Wii

North America

Sonic and the Black Knight

by Neal Ronaghan - April 18, 2009, 6:54 pm PDT
Total comments: 32

6.5

Sonic wields a sword poorly in this short and speedy game.

Following my review of Sonic Unleashed last fall, I had no hope for the Sonic franchise. However, after having some favorable impressions with the hedgehog's latest game, Sonic & and the Black Knight, my expectations for the follow-up to Sonic & the Secret Rings grew. Now, after playing through Black Knight, I am let down once again.

Still, Sonic & the Black Knight isn't a terrible game by any means. It provides brief bursts of fun, and the bite-sized missions work in its favor. The problem with Black Knight is that the story mode of the game is no more than four hours long. Another problem with the game is that the big new gameplay addition, the sword, is unresponsive and frustrating to use.

The game is the latest in the Sonic storybook series Secret Rings started, and is framed in the world of King Arthur and Camelot. In this version, King Arthur is a bad man known as the Black Knight. Along with his Knights of the Round Table, who resemble series characters Shadow, Knuckles, and Blaze, the villainous king is destroying the world. Sonic is summoned to Camelot by Merlina, Merlin's granddaughter, to save the day. Aside from a twist later in the game, that's about all the story there is.

Sonic is controlled by the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, and for the most part, the controls are great. Jumping is fine as usual, blocking with your sword is easy, and the Soul Surge attack, which is sort of like an ultra-powerful homing attack, fits nicely into the formula. However, Sonic's shiny new sword, which talks and has a bubbly personality, is controlled by motion controls and sucks. There is a slight delay due to buggy responsiveness after every hit, which opens you up to attacks way too often. After dealing with this frustrating battle mechanic for a while, I found myself ignoring every enemy that I didn't need to defeat to complete the mission.

The game's twelve worlds contain various missions that are all relatively short, which adds to the brevity of the game in general. Every mission has a set goal. Most of the story missions don't evolve past racing to the finish or defeating a boss, but some of the missions outside of the story are quite interesting. One of them has you racing through a bustling town while trying to not hit civilians. Sadly, some of these optional missions are also terrible, such as the ones where you have to collect and give rings to civilians by stopping dead in your tracks and doing timed button presses.

While everything about Black Knight is Camelot themed, there are a few bonus missions that hearken back to traditional 3D Sonic levels. These Legacy missions give Sonic back his homing attack and replace the fairies and fruit found in the other missions with good old-fashioned rings. While they are few and far between, they are some of the best missions in the game.

There is also a decent upgrade system for Sonic. You're given a rating between one and five stars for your performance in each mission. Every star you gain counts towards a level-up, which upgrades your skills (speed, strength etc.). Eventually you gain access to two additional play styles: an offense-focused one and a defense-focused one. These are also upgraded by completing missions and getting stars. There isn't a whole lot of variation between the three, but it is a nice touch.

These different player types are also used by the Knights of the Round Table, who eventually join you in some missions. The characters are fundamentally the same, but they all have different nuances that benefit them. For example, Knuckles can glide, Shadow is faster, and Blaze's aerial attack has a longer range. Unlike Sonic, the three Knights can also wield different weapons, depending on what weapon-building items (metals and such) you collect in levels.

The game's online functionality comes into play with the collectable items, most just for collection’s sake, littered throughout. Players can discover items in missions and gain them by completing certain tasks. They can be traded online and used to build items that the knights can equip for stat bonuses. Players can also upload their best scores to an online leaderboard.

Along with some other characters, all the playable characters can be used in the arena-style multiplayer. Players can choose between either a fight to the death or a race to see who can kill more enemies. There isn't too much variety or depth to be found in this multiplayer, though, since the arenas are all very similar and there are not too many enemy types.

As stated before, Sonic & the Black Knight is not a terrible game. However, it isn't anything too special, either. For every interesting mission, there is an equally lackluster one. The platforming is satisfying, but the sword combat is awful. This is a game of checks and balances, and in the end, it's just another mediocre Sonic game.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
9 7 6 7 6 6.5
Graphics
9

The few cut scenes that are present look phenomenal and the in-game graphics are rather polished. Some of the game is told through 2D hand-drawn storybook panels, and they add to the storybook feel of the game. This is one of the better looking Wii games.

Sound
7

Black Knight has all the typical Sonic bells and whistles for sound effects, and the music, while still retaining the cheesy lyrics of old Sonic games, is decent.

Control
6

With the exception of the unresponsive motion controls for the sword, the controls work fine. Unfortunately, it just so happens that the sword is pretty much the only way you can attack enemies for most for the game.

Gameplay
7

Featuring short bursts of play, the game is usually fun. Occasionally there are some terrible missions (e.g. giving civilians rings), but for the most part, there is some interesting variety in the game.

Lastability
6

While the story mode is very short at three to four hours, there are quite a number of challenging bonus missions that lengthen the game. There is a multiplayer as well, but it isn't terribly interesting.

Final
6.5

It's on the short side and has a couple of big issues, but Sonic and the Black Knight is still somewhat enjoyable. The variety in characters and missions are still entertaining, even though the sword controls are very frustrating. It's a decent game, but just barely.

Summary

Pros
  • Aside from the sword, the controls work well
  • Legacy missions are great
Cons
  • Story mode clocks in at around four hours
  • Sword combat controls are unresponsive
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterApril 19, 2009

Let's see what Pro has to say about this...

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusApril 19, 2009

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v438/CONFUZZLED_MUNKIE/sonic_cycle.jpg

In all seriousness what this generation taught me for Sonic games is exactly what happened last generation, the console sonic games were okay at best while the 2D portable games were awesome. The GBA and DS sonic games by Dimps are awesome and very fun. The only GBA sonic game that sucks is Sonic Genesis where they totally butchered that release.

KDR_11kApril 19, 2009

Quote:

The problem with Black Knight is that the story mode of the game is no more than four hours long.

I think that's unavoidable for a Sonic game. Sonic moves fast and creating the stuff he moves through costs a lot of effort, making enough of that to create a lengthy game is not feasible and the only option there is to stuff it with filler. Well, or do it like the 16 bit era games where your progress isn't saved and you will replay levels you've already beaten before many times and get to explore the alternative routes. Sonic simply can't be designed to be played from start to finish once and still last many hours. Hell, didn't people complain about TSR being stuffed with stupid missions and didn't Sonic Team themselves admit they stuffed Sonic Unleashed with the slow Werehog levels in order to keep the playtime long?

Yeah, I'd rather they make a short but challenging Sonic game that has branching paths and different routes and accessible crannies for different characters, a la Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Save the 30% of development or whatever that goes towards the filler and charge $40 instead of $50.

Actually, I think going the Mega Man 9 route and making a new old-school 2D console Sonic game for online distribution would be very healthy for the series right now.

KDR_11kApril 19, 2009

Sonic didn't get as far from its roots as Mega Man. Going back to Sonic's roots would be going back to the 16bit era which isn't very different from the GBA games. Mega Man started as 8bit and slowly declined through the 16 and 32 bit eras until ending up with several reworkings of the entire franchise (X, Dash, Zero, EXE, StarForce, ZX). Sonic's decline in 3d was about as fast as gravity allowed but he also didn't fare well on the handhelds where the level design simply wasn't up to the standards of the old games. A retro reboot is appropriate for a derailed franchise with mechanics and stories that messed it all up but the handheld games didn't mess with that. A retro reboot will not fix bad level design (as Mega Man 9 demonstrated clearly IMO though Sonic's level design was botched much more than Mega Man's).

I think going back to 2D for Sonic would be pretty much admitting that speed is not all it's cracked up to be. Speed doesn't work in 2D, you can't see what's ahead of you and pretty much have to rely on the Incredible Machine-style level design to move you along the fast track without dropping you into a spike pit. Speed can actually work in 3D because you can look ahead, you can see what's coming without hitting it a split second later. The 2D games were, for most of the actual playtime, just regular jump and runs where you moved at a regular pace and jumped from platform to platform, defeating enemies and such along the way, pretty much exactly like Mario. So, which way should we take, admit that Sonic is just Mario with a useless gimmick tacked on or actually try to turn that gimmick into a valid gameplay element now that we have the tools to do so?

Oh, wait, fast 3D platforming already has been done by the Trackmania games...

Quote from: TheYoungerPlumber

Yeah, I'd rather they make a short but challenging Sonic game that has branching paths and different routes and accessible crannies for different characters, a la Sonic 3 & Knuckles.

That's what makes the length an issue. There's not much challenge in Black Knight. Every level is fairly straight forward.
I understand the limitation with Sonic moving fast and all, but throw in some challenge before the story is over. That's what made the Genesis-era Sonic games great; they were challenging, had branching paths, and were fun.

brian577April 19, 2009

"Sonic & the Black Knight isn't a terrible game by any means"
It's Sonic with a sword, how is that not terrible?  That's like giving Mario a gun

KDR_11kApril 19, 2009

Quote from: brian577

"Sonic & the Black Knight isn't a terrible game by any means"
It's Sonic with a sword, how is that not terrible?  That's like giving Mario a gun

They gave Shadow guns and cars and everything, I think a sword is pretty tame in comparison.

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusApril 19, 2009

Quote from: TheYoungerPlumber

Yeah, I'd rather they make a short but challenging Sonic game that has branching paths and different routes and accessible crannies for different characters, a la Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Save the 30% of development or whatever that goes towards the filler and charge $40 instead of $50.

Actually, I think going the Mega Man 9 route and making a new old-school 2D console Sonic game for online distribution would be very healthy for the series right now.

That's what makes the  DS Sonic games so good, they are in 2D even though there are some 3D element I think they are used well. Honestly I wouldn't care if the Sonic games on consoles where 2D SEGA can still put one out with excellent old school gameplay and pretty graphics. Just look at Wario Land Shake It!, that was an awesome 2D game on Wii with top notch presentation.

PeachylalaApril 19, 2009

Quote from: Flames_of_chaos

Quote from: TheYoungerPlumber

Yeah, I'd rather they make a short but challenging Sonic game that has branching paths and different routes and accessible crannies for different characters, a la Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Save the 30% of development or whatever that goes towards the filler and charge $40 instead of $50.

Actually, I think going the Mega Man 9 route and making a new old-school 2D console Sonic game for online distribution would be very healthy for the series right now.

That's what makes the  DS Sonic games so good, they are in 2D even though there are some 3D element I think they are used well. Honestly I wouldn't care if the Sonic games on consoles where 2D SEGA can still put one out with excellent old school gameplay and pretty graphics. Just look at Wario Land Shake It!, that was an awesome 2D game on Wii with top notch presentation.

Wait, what? No, no. The GBA and DS games are not even close to the quality of Genesis Sonic titles. Why do I say this? Simple, and I've been saying this like a broken record so many times it's not even funny. Sonic isn't about speed, it's about flow. Flow is running through Super Mario Bros. 3 World 1-1 without getting hit, flow is making Wario go crazy speed without hitting anything in Wario Land: Shake It!, flow is going through Emerald Hill Zone 1 in Sonic 2 in under twenty seconds without anything stopping you.

The GBA games flow, particullary in Sonic Advance 2 & 3, was hampered by what I deem "It wasn't my fault!" game flaws: traps that catch you off guard and you have no time to react to them. The whole Sonic Advance trilogy also doesn't incorperate what made Sonic 3 & Knuckles a classic: replayability with different characters. The game isn't the same with Tails beinng the character, or Knuckles. The Advance series pretty much kills it's likeability because the levels weren't designed with the characters different abilities in mind.

The Rush games... Rush Adventure wasn't that dislikeable, but it suffered greatly from "It plays itself" flaws. Aside from the few traps here and there, just keep pressing the "Y" button to win the game.

Quote from: TheYoungerPlumber

Actually, I think going the Mega Man 9 route and making a new old-school 2D console Sonic game for online distribution would be very healthy for the series right now.

Mega Man 9 was in safe hands due to the fact Kenji Inafune was still around at Capcom, and hell, Nintendo could make a downloadable Mario game right now and it would be good because the 2D Mario staff is still around.

What is my point in this? Sonic Team is not the same Sonic Team from the early 90s. Ohshima, Yasahara and Naka are all gone, and frankly, if Sega of Japan's meddling is any indication, Old-Skool Sonic 2-D might not ever happen.

Better just stick with Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Oh, and don't forget Sonic X-Treme. It could've gone right if it wasn't for all the crap that went on during development.

NinGurl69 *hugglesApril 20, 2009

Quote from: True

The Gospel according to Fist.

There's little more that needs to be said.  Again, reviewers don't get it.

Like the Wii Wheel in Mario Kart, it takes perception (interpreting objects and space) and finesse (proper physical execution) to be a winning racer, and the same applies to "swordplay" in Sonic.  If you approach every enemy thinking you're going to "waggle" (2 or more swipes/wiggles, any direction) to get thru each of them, you've doomed yourself to mediocrity as a player.

A single sword swipe is sufficient for many instances, and it's like a well-timed running platformer jump:  time it well and perform it once -- don't spam the input.  Waggling to create a combo simply yields a clunky temporally disjointed combo (JUST LIKE TWILIGHT PRINCESS), a lot like spamming Fierce Punch in Street Fighter -- the animation won't keep up with you, the extra button presses won't be recognized, and it's not an effective way to play -- yet where are the complaints about that?  WHY DON'T PEOPLE HONESTLY REALIZE THEY'RE DOING IT WRONG INSTEAD OF BLAMING THE GAME?

Here's a thought:  this Sonic game doesn't "flow" because reviewers are INCAPABLE of it (?)

After I unlocked a few gameplay movies in-game, I decided to check them out, and I was promptly BLOWN AWAY.  The movies demonstrated techniques for moving thru stages/battles that help achieve those 5-star stage ratings.  I was surprised to discover the game/controls/functionality was capable of such "flow," and it totally changed my view about how the "motion controls" were supposed to be applied by the player.  It was like Tales meets F-Zero.  With a bit of practice on my own, I saw what the game was asking of me:  perception and finesse.

** Pro Daisy does not like "classic" "2D" Sonic nor Sonic Adventures.  Pro Daisy races to Mario Kart Wi-Fi victory with a "heavy" NOA REGGIE Mii riding a Standard Bike.  Pro Daisy does not use C-sticks nor last-gen controllers in Super Smash Boring Brawl.

HypotheliciouslyApril 20, 2009

Interesting.

It's as if the game should be reviewed again.

KDR_11kApril 20, 2009

Meh, it's fair to point out how the average player will feel when getting the game, if the majority of players play a game wrong maybe the game wasn't designed to make sure people play it right.

I do not believe procurement of a second review is warranted. If another staffer plays this game, has a differing opinion, and wants to write a second review, that's swell.

This game might be able to be played "correctly," but considering that the only way to find out how to play "correctly" is by viewing gameplay movies brings about a larger problem: you have to watch videos to learn how to play the game. That is probably one of the stupidest things to have in a game. Teach by hands-on tutorial or make your game incredibly intuitive.

I'm sorry a 6.5 is a terrible review. Last time I checked, it wasn't. It's still above average.

PeachylalaApril 20, 2009

Quote from: 'Pro

Here's a thought:  this Sonic game doesn't "flow" because reviewers are INCAPABLE of it (?)

This is pretty much hitting the nail on the head. I tend to use the "flow" arguement on Sonic games since, hell, other Sega fansites tend to use it (and with facts to back it up). Pro's arguement makes a very good point.

Unleashed was NOT a good 3-D Sonic game, except for some odd reason, SatBK is getting the blunt of the hate. SatBK gets a whole lot better after you've unlocked the strength and speed styles. Let's also not forget the rankings and the online portion either.

Quote from: nron10

This game might be able to be played "correctly," but considering that the only way to find out how to play "correctly" is by viewing gameplay movies brings about a larger problem: you have to watch videos to learn how to play the game. That is probably one of the stupidest things to have in a game. Teach by hands-on tutorial or make your game incredibly intuitive.

Careful! Lots of good games make use of video tips for skill improvement, like DKJB. Although they are perhaps placed more prominently in DKJB and are less vital to enjoyment of the game? I don't know--I haven't touched a 3D Sonic game since Sonic Zeroes.

HypotheliciouslyApril 20, 2009

I still think this review, if not redone, should be amended.

KDR_11kApril 20, 2009

Quote from: nron10

This game might be able to be played "correctly," but considering that the only way to find out how to play "correctly" is by viewing gameplay movies brings about a larger problem: you have to watch videos to learn how to play the game. That is probably one of the stupidest things to have in a game. Teach by hands-on tutorial or make your game incredibly intuitive.

To be fair almost no games teach you how to play properly, tutorials only cover which button does what and leave figuring out how to apply that to the player (which is why in some genres, e.g. RTS, you find so many people DOING IT WRONG).

MaxiApril 20, 2009

I think Pro should do a reader review.

HypotheliciouslyApril 20, 2009

Hmm, not a bad idea, Maxi. I'd like to see that too.

Pro? Do you have the time?

EDIT: Honestly, it's mostly the subtitle that bothers me.

NinGurl69 *hugglesApril 20, 2009

Let me reiterate this in more down to earth terms:  Smash Bros (fighting genre) and Mario Kart (Mario Kart genre).  Competitive games where people have opportunities to WITNESS how others play.

Competition is a grounds for exploration.  One player strives to figure out a better way of doing things in the interest of winning (typically).  A second player witnesses that first player in action, sees something amazing, and in turn learns from that experience and is inspired to copycat/explore/rethink their their play process whether it's in strategy or input techniques, therefore increasing their skills.  The cycle goes on and on for new successive witnesses and there's one big happy non-casual casual gamer family.  See Internets. 

Exploration can catch on quick in that setting, simply because players have a means to see other players do amazing things.  I enjoy crushing the dreams of novices in Brawl, but by witnessing my Fist, it helps expand their view of the game's potential whether they realize it or not.  But before all this competitive junk was around, the drive for exploration was already taking place within the single player gaming.  Essentially, it's players who are not satisfied until they've seen they can perform well within reasonable effort (completely subjective and unique for each).  Not only is there motivation in them, they've already, somehow, made up their mind that the required effort is reasonable and the goal is reachable.  Unfortunately we've got this "other camp" of vocal players who just don't make the realization (stubborn blobs of weakness?) that they can do things better, that the in-game performance/results can flow better, and the game perfectly allows for that? (hello ToS2: Dawn of Fist)

"Playing correctly" is just a matter of performing actions; "approaching correctly" is something greater, applying those actions to achieve a globally grand result: like, make Sonic flow?  Never hit an obstacle?  Be 1st in all laps?  Win the battle without dying/using healing items?  Maintain the combo longer?  Catch more bananas than last time?  In writing these seem like natural, feasible goals.  AND THEY ARE, so people need to shutup about Blue Shells and Plastic Wheels 

You can play well enough, making the game looks GREAT in motion, ultimately serving as feedback which builds into your overall satisfaction of your performance.  I mean, this is one of the common ways players have fun, right?  Is the attempt too much to ask for?  Are achievements every 10 seconds, a star next to their name, a prize around every corner required to MAKE A THOUGHTFUL (emphasis on THOUGHTFUL) EFFORT these days?  What the hell exactly do people "think" they want in a game whose roots were about getting to the end of a short speedy stage?  Achievements?  Art?  Direct rehash?  WTF?

TYP, DKJB is an excellent example.  The single player nature doesn't lend itself to showing what others might be capable of/have learned, but the video tips are well-implemented and provide those "here's a thought" moments that inform the player of the performance potential.  Black Knight is similar in that you're already tutored the individual skills in regular stage progression, and it's nice to have some hint/encouragement it's possible to not just put 2 and 2 together, but 2 and 3 and 4 together to make 100.  Maybe Black Knight's video tips should've been implemented more directly like DKJB to tease the player, "yes, YOU are capable of even greater feats."  Then again, should games have to say so each and every time?

Street Fighter II never told anyone what hits should follow other hits to formulate combos.
F-Zero GX didn't tell you what craft to pick, when to slide, where to slide, how to land.

There's no Fist without Weakness.

So we approach the problem:  Do players this generation know how to "explore" anymore (of course they know, but they probably spend their time differently, not participating in the enthusiast press; tournaments, clan play, speeds runs, stunts/demos videos, fansites, game faqing/documentation stuff more important than reviewing?) ?  Or is there a double standard, that the game has to be popular before its release for people to care enough to try?  And if collective interest was low instead, that press is poised to SHIT ON IT and turn away upon play, self-fullfilling the prophecy? (i'm not talking dime-a-dozen FPS games here, they've got their own pool of weakness to swim in)

HypotheliciouslyApril 20, 2009

*slow clap*

NinGurl69 *hugglesApril 20, 2009

Maybe Black Knight has so much more gameplay than classic Sonic, making it unreasonably difficult for classic Sonic fans.  omg hold stick in a direction and SWING the controller with proper timing? omg motion is too much to bear

HypotheliciouslyApril 20, 2009

there there...you made your point

PaleMike Gamin, Contributing EditorApril 20, 2009

I fell on the opposite side of this debate with my Mario Power Tennis review, but I still have to stick up for Neal in this case.  I've never played the game, but, for the sake of argument, I'm going to assume that this game can get better if the player learns the correct means of playing it, as Pro has pointed out.

Even if that is the case, if Neal couldn't arrive at that after substantial time with the game, that does point to a fundamental problem and should definitely be brought to peoples' attention.  As usual, people need to read and comprehend a review based on what they know about the reviewer.  Neal has been a gamer for a long time. He had a hard time getting substantial fun out of this game.

That said, reader's of the review would also do good to read this talkback thread as Pro states his opinions too and his perspective is also valid.

There is no way Neal should have to amend what he's done though and suggesting that is kind of silly.

NinGurl69 *hugglesApril 20, 2009

Here's a interesting anecdote to throw in:

I have a friend who didn't really grow up with the NES-SNES Mario series.  This person tried out Super Mario World a while back when I got on Virtual Console, for like an hour.  This person knew how to run and jump, but not input BOTH simultaneously (the classic B-A thumb technique).

How far might this person have gotten?

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterApril 20, 2009

*Sigh...

I yearn for the day I review a super hyped title and generate three pages worth of flaming, argument, discussions and disagreement.

NinGurl69 *hugglesApril 20, 2009

I'm with you all the way.

vuduApril 20, 2009

Quote from: Pale

Even if that is the case, if Neal couldn't arrive at that after substantial time with the game, that does point to a fundamental problem and should definitely be brought to peoples' attention.  As usual, people need to read and comprehend a review based on what they know about the reviewer.  Neal has been a gamer for a long time. He had a hard time getting substantial fun out of this game.

Out of pure curiosity, did Neal purchase the game or was it a review copy?

GoldenPhoenixApril 20, 2009

Pro has this odd obsession with defending games as great that are universally panned or at the very most considered average (Tales 2 for Wii and of course Sonic). Unless of course it is the Conduit, where he uses the media apprehension as a tool to back up his fear. ;)

I may rent this game but still it is hard for even me to get over the game getting horrendous scores everywhere.

vudu - It was a review copy, but I signed up for the review because I was interested in the game. If you remember, I had favorable NYCC impressions. I was excited for this game. Not super excited, but excited nonetheless.

I played through almost all of the game (I got stuck on some of the final missions) and I didn't hate it; I just wasn't too impressed.

Yes, there is a "flow" to this game, but for me, I found the flow too hard to obtain and the sword controls not that enjoyable.

As far as comparing this Sonic Unleashed, I hated Sonic Unleashed. I at least enjoyed this game. From all the comments on here, you'd think I gave it a 3 or a 4.

I stand by my review of this game. I'm sorry if my opinion of this game doesn't meet up with your own. Maybe we just prefer different games.

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Sonic and the Black Knight Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Sonic Team

Worldwide Releases

na: Sonic and the Black Knight
Release Mar 03, 2009
PublisherSega
RatingEveryone 10+
eu: Sonic and the Black Knight
Release Mar 13, 2009
PublisherSega
Rating12+
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