Posted by: darthmeanie | November 7, 2011

Time Warp Review – The Black Knight

I felt like being productive with Make Your Move, but not like reading new sets. So here you go.

Movesets of the past are generally not as well received as movesets are in current contests. We’re constantly refining our expectations and what we define as good in a moveset, so older movesets are often left in the dust. It’s hard to even bring up JOE!’s and my Mewtwo set without it being the set-up for a punchline. But there are the rare movesets that stand the test of time and only get better with age. And in this review, we’re going to talk about just one of those sets: The Black Knight.

Not to be confused with Fright Knight

Now that is stylish

What can be said about this moveset? It’s gorgeous to look at, to start at least. Very suitable coloring, stylish headers, los of space, a stats section that was far ahead of its time. It had a bit of white bolding that isn’t too well received anymore, but that’s a minor quibble. The stats section was ahead of its time, avoiding numbers while still being very informative about how the moveset played. He’s a superheavyweight beyond any other characters, and as slow as they come. But Chris had some very clever tricks to balance all of this out and was very, very smart in how he let him use it.

Let’s start with the Neutral Special, the Warp Powder. It’s a teleportation move, and a really good one at that, which lets him teleport in essentially any direction he chooses, to help deal with some of his mobility problems. But using Warp Powder also causes him to take self-damage, making it less useful to abuse. But since he’s so heavy, inflicting self-damage to move around the stage isn’t nearly as bad for him as it may be for other characters, and gives him a serious option against characters who play keep-away against him. What makes this even more clever though is how it ties in with the Side Special. It’s really a thing of beauty; it has somewhat limited range so he can’t use it to camp with, but it also passes through all other projectiles and obstacles so that those characters who did bunker down that were so popular in those days couldn’t just sit and hide. It could even be thrown diagonally to stop aerial campers, but because the move also couldn’t stop enemy projectiles, it didn’t shut down camping, but just stopped it from shutting himself down.

And then there is the warp bomb. A teleporting projectile, now that’s something we haven’t really seen, but Black Knight takes it another step further by giving the player the ability to teleport the opponent in the direction he chooses and even use this in combos. It’s a move that’s so versatile in how it can be used and offers so many clever options; gimping, spacing, as an emergency recovery. It’s a move that any modern moveset could easily base itself around.

But what is really my favorite Special in this set is the Down Special. It’s a counter move, much like Ike, Roy, and Marth’s, but while his counter is triggered in the same way as anyone else’s, it’s completely different in how it works. Instead of letting him avoid damage, he actually takes more, but it teleports him and gives him a free shot to perform any move he desires. Not only does it creatively use the warp powder, it flows into Black Knight’s playstyle and character extremely well. He’s a very heavy character, and very powerful. He doesn’t need to avoid the enemy’s attack, because whatever the enemy is going to hit him with isn’t going to be as strong as what he hits them with. It’s a villainous, unique spin that works for him because of his high weight; taking more damage to give more damage means nothing to him.

It also is one of the moves that thoroughly established itself as a Fire Emblem moveset. Unlike so many other movesets that are made to go alongside other characters that actually are in Brawl, Black Knight could step in right alongside Marth and Ike and feel right at home, as if they were all made together; Black Knight just happens to be a so much more well-constructed set. Managing to make a moveset both feel interesting and fun to play as and fit in with the series as it is represented in Brawl is extremely difficult even for the best of us; look at Warlord’s Wario. Whatever you have to say about how much you like or dislike the set itself, he’s conceptually so far removed from Mario or Luigi that it’s almost comical.

The standards continue this, with a focus on combos. For context, Black Knight was posted at a time when there was a glut of so-called ‘combo heavyweight’ characters that had a playstyle that essentially consisted of being… heavy characters… who performed combos. They were largely derided for having a fairly barebones playstyle and generally being overpowered, and while Black Knight has some things to answer to for the latter, he’s hardly guilty of this in the former. What’s more is that for the most part none of Black Knight’s moves suffered of the common criticism of having moves that were only good for the middle or end of combos. All of his moves were generally sleekly designed, and felt like attacks that you would see in Brawl while maintaining an interesting playstyle. One of my favorites would be his Up Tilt, a defensive anti-aerial attack similar to Ike’s Up Tilt that lasted longer, but could also have its angle changed to poke at enemies or pop them up for a combo. With the Warp Bomb, he also had the most unique ability to keep enemies on the ground for combos by popping them up immediately into a warp bomb for more attacks. Black Knight also recognized the DI system of Brawl and made combos that weren’t ever really ‘true’ combos, but were a war with himself and the opponent to control their DI, one that Black Knight had an extra edge in with his Warp Bomb.

His smashes were for the most part good. His Forward Smash gave him a defensive barrier and spacing tool that was simple and remarkably intuitive to use, and his Up Smash was a finisher attack that also did something far, far ahead of its time; it attacked enemies in the background and foreground by blasting rocks around, specifically to punish enemies rolling around him. The Down Smash was the nly really weak one, summoning a non-canonical sword to throw at the enemy that had a couple of wonky mechanics attached to it. The aerials were for the most part of the same level as the standards; they all had a few uses, emphasized his defensive comboing style, and actually for the most part avoided the usual trope of ‘Oh hey guys, this character isn’t supposed to go in the air, what are you doing, abort abort,’ The throws were admittedly incredibly generic with the exception of the Down Throw, and are easily the weakest part of what is otherwise a wholly incredible moveset.

This set got 9th in MYM6, but I really think that it could, as is, stand on its own and be a moveset worthy of praise if it was posted today. It had characterization, fit into Brawl, and while the playstyle section wasn’t quite as deep as we might necessarily like it today, the moveset was constructed well enough itself that there is a whole ocean of depth beneath the surface to explore and discover. It’s also just a plain fun moveset; teleporting opponents, getting free attacks with your counter, it really managed to get all aspects of movesetting captured competently. I didn’t super vote this when I voted back in the day, and I really regret that decision, as I think that it might be the best moveset from that contest (only one that comes to mind to compete with it is Sloth).

I think there’s a lot we can stand to learn from this moveset. How it handled the lack of creativity in the movesets that actually exist in Brawl today, how it approached combos, spacing and playstyle, and how it used a few good concepts to create the framework for a much deeper gameplay experience than it is on the surface. Give an old set a read and see just how much things have changed, and how much they haven’t.

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Responses

  1. “Movesets of the past”
    I see what you did there

    The one and only problem I’ve ever had with the Black knight, is that he encourages warping a little too much. While it makes playing as him quite entertaining and unique, it does spoil the overall “feel” of playing as the imposing iron clad figure (Warping the foe is rather brilliant however).

  2. I forgot what that thing you used to do was called!

    Nice to see this get appreciated, Black Knights were on my mind after making Fright Knight and watching Fate/Zero.

  3. Praising Black Knight gets an automatic +1000 HR cool points.

    (chew)

  4. It’s certainly nice to see a normal article among all of this political junk. Very nice read.


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