well in places. They go for interesting stories, even if they take huge liberties with the source material. To some extent, I understand. “Hey, I want Sonic with a sword!” “Now we just need a reason for that to be a thing!” This game, and Secret Rings, run more on pure awesomeness than any sort of logic, or at least any logic pertaining to the Storybooks they’re taking (very loose) inspiration from.

On one hand, this concept has little staying power and, while I do like both games (with a preference for Secret Rings), it feels like they’re best left to that era of the Sonic franchise, as Wii games. On the other hand, a silly base concept such as “Sonic ends up in famous, copyright-free tales” could have led to other ideas; on a poll held by SEGA, in which fans were asked what a third Sonic Storybook game could be about, the winning option was Greek mythology. Yeah, I can see that. The TVTropes page also brings Wonderland and the works of Jules Verne as possibilities; personally, I’d go for a world of classic fairy tales, and another taking inspiration from classic horror novels (Dracula, Frankenstein, Jekyll & Hyde, etc.).

Alas, the poor critical reception and lack of sales at the time nipped this idea in the bud. It was fun while it lasted. Thankfully, the games are better  regarded nowadays.

With this out of the way, my final words on the game itself: I used to be pretty indifferent to it, mostly because I kept thinking I had problems figuring out the swordplay mechanics. Turns out, I was just dumb – the game IS made in such a way that most levels utilize basic swordplay, while a handful of bosses require more complex sword-based gameplay to be learned. There’s still stuff I struggle with, but I understand it relatively well. I paid attention to the game and completed it much faster for this review; maybe I should have cared more the first time. Originally, I wondered why we collected so many useless items in the Treasury, what the differences were between the playable characters, why we could access the Blacksmith before every level. Like I said; I was dumb. Who would expect a crafting system in a Sonic game of all places? It’s unexpected, yes, but it’s at home in a game that tries to break some conventions of the franchise without straying too far from what we know. The overall game is a lot better when you take into account the entirety of its contents, though there’s a bit of a learning curve to it due to everything one needs to keep track of.

"Reminder: I can build deadly weapons out of
random pieces of junk. I'm just THAT awesome."
If it weren’t for the sword(s) and the crafting, it would feel like the usual Sonic fare; the speedy, rail-riding, enemy-killing action. A tad annoying that it’s on-rails, AKA there’s no free exploration and Sonic usually follows a single path, but understandable considering the nature of the game. Thankfully, the missions are varied and so are the environments, the secondary characters and the bosses are memorable, and the overall plot really helps in giving this world its own feel. Some missions are a tad annoying, but it's not a big issue. The music is good, thanks Crush 40, and the cutscenes are all quite nice, both the handful of animated ones and the many that are made of still images. No critiques on the overall look and feel of the game either, its all on point. For people who want to play further, the game has the optional challenge of getting 5 Mastery Stars on every mission, which unlocks a lot of bonus content in the Gallery.

And if the Wii takes a second to register your movement...
I found the solution: Avoid Wii remote QTEs as much
as possible.
As I mentioned before, one of my issues involves the quick-time events scattered through the game; you deal with them while performing acts of chivalry for townspeople and, most annoyingly, during boss fights. Not just QTEs, though; QTEs that involve slashing with the Wii remote. On top of having to do them on time, one movement too many or an accidental shake, and boom, you wasted your chance. I am not a fan of QTEs, especially how they’re used mid-cutscenes in most games, but I can definitely say a big, resounding NO to Wii remote motion QTEs. They’re even worse when they ask for perfect timing, as if a player could react to a split-second with a swing of their arm.

That's still not gonna replace the Lost Chilidog.
On to the Treasury, the Blacksmith, and crafting: I went on and on about the Identification Points, and how you receive items almost at random at the end of a level. The Blacksmith doesn’t tell you what you’re missing to craft a weapon; the Treasury doesn’t tell you where to find an item you’ve yet to find; several items use up Identification Points really quickly. And when the RNG is not on your side, there’s nothing you can do. Personal story: One item I’m missing in the treasury is a Rusty Dagger, necessary for several crafted weapons. I looked up online where to find the damn thing. I went through all the levels in the Deep Woods, Titanic Plains and Camelot Castle areas (which are the three areas where it can be found) and I Never. Found. One. Without a handy guide and a rabbit’s paw, good luck getting everything in the game. Some items are rarer or harder to find than a Rusty Dagger; some of them can be obtained in a single mission of a single area. And you’re not given a single clue, ever.

Percival going through the fire and flames, in style!

Also a shame that Lancelot, Percival and Gawain can’t be used in all areas, and are restricted to a few of them. As for the Battle Mode, it’s nice that it’s there, but it’s a bit on the bland side as far as multiplayer modes go. Some levels have annoying or unfair moments, and several missions suffer from the old “Missed the mark? Better start the whole level over” trope.

Would I recommend this game? Before playing through it again for this review, and actually caring for everything I do in it, I would have probably said no. It used to strike me as a forgettable game with annoying mechanics. With everything I learned by writing this review, and using all the gameplay mechanics the game has to offer, I can say it’s overall a good game with annoying moments at times, but the ride is fairly decent and worth the price of admission. I’ve warmed up to it.

And this concludes Sonic Month 2020! Let’s hope I don’t wait another 5 years until the next one.

April 27, 2020

Sonic Month: Sonic and the Black Knight (Part 2)

Part 1Part 2Part 3

"You better, I just sharpened you!" - Also said by Sonic.
When we left Part 1, Sonic had completed tasks given to him by Nimue, the Lady of the Lake. However, he felt compelled to help a child whose family had been taken by a dragon. In Crystal Cave, Sonic runs through the cave and defeats a ton of enemies. He also finds himself having to rescue townspeople trapped in magic crystals, by reflecting sunlight off of Caliburn to break the solid prisons. With the villagers freed (and yet no dragon in sight), Sonic returns to the child.

When you run so fast, your legs turn invisibleé
It turns out that this child had been Nimue in disguise, presenting another test to the hero. And Sonic made the right call by going out there to rescue everyone! Hah, and Caliburn wanted us to ignore this! Nimue goes on to explain that the only way to defeat Arthur’s scabbard-powered immortality is to gather the weapons of the Knights of the Round Table through defeat in duel, and combine them to Caliburn in order to get a sword powerful enough to undo the spell. That’s good, I’ve already defeated Lancelot and Gawain. And the only one left is Percival. Why only three? Either there was no room in the plot for the others, or the studio blew their budget and could only afford three. Yeah, that second one makes sense.

...Hey, don't you dare call me a Japanese Gardevoir!

Whoa, she's on fire!
I mean, it's Blaze, yes, but still...
This quest now takes us to the Molten Mine. After venturing through the burning lands, Sonic encounters Sir Percival. Never mind that the Knight is portrayed by Blaze, she’s a Sir. She fights well, and she uses her fire abilities to fend off Sonic, but she’s defeated. With this, she tries to toss herself in the lava below, but Sonic catches her in time. This victory, and the act of heroism that followed, finally make Caliburn acknowledge Sonic as a proper knight. A Sir, not a Knave, at last! Took him long enough! Now with the Knights’s three legendary blades collected, we meet with Merlina again. We might have just what’s needed to take down King Arthur, and this battle in Faraway Avalon will make history!

What is it with knights and suicide around here? Geez!

Watch out for incoming mine carts.
Beating Percival also unlocks the Cavalier and Paladin Styles, as well as a handful of extra missions that veer off more on the mini-game side of things. In one of them, Sonic runs through the Crystal Caves and must not come into contact with a single villager. Of course, this is the level where they’re every-freaking-where. Another one, in the Molten Mines, requires Sonic to spend the whole level grinding on rails, and jumping to avoid rolling minecarts. In both cases, it takes an insane amount of timing and precision, and the smallest mistake forces you to start the whole thing over. These two go from “Okay, cool, an interesting idea” to “God damn it, why did they make these so annoying?” in record time.

He tells me that I'm the one tor un away...
While HE is running away? Hypocrite, that Arthur!

The Epic (Final?) Showdown!
Past those, we can head to Avalon to fight Arthur. It’s a final boss fight alright, as Sonic has to use everything he learned in his journey. The real strategy is filling up the Soul Gauge to the maximum, usually by slashing the spheres of darkness Arthur drops back at him, then by catching up, and homing in on him to attack. Next comes a difficult and annoying QTE moment where Sonic must clash blades against Arthur, six times, which then opens him up for attacks. Slash, slash, slash, lather, rinse, repeat, until he’s defeated. After which, in a cutscene, Arthur begins to heal thanks to the scabbard, but Sonic sets the other legendary blades around him to end the magical process, then slashes him one last time. Boom, done! Roll credits! …Wait, really? That’s kind of sudden.

Okay, so the Adventure Mode was kind of on the short side all things considered, but I’m sure there’ll be a lot of postgame missions, definitely. Secret Rings did that, I expect the same. At the end, it had some annoying moments, but overall it wasn’t too terrible. So yeah, after long credits, we can check the Multiplayer option, since that’s another option. Or the Gallery, which shows all the cutscenes – including 10 that are still apparently missing… Okay… Hm, checking the Adventure Mode, a mission opened in a new area… Alright, I’m intrigued.

Oh great, he's disappearing again.

Pictured: When shit got real.
When Arthur is defeated, he vanishes into particles of darkness like the many Knights of the Underworld that Sonic has been defeating. Merlina is being cornered by the three Knights of the Round Table when the hedgehog shows up with the scabbard, wondering what’s going on. Merlina explains that this King Arthur was an illusion made by her grandfather Merlin to keep the kingdom prosperous… which she believes has always been a mistake, and that what should have been done from the start… was to imbue the entire kingdom in the scabbard’s power to make it eternal… which she proceeds to do, also transforming the kingdom into the Underworld and making monsters come out all over the place.

Well, shit. We’ve been working for the real villain this whole time.

Ah yes, the inevitabe sewer level.
Even in the Arthurian Legends, gotta have one of them.

Also important: Each Knight uses a different playstyle
(Lancelot = Knight, Gwain = Paladin, Percival = Cavalier).
Sonic and the Knights flee from the castle of Avalon as it transforms into a dark, spiky fortress, and meet each other at a safe point. Nimue joins them and explains that, the same way Sonic could cancel the fake Arthur’s immortality with the Knights’s legendary blades, it might be possible to cancel the scabbard’s power on the whole land by planting the blades at the corners of the Kingdom. Surprise – now, it’s possible to play in Adventure Mode as Lancelot, Gawain or Percival, in some specific missions!

"Oh yes, bring me a samurai helmet, an aquamarine,
a chain bracelet and a lollipop, I'll MacGyver a
new weapon up for you."
At the Blacksmith’s shop, you can equip different items to Sonic and the Knights (Also of note, Gawain can hold only one item, while Lancelot can hold two and Percival, three). Also, remember all those objects you pick up and identify at the end of levels, those seemingly-useless items? It turns out that the Blacksmith can build new swords and weapons using those are crafting materials. I like the idea as it encourages players to go through the game some more in order to collect these materials. That said, good luck figuring out what can be found where without a guide…

Is that Shad-er, Lancelot? Yep!

Can I say that some of the areas in this game are
absolutely gorgeous?
Three new areas open, with Barrier Stones at the end of each – this is where the legendary swords must be planted. Lancelot plants Arondight at the end of the Shrouded Forest, though the construct reads “This stone is but a part of the ring that sealeth the Dark Hollow”. A similar message is found at the Great Megalith by Gawain, who realizes after planting Galatine that, though he served Arthur, he never saw Excalibur itself, only the scabbard. Then, Percival takes her own Laevatein to the end of The Cauldron, a fiery area that has the most annoying elements of platforming I have seen in the game so far. Difficult jumps across lava? Yep. Enemies who willingly push you into the molten magma? Yep. After this, Sonic has to go through a dragon’s lair and kill the dragon within before he can set Caliburn into the last Barrier Stone. Alas, Nimue sees that their efforts weren't enough, as they didn't prevent the darkness from creeping further throughout the kingdom.

Blaze Percival will breeze through this land of fire!
It's her element, after all.

Sonic runs to the Dark Hollow, ready to fight Merlina. She wants to preserve this world’s beauty, but Sonic claims that nothing lasts forever and that’s why life must be lived to the fullest. I mean, nice moment of philosophy for a Sonic video game, but… it almost comes out of nowhere. Wished this was expanded upon in the franchise, but apparently that’s too much to ask. After beating Sonic within an inch of his life, Merlina turns into an Eldritch monster, the Dark Queen (what a creative name), while Caliburn merges with the Knights' legendary blades to become the true Excalibur. Sonic also gets a new form, Excalibur Sonic, which is… well, just Sonic in a golden armor that protects the entirety of his body, except his tail. Hey, Merlina! I know his weakness, his ass is still bare! Grab him by the tail!

This final boss is a bit disappointing. It doesn’t really bring anything new – Sonic must slash at large orbs of light to hit them back at the Dark Queen and fill his Soul Gauge. Then a press of the B button, and Sonic will rush at the Queen and slash for a bit. The one change is that, in order to avoid attacks, Sonic must roll left or right, using Z or A to do so. Then comes the Wii remote QTEs again, which yay, we didn’t have enough of those yet. The battle against the fake Arthur was tougher than that! (Or so it seems, at least; I remember struggling against the last boss a lot, back when I first went through the game.) And so, with the Dark Queen defeated, Merlina returns to normal, and her spell is lifted from the land.

Sonic already kills Eldritch creatures on a yearly basis.
He can deal with one more without any problem.

Heh, even Sonic can't believe it.
Sonic has just won the latest game of “My ideology is better than yours”, so I guess it means he’s the hero of this world now. The Knights of the Round Table fear they must disband, all three of them, since they no longer have a King to serve, but Caliburn interjects by claiming that it is the one that chooses who King Arthur is. And, lo and behold, Caliburn declares Sonic to be King Arthur. That comes out of nowhere, but that’s about as good an ending as any. After the end credits, Sonic has been brought out of the book and back to his world (because apparently that world of the Arthurian Legends can live without its Arthur), and faces the wrath of an angry Amy who demands to know where he’s been for so long when they were supposed to go on a date. Yeah, Sonic, good luck convincing her that you were caught in a book the whole time.

"Oh hey, that book is about me now!"

Lancelot: The Rematch.
I am not entirely done talking about the game – the story’s over, but now we have proper postgame missions to complete. I remember the loads of extra missions in Secret Rings, and once again here, we have all sorts of special challenges to finish across the map. The most notable ones may be the rematch against Lancelot. Oh fucking God, he is insanely tough. I think he would be slightly easier if the QTEs worked better, if the game gave the player only a little more time to shake the Wii remote when required – as it is, you’re barely given a second to react. I did eventually manage to defeat Lancelot, with a technique that avoids QTEs entirely, but it took me forever. Eventually, the constant shaking of the Wii remote to slash with the sword put a strain on my arm.

They really go all-out with challenges past this point; one level of the Shrouded Forest asks you to reach the goal without ever touching the ground (though elevated platforms are OK), one asks to finish a level without getting hit once (not easy, but doable when you know the sequence of events), one asks to find hidden fairies. The way to make hidden fairies appear changes depending on the level.

It doesn't take forever to change perimeters at the Blacksmith's shop,
like it did for the equipped Rings in Sonic and the Secret Rings.
According to my sources, the developers behind Sonic and the Black Knight learned from some of the criticism they received on Sonic and the Secret Rings. In S&tSR, you could edit up to four Rings with the abilities collected as you leveled up. It became possible to remove some key abilities from Sonic, such as the instant catching of Rings and orbs. The biggest issue, there, was precisely that several missions were impossible to complete unless you edited an ability Ring specifically to go through them. As an example, in some missions, you couldn’t collect a single orb (the items that refill the Soul Gauge in that game); that included orbs collected by beating enemies, so a Ring had to be modified so Sonic couldn’t collect orbs on the field nor home in on enemies. Editing the ability Rings broke the flow of the game in major ways.

Now you, too, can play as Dan Green Knuckles Gawain!
The system in SatBK is simplified; for starters, the missions don’t outright require one or another of the Styles. All missions allow all styles for Sonic, so the concepts and goals may appear generic, but that doesn’t make them any easier, oh no. The one downside to being able to switch between the Knight, Paladin and Cavalier styles, is that those Styles need to be leveled up as well in order to get their best perks, by completing levels with that style. Also, each playable Knight excels in one Style; Lancelot plays as a Knight, while Gawain is a Paladin and Percival is a Cavalier. The flow of the game isn’t broken constantly, which is a major improvement. The one downside is that the Knights are only playable in worlds that were discovered after the battle with King Arthur in Faraway Avalon.

Every Knight has 12 swords to choose from.
Sonic only gets that Big Mouth Caliburn.

It also begs the question: What’s the use for the swords crafted at the Blacksmith’s shop? Well, those can only be equipped to their associated Knight of the Round Table. There’s a total of 36, so their original weapon plus 11 extra weapons to be crafted. Although one may assume such, the swords aren’t merely cosmetic; each one will change the set of skills that Knight has access to. Perks include higher base speed, easier left/right movement, extra rings gained by defeating multiple enemies, starting with some energy in the Soul Gauge, and so on.

I’ll need to finish this in Part 3.

April 24, 2020

Sonic Month: Sonic and the Black Knight (Part 1)

Part 1Part 2Part 3

A point of criticism leveled at the Sonic franchise since the mid-2000s is that new games keep trying out new gameplay mechanics, at the detriment of what made older Sonic games work. There’s nothing wrong with trying out new things in a long-running franchise, as long as it doesn’t clash with the rest. Shadow the Hedgehog had third-person shooting; Sonic Unleashed had the Werehog sections, which are slow compared to Sonic’s usual fare; Sonic Chronicles is a turn-based RPG, which clashes with the very speed-oriented identity of the franchise; and the less we say about Sonic Free Riders and its use of Kinect controls, the better.

As an example, the horizontal remote for SatSR.
The Wii era of Sonic games particularly loved to toy around with controls and features, in part due to the motion controls related to the Wii remote and Nunchuk. I liked Sonic and the Secret Rings just fine. I’ve yet to play through the entirety of Unleashed. Today’s game, Sonic and the Black Knight… well, it’s complicated. Giving Sonic a sword is rather out there as an idea, but hey, if it works, there’s no issue, right? And hey, isn’t anything more awesome if you add a sword to it? Sonic + Sword, that sounds incredible, doesn’t it?

Sonic and the Black Knight is the second of two “Storybook” Sonic games, the first one being Sonic and the Secret Rings (which I reviewed for this blog on my first Sonic month, way back in 2015). Whereas the first one took inspiration from the Arabian Nights, this one draws from the Legend of King Arthur. New setting, new gameplay ideas and new controls. Once again, a concept that makes finishing the game relatively simple, but going for 100% completion a challenge that only the most determined players will take. The game has it all: A ton of collectibles, a library of the developers' content, a multiplayer option, a customizable shield design…

Of course mine was going to be blue with white lys flowers. Call me Sire Nicholas Coeurdelion. 

Time for a Hedgehog ex Machina!
This game begins at nightfall. A young wizard woman is fleeing from an evil-looking armored knight riding on horseback. The knight catches up to her and, in a swift strike, cuts into the sky itself, opening a dark wound from which similarly evil monsters bleed out. …A line this good should go in a novel, I swear. As she’s cornered, the wizard casts a spell that summons the Knight of the Wind. A portal opens above and down falls Sonic, two chilidogs following suit.

"My chilidogs, do you see this? Or am I going crazy?"

A second after Sonic ran through them, all the monsters
were destroyed. He works fast!
Although the contact with the ground is brutal, the hedgehog rushes to get his treats. There’s no way he would allow these chilidogs to be wasted! Also, the last time he got sucked into a literary world, he was asked nicely. That wizard, who looks a lot like Shahra the genie from Secret Rings by the way, is clearly in trouble. Sonic downs a chilidog in a single bite, tosses the other, and kills all the smaller monsters in a matter of seconds, catching his second hot-dog in-flight. He’s ready to rumble against the shadowy knight as well, but the wizard teleports the two of them away, causing Sonic to lose his prized snack in the dust of the gravel road.

That chilidog never got to serve its true purpose! This is the saddest love story in the entire Sonic franchise.