Review: Season 1, Episode 4

Well, this one took a lot longer than I was hoping, but it’s finally done! There was a lot that went into this episode, so I’m trying to think of where to start. I knew from the moment I learned that the Jackal Squad weren’t featured in Forces that I would want to dedicate an episode to them at some point. At the time, I didn’t imagine it would be quite this soon. And a hitch came in the plan when I realized that the general consensus was that Shadow had killed them all. I mean, sure, “destroyed the entire squad” certainly could imply that, but Shadow’s no mass-murderer…right? And I’d already written into Forces of Chaos that Infinite knew they were alive, but didn’t care about them. (That was totally meant to lead into this episode, by the way.) I got around this problem by suggesting that Infinite did think they were dead at the time, but learned the next day that they weren’t. And you know, there were more than just the three Jackals in the squad besides Infinite. They’re nowhere to be seen in this episode. Perhaps Shadow really did kill the rest of them? I intentionally left it very unclear, and it could simply be that Seth, Colm, and Tana were the only ones willing to go back to the squad after Shadow’s attack, and all the rest just ran away. Whichever makes you feel better, I guess.

Let’s move on to the members of the squad, I suppose. None of them were given names…or personalities…when they originally appeared in the prequel comic. But these three are the same three who appeared most prominently in that comic, and most of Seth’s monologue was dedicated to explaining that fact. It was kind of fun, taking these nameless nobodies and turning them into real characters. I’ve seen it done by others before, and it’s interesting to see how our interpretations differ. And anyways, Seth was the closest to getting something along those lines, as he was featured right alongside Infinite in that comic, and even had a single spoken line. Based on his more eager, energetic facial expressions, and the similar inflection I interpreted from his single line, I came to the conclusion that he’s maybe a bit younger than the rest of them, but his closeness to Infinite showed that he was still most likely his second in command. I built the character based around those two observations. The result was a surprisingly optimistic personality, an interesting contrast to Infinite himself, belonging to someone who considers Infinite to be his closest friend. Perhaps they even had a sort of darker, more twisted version of the brotherly bond shared by Sonic and Tails. Maybe I’ll dig into that a little in a future episode.

Something you, in all likelihood, probably didn’t notice, is that there was a pattern to the names I chose for these three members of the Jackal Squad. They all share their names with playable characters from a game called Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. They don’t have very much else in common with these characters, just the names. Part of the reason I did this has to do with a scrapped idea I had for Infinite. When contemplating what his name should have been before he became Infinite, one of the most prominent ideas that came to me was “Innes,” which means “small, secluded island,” and of course, begins with “In” just like Infinite does. Innes also happens to be the name of a Sacred Stones character. There’s also another reason I was considering Innes, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Anyways, I liked that name, but I liked Finn even better, where “Fin” literally means “end,” the opposite of Infinite, and is also derived from the “fin” in “InFINite.” So, that was going to be it, and this episode was going to have nothing to do with Fire Emblem. But I still needed a name for Seth and the other Jackals. And that brings me to my next point.

This episode was strongly, yet loosely, inspired by Egyptian mythology. The connection was sort of already there for me. Jackals are important figures in Egyptian lore, strongly associated with death due to the real life problem of jackals digging up graves. And Infinite’s very earliest appearance involved him raiding a pyramid, which are well-known to be used as the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs. In other words, Infinite was doing exactly what inspired those Egyptian myths. They even gave him a middle-eastern style curved blade. Throw in the Phantom Ruby, and you have a clear connection to the jackal-headed Egyptian god of the dead, Anubis. That was the angle from which I decided to work this episode. Having it take place in a pyramid was an obvious choice from there, and I figured the pyramid from SA2 would simply be a more creative choice. Anyways, one of the reasons I liked “Innes” as a potential name was due to the fact that it has a similar sound to “Anubis,” driving in that connection further. But I liked Finn too much to let it go. And then there’s Seth. Seth is an alternate pronunciation for Set, another Egyptian god. Set did a lot of…interesting things in Egyptian lore, but one of the more important things he did was teaming up with Ra, God of the Sun, to slay Apophis, the Serpent of Chaos. (Now that sounds like something that can be tied back into Sonic. So who in the Sonic universe made a Sun, who could team up with Seth? And who would that make Apophis? You may have to wait until Season 5 to find out.) Point is, much like the rest of this episode, Seth is inspired by that mythology. But wait, didn’t I say Seth was a Fire Emblem character? That I did, yes. Between the coincidental near-use of Innes and the definite use of Seth, I decided to roll with that reference, and name Tana and Colm after those characters as well. Lyon, the ex-member of the Jackal Squad who died, was also named similarly, and he even shares a bit in common with his namesake…in the fact that he’s dead. Spoiler alert!

I think it’s finally time to move on to other things. Before the Jackal Squad was ever involved, this episode was planned to be a team-up with Shadow and Hero, since Hero didn’t get a proper spotlight in his introduction episode, and Shadow, the second main character of the series, has been lurking in the background this entire season so far. And I realize that with so much focus on Seth, that got a little bit lost. I realized that with a third character in the mix, Hero, being mute, would be hard-pressed to get enough screen time, since Shadow and Seth would be able to keep talking to each other. With that in mind, I made sure to kick the episode off with a sweet little character moment with him and Bruno, so that he didn’t just seem like a flat, pointless character the entire time. This is probably the first time I can say that Bruno was pretty much totally useless, but now that I’ve written him in, I’ve got to stick with him. Anyways, Hero and Infinite are supposed to have a thing going, that was emphasized well enough back during Forces of Chaos, but once again, with so much focus on Seth, that got lost this time around. At least he made friends with Shadow, even if that was kind of forced in at the end.

So…there are three Phantom Rubies. And Shadow may or may not have promised to help Infinite find them. So why are there three? Well, why are there seven Emeralds? Why are there twelve Temporal Sapphires? Perhaps this is related somehow. We never did learn why Chaos and Ruby energy interact the way they do. Or what the Phantom Ruby really is. But now, we’re doing alright, and we’re on our way.

-So until next time, remember to face every moment, day by day!

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Review: Season 1, Episode 3

So I had just started writing this episode, when suddenly, I realized…”WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING!? Why am I cross-canon shipping Rouge the Bat with freaking Sly Cooper!?” Okay, so one, it’s not shipping, because they hate each other’s guts, and they never even kissed on-screen. Two, this was not, I repeat, NOT Sly Cooper. For those not aware, Sly Cooper is the titular character of a videogame franchise that released exclusively for the PlayStation family of systems. In those games, Sly is a thieving anthropomorphic raccoon born to a family with a history of thieving going back many generations. He wears a mostly blue outfit, and fights with his signature hooked cane. Given that information, it would be all too easy to misinterpret my Sly, who I’ll call Sylvester to make things easier, as being the very same person. So here’s how it went. Planning for this episode began with the simple desire to show why Rouge considers herself to be both a thief and a spy. The obvious answer to me was that she was once a thief, but her life was changed by an offer from GUN. I quickly decided that giving her a partner in crime, whom she would have to betray, would be a great way to add depth and drama to the episode. By adding a romantic relationship to the mix, I though it might subtly demonstrate the origin of Rouge’s flirtatious nature. The choice of a Raccoon for the other thief was beyond obvious. Calling him “Sly” wasn’t quite so obvious, but I’d hardly call it a stretch. At that point, I realized that a raccoon thief named Sly sounded oddly familiar. I’ve never actually owned a Sly game, but a friend of mine did, so I saw the first one played a fair amount. Anyways, I realized it was a thing, so I had two choices. I could start over from scratch, or I could keep rolling with the reference. I decided on the latter. So I added the blue outfit and the staff, and Sylvester was born.

There are a few notable differences, the largest being that Sly Cooper isn’t actually named Sylvester (as far as I know) and that Sylvester doesn’t have the last name Cooper. Additionally, Sly wears a blue beret and grey pants, which were notably missing from Sylvester’s outfit. Sylvester’s staff does not have a hook like Sly’s cane. That being said, Sylvester may have quoted Sly once or twice. His personality is intentionally very similar…with the whole criminally unstable thing added on top. I’d say the obsessiveness was also added, but…Sly actually was pretty obsessive in his games. And of course, Sly didn’t turn out to be a villain. Point is, it’s a reference. A parody, one might say. But absolutely not the same person. It’s still a little awkward that I put him in a relationship with a canon character, but I just had to keep reminding myself that he was never the point of the episode, just a character there to help tell Rouge’s story.

So, on to Rouge. I must say, minus the weirdness I’ve already talked about, I was really looking forward to this episode. My very first attempt at delving neck-deep backwards into Sonic lore, to tell the stories that were missed…unless you count the Forces Special, but that was recent enough that I wouldn’t call it “neck-deep backwards”. It’s one of the biggest reasons I decided to write this story in the first place. Maybe that’s why this is now among one of the fastest episode I’ve ever written. But why Rouge? I want to say that I mentioned something along these lines before, though I don’t really know when. I find Rouge to be a very…unique character, not necessarily in terms of her design or personality, but simply in simply in her role in the Sonic franchise. Rouge is one of the only characters introduced in the modern series who isn’t a completely special, one-of-a-kind person. I know that sounds like the opposite of what I just said, but think about it. Silver, Blaze, Infinite, Omega, even my own characters like Zero, Blacklight, and Chaos, they’re all very, very…specific characters. The only ones more like Rouge are Cream and Big, and they’re…well, not quite as interesting to work with. Rouge is just a normal person in the Sonic world, and yet she still manages to play an interesting role, and has a sort of mystery about her. I thought that made her the perfect candidate for my first backstory episode.

I already explained some of the basics behind planning for this episode, but there was one very important goal beyond Rouge herself. But I suppose it still began with her. When I knew I’d be telling a story about her joining GUN, I knew I needed to explain why. The answer seemed fairly obvious. She’s a jewel thief. And they needed seven very special jewels in their possession. As shown in Adventure 2, they absolutely were collecting Chaos Emeralds by that time, as they had three of them waiting in storage, not counting the one that Rouge was carrying with her (the very same one that kicked off this episode). In a general sense, it should be obvious why they would do that. But they’ve never done it before. So what got them started? I realized at that moment that I had the perfect opportunity to bridge the gap between Adventure 1 and Adventure 2. And that became my mission for this episode. After all, the Perfect Chaos incident certainly seems to be the first time Sonic ever really went public. All of a sudden, these world-ending scenarios are now happening in the public eye. And of course, GUN would’ve known about that. Realizing the destructive potential of the Chaos Emeralds, locking them away would easily become priority one. So they needed Rouge. Gap officially bridged. Of course, there were a few extra references thrown in just to bind things that much tighter. Of course, there’s the blue Emerald that Rouge apparently holds onto all the way through Adventure 2. The three reports she receives at the end line up with the three she later has to retrieve from Security Hall in SA2, as well as the extra one in Tails’ “safe hands,” which he received due to his actions in Adventure 1, as you might recall. Then she was ordered to investigate the Master Emerald, which how her story was started off at the very beginning of SA2. And of course, the Commander flips out when Eggman steals the information he later uses to wake up Shadow.

I suppose that leads me into my next topic. This is the first indication that the Commander was ever present before the events of Shadow the Hedgehog. But we’ll most certainly be seeing more of him in this timeframe. Ever wonder why GUN went after Sonic when their leader knew very well about Shadow? We’ll certainly go over that, eventually. It may also have something to do with that soldier at the end, Mr. J. Naka. That name ring a bell? Well it shouldn’t. Necessarily. We’ll likely be seeing more of him in the future, though. Think of this as a sneak preview.

Something else I forgot to mention. Rouge’s flashback outfit was heavily inspired by an official concept art sketch recently revealed on Sonic social media channels (thank you, Aaron Webber). Here, I think I can just show you.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FSonic%2Fposts%2F10156220547112418&width=500

The third photo shown is a prototype design for Rouge, where she looks quite a bit younger. This is what I was referencing when describing her design. And that’s all I got for now.

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

 

Review: Season 1, Episode 2

I’m having a hard time thinking right now, because I wrote this episode a little out of order. I decided on some last minute changes and additions that required me to go back and rewrite scenes after I’d already finished them. Probably the most important change was the mystery figure at the end. I was planning on holding off showing him until next episode. But he’s pretty important to this season, so I decided that sooner was better. The original plan was for Eggman, in the middle of the episode after finishing with the Moonstone, to contact one of the other Heavies, probably Rider, and instruct them to keep an eye on the Sunset Heights trap. Which, yes, means that the trap was originally intended to be set by Eggman, not the mystery character. As one contributing factor to this change, I thought it was a little cruel for Eggman’s character. It was also inspired by some other plans I had to change recently, when I was properly planning out each episode for the rest of this season. There was another Tails-focused episode, which was going to end with something…that can be described as cruel, happening. And the plan was for this mystery character to be behind that particular event, perhaps that episode even serving as the reveal of his face. But I decided that it would be much too soon for another Tails episode if I wanted to do that while it was still relevant, and this episode was much more important to have here at the beginning. So that episode has most likely been delayed to Season 2, where this mystery character won’t matter as much. But thinking back to those ideas, I realized I still had an opportunity to show off the cruelty of this mystery character with this trap that I already had planned for Eggman. So, the very last scene, where I was intending to have Eggman tell Heavy King to contact this mystery character, I instead introduced the character directly, and went back to include the old end scene as part of the middle scene. Part of this change also had to do with the episode’s word count. I put so much love and effort into the scene of Sonic and Tails being trapped together, that I didn’t have any space left for the big robot swarm/HBH fight afterwards that I had been planning. I decided the episode didn’t really need it anyways, since this one was supposed to be about the characters, not the action. So the middle scene I had already written where Eggman contacts Heavy Rider simply didn’t fit anymore, and I had to change my plans accordingly. Before I move on, the other change made was the scene in the Mess Tent. Originally, I was really lame and didn’t even specify a location, I just started that scene with Tails saying “I’m all set!” They proceeded to have a dialogue without any other characters involved, and then the scene ended. That didn’t sit well with me. And, separately, the thought occurred to me (while watching a rerun of Star Trek: Voyager) that I wanted to make more of an effort to show what day-to-day life is like at this Rebel base. And I already had all this talk about food in the episode, but never showed anyone actually eating. So while I was going back and changing things anyways, I decided to add in a more proper setting for that scene which accomplishes that goal, and while considering how to set that up, I decided that explaining my decision to make Tails third in command instead of Knuckles wasn’t a bad idea either. So I threw Knuckles into the scene, which also helped make everything feel more lively with people actually interacting.

So, on to the things that actually were planned. The basic setup for this episode occurred to me…basically as soon as I had written Chaos’ death back in Crisis of Chaos. I knew I wanted an early episode giving him a proper memorial, which led into Tails finding TAL, which I wanted to proceed into…some sort of episode about Tails becoming overreliant on technology, and eventually giving it up to Sonic. Obviously, neither Hero nor Sunset Heights even existed at that point. And thankfully for me, this episode continued to go otherwise-unplanned until well into my playthrough of Forces. Thinking about the fact that I wanted to bring the Avatar on board as part of the cast of this story, but realizing that he, like Omega, wasn’t brought into the Rebellion at the end of Crisis of Chaos, and therefore needed to come in separately, I came to the conclusion that this episode still needed a plot, and decided that it would make a good place for it all to happen. This actually all came before I was really certain what I would be doing with Forces of Chaos, so I planned this almost as if he was being introduced here for the very first time since original Forces. I suppose this episode ended up feeling all a little disjointed as a result. The memorial and TAL were already two pretty disparate ideas, and throwing in the search for Hero was just another element of confusion. But I thought with the theme of jealousy, and the references to Forces of Chaos, I was able to tie it all together relatively well.

So, what else do I have to say? Much like the last episode, I put a lot of thought into this one’s placement, and what it demonstrates about the series moving forward. I think these first three episodes of Season 1 are absolutely key to catching the attention of readers and showing what I plan to deliver from here on out. I wasn’t very keen on having Sonic as a spotlight character 2 episodes in a row, since I said I would try my best to keep things more varied than that. But this time, it was all about Tails, I wanted Tails to spotlight as early as possible, and whether I like it or not, Sonic is practically the only choice for an early episode if I want to deliver something emotional and meaningful. A “don’t rely on technology” story is probably one of the most obvious things I could do, but in a way, that was sort of the point. The writers over at Sonic Team seem to think that character development is an impossible feat, yet here I am showing off the easiest possible way to do it. But even then, I think I came to a more balanced conclusion than would be typical for a story like this. Where you’d expect to see “you’re smarter than any machine,” that’s not necessarily the message I sent. The machine worked. It did its job. The important part, the story I was telling along the way, was more about Tails gaining confidence in more than just the things he can build, and repairing his relationship with Sonic along the way.

I sort of wish I’d focused more on that schism I’d implied was growing between the two of them. It was never really my original intention, but it was the obvious way to go, after Sonic blew off their beach day to train with Chaos. So are they actually cursed? Well…let’s just say the next time they try to do something together, I don’t expect it to go too well. And maybe not the next time either. But I think Sonic’s right. They will work it out. Eventually.

One last thing. That mystery character. Who is he? Or could he be a she? Probably not. But let’s just say…I wouldn’t be teasing it like this…if it was someone who never existed before. I’ll leave it at that.

So what’s next? I’ve already covered an action-based episode with an unexpected pair of characters, and a character-based episode with an obvious pair. So next is one more standard type I’d like to try. The story-based single-character-focused flashback episode. Who’s it about? Well, there’s a reason Rouge has had a background role in these last two episodes. Now that the reader might be a little more invested in and curious about her character, it’s time to satisfy some of that curiosity.

Oh, there’s a little something I forgot to mention. A computer named SAL…I wonder if NICOLE would be jealous? I considered actually keeping the name and maybe even adding a female persona later on, but the last thing I want is for someone to come into the middle of the story later on and see Sonic talking to “SAL”, and assume it has something to do with the comics. Anything I can do to distance myself is a good thing.

So I guess that’s all for now! I’m excited to share the next episode with you in the coming weeks, even if it did turn out to be an odd one.

-But until then, remember to live and learn every day!

Review: Season 1, Episode 1

I finally did it! My first ever standalone episode! Obviously, since this is the premiere of Season 1, this episode has been in development for longer than almost any other. Over three years ago, I actually drafted this episode on about a page and a half of lined paper. But I never got that paper back, so unfortunately, it is lost to time. There are a few things I remember about it. There was no package, it skipped straight from Sonic finding Omega to them taking a rest in the forest. Omega’s thoughts weren’t seen internally, there was just a brief paragraph explaining how overwhelming the noise of the forest was. And it ended with Omega agreeing to reboot.

I suppose I should start with that package. The inspiration came when I finally beat Sonic Heroes for the first time last summer. Not counting the end sequence with Team Sonic alone, the entire story ended on the note of Omega picking up the broken form of Metal Sonic, and sharing a look with Shadow. I instantly knew that I would have to expand on that moment. I decided that the package would be a great way to expand the depth of this particular story, while giving a sense of direct continuation from Heroes. The identification number, SH-123003 refers to 12/30/03, the original Japanese release date of Sonic Heroes. It’s my hope that someone, somewhere, was able to guess it was Metal Sonic based on that information alone. I suppose that I should mention, while this is absolutely not the last you’ll see of Metal Sonic, it is going to be a little while. This isn’t a cliffhanger for the next episode, it’s a lead-in to the next Season.

That scene with Omega’s internal thoughts is also worth mentioning. Why did I do it? That’s a good question. As a whole, I really wanted this episode to be exemplary of the entire rest of the series. That’s why I selected this particular plot for the premiere, it’s a simple pair-up of two maybe slightly unexpected characters, who go on a little adventure, and bond a little in the process. Expect that to be one of the most common plots moving forward. But anyways, if this episode is an example, that means I need to set forward a few things. Among them, the possibility of writing things in unusual styles or from odd perspectives, just for the sake of creativity and because I can. I don’t want something else similar in the future to seem like a surprise. But also, part of it is because I didn’t like that scene I wrote in the original draft. It made Omega seem kind of useless, like he couldn’t ever handle being in a noisy place for any reason. This way, I made it seem a little more like Sonic’s fault, giving Omega faulty instructions, then specifically demonstrating how it goes wrong internally. Even so, I’m still worried that I didn’t quite capture that properly, like maybe it still kind of feels like Omega’s fault. I’m also worried that that scene was just a total bore to read, I really have no idea.

The use of Heavy Gunner in this episode was also a difficult choice. Hypothetically, this would be the time to reintroduce Heavy King as the leader of the Heavies, since this is the premiere and all. But like I said earlier, I want this episode to serve as an example for all the rest, which means not necessarily starting off with a bang. The whole reason I brought the Heavies into this story in the first place was to serve exactly this role, someone for the heroes to fight each episode that isn’t Eggman every single time. I chose Gunner partly for his rivalry with Omega, and partly for his presence as an officer of the law, since Sonic was getting arrested. Given those, I thought it would be a bit silly to choose anyone else. I did consider Rider just to change things up, but I feel like I should probably establish things before I go and change them. But already after this episode, I’m starting to worry that the Heavies will start seeming pretty pathetic if I have them losing every single time. I guess I’d better start thinking about having them win in the near future.

The last thing to talk about is Sonic and his role as leader. Obviously, this is something I’ve been leading up to since the very beginning. I think it was S0 E4 when Zero told Sonic “You couldn’t lead your way out of a paper bag.” And back then, it was totally true. Back in the early conceptual phases of this story, I thought about Sonic and his personality in Black Knight, and I thought that guy could make a great leader if he wanted to. I think he could’ve made a good King Arthur. And for this story, I knew I wanted Sonic to fill exactly that role. For one thing, I thought that having Sonic as the actual leader would help me to stand out a little bit from the comics. But also, I just thought it made sense. Sonic is the main character, and now the chosen one as well. Why shouldn’t he be a leader? But then I looked to Colors, and especially Lost World, and I thought, that guy would make a terrible leader. Like, it would be hard to get worse. So I knew I had to do something about that. That’s the entire reason why I put Sonic through his whole Season 0 character development arc. If I hadn’t thought about it that way, I would’ve never given a thought to Sonic’s current personality in the games, I would’ve just slapped on his personality from earlier and ignored the rest in a very pathetic way. So, I had Sonic build his way up, not just to being more heroic, but to becoming a better leader. And now, here he is. A related topic is that speech he gave. I was originally planning the speech to be a separate scene from the ritualistic handout of Emerald shards, but I combined them partly for effect, and partly just to save time. But I put a lot of thought into that speech, I stayed up until 1 in the morning to make sure I could write it all at once. I wanted to make something that, if said by a famous person at an important time, could totally go down in history. So I thought very carefully about dramatic structure and parallel wording, the kind of thing that makes a historical speech so memorable. And certainly, since Tails had the bright idea to record it, the “I know” speech will go down in this world’s history.

Now, I know this season has only just begun, but I’m afraid I may be going on a brief summer hiatus. It’s been difficult to write this past month, so the next episode isn’t even halfway done yet, and I usually like to write ahead. Hopefully, things should return in full force this autumn. I’m very excited to share what the future of this season holds, and I even have a Special episode planned for September. In the meantime, I have lots of edits I still need to make around the site for Season 1, as well as a new Opinionated Review planned (this’ll be a fun one).

-So until then, remember to live and learn every day!

Review: Season 0 Finale (Episode 32)

Oh, man. It’s hard to believe it’s over. I mean, The Chaos Project still has a long way to go, but Season 0, the backbone of the whole story, is actually over. It’s been two years. Two whole years! Ten percent of my life, I’ve spent on this season alone, and now it’s over! Two years ago, if you had told me I would end the season on a cliffhanger battle between Blacklight and Infinite, I would’ve…well, first I would’ve asked who Infinite is, because Forces wasn’t announced yet, but then I would’ve called you crazy. Certainly, I would’ve been on, like, Season 2 at least. And certainly, if it had somehow taken me that long to end Season 0, there’s no way I would’ve dedicated such an important episode to concepts from some bland Modern Sonic game that no one likes. After all, the stories of Modern Sonic games are specifically what I’m writing this story to combat. And yet, here we are. I guess you just never know what life’s gonna throw at you. But hey, make your move, work it out, that’s what life is all about. It’s an adventure. And somehow, through it all, it still leads into Crisis of Chaos in exactly the ways I wanted it to. I suppose I should probably explain that ending scene itself. The idea didn’t occur to me until some time during the writing of this episode, but I thought that, given the way this whole arc started, and the innate similarities between Infinite and Blacklight that have been drastically strengthened by the Ruby connection, their relationship needed better resolution than the climax offered.

Man, where do I even go from here, talking about this episode? SO. MUCH. ACTION. This was really testing the limits of my action-writing skills. I suppose that explains how this ended up being far and away the longest episode of this season, likely of the entire story. 14,000 words, where 5,000 is where I like to be, and 11,000 was the record set just one episode earlier. Dialogue is very efficient, one word of dialogue translates fairly well to one second of screen time. But for an action sequence, two or three sentences, long ones, could be necessary to describe just a quick few seconds of equivalent on-screen motion.

Anyways, I suppose I should start with the actual episode content now. I already mentioned in last episode’s review that that episode was like the “character finale,” while this is the “action and plot finale,” and that ended up holding pretty true. But what I didn’t say was that, while last episode was specifically for Shadow and his little group, this episode was for everyone. Usually I like to identify who the main characters for each episode are, and by my normal evaluation method, that would include pretty much the entire Sonic cast this time (the exceptions being Silver, Blaze, Classic Sonic, Zero, and arguably Sonic himself, plus spin-off characters like the Babylons). For such an important episode, I think that’s pretty fair.

Since it actually took up a pretty fair percentage of this episode, I suppose I should talk about Cream’s little character arc. I promised it would happen, and I think I delivered. In the end, she didn’t really “handle herself” as well as I’d hoped, but I also wanted to make sure to keep things within her established character. Fun fact; I was originally planning on having her actually accept the gun from the Commander, or maybe end up being forced to use his, but in the end, I realized that was kind of…wrong, to put a gun in the hands of a seven-year-old. Hence why I had to talk about the safeties in the gun to have the Commander offer the weapon in the first place without seeming like a terrible, terrible person in the process. The culprit, I think, for making me think it was okay before I came to my senses, is Ender’s Game, a sci-fi novel about a child sent to wage war against an alien race. You might remember it for the terrible movie it had a few years back, but the books are great. Anyways, the idea of a kid with a gun didn’t seem so crazy to me in light of that, but I realized that not everyone would agree with that assessment. But anyways, those scenes were also nice because I got to give the Commander a proper character arc, even if only a small one. I’ve been painting him as such a jerk throughout this series, but I do really like him as a character, so it was very nice to show his more caring, protective side. Not to mention his skills as a soldier, since he’s usually on the sidelines. Before our next topic, I’d like to confirm that Heavy Shinobi is not dead. I just wanted to prove a point about Infinite’s brutality, which I think went quite well.

Since I just mentioned soldiers, I guess I’ll move on to Hero next. I knew right from the beginning that I didn’t want to pull another fake Super Form with him like I did in After the Fight, but I also knew that he was much too important to this episode arc to be relegated to lesser fights. So, recalling the fact that Titanic Monarch was a Zone before it was a final boss, I thought that having Hero traverse that Zone in the middle of Shadow’s Super fight would be a great way to show off the sheer scale of the Monarch, while also giving him a great opportunity for a final interaction with Infinite. Of course, this planning was all before I was even done with After the Fight, so their entire thing they had going back then was all for the purpose of leading up to “I don’t want to see you burn.” Essentially, that was Infinite’s way of saying “I care about you,” which is insane for him, but that’s why I had them spend so much time together over the course of this arc. And then of course, Hero said his first words! Sort of. “Nuh-uh” aren’t exactly words. I originally planned on a more resolute “No,” but I was advised against such a drastic move at this time. Doesn’t mean he won’t say more in the future, but as his very first semblance of speech, something a little more like how he usually expresses himself seemed a little more appropriate. And of course, we have his resolution, becoming a proper GUN soldier. I mentioned this before, and I know that it felt rushed, almost out of the blue, but I couldn’t have him talk about it! The best I could do is hint that he’d be without a purpose after the war, and show that he has a respect for the Commander. Honestly, I think it’s a pretty reasonable step for him to take, given his character arc in Forces alone, but since it’s technically your custom character, I can see why anyone might disagree with that.

I guess I’ll talk about my shames of this episode now. Probably the biggest was how much Tails was shoved off to the side, considering that he was technically the first main character of this arc. Before Forces ever came along, this arc was intended to form a pretty important bond between Shadow and Tails, and I’ll admit that that part got completely dropped halfway through. I’ll just have to move the building of that relationship off into next season (or maybe the one after), which is fine by me. I can still use the early episodes of this arc as a foundation. But anyways, it’s actually pretty sad that Cream got more of a focus in this episode than Tails did, but in the grand scheme of things, he really just wasn’t that important, and I didn’t want to force anything. Next up is the Super fight. It was meant to be…a lot more exciting. But as you could probably tell, I gave up on actually describing most of it halfway through, and instead just implied that stuff was happening while they were talking. The problem is that the Monarch itself had a giant, blaring, fragile weak point, one hit and it’s over, which made it a lot harder to keep interesting. Not to mention the fact that the episode was intended to be much shorter, so one battle spread throughout all of it wouldn’t have seemed so dragged out that way. There’s one last disappointment, and it’s a small one. Considering that Bruno the Wisp is technically the only original character I introduced in this arc, I would’ve like for him to be…at least a little bit more important. I mean, he served his purpose, he gave Hero a way to communicate with others, he armed the Wispon when necessary, and he showed off character from Hero in that he’s less secure without him. And of course, he had a few entertaining interactions with Infinite. But he himself didn’t gain much in the way of character. Oh, well. And…that’s really all for disappointments. I’m quite fond of this episode over all.

I could probably keep talking here for hours, as seems to be becoming the norm. But I think I’ve covered all the most important parts. There are quite a few things I sort of intended to talk about, like more about those three ending scenes, but I think I wrote them in a way that each speaks for itself. So I guess this is where I’ll stop. So now is the time for another big announcement. I can now confirm that I will publish the premiere episode of Season 1 on June 23rd, the second anniversary of the story, and Sonic’s 27th. That’s next week! No need for a long seasonal break! (Though there may be a summer hiatus thereafter.) So keep an eye out!

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 31 (again)

Again, because the numbering system for the episodes was changed. This review is in regards to the episode that came out last week, “The Time of Reckoning Part 1.”

This episode was much more difficult than I was expecting. Every single one of these scenes was something I’ve been planning out for quite some time now, and I guess that was sort of my problem. I prepared so much that I had a hard time getting all the completely separate ideas to fit together. I had to constantly go back and edit scenes, that meditation with Chaos and Shadow was rearranged and added to at least 4 or 5 times over the course of my writing the episode. And now it’s my longest episode ever, even longer than After the Fight, the Forces Special. It’s so long, it’s going to be hard to remember what my thoughts were on the earlier scenes. But I’ll do my best.

It was a last-minute decision to include Cream, but I decided to use this episode as an opportunity to showcase as many characters as physically possible, and I decided she needed a proper introduction before Season 1 anyways. But, no need to worry about her being shoved to the side, she’ll play a more important role in the next episode. Anyways though, I was definitely happy to start a bond between Cheese and Bruno early, because that will be pretty important later. The conversation with Amy and the Commander immediately afterwards probably seemed very random, because it sort of was. But, I wanted to show off a bit of character for the Commander, I wanted to set up for his role in Cream’s plot next episode, and Amy was really just conveniently there for me to do that.

Let’s see…after that, it was my awkward best attempt at finding a good excuse for them to not go into battle right away, so Shadow and Chaos could have their conversation. I was hoping to have the vote come in as a tie, and then have Hero come in to break that tie, but the numbers just didn’t work out that way. I was kind of forcing certain votes as it was. So, I had to come up with some other way to break the tie. I considered accounting for the votes of Cheese and Bruno, but…I thought that would be a bit unfair, since it’s a given that they would vote with their partners, not to mention the fact that for the numbers to work, I would’ve needed them to each vote differently anyways, which would’ve defeated the purpose and brought back the tie.

I almost forgot about the Commander with Hero. That interaction was definitely important, and I probably would’ve led into it a bit better…if Hero could talk. But, him being silent, there’s only so much I can express with just gestures and grunts. The silent point I’m trying to make is that Hero is sort of without a purpose at the moment. He spent a long time searching for Infinite, but it seems his true calling is as a soldier. Perhaps soon, he will figure that out for himself.

Onto Shadow and Chaos. Usually here in Season 0, I write with the intention that you shouldn’t have to know what happened in the premiere, Crisis of Chaos. But in this case, I kept in mind that Chaos and Shadow were pretty close at that point. So, just when it seemed like they were starting to bond, I wanted to make a shock by having them suddenly hate each other. Of course, they were already over that by the end of the episode. One of the disadvantages of bringing Chaos in so late in the arc. Anyways though, I really enjoyed that scene, because it referenced the events of every single one of my previous arcs, which really helped to tie this whole season together in my mind.

So…did you catch any of the references during the “Null Space is leaking” narrative? I mean, Blaze and Classic Sonic were obvious, but anything else? I also referred to Boom Sonic pretty directly, the one that wears a scarf. But then there were the rest, different colors, different outfits, different numbers of spikes. The idea was sort of for you to fill in the blanks for yourself. Who had a different number of spikes? Maybe Sonic from Sonic X? Or any other cartoon, for that matter? Who has a different color of fur? Maybe Scourge? Who has a strange outfit? Maybe Stealth the Hedgehog? If you wanted to, you could even imagine Super Mario poking his head through one of those fissures, since he has a basis for crossing over with the Sonic universe. Now, to be clear, none of this is canon. Except maybe Boom, who I specifically described. But don’t expect the story to start regularly crossing over with Sonic Boom now, let alone the comics.

The fights in this episode probably felt pretty rushed, and that’s because they were. I was feeling completely uninspired when I got to each of the three major action sequences, so I skipped them, choosing to come back to them later. But, as it turned out, by the time I reached the end, I was already well over 9000 words (where I like 6000 to be my high average), and those fights still had to be written. So, I felt obligated to cut them a bit short. Besides, we’ve already seen Infinite fights like 10 different ways, and the same goes for Blacklight fights, so how much could these ones really add? But action wasn’t really the point of this episode anyway. You can think of this as more of the “character finale” while the next and last part is going to be more of the “action and plot finale.” Obviously, both have both, but this is where I wanted all of the character arcs to reach their climax, while next time is where the story itself actually resolves, obviously with a spectacular show, as I hope you’ve come to expect out of this series. I just hope that the next one doesn’t end up looking ridiculously short compared to this one. (Forget I said that. It’s actually 50% longer.)

There’s probably a lot I could say about the many important character interactions that happened thereafter, but honestly, there’s so much that happened, I wouldn’t even know where to start. And honestly, I hope that it all speaks for itself, except for the parts that will get wrapped up next episode, obviously. So…I guess that’s sort of it. So before I go, one last big announcement. One week from today, I’ll be forgoing the usual Preview piece, in favor of publishing the season finale a week early! I just finished writing last night, and as I mentioned above, it’s a big one. Like, really big. Like, more words in this one episode than in all four parts of Crisis of Chaos combined. But I promise, it will be exciting, and terrifying, and heartwarming, and it will bring everything together so that Crisis of Chaos can finally happen.

-So until then, remember to live and learn every day!

Review: Shadow of Time Parts 4 and 5

I didn’t even realize that I forgot to do the review for the last one, so here’s both, to get us all caught up. But part 4 was a while ago, so I’ll have to see what I can remember.

I’m a little worried about things getting too formulaic here. Shadow plays the Dark mission of a level, meets the hero of said level, and eventually gets rid of the hero before completing the level, followed by a newly-made scene that includes a flashback. Part 5 sort of broke that mold, with its flashback near the beginning and its focus on the boss fight at the end, but Part 4 was definitely a culprit. That’s why I specifically made a sort of joke over the fact that Shadow expected to be interrupted as he was preparing to destroy the ARK defense systems, as he was by Vector. A little later, I decided to cut out the Commander’s flashback, because I wanted to focus on Shadow, and it didn’t really add much to the scene beyond what he was saying anyways. So, why did I decide to have the Commander lose an eye? Well, it’s just a continuation of a preexisting symbol. Just like with the President’s photograph, the Commander’s heterochromatic eyes were already there for me, begging to be used. In the original game, they were there to symbolize the game’s entire theme, the thin line between good and evil, and the duality between them. But this story’s theme is a bit different. By cutting out the Commander’s “good guy” eye, Shadow symbolically cut out the goodness within himself. Additionally, the altered situation made for a great lead-in for the team-up of the Commander with Sonic, since that’s something that came up very suddenly in the original game. There’s also one other reason. Ever heard of Nick Fury? Fury is to S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Marvel Universe as the Commander is to G.U.N. in Sonic. And Fury has an eyepatch. I couldn’t resist making the comparison. As for Part 5, there isn’t as much to say. It was nice, finally writing the meeting of Shadow and Sonic, even if it was mostly constructed from recycled quotes. Either way, there’s more of that interaction to come.

Now, as usual, a chronicle of specific changes:
1. Change in level order, The ARK/Cosmic Fall/Space Gadget are combined into one, and now come after Air Fleet dark mission. The introduction scene used most closely reflects The ARK.
2. Despite Vector’s presence, the ARK is not collapsing, and Shadow is still destroying Defense Units. Vector has donned a black leather jacket for unknown reasons. (That was very relevant at the time I wrote it, but it’s been a while since then.)
3. The Commander encounters Shadow after the level instead of before. In the encounter, Shadow attacks the Commander and slices his eye. After the encounter, Sonic finds and helps him.
4. In a scene that did not exist before, Shadow meets Black Doom in the Eclipse Cannon control room. As Black Doom forces Shadow to fire the Cannon, Shadow has a flashback to his first encounter with Rouge in Sonic Heroes.
5. In a scene that did not exist before, the President learns that the Eclipse Cannon is targeting the GUN base he occupies, and gives a last goodbye to the workers in the room, before the base is destroyed by the Cannon. Rouge is presumed dead.
6. In a scene that did not exist before, Sonic and the Commander watch from space as the GUN base is destroyed, and decide to go after the Black Comet together. The Commander makes a speech to whoever is left to hear to join them in the fight. Emerald placement has been slightly modified.
7. In a scene that did not exist before, Black Doom takes Shadow to the room where he was first awoken, and agrees to unlock Shadow’s memories. Shadow has a flashback to the very moment he was awoken, and the promise he made to Black Doom at the time.
8. Sonic and Shadow spend some extra time on the Black Comet debating over Shadow’s allegiances.
9. During the battle, Sonic and the Commander argue and interfere with one another.
10. Once Shadow gathers all seven Chaos Emeralds, he spares Sonic’s life. At the last moment, Eggman appears, claiming Shadow to be an Android.

Review: Season 0, Episode 31

…Do I even need to say it? Pretty much all of this was supposed to be part of the last episode. The exception there would be the scene of the Heavies’ betrayal. That was supposed to come next time. But when I realized how long this episode was getting, I decided to fastforward it a bit, so that pretty much all lose ends can be tied up before we start getting into the finale. That’s right, the finale comes next. Can’t promise it will only be one episode, but that’s hypothetically my goal.

I can say now that this ranks among my favorite episodes yet. The sheer horror and insanity of the Virtual Reality, the intrigue of the Replicas, and the satisfying character progression of the Heavies conveniently combined to make a single, focused episode. This is probably quite a bit like how episodes will look once Season 1 finally comes around, with a focused primary plot (Virtual Reality), and a subplot in the background (the Sonic Replicas), that both end up resolved by the episode’s end. And there’s a reason that I plan on making a majority of this series in such an episodic format, while only this prequel season is so serialized. It’s because those focused plots should allow for better storytelling, as they have here.

But enough of that, on to the more specific. As I mentioned above, the idea with the Virtual Reality was to make it as horrific yet ridiculous as possible. Let me start from the beginning. I don’t think it occurred to me while I was playing Shadow’s Virtual Reality for the first time, but when I was playing the Avatar’s Capital City immediately after (I jumped into Episode Shadow the moment things were cleared up after Sunset Heights). I saw those giant stretched Infinite illusions (“longbois” as I’ve seen them called), and that’s when I realized that, with Blacklight as Infinite, I’d have to step it up. If the old Infinite could concoct something that terrifying, what would a complete psychopath make? I got to planning this quite quickly. I wasn’t sure who or why at that point, but after I finished the story and looked back on it in retrospect, I realized I could best emphasize this through a complete Virtual Reality, not just illusions. Something acknowledging Blacklight’s fixation with apples quickly came to mind. It was the fake Zavok’s snake tongue from a few episodes that made me think he might have a thing for snakes as well. Between the apple, the snake, the flood, and the fact that this whole thing takes place not far from EDEN…read into that symbology how you will. Anyways though, it was only as the scene was approaching that I thought to step things up slowly, from pretty scary, to completely insane, to incomprehensible madness. As well, it was only soon before writing in the last episode that it occurred to me to make Sonic’s coma induced by Virtual Reality, which came right along with the idea to have him meet Hero in there.

And Sonic leads me on to my next topic, the Sonic Replicas. I was, to a slight degree, inspired by a fellow FanFiction user out there (if you’re reading, thanks, CapitalGMA) who I’ve been discussing the plot of Sonic Forces with for quite some time. There isn’t much relation, just the thought of the Ruby being used to create a Replica of Sonic. Mephiles in the last episode was really only there to lead into this plot point, because otherwise it would just be kind of random. I originally had it in mind to play off of the confusion between the Replicas and the Virtual Reality Sonic, make it unclear which is real and which is fake, but…I couldn’t really come up with anything along those lines. I thought it would be so completely obvious that the Virtual Reality one was real, that it would ruin the drama and uncertainty over the Replicas. And I keep saying Replicas, even though one of them wasn’t that at all. I used Heavy Magician in that way, because I wanted more than just King to be used, and I wasn’t planning on Gunner at the time. Besides King, I thought that Magician would make for the most interesting battle, but I was thinking it would be a total waste to use Magician without utilizing her ability to disguise herself as obscure and forgotten characters. But…I wasn’t quite ready to go that far myself. So, with a little inspiration, I thought instead to play a different sort of trick, fool the Resistance and the leader into thinking that Sonic had joined them. But, as I said in the last review, Sonic isn’t playable in the main story. That would’ve given it away, if you were paying attention.

Also worth mentioning is Heavy Gunner and Omega’s scene. I mentioned last time that I might hint at Gunner’s deeper backstory, and I did just that. It was just a slight reference, a little obscure by some standards, but if something that Gunner said sounded odd and familiar to you, there’s a good reason for that.

Last to talk about is the big betrayal. As I mentioned earlier, the Heavies were originally included mostly just for parity, so Eggman can have his Generals to counter the Replicas and Resistance. So in initial planning, I didn’t really think much about the possibility of the Heavies wanting to work against Eggman. I was even thinking about Eggman maybe just making his own, totally obedient Heavies, instead of taking the original Mania ones. But I was convinced, once again by my brother Yuni (he’s been helping out a lot lately) that with King ending Mania by betraying Eggman, they should likely still be working against him now. I came to agree, but I still needed my Generals! So I thought to have Eggman force them to work for him, solving both problems and opening the way to this nice character development later. The Titanic Monarch seemed like a perfectly reasonable way for the Heavies to try and get around Eggman, while also nicely tying up a severe loose end from Mania. Now Eggman is all ready for a Super fight (something I wasn’t sure about before), and he and King will be working together for a long time to come, now out of a well-established mutual respect. And…that’s all I got for today. But in the near future, keep an eye on the website for some very special bonus content.

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 30

Not again! I already mentioned that about 3/4 of this episode were supposed to be part of the last, but that one ran long. And I did have something new in mind to accommodate this episode’s new structure. And that STILL didn’t work, because this one ran long as well. This time, I had to give in and tag on a couple thousand extra words, and it still wasn’t enough. This episode originally had the title that will now be held by the next, because this one was supposed to focus on a topic that I didn’t even get to start. (Here’s a hint for you: The next episode will be called “Don’t Believe.”) That ending was just the beginning. I even had to rearrange some of the scenes to have the more dramatic ending.

Beyond all of that, I’m not sure that I have a whole lot to say about this episode. I suppose I should start with the story of Heavy King. In case it wasn’t clear, yes, I’m implying that King is the very same Egg Robo who served as an antagonist in Knuckles’ story in Sonic & Knuckles. Back when I used to play that game a lot as a kid, I would play Knuckles’ story A LOT more than Sonic’s, and I wasn’t nearly good enough to get very far in either of them. So I had no idea what this thing that isn’t Eggman was that I was fighting, because I’d never seen it as an enemy in Sky Sanctuary. In fact, I don’t think I ever figured that out until Sonic Generations came around, that was my first experience with the zone. I was probably a little bit disappointed when I learned that this thing was nothing more than a random enemy robot trying to take Eggman’s place. But there was still a latent curiosity about the character, which is probably what inspired me to make this unusual headcanon. At least, I’ve never seen it theorized by anyone else. I’m trying to establish Heavy King as a sort of rival to Knuckles, which is perfectly reasonable seeing as Knuckles had an exclusive fight against him in Mania, but now it’s a lot more personal than that. Other characters are going to have their own Heavy rivals as well, I might go a bit into Omega’s rivalry with Heavy Gunner next episode, but King is the important one for the purposes of this story, hence why he got this little backstory. Eventually, I hope to give similar backstories to each of the Heavies, basic explanations as to why the Ruby changed them each the way it did, though plans are tentative at best. Again, Gunner is currently the closest to a complete idea.

I want to talk about Infinite, but I’m not quite sure what I can say at this point. It’s not altogether clear what the future has in store for him. What is clear is that right now, he’s at his absolute lowest. And the Phantom Ruby matters more to him than anything else.

I’m trying hard to reference not just as many of my own arcs as possible, but as much of the entire Sonic history as well, for this penultimate arc of Season 0. Hence, a few things. I chose Star Light Zone for a location, because I wanted a location from the classic games that wouldn’t automatically look like a reference to Forces, Generations, or Mania, and for a place that seems like it could be of some strategic value to conquer, Star Light seemed like the obvious choice. On the opposite side of things, we have Mephiles. I never much considered what Replicas Blacklight would have during the planning phases for this arc, and when the time came two episodes ago and I only wanted three to face off against the three characters, Shadow seemed like the obvious one to exclude, to avoid confusion and unnecessary dialogue. I was fine just leaving it that way at first, but in the scene where Blacklight is pondering over what to conquer, I realized that three wasn’t really enough compared to Eggman’s five Heavies. I considered bringing Shadow back as a Replica without any fanfare, but I was also wanting to do something that would set him apart from Infinite. I remembered how I had Blacklight mention learning about Mephiles from the Chaos Emeralds, and also thought about how much people were talking before the release of Forces about Mephiles needing to be a part of Infinite’s villain squad, or even Infinite being Mephiles himself. Most importantly, I was thinking about a scene for the next couple of episodes which may have included Mephiles as a Replica anyways, with or without this introduction. So I decided with was better.

Also worth mentioning here is the Apotos ice cream man. Come on, you all remember him, right? The guy who gave Chip his name? Do you remember how he talked? I was still fairly young when I first played Unleashed, and I didn’t know much about voice actors, but when that man first started speaking, I looked around, excited to see Knuckles. But there was no Knuckles. Just a man voiced by Dan Green, the same talented actor who was voicing Knuckles at the time. Ironically enough, he also voiced Mephiles. Back on topic though, when I realized that I was sending Knuckles into the city from Unleashed, I couldn’t not make this joke, them realizing that they have the same voice. Just to drive it in, I likened the ice cream recipe to the Master Emerald, making them seem not just similar in voice, but in character as well. I was mistakenly thinking he was from Spagonia, not Apotos, so I actually ended up changing which city they were going to just to accommodate this scene. It’s not like this was totally out of the blue, I wanted him and Amy to have some kind of character moment between the battles, and this seemed like the obvious one to do.

I also mentioned the references to my own arcs. Obviously, it isn’t necessary to force references to Birth of Blacklight, since Blacklight just being here is doing that for me. To a lesser extent, the same is true about Dawn of Chaos, but I still have to have it discussed as long as Chaos himself isn’t here. But I did make sure in this episode to call back to Shadow’s time as the Black Cloak, as well as how Sonic changed all the way back in Speed of Time. The continuation from there to here isn’t as obvious, so I need to make sure that this arc properly seems like the culmination of everything that’s happened so far. It’s a bit of a shame that Sonic isn’t here for this big conclusion, but now that Sonic is training with Chaos, he’s all caught up with Crisis of Chaos, he just doesn’t need anything more. Shadow, on the other hand, is a bit farther off than I’d hoped by this point. That conversation with Tails before Mephiles showed up wasn’t totally planned, but was absolutely vital in getting him where he needs to be. The key moment can’t come until very close to the end, but he needs to go from “I don’t want to be here” to “I want to be a better person,” over the course of just a few episodes, which is really asking a lot. I planned on Birth of Blacklight being that transition point I need, but I ended up taking it way too far there (as you might have been able to tell by Shadow’s statement in the last episode about being weak and gullible at the time), and I ended up having to dial it back this time, removing that transition, which I’m really kicking myself for right about now. I just hope that I can make up for it with one powerful moment. And by the way, as to Sonic, no need to worry about him not being here. You’ll be seeing him again very soon.

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 29

So, this episode was…a bit different than I was originally expecting. There’s nothing in particular that was changed, it’s just that the three different stories going on between Eggmanland, the Empire Fortress, and the Resistance base, ended up taking a lot more time than I was expecting. I had in mind that those scenes would go by quickly, so the bulk of the episode could take place in Central City. The sad thing is, we’re now two episodes in to what I was originally thinking might be a three or four episode arc, and we technically aren’t even out of what would constitute the tutorial of the hypothetical game that this arc represents. But when has an arc ever been as short as I planned? Speaking of the game, I’ll get to explaining that in a moment, but let me think if there’s anything else about the episode first. I was originally planning on leaving the Heavies out until next season, but I was convinced that now, in the fallout of the Phantom Ruby troubles, would be the best time, the most convenient excuse to get them here, not to mention that they fit well not only into the story, but even better into the game concept. The only real problem now is that, if I want them to stick around, I have to come up with an excuse for why they weren’t in Crisis of Chaos.

Anyways, onto that game I mentioned. This Forces of Chaos arc, like everything else in Season 0, stems from a hypothetical game idea, which I’ve been calling “Sonic Conquest”. Yes, I know the game’s about Shadow instead of Sonic, but “Shadow Conquest” doesn’t have even close to the same ring to it. I’m going to be honest here and say that the concept is strongly based off of Pokémon Conquest, a spinoff title of its respective franchise for the Nintendo DS, which was a crossover with the Japanese “Nobunaga’s Ambition” series. The game featured you as a self-insert leader, who, by strategically deploying your troops and their Pokémon, would eventually unite all territories on the continent under your rule. And there lies the core idea of “Sonic Conquest.” Let me start from the beginning.

Pokémon Conquest is a sort of tactical RPG, but Sonic Conquest plays much more like a standard Sonic game, with levels where you destroy enemies and reach a goal. The difference comes in how those levels are selected, and who you play as in each. You begin with a single character, Shadow, in the Seaside Hill territory. Territories are an important part of this game. The entire globe is divided into territories, each of which has an allegiance – Federation (represented by Shadow), Empire (represented by Eggman) or Infinite (represented by Blacklight). But the allegiance mechanic doesn’t come in until later, for the beginning of the game it’s just a place. Each territory also has at least one level location, and a boss location. So, once you play through the tutorial level location (Sea Gate, I figure), you proceed to the boss arena, Whale Island, for your first bout with Blacklight, the new Infinite. After the boss, you view the World Map for the first time, and Tails joins your army. At this point the game is still in tutorial mode, so only one more territory becomes available to view, Sunset Heights. This is also the initial introduction to allegiances, as Seaside Hill becomes aligned to Federation, and Sunset Heights becomes aligned to Empire. For the tutorial purposes, you must then “invade” the Sunset Heights territory, once again as Shadow, this time along with Tails.

In any kind of deployment or invasion, only a limited number of units can be deployed, a unit being either a single character, known as a General, or an army squadron. Sunset Heights is defended by one army squadron of Empire robots, and one General, Blacklight. When a territory has at least one squadron deployed, an invasion of that territory requires you to play through the level location (guarded by enemies, or double or triple the enemies if multiple squadrons are deployed), which in this case is Park Avenue. Similarly, if a territory has a General deployed, but no squadrons, you go straight to the boss location, which in this case I figure is “Red Gate Plaza” (a slight liberty taken, since it’s not a running boss and so can’t take place on the bridge itself). If it has some combination of the two, you must do both. If you are successful, then you claim the territory in the name of the United Federation. When Shadow broke the flag at the end of the level last episode, that was a midifcation on the standard “victory pose” for the end of each level, where whichever character you’re playing as plants a United Federation flag in the ground (or a different flag, for some of the postgame modes, but more on that later).

But back to the normal progression. Between the level and the boss, the Avatar joins your army, and automatically becomes part of your current invasion as well. (I don’t know whether the Avatar would actually be customizable in this game or not. It seems silly that the Avatar would be included without customization, but then for a game that doesn’t focus on him as a character, it seems like it would be a pretty silly distraction from the rest of the game. Perhaps there are just a few limited options that you select from at the beginning of the game, but then there’s no changing it afterwards.) Once you beat the boss, Sunset Heights becomes yours. This is where the real game starts…sort of. The entire World Map opens up, giving you a detailed look at the waging war. I don’t know how many territories there would be for the game, but for the purpose of this explanation, let’s just say that there’s 12. 8 of them (the 60 percent mentioned in the story) is aligned to Empire, while the remaining four (Seaside Hill, Sunset Heights, Central City, and Mystic Ruins) are aligned to Federation (you). However, immediately, half of the Empire territories become taken by Infinite, as Blacklight splits off from the Eggman Empire, leaving one third of the planet for each alignment. There’s still a little bit of tutorial left, in teaching you troop management. The tutorial instructs you to deploy Tails in Mystic Ruins, Shadow in Seaside Hill, and leave the Avatar in Sunset Heights, in order to best defend your borders. On this map, an army can only invade a neighboring territory, and the opposing armies behave just as you do. If an undefended territory is attacked, it is taken over automatically. By having troops deployed around your borders, you protect your inner territories from being claimed so easily. However, because you only have three available units, one of your four territories are left undefended. Because you’ve already invaded Sunset Heights using all of your available units, you must proceed to “end your turn.” During Blacklight’s turn, you are attacked at Mystic Ruins, teaching you the mechanics of defending. Just like if you attack a General, if one of your Generals is attacked, you must fight a boss, and if you are attacked by an army squadron, you must play through a special “destroy all enemies” modification of the level area, or a separate defense area, depending on the location. For example, Sea Gate serves as a separate defense area for Seaside Hill in addition to being the tutorial setting (Ocean Palace being the attack stage that you probably won’t see in your first playthrough), while Central City has Radial Highway for attack and Cityscape for defense (hope you caught those references, Radial Highway being a one-letter modification of Radical Highway, and Cityscape being the same for City Escape). Anyways, win or lose, next comes Eggman’s turn. Eggman attacks Central City, and, undefended, takes it. Once your turn comes again, the very last thing that you are forced to do is take back Central City. Once you do, you meet up with GUN in the story, and gain command of several army squadrons of your own. That part hasn’t happened in the story yet. From there on out, you’re on your own. Your goal is to take back the entire world, one territory at a time. Unlock more characters as you take certain territories, strategically deploy your units to keep your borders protected, choose who you play as and when. I won’t go into detail on later game happenings, to avoid story spoilers. I suppose I forgot to mention, after the split, Eggman’s Generals are the Hard Boiled Heavies, while Blacklight’s Generals are the Phantom Ruby Replicas. But one of the best parts of this game is the extreme post-game content. Because once you beat “Shadow’s Story,” you begin to unlock other stories, simple little scenarios of questionable canon, where you have some other character as your head Commander, instead of Shadow. These stories may take place within limited parts of the world, or have some other manner of gimmick in order to complete, but every last General, including the villains, would have their own story. The prize for completing all the rest would be Sonic’s story, who otherwise wouldn’t be playable in the game. Sonic’s story, though still taking place in the same world and levels, would be arranged such that you must play through levels in order, no armies to fight back against you, no Generals to collect, but still with periodic bosses to fight. Essentially, a normal Sonic game.

Let’s see…anything I’m missing? I suppose I forgot to mention what the purpose is of having multiple Generals deployed in a single area. Somewhat like Sonic Forces, this game doesn’t have a traditional life system. But unlike Forces, a “Game Over” is still a very real possibility. Your available lives is directly tied to the number of Generals you have deployed. If you lose a life as one General, you start from your last checkpoint as the next. If you run through all of the Generals you have deployed, you lose the battle, and the territory. If you’re very skilled at the game, you’ll only ever need to deploy one General in any given area, and you can wrap up the game very quickly by spreading out your forces. But if you need that extra safety cusion, you’ll have to concentrate your forces more, which means you won’t be able to accomplish as much each turn,  and completeing the game will take considerably longer. As you proceed through the many postgame stories, you’re bound to get good enough to do the former. And…I think that’s all.

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