Bats, Family, and Outer Space: What Knuckles Should Do in His Paramount+ Series

*** SPOILER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS PLOT DETAILS FROM THE END OF SONIC 2 ***

I am a Knuckles fan. His name is my online handle, which I’ve been using consistently since the early days of the SEGA forums. I love his moves, his lore, and even his weird comic series. So, naturally, I was excited when Paramount announced a Knuckles-centric TV series a few months ago, starring the red, dreadlocked knucklehead. It wasn’t long before my worry over Sonic 2 fumbling things tempered that excitement with anxiety, but now that I’ve seen the movie that anxiety has given way to enthusiasm. Knuckles was the best thing in that movie and I am ready for a show about him.

But…what exactly will the Knuckles series be? All we know about it is that it’ll be a live action series on Paramount Plus. I can’t imagine something like that being done without a sizable budget akin to Disney+’s MCU and Star Wars offerings. That is an assumption I will be running with for this article. What do I want from the Knuckles series? A lot, but I’d like to think my hopes are at least somewhat realistic (yes, including this first one.)

It’s Time to Go Off-World

The Sonic movies have been consistently teasing us with a larger universe. We’ve been given brief glimpses of Sonic’s home and the mushroom planet, Tails has talked about a “village,” and Knuckles’ introduction was even preceded by strange masked aliens, initially introduced in the Sonic 2 Pre-Quill comic.

It’s high time the Sonic Movie Universe make good on those teases and actually take us somewhere. A planet hopping space adventure would be the perfect backdrop for a TV show. Likewise, a TV show is a great place to flesh out multiple locations beyond Earth in the Sonic Movie Universe. I wouldn’t expect most of these locations to be especially fantastical or grand for purely budgetary reasons, but I will definitely take “generic desert planet” and “rusty cheap-looking backwater planet” over “Knuckles goes to New Jersey.”

Make it Knuckles, Sonic and Tails’ First Adventure Together

Yes, this is a Knuckles show, but that doesn’t mean Sonic and Tails can’t get in on the action! Sonic 2 served as an origin for the trio coming together as friends, but there is no better medium for their first proper adventure than a TV show. Explore their chemistry. Let them talk and explore their interactions outside of the context of a movie climax. Let Sonic be the fish out of water as he’s taken to places Knuckles is more familiar with.

As fun as Knuckles is, I think he was at his best when he had Sonic and Tails to bounce off of, so it’d be a shame to separate them for his small screen debut. Let Knuckles have the main plot and the spotlight, but allow Sonic and Tails to tag along for the ride.

Bring Back Knuckles’ People…and Make Them the Bad Guys

Look: I don’t care what Knuckles said, Longclaw didn’t wipe out his entire tribe. They are alive, and if they are meant to be dead, undead them, because they would make the perfect villains for this series. It is already firmly established in these movies that the echidnas are the power-hungry aggressors. They were the ones who created the Master Emerald, they were the ones who used it for war, and they were the ones who hunted down the owls and attempted to take Sonic’s power. They can certainly be three dimensional villains. Giving them a reason to be so power hungry would only make them more interesting. But ultimately, Knuckles needs to come down against them.

So how could this work? Have them abandon Knuckles. When they went after Longclaw and failed to capture Sonic, they began searching the universe relentlessly for him and the map to the Master Emerald rather than return to him. This would not only demonstrate how far his people have fallen that they would rather hunt for power than go back for one of their own, it would also allow the SMU to explore a different kind of familial loss, and the differences between family by blood and family by love, and why one is more meaningful.

Heck, Tikal could even be introduced as an unwilling pawn of her people. When the Master Emerald is used at the end of Sonic 2, the echidnas learn that Knuckles has it. Tikal is sent under the lie that she’s looking for their people. Knuckles, upon discovering they are alive, agrees to help her find them. Sonic and Tails won’t let him go alone. This gives us the motivation for the planet-hopping adventure as they go from planet to planet, searching for clues, Tikal subtly pointing them in the right direction. This was, in reality, done to separate the Master Emerald from its protectors.

Some version of this, where the story potential for Knuckles’ people is utilized, and Knuckles is made to see the truth about them, feels like the perfect place to take this. It wraps up standing plot points, gives Knuckles a unique group of villains who are personal to him, strengthens his newfound bonds, and gives our tri-colored trio their first test as the Master Emerald’s guardians.

If You’re Going to Focus on Humans, Focus on the Wachowskis

I am going to say something potentially controversial: Tom and Maddie Wachowski are the only decent human characters in the Sonic movies. Everyone else is an annoying cartoon caricature of a human, Jim Carrey worst of all. But even if I liked Carrey, he shouldn’t be here, as Knuckles ought to have his own villain. So since a live action Sonic tv series will inevitably need to spend time with humans on Earth for budgetary reasons, they might as well flesh out the best ones.

Their plot? Well, jumping off my previous point: have them be the ones protecting the Master Emerald while the furballs are out in space. Maybe a few different parties, one of whom were hired by the echidnas, are after the gemstone and they need to go on their own adventure to keep it away from them. They can be hunted by those weird masked bird people from Sonic 2, some random humanoid aliens in make-up, and maybe eventually a certain…bat jewel thief.

Alternatively, if Knuckles and co need a human companion, Maddie can go with them and get some much-needed screen time, and Tom can get paired with Rachel and they’re made to hash their whole thing out.

Bring in Rouge

So if you ignored this article’s spoiler warnings, chances are you already know that Sonic 3 will have Shadow, effectively setting it up to be an adaptation of Sonic Adventure 2. You know who you can’t leave out of any version of SA2? Rouge. Problem is, with Sonic 3 set up to be a story about Shadow, Rouge will almost certainly take a backseat, much like Tails did in Sonic 2. That’s why Rouge absolutely needs to be in the Knuckles series.

There are multiple reasons to introduce Rouge here: she is the closest thing Knuckles has to his own adversary and rival in the games. They are both treasure hunters, and both have an interest in the Master Emerald. So bringing her in as a villain for Knuckles to eventually deal with only makes sense. With the Master Emerald and GUN now present in the SMU, Rouge also has something to do in regards to her own plotline. She has a jewel to hunt and a faction that can employ her skills for covert ops on Earth.

Bare minimum, the Knuckles series ought to lay the groundwork for Rouge’s role in Sonic 3.

Heck, Bring In Some Other Sonic Characters Too

The great thing about TV shows is that you can give a character or group of characters a complete story in a single episode’s run time. The Knuckles series isn’t just a good place to set up some stuff for Sonic 3, it’s a great place to set up stuff for the franchise as a whole going forward.

You know what would be cool? An episode where Knuckles just had to work with the Chaotix. While Sonic, Tails, and whoever else is with them go off to explore a planet or check out its local cuisine (mostly off-screen), Knuckles hires the bumbling detectives to find the next clue for finding his people or whatever he’s doing. Hijinks, of course, ensue.

A few episodes just establishing characters while Knuckles is on his adventure is a stellar way to bring new Sonic characters into the franchise.

Let the IDW Creative Team Work on an Episode or Two

You know who’s been consistently producing the best Sonic stories for the past four years? IDW. Yes, they’re busy people. Ian Flynn is working on a friggin game. I don’t care. Flynn has experience working in TV, Evan Stanley’s been doing great work at IDW for years, bring one or both of them in for an episode or two. I’m sure you all can work it out.

Nothing would make the fandom more excited for the series than their involvement, and they’re input would be nothing but a net benefit for the show. Please make this happen!

Dive Into the History of the Chaos Emeralds

Sonic 2 remained fairly vague on the details regarding the history of the Master Emerald and the Chaos Emeralds. Since Knuckles is the character most directly connected to the gemstones, a series about him ought to dive deeper into their history. How did the echidnas get their hands on the chaos emeralds? How did they create the Master Emerald? What other sorts of conflicts were the emeralds involved in? Heck, where did the Chaos Emeralds come from? SEGA has always been cagey about the Chaos Emerald’s origins, but that’s no reason for the movies to not touch on that in some way.

Whether its Tikal, Knuckles’ people, or a plot exposition fairy, the Knuckles series is the perfect opportunity to dive deeper. And if this does happen, Chaos and the chao ought to also be brought in, at least in some capacity. Chaos was the original Master Emerald guardian after all, and we know he wasn’t inside the Master Emerald in this universe. Maybe when the echidnas took the emeralds, he was imprisoned somewhere or something?

Basically, Make This a Weird Sonic Adventure Adaptation Set in Outer Space

I mean, this is basically what this whole article has been leading to, hasn’t it? Sonic Adventure was, in many ways, basically Knuckles’ story. His people, home, and the Master Emerald all sit at the center of the game’s events. It is the perfect game to mine for Knuckles-centric plot elements, and the many changes the SMU has made to the echidnas makes the game’s plot elements all the more enticing for a Knuckles TV series.

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve expected that Paramount already knows what it wants from a Knuckles series. So far, their Sonic writers have had a decent idea of what to take from the games. They’ve already grabbed bits and pieces from Sonic Adventure. I just hope they go back to that well again for this.

5 Things the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Movie Needs (And 3 Things It Doesn’t)

So, the Sonic the Hedgehog movie is about a year old now. Like many, I was absolutely surprised to see that it wasn’t a train wreck. I actually rather enjoyed it! With a sequel on the horizon, there are many things I’d like to see, as well as a few things I hope I don’t.

Continue reading 5 Things the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Movie Needs (And 3 Things It Doesn’t)

The Spin: Roger Craig Smith Was Sonic’s Best Game Voice Actor, and Will Be Missed

I was at E3 2010 when I heard the news that Roger Craig Smith would be taking over as Sonic’s voice actor. As I sat in a corner of the convention center and hurriedly typed out an article about it for Sonic Stadium, I was only feeling one thing: excitement. This, on top of playing Sonic Colors – easily the most promising Sonic game I had experienced in years – really made it feel like SEGA was working hard to revitalize the character. 

Continue reading The Spin: Roger Craig Smith Was Sonic’s Best Game Voice Actor, and Will Be Missed

Sonic Team, It’s Time To Bring Back The Chao Gardens

When I was 18, it was in 2010 and I had yet to become a Sonic news writer. It was also the year that I got Sonic Adventure 2: Battle on the Gamecube. I wanted to get all the game’s emblems, only to learn that doing so meant that I had to go raise these little creatures that are called Chao, enter them in races and Karate tournaments, and get some emblems there. It didn’t take long before I discovered that raising these cute, adorable Chao is fun and addictive. Now, a decade later, I think it’s time that Sonic Team decided to bring that back.

Continue reading Sonic Team, It’s Time To Bring Back The Chao Gardens

From Worst to Best: Why the New Sonic Movie Design Might Be the Best Sonic Design Ever

Early last year, the world saw the first trailer for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie and we got our first look at what the blue blur would finally look like on the silver screen. To say that fans, non-fans, and society in general had a very negative reaction to what was shown onscreen would be a gross understatement. From his small eyes, his wide head, pasty-white hands with clawed fingers and human-like proportions, Sonic looked hideous. Practically a monster. Continue reading From Worst to Best: Why the New Sonic Movie Design Might Be the Best Sonic Design Ever

The Spin: The Notion of ‘A True Threat To Sonic’

[This article will contain some spoilers for Sonic Mania, so if you’re waiting for the PC version, see you next week]

You know how some people have these phrases that they use to try and articulate their feelings? Especially when it comes to Sonic games? Well today we’re going to look at one of them; this one:

“I want the villain to be ‘a true threat to Sonic”

Continue reading The Spin: The Notion of ‘A True Threat To Sonic’

Five Worst Gender Counterparts that the Archie Sonic Comics Created

I’m sure you’ve seen gender counterparts before. After Mickey Mouse became a household icon, they made Minnie Mouse as a love interest. When DC decided that Superman needed a counterpart to peer his ability, they eventually settled on Supergirl. When Mattel wanted to claw more of the market share through their Polly Pocket toys, out came Mighty Max. On paper, creating a gender counterpart for an established character isn’t in itself a bad thing; sure, your basic premise is “let’s take this person, but flip their gender”, but it’s a foundation so simple that it can be span into many creative, interesting and fun directions to suit whatever purpose the story and series needs it to. Continue reading Five Worst Gender Counterparts that the Archie Sonic Comics Created

The Spin: The Power of Panels

So I watched the 25th anniversary panel at SXSW the other day and… I’m a bit conflicted, see I knew there wouldn’t be any games announced at it, it’s been said constantly, unless you were living under a rock or found out about the event a few moments before it was due to start, it was hard not to know, aside from it being officially confirmed that there would be no game announcements, so many other Sega/Sonic sites and commentators were saying it. Continue reading The Spin: The Power of Panels

The Spin: 2015 In Review “Nothing Happened”

2014 as you may recall was ‘The Year of Sonic’ and lets be honest, it was pretty awful, in fact it was one of the worst years for decades which finished with one of the worst games for decades. So 2015 couldn’t be any worse right? 2015 had to be better right?

Well… in around 3 days time it will be 2016, so how have the last 360ish days been if you are a Sonic fan? Well… Urm… Continue reading The Spin: 2015 In Review “Nothing Happened”

The Spin: Why Abhor Sonic 4?

Sonic the Hedgehog 4’s reveal has had a huge impact on the Sonic fanbase. As I wrote in a similar piece, sitting in my position at the forefront of the community, it’s clear that this game has had the biggest impact in the fanbase than anything Sega has announced before. If more proof was needed, just look at forums such as Sonic Retro – who are pulling apart those short three seconds of gameplay and trying to eke as much information as possible beyond the official line. That shows how excited we all are about the announcement of this game, positive or otherwise.

Earlier today, Brad wrote his own feelings as to why there’s a reason to be worried about the upcoming ‘return to the classics’. It’s a topic that I have been debating with him and others who share his view on the SSMB Forums. There are two sides to every argument however, and as much as Brad was right in posting his feelings, so too should I write something of a friendly counterpost detailing why I think there’s nothing to worry about. Yet.

Continue reading The Spin: Why Abhor Sonic 4?

Sonic 4: What’s In A Name?

The following is the opinion of a man who is conflicted and about a company that chose the wrong name.  If you don’t want to read any negativity about Sonic 4 (or you don’t like to read), turn back now.  If you’re going to read on, you’re going to read parts that you might agree with and parts that you might not agree with.  So is the nature of opinion.

My first Sonic forum was Sonic Fan Games HQ and it is where I rose to the community status that I have today.  My first administration job was there and it is also where I met a lot of people to get me in the position that I’m in today.  SFGHQ is where I began development on Sonic Nexus, a project that I began because I did not think SEGA would provide another classic romp ever again.  When college allows me to work on it, Nexus is my only gateway to an “all-new adventure.”

SFGHQ is also the home of many “Sonic 4” fangames that have come and gone over the years.  People have always dreamed of making the direct sequel to Sonic 3 & Knuckles and have either given up, lost interest, or have changed the name of their game to rid themselves of the high expectations that they have set for themselves.

SEGA is now guilty of setting their own bar too high.

I kid you not, there is a Sonic Retro wiki article for every pixel of this screenshot.

 

Before you stop reading the article to comment on how 3-seconds of gameplay cannot justify an opinion as critical as mine, I’ll remind you that classic Sonic fans only need a little to break down anything and everything within a single frame.  Sites like Sonic Retro, SFGHQ, and Zone:0 exist for a reason.  We have perfected analyzing every pixel, color, and motion in the classic Sonic games.  If anybody’s going to not fall prey to the hype monster… it’s us.

You might say that we’re ungrateful for not being completely sold or hating what we have seen thus far of a project that Ken Ballough, SEGA’s brand manager, said is finally intended for us.  In reality, are we really unappreciative for dogging on it?

The game is called Sonic the Hedgehog 4, a direct sequel to a trilogy made famous on perfection.  We do not have ridiculously high expectations.  When you name the game Sonic 4, it has to be perfection.  If it’s not, you might as well piss all over my Genesis.  SEGA PR giving reasons as to why I’m not pleased is making excuses for something undeserving of a title that they gave it.  It’s not us… it’s them.

Isn't "concept art" supposed to help conceive new ideas? I saw this spinning flower 19 years ago.

 

The original games are also built on creativity.  Where one game came up short, the other expanded upon and surprised you with more.  Sonic 2 introduced a spindash, another character, and Super Sonic.  Sonic 3 had a “tropical green  trope” zone to begin the game, but broke precedent and set it on fire almost immediately. Sonic & Knuckles introduced a playable Knuckles and lock-on technology, which even breathed new life into Sonic 2.  The bar was raised whether you were prepared for it or not.  With 3-seconds of a Green Hill rip-off and an Emerald Hill corkscrew, along with old badniks, Green Hill palmtrees and flowers, Sonic 4 currently does not surprise or rise above the three games before it.

The blatant rehashing of old materials is fangame quality at best.  Even the story admits that this game will be bringing back “Eggman’s finest creations.”

Yes, “official fangame” is an oxymoron, but that’s what Sonic 4 looks like thus far: an average bit of fan-service that ultimately does not live up to its choice of name.  Aside from the aforementioned “fangame n00b mistake” of a name, the game is rehashing old stuff and updating their looks to make it all seem “new.”  For most of fangame creators, that is all we really do to make level art and badniks, since we lack the skill to sprite original things ourselves.  Observe:

The art style of the classics is there in the trailer, but we saw Green Hill nearly two decades ago.

With the talk of art style also comes Sonic’s appearance and where the train really comes off the tracks.  The pudgy, short-spined, black-eyed original doesn’t return.  What a sequel to the Genesis games gets is the lanky, floppy-spined wannabe that has been romping around King Arthur’s court as a werehog with Shadow, Cream, Marine, Silver and the ruffles.  I do not care about confusing the children and being consistent with Sonic’s modern design.  The Sonic I knew has a spirit attached to him that no other character can match.  Even a re-design of Sonic would have sufficed because, hey, we are rebooting, right? If the game was called something else, modern Sonic wouldn’t be an issue.  However, the game is called “Sonic 4.”

The face of failure... or someone who just farted.

 

“Modern” Sonic’s appearance hit me the hardest.  SEGA had lied to us.

They invoked the winged ring back on 9.9.09.  They made a whole forum skin around the Genesis sprites. The “Hedgehog Day” flash ditty was classic Sonic coming out of a hole.  Classic Sonic was coming back.  Even the trailer had a classic Sonic retrospective!  My hopes were dashed when the face of an underwhelming decade faded up at the end of the trailer.  SEGA’s commitment to finally pleasing its original fanbase after sixteen years was a front.

Ken Ballough said it himself: Sonic 4 is our game.  When a new Sonic game came out with 10 new characters and laser guns, we clamored for a return to form and SEGA has finally obliged.  The kids have had their games and they were mediocre at best, most being the butt of jokes across gaming websites.

If Capcom can commit to classic Mega Man to the point of fully embracing its past by making awesomely bad box-art, then so can you, SEGA.

Here's a fan's altered "Sonic 4" model. Looks like a winner to me.

 

Last week, I had chastised a few people at SFGHQ for an absurd amount of complaining over the Needlemouse contests and the eventual recycling of old badniks.  My posts were along the lines of, “Shut up, you guys.  Classic Sonic is returning.  This is what we want!  Can’t you be happy?”

Unfortunately, now I’m the one doing the complaining.  What Sonic 4 appears to be isn’t what I want.

SEGA, you owe it to your legions of 20-something and older fans to make a change.  Our commitment to you when we were still wetting beds in tacky windbreakers is why you are still around today.   We defended you on the playground against those Mario-loving, Super Nintendo owning sons of bitches.  We followed you to consoles that were complete failures.

Either change the name and respect what are still Sonic’s best games or fix what I saw in that trailer.  I will not settle for anything less than perfection.  We’ve been settling for a decade now.  Provide throwbacks while expanding and innovating.

The time is now.  The choice is yours, SEGA.

You might think I’m overreacting (hell, I think I am, too), but that is just how close the name “Sonic 4” is to me.  Again, if the name wasn’t “Sonic 4,” I would be completely sunshine smiles right now, but that’s not the case.  There is a weight so heavy tied to “Sonic 4” that I doubt anybody will ever be able to pick it up.

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I’m prepared for the flaming below.  Let me have it, fellas.  I’m aware that this is probably not the time nor place for such an article, but with a subject so close to me, I had to get my two cents out there.  You’re entitled to your own opinion, too.

Opinion: Not-So-Mega Collection?

Dear me. Deary, deary me. Sonic Team are all over the shop about this one. Let’s start where it all began… a few months ago, Sonic Team announced (along with Sonic Advance 2) that they would be making a Sonic the Hedgehog compilation game for the Nintendo Gamecube. Fans of the blue hedgehog jumped for joy – and rightly so.

Continue reading Opinion: Not-So-Mega Collection?

Feedback Forum: Give SEGA a Break!

Sega has had its ups and downs – more downs than ups, but that was due to its consoles, not the games created for them. Sega tried to make the most out of every console they made (including the Sega Saturn, which was a mongoose to program for). So I believe that Sega is pretty good when it comes to making games. Just look in your local arcade for Christ’s sake! How many Sega cabinets do you see? Most of the games are made by them! Continue reading Feedback Forum: Give SEGA a Break!

OPINION: Dreamcast Dead?

Heard a rumour that the Dreamcast is dead? At first glance this may all seem like some sort of self-destructive pattern on Sega’s part , and that may make you lose your faith in the company as a fan. But, as this massive news special will soon explain, the odds are all in the favour of the Dreamcasters. First off, let’s address the rumours and stories and whatnot (that sounds SO English. Wait, I AM English).
Continue reading OPINION: Dreamcast Dead?