Review: Season 0, Episode 20

Keep in mind, this is the review for the first episode of the Dawn of Chaos arc, published (oh dear Lords of Chaos help me) 43 days ago. Let’s make a deal. I’m going to publish the next episode within the next two weeks, no matter how little I get done in that time. You have to hold me to that! Writing this arc is just as troublesome as it was last time we touched bases, but hopefully this will encourage me to finish something by that time. Anyways…

Chaos has dawned. I’ve been noticing a trend that involves me focusing on a new component of writing with the first episode of each new arc. While I wasn’t planning anything this time around, I ended up emphasizing pretty heavily the friendly banter that goes on between the characters, which I’m pretty happy with. I suppose this is probably the most “normal” of all the Sonic game ideas I’m using, as if you could use the word to describe a Sonic game. Everything else I do tends to be more on the mold-breaking side, focusing on unusual characters and topics. But this time around, it’s about Sonic and his closest friends, involved in a relatively normal adventure, giving me more time and motivation to focus on those pre-existing relationships. I didn’t mean for the opening scene to be reminiscent of the first scene of Lost World (technically the general idea was planned for before Lost World even came out), but there are definitely some clear similarities, and I suppose that emphasizes the whole “normal” thing. Of course, I think I did it better. I suppose I can also mention about writing style that I was trying to invoke the idea of a horror film when describing the movements of the mysterious blob of light.

This is probably the most reference-filled episode I’ve ever made, embracing about 17 years of history. Hopefully the references to Sonic 3 &/or Knuckles were obvious, between the Hidden Palace Zone and Sonic’s references to the day he and Knuckles met. There was also talk about Sonic’s previous Birthday party, a reference to the events of Sonic Generations. There was Sonic Adventure 2 with the references to fake Chaos Emeralds, as well as Sonic’s mention of when Knuckles popped out of a sewer. Sonic Adventure with the chant of the Master Emerald and references to Perfect Chaos (the dragon destined to destroy the world). But I’ve passed over an important point here. Sonic’s Birthday! Happy Birthday, Sonic! Now, Sonic has technically never been given an official, canon birth date before. However, it is generally accepted that his Birthday is on June 23rd, the day the original Sonic the Hedgehog 1 came out. This is the first of many characters who will be receiving birth dates in the story. Anyways, making this episode take place on Sonic’s Birthday was completely unplanned. I came in knowing that it would be during summer, and that’s about it. I was throwing around a few random dates, and one of them just happened to be June 23rd, before I realized what that meant. I was going to throw it out, but then I started thinking about the fact that my current publishing schedule would put me pretty close to that exact date. I looked at a calendar, and realized that it would theoretically be exactly one day after. I decided it was too perfect to ignore, so I adapted what I had into a makeshift anniversary episode. Not just an anniversary of Sonic, but an anniversary of the Chaos Project as well. I published the very first episode exactly one year before I published this one, on the day of Sonic’s 25th celebration last year (the buzzing still haunts my dreams). Which makes this the Birthday not just of Sonic the Hedgehog, but also Chaos the Hedgehog, both in-universe and out. That actually has some pretty interesting story implications for the future…

Coming back to the original point I was trying to make, this episode contains the first major references I’ve made to the entire Classic era, not counting a few vague references to CD. As I said, my goal in this story is to embrace all of Sonic’s mainstream video game history, and that includes the classic games. I’ve seen theories before relating to the meaning of the Hidden Palace mural, but it’s always been a supporting part of my Controller idea/theory, and I’m glad to finally show that in the story. Knuckles’ explanation that the Controller is usually interpreted as referring to the Master Emerald is actually something I realized had to be said while doing some research into Tikal for her appearance in the last arc. Apparently, I had forgotten that she had specifically figured out the Master Emerald was the Controller named in the chant. When Sonic said that didn’t make any sense in this episode, that might as well have been me talking, as I agree that it doesn’t make much sense. I’ve certainly never seen the Master Emerald “unify” Chaos before. Anyways, bringing the canon of the old games into the new games felt like good way to celebrate Sonic’s history for his anniversary.

Review: Season 0, Episode 19

I meant to post this last week, but I guess it just slipped my mind. Oh well, I guess that means more weeks worth of filler content while we wait for Forces. Keep in mind, this for the finale of the Birth of Blacklight arc, not the premiere of the Dawn of Chaos arc that was published 5 days later.

Since this was supposed to be a part of the last episode, I have a lot less to say. The first thing that comes to mind is how I wanted Shadow’s temporal displacement to be resolved. The way I saw, from the moment I had parallel-Sonic mention the one-way nature of the time machine, I had three options. The first was, as actually happened, to come up with some new convoluted means of time-travel. The second was also quite an enticing option, which was still referenced in the end. I considered having Shadow be put back in a stasis pod alongside Blacklight, spend another 40 years unconscious, to be awoken only when Blacklight is awoken as well. I was very much intrigued by the thought of having the two end with the same fate, and having Shadow dedicate himself solely to the task of protecting the world from his doppelganger. It would also be a nice, convenient way to exclude Shadow from the next story arc, not being reawoken until the following one. Making that choice would have required me to remove Maria from the equation, however, as she would have no means of returning home, and I think that would have taken away too much from the rest of the story to be worth it. There would have been a couple other minor problems as well.

The third option is actually what I was originally planning on doing. That would be to introduce a new Chaos-wielding character who could use Chaos Control to open another rift with Shadow. I had already conceptualized this character’s basic characteristics, personality, abilities, and even the dynamic he would have with Shadow. But then I started planning more specifically for Shadow’s first few interactions with Blacklight, and there ended being no good place to introduce an extra character before they had made their first time jump together, cutting out half of my chances. I suppose I could have altered his story to make him come from another time period instead, but I feel that would have ruined too much of what I had planned for him. And besides, by that point, I had decided that introducing another character that late in would seem silly, and take too much focus off of Shadow and Blacklight. This guy would be a “minor” character, he wouldn’t even get a sprite for this website. Anything I could do with him from that point would seem like a silly contrivance, like he’s only there because he has to be. Anyways, this guy hasn’t been forgotten about just yet, as he’ll certainly get a proper introduction later in the series. But even now, remnants of his existence can still be found. Gerald’s story in Shadow’s dream/flashback referred to this very character.

Speaking of that sequence, it was a reference to more than just the past and the future of this series. Some readers may recall from Cast by the Light, my Sonic Adventure 2 novelization, that I added a look into Shadow’s thoughts immediately after his final loss to Sonic aboard the ARK. His thought: “what is it about him…that allows him to fight me…to fight like me? Could it be…what the Professor told me about?” What the Professor told Shadow about was this very story, the story of the Controller.

I tried to make it as obvious as possible, but I should confirm that the realm in which Shadow and Blacklight faced each other for the final time is the very same place seen in a vision by all three hedgehogs in the premiere of Crisis of Chaos. This wasn’t something I was originally planning, and so I had to do a little bit of working around the fact that Shadow didn’t behave as if he had already been there when he saw it in that premiere. His specific statement was explained by Blacklight’s line in this episode, “Heck if I know.” Shadow doesn’t necessarily not recognize the realm, but, with his newfound learnings under Chaos, he is realizing for the first time what the energies are that he asked Blacklight about in this episode.

Lastly, I want to mention the meaning of the password, “MARIA.” As you may recall from Sonic Adventure 2 and/or Cast by the Light, that was the very same password which Eggman had to use to wake up Shadow from his pod. It never made sense to me that this was the case. If the military found Shadow and sealed him in a stasis pod, why did they seal it with a password that means nothing to them? Now, I’ve seen a few possible explanations, but none of them quite make perfect sense. When I first scheduled this arc to be written, all I knew is that it would be the introduction to Blacklight. I already had the framework of his backstory in mind, that Gerald’s son created him in an attempt to perfect the Ultimate Life Form after its initial failure. In building upon that backstory into this story arc, my central idea was to use this opportunity to fill in the blanks between Maria launching Shadow’s escape pod, and the military having Shadow safely sealed away. In light of everything else that happened during this arc, that original, core idea almost got lost. But in the end, I wanted to make sure that the original password problem wasn’t forgotten. The final explanation: Alfred found Shadow’s escape pod, and transferred him to a stasis pod sealed by a password of his own daughter’s name. The military obtained this pod, but never managed to change the password. There’s an interesting little note about how the military found Shadow’s pod, but I’m going to have to ask you to stay tuned for that answer.

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 18

Alright, so, if this were the real game, the initial story would have ended about 20 seconds earlier, with Blacklight taking Shadow’s hand. Yay, a happy ending, right? Unfortunately, completing the initial story after all seven Emeralds are accounted for would unlock final mode, which begins with Blacklight’s coughing deception. Because, despite my best efforts to entice readers to take his side, we already know where his future leads. But, interestingly enough, I had no intentions of stopping the episode here. From the beginning, I planned on this being the final episode of the arc. Then I finished this “final episode,” and realized that I had written well over ten thousand words. Four thousand tends to be my lower limit. It was one thing, having 8000 word episodes for the past two finales, which could barely make two full episodes if split into two. There was no good splitting point near the middle for Black Cloak, and splitting Speed of Time would have made for a finale episode of almost entirely plot resolution with almost no action. But this time around, I had no such excuses. As much as I want to keep the episode count for this season down as much as possible, it would be silly of me to ask of my readers to sit through such an incredibly long episode. It just so happened to work out that this end point of the initial story and transition to final mode happened just before the middle of those 10,000 words.

Now that’s the end of the episode, let’s go back to the beginning. It’s actually been a long time since I started writing it because of the whole double length problem, but I’ll see what I can remember. Starting with the very first lines, there seems to be something odd going on with Professor Gerald, as if he had not only met Blacklight, but watched him die. We’ve already seen Blacklight’s death during Crisis of Chaos, so obviously that’s not true. Perhaps he’s mistaken Blacklight for someone else? The answer…not for quite some time to come. As for Maria…the idea to have her kidnapped didn’t come to me until I started to think about what to write for Blacklight’s connection about the Robotnik family. I realized that I’d made a plan for the goodbye scene between Shadow and Maria which no longer had any convenient place to be included if I wanted to use the goodbye scene with Gerald as well. I also realized that there were so many plot points throughout this arc which could be resolved far better by keeping Maria in the fold for a while longer. The results turned out quite wonderfully. And…I don’t have much to say, other than that. I suppose this episode was pretty…standard.

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 17

Alright, lots to talk about this time around. The concept of having Shadow face off against Chaos was one of the earliest ideas I had for this whole arc. The thought has always stood out to me that the events of Sonic Adventure are the only really interesting thing to ever happen to Sonic that Shadow had no chance of being involved with. In the past I had considered making some kind of joke off that, having Shadow not believe that those events actually happened because nothing interesting can happen if he doesn’t know about it. But I decided that this episode was far more important than some vague and not-very-funny joke. The difficulty came with Sunlight (though I suppose I should officially be calling him Blacklight now). In Crisis of Chaos, Blacklight, when shown Mechaos 7.0, the Artificial Perfect Chaos, specifically mentioned having no knowledge or memory of it. So throughout this episode, I had to carefully avoid having him directly interact with either the real one or an active artificial one. As an accidental result, I kind of ended up having Chaos become a real enemy of Shadow. But I certainly have no problem with having that much more backstory I can work with later, so expect Shadow to face off against Chaos once more in the far-distant future. Anyways, I had planned on Artificial Chaos playing a far more important role in this episode than what ended up happening, seeing as its the one Shadow had actually encountered before, and had reason to fear. But Blacklight’s story took precedence, and I found that between him and the real Chaos, anything I did would have seemed dull and boring, as I felt the two actual paragraphs involving them were. Speaking of the real Chaos, my original idea involved Shadow being there to witness Perfect Chaos destroying the Echidna village, and never actually fighting it directly. But between Blacklight’s need to never encounter it, and his need to get another Chaos Emerald on this trip, using Chaos 6 worked out much better. The idea about Shadow’s strife in attempting to use Chaos Frost came fairly-last minute, when I was doing some research into the specifics of how the original Chaos 6 fight worked. I originally planned for Shadow to beat Chaos like normal, but decided that a failure would not only lead to a more emotional climax between Tikal and Chaos, but also make the problem with Artificial Chaos feel a little more personal (though, as I said, that part didn’t work out as planned). That’s in addition to the concerns he now has over his own abilities as compared to Blacklight’s.

Now, on to Tikal. The comparison between her and Maria has existed in my mind…ever since I first played Sonic Adventure, I guess. Having Shadow meet her was as much an inspiration for this episode as having having him face Chaos was. The connection between her dilemma and Shadow’s current one is something that I did have to force a little bit, but I thought it worked out quite well for my purposes. Speaking of said dilemma, Shadow’s conflict over Maria’s promise is the very reason why, last episode, I decided to send Shadow to the future, instead of to the ARK as was the original plan. I can’t say everything, since this has yet to be resolved until next episode, but I knew it would make for a generally better story to have Shadow questioning his ties to humanity for much longer. And just to make it clear before I move on to the next topic, Shadow is actively avoiding interacting with Maria, despite this being his first time actually seeing her since her death. One would certainly expect the opposite reaction, but Shadow is certainly going through a lot right now.

Now, there’s a lot going on behind-the-scenes with Blacklight as well. I mentioned last episode having the intention of showing that there is more to his madness than the simple factors that one might expect. Unmentioned in that episode was his quoting of classical poetry. Specifically, Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice” (no I’m not talking about Sonic Boom). Now, his thought process as he said those things is up to the interpretation of the reader. Perhaps Lt. Alfred did give Sunlight a thorough instruction in the literary arts, and he is merely playing off of what he knows. Alternatively, such works of literature might not even exist in this world, and Blacklight simply has the soul of a poet. Either way, it really adds an intellectual level to his already complicated personality. I continued in my attempts to express this intellect throughout this episode, first with his using the French phrase, “Au contraire, mon ami.” The translation would be “On the contrary, my friend.” Next to “Bon appetit” and “Bonjour,” they are probably the most well-known French words in the English language, but that doesn’t prevent it from contributing to his air of intelligence, by knowing at least some slight amount about a foreign language, and one of the languages of romance at that. Additionally, there were two more direct references. The first was when he held the head module of Artificial Chaos, a reference to William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” known as one of the most famous tales of a tragic hero of all time. In particular it was the famous “skull scene” being emulated, in which Prince Hamlet speaks to the skull of an old friend. The head module was the stand-in for the skull. Now, contrary to what many believe, Hamlet never says “To be or not to be” during the skull scene, but I thought that I would add that quote just to make sure that readers understood what I was trying to get across. And besides, it fit well with the theme of contemplation that I was going for. Unlike the previous literary reference, this one was completely unplanned until the moment I realized how much the head module would resemble a skull, which happened while I was describing his holding it. The other reference, also unplanned, was to Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” spoken by Blacklight in marveling over his new name. Unlike Hamlet, which I have read quite recently (in fact, I performed as King Claudius), I haven’t seen a word out of The Raven in almost 5 years. But I still remember the language very well, and as I was having Blacklight appreciate his own name, I recalled the lines, “But the Raven…spoke only that one word, as if his soul, in that one word, he did outpour.” I couldn’t not use it after I realized how well it fit. Now, Blacklight not only seems more intellectual in his insanity, but has also been likened to a tragic hero, and to a poet known for extremely dark and depressing writing. Now, on to one last thing.

Shadow and Blacklight’s little “war of Chaos Control” meant a lot more to me than just a cool action sequence. I was unusually particular about the details. That’s because this exact sequence has been hanging on my wall for longer than the Chaos Project has even existed as an idea. I had to be in 5th or 6th grade when I was at my first peak in Sonic obsession, surpassed only now, and only because of this very story. Anyways, I’ve mentioned before on this website how I (and my older brother, he deserves credit too) as a child loved to create my (our) own Sonic stories. They were absolutely nothing cohesive or deep, and most of those ideas have been all but forgotten. But there is one idea which has stood the test of time. It was my very first attempt at an Original Character, something that I didn’t even know was a thing back then. It was made in conjunction with my still-close friend, who contributed a lot of stories, and also indulged me in allowing me to share my own. Anyways, this character was relatively simple, a hedgehog with ice powers who would serve as a rival to Shadow. He was dubbed Frostbite. Sound familiar? That was one of the names that Blacklight has been contemplating throughout this arc. Later, as Frostbite’s backstory was solidified as not a replica of the Ultimate Life Form, but a prototype to it (between the Biolizard and Shadow), he was renamed to Blackice (which I would’ve actually used last episode instead of Frostbite, but I didn’t like the way it looked spelled out, and still don’t like). Blackice persisted for some time, until I described him to my older brother, who loved the idea so much that he embraced it as his own. Of course, he wouldn’t accept it exactly as-is. He didn’t like that he was limited to only ice powers. He asked, “Why not all of the elements?” Of course, a character with generic elemental powers couldn’t have the word “ice” (or “frost”) in his name, and so he was renamed to Nova (another name that may sound familiar), almost entirely for the sake of the “Super Nova” pun. All of this renaming is the source of inspiration for Blacklight’s entire name crisis, which is not only a driving force behind his character development in this arc, but was planned for from the very beginning, as you can see by looking at some of Blacklight’s comments in Crisis of Chaos. Anyways, to continue the story, Nova became a central feature in all of my brother’s best stories, which, at the time, he was better at creating than I was. Perhaps as some sort of attempt to make sure I still felt like the character was mine, I started to draw him using his various powers (I was a 5th grader at the time, and not exactly the best artist even by those standards. I couldn’t even figure out what Shadow’s spikes were supposed to look like from the side), including one picture of him threatening Eggman with icicle spears, a scene I specifically recreated as his introduction in Crisis of Chaos. But my favorite of all the pictures I ever drew, which I still have hanging on my wall to this day, shows him facing off against Shadow in a war of Chaos Control. The picture, as shown below if you’re interested, shows almost exactly the sequence I described in this episode, with the characters appearing in many places at once, neither with a clear advantage.

img003

I know, embarrassing, right? Oh, the things I do for you.

To finish the story, when I had the dream that inspired the Chaos Project 3 or 4 years later, Nova was not involved, as it was meant to be its own, single, inclusive story. But as I began to imagine the context of that story (what became Crisis of Chaos), I couldn’t resist the urge to include my old characters. But, as I wanted it to be my own story unrelated to my brother’s, I decided that Nova had to be completely re-imagined. I was very hesitant to give him any kind of special powers at all beyond Shadow’s, but I came to the conclusion that, if I could come up with a good justification for having those powers, I would keep them. It was another week or two before I decided to link each element to an Emerald, and that was good enough for me. I don’t know if I can really describe an exact inspiration for the change in backstory from Shadow’s prequel to Shadow’s sequel, but I felt that it would make for a better story, especially given the inclusion of Professor Gerald’s son and Maria’s father, an idea that I didn’t want to ignore after I had first thought of it. I chose the new name of Blacklight, partly as a nod towards the original Blackice name, but also to emphasize the balance/contrast of opposites theme which his story centers around. Lastly was the more specific changes made to his personality. Originally, Blackice was intended to have the mild, cool and polite villain personality which I later recycled for King (which, as you may recall, didn’t have the most pleasing results until much later on), with just a hint of passive-aggressive dislike towards Shadow. Once again, I can’t really say for certain what inspired this change, but I think it may have had something to do with Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal, as I was actively watching that series at around that time, and, in hindsight, Blacklight seems very closely related to the character of Ray/Vector (yes, I realize that those are both names of Sonic characters, but I promise it’s from Yu-Gi-Oh). And…I suppose that concludes the story. Once all of those ideas were set, I started writing, and the rest is history.

-And until next time, remember that it’s a good idea to turn back once in a while.

Review: Season 0, Episode 16

So before I explain the history of this episode, I think I would like to briefly describe the game idea which this arc corresponds to. This game would be the long-awaited though controversial Shadow the Hedgehog 2. A lot of people didn’t like the original, but personally, I think it might have been the single most fun Sonic game to play, even though it had its fair share of shortcomings. But I digress. So Shadow 2 would have a level progression gimmick similar to the original. However, instead of a branching storyline based on mission selection, the next level you play in Shadow 2 would be determined based on factors such as your score, time, and ring count in the previous level. Each time Shadow travels through time, his destination is different depending on those factors. By this variation, there would be no “correct” level order, as there would be many different arrangements one could take that still goes through all of the same places, just in different orders. Theoretically, one could “beat the game” in as few as three levels, if they meet the requirements necessary to progress to the final level early on. However, the only way to unlock final mode would be to play through a game in which all Chaos Emeralds are collected, and therefore all cutscenes are viewed. There’s everything important. Now for the episode.

Up until the first half of the episode was completed, I had entirely different plans. Instead of going to the future to meet Omega, I intended for Shadow and Sunlight to have their first time-travel excursion to a period which will now be one of their last. But, in the true spirit of this game, I decided last-second to play the levels in a different order instead. I decided that I wanted to drag out Shadow’s concerns over humanity for quite a bit longer. Now, the “levels” I show in this arc shouldn’t necessarily be taken at face value as the “canon” order. I’m actually skipping along to keep the story interesting, like I did with Speed of Time. Canon wise, I suppose there would probably be one more level between Shadow’s initial meeting with Sunlight and their meeting with Omega. It would be a journey to a different time period of no particular interest, where Sunlight would find the white Emerald and use Chaos Frost for the first time, leaving the Omega level afterwards free of any distraction from the betrayal of humanity theme, which I felt was actually a pretty big problem for this episode. Too many different ideas were going on, and the discussion dragged on for much too long after Omega was destroyed and the climax of the episode was over. It was also a little weird that Sunlight found two Emeralds in the same place in such a short time. But it still worked out better than wasting even more time by adding an extra level. Anyways, now looking back from the perspective of having completed this arc, I add that the whole level progression gimmick would no longer work the way it was intended if story is to be taken as anything even remotely close to the game. I suppose it could simply be that the second-to-last location of the arc be required in game to be the second-to-last level, or else the first story be ended in a flat, meaningless way. More on that once this is all over.

Now to talk about the elephant in the room. Or rather, the shadow demon. Much as I had Speed of Time be Silver’s character-development substitute for what was erased at the end of Sonic 06, so was this episode for Shadow. There were quite a large number of 06 quotes thrown around in the episode, from Shadow and Sunlight alike. Something that I would say was a bit of a flaw in the original story was that Shadow almost instantly rejected the proposals of Mephiles. But seeing as Mephiles was hated and mistrusted, and trying to be taken on his word alone, it makes perfect sense that Shadow would want nothing to do with it. But that meant that he experienced no emotional turmoil, making the whole thing seem a little arbitrary. Instead of a true dilemma, Shadow’s story amounted to the ravings of a manipulative enemy. I exaggerate, of course, but the point stands that a problem existed. But this time around, things are different. After witnessing firsthand humanity’s attempts to betray him, someone he truly wants to trust tries to make the same argument. And this time, Shadow believes it. Even though he decided in the end that Sunlight was insane, the ideas had already been set in his mind by that point. As for Sunlight’s insanity, even Shadow seems to be misjudging him. What he said certainly sounded insane, not only that the Emerald can talk to him, but that it told him the story of an erased timeline. But we, as outsiders, see that he is telling the truth, with the knowledge that Sonic 06 did happen. This was meant to show that Sunlight doesn’t think wrong, but merely different, to show that there’s more to his character than just craziness, all while helping to solidify Shadow’s fears about humanity on a subconscious level. And…that’s all I got.

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 15

So this episode was pretty fun to write, although I would have liked it to feel not quite so rushed. But a big majority of this episode was actually a bit of a last-minute decision, first planned while I was in the middle of last episode, and only finalized as I started writing this one. Originally, the idea was to have Shadow immediately encounter parallel-Sonic, and have them use Chaos Control right then and there to get Shadow where he needs to go. But I have been thinking for a while about a potential future episode which would heavily call back to this one, so I thought I should give the whole alternate timeline sequence a little more emphasis, which turned into almost an entire episode. I’m a little worried about describing my exact thought process in planning this new emphasis, for risk of spoiling said potential episode. But I can say that the thought of teaming Sonic up with Eggman out of desperation was an idea which really intrigued me the moment I thought of it. But I didn’t think that was worth it until I came up with the idea to make them not just grudged allies, but true friends. And I knew that the best way to drive that concept home while also making the whole alternate timeline sequence feel more relevant was to have Eggman die. The hard part was making it feel properly emotional. I didn’t want any readers to think “Good riddance.” I think I did well enough on that end. I felt that emotional sequence was so important to get right because of the direction the series will be going after Crisis of Chaos, portraying Eggman as a truly evil villain. I wanted to show that he does have some potential for humanity within him, and that circumstances make all the difference.

On a related note, the episode title may have stood out to you a bit. For anyone who doesn’t remember, Project: Needlemouse was the early codename for Sonic the Hedgehog 4, which in turn was a reference to Sonic’s own beta name, Mr. Needlemouse. I don’t really recall what order all of my different ideas came in, but the decision that I had recently come to to have all of the different Season 0 arcs be identifiable and separable by overarching theme in episode titles (time puns>Batman movie puns>”Project:” titles) led to my need in this case to come up with a good “Project:” title for this episode. At first it was just going to be the title of next episode, before I lengthened the whole alternate timeline part. After that I was considering “Project: Chaos” in reference to the plan to steal a Chaos Emerald, but I decided I wanted to save that one for potential later use. I also considered “Project: Emerald,” but that doesn’t have the same ring to it. At some point when I was thinking both about a way to make Sonic and Eggman seem closer, and thinking through other potential titles, the thought of using nicknames struck me, and I couldn’t ignore the thought of having Sonic be nicknamed Needlemouse. That, or the memory of Sonic 4 AKA Project: Needlemouse struck me, and my thoughts went in the other direction. Either way, the result was the current and final episode title.

As for Sunlight, I think his personality came across a little bit more easily and naturally this time, though I have been planning that scene for considerably longer. I really enjoyed conveying the idea that his insane ramblings did make perfect sense to him. The difficult part was trying to set him up to have such strong loathing for Shadow in the future, while still making him seem childish and naive. I thought that simply giving him a weird obsession with examining Shadow would be enough to start with. And…I guess that’s all for now.

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 14

So to start with, I decided to go with a highly unusual writing style for this episode, having a story be told “vocally” as the same story can be seen progressing. I’m not going to lie, it was probably more effort than it was worth. It was incredibly difficult to find the right balance of the story to the scene, and I know that I ended up with far too much emphasis on the story. The way I had it, it would have a theoretical watcher looking at one character doing nothing for a long period of time while the story is being told, perhaps minutes on end. And where I had an important scene playing out at the same time as the story, I had to make sure that the scene would be described at the appropriate moment in the story, without interrupting the story’s flow too much. Most importantly, the way I have this episode would NEVER work out if this were a real game, seeing as this would potentially make for a 20+ minute opening scene with absolutely no gameplay. And it’s not even done yet. If this were to somehow be converted into a game, the first bit of help would be splitting the thing into part before the title screen, and part after you create your save file. Then, most of the story would probably be cut out to keep the thing as brief as possible, perhaps with the full version available to be read in the instruction manual or something. But there was something else, perhaps less noticeable, that I attempted with this episode. In the past, I’ve put a lot of emphasis on what’s being done and what’s being said. For the Black Cloak arc, I tried to shift over a little bit and put a heavier emphasis on the setting instead. And while that wasn’t ignored this time around, I tried out a new style of emphasis, this time on the more abstract thoughts and feelings of the characters, things that they wouldn’t be thinking about in words. I’d say I was inspired to do this by writing the epilogue section of Cast by the Light, the part from Sonic Heroes. What I realized while writing that was, despite all I’ve complained about its lack story-progressing cutscenes, that the cutscenes it had were detailed in the extreme. All the characters on screen at any given time show so much individualized facial expression and body language that its almost as if you can read their minds, even when they don’t say a word. When I was writing that epilogue, I had a hard time fitting the description of that detail in right in the middle of a long piece of dialogue. I tried to emulate that a little bit with this episode (and hopefully the rest of this arc), describing the feelings and emotions which you would theoretically be able to read on the characters faces, were you able to see them.

Now the interesting thing about writing this episode is that it required me to introduce a character who…we technically already know. And it made it all the stranger that we already know how he’ll be renamed in the future. But I was able to use that to my advantage a little bit, by giving Sunlight/Blacklight an odd sort of obsession over names. It already helps to show his madness, but it’s even more meaningful under consideration of the future. Anyways, it was definitely enjoyable to write for my favorite of my OCs again. But I did go for something a little different this time. Back in Crisis of Chaos, I essentially tried to make Blacklight seem criminally insane. But, in part by inspiration from one of my readers (if you’re out there, thanks Eba-Chan), I tried to make Sunlight seem crazy in a more childish, sort of endearing way. For one thing I wanted to justify Alfred’s conclusion that Sunlight was only a child and didn’t know what he was doing. But, more importantly, I wanted to put into question how much of a villain he could really be, and make it a truly emotional event when he inevitably becomes completely evil. The goal was to make you, as readers, want to root for Sunlight to be saved by Shadow and become good, even if you know that it isn’t possible.

Oh, and that reminds me. Lt. Alfred is named after the geneticist Alfred Day Hershey, known for proving that DNA contained the genetic code of life, rather than simple proteins. Not quite as well-known of a name as Gregor Mendel, the namesake of Dr. Gregor Robotnik, but I believe that the name fits quite well. As for the whole Lieutenant part…I suppose I was just trying to make fun of Dr. Eggman and Prof. Gerald by having another abbreviated title in the family. But, just to be clear, it is absolutely true that doctors in the real-life military do typically hold the title of Lieutenant. So I used that fact to make my joke seem more story-important. And that’s all for now.

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

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.

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!

Review: Season 0, Episode 11

I totally meant to post this last week, but I guess I just forgot. Oh, well. *clears throat*

And the plot thickens! Right now, I’m going to apologize for how ridiculously long that conversation between Sonic and Black Cloak was. Literally half the episode contained in one conversation, it’s almost a little sad. But I had a lot that I wanted to have said, and I got all of it said in a way that makes sense, so I’m proud of it. In fact, there was even a little more that I wanted to have said, but I couldn’t find a place in the conversation to put it. So have you figured out who the Black Cloak is yet? Last episode was all about throwing you off, but I dropped a great number of hints this time around. That cliffhanger at the end was one of the big ones.

Now, I am feeling a little bit sad at this point that I’m having Sonic being so mistrustful as a person. It does sort of go against his old character. But then, I suppose, that’s exactly what I’m aiming for. With a big change coming in his life, Sonic, like any other character, needs time to figure himself out. One thing I am very glad for, however, is the time he’s getting with Rouge. These are two characters who have essentially never interacted before, besides him giving her the Inhibitor Ring, and them fighting once in Sonic Heroes. Ideally, I would be showing their personalities clashing a bit more, considering that they each have very different outlooks on life, but Sonic’s character struggles are making that a lot less true. But what’s more important is that they are getting this time to bond over Shadow. In the future of the series, I have something very important planned, which requires Sonic to trust her far more than their few previous encounters would justify. And…I suppose that’s all I have this time.

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