Welcome to another exciting installment of Character Spotlight! The segment where we talk about video game characters and give some insight into their history, and consider what they've contributed to their respective series and/or trademark holders and ponder what contributions they've made to video game culture. Today we shine the spotlight on one of my personal favorite video game characters: Knuckles the Echidna from the Sonic series!
Knuckles, along with the Cyndaquil family has to be the most famous echidna in all of gaming. Although, those guys look more like actual echidnas than Knuckles does.
For Sonic 3, the game makers wanted to give Sonic a new rival. Knuckles was designed by Sega Employee Takashi "Thomas" Yuda and was first introduced in one of my favorite games of all time: 1994's Sonic the Hedgehog 3, the head-side of the Sonic 3 & Knuckles coin. Yuda gave Knuckles the color scheme of the Jamaican flag; if you've noticed a similarity between the two, it's not a coincidence!
The previous rival-to-Sonic character Metal Sonic (created for Sonic CD) was an emotionless robot. Knuckles, on the other hand, is an anthropomorphic cartoon animal who, much like Sonic, who can travel really fast. This made for a character that can challenge the Blue Blurr on his own level. Knuckles was presented as the guardian of Angel Island (At the time, referred to as "Floating Island" in the game manuals, but in-game as "Angel Island"). He was seemingly the last bastion of a dead (or dying) echidna civilization whose sworn duty is to jealously protect the Chaos Emeralds from wrongdoers.
Sonic 3 was one of those sequels that takes place right after the previous game. Dr. Robotnik/Eggman crash-landed on Angel Island, following the destruction of the Death Egg and quickly sets up a new base to relaunch the Death Egg. The good old Teddy Roosevelt stand-in tricked Knuckles into thinking that Sonic was a bad guy who planned on using the Chaos Emeralds for nefarious purposes. So, aside from his stubbornness (that Knucklehead!) one of Knuckles' negative character traits is established: he's highly gullible.
Knuckles intercepts Sonic and Tails when they land their bi-plane on Angels and confiscated the Chaos Emeralds. Knuckles does this and creates other mischief all while giving a really mean-spirited chuckle.
The second half of Sonic 3 & Knuckles: Sonic and Knuckles completed the storyline and featured the first ever playable appearance of Knuckles. Knuckles could run fast and spin-dash like Sonic, but also distinguished himself by being able to break down certain walls with his knuckles and soar through the air!
Locking on the cartridge with Sonic 3 allowed you to play through his perspective of the story as he is consistently egged on by Eggrobo.
Knuckles could also be shoe-horned into Sonic the Hedgehog 2:
Interactions with other Genesis/Mega Drive Games caused Blue Sphere to boot up instead.
Sonic & Knuckles' manual made the first mention the Master Emerald; which has the power to neutralize the Chaos Emeralds. Going further, Knuckles' raison d'etre would be The Master Emerald, rather than the Chaos Emeralds. (Although trust me, he would get involved with the Chaos Emeralds plenty) In game, the story is communicated entirely through pantomime.
Knuckles, while ultimately not an outright villain, was certainly antagonistic towards Sonic for much of the adventure. His intentions are, in the end, noble. I still don't understand why Sega had him laughing at us in such a dastardly manner, though.
Knuckles made his next appearance in Sonic Triple Trouble for Game Gear (One of my favorite Game Gear games!), released a few days after Sonic & Knuckles home console release. Although, he would be an antagonistic NPC once again as somehow Robotnik tricked him again into working for him. Dammit, Knuckles! You're better than this! He would also be a playable character in Sonic Drift 2 for Game Gear.
All the while, Knuckles would appear in Sonic the Comic which was mostly based on his role in Sonic 3 & Knuckles...
In 1995, Knuckles took the lead for the first time ever in Knuckles' Chatoix for Sega 32X. Neither the game nor the console clicked with gamers and both generally fell into obscurity.
In 1996, Knuckles was a major character in the OVA Sonic the Hedgehog. He was a treasure hunter type character and sported a cool Indiana Jones hat…
Later that year, he made his fighting game debut in Sonic the Fighters for Arcades, a Virtua Fighter-like game.
In 1997. he joined the world of racing games once again in Sonic R for Sega Saturn.
in 1998, Knuckles returned as a player character in Sonic Adventure for the Sega Dreamcast. This game is generally considered to be the first legitimate 3D Sonic game (as apocryphal such a claim is). The liquid being Chaos is released from The Master Emerald, thus shattering it. Knuckles goes on a personal quest to restore The Master Emerald.
Knuckles' stages in Sonic Adventure introduced a new style of play: the treasure hunting stages. In these stages, the gems or whatever randomly generate when the stage boots up. The player has to find them using a radar system as a vague hint. I love Knuckles, but I don't love these stages. I felt like he kind of got the shaft.
Knuckles' civilization is shown for the first time in a series of convoluted and non-linear flashbacks. He eventually gets caught up with his old friends for the final confrontation with Perfect Chaos. All-in-all the traces of Knuckles' past villainy were wiped out: he bows out of the game in no uncertain terms, a good guy and one of Sonic's loyal friends.
In 1999, he was featured in the animated series Sonic Underground.
Knuckles next appeared as a playable character in the Mario Party rip-off Sonic Shuffle.
Knuckles made his final Dreamcast appearance in Sonic Adventure 2: one of the last games to come out for the system. Knuckles crossed paths with Rouge the Bat, as they war over the Master Emerald. Knuckles shatters the Master Emerald and both characters go on separate quests to retrieve the shards. So once again, he has to retrieve them in a series of treasure-hunting stages. Goofy raps by Hunnid-P punctuated the experience.
Knuckles eventually meets up with Sonic, Tails, and Amy, and the 4 even join up with Rouge, Shadow and Dr. Robotnik to defeat the REAL threat: The Biolizard/The Final Hazard.
About 8 months later, Knuckles made his Nintendo debut: Sonic Adventure 2 was ported to Nintendo Gamecube as Sonic Adventure 2: Battle and Knuckles was a playable character in the great Game Boy Advance game: Sonic Advance!
That covers the first 8 years of Knuckles’ entertainment career! Stay tuned for part 2!