The long-running Sonic the Hedgehog video game series consists of dozens of games and spin-offs. Two of which take part in what is known as the Sonic Storybook Series. This spin-off series was made up of games on the Nintendo Wii that involved the iconic blue hedgehog being sucked into classic stories, like Arabian Nights and those of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The Sonic Storybook Series was supposed to continue on much longer than two games, but things seemed to not go as planned. Let’s take a look at what really happened with this short-lived spin-off series.
The first in the series, Sonic and the Secret Rings, had Sonic sent into the world of Arabian Nights to take on an evil entity known as Erazor Djinn. Sonic travels through Arabian Nights to collect rings that grant magical powers so he can help to save this world. It was a fun and unique-enough premise, but the gameplay was a bit subpar.
The biggest problem with the gameplay was that it was completely on-rails, meaning that Sonic ran in a straight path on his own with no button input required. The game partly played itself. The player would move Sonic left and right by tilting the Wii remote and attack by thrusting the remote after jumping with the “2” button. It overall played like an awkward version of Temple Run more than a platforming game like Sonic the Hedgehog is known for. These uncomfortable controls also led to Sonic getting stuck on the environmental elements and falling down pits far too often. Plus, the Wii remote wasn’t always as responsive as needed in some places. The game still did well enough, and was much more fun than the couple of Sonic games that came before it like 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog. This led to the Storybook series to receive another entry, Sonic and the Black Knight.
Sonic and the Black Knight had Sonic travel to the medieval world of King Arthur in a similar fashion to his entering Arabian Nights. Once again, this game was on-rails. However, the controls felt much better and the graphics were more crisp. There were also some cool new elements added, like seeing Sonic the Hedgehog characters as Knights of the Round table with Knuckles being Gawain, Shadow being Lancelot, Silver being Galahad and so on. Sonic even wielded a sword in this game, which is still pretty cool. The boss fights were extremely memorable, as most of them were sword fights against the knights, and the music is surprisingly incredible. However, Sonic and the Black Knight didn’t do as well critically and didn’t sell very well.
It seems that folks lost interest in the Sonic Storybook series once it became clear that each game would feel somewhat the same and all be on-rails. The second installment improved on the first game, but still suffered from the same flaws. Sonic and the Secret Rings was definitely a fun game, but future installments needed to move away from the gimmicky gameplay. Black Knight was almost the upgrade that was needed, but still missed the mark in the eyes of some. Plus, because both games take place in the worlds of storybooks rather than Sonic’s world, they don’t affect the established canon whatsoever, which could also cause fans to have less interest in them. Perhaps a third game could have provided the step in the right direction needed for the series to succeed, but it unfortunately came to an end after these two.
SEGA did have plans for a third game in the Storybook Series. They held a survey for fans to vote on which story world they’d like to see Sonic explore next, including haunted houses and the old west. However, nothing really came of it. SEGA ditched the Storybook Series concept and moved on. They had Sonic and the Secret Rings de-listed from retailers in 2010 following their decision to remove all Sonic the Hedgehog titles with sub-average critical scores in order to increase the value of the brand. It makes sense from a business perspective, but it’s sad for those who wanted to see the series grow and evolve.
The Sonic Storybook Series was filled with cool ideas, terrific artwork, fantastic music, and some surprisingly fun boss fights, but it didn’t quite stick the landing that SEGA was looking for. Because of this, it seems that the Sonic Storybook Series is done for good. SEGA has clearly been focusing on moving forward with other different projects with their speedy blue mascot.