|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sonic Team||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 3, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tony Capri
December 23, 2008 - When Sonic Unleashed was first revealed, it was by way of screenshots that were "accidentally" published onto SEGA's FTP (File Transfer Protocol) site. It didn't take long, however, for SEGA to fess up and show more of the game. Oddly enough, the mega publisher soon dropped an additional bomb, revealing another Sonic game in the works exclusively for Wii - Sonic and the Black Knight. Due out March of 2009, we now take a closer look at this unique entry into the blue blur's gaming repertoire.
Though not quite a launch title, Sonic and the Secret Rings released for Wii in March of 2007. Turning the Wii Remote sideways and utilizing motion control to direct Sonic, The Secret Rings was yet another significant departure from the hedgehog's old-school, platforming traditions. Sonic and the Black Knight is the next installment into what is now widely known as Sonic's Storybook Series, and though this latest game will return to a more conventional control scheme, Sonic will once again have an arsenal of new skills when navigating Black Knight's fantasy world.
Whereas Secret Rings was based upon the Middle Eastern backdrop of Aladdin, Black Knight thrusts Sonic into the realm of knights and damsels. King Arthur has been corrupted, and Merlina (nice creative license there) the sorceress then recruits Sonic to help her in saving the once serene land of (presumably) Camelot. The hook this time around is that Sonic is now equipped with a sword. Rather than facing Eggman's robots, the hedgehog will dispatch a host of medieval foes with his talking blade, Caliburn.
The controls in Black Knight are pretty straight forward and, in many ways, similar to the controls of Sonic Unleashed. You move Sonic with the Nunchuk's control stick, jump with the A button, and attack with a quick waggle of the Wii Remote. Sonic can also guard with the Z button or perform special attacks by combining the B button and a waggle.
If you're worried that Sonic will once again be forced to gear down in order to fight enemies (á la the nighttime levels in Sonic Unleashed), you may be happy to learn that Black Knight's focus remains one of speed. Sonic Team (the game's developers) reports they have given great attention to implementing combat without sacrificing the flow of gameplay (Nintendo Power vol. 232).
Though Black Knight has moved away from the heavy reliance on motion control, the game continues on where Secret Rings left off in terms of RPG-like trappings. Sonic can choose from a variety of skills and power-ups, and there's even a ranking system based on your interactions with civilian characters throughout levels.
Also making a return (from Secret Rings) is the ability to play as other characters, such as Knuckles, Shadow, and Blaze. Players can choose to use Sonic for the entire quest, though the game will offer incentives for experimentation. Multiple paths through stages ensure ample replay value, and though players won't be required to complete all of the game's levels in order to see the story to its end, there's a lot here for Sonic completionists to savor.
Additionally, Black Knight will offer a local battle mode for up to four players, though the promise of waggle combat leaves us skeptically curious at best. However, the addition of online challenges, complete with a ranking system, should give players even more bang for their buck. There's been mention of online trading as well, though the precise details are still under wraps.
Visually, SEGA has proven, even early on in the life of the system, it can produce impressive graphics on Wii. Black Knight is no exception, and the game is shaping up to offer yet another stunning presentation. Textures are crisp and detailed, and character models have that next-gen sheen you rarely see in a Wii game. The game also exhibits an impressive draw distance, and environments are full and lush with life. We've only seen short snippets of actual gameplay footage, but it's enough to whet our appetites for more.
Sonic has taken many odd turns over the last decade or so; in terms of gameplay, the hedgehog has trodden further and further away from what initially made him such a success. Moving into the third dimension has only made it more difficult for the speedster to maintain his identity. With games such as Sonic Rush (DS) and Sonic Unleashed, however, SEGA seems to be gradually bringing the blue blur back to his origins, giving fans more of what they really want. It remains to be seen just how well this latest fusing of traditional Sonic gameplay and SEGA's imperative-driven twist will work out, but as always, we remain hopeful (hopeful SEGA won't burn us out on yet another reimagining of Sonic, one that just doesn't quite pan out). Look for Sonic and the Black Knight next spring.
CCC Freelance Writer