Review: Season 0, Episode 13

Well…I lost count after two months spent writing this episode, though I’m pretty sure it came close to three. Between the Holiday Season (Thanksgiving as well as winter) and a general increased work load that I had to deal with, I practically wrote this entire episode one paragraph at a time. Hopefully that didn’t mess up the flow too badly. This also marks the lengthiest episode yet at 8600 words, even more than the last finale. But, as with last time, I wanted nothing important left unsaid, and I didn’t want to split it into any more episodes. But enough about that boring stuff.

I promised some background for King, so I guess I’ll start with that. He started out as just about the most flat, unoriginal villain that could ever exist. He’s only there because I needed our superhero to face off against a villain. As for what he would do and how he would do it, I took some inspiration from various depictions of Marvel Comics’ Kingpin villain, and the naming is not unrelated. To be honest, I really had no idea what I was doing. But as I was writing King’s first scene, I first decided to hide his face, make it seem more menacing, like Shadow had a real reason to be so concerned with him. I was still unsure at that point whether or not I wanted to make King a real wolf, but I decided last second to give him a mechanical arm that he constructed himself, so that I wouldn’t have to make that decision and reveal his species right then and there, as well as to show off some of his engineering skills that had been talked about at that point, but not very well shown. (I decided for certain that he would be a wolf by the time the scene was over.) The rest of his character grew from there. I was able to expand just from that one scene that he is obsessed with his own technology and its perfection over biology, that he has a loathing for most humans, and that he was affected in a deeply personal manner by the Black Arms invasion (and Shadow by extension). The specifics came as time went on.

I suppose one other point from this episode to mention is the role that G.U.N. has been playing so far, an almost antagonistic one. The reason why I’m revealing all of these facts seeming to suggest that they’re corrupt and untrustworthy…I suppose it’s all rooted in the fact that they have played so many similar roles in the past, despite supposedly being a force for good. In both Sonic Adventure 2 and Shadow the Hedgehog, G.U.N. hurt you a whole lot more than they help you, despite being the hero. Sonic 06 is the only G.U.N. appearance that seems to be completely benevolent, and even then I always felt that it seemed a little shady how they seemed to be stealing the Scepter of Darkness more than they were “retrieving” it. Anyways, after all of the times that G.U.N. nearly killed Sonic and/or Shadow, it certainly seems reasonable to me that neither of those two would be particularly interested in working with them, which is why it surprised me a little bit to learn that Shadow was working for G.U.N. for the first time. But I think I got it to work in a way that all makes sense. Point is, after making so many questionable actions, it would’ve seemed wrong to me to make them completely in the right now. So, I thought it would make for good story for all of the characters involved to have a lot of friction between them. Of course, this little sub-plot of G.U.N.’s evolution is far from over. Speaking of G.U.N. and Sonic 06, there was one ridiculously obscure reference I threw in there at the last moment. Rouge mentioned how she had to be trained in hacking King technology by “Old Frances from the decryption unit.” This refers to one of the Town Mission NPCs from that game, who introduced herself as the head of the G.U.N. Decryption Unit, and wanted to test the player’s IQ for candidacy to join the unit. This reference was not in the original episode, but I added it just before publishing, because these random obscure references to other games is exactly the kind of thing I want to use in order to help tie the whole Sonic game universe together.

Now, there’s one big thing I haven’t talked about yet. The Black Cloak arc is inspired by a theoretical game idea, just like all of the others of Season 0. Of course, this is the only arc that I didn’t conceptualize until after coming up with the whole Season 0 idea, but I still made it to fit in with the rest. Anyways, this, like many other Sonic games, would be much different as compared to previous ones. Rather than an adventure game, or a high-speed platformer, this game would function a lot more like…well, a superhero game. The number of “levels” as compared to most Sonic games would be relatively few, but that’s because a vast majority of the game’s content comes in the form of a huge hub world, that of Westopolis. Between levels, the player would be allowed to freely explore the city, playing as either Sonic, Rouge, or Black Cloak, depending on the point in the story. This hub world would be full of various NPCs to speak with (not unlike 06), and missions to complete, such as the fighting of randomized crimes including robberies, muggings, etc, as well as specific quests provided by some of those random NPCs, in addition to a few familiar faces (helping Big find Froggy, anyone?) Anyways, each character has their own advantages for playing. Sonic travels through the world the fastest, obviously, and can get on top of most buildings using wall jump and parkour. Rouge can fly and climb walls, giving her complete access to every location, though she is the slowest of the three. Black Cloak is the best for fighting, dealing more damage and having a wide variety of attacks, including long-ranged ones. His other tools, such as the grappling gun, are also useful for reaching difficult areas. In addition to these, certain NPCs might only be able to interact with certain characters and not others, encouraging variety. For example, a police officer might only be willing to speak with Rouge, while a serious opposer to King might only be willing to speak to Black Cloak, and…the owner of the hotel Sonic stayed in might only be willing to speak to Sonic. Speaking of the hotel, this game would also theoretically feature the return of Chao Gardens, seen at the top floor of that hotel. (I have found myself wishing that this location had more impact on the actual story, but once I was done with it I had no further need for it except in these silly game mechanics.) Anyways, unlocked by beating the game is the ability to switch between characters in the hub world freely, in addition to a few more of those less-than-totally-canon quests for familiar faces. The only other thing to point out about the game would be the soundtrack, focused heavily on more dramatic orchestrated music, much in the style of modern superhero movies. Much of this music would be dedicated to remixes of themes from Shadow the Hedgehog, and, to a lesser extent, Sonic Adventure 2. And…I suppose that’s all I have to say for now.

Next time, witness the tale of the one called Sunlight, the New Ultimate Life Form. What is this life form, and why has its existence been kept a secret? Soon, Darkness will fall upon the Light.

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Updates!

Mostly, I’m here to deliver the unfortunate news that, as happened after the Speed of Time arc, The Chaos Project will now be going on another short break while I finish writing the final episode of the upcoming arc, Birth of Blacklight, now that the Black Cloak arc is finished. As was the case last time, I’ll be spreading out the posting content so that I still have something to publish every Saturday. Normally, I would be posting the review of last week’s episode now, but between Thursday’s Opinion Piece of Sonic Forces and this post, I feel that I have enough to push that off to next week. Expect a preview of next episode the following week, and the episode itself to be published the week after that.

Now, there is a little more to talk about. I’ve been neglecting to update some of the finer details on the website after publishing the last few episodes, but now everything is completely up-to-date, and then some. Preparations for the upcoming arc have been made, such as the reorganization of the character guide to reflect the most important characters to come. More importantly, I’ve published a new page, title “Image Gallery,” which contains all of the custom images I’ve ever made for these stories, including several images which have been replaced and can no longer be seen anywhere else. Also included are some first looks at custom-made sprites for characters who haven’t had their official debuts yet, such as Omega and the Chaotix. Most importantly, there is a 100% exclusive image of “Super Black Cloak,” Shadow in his Super Form as seen in the final episode of the Black Cloak arc, complete with broken chains, torn face mask, material burned away from the feet, and of course, his new superhero emblem emblazoned on his chest. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for the addition of a preview look at the cover art for the upcoming story arc.

-And until next time, remember to live and learn every day!

Opinion Piece: Sonic Forces

The name is real! Today, a panel was held for Sonic at SXSW (South by South-West), where details were revealed for Sonic Mania, and, more importantly, this game. The game formerly known as Project Sonic 2017 now has the official name of Sonic Forces, which I believe refers to a battle between the forces of good and evil. But that wasn’t the only news announced today, and I’m here to talk about what we now know.

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In addition to the logo pictured above, we also had a full reveal of a previously shown (but cropped) concept art, pictured below. Nothing too far beyond expectations based on what we already knew, the same dark, fiery, destructive theme. It was pretty obvious before, but it was confirmed early in the reveal that the game’s plot does involve the existence of the Eggman Empire “…as I always dreamed it!” (Quote from Mike Pollock, voice of Eggman). Also clarified information that we had before, this was confirmed as a game in the style of Sonic Unleashed, Colors, and Generations. If they think that they can get an Adventure lover like myself to love that formula, I’m glad to see them try. But as it stands, I currently and always have felt like watering down Modern Sonic’s gameplay with the 2D sidescrolling that we already get from Classic Sonic is just a bad idea, plain and simple. But once again, I could certainly learn to love the high-speed boosting style of gameplay if they execute it perfectly.

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Now, on to the real news. 3. I’m not talking about a certain non-child-friendly game series that will not be mentioned here, nor about any conspiracy theories. Three playstyles. That’s what they said this game would have. Modern Sonic. Classic Sonic. And a third. I don’t even want to begin at guessing what that third style is, for risk of disappointing myself in the future. But, needless to say, that leaves potential to include the style of gameplay which I have been sorely missing for over ten years of Sonic games, in which case I would be perfectly fine with the overuse of 2D in the other 2 styles. I would also mention that, in describing the title of the game, the words “Sonic and friends” were used, inferring that this third slot could be filled by a character other than Sonic. But that’s just a theory. A game

The video above was also unveiled at this event. The main theme of Sonic Forces. The rumors have been flying around for over a year now that Crush 40 would be performing music for this next Sonic game, though Johnny Gioeli (lead singer) confirmed in an interview some time ago that they hadn’t been in any way contacted about it or otherwise involved in it by that point. However, before this theme was played, they stated that it had only just recently been recorded, meaning that something could very well have changed since that interview, and finally come to fruition. Now, as you’ve probably listened to and heard, the above song has no vocals. However, it was confirmed that the real theme song does have vocals, and that this was merely an instrumental version. Now, let’s be honest here. The song doesn’t quite line up with Crush 40’s usual style. The guitar doesn’t even come in prominently until over 15 seconds in, and even then, it isn’t nearly as pronounced as I would expect. This probably isn’t a Crush 40 song, though I wouldn’t say that it’s absolutely impossible. What the musical style does remind me of, however, is that of Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Lost World, the final boss fight theme of the latter in particular. And Lost World had a pretty good soundtrack. It’s not like a Sonic song has to be composed by Jun Senoue (lead guitarist of Crush 40 and music director of the Sonic series starting with Sonic the Hedgehog 3) to be good. I am actually quite fond of “Endless Possibility,” the lyrical theme of Sonic Unleashed. But as a Sonic fan of the Adventure era, anything that can make this game feel more like what I know and love can be a good thing. Now, I suppose I haven’t said what I think about the song itself yet. I’ll admit, I am very happy with it, and the piano at the end got me feeling really emotional. It feels way too upbeat given the tone of the game as we’ve seen so far, but it’s still a good piece of music.

Most importantly for today’s reveals, some brief footage of gameplay. Now, around this time, they also talked a bit about the gameplay in general. They confirmed that this game runs on the entirely new “Hedgehog Engine 2.” It looks very pretty, but in all honesty, I didn’t notice anything that made it clearly superior to the old engine. The gameplay style appears exactly the same as you would expect based on how they explained this game’s relations to old ones. Though I would point out that they did not showcase any 2D sidescrolling, which could be a very good sign for me. Of course, it could just be that they didn’t want to bother showing it because it doesn’t look nearly as pretty or exciting. We’ll have to wait and see. What we don’t have to wait for is the confirmation that Wisps are indeed returning to this game. Sigh. Wisps were a very clever and creative gimmick for Sonic Colors which did a good job in tying the gameplay together with what little story that game had. Their return for Generations was perfectly normal, in fact, the Colors levels would have been rather empty without them. Then Lost World came around. The inclusion of Wisps in Lost World was ridiculous, senseless, and, quite frankly, wrong. The end of Colors clearly established that the Wisps were gone, returned to their home planets. Now…the possibility exists that Lost World actually takes place in the Wisp galaxy (or solar system or whatever), since literally the only thing we know about the Lost Hex is that it is a “floating continent.” (Honestly, it really irritates me how little we know about that entire story.) It could be a continent floating above an alien planet, no one said it had to be above the Earth we know. I probably would’ve been satisfied with that explanation. But there was no explanation, forcing us to assume that these creatures we thought were aliens also happen to live natively on a floating continent above the planet, which, apparently, no one ever noticed. And now, here the Wisps are again, not just on this distant, almost planet-like continent, but now also on what we can only assume to be the surface of Sonic’s Earth. They fuel his boost gauge, though they don’t appear quite like the same white Wisps we saw in Colors. Since it seems like this game might have an actual story, unlike what we’ve been getting recently, I really, really hope that they actually take a whole 20 seconds out of their way to explain why the heck the Wisps are still here.

Conclusion
I can no longer say that this game has the potential to be the absolute perfect game, in my opinion. But the outlook isn’t so bad. This game could still shape up into the absolute highlight of the Modern Sonic era. The soundtrack is looking good so far, they have a chance to perfect the gameplay style, and the story is looking like it might be the best we’ve gotten in ten years. I’m still looking forward to seeing what’s in store for that third playstyle, but I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high. All in all, I’m still very excited for this game. Though I am more worried than ever about it stepping on the toes of my story.

-Until next time, remember to live and learn every day!
(Couldn’t come up with a good “forces” pun.)

Edit: It has been confirmed that characters including Knuckles, Amy, and unspecified members of the Chaotix appear in the game, including dialogue spoken to Sonic over a radio during gameplay. It has also been confirmed that none of these characters are playable, and that Modern Sonic gameplay does include 2D sidescrolling “occasionally.” Just because these other characters aren’t playable doesn’t mean that they have no role in the story, which is a lot of what I care about. If they acknowledge the existence of these characters in the Sonic universe in a capacity greater than the normal pathetic cameo roles, I’ll be very happy. The sorts of roles these side characters had in Shadow the Hedgehog (2005), minus the second-player playability of course, is the kind of thing I’m talking about, where we simply come across the characters doing exactly what one might expect them to do given the situation. And of course, just because these specific characters aren’t playable, doesn’t mean that some other character won’t be. As for the 2D…meh. If the 3D is good, then having the 2D certainly won’t ruin the game, it will just mean having less time enjoying the maximum that the game has to offer. I expected as much.

S0 E13: Black Cloak Forever Part 2

Here it is, the exciting conclusion of the Black Cloak arc! Read it here!

The time has come for King to carry out his revenge. After all of this time, he is prepared to do whatever it takes to destroy the hedgehog who ruined his life. Shadow the Hedgehog. Does the Ultimate Life Form stand a chance against the self-proclaimed Ultimate Being?

Preview: Season 0, Episode 13

Sonic and Shadow have finally found King. But King has plans that neither of them could possibly comprehend. What really happened to him on the day of the invasion of Westopolis?

“I’ve been awaiting this day for far too long.” King the Wolf begins to step out of the shadows. Sonic gives a gasp, but Shadow doesn’t seem surprised. King waves about his robotic arm as he speaks. “Sonic, I have no qualms with you. You are free to leave. In fact, the Doctor will be waiting for you up on the twenty-fifth floor, likely downloading all of my files by now. You’d better hurry, if you want to catch him.” As he passes a computer console, he types few keys into it. A light activates on the pod in the center of the room.

Unexpectedly, Shadow agrees. “You should go. I can handle this.”

Sonic shakes his head. “Not a chance. I’m staying right here.”

King chuckles a bit. “Ooh, do I detect some animosity between the two of you?” He gives a very casual shrug. “Very well. Suit yourself.” He resumes his pacing, hitting a few more keys each time he passes the console. “After all I’ve been through…all my research…all my suffering…at last, it all becomes worthwhile, so much sooner than I was expecting. I certainly have the Doctor to thank for that. His previous experience was absolutely vital in the completion of my ultimate project.”

Shadow doesn’t seem amused. “I don’t know what you’re babbling about. And I don’t care. This is your one and only chance to surrender to me.”

“Oh, Shadow, you offend me. Though perhaps it was vain of me to assume that you keep track of those you’ve hurt.”

Shadow’s firm countenance suddenly falters. “What…what do you mean…?”

King barks out a quick laugh. “He really doesn’t know, the wretch!” It becomes clear that King is barely maintaining his calm manners. He holds up his mechanical arm, and waggles its fingers for emphasis. “You didn’t really believe that some alien did this to me, did you? No…this is on you!”

Review: Season 0, Episode 12

So, a lot of topics were actually brought up in this episode which I intend to explore further in the future. Of course, there is the unnamed Chaos-proof Black Comet material, the entire reason that Eggman is involved in this event. Then there’s the general relationship between humans and animoids that King briefly mentioned. There’s also general aftermath of the Black Arms invasion, though that has been touched upon already. Lastly, there’s Shadow’s mention of his faulty memories of the events of Sonic Adventure 2. Ever since the end of Shadow the Hedgehog, it has been heavily inferred that Shadow at least has a very good idea of his life before the ARK was shut down 50 years ago, and this is supported by the thorough flashbacks he’s had of that time period. But the only memories he’s ever been shown having of Adventure 2 were a couple of brief, confusing images brought about by going to the exact place where he spent much of his time in that game. And really, he’s had no need to remember any of that. It just seems likely to me that his personal memories of those events are spotty at best, only filled in by descriptions from Rouge and Sonic. It should only follow that he still holds some resentment towards having such an important event in his life be outside his reach. Exactly which memories he does and doesn’t have, I intend to examine much more closely in the coming series.

In case you couldn’t tell, this episode was pretty difficult for me to write, took much longer than average. It’s full of way too many scene breaks, which is an indicator that I’ve run out of things to say for any given time period, and need to skip ahead. Anyways, going into this episode, I was strongly expecting it to be the final of this arc. But by the time Sonic and Shadow had broken out of their chains after that long conversation, I realized that I was pretty much out of time, so I quickly came up with a few extra scenes to help fill in the remaining episode-and-a-half.

*SPOILER ALERT*

I suppose I should probably mention the fact that Shadow is the Black Cloak. I would hope that I’ve already explained it way too thoroughly within the super long conversations within the story, but in case you’re still confused, I’ll still gladly explain my thought process. It was a thought that I had long before the concept of the Chaos Project. I thought, “We haven’t seen Shadow in a really long time. I wonder what he’s doing with his life?” Though I had done a little bit of research into Sonic 06 at the time, I don’t think it had really dawned on me that Shadow was already working for G.U.N.. But my thoughts, the answer to my question, was “He would probably want to work towards fulfilling his promise of making a better future, in a way that only he can, and likely in a way that puts him as far away from Sonic as possible (thus why we don’t ever see him).” And who goes out alone, using special abilities to help people while trying not to be discovered? Superheroes! (I know, that joke wasn’t even funny the first time.) Point is, I decided that Shadow’s personality, past, and powers would very likely lead him to become a superhero. It sounds so silly, but it just makes sense. And making him an edgy, Batman-style hero wasn’t a hard connection to make.

Anyways, when I first started conceptualizing what would become the finale arc of the entire Chaos Project, one of the many included concepts was Shadow’s return to being the Black Cloak for a brief period of time (it was only at that point that I had come up with a name for him, and even then I wasn’t sure about it). And when I decided to expand the Chaos Project backwards to include what is now Season 0, I knew that it was an absolute necessity to include a Black Cloak origin story. Thus, this arc was born. The first order of business was to get Shadow out of the military, since it would be very difficult for him to do both of these things at the same time. It just so happened to work out perfectly that I needed Shadow to help develop Sonic’s character during Speed of Time anyways, and it was very easy to add in a lead-in to this arc, which even helped inspire the setting of said encounter (I originally imagined it in an outside area where Sonic would hit a tree instead of a wall). All in all, things have been working very well for me in the way of accidental perfect planning, and I’m very glad to be having each of these arcs leading into each other without requiring the reading of any other arcs to understand, nor too dramatically impacting the story of each individually.

Wow, this was a long one. One last thing to mention is that, until literally the very last moment, this episode was intended to be called “The Shadowed Knight,” a reference to “The Dark Knight,” a Batman movie, but I decided that I didn’t like that title, so I just turned this into the first part of what was originally going to be the single-part finale episode of this arc. I was also a little afraid that that title would spoil the contents of the episode. Okay, that’s all, I promise. And I didn’t even get to mention my thought process behind King. Maybe next time. But this time, thanks for reading!

– And until next time, remember to live and learn every day!