Knuckles; a good echidna left to play second fiddle
I'm very thankful that I have a place in which to state my opinions of the Sonic universe, so I'd like to thank the good people of Sonic HQ for setting the editorial section up on their comprehensive site! >_> I can't imagine anywhere else I could write an essay on a video game character and be taken seriously..
I've been playing the Sonic games for over ten years now. I remember that when I started, there was a whole period in my young life dedicated to that hedgehog and his adventures. So perhaps I'm old-fashioned when it comes to my take on the Sonic Adventure games, (dangit- where are the friggin' super emeralds?!) but at least I have the right to say that I've watched the series progress nearly from its start, and so I know what I'm talking about. Or at least, I'm pretty sure I do. O_o; Anyway, the point of this rant- er, essay, is my opinion on the deterioration of Knuckles' role in the games.
It all started with seven emeralds, a quick departure onto Angel Island, and suddenly an attack from the ground upwards. In Sonic 3, (or the much better Sonic 3 & Knuckles) Knuckles first appeared to the world harassing our protagonist, swiping the chaos emeralds, and then smugly leaving the scene. Yes, this isn't a very good start to a new playable character- but that was partially the point. The whole of Sonic's so-called 'friendship' with Knuckles was an uneasy one, frought with distrust, fighting, and rivalry.
What made Knuckles so appealing as a character was his good intentions mixed with kill-the-main-character intentions. As much as he got in the way, he also got to save the day. (Ee, that rhymes..) Shadow now plays this role, and one can easily see the effect it has; the black hedgehog has his own game to be released soon. But why did they kick Knuckles out of the way?
It's the fifth paragraph, and I can't hide my personal feelings any longer; I dislike Sonic. I admit, I once felt much respect towards him, but once I found Knuckles' straightforward honesty and compared it to Sonic's arrogance, I immediately found my new idol. Perhaps the fact that we both have short tempers also played part in it, but I'd rather not think about that. (And maybe the fact that Knuckles got to screw up Sonic's plans. Anyway.) I also dislike favoritism, which Sonic gets the benefits of. What is favoritism, you ask? It's that annoying trait you can find in almost any anime, cartoon, movie, book, or whatever; it's where one character, the main character, is in the company of friends and EQUALS, and yet is ALWAYS the ONLY one who can save the day regardless of the situation! *Ahem.* Our echidna is obvioulsy on the short end of this stigma, but then again, so is poor Tails.. *Sniff*
Anyway, obligitory fifth-paragraph-rant over, I want to move onto how Knuckles slowly got pushed out of the antagonist spotlight. By the end of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, it was obvious that Knuckles was Sonic's equal and worthy rival. Sonic may have been faster and able to jump higher, but Knux made up for it by being able to decimate boulders and climb walls. They were both even able to become super and hyper with the chaos and super emeralds, respectively. But then came a quiet calm as Sonic Team moved away from the whole emerald-plotline again, and Knuckles only made obligitory cameos, even though they made little sense as he was a guardian of the Master Emerald- a full-time responsibility. (How did he manage the time to get a car and race??)
But then came Sonic Adventure. My sister and I were one of the three people to get the Sega Dreamcast :P which turned out to be a mistake, as time has shown. Anyway, we did get to play the game when it was still fresh out. It came with a world in which you could travel, multiple characters with their own story, the new chao system, and of course, the ability to cause roadblock by standing innocently in front of cars. While it was somewhat frustrating that Sonic had more levels than any other character, it was also understandable since all of the characters had their own set of objectives in their levels. (And NO ONE wants ten levels of frog-fishing.) However, Sonic did later have his own stint after the main plotline wherein only HE was able to become Super Sonic and defeat Perfect Chaos.
That doesn't make much sense. Well, it does in the case of Tails, who needs the seven super emeralds in order to become super himself, but not for Knuckles. It was already proven that he was Sonic's equal and rival, and it would have been more dramatic if Knuckles got the chance to defeat the monster that terrorized his people in the past. But of course, this is SONIC Adventure. (Sonic, in ancient Greek, means 'Only ONE character gets all the glory, you whining ninny'.)
But then came Sonic Adventure 2. This was where Knuckles' role as rival became truly disbanded. There were several reasons for this:
1) The whole basis of the game was good vs. evil wherein the sides were equal in skill. While Knuckles could remain Sonic's rival, Sonic would still need an equal on the evil side, which made way for the entrance of Shadow. And besides, Knuckles being good meant he also needed an equal, which leads to...
2) Rouge. There is no way I can be objective about this- I absolutely hate Rouge. It's one thing to have some flashy, scantily-clad bat waltz up after all these years and proclaim herself equal to a decendant of an ancient race and guardian of the Master Emerald, but what's worse is that it seems that Sonic Team might get the gaul to make her Knuckles' LOVE INTEREST. The foundation of Knuckles' character is that he's a lone wolf, and the thought of him falling in love is both uncharacteristic and unhelpful. And it had to be HER! (If there were one place I would send a nuclear missile, it would be the Bahamas, and if there were someone to be 'ground zero', it would be Rouge.) But there is also reason number..
3) Knuckles, regardless of how much he may beat up Sonic, is a goodguy. This means that he must be on the good team, which in turn means that they must work together- strengthening whatever claim their 'friendship' had. In the premise of the game, you can't have the good side tearing itself apart- even if it means breaking tradition and character. (In ancient Latin, Adventure means 'who cares about everything we set up about these characters in the past?') But I also have beef with..
4) While Tails has shown mechanical aptitude with his planes, since when and why did he decide to run around in the Tornado II? He was always a capable adventurer- able to keep up with Sonic and even swim which, if you remember the good ol' Genesis games, was a life-saving ability. It's sad to see such a sweet, able character be disabled just for part of their gameplay.
Tails aside, I want to point out that this wasn't so- even in Sonic Adventure 1, Knux and Sonic were quick to get into spats with one another. (I loved the way Knuckles told Sonic to shut up in Japanese.) But with Sonic Adventure 2 requiring the two to work cooperatively by default, Knuckles greatly lost effect of being Sonic's rival. Stranger still was his amazement when Sonic and Shadow both became super to take on Biohazard. He had done the same, and quite frequently.. (Perhaps it's because what was supposed to be a rare and special ability was turning out to be common as day?)
Finally, I wish to close with a fiery rant about Sonic Heroes. This seems to be the final nail in the coffin. For whatever reason, the good side starts with Tails and Knuckles catching up with Sonic as Eggman, for reasons unknown, practically asks Sonic to come and beat him up. AGAIN. I admit, it's neat to see Espio again, (wow, he really DOES exist!) and that Shadow indeed lived the ending of SA2,(I knew it! Huzzah!) but there are so many flaws in the premise I couldn't stomach the first few levels. First of all, WHY does a newspaper have a picture of Sonic randomly running? And WHY does he have that stupid frog again and, of all things, achao? (Did he lose his own?) What sort of questionable line of work would the Chaotix be in if they never refuse a job with money involved? Why is Eggman telling Sonic that he has another plan for domination in action? And, finally, why is Knuckles cooperating with Sonic and Tails? In the past, (Sonic 3 & Knuckles and in Sonic Adventure,) he showed little care what they were up to, or whether Eggman was afoot or not. (For example, look to when Sonic and Tails were put to sleep and Knuckles just walks by..)
It's in this game that Knuckles is truly reduced to another tag-along for Sonic. In the biography, it even states that he's jealous of Sonic's adhd-like need for irresponsibility- a sudden tag onto his character which would make him submissive to Sonic's role. I like Shadow, and I like the ability to play the evil role- but I miss the days when Knuckles was Sonic's main obstacle. Er, save for Eggman, of course. That goes without saying. But after so many years of being his tempermental, honest and responsible rival, is Knuckles role going to fade away to being Sonic's other Tails?