🎵 “Here I come, rougher than the rest of them.
The best of them, tougher than leather.
You can call me Knuckles: unlike Sonic I don’t chuckle.
I’d rather flex my muscles.” 🎵
Aspiring writers and designers: today, we start the “Who Dat?” series, where we analyse the best characters in fiction. Today, we talk about the red quilled bruiser: Knuckles. You may have seen him in the recent Sonic 2 movie, which inspired us to write this article.
To understand what drives the character and how to understand their many quirks, we need to understand their past. Knuckles was first conceptualised as a rival character to Sonic, a foil. While Sonic may be akin to the fastest gusts of wind, Knuckles could be equated to a mountain, immovable and rugged. Knuckles first appeared in the 1994 title Sonic The Hedgehog 3 and found his playable debut the same year in Sonic & Knuckles. Using “Lock-On Technology”, a method through which, When you combine the cartridges, one can play the whole experience, christened Sonic 3 & Knuckles. In the game, Knuckles is the last of his race and lives alone on the mysterious Angel Island. He spends his days in solitude, honing his skills and guarding a mystical jewel known as the Master Emerald, said to hold control over powerful ancient energy.
Above: Knuckles’ appearance in Sonic & Knuckles
This is the original design of Knuckles, speeding onto the SEGA Genesis in 1994. While a solid start, all things considered, Knuckles here doesn’t look all that polished. He’s pretty spindly and doesn’t give the impression that we’re looking at a character who can press over 500 metric tonnes. Furthermore, Knuckles looks cheeky and smug, a trait associated with Sonic. It’s not to say that Knuckles can’t be a smart-aleck, but rather that Sonic’s sprites look quite determined and stern in contrast. See below: Sonic’s sprites throughout 2D.
However, regarding what this original sprite does right, we can at least say that all the design elements are in place (spiked gloves, dreadlocks, etc.). And, if we were to stretch our imaginations a bit, we could assume Knuckles’ character was initially more of a rascal.
Above: Knuckles’ appearance in Sonic Adventure 2
This is the modern Knuckles design we know today. After a soft reboot of the series in 1998’s Sonic Adventure, Knuckles and many other cast members were given hefty redesigns, making their voice-acted debut. He’s much taller now and has more defined shoes and bulkier arms and legs. This iteration of Knuckles has a white crescent on his fur instead of a tan one and a pair of purple eyes. Much better. His model also displays a range of emotions, eliminating the cheeky Knuckles' predicament (Although, this was already somewhat fixed in the spin-off Knuckles’ Chaotix.)
When it comes to the characterisation of Knuckles, that’s where we fumble at specific points. In the beginning, we never had a concrete understanding of what made him Knuckles. In Sonic 3 & Knuckles, we see him as being quite cheeky, obstructing Sonic through various means. He’s also shown to be somewhat susceptible, considering that he was tricked into sparring with Sonic by Dr Eggman, the series' main villain. Later in Sonic Adventure, Knuckles is shown to be a no-nonsense, humourless bruiser who jumps to conclusions. His gullibility is still somewhat prevalent as he is duped into bringing powerful gems to Dr Eggman (Albeit, he wasn’t aware Eggman was behind the whole charade). However, it’s quite the contrast from his initial appearance. However, it makes sense, considering that the “modern” Sonic was comparatively cheeky and carefree than his 2D appearances. Knuckles need to be the opposite of Sonic in any context, making this change necessary.
Although not my favourite version of the character, Sonic Adventure does a great job highlighting his solitude and loneliness as the sole guardian of the Master Emerald and being the last of his kind.
However, in Sonic Adventure 2, Knuckles is much more enjoyable. In it, he’s also quite hard-headed and violent, but in contrast, he’s much less susceptible. Not only that, he’s learned to lighten up, even if it’s not by a lot (Though most of his cheekiness is reserved for terrifically violent quips and general smugness). He’s also somehow picked up the treasure hunting hobby, so much so that he’s renowned as one of, if not the best, treasure hunters in the world. Although it’s a bit confusing, considering he’s never really had a place to treasure hunt, it adds a layer of richness to the character by introducing hobbies. In addition to his hobbies, he’s now got a hint of goofiness about him. His rash moments are often somewhat silly and fruitless, making the character feel unpredictable and hotheaded without portraying him as slow or dull. His levels always have slick and smooth raps playing in the background. Nice.
After that, however, is when we start to see some problems. In Sonic Heroes, Knuckles has virtually no relation to the Master Emerald and is generally agreeable and sensible. After that, each title has Knuckles either being a bumbling idiot or a sidekick (Mostly both). Unfortunately, in the present day, Knuckles has been relegated from Player 3 to “one of Sonic’s annoying friends”.
Knuckles is a jack-of-all-trades and leaves little to be desired in his capabilities.
Although Sonic’s main charade is excessive speed, Knuckles also displays impressive feats. Although it’s been proven that Sonic can run up to rates transcending measurement, it’s generally accepted that he can maintain a steady run, clocking in at about Mach 5. Using this benchmark, we can look at Knuckles’ feats and write speed. Although being described as “rather slow”, Knuckles still possesses some crazy speed. He can keep up with Sonic at a steady jog and has reflexes fast enough to deflect and dodge some of Sonic’s slower attacks.
Variation in mobility
Because of his long dreadlocks, he can trap and push out air from underneath, allowing him to glide. While gliding, he can latch onto a wall using his spiked gloves and comfortably scale it. He can even dive into the ground like a drill and move quickly in the environment. He can even use this drill move to power through the cold expanse of space!
Genius battle intellect
Knuckles is fluent in combat and is said to be nearly unmatched in battle. He’s also shown to be highly crafty, outsmarting the likes of Sonic, Shadow, Rouge and, on occasion, even Dr Eggman. Lastly, he can also be strategic if he wishes. During Eggman's siege on the world, Knuckles led a resistance alongside Sonic and Tails to recapture the planet.
- High durability
Knuckles is among the most durable in the series, topped only by the likes of Mighty The Armadillo and E-123 OMEGA.
He’s shown to be able to take a head-on assault from Sonic, Shadow, and Rouge, among others. He’s so tough that he can even walk through walls, crumbling steel like paper, and even weather space head on.
- Chaos manipulation
Because he is the guardian of the Master Emerald, Knuckles can manipulate the ancient energy he guards. Using the emerald, he can send out powerful blasts of energy and is even able to work his matter with it. He can also sense its presence and retaliate by disabling the power.
- Insane strength
Knuckles’ most valuable asset, however, is his physical strength. Being able to lift 500 tonnes comfortably, it’s not even known what his maximum strength is. Considering that his strength equals Sonic’s speed, that power is likely infinite. His physical power is something that no mortal can match, so much so that when dealing his most potent blow in Sonic 3, Knuckles knocked Sonic out of his super form, a power obtained by collecting the seven chaos emeralds.
And, whew! That’s all, folks! We’ve analysed Knuckles- and we hope you learned something about em’!
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