4.5

Sonic. Swords. What's not to love? A lot, actually.

In 2007 Sonic Team released Sonic and the Secret Rings. It was a pretty decent game that showed off alot of nice graphics and interesting gameplay twists. Overall, it was a fairly good spinoff for Sonic. The year is now 2009 and the same team that brought us Secret Rings has released Sonic and the Black Knight. The second in the now titled "Sonic Storybook Series".

The idea is simple enough. Sonic is transported to the world of Arthurian legend and has to battle King Arthur himself. Yes, King Arthur is the villain. The story goes like this, after the King was given Excalibur by the Lady of the Lake (portrayed by Sonic's friend Amy) the power of the sword corrupted him and made him evil. After becoming evil he began to do generic evil things. Now it's up to Sonic to defeat the evil King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (also portrayed by Sonic's friends).

The gameplay uses the same idea presented in Secret Rings. Sonic runs along a set path, much like a rail shooter, and proceeds from one end of the stage to another. However, Sonic no longer runs automatically and steering him left and right does not involve turning the Wii-mote. Instead, all of Sonic's movement involves use of the Wii-nunchuk attachment. This may sound pretty standard but Sonic is on a set path and can't be turned around. If they were going to use the joystick for movement then why not give players free movement? Instead we get an awkward mix of standard platform and arcade controls.

The main twist on the Secret Rings gameplay is that the Wii-mote is now used to swing a sword. It's not exactly strange considering that Sonic is in the land of Arthurian legend. The sword works basically the same way as the swordplay in Zelda Twilight Princess. Swinging the Wii-mote causes Sonic to swing his sword. The sad thing is that this game's swordplay works just like the swordplay in Twilight Princess. Meaning, the Wii-mote swinging could easily be replaced by a button press, often boils down to nothing more than wrist waggling, and leads to many swings not being registered, slow reactions from the in-game character, and rage from the player.

The stage design doesn't exactly compliment the swordplay either. Enemies will spawn right in front of you, either blocking your path or hitting you with a cheap shot. Remember, we're on a set path here. You can't exactly run around the enemies unless they're placed in a way that allows you to do so.

The stage Dragon's Lair deserves special mention. Enemies impede your progress on platforms that disappear behind you (that are apparently dragons), leaving you no choice but to try and kill them as quickly as possible. But wait, it gets better. There are plenty of areas in this stage where shielded enemies spawn right on the edge of bottomless pits. You know what shielded enemies do when you get close right? They smack you back with their shields and advance. So, if you can't somehow get through their shields the moment they spawn, they'll continue pushing you back until you're backed up against the ledge.

Setting aside that horrible nightmare of a stage, let's get to the graphics. For a Wii game, this looks great. Apart from the ugly citizens of Camelot, the characters contain alot of detail and are very well animated. The environments are colorful and each stage has a vast, detailed background. And, as always, Sega has included amazing CG cutscenes in the beginning and end of the game.

The music is also good for the most part. The music consists of catchy rock beats and epic orchestrated tunes and some combinations of the two. Unfortunatly, the entirely orchestrated music, while good, is easily interchangeable with the music in other fantasy games like Oblivion. While playing the Great Megalith stage I couldn't shake the feeling that an Imperial Gaurd was about to nab me and yell "Stop right there criminal scum!". On the other hand, the rock music is great. In some cases, the music was so good, I'd replay some of the worst stages just to hear it (see: Dragon's Lair). There are also some cool themes from previous Sonic games revived for the fans.

There's also a multiplayer mode. The multiplayer options range from killing eachother as many times as possible within a time limit to killing randomly spawning enemies within a time limit. It controls basically the same way as the single player but with *gasp* free movement. If you know your way around the controls you'll do fine but the horrible, top-down camera can often lead to misjudging your attack range. Still, it's a nice distraction.

The game is pretty short. Finishing the story only takes a day and completing it doesn't take half as long as most other 3D Sonic games. With all of it's issues it's hard to recommend paying 50$ for. The only people I could recommend this to are the most devoted Sonic fans (myself) and Wii owning hardcore gamers starving for something more complex than a mini-game collection.

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