Welcome to Super Smash Step-Brothers, where I crush hopes and shatter memories of gaming fans everywhere. Today we will be discussing a character that is not talked about as much as a potential entrant to the Universe of Smash, but is nonetheless, an option and so we shall discuss it. Sonic’s friendly rival: Knuckles.
Knuckles is an echidna that hails from the floating island, first introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog 3. He is the guardian and protector of the island and it’s greatest treasure, the Master Emerald. In Sonic 3, Knuckles is tricked by Eggman (also known as Dr. Robotnik) to keep Sonic away from the emerald. Knuckles uses his cunning and knowledge of the island to impede Sonic’s progress all along the way. Sonic 3 leaves this plot thread hanging, leaving it to be wrapped up in Sonic & Knuckles, where Knuckles eventually realizes he has been tricked. Learning of this, he helps Sonic in his campaign against Eggman in order to retrieve the Master Emerald from his greedy clutches.
While stories of villains turned heroes are commonplace in gaming today (and in the Sonic franchise especially), Knuckles was one of the first occurrences of this in a video game — certainly in one as prolific as the Sonic series. It was a break through in game storytelling, since Knuckles’ animosity and change of heart is shown without a word of dialog. This made Knuckles more relatable; he made mistakes, and tried to even the score. Knuckles showed real humanity in a video game character, and thus became more popular than other characters in the series for a time.
The other reason Knuckles became so popular was the fact that he simply had more abilities than Sonic. His portrayal in Sonic 3 made it blatantly clear that, no matter how fast Sonic was, Knuckles was still better. Every stage Knuckles showed up, he was still just a little faster and a little smarter than Sonic, ready to thwart him at every turn. While Eggman’s tricks and traps had become predictable at this point already, Knuckles was something new, and a stronger obstacle to overcome. Even once he became a playable character, he could glide, climb walls, and knock down rocks leading to areas Sonic and even Tails may never see in the games. The Sonic games were all about speed, but with Knuckles, players could really explore the stages. In the late 90’s there was no question who would win a fight between Knuckles and Sonic, because Knuckles seemed to have every advantage.
His popularity led to him having his own spin-off game on the 32X titled Knuckles’ Chaotix, co-starring a number of other characters that would be forgotten for several years. While the game allowed Knuckles to take center stage, it didn’t exactly leave a strong impression on the gaming community. Add to that the fact that the 32X would eventually be eclipsed by the Sega Saturn, Knuckles’ only game was left in want of more spotlight.
While Knuckles has started to fade into the background due to overcrowding in the Sonic series, he still remains a staple of the franchise. In the Sonic Adventure games and in Sonic Heroes, he is usually the ice to Sonic’s fire — being careful and restrained when Sonic is ready to rush on ahead. Despite not opposing Sonic in these titles, they still serve as foils to each other, making their relationship when working together all the more interesting. It’s complex dynamic, and one that could be explored in Smash Brother’s story mode, if only a little.
That being said, Knuckles would be a good, if unusual, addition to the Smash cast. In more recent games, Knuckles is portrayed as less speedy, and more of brute — being able to use his giant spiked hands to punch out enemies and knock down walls. He’s still fast though, so he could easily out-pace most of the Smash Brothers cast. He has used a variety of skills over the past several decades, including the ability to glide, cling and climb walls, burrow through the ground, and even use Sonic’s trademark spin dash. The Sonic Adventure series allows him to initiate a diving drill-like attack while in the air to catch enemies below him unaware, and his powerful punches can send even the strongest eggbot flying. Knuckles has just enough elbow-room in his repertoire that making a sizable moveset for him for Smash Brothers is not an issue.
There are still plenty of other issues with him trying to get into Smash Brothers, however. Unlike other possible options, Knuckles’ inclusion relies on positive answers to the following questions: will Sega allow Sonic to return, and will they be able to support more than one Sonic character?
While I’ve already discussed some of my thoughts on Sonic’s inclusion here when Sega’s future was looking bleak, I will still say that there is yet to be a guarantee that Sonic will make the cut this time. If Sonic does triumph, it certainly adds to Knuckles’ chances of getting into Smash Brothers; however, if there is no Sonic there is definitely no chance of seeing Knuckles, since he himself does not constitute a Sega representative on his own.
The second question, whether or not the game will support a second Sonic character, and that one character being Knuckles is a big one. Other Sega titles, such as Knights into Dreams, Madworld/Anarchy Reigns, and Bayonetta are viable alternatives for inclusion if they wanted to add another Sega character. Even within the Sonic franchise, there are other options to go with. Tails has been Sonic’s faithful companion since before Knuckles was even conceived Eggman has been the villain in almost every Sonic title. Shadow presents a more modern edgy alternative (though better suited for an alternate outfit). Even Blaze would be a better option since she appeared in all the Sonic Rush titles on the Nintendo DS. Knuckles is still better equipped than most other competitors for a fighting game, however. So, while his chances are not terrible, there are still a handful of characters that would likely come ahead of him.
It’s also worth mentioning, that the Knuckles of today isn’t exactly the Knuckles of yesteryear. Starting around the release of Sonic Riders, Sonic Team started making Knuckles more like his appearance in the Sonic X television show — loud, rash, and somewhat obnoxious. This is very contrary to the Knuckles many of us gamers used to know — the Knuckles that was resourceful, level-headed, and intelligent. His portrayal in a new Smash Brothers would likely be looking toward the modern interpretation as it’s inspiration, which may turn off some old school fans. While it doesn’t change how he would likely be used in the game, it might be something die-hard Knuckles supporters may want to consider.
Probability Forecast: “Mostly Unreasonable”
My forecast for Knuckles’ chance of being in the next Smash Brothers as a playable character is “mostly unreasonable.” If Knuckles somehow showed up as a playable Smash Brother, I would purchase a 3DS and proceed to eat the box. The only concession I give Knuckles is the 3DS instead of the WiiU, as the 3DS will be less cardboard to eat in the rare chance I’m wrong.
Agree or disagree? Have a concern I missed, or evidence to the contrary? Have other suggestions that need to be addressed in this series? Let me know in the comments below.
Announcement: The next installment of Super Smash Step-Brothers will be a viewer requested submission, so start putting your ideas below. One of those suggested will be reviewed in the next installment just before E3.