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Posted by Vger, Mar.14, 2009, under Articles, Comments (0)

Before I get started with this I want to make a few things clear, yes I’m biased! This is a review of a Sonic game on a Sonic fan site of course its going to be biased, but I’m going to try and approach this from a neutral angle. First off I’m going to try and avoid referring/comparing this game to past Sonic games, I’m going to pretend that this is a completely new game not groaning under the weight of almost 17 years worth of franchise. I’m also going to pretend that I’m the target audience i.e. a child (except with better spelling and writing ability), not a 20 something fan boy with no date tonight… this shouldn’t be too hard since I’m constantly being told to grow up. Right I don’t know how long I can keep myself in this state of mind so lets get started.

Coooool its a blue hedgehog with a sword!
That’s pretty much the impression I think kids will get when they first see the box art for Sonic and the Black Knight (SatBK), and this has been a source of much controversy within the community (yeah I know I said I would try to avoid the history behind Sonic but I feel this needs addressing but I’ll try to keep it short). I think most fans initial reaction can be summed up with this;

It was certainly my initial reaction, but I calmed down after a while with the help of few pints of tequila and thought this might not be such a terrible idea who knows this might be the game SEGA gets Sonic right again…

Alright so we have a blue hedgehog who has been transported into the world of King Arthur and has to save it from its corrupt king, sounds simple enough so where do we start?

Swing that sword (Gameplay)
Essentially levels consist of running along a linear path where you will regularly encounter enemies that require cutting down to size, this is archived by swinging the wii-mote about in whatever fashion takes your fancy, since as long as you get the first hit in you should be fine, as most enemies are one hit kills, however a lot of the time you will encounter groups of enemies so a bit of skill is required to chain attacks together. I didn’t like this aspect that much as I had just spent 20 seconds running at fairly high speed and then I have to stop rather abruptly to take down some enemies which was jarring to say the least. You can bypass some of the enemies by jumping over them but there is the inevitable wall of blocks somewhere that you have to stop and swing your sword at a few times to get through.

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There is also a soul gauge that you can charge up by collecting red fairies and defeating enemies which acts as a target lock for enemies or a speed boost when there are no enemies, its a fairly solid mechanic with a bonus system in place if you manage to swing at the right time the gauge will recharge.

Boss battles are essentially longer sword fights with you up against various Sonic characters in disguise, and King Arthur himself plus something at the end. These fights seem fairly simple (for the Sonic characters at least) just a simple hack and slash and jump out of the way of an enemies attack, at least until you reach Blaze when I suddenly discovered the block button is in fact not completely pointless. Now I do have a bone to pick with the later battles, first off the second King Arthur battle seems a little steep on the difficulty curve or is it just the fact I lack a good sense of timing. Secondly the final boss specifically the controls for the final boss, now I’m left handed and up to this point I had been holding the wii mote in my left hand with a moderate amount of success except the final boss suddenly assigns movement actions as if you a right handed person i.e. click a to go right and z to go left. This confused the hell out of me at first, once I realised what the problem was I went to see if there was a way reassigning the controls… there isn’t. Now yes I did manage to get up to the final boss playing left handed yet I can’t help but wonder what a difference it would have made if in fact there was a left handed setup. To me this just smacks of lack of thought on SEGA’s part and annoyed the hell out of me.

Oh pretty (Graphics)
Once again SEGA has managed to push the envelope running on a system that is underpowered in the processing department for this generation, with very nice looking graphics, far better than what the wii version of Unleashed churned out… but that may be due to the size of the game. The actual look of the levels are mostly drab and gray (a far cry from the early Sonic games) but this is a game taking place in what is essentially the dark ages England, and if I was forced to describe England in two words it would be drab and gray.

Not so colourfull

Most of the cut scenes take on an artwork on a page look (like Sonic and the Black Knight). With a few highly detailed cg cut scenes scattered around at major plot points which make my eyes drool.

Story
At this point I kind of have to drop the whole ignoring the past of Sonic the hedgehog as aspects of the story telling and situations reflect heavily on previous games. Sonic once again comes across as a bit of a dick to me, with the line, “I don’t mind playing the bad guy sometimes,” as a good example and his schizophrenic view on life jumping from running away from life’s problems to accepting whats going to happen and moving on make up your mind.

The other Sonic characters making a cameo all have there basic personalities intact except Amy who has to take on the role of being the lady of the lake which rubs against her role of chasing Sonic down and dragging him out on a date. While these characters still have there personalities the way the story plays out it just casts them as cliché to anyone who has played the previous games, why couldn’t they have mixed things up a bit so the characters wouldn’t be put into a similar position as before making the story extremely predictable in my opinion.

Multiplayer
I can’t really comment on this since I haven’t had anyone round to play his game yet, and I doubt that even if I do manage to get someone round that they will want to play a Sonic game.

Lifetime
Initially I thought this game was rather short as I had reached King Arthur and was failing to defeat him, but while yes once you defeat him you get to see the end credits you are still only half way through the game (this is where IGN went a bit wrong supposedly), and even after you defeat the final boss you still have new levels unlocked to play through. There are also several level types where you have a different objective other than just reach the finish which does go a long way to keeping things fresh. Another aspect of extending gameplay is collecting items in level which you get to look at the end with the intention of collecting them all, these items however have no real use beyond this (except a few which you can equip to add various bonuses to the characters or unlock new weapons in the blacksmiths). Once you defeat Arthur you also unlock Blaze Knuckles and Shadow as in game playable characters which adds a bit of variety as the carry over there skills from previous games (ie Shadow chaos control, Blazes pyrotechnics, and Knuckles err brute force).

At the end of each level/battle you get a star rating (similar to ranks on unleashed) which I suppose is a way of extending gameplay by making you go back and playing the levels again which I won’t be doing just for that.

In all though the game isn’t that long lasting about 5-10 hours to complete the main game and once you have done that going back and getting all the items/5 staring everything smacks of being a chore.

Overall
Gameplay – From high speed to standing still in a sword fight all within two seconds… I think I have whiplash. Never mind the boss battles and a lack of left handed controller setup!
Graphics – Top notch although a bit drab.
Story – Choking on the cheeseyness of it all.
Lifetime – Adequate but a few things just feel tagged on for the sake of it.

All in all I think this is a step down in quality from Sonic and the Secret Rings which is a shame but there again I don’t think it’s really aimed at someone my age and while I did try to write this review from a younger persons perspective I think I’ve failed miserably, older fans who haven’t played it will still look at it and only see the sword gimmick which I think will hurt this game a lot (however justified that may be).

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