Artwork by Gamerboss.
If I were asked to simply describe my impressions of Hollow Knight, I would completely echo the sentiments expressed by the staff on the previous page. Here, however, I would like to focus on two key encounters that arrested my attention. The above is a video of the Knight not really caring that his adventure has been interrupted by a mesmerizing, tranquil serenade; in my mind, the songstress is not merely echoing the “City of Tears” background music—she is the source of it! Though I had previously Dream Nailed every ghost I had previously encountered in Hallownest, I left Marissa’s soul in peace. The ambiguity of using the Dream Nail to liberate emancior consume the souls of ghosts remains, as Michael indicates on the previous page, difficult to remedy. Some would argue that my so-called act of mercy is actually a malicious failure to put the last remnant of Marissa’s existence to rest; if this position holds verisimilitude, then I will unashamedly and selfishly bask in her splendor for a Hallownest eternity.
The second most arresting encounter in Hollow Knight is the actual final boss fight with the Hollow Knight! As is to be expected of a 10/10 game like this, an appropriately riveting theme song accompanies this duel between “brothers,” though, as Michael pointed out, it remains a mystery to me why first Hornet, and now, the Hollow Knight would try to dissuade the Knight from achieving its destiny, especially considering the speculative theories that the Hollow Knight was not actually hollow, notwithstanding the plain fact that he has failed to contain the infection.
And then it happens. After sustaining enough damage, the music shifts its tone from that of a resplendent battle to a struggle against melancholy and madness. I cannot remember the last time I fought against a final boss who assists the player in its own defeat (though he actually does not do himself damage according to video game rules of coding). The first few times I fought the Hollow Knight, I paused, dazed in confusion while watching him stab himself, missing opportunities to inflict additional, “free” damage. Does it no longer want to bear this burden? Does it finally realize that the Knight is the one who is truly destined? It is difficult to say, because in between the infection clearly taking over Hollow Kight’s body to attack the Knight, it also attacks on its volition own, yet continues to stab itself intermittently. The toll of the infection is evident; the Knight’s goal is clear: emancipate the fallen hero from his dementia. After enough damage, assuming the player has followed the correct steps, Hornet throws herself into the fray to assist, providing the Knight a window to challenge and the actual final boss, a fallen god.
After putting some of the pieces of the story together, realizing that Hornet, the Knight, and the Hollow Knight are family though far-removed (seriously, look at the mask structure at the top of this page), and reflecting on the game’s main menu theme, I can only conclude that Hollow Knight is an absolutely beautiful tragedy.
I made the mistake of not playing Hollow Knight until it was part of a Humble Monthly Bundle in October 2018. This is a mistake that will not be repeated for Silksong.