Or was it Nipples the Enchilada?
You’re the fastest thing alive, rolling around at the speed of sound just minding your own business and hanging out with your best buddy when suddenly this douche straight outta nowhere busts through the wall, hooks you right in the gut, and runs off with your stuff. Little do you know, the payback you’re gonna deliver to this guy is a fate far worse than death.
Knuckles was a great character in Sonic the Hedgehog. Back when Sonic 3 came out, everyone was buzzing about this mysterious new enemy as well as what an echidna is. From the get-go, Knux pummels Sonic out of Super Sonic form and scatters the Chaos Emeralds, so your first impression already isn’t a good one. And since you’re on his home turf of Angel Island, every time you finish a zone and beat Eggman, guess who has been one step ahead of you laying a devious trap? Constantly opening trap doors, blasting you places, or turning out the lights, you’re ready to tear Knuckles a new one when you catch up to him and he wimps out. Oh, looks like he was being tricked by Eggman the whole time, so I guess he’s a pretty good guy after all since he does help you beat Eggman yet again and you do become pals with him.
Ah, a cunning, resourceful, rival who matches your speed with his power, even if he is a bit gullible at times. Knuckles was the archetypal rival character to Sonic at the time. Whereas Sonic was carefree and whimsical, Knuckles was down-to-earth and dutiful, the lancer to Sonic’s heroism, the red to his blue. The future looked bright for this trio of Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles, even if no one has ever played Knuckles Chaotix. Then came Sonic Adventure, where the gameplay was tight and happening. Sonic and Tails had the stages we all know and love, based on high speed action and surely Knuckles was going to get a fun gameplay style, right? …Right?
Oh… I guess scavenger hunts can be considered high speed action if you memorize all the places the shards could be at. From here on in, Knuckles was going to be known as a treasure hunter, so instead of high speed action shenanigans, it’s slow digging for emeralds. While the exploration aspect was welcome and the stage gimmicks were creative in his stages, treasure hunting was a real pace-breaker in Sonic Adventure 1 and 2. You wanted to “go fast” after all, whether it was running or blasting everything in sight. The emerald shard locations could have been set to spawn in the same spots to encourage speed-running, but it would also defeat the replayability of the stages, so Knuckles was in a catch-22 of gameplay. Even if we go to the future, Knuckles’ treasure hunting haunts Sonic Generations, a wonderful game, with one of the weaker side missions. Knuckles’ gameplay is gone but at least he still has his reputation as Sonic’s cunning rival and a rough n’ tough theme song.
And then this guy came along. Soon Knuckles lost that the rival spot too when Shadow the Hedgehog made his debut. Shadow’s grim scowl and his ability to win the emo hearts of fourteen year old kids nationwide set himself up to be the perfect anti-hero to Sonic’s hero. A much better rival had taken the stage and summarily dethroned Knuckles. While Knuckles had a mysterious past of his echidna heritage, Shadow had a riveting dark past full of angst and a no-holds-bar attitude to doing whatever he needs to get done. So Knuckles slid back into being one of Sonic’s sidekicks, being the tough guy next to him where his gameplay languished and his name long gone from the days of top-billing.
Sidekick soon turned into comic relief. More and more appearances had less of Knuckles being his resourceful hunter self from back on Angel Island and more of him being duped by Eggman or being an idiot. No longer is Knuckles the tricky hunter he was before, laying his snares and using his assets to get ahead in the race, now he’s just the naive knucklehead. Oh poor Knuckles, you lost your gameplay, your title, and even your character. Maybe one day, you’ll be fun to play as again. Join me next time when I share my blue ribbon chili recipe.
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