After the release of Sonic Unleashed, SEGA and ‘The Storybook Team’ within Sonic Team released a new game called Sonic & The Black Knight. This game would take the on-rails gameplay from Sonic & the Secret Rings but fix every issue that title had. Better mission structure, refined skill system, better story and less focus on motion controls.
Does this sword swinging adventure cut through the vines and offer a fun experience? In the next part of our Super Sonic Holiday Dash, we will find out!
Set within a special book taking place within the stories of King Arthur, a rouge wizard is on the run from a imposing knight. Chasing her down with evil creatures and catching up to her, she summons a famous blue hedgehog. After falling on his face and grabbing his chilly dogs in time, Sonic quickly realizes he is needed to save the world yet again.
But he cannot attack the dark knight as the wizard pulls Sonic back, warping them away. As they vanish, the dark knight is shown to be King Arthur and he orders his Knights of the Round Table (played by Shadow, Knuckles and Blaze) to take them out.
Sonic asks why he couldn’t fight but is told he must fight using a sword. After using a rusted sword for a basic intro level, he finds Caliburn. This sword can talk and he works with Sonic across his adventure to stop the evil King Arthur. Now, I know what everyone is thinking; “Wow! What a dumb, stupid story this is.”
I would agree, but here is the thing; the production values and the writing take this really silly concept to elevate it to quite an engaging story. Sonic is perfectly in character and as his final performance as the blue blur in a major Sonic release, Jason Griffith does a fantastic job voicing Sonic. Other characters such as Merlina, Caliburn, Shadow and Blaze also have some great moments. I loved this story as everyone felt ‘natural’ and some surprise twists make the story feel quite large.
Overall if you don’t mind some cheesy lines here and there, you will have a great time with this Sonic plot.
The Design & Gameplay
If you played Sonic and the Secret Rings the structure of this title will feel familiar. Sonic runs through various missions within the games different levels. Each level is on a linear track where Sonic is funneled to run forward. Thankfully through you don’t have to deal with motion controls for movement; it is all tied to the Wii’s Nunchuck analog stick. This makes playing the game significantly stronger and more enjoyable.
Sonic can access skills based on one of three ‘Classes’ focused on speed, power and balance. If you want to go fast, you pick the speed-focused one of course. But it is nice to have options. You earn points for these three classes through getting followers, which are villagers you earn based on how well you play a given mission. The better you play, the more you can upgrade yourself. Despite this system though, Sonic feels great to control and that already makes this better then Secret Rings on a gameplay level.
But note that Sonic has a talking sword joining him on his adventure. You don’t just have the thing to be a walking letter opener, you use it for melee combat. You use the sword by shaking the Wii Remote but similar to games like Twilight Princess it simply acts like a standard button. Shaking it while pressing different buttons/analog stick movements triggers different attacks making it easy to use. So if you want to use this games version of the homing attack, you mash A twice and shake the controller which has Sonic flying through waves of foes through.
If you press back on the analog stick and shake the controller, you launch in the air with the sword to preform a upper-slash. It makes combat feel fun and while you have options, you can play it like a traditional Sonic game if you use the homing attack slash. But Sonic isn’t the only one playable; you have the Knights of the Round table to control as well. They function similar to Sonic but offer different base abilities; Knuckles can glide, Shadow can warp, and Blaze can summon a fire tornado.
Sadly, the gameplay suffers from one basic issue; it gets boring and stale after a while. With the level design not doing much outside of you just going forward and the combat getting old after long play sessions, the game suffers a bit. That really isn’t the games fault though; it follows the basic template from Secret Rings and refines it. But this released after Sonic Unleashed, so level design pales strongly to that title. So it is hard to fully enjoy the games level design when it feels so limited.
I will give Black Knight some credit on it’s level design though, they have some fun set pieces. Sonic grinding on impaled rope lines, the camera shifting depending on the situation and sections where you can only swing your sword; the game tires to offer creative level design ideas despite the limited core gameplay.
Boss fights are where the sword combat is pushed the most. The game sadly fumbles here as it never tells you how to swing your sword. When you are supposed to strike, it shows a image of the Wiimote shaking. However, you are only supposed to do this once. It is a button, so shaking it like a mad man will act as if you mashing the attack button in any other game. The game does not tell you this clearly and that makes bosses frustrating your first time fighting them. Another issue about lack of communication comes with the special kick attack when Sonic is in ‘Soul Surge’ mode (you shake the Nunchuck when it locks on to an object, flicking it forwards).
Overall, the gameplay here is fine for what it is but feels limited in some ways.
Sonic and the Black Knight is a very short game to run though, as it only takes about four-five hours to see everything in the main story. Fully completing all the missions, messing around with the multiplayer mode and seeing everything in the gallery will take a few more hours however. So while the main story is short, you have a decent amount to experience.
This is hands down one of the best looking games on the Nintendo Wii. Sonic and his friends are animated wonderfully, almost mirroring the animation we see in Sonic Unleashed HD (PS3/360). Every level is packed with detail and a lot of little touches stand out. One being that standard Sonic elements (springs, rings, boost pads) are replaced with Chao Fairies to better reflect the games time period/setting.
Secret Rings did not do this, so I feel it was a really cool touch in reflecting Sonic’s new setting. The story is presented great as well, with animatic-style story scenes with beautiful art work and some of the best voice acting in the series. The game has two/three CGI videos and they do look quite nice.
Musically this game is fantastic as well. Having a mixture of orchestral tracks for many of the stages that sound great and the iconic rock from the Adventure Era Sonic titles popping up throughout the game was quite enjoyable. Knight of the Wind and With Me are some of my favorite Sonic tracks, as they feel like music that could be ripped right out of Sonic Adventure 2.
Overall though, the presentation is high class. It feels like a lot of love was put into this games production values and that is clearly visible through every facet of the game.
Overall Score: 3.5 out of 5
Sonic & the Black Knight is a really frustrating game for me. Not because it is a bad game, far from it. It does so much right for me; the presentation is really strong, the story is quite enjoyable and the basic gameplay is a nice improvement over Secret Rings. But the level design is solely lacking and it leads to the overall game suffering as a result. While not the best 3D Sonic game ever released, it is a strong title that does a lot of things right.