Review: Season 0, Episode 25

Since part one was done last week, we’re now on to part 2, or at least, the transition between the two. As I mentioned that I didn’t plan on splitting these episodes, I had no obvious split point in mind. It needed to be a place roughly in the middle which still left both parts with an appropriate amount of action. Usually, that would mean putting the faux final battle in the first part, and the Super (Hyper in this case) final battle in the second. But this time, I was subverting the whole faux final battle thing to begin with. Sonic jumped straight into his Super fight against Lumis, but the true final battle turned out to be without the Emeralds, against Chaos. Even if splitting those two apart had worked out in terms of even word count, it would’ve shamefully ruined my subversion of the formula to mark an entire Super fight as “part 1”, since it would’ve been so obvious to predict there would be more. Luckily, I suppose, the need to have Tails, Knuckles, and Amy play a role by fending off Eggman and the Lumis clones took up quite a few more words than I expected, making for plenty of part 1 action. The specific cutoff point, with Amy dangling over the magma, was not intended to be a cliffhanger, just another dramatic part of the episode.

So the first thing to come up in this second part was the chant of the Master Emerald, otherwise known as Tikal’s Prayer. The decision to make an extended version…came fairly recently. It isn’t so much that I wanted a bond between Chaos and Knuckles, as that it was lingering in the back of my mind that they grated on each other a bit in an earlier episode, in a way that didn’t seem resolved. On top of that, I did actively want some more resolution to the themes of the first episode of this arc, in regards to the comparisons of Knuckles as Guardian to Sonic as Controller, and of course, the original reference to S3&K and the Super Emeralds. Of course, the stealing and recovery of the Master Emerald was supposed to be enough to make Knuckles seem important after his introduction, but I quickly realized that that alone would fall completely flat. So, I needed to make Knuckles integral to victory in the final battle, I needed to make my S3&K reference more important, and I needed some way to form a bond between Knuckles and Chaos. And the one thing that ties all of those things together is the Master Emerald, which really needed a better reason to be there anyways. It took some thinking, but I decided on Tikal’s Prayer as a good thing to link it together. Part of that thought process involved something that’s been nagging at me ever since Speed of Time. Ever since Cast by the Light, really, though I didn’t quite think about it at that time. The prayer on its own is so…empty. My vague-ish memories of Sonic X at that time made think of the prayer as a longer, more drawn out speech that could be repeated once or twice if necessary. But copying it down for Silver’s scene in Speed of Time, I realized it was way shorter and less dramatic than I was expecting. Then, analyzing the exact phrasing more closely, I realized that there was a bit of a hole in it. It’s almost kind of song-y in the way it’s presented, the servers are the Chaos, the Chaos is the power, the power relates to the heart…and then all of a sudden, the Controller links back to the Chaos. The structure gives the sense of a circle, but that circle is broken in the middle. Of course, Sonic X actually did something that I didn’t realize until I started researching, by adding the line “The heart is the controller,” thus making a complete circle. But that line…doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, especially seeing as Tikal seemed to imply that the Master Emerald is this unspecial non-capitalized “controller.” And since Sonic X isn’t exactly canon, I decided to ignore its suggestion in this instance, and go for something a little more helpful for my circumstances. I pose in this episode that this missing link between the heart and the Controller is, in fact, an entire missing half of the prayer that has been lost to time. But Chaos, who was there ten thousands years ago when the prayer was written (maybe he even wrote it himself, who knows?), knows this missing half, and was able to teach it to Knuckles. Conveniently for me, this half just so happens to encompass the underlying themes of Chaos and Balance that this series revolves around. Now, the prayer is far more dramatic and climactic, specifically built to be able to repeat itself if necessary. Also of note for this recomposition is the fact that in the past, Tikal used the phrase “The seven Chaos Emeralds are the servers,” where Knuckles says “The servers are the seven Chaos.” I pose that this is because Tikal picked up from the loop instead of the very beginning of the full prayer, and just so happened to leave out the important parts, being rushed for time.

Alright, sorry that topic was so long. On to the next. I already touched on it, but the Super Emeralds definitely deserve their own discussion. Now, I know that this is probably the second most fanfiction-y thing I’ve ever done (I don’t like to talk about the first), but I came to this decision after a lot of hard thinking. Sonic 3 & Knuckles, as a cohesive unit with Super Emeralds, is non-canon, and I hope I’ve made that much clear. Sonic Team themselves have taken a similar stance. But Sonic 3, and Sonic & Knuckles, are each individually canon. Which means that, hypothetically, the Super Emeralds could have happened, but the circumstances required simply didn’t occur in the canon timeline. And if it could have happened then, why not now? Of course, even then I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it all the way. The Super Emeralds technically did not appear in this episode, merely a representation of them. It was Chaos and the power of the Moonstone that induced the proper Hyper Transformation. And that brings me to another topic.

This is something that’s been a long time coming, something that I intended to do for the first episode of this arc, but ended up pushing back because Chaos didn’t really appear in that episode. That would be his conceptual origins. Much like Blacklight, Chaos is a reimagination of an old concept from the days when my brother and I were children, dreaming up concepts for Sonic game ideas. This idea, in particular, was more my brother’s idea than my own. This idea was for Hyper the Hedgehog. Hyper, an orange hedgehog with a “Hyper Emerald” embedded in his chest, and covered in grey circuit board-like lines that would become injected with color when he holds a Chaos Emerald, was created when Sonic touched the Hyper Emerald after it fell from the sky. The point of Hyper was to reintroduce Hyper Sonic to the modern canon, without the inclusion of Super Emeralds, as he could fuse with Sonic to induce that transformation. But that would be where the similarities to Chaos end. The Hyper Emerald, rather than coming from any kind of Realm of Chaos like the Moonstone, was instead one of many fragments of leftover material from the creation of the universe (a concept that may sound familiar to readers of Yuni Oha’s “Pokémon Cosmic Quest“). Hyper as a character was built to refill the anti-hero role that Shadow was slowly leaving in favor of a more heroic one, very different from the role of Chaos. I suppose there is also a similarity in that the final battle of Hyper’s introductory game idea took place in a volcano. Anyways, pictured below is a drawing I once made of Hyper in his first moments of life, which hangs on my wall just like the picture of Blacklight I showed off. “Who am I?” was his first words.

img004

This was quite a few years after that other picture, so I’m not nearly as embarrassed about it. In fact, I’m even a little proud, considering my poor art skills in general, especially at that time (although, the scanner I used didn’t do much justice to the already poorly used colored pencils). Anyways, if you look closely around the head, you may notice a lot of erasure marks. There was a lot of trial and error with those spikes. And one among many of those trials was a spike design which now exists in the form of Chaos (personally, I liked that design for Hyper, but Yuni insisted that I change it to what you see in the final product). Also of note is the little colorless robot by his foot. That’s Servo, who, in the scene depicted, was commanded to pick up the Hyper Emerald just before it transformed. Before Orbot and Cubot ever existed (well, Cubot anyways), Yuni invented Servo as a snarky servant robot who exists mostly as someone for Eggman to talk to. I considered using Servo for this series, but it would have been silly to replace Orbot and Cubot with a practically identical concept. The reason he’s colorless in the picture is because I never bothered finishing him. He’s actually supposed to have a body, not just wheels and a head, but I forgot about that when I first drew it, and again, never bothered fixing it.

So, back on the topic of the episode itself, I guess. I’ll skip along to things I was contemplating, but ultimately decided against, including a scene depicting Knuckles, Tails, and Amy making their way through a cave before making it to the volcano’s interior, and, more noticeably, a scene depicting Chaos being freed from Eggman’s control. I’m sure it probably ended up being a little awkward skipping straight from climax to epilogue without a clear resolution, but honestly, I had no idea how to really write this cancelled scene without just wasting time. I suppose it could have helped if I moved a little bit of the awkward dialogue with Chaos and the rest of the characters to this cancelled scene, but having everyone just standing around and talking on an empty battlefield would have felt even weirder. But it’s okay if it’s at a Birthday party. Speaking of the Birthday party, it’s a little sad that it’s a day late in universe, but five months late out here. Unfortunately, I simply couldn’t write any faster. Tails’ mention of the beach day he and Sonic had planned was a reference to the epilogue of Speed of Time. I planned on having that mentioned in part 1 of this arc, but it didn’t come up, and I forgot to add it back in before I published it. And even though there are other things to say, I’ll have to cut things off here, or risk talking for days to come. These two reviews have already taken me three full days of writing time to make. But…I suppose this makes the last planned publishing…indefinitely. Allow me to remedy that. Nothing’s changed for The Chaos Project, but I think I can promise another part of Shadow of Time in…two weeks. That would be December 16th. So…I guess I’ll see you then.

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

Advertisements

Review: Season 0, Episode 24

So…here we are again. Five months later, and it’s all the same. So what am I going to say this time? That I, for the fourth time in a row, wrote a single finale episode that ended up being so long that I had to split it in two? Or perhaps that I cut out all but the most bare essentials, and still ended up with something that dragged on for far too long? Well, all of the above. But let’s start from the beginning. I was originally going to do one combined review for both parts of this episode, but that review, like the episode itself, ended up being way too long. So here’s part one instead.

I suppose I should clear up that Chaos blacked out and lost the Emerald in the last episode because Eggman used the device to control him. I tried to infer it, but it wasn’t very clear. Sonic’s concerns about his leadership skills, and subsequent reference to Zero and the Speed of Time arc, wasn’t something I was originally thinking about. It came up when I wanted to have everyone blame themselves for something to create a sense of hopelessness, and it was the best I could come up with for Sonic. I inserted the resolution to that concern in a conversation that I had been planning for a bit longer. Over the summer, I had my first real conversation with my older brother (fanfic writer Yuni Oha) about my story. He’s known about it since last December, but that was the first time we ever really talked about it. And when I brought up my headcanon on Sonic as the Controller, he brought up a point that I couldn’t ignore. While the concept of a “Chosen One” can add a certain sense of importance to the events of a story, and he agreed that my logic behind applying this concept to Sonic was sound, he warned that Chosen One implies destiny, and destiny discredits the actions and decisions of the One in question. If Sonic was really destined at birth to save the world, that means that every time he ever saved the world, it’s because he was destined to instead of because he has a kind and heroic heart. You can’t call him a hero for braving danger, because he never had a choice in the matter. I had never thought of it that way before. So I realized that I had to address it as soon as possible. And although actions speak louder than words, I decided that words were still quite important in this case. Words from someone wise, who would know exactly why it isn’t true. So I built the sunrise scene around that concept, to confirm once and for all that Sonic is as much in charge of his own actions as he ever was, even going further to say that he would still be a hero even without his abilities. Regardless, I absolutely love how that scene turned out. Besides being some wonderful and much-needed bonding between Sonic and Chaos, it also set up Lumis as a villain with much more depth, something that I was afraid I couldn’t get to work. And with that, I also disproved another common grievance with fanfiction. It is often said that fanfiction writers ruin the characters by making all of them share the writer’s opinions. Here I presented a clear difference in opinion between Sonic and Chaos, where even though Sonic agrees to protect the Balance, he disagrees on the best way maintain it. He believes some joy and some sorrow to be better than neither at all. And…I’m inclined to agree with him. I avoided the trap of using an OC to convert everyone to my opinions, by putting him against my opinions, while still making him a good person whose ideals can be respected. At least, that’s what I hope happened. This kind of thing is up to the reader.

From then through the end of part one, pretty much everything felt a bit obligatory, only existing to progress the story from middle to end, with one exception. The scene where Sonic goes into Lumis’ orb of light was, once again, meant to add depth to Lumis’ character, concluding for certain that he is not evil, but misguided. Anything else for part 1? There was that little bit Lumis said about Sonic’s pain of abandonment. That probably means something. Probably. Rewinding a bit, Eggman’s face being carved into the mountain is something that also happened in Sonic CD. Still trying to keep up those classic references. I’m glad that I got something to work out for the fake Emeralds, because I had no idea what I was going to do with them when I first brought the idea back up. Umm…the “backwards eclipse” marking the Ritual of Illumination is supposed to be what was pictured on the cover art for this arc, but that art was removed for Sonic Forces, so you can only see it in the Image Gallery now. The way Sonic tried to recharge the Chaos Emeralds was a direct callback to Sonic Adventure, where Perfect Chaos drained the negative energy of the Emeralds, but Sonic still went Super. This was an intentional subversion. Sonic proceeded to reference when Knuckles stopped the Emeralds in Adventure 2, as well as the Gaia Temples of Sonic Unleashed. And I’m pretty sure that’s everything for part 1. But…

This next part was meant to be part of the part 2 review, but that one even on its own was way too long, so I’m transferring it here. This is something that I’ve forgotten to do in every review up until now. That would be the game idea. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, every arc I write seems to be less and less like a game, but technically the underlying concept is still there…even though this one isn’t really all that thought out. This one wouldn’t have multiple stories or anything, but it would have, akin to Sonic 06, a number of “amigo” characters. In general, the game would focus on a “tag-team” mechanic, not unlike Sonic Forces. However, in this case, it would behave more like the classic Sonic games (or Shadow the Hedgehog), in that your partner would be controlled by an AI, unless a second player picks up another remote. For the most part, this team would be Sonic as the leader, with some other character following, though on certain occasions in the story, it would be Tails and Knuckles, or Knuckles and Amy, or something else like that. Different combinations of characters have different abilities and special Team Attacks, and in the post-game (as well as a few special parts of the story) you would be able to pick-and-choose both team members, some of which have access to secrets and areas which the mandated team for the first playthrough wouldn’t be able to reach. There would be a few exceptions where you don’t have a teammate, such as the tutorial Starry Hill Zone, and the first boss fight against Chaos. Although…thinking about it now, it would be pretty awesome if Chaos would be the teammate for that fight, creating a player vs. player battle. I don’t know, it’s not like I’m actually making the game. But anyways, that’s all for the basics of that. Except…I guess I never really came up with a title. Perhaps…Sonic Chaos? Oh wait, that’s already a Game Gear title. So…Sonic Chaos 2? Nope, that would be Sonic Triple Trouble. Maybe something more about the tag-team mechanic? How about Sonic Duo? Sonic Doubles? Oh, I got it! Sonic Double Trouble, make it spiritually linked to a Sonic Chaos sequel. But no, those titles are all lame. Yeesh, this is harder than I thought. Sonic Shining, reflect the concepts of Light? No, I don’t want this to sound like a horror film. Sonic Synergy, back on the teamwork concept? No, don’t want his to be confused with Sonic Boom. Sonic Fellowship…eh, Sonic Balance sounds lame, Sonic Moonstone is too vague…maybe I should just stick with Double Trouble. I don’t really know. But that’s all I have on that right now, so I suppose that wraps up this review of part 1.

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

Review: Infinite Possibilities

I normally pre-write these, but I didn’t have any time for that! I considered just waiting until later so I could sound more knowledgeable about the details of Forces (still haven’t played yet), but I decided that honesty was more important. So, let’s talk about all of the methods I used to make you think that I’ve played Forces, even though I haven’t! Do note, this review is for the special episode posted a week ago, not the regular Dawn of Chaos episode from a few days ago.

Of course, there were like a hundred and one quotes and references I could list off to you, but I’ll stick to the most important ones, like the words Sonic was greeted with each time the time loop iterated. “In the darkest of times…the world needs a hero.” These were the very first words that the public ever saw in regards to Forces, serving as the opening to the introduction trailer that aired at the 25th Anniversary party. I, for one, will probably never forget those words. They were the beginning of the roller-coaster ride towards what seems to have become the greatest Sonic narrative seen in the last decade. Also of note, in general, Infinite (and Sonic towards the end) quoted lines from him seen in the trailers, as well as his theme song. This helped (I hope) create the illusion that I actually knew what Infinite’s personality would be like.

Okay, on to bigger stuff. The biggest trouble I had for this episode, both conceptually and in terms of writing, was that I had no idea how Forces would end. I figured the exact content of the game wouldn’t pose too much trouble, but right up until the end I figured that there was about a 50-50 chance of a time-space reset at the end of the game. If that were the case, there would be no telling whether or not Sonic would actually remember Infinite, or any of the events of the game. So I had to work with that possibility in mind. In order to fill the content of the episode and create a sense of drama, without diverging from the Forces theme too much, nor standing too big of a chance of being contradicted by Forces, I decided that a time loop would satisfy all of those needs, while simultaneously reflecting the concept of “Infinite.” That way I only really needed to make one Forces-related event, repeated a bunch of times, and a fight against Infinite was the obvious choice for that, since the the trailers have given us a pretty good idea of his fighting capabilities and style. Of course, I knew right off the bat that I couldn’t just pull Infinite straight from Forces. I had practically no idea who that person under the mask was, and what their motives would be. I did see the sketched cover of the fourth prequel comic as it was leaked in the PDF of the first, so I knew that he wasn’t a character that we’ve seen before. And interviews with Sonic Team officials confirmed pretty resolutely that Infinite was indeed a regular animal character (animoid by my terminology) who was turned into a powerful entity by Eggman and the Phantom Ruby. And if Eggman could do it once, why not do it again? Obviously there’s bound to be some kind of reason why not, but I figure I can address that in the next chronological episode. Point is, I thought it would be a good idea to have Eggman make a new Infinite, so any discrepancy in character or plot (he might have died in Forces) could be easily dismissed. But who would this new Infinite be? Well, this arc was planned to be the return of Blacklight before Forces was even announced. And Blacklight is the kind of character who deserves to come back with a bang. So why not take care of both at once? To be honest, this episode, minus the time loop and Forces tie-ins, was pretty much how I planned to kick this arc off anyways, with a surprise, not-yet-explained return of Blacklight, who immediately takes Sonic out so that the real story can begin. So it almost feels like this Forces thing sort of fell into my lap. Of course, there were plenty of other problems, not the least of which was whether or not Sonic would remember Infinite, as I mentioned earlier. I needed to find a way, a specific behavior and/or statement from Sonic which could be interpreted either as remembering or as not remembering. What I settled on was his “This isn’t possible. Just what are you!?” If Sonic does remember, that would mean that he knows Infinite was defeated long ago, and so is baffled to see him return. If he doesn’t remember, then he is simply surprised at Infinite’s incredible power. Also related is Tails’ line of “Sonic, you can’t outspeed him!” Either he remembers this from last time, or he’s simply reacting in a different way than he did last time. I chose Chaos Control as a way to instigate the time loop because, as we know from Sonic Mania, the Ruby clearly does react in some odd way with the Emeralds, and yet I knew that the odds of Sonic ever using Chaos Control in Forces were practically zero. Seriously, I think the recent “Twitter Takeover” was the first time Roger Craig Smith Sonic has ever said Chaos Control. Episode Shadow puts a bit of a damper on things, but I still figure it’s pretty unlikely that the Emerald will touch the Ruby (assuming that Shadow has an Emerald at all. Please let him have an Emerald). Anyways, there were some other little things. I made sure to avoid having Sonic get hit by any of Infinite’s cubes, because I don’t really know what they would do (though the footage from a while ago from the Infinite vs. Avatar boss fight gives me a general idea).

Let’s see, is there anything else? Even though this episode worked out somewhat naturally with my plans, it certainly wasn’t my first idea. I considered having a sort of flashback episode, taking place during the time of Forces but from the perspective of another character. But without knowing the actual events of Forces, there’s really no character worth telling a story about who isn’t already in the game, and therefore involved in events that I don’t want to contradict. I considered bringing the Custom Hero back into the present-day fold as a character, but I couldn’t be sure that he wasn’t going to die after Forces, or get erased by the time reset or something. Besides, I don’t even know his name! (At this point I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t have a name, and that really sucks.) But anyways, the conclusion I came to just made the most logistical sense. And…I think that’s all I got until next time!

-So until next time, always see the light of hope shining in the distance…
(Gotta win, or we lose it all…)

Review: Shadow of Time Part 3

I write reviews ahead of time for Chaos Project episodes, but not for this. So I sort of forgot. So, I’ll see what I can remember now. This was definitely an important one. Probably the most important part was the reveal of Shadow’s aversion to Sonic. He seems almost afraid, in his own way, of having to face him. But now that Sonic has been seen for the first time (both with bandages “like sports tape” and with unkempt spikes) you can be sure he’ll play an important role for the duration of the story. In case it wasn’t already clear, the level location for the next chapter will be The ARK. Or is it Space Gadget? Maybe Cosmic Fall? The answer to all of the above is yes. Plot points are being integrated. But I can promise that the ARK is not where it all ends.

And now, as last time, a chronicle of specific changes from the original:
1. Shadow tries to get rid of Tails, but eventually meets up with him again.
2. While Shadow tries to destroy the President’s escape pod, Tails tries to stop him. Shadow threatens Tails’ life, and Tails flees before the level ends.
3. It is clearly identified that the pod Shadow destroyed was a decoy, and explained why it was the decoy that was pursued (it was the one with the Emerald).
4. Instead of attempting to infiltrate the GUN Base, Shadow and the Black Arms leave the surface and head for the ARK instead. In a scene that did not exist before, the President and the Commander debate the merits of personally going after Shadow.
5. In a scene that did not exist before, Sonic, his appearance still changing, informs Tails about Knuckles’ injuries. Tails dons a pair of goggles and a shoulder-supported toolbelt. Sonic has a flashback to what happened after he tried to save Shadow.

So, have you figured out the secret yet? There will be one more hint next time around, but nothing major. If you haven’t figured it out by now, you should probably just wait and see.

-Before I say goodbye to you, one more last fist bump!
(Yes, I’m still in Forces mode.)

Review: Season 0, Episode 22

What was it that I said about the last episode? That I got stuck, not knowing what to write? Well, this episode took almost as long, and for an essentially opposite reason. Because I had such trouble figuring out what to write in the last episode, I thought it would be a good idea to set up an entire plot for this one. Have Sonic captured, make a sub-plot about Tails and Knuckles rescuing him. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but I felt like I spent almost this entire episode writing myself out of that hole I dug. Rather than having no idea where to go, I knew I exactly where I was going, but struggled to fill what comes in between with interesting content. It was definitely worth it, or else I would have no idea how to manage an entire 4-5 episodes for the arc. But it was troublesome.

Tails and Knuckles were an interesting development that I wasn’t really planning on originally. Even though Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles seem like a practically inseparable trio, I propose that not all is as it seems in that relationship. The only time we’ve ever seen Tails and Knuckles together without Sonic, as far as I can remember, is the opening scene for Team Sonic from Sonic Heroes, and that only lasted for a few seconds before Sonic entered the picture. We have no idea how they might have been interacting before the scene started, and so, I was able to invent my own dynamic. The idea is that Tails and Knuckles, two people with very different personalities and outlooks, actually clash strongly…when Sonic isn’t around. The three as a whole work very well together, because both consider themselves to be best friends with Sonic. But without Sonic, the two share very little in common, and so they shouldn’t get along too well. Sonic is like the glue of the relationship, holding the other two together when they otherwise wouldn’t stick. For this dynamic…I’ve actually drawn inspiration from my own personal experiences. I was once the Sonic in a relationship like this one. Once upon a time, back in Middle School, my friends and I made a successful Yu-Gi-Oh group. Every lunch period, we would stay in the cafeteria and play cards together. Anyone who would look at our trio from the outside would think that we were all very close friends. But if I ever left the room for any reason, I would always come back to find them arguing. One day, one of those arguments nearly came to blows, and it might have if I hadn’t gotten there in time. The group completely fell apart, and I haven’t heard more than a few words from those two ever since. But with the power of the pen, I was able to write a happier ending for this story.

After that…came the big robot battle royale. I’d like to confirm that “Blue Bomber” is neither a Worlds Collide comic reference, nor a Mega Man reference in general. That entire sequence was actually more of a reference to Sonic Chronicles: the Dark Brotherhood (to this day one of my favorite handheld video games of all time. Seriously, I beat that game like 8 times over). For those who aren’t aware, Sonic Chronicles was an RPG style game for the Nintendo DS, loosely inspired by, though not necessarily related to, the comics. Anyways, one component of that game’s battle system was POW moves, in which you would have to follow a correct sequence on the touchscreen in order to deal extra damage or some additional effect. Some POW move are done individually, while others require multiple characters to be on the same team. One POW move, requiring Sonic and Tails, was titled “Blue Bomber,” which behaved exactly as described in the story. Similarly, one requiring Sonic and Amy was called “Fastball.” “Spike Me” is not a POW move, as Sonic and Knuckles had no such POW move. The closest would be “Knuckles Sandwich,” which requires Amy as well as Sonic and Knuckles. At first I was just going to have Sonic shouting specific commands to everyone in addition to “spike me,” but I wanted to demonstrate the high degree of teamwork by having everyone understand what he’s saying based on no more than two words. I was just going to make up these brief 1-2 word commands, but then remembered the POW moves, and thought, “Why make it up when this is already here?”

So, what’s left? The thing I had going on with Eggman and Cubot probably seemed a little random, but that was actually me making fun of myself. I’ve noticed that, even though I have Cubot as a character, Eggman only ever calls on Orbot when something actually needs to get done. Since I don’t like to use Orbot and Cubot too much without making some kind of joke, I thought it would be fun to subvert that usual tendency by implying that Cubot screwed something up and deactivated Orbot. It’s part of the joke that you don’t really need to know what happened.

Anything else? Just as with Janice, I do wonder how much of a mystery was really left with the identities of Chaos and Lumis. Obviously, it was spoiled by Crisis of Chaos, but this whole arc has been written with the intention of forcing the reader to forget that fact and look at what’s going on for what it is. I just don’t know whether or not that was successful. I suppose that’s all for what did happen in the episode, but there’s also what didn’t. Very, very few of my original plans for this arc actually ended up surviving the writing process. Some of those original plans included Chaos having a fight with Shadow, and Eggman tricking Chaos into thinking that he himself is the Controller instead of Sonic, thereby swaying him to his side. I decided to include Amy instead of Shadow, mostly as an experiment to see how well I could perform by using only classic characters, as well as just for the sake of having Amy play some kind of important role before the season ends. As for that part about Eggman, that was mostly leftover from the original plans for the story before I had invented Lumis for Crisis of Chaos. I would have done that story if Lumis weren’t in the picture, but I decided that making Chaos an antagonist in addition to Eggman would draw too much importance away from Lumis in the end. I essentially had two different scenes planned for Chaos finally getting his wits about him: one in Eggman’s lab, and one in Tails’. I decided on the latter. And I suppose that’s all.

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

Review: Shadow of Time Parts 1 and 2

So I’ve been talking a lot about how the purpose of this story is to explain what would have happened if Shadow had stuck to the dark path. I’ve also mentioned a surprise twist, which is another big part of the inspiration. But there’s something else that I haven’t really talked about. I suppose it’s less inspiration and more opportunity, but one of my goals with this story is to tie everything together. People complain about the story of Shadow the Hedgehog being disjointed and confusing, and yet each individual part is missing far too much information. Even though this isn’t the canon story of Shadow, the idea is to take concepts from all of the different stories and beyond, to create one fluid tale of the path to darkness. This required me to break the traditional level order, and have Central City come after the dark mission of The Doom. This story will be a full tour of all of the most evil things Shadow had a chance to do, so this isn’t the first time you’ll be seeing broken level order. But this is about more than levels. It’s even about more than creating a seamless story between the levels. There’s also the characters. Part of the problem with the original Shadow the Hedgehog is that you were often introduced to “important” characters who you never end up seeing again. I don’t want that to be the case here. If you meet a character, you can be assured that that character will get a full resolution. For many characters, this means writing entire scenes that did not exist in the original. Just wait until you see what happens to the President…

And now, a chronicle of changes between this story and the original.
1. Shadow has a flashback to Sonic Adventure 2 during The Doom, which inspires him to protect Maria at all costs, and causing him to complete the dark mission. As a result, the Maria of Shadow’s memories becomes afraid of him, and flees.
2. Back in Sonic Adventure 2, the first real change happened. Instead of letting Shadow fall, Sonic attempted to rescue him. This memory becomes the catalyst for all of Shadow’s future actions.
3. Change in level order, The Doom dark mission leads to Central City.
4. Additional scene in which Shadow is introduced to his own personal army by Black Doom.
5. Shadow must “ensure that the bombs detonate” rather than “detonate the bombs.” We don’t really want Shadow to be standing in the middle of the city next to a “City Annihilator Bomb” when it goes off. That would be bad.
6. Knuckles is critically injured by one of the bombs.
7. The Commander shatters the President’s photograph. (This is a big one, one of many powerfully symbolic events that are used to tie the story together.) In said photograph, Sonic’s arms are wrapped in white bandages. Now why would that be?
8. The executive office is destroyed by the bombs; Shadow is standing somewhere else when ordered to go to the Air Fleet. He uses Chaos Control by his own will to get there.

I suppose I forgot to mention those symbols. Generally, they didn’t exist in the original, but they’re so perfect, and the existing story makes them so easy, that I just keep finding more and more. The story is full of lots other literary techniques as well, with a focus on symbolism and irony, if you know how to look for them. As a whole, I feel like it’s been making this story feel a lot more enriching, and, to a certain degree, professional. So please, enjoy the deep complexities that this story has to offer. By the way, have you figure out the surprise twist yet? Some serious hints were dropped in part 2, and by part 3 you’ll have everything you need to know.

-So, until next time…live and learn every day!
(I wanted to do an “Almost Dead” pun, but I wasn’t really feeling it.)

Review: Season 0, Episode 21

So, this episode probably felt a bit…disjointed. Altogether, this one took about nine weeks to write. I don’t know how I can go from a two-day episode to a nine-week episode, but I was writing steadily all the way up until the wall I hit after the hedgehog (Chaos) escaped from Sonic and Amy. Over the next few days, I struggled to crank out the one very short scene immediately after. After that, nothing. Not a single word. For almost a month. I simply didn’t know what to do with it next. Several times I sat down and stared at the story, or reviewed the last episode, for an hour or more before giving up. But finally, after weeks of brainstorming, I managed to start going at about one paragraph per day of writing, and that pace finally started to increase towards the end. In the end, I actually managed to even get a few extra ideas in there which weren’t necessary for the purpose of completing the episode.

But enough of that boring stuff. Thinking back to what I can remember, I find it kind of funny, but I wrote about the appearance of Lumis just a few weeks before the appearance of the character “Steve Eggman” (Morpho) in the Sonic Boom show, who looks relatively similar to what I always imagined for Lumis.

Now, in case you couldn’t tell, the “Moonstone” is not a name which I had originally planned back in Crisis of Chaos. It would have been named such if I had been planning it. Originally it was simply to be called the rainbow Chaos Emerald, or simply not have a name at all, but I realized that I couldn’t be calling him “The Rainbow Chaos Emerald hedgehog” for the entire episode plus. I decided that it probably should get a real name, so I started looking into possibilities. There aren’t a lot of gemstones which legitimately contain multiple colors at once, but when I saw that moonstone could, I was immediately sold on the idea. I had already planned on it coming from space before then, so that fell into place quite nicely.

Another interesting note for this episode is its use of Amy. Originally, I was going to have her play her usual “mistake character-of-the-week for Sonic” role. I even set up for this by having his fur be blue at the time she sees him. But in the end, I decided that I wanted to play off of expectations instead. Last time we saw Amy in this series, she was quite a bit younger. Last time she played an actual role in the games (not counting Forces), she wasn’t all that much older. But approximately two years have passed since the events of Sonic 06, and my proposition in this episode is that she’s finally starting to mature a bit. We saw the first hints of that in Sonic Unleashed, when she actually did some work instead of fawning over Sonic the whole time. I wanted to continue the development seen through those two games. It was satisfying, in a way, making her not-totally-useless. And besides, while I haven’t decided on a concrete relative age for Chaos yet, I want him to be a sort of father figure for Sonic, which would make him much too old for Amy. I don’t want to get creepy with this.

And…there’s not a lot more I can say without spoiling the future of this arc, even though you probably already know where it’s going.

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

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!