Review: Season 2, Episode 4

I have been waiting for such a long time to write this episode. It wasn’t necessarily my earliest idea, but I knew from the moment I thought of it that it was a story that needed to be told. For the longest time, whenever I tried to think to the future of this series, this was almost always the episode that my thoughts drifted to first. It’s hard to explain exactly why that is. I believe I’ve said before that growth and coming of age is one of the greatest overarching themes of this series, and even in the canon, Tails has long been the representative of that idea. Everyone grows up over time, and in this series, Tails is no exception. Knowing that he would one day, years from now, be grown into a mature adult, I suppose I always saw this episode as a vital transition point. If there will ever be a moment where you can say that Tails grew up, it will be this episode. Sonic has long kept him in a world of black-and-white—we’re the good guys, and we fight the bad guys. But on this day, Tails was pushed into a much greyer world. And, more to the point, it was a reflection of Sonic who gave him that push.

And I suppose this is the part where I talk about Metal Sonic. That big twist at the end…wasn’t necessarily part of the original plan. I suppose I must give credit where credit is due. Usually in this series, I try to make everything my own. When it comes to new ideas and big reveals that were never a part of the original games, I have to dig deep to put the pieces together, and form my own ideas about what does and doesn’t work in the established world of Sonic. It’s rare that I become truly inspired by another person’s theories or headcanons, but this would be one of those instances. When I saw The Sega Scourge’s “Metal Sonic is Sonic, Roboticized” video, I was inspired—not because the theory was particularly convincing, but because it added so much weight and meaning to Metal Sonic’s long history that wasn’t there before. And weight and meaning are exactly the primary factors I consider when writing in such ideas. It’s not enough to have an interesting idea if it doesn’t add anything to the greater context, but this most certainly did. I started wondering immediately if there was a way I could make this admittedly outlandish theory work in my favor. And when I considered what that big reveal would add to this particular episode, I was sold.

Unfortunately, while the story of Tails and Metal Sonic was well planned and put together, the rest was not so much. As often as I thought ahead to this episode, I never muched considered how it could be made any more than one long, slightly boring conversation. A rescue party going after them was obvious of course, but what wasn’t obvious was how to make that relevant. Sonic running off to rescue Tails without any other kind of conflict or moral just wouldn’t have been interesting. At first I thought, with how I’ve been setting up a rivalry between Omega and Metal Sonic, it would be reasonable to have Omega go with him, and I could go through with some of the Metal Sonic-related conflicts I’d been planning in that area, but then I realized…I already had an episode just like that last season. While I enjoy pairing up characters in unusual ways for episodes, I certainly didn’t want to use the same unusual pair a second time when there are so many other pairs waiting to be done. I decided on Espio instead, for fairly obvious reasons, but…there was no conflict there. Both Sonic and Espio would want the same thing, both would be very focused on the task, I wouldn’t be much better off than with Sonic on his own. I decided to compromise and go for both. I thought that I could have the primary friction be between Espio and Omega, since they clash on a more fundamental level than Sonic ever did with Omega, but…that didn’t really go anywhere. They disagreed, and then…that was it. I mean, that conflict could have been taken as a warning sign for what was to come, but it just didn’t add anything to the bulk of the episode. The only other real option would’ve been having them make up and come to a better understanding of one another by the end, which there definitely wasn’t room for with the focus on Tails. It might have been possible without having Sonic awkwardly in the middle, but I was not willing to remove Sonic from the episode when the plot was so personal to him.

There’s one other disappointment of this episode, which you may have noticed. The ending was…not exactly conclusive. What did Metal Sonic do with Omega? I didn’t say. Why did they leave him behind? I didn’t say. What were the repercussions of that decision? I didn’t say. What ever happened to Charmy becoming a doctor? I didn’t say. The problem here is, the answer to each of those questions would’ve required just one more scene tacked onto the end of the episode. As it is, I already felt like I gave up a very good ending by continuing on after the moment that Metal Sonic attacked Omega, but Sonic and Tails talking about what happened was an absolute necessity. As for the rest…most of it will be integrated into the beginning of the next episode, where it will be irrelevant and out of place and distracting from the intended plot. But that’ll still be better than ending this episode five times over.

And now, for some general trivia! (I hope to make this a tradition with future reviews.)

  • The following locations from previous Sonic games were featured in this episode:
    • Emerald Hill Zone (Sonic 2)
    • Aquatic Ruin Zone (Sonic 2)
    • Hill Top Zone (Sonic 2)
    • Mystic Cave Zone (Sonic 2) (implied)
    • Lost Labyrinth Zone (Sonic 4) (cameo appearance)
    • Metallic Madness (Sonic CD) (implied)
  • Metal Sonic’s memory featuring the Lost Labyrinth was an exact first-person recreation of a cutscene from Sonic 4 Episode Metal.
    • The artifact obtained in this scene was stated to be the source of Metal Sonic’s copy ability and shapeshifting power seen in Sonic Heroes.
      • The actual purpose/history of this artifact has never been officially confirmed. However, in-game text does pose the question, “Just how did Metal Sonic make his comeback after Sonic the Hedgehog CD?” Given that Metal Sonic’s first canon chronological comeback after CD would be in Heroes, this implies a connection between the plots of the two games.
  • Both Metal Sonic and Tails frequently refer to the events of Sonic Heroes—particularly, the battle between Team Sonic and Metal Overlord—which took place approximately five years before this episode.
  • In describing how he was betrayed by Eggman, Metal Sonic refers to the events of Sonic CD, Sonic 4 Episode Metal, and an unspecified number of Classic Sonic games which take place in between, and feature some form of mechanical Sonic.
    • As there are no such “main series” Sonic games, this must refer to more obscure titles. Sonic Triple Trouble is the most likely candidate, as it has already been Chaos-Project-canonized by the appearance of Fang in Season 1.
  • Metal Sonic frequently quotes the phrase, “I am no longer afraid of anything,” originally spoken in the opening moments of the Metal Overlord fight.
    • He quotes himself on several other occasions, including the famous “I am the one true Sonic.”
  • This episode marks the first in-universe usage of the name of one of Metal Sonic’s abilities, V. Maximum Overdrive.
    • I have no idea what the “V” stands for. Maybe velocity? Metal Sonic was also shown using the Black Shield, an ability not seen outside of the 2-player mode of Sonic Adventure 2 Battle.
  • The episode title “Before I Sleep,” combines with the title of the previous episode, “Miles to Go” (also meant to be a reference to Tails’ given name) to form the line, “Miles to go before I sleep,” a repeated phrase from the Robert Frost poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
    • While this is not a two-part episode, the related titles show that the episodes are meant to be grouped together.
    • The implication of this line is that someone is on a path towards their end (sleep), and has much to do before that time comes.
  • This episode marks the first time the Chaotix tent has been shown in an episode written by me. Its original appearance in Season 1, episodes 13 and 14, (“Out of the Shadows” parts 1 and 2) was written by a guest author.
  • When attempting to convince Tails, Metal Sonic provides the first ever CP-canon implication of a population size of Sonic’s world, giving the approximation of 10 billion.
    • Given that the real world has a population of about 8 billion, and that Sonic’s Earth typically approximates the very near future of ours, this implies that the number of animoids in Sonic’s world is somewhat less than 2 billion.
    • This number was chosen as one that is large enough to reasonably populate large-scale animoid-majority cities such as Sunset Heights, while still showing that they are vastly outnumbered by humans as implied by most other relevant games.
    • It is also notable that 10 billion is predicted as the maximum stable human population that Earth can support.
  • During a conversation with Sonic, Espio refers to himself as Charmy’s guardian. It is not specified whether this title is legal or honorary. Either way, it is a component of their relationship which has not previously been described.
  • Metal Sonic suggests that he does not remember Omega, despite having fought him as Metal Madness during the events of Sonic Heroes, as well as several prior encounters while disguised as Eggman.
    • It is possible that Metal Sonic has forgotten that particular detail, or that he was pretending not to care in order to maintain a more menacing image.
  • While it is never stated directly, Metal Sonic implies that his head may contain Sonic’s actual organic brain.
    • This is supported by his especially protective actions towards the machinery around his head.
    • A direct confirmation was avoided, partly because I may want to change my mind about that in the future, partly because the image of it might be a bit graphic for children, and partly because I felt the idea might be a bit more powerful if the reader could come up with it themselves.
  • This episode marks Espio’s first successful usage of an entirely new chakra-based Ninja Arts technique—the Shadow Sealing, which he was shown failing to do in S1 E15: In Too Deep—opening the way for him to potentially learn many more.
    • Why did I decide to give Espio magic shadow powers? I mean, he can already create a whirlwind using his fingers, so I didn’t think this would be much of a stretch.
    • Regardless, I expect any future technique he learns to be similarly underpowered. It isn’t exactly efficient to spend a minute-long fight scene drawing a seal on the ground and hoping that the enemy stands right in the middle of it without noticing.
    • What do I mean by chakra-based? That’ll be explained in a future episode.

And there we have it. Flawed though it may be, I still love this episode and all of the deep implications it presents. There’s one other interesting note here. This episode was designed with the idea in mind that the reader may have to choose a side. If Sonic is right, then every word Metal Sonic said was a convoluted attempt at psychological warfare, forcing Tails to play into his hand. But if Tails is right, then Metal Sonic is still Sonic at his core, and can be saved. So are you Team Sonic? Or Team Tails? Make your choice.

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

Review: Season 2, Episode 3

I’m trying to figure out exactly how the planning process for this episode went. I want to say it was among the earliest episode ideas I’ve ever had, but then I’m not sure this even resembles that original idea anymore. I don’t even fully remember what that original idea was. Here’s what I do know. Just as I did back with “In Too Deep,” I have once again taken two entirely disparate episode ideas, slapped them together, and called it a day. I’m beginning to have second thoughts about my “A-plot, B-plot” plans. An episode in which Sonic and Amy check up on the Little Planet and watch over it until it disappears was definitely an early idea as well, but it never had anything to with Tails and Charmy’s mission. The plan was for the missing space in the Little Planet plot to filled by flashbacks to Sonic CD, where I would just straight up retell the story of the game, only with actual dialogue added in. In a way, I was kind of excited about doing something like that. I was thinking about making an entire “Unspoken” subseries in that vein, retelling the classic stories as if they were modern. But when I got to thinking about what that would entail…I just couldn’t do it. Of all the classic games, CD is probably the one that is most…thorough about its visual storytelling. It isn’t intensely visual in the way that 3&K is with its storytelling, there’s just a bit less of a story to tell, so it gets it all done. I realized that, in the case of CD, there just isn’t really anything significant that dialogue could add, so I’d be wasting everyone’s time by adding it. But I still felt like the regular appearance of the Little Planet was something that needed to be addressed, so I was left with only half of a functional episode. I decided that using it as a B-plot for another episode was my best bet. I chose the Charmy and Tails plot to stick it to, not necessarily because they meshed well or because it needed that extra content. I really just did it because it was the only way I could get it to fit. Both of these plots needed to happen this season. The CD plot needed to happen on the last day of December, and this Tails-focused episode needed to happen early on so that it wouldn’t be closely condensed with other Tails episodes this season. Thankfully, I had Metal Sonic to tie the two together. The general idea was that you were supposed to expect Metal Sonic to show up in the Sonic and Amy plot, so it would be an even bigger surprise when he shows up for Tails instead. I’m not sure that I managed to pull that off quite right, though. I spent so much more time on the Tails plot, it probably would’ve seemed odd if it was the other one that became important in the end. The general pacing was also really off for similar reasons. If the Tails and Charmy episode had stood on its own, they probably would’ve spent quite a bit more time in the other Rebel camp, and perhaps the rock slide would’ve even happened while they were there instead of before, adding an extra bit of action/drama in the right place. Instead, that ended up being the easiest place to trim the fat, so to speak, so the important part where they meet these other Rebels ended up happening awkwardly more than halfway through the episode, even more awkwardly suddenly interrupting the standard back-and-forth between the two plots that had been going. Oh well.

On that note, let’s talk about those other Rebels. They won’t be becoming main characters, but they will be appearing again in the future. Now that our Rebellion has been fighting on their own for a year, I thought this would be the ideal time to show that they aren’t really alone in the world. When it comes to seeking a better world, no one is really alone. The individual characters, of course, also served individual functions. I wanted Captain Fox to be someone you can imagine Tails easily looking up to, maybe like an older, more mature, Fox version of Sonic. I even considered giving him a little Hedgehog sidekick, but that didn’t seem very relevant. Anyways, I wanted you to be a bit surprised when they came close to bumping heads. The reasons why will be explored in the future. And then, of course, there’s Katherine and Charmy. I suppose I have to back up a bit to Charmy, first. For the same reason that I made Amy into the official counselor of the Rebellion, I spent a long time thinking about how I can give Charmy something important to do. Technically speaking, I can see why it may not seem necessary. The Chaotix work very well when treated collectively as one character, so it almost seems silly to break them apart and analyze them individually. But delving deep into character growth is one of the primary reasons that this story exists. So I could’ve left Charmy as a static, unchanging joke of a character, or I could show him growing up just like everybody else. The choice seemed obvious to me.

The leap from detective to doctor might not be so obvious. But…what do we really know about Charmy’s personality? I mean, he’s loud, he’s hyperactive, he’s childlike…so basically, he’s a child. But he’s not 6 anymore, it’s been 5 years, so he’s 11. He’s getting to the point where most children would start putting some more serious thought into what they want to do with their lives. And there is one other thing we know about him. He loves flowers. He loves nature. He loves living things. Seems like a prime candidate for a healer to me. (Also he’s a healer in SEGA Heroes, RIP.) More importantly…I kind of needed a doctor. I have been keenly aware of the fact that every new medical feat pulled off by Tails, a thirteen year old mechanic, has been more unbelievable than the last. I certainly could’ve introduced an OC to do the job, but…the way I see it, the canon cast always takes precedence, and I saw this as an opportunity to really build on Charmy’s character in a way that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. I needed him to be able to accomplish something as a character that no one else could do, and this seemed like the most viable option. So this is what I decided on. (Still working on something to do for Cream, though. She’s officially taken the spot of most useless character.)

So anyways, I needed a doctor, I decided on Charmy, and for reasons I can’t talk about yet, I need him to have embraced that role full-force by the end of the season. So I needed to construct an episode that would push him hard into that decision. The mildly traumatic experience of patching up Tails, so closely followed by validation from an authority figure in the form of Katherine, was intended to do just that in the most reasonable way I could think of. And that’s that.

Back to the topic I originally started with, the other Rebels were all named in theme, just as Jackal Squad was previously. This time, the characters were named after…drum roll please…Star Trek characters! We have Captain James (Kirk) and Leonard (McCoy) of the original USS Enterprise, and then we have Katherine (Janeway) and Harry (Kim) of Voyager. Why did I choose Star Trek names? Entirely arbitrary! Sort of. Just like last time. I was debating the name of Captain James the Fox right up until the moment I introduced him. I knew that I wanted to refer to him as Captain Fox, but the first name was up for grabs. Even though the names ended up being inspired by Star Trek, the designs definitely weren’t. That honor goes to Nintendo’s Star Fox series. Captain Fox was loosely inspired by the titular Fox McCloud, and Katherine was similarly based on a character named Krystal. I was originally thinking about playing off of that and calling them Kloud the Fox and Christa the Wolf or something like that, but after the weirdness that ended up happening with Sly, I decided I’d be better off distancing myself a bit with the names. James McCloud is also a Star Fox character, and while I would like to call that a coincidence, it probably was that fact that got me thinking about the possibility of my character being Captain James and referencing Star Trek.

Once that was set in stone, it was intended to be a one-time deal, but then when I got around to naming Katherine, I decided I wanted them to have standard nicknames for each other, and I also wanted to keep the “K” sound, which led me pretty quickly to Katie as a nickname. I could’ve gone for something different as the real name, like Katelyn or something, but the connection from Katherine to Star Trek was too good to pass up as a running theme. Then I needed a couple of throwaway names, and Harry the Rabbit (Hare) and Leonard (Leo) the Lion came pretty naturally.

These kinds of standard “human” names aren’t generally common for Sonic characters, so why did I put so much thought into them for this? Well, it ties back into a theme for the episode as a whole. After all the crazy fantasy weirdness of the last three episodes, with spirits descending from the heavens, space stations falling out of the sky, and some of the most complicated time travel I’ve ever experienced, I really wanted to dial this one back to a very “human” level. This is an episode about people. People getting into arguments, talking about their feelings and their interests, getting hurt because of their own mistakes and moving on because it’s all they can do. The other Rebels were meant to be a reflection of that. While our Rebellion is practically a band of superheroes who typically have superhero problems, the other Rebels are just a bunch of regular guys who happen to be fighting for a cause. This contrast will continue to be explored in the future.

Speaking of the future, what has Metal Sonic done with Tails!? To learn that, you’ll just have to stay tuned…

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

Review: Season 2, Episode 1

Meant to post this a while ago. Oh well, here it is.

I’ve already brought up a couple of episodes which were among the earliest concepts I ever came up with, but I’m pretty sure this one has officially taken first place in that area. (Although that spot will be taken again very soon.) Following the very earliest plans for what will eventually become the finale, and a few related ideas for Season 0 and Crisis of Chaos, this was perhaps my very first idea for what comes in between. “If this is war is such a problem, why didn’t travel back in time and fix it the first chance they got?” I knew that if I was going to turn this into a series, that question would need to be answered. The way I saw it, there were only two possible options. Either they physically couldn’t, or they realized they shouldn’t. That had to get an episode either way. Either I had to come up with some sort of crazy, universe-bending excuse that would prevent me from ever using time travel for any reason throughout the remainder of the series (which admittedly could’ve made for a halfway decent episode on it’s own, if I’d really put some thought into it), or, I could come up with a time travel plot so ridiculously convoluted and deeply disturbing that no one involved would ever try anything like it again. The second option sounded like the far more interesting of the two, and was the far less restrictive. Certainly, Sonic and Shadow would never want to try time travel again, but now, if I ever need them to, they still can.

I was generally intending to leave it up in the air exactly when this episode would have to take place, but it became obvious pretty quickly that it wouldn’t make sense for them to do it if they didn’t do it as soon as they possibly could—the moment they obtained their second Emerald. That actually turned out to be a huge contributing factor towards the decision to do the Rouge-focused story arc for Season 1. I…to be totally honest…was actually legitimately planning on killing off Rouge. Maybe. Maybe not till a bit later. I don’t know. But I figured that the death of a main character would be the absolute best possible justification for attempting to fix things through time travel. It seemed like the, uhh…anime thing to do. And that’s not an insult, mind you. But anyways, I eventually decided a couple of things. One, I didn’t have the gall to kill off a canon character so early in the game. And two, this episode would be the most powerful if the timeline were brought back exactly the way it was—actually having Rouge die, and then be magically brought back because of accidental butterfly-effect would cheapen the effect. So, I settled for a nod to that scrapped concept, and a near-death into medical miracle. Besides, I still have at least a couple of plans for Rouge yet to come. And hey, maybe there were some unintended side-effects of injecting her with Chao blood that I haven’t come up with yet.

So, back on track, I had a framework in mind for an episode where they would try time travel and fail miserably, but that still left the question of content. Going back to Crisis of Chaos was really the only choice for time travel destination, given the context, and, believe it or not, I actually wrote the original Crisis of Chaos scene, where Sonic leaves Eggman alone in hangar bay, with the idea in mind that a time traveller from the future would eventually show up right at that moment. Fulfilling that plan was immensely satisfying. But that was only a small piece. What situation could possibly be traumatic enough to make a person like Sonic completely disavow the miracle cure-all that is time travel? I figured I’d have to go as traumatic as it gets by having him witness his own death. I originally had a slightly more gruesome death in mind, but I decided to dial it back just a bit. Still a PG story, after all. That change required introducing a new concept in a very odd way. Blacklight being able to drain life through physical contact was teased at the end of the 50th episode special, but I was not intending that to become relevant any time soon. But I thought that dropping the reader into the middle of what seems like it could have easily been the finale of a Season that never happened, with plot points and a history completely foreign, would not only be an interesting twist, but might also help the reader identify a little better with the completely nonsensically overwhelming nature of Sonic’s experiences, and so better understand why Sonic makes a rule against time travel in the end.

That was the first half. Actually, I originally had this in mind as a two-parter that would break as the Future Sonic appears, but I decided against that…mostly because this Season is crammed a little bit full, and didn’t really need the filler. I figured keeping it all focused and fast-paced would help avoid confusion, anyways, which is important for an episode like this. But anyways, why Future Sonic? Well, the whole, “go back in time, change the future for the worse, realize your mistake and fix it” plot certainly served my purposes, but on it’s own, it felt a bit…predictable. And, as you ought to know by now, an episode with a halfway decent plot but no character relevance just isn’t enough for me. I wanted something more, at very least, an extra layer of complexity that would really get the characters thinking hard about what’s going on. In other words, I needed to layer up the anti-time travel excuses. Sonic failing once was certainly traumatic. But him realizing that he would be destined to fail over and over again, countless dozens or hundreds of times, could completely transform his view of what is or isn’t possible. That’s basically the gist of it. Of course, that wasn’t twisty enough for me, so I decided that I had to make things even more complicated with the “kill your past self” suggestion. The idea there was to add an element of distrust—and if you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust? Actually, I meant for Future Sonic to be the antagonist. The intention was for Present Sonic to be so overwhelmed by what’s going on that he would, at first, give in to the self-killing plan, but in the moment, would realize that he couldn’t go through with it, suddenly making an enemy of Future Sonic who will not allow this to go wrong. Seeing himself driven to that madness was supposed to be the nail in the coffin for the establishment of the no time travel rule. But I just…couldn’t justify getting our Sonic to agree to murder, even if it is only himself that he’s killing. Meanwhile, Shadow ended up being right smack in the middle of a character arc that, while seeming obvious given the episodes that needed to lead up to this one, I did not realize would be happening during the early planning phases for the episode. I certainly couldn’t ignore what he was going through, but my original plans for the episode really only had him there out of the necessity of a second Chaos-Controller. So, a lot of relatively last-minute changes resulted. I had it in mind that an interaction with Chaos had potential for an interesting story to tell, and when it came down to it, I decided that Shadow needed it more. If this had turned out to be a two-parter that focuses on Sonic as originally planned, I probably would’ve included a subplot about Sonic wanting to try to save Chaos, or bring him back to the present with them, but, once again, I settled for a quick nod to that scrapped concept instead.

Given the shifting focus to Shadow, turning Future Shadow into the true antagonist seemed like the natural way to go. I decided to keep the suggested mistrust of Future Sonic as a sort red herring instead. Anyways, Shadow seeing himself go so bad felt like a very sensible reason for him to finally start making his way towards becoming a nice person again. But wait! Shadow was a total jerk in the Team Sonic Racing special! Umm…oops. My goal in doing that was to show how much crazy stuff was going to happen in the Season finale, and I did not even consider the fact that I might be stepping on my own toes for this episode. But that turned out to be a beautiful inspiration. The idea of Past, Present, Future, and Original Sonic and Shadow all existing during the same moment in time was crazy enough, but mixing and matching them for who goes home in the end was exactly the sort of embracing of the insanity that I wanted out of this episode. Having Past Shadow suddenly confronted with two diametrically opposed versions of his future self was an obvious place to go from there, and fits in so unbelievably well with the central theme of his character. And…I suppose that just about covers the important points.

So, what does this episode mean for the rest of the season? Well…not much actually. This was as much a part three to last season’s finale as it was anything else. I like the idea of connecting one Season to the next so directly. (Little bit of inspiration from Star Trek there, which liked to have two-part episodes split up as the finale of one season and the premiere of the next.) But anyways, there was a little bit of effort made in a few places. One of my goals for Season 2 is to have emotions expressed a little more physically, and a little less verbally. Show, don’t tell, you know? I feel like that tends to be one of my bigger shortcomings as a writer, trying a little too hard to explain what people are feeling. Having Sonic give Tails an actual hug was a big step in that direction. That really shouldn’t feel like such a weird thing to do, but it did anyways. I guess I’m just worried people might interpret it the wrong way? Next episode probably isn’t going to help that either… Regardless, I do want to sell that brotherly bond between Sonic and Tails a bit harder this season. Let’s just say, it’ll become pretty important. I didn’t exactly embrace it for this episode, but I believe I’ve also mentioned that I hope to go a little more in the direction of an A-plot B-plot for more episodes in the coming season. Hopefully, that’ll allow me to do a little more exploring of the world and characters without mandating that additional dramatic plots be attached to all of them. I don’t know, I’ll see how it goes.

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

Review: The Blacklight Takeover

Phew, finally, don’t have to worry about maintaining my own ridiculous canon anymore. It’s time to review the story I wrote in which I was a character filming and talking to other characters who know that they are characters in another story that I film and direct in this story but write in real life. Isn’t comedy so much fun?

It’s difficult to think of exactly what to talk about here, as the whole event was very self-aware, and pretty thoroughly covered its own reason for existing. Have to give a big thank you, of course, to Yuni Oha, not only for briefly hosting my shenanigans on his site, but for actually role-playing the crossover posts on both of our sites with me. Seriously, those posts were made completely spontaneously, practically no pre-planning at all, we just sat down and starting role-playing to see where it would take us. And, you know, he was also the person who encouraged me to run this event in the first place, I was very hesitant about how much work it would take. I also wrote a Fire Emblem themed post for him, so that was fun.

So why did I put this whole thing together? Well…I like Blacklight, in case that wasn’t obvious. I couldn’t have ever asked for a better foil to Shadow’s character (and I didn’t ask, I just made him, so I guess I’d be concerned if that wasn’t the case…), and he’s just fun to write for. I was very sad that I had to kill him off. Sure characters like Zero and Chaos were nice and all, they served their purpose, but I don’t love them the way I love Blacklight. But I often feel like my purpose in creating that character isn’t always fully understood. I’ve even received a review on The Chaos Project suggesting that the reviewer outright disapproved of his design. And I get it. He looks like a standard, low-effort, edgy Shadow recolor OC, ridiculous rainbow color palette and all…because technically, that’s exactly what he is. I wanted an excuse to explain why it was intentionally done that way…and I wanted to show why it works. Of course, only ten people ended up seeing that explanation, but…eh. It was some good fun either way. But anyways, I also just wanted an excuse to use Blacklight again.

The recurring joke about Blacklight’s contract had one element that I was intending to mention, but never really came up. Blacklight was supposed to mention that, as a contracted main character, he is required to appear onscreen at least once each season. He got the 50th episode special in Season 1, and the premiere in Season 2. I can’t keep these cameos of a dead character up forever, though. That’s why I consider this event to be something of a test run. Come Season 3, I’m thinking that I may want to make an entire spin-off story out of Villain Chat, thus fulfilling Blacklight’s nonexistant contract. We’ll see how it goes. There was also meant to be a joke about Blacklight’s phone that I’m thinking I’ll save for said hypothetical story…

Making commentary on the state of the Sonic franchise was fun as well, of course. I share my opinions all the time here on the website, but dissecting it all in a humorous way was a nice change of pace. One of the reasons I was motivated to make this event at all is because I wanted to make this sort of commentary on Sonic Boom at some point, but I feel like the Boom franchise will officially become completely irrelevant once the next Sonic game hits the spotlight, which will be happening very soon. I also made commentary on the Sonic fanbase itself, which I usually tend to avoid, but I think I expressed all my opinions in that area pretty clearly. If your character looks a lot like another Sonic character, that’s fine in my opinion, as long as your character has its own identity. Just draw it yourself. And unless you love your drawing—unless there’s nothing about it you would change—hold off on publishing it to the internet. Keep practicing until you honestly believe you can’t make it any better, and even then don’t stop practicing. That’s how I got up to the level of making respectable replicas of the official artstyle. Seriously, look at where I started…

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“Nova” vs. Shadow, circa 2010

…compared to how I progressed after one year…

Nova

“Official” Nova art, June of 2011

…compared to how I progressed ten years later (admittedly with a 5-ish year break).

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Blacklight Takeover logo, circa last month (technically I made the Shadow art this was based on in August of 2019)

I did it, and you can do it too. If you’re into that kind of thing.

Usually, I like to distance myself from my characters in terms of viewpoint and opinion. But that was definitely not the case during this whole thing. Generally speaking, “Mr. C” always represented me, but then Blacklight was like the little fun-loving devil talking into my left ear, and Shadow was the logical angel on my right. Whenever Shadow made a curt skeptical remark, that was me saying, “I’m perfectly aware of how ridiculous this all is. I’m aware of every single one of my logical inconsistencies and jokes that aren’t likely to go over well.” But Blacklight was there to say, “I don’t care, I think it’s funny.” That goes for Shadow’s prediction of viewership turnout as well. I was perfectly aware that no one was actually going to show up for this thing. (Even though I did reach out to a few of my reviewers to request help, who never actually came. No hard feelings though, I made it work.) I was really hoping for at least one question, though. One question that wasn’t seeded by an alt account from Yuni, anyways. Regardless, even though I was constantly touting that Q&A session I was supposed to be leading up to, I didn’t do this just for that live interaction. I did it for history. And for marketing. I want everyone who comes to this website over the next year and beyond to see that this happened and think, “Wow, that looks like fun. Maybe I should come back to see if they do it again next year.” And even if that doesn’t happen, I hope I could make at least one person out there laugh (besides Yuni, but making him laugh was nice too). My angel and my devil both agree on that.

Oh, yeah, and I guess I wrote a song. That’s a thing…that happened…and it was kind of fun, even if I cringe every time I hear it. Even back when I was a kid ten years ago making “Nova the Hedgehog” (pictured above), I liked for all my fan characters to have theme songs, because that’s just how Sonic works. And “Madness Inside” is actually a direct reinterpretation of “My Name is Nova” (great song title, I know). I was actually only able to remember the first verse and chorus, but that was plenty. I suppose I might as well share the old lyrics, since I’m already sharing cringy stuff anyways. To the same tune…

It started fifty years ago…

And it put on quite a show!

I was created to destroy…

And they used me like a toy!

[Chorus]

My name is Nova, I’m the Ultimate Life Form and my time is now!

Yep, that’s it. That’s all I remembered. Possibly all I ever wrote. The old chorus became what is now the buildup to the chorus, and the new chorus was created from scratch. Note the differing backstories (fifty years instead of forty, and created for very different reasons), hence why I had to rewrite all of the lyrics. But I actually did manage to cram in an even bigger reference in the final product, as “Madness Inside” refers to “A super nova” where the old song said “My name is Nova.” So that was fun. Looking back, while the old lyrics are completely ridiculous, I actually do prefer the old rhyme scheme. The “oh” and “oi” sounds just have a better impact than the “art” and “i” sounds that I ended up using. I would’ve used it the old way if I could, but it just didn’t work. What else can I say about the new song specifically? I crammed in as many references to Shadow songs as I possibly could, to reflect Blacklight’s jealousy, and also the fact that he actually quoted most of those song titles over the course of his life. There was an “All Hail Shadow” that was missed because it was part of the rap portion that I cut out. Why did I write a rap? Because this song was meant to be a bunch of ridiculous fun, and I could totally imagine Blacklight springing at the chance to roast Shadow in a rap battle that Shadow doesn’t even participate in. Why did I cut the rap? Partly for time, partly for sanity, just like Mr. C said. As mediocre as my singing was, I can promise that my rapping is worse. When I sing “Live and Learn,” it sounds pretty okay. But you do not want to hear me trying to sing “Infinite.”I think the rap lyrics of Blacklight’s theme had a pretty good rhythm and flow going, I just don’t trust myself to sing them.  In other news, the very first words to come out of Blacklight’s mouth upon being born, “This feels weird” was intended to be referenced by the opening of the song, “This feeling deep inside my heart.” So…maybe I’ll put out the full version of the song some day. Maybe I’ll actually compose a midi backtrack for it so you don’t have to sit through the cringy acapella next time. I’m still not as skilled in that area as I would like, and it would be one heck of a time sink.

So will there be another Blacklight Takeover next year? I hope so. But we’ll have to see how everything goes.

-And until then…embrace the madness inside.

Review: Sonic Movie Special

(This is the review for the tie-in special published on the same day the movie came out. For the review of the movie itself, please see the previous post.)

I actually won a pair of early screening tickets to see the Sonic movie in San Francisco two weeks before it came out. Unfortunately…San Francisco is a bit too far of a drive for me to make right now. So I had to pass up that opportunity. (Believe me, I was jealous of Sonic that entire movie for that exact reason.) But for one fleeting moment, I was indescribably excited, not just for the novelty of seeing a movie before anybody else can, but because I could’ve used that information to write an absolutely perfect tie-in episode with zero dodging of unknown plot points and zero contradictions. That’s always the hardest part about making these specials. The more closely I can tie the episode into its source, the more relevant and interesting the episode can be—but the less I know about the source, the less accurately I’m able to do that. In my original Sonic Forces special, I had to dodge the question of whether or not Sonic even knows who Infinite is, because we knew that little about the game’s plot. Technically speaking, that was much less of an issue here. With dozens upon dozens of trailers and preview clips available, and a much more straightforward, predictable plot to begin with, I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that I could’ve predicted the entire movie on a moment-to-moment basis with roughly 90% accuracy. But that last 10% was still bothering me immensely. If I just had that last 10%, I could’ve written a completely different episode, one that dives deep into the lore and events the movie may have glossed over, without any worry of contradiction. But unfortunately, I couldn’t go to the early screening, and so I had to play it safe.

Was that really Teen Sonic’s home Green Hill Zone that the episode took place in? Dodged that question, because I figured the odds were high that that place was somehow destroyed or taken over, that being the reason why Teen Sonic had to leave in the first place. Does Teen Sonic know what a Chaos Emerald is? Dodged that question, because I figured the odds were high that they would be teased in the movie in some way, which would most likely preclude Sonic from knowing about them beforehand. (Technically, I’m still in a bit of a pickle there, since we have no clue what any potential sequels might bring.) Did our Sonic even end up remembering the events of this episode? Dodged that question too, even though it seems pretty irrelevant to the movie, because if our Sonic remembers, then Teen Sonic would remember as well, and there was no telling how many countless tiny contradictions that might’ve caused. (In fact, there’s a chance it did—he never says it directly, but Teen Sonic certainly implies in the movie that he hasn’t had a friend since Longclaw—and I giving him a new best friend in our Sonic flies pretty harshly in the face of that.) Does Sonic know who wants his powers, or why? Dodged that. Do those individuals belong specifically to this world, or is he being chased across worlds? Dodged that. Who the heck is Longclaw? Dodged that, too. (Admittedly, I mistakenly had our Sonic call her a “guy,” but Sonic knew little enough at that point in time that it was probably justified.)

Despite my fear of getting contradicted, there were plenty of risks that I chose to gamble on. I chose to establish concrete proof that Sonic spent some amount of time, however little, as a world-traveller, visiting many different worlds before finally ending up on movie-Earth. The trailers gave us no such evidence, instead suggesting on quite the contrary that Sonic went straight from Green Hill to Earth, and stayed there. If it weren’t for Baby Sonic, I probably wouldn’t have taken that risk. But getting that major piece of evidence that Sonic left his world at a very young age leaves lots and lots of time for him to do things offscreen in between. For all we knew prior to that, there might not have been any time at all—we might have seen, moment-for-moment, Sonic, as a teenager, leaving Green Hill, getting to Earth, and either getting stuck there or choosing to stay there right up until the inciting incident of the movie’s main plot. But—lucky me!—Sonic not only was given plenty of time where he could have been off Earth, but it was downright shown that he had a map of worlds to travel to, with multiple of them crossed off, all but confirming that he has been to them. (Interestingly enough, one of those worlds was denoted by a stylized Sun—could that have been representing the Sol Dimension, or “Sun World” as he called it…just like he called the other one “Mushroom World”? Then again, Sun World wasn’t crossed out, which would be an odd error for him to make if he had already decided against staying there—but then, if he had only decided that because there was too much water, and not because someone saw him using his powers, that might mean he decided to potentially try it again later—and yes, Eggman Nega saw his powers, but as I mentioned earlier, he may not necessarily remember that part. What was I talking about again? Oh, right gambles.)

Another gamble I took involved how Sonic uses those Rings. For one thing, I just assumed that’s what his little brown sack was for—got that one right. But then, I also had him put duct tape in there, which…now that I know where the sack came from, might seem a little bit disrespectful. Oh well, he needed to tape up that shoe somehow—another accurate prediction on my part, as a majority of pre-release clips showed him with his “canon” shoes, even though he didn’t actually have them yet (lucky me). But yeah, Rings. I made a pretty big stretch of the imagination by suggesting that he has no problem at all with just using as many rings as it takes to help his friend out. In fact, you might even call that a contradiction—in the movie, there’s a “for emergencies only” sign taped to the sack, not to mention the fact that I presented him as having very few of them, despite having very many in the movie. But then, right there at the beginning of the movie, Sonic uses up a Ring just for the heck of it, because he feels like getting a look at the Mushroom World. But anyways, I think I covered my bases there. Even though there was absolutely zero mention in the trailers or the movie of where the Rings actually come from, I went ahead and presented a means of having Sonic able to collect more of them. So, after the episode, he would’ve had plenty of time to tour around, find as many as he needs, and head back to Earth with more than he even knows what to do with—so in that way, I even provided an explanation for why Sonic was able to waste one so nonchalantly at the beginning. Lucky me! I just have to hope that future sequels don’t imply that…I don’t know, Sonic produces them from his body or something crazy like that. As long as the possibility is left open that Rings can somehow be found somewhere in the nature of some world, I think I’ll be fine. I figured that applying the rules of Special Stage Rings to them wouldn’t be too much of  a risk, anyways.

I did gamble a little bit with how Sonic’s powers work—I clearly didn’t catch on to the fact that they are so directly linked to his emotions, but I wouldn’t call that outright contradiction. But here’s something that was absolutely not intended to be a gamble—at the end of the episode I had Sonic absorb his powers directly back from Fang. I made that up, I swear! And yet, at the climax of the movie, an absolutely identical scene happened, where Sonic absorbed his powers back from Eggman. (Yes, I’m calling him Eggman, because that’s what Sonic ends up calling him. Same rules as the games.) So…lucky me, I guess!

So, what contradictions did I fail to avoid? I already mentioned calling Longclaw a guy, missing the mark on where Sonic’s powers come from, and…that might be it. Oh, right, I also said that Sonic isn’t prone to motion sickness, which was definitely contradicted in the movie. That’s definitely not one I was expecting, given that Sonic is, you know…fast? And the loop-de-loops? But you know, it was a funny joke, and…you could argue that Sonic was intentionally exaggerating when he said that, and the fact that he did get motion sickness might even be enough to say that I’m supporting the movie, rather than contradicting it.

I know I haven’t really said much about the episode itself yet, but I don’t think there’s a whole lot to say. It was a comedy—much more successful, I think, than my previous attempt with the Heavy Magician episode. I put a lot of effort into building up punchlines, and just having an actual comedic chemistry between these two characters. I’m a little bit disappointed in myself for trivializing Fang literally immediately after his dramatic character conclusion, but…I actually love Fang and Eggman Nega as a ridiculous comedic villain duo, and I hope to use them in that role again at some point in the future. Fang certainly wouldn’t have much else to do in this series otherwise. As for Eggman Nega…the thought actually occurred to me after I had already started writing this episode, and I was desperately trying to figure out a halfway decent conclusion to this otherwise relatively boring story about trying to clear the Special Stage. I realized that, now that I had a Riders special under my belt, Eggman Nega was literally the only Modern Sonic character that I had yet to reference in any way, shape, or form. (Unless you count the non-Zavok members of the Deadly Six, but I certainly don’t.) Anyways, given Nega’s role of travelling between dimensions, and his hatred of Sonic, he certainly seemed like the right fit for this episode. I was a little bit dubious about using Nega as a character before even properly using Blaze, but I didn’t want to let that get in the way of a good story. But still, him alone just didn’t quite feel right. I wanted to use the Special Stage story first and foremost, but Eggman Nega has zero association with that concept, so using him as the villain in that context would’ve been very strange. But then, who does have an association with the Special Stages? The answer was staring me in the face. Supposedly, it is canon in Sonic Triple Trouble that Fang actually lives in the Special Zone. I intentionally tried to avoid that weirdness, given that the canonicity of Special Stages is dubious to begin with, by simply offhandedly mentioning once or twice that Fang had to take “a long trip” to get to Eggman from where ever it is he came from. Throughout this series, I had definitely considered exploring the concept of Special Stages more than once—including an early prototype plot for the Dawn of Chaos arc, and again as a potential way to flesh out Fang’s character—but it always just felt too weird. Teen Sonic and his use of Warp Rings worked as a phenomenal bridge into that weirdness, finally allowing me to delve into it—and so, to include Fang as well. The rest practically wrote itself. And that’s the basic story of how this episode came to be.

-Too bad I wasn’t able to do any rock-connaissance on the movie.
(Okay, that was terrible, I’m sorry.)

Review: Season 1, Episode 18 (Finale)

Another kicker, this one was. I shouldn’t be surprised by now, the most important episodes are always the hardest to write, because everything needs to be absolutely perfect. As an episode…I’m a little bit hesitant to pass judgement on this one. I felt hyperaware during the writing process of how awkwardly paced this whole thing was, with lots of standing around and talking during what should have been intense and dramatic moments—it’s just hard to do otherwise when there are so many important things that need to be said—in addition to lots of sudden breaks between action sequences that were necessary in order to keep a wider view of events that doesn’t leave any one topic forgotten for too long. But as a conclusion to the season…I’m pretty happy with how everything turned out. I was worried about the daunting task of topping part 1 in terms of drama, and while it did take some doing, I think that I at least accomplished that much.

Not everything turned out exactly how I envisioned it. I originally imagined that the raid on the Death Egg would take up a more solid chunk of the episode, as Shadow grudgingly worked together with Sonic to overcome the station swarming with traps and guards and lots of thing to blow up. In general, the big question mark surrounding whether or not Shadow is able to trust Sonic was intended to play a much larger role in the episode. But then I threw Knuckles into the mix. Right up until the day I wrote the conclusion of Part 1, my intention was for that to be the last that was seen of Fang—he shoots Knuckles, takes the Emeralds, turns them over off-screen, and that’s the end of it. I soon decided that it would be too unceremonious of an end for a character who is effectively the main villain of the Season, so I decided the easiest way to get him to a more proper conclusion without changing plans too much would be to throw him on the Death Egg. At the time that I made that decision, it was actually supposed to be Tails who went up along with Sonic and Shadow—Knuckles was intended to be put out of commission for this episode when he was shot. So I figured that Sonic would be the most reasonable candidate of the three to have one final fight with Fang, and then Tails could even have a nice little growth story where he shows that fighting Eggman on his own is no longer proof of anything, but instead is now simply what he expects of himself as a hero. There were a few obvious logical issues that came out of all that. While Fang has certainly mentioned his hatred for Sonic quite frequently, Sonic as a rival for him hasn’t really been built up at all—they only met face-to-face once this Season before these episodes, and they only exchanged a few words. Knuckles, meanwhile, was specifically being built up as a rival (pretty much just for the purpose of taking his hat in the end), so having that final confrontation not include Knuckles would just be strange. Meanwhile, Tails, the medical expert of the Rebellion, abandoning Rouge when it’s being clearly established that she’s dying wouldn’t make any sense at all. And even then, Tails’ growth isn’t really something that’s been focused on this Season, it’s been deferred to next, so having him on the Death Egg wouldn’t really accomplish much. And so, even though it required a lot of rearranging and rethinking of this episode, I chose to swap Tails out for Knuckles. I’m definitely happy with that decision. Though I do wonder if that’s part of the reason writing this episode ended up taking so much longer.

Oh! Right, I was in the middle of something. Adding Knuckles (and Fang, counting those as one complicated decision) meant significantly increasing the amount of time that would be spent on these big boss confrontations, and so the idea of a Death Egg filled with traps and guards became not only unnecessary in terms of balancing the amount of action, but would’ve basically just wasted time. And I figured a completely empty, abandoned Death Egg would’ve added a layer of mystery to hint at Eggman’s true intentions…although I see now that may not have been clear enough, besides the part where Sonic and Shadow overtly discussed it.

There is one thing that did turn out exactly as I’d envisioned it. The simple ending scene, where Shadow learns of Rouge’s condition, and lets out all of his emotions at once on Sonic…that was a scene planned nearly word for word since before I even knew what this season was going to be about. I believe I’ve mentioned previously that the idea of Rouge turning spy for the Rebellion was one of a huge slew of ideas that were all bouncing around before the seasonal structure of this series was solidified, back in the very early phases of Season 0. Analyzing the emotional consequences of various dramatic scenarios was how I first populated this hypothetical series with episode ideas—so naturally, the scenario of Rouge seemingly turning traitor had to come with the weight of how Shadow would respond. That series of ideas eventually led me here.

And did I mention that hat? Why, yes, it was meant to be a reference to the Sonic OVA, thank you for asking. With another Sonic movie coming up, I suppose that’s pretty good timing. In fact, there may have been a couple of new Sonic Movie references thrown into this episode, if you were paying attention. But, anyways, the hat. I admit it. The idea of bringing Fang into the series wasn’t particularly appealing to me…until I realized that I could have Knuckles steal his hat. Yes. That was what sold me on the idea. That was what drove me to write basically this entire season. I regret nothing, and also everything. Usually, I pride myself on remaining vehemently game-canon, and I often have to go out of my way in order to not reference something like the Archie Comics. But if you ask me, Knuckles with a treasure hunter’s hat is the single most memorable thing to come out of that entire movie, and I just couldn’t resist the reference once I’d thought of it.

I suppose I can get into more random stuff now. The “Death Egg Emperor” was a rather last-minute addition. In the early planning phases (back when Tails was still going to be the one to fight it) a simple, perhaps slightly upgraded Death Egg Robot was what I assumed would fill this role. When you bring back the Death Egg, putting a Death Egg Robot on it seems like the next logical step. It only occurred to me as I began writing this episode that Sonic Generations, Mania, and Forces had really gone to great lengths to…I guess, normalize the Death Egg Robot. I realized that it wouldn’t make much of an impact if it were just another one of those things. The plan wasn’t necessarily to “merge” the DER with the final boss of Sonic Heroes, the whole Egg Emperor thing was just…an unfortunate(?) result of the fact that this completely new step up from the DER needed to reflect Eggman’s status as Emperor.

There were plans to have an extended ending scene where everyone meets back up, celebrate their victory, ponder the nature of Eggman’s pre-planning, and so on, but I ended up merging that all into the Daily Log addendum, mostly just for time. The episode was very ready to end, and I didn’t see much reason to drag it on longer than it had to go. I also skipped out on a scene where Eggman would be seen in his base, complaining about how much he hates that hedgehog, but it was cut for similar reasons.

Probably the most last-minute thing of all was Knuckles’ role specifically in the climax. Obviously everything about his role in the episode was last-minute, put this part was actually something that didn’t even occur to me until I wrote the words “What can I do to help?” When Tails was the plan, Sonic’s response was still going to be the same “Wait in the safety bunker” answer, and it was supposed to be a bit more touching with Sonic trying to protect his little bro. But Tails, instead of doing as he was told, would’ve instead gone out searching for a shuttle (planned before I I decided to mention that there were no shuttles) and, when Sonic realized that he was marooned and requested help, Tails would’ve swooped in at the perfect time to pick him up. That whole “I think I might need a little help here” joke was honestly just a hold-out from that otherwise-scrapped plan. The Death Egg room built over the Master Emerald Altar, then, was entirely unplanned until I realized in that moment that I needed something for Knuckles to do that didn’t involve flying. But I figured it would make sense that Eggman would “preserve” that particular location when building over Angel Island, given that Prof. Gerald proved with his replica on the ARK that the structure has a functional significance. Knuckles bringing the Master Emerald back to the closest thing left to “home” worked wonderfully to connect back to a comment he made in part 1 (not intended to be related at the time), as did his conjoined role with the Controller as mentioned by Tikal. Eggman putting a throne for himself on top of the monument that symbolically represents the people he’s conquered was a nice little cherry on top. I’ll admit that part of the inspiration behind that room, and even the throne on top, hearkens back to an issue of the new IDW Sonic Comics, in which, on a mechanized Angel Island (I had that idea first, I swear), Neo Metal Sonic awaited Sonic and friends in a throne room built out of the very same altar. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a reference, just inspiration.

A question I was sort of asking myself by the end was…”Why did I split the Death Egg in half?” Something I originally had in mind was that the Death Egg would naturally start falling apart in that way as it fell through the atmosphere, forcing Sonic and Shadow to each take a separate half. But…for some reason, that just didn’t make sense to me. But the image of the two halves falling one after the other into the ocean, like a literal egg cracked open, was one that stuck with me even as my other plans changed.

Well, I think this has gone on just about long enough. So what’s next? Well, I’ll properly announce here and now that there will be a Sonic Movie Tie-In Special published on February 14th, the day of the movie’s release. After that, we move into Season 2. Season 1 was nice and all, but…for me, it was really just a proving grounds. From here, I start telling the stories that I’ve been anticipating since I first envisioned this series, stories that could only be told on top of the strong foundations that I’ve spent all this time building. Even though you’re probably not, I hope that you’re as excited as I am.

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

 

Review: Season 1, Episode 16

Well…here it is. My first attempt at a comedy. No matter how hard I try, it seems that I just can’t remove the serious plot development. So this episode ended up just feeling really weird to me, like…like you have a hard time laughing because you have to look out for important plot points. Honestly, I think I just needed more jokes. But I figured forcing in a bunch of extra jokes that even I wouldn’t find funny would defeat my own purpose. I went in to this hoping for something iconic and unforgettable, something like some of my favorite episodes of Avatar the Last Airbender, and I definitely fell short in my opinion. But hey, I’ll settle for a lighthearted chuckle before the dark finale to come.

They say it’s a bad idea to explain a joke, but I actually don’t have a whole lot else to say here, so I think I’ll point a few things out, just to be sure that they were understood. Heavy Magician’s unnamed transformation hijinks went as follows: Bark the Polar Bear, Bean the Dynamite Duck, Tiara Boobowski the Manx (of the cancelled Sonic X-treme), “Speedy” AKA Battle Kukoo XVI (of Tails Adventure), and lastly, Madonna (the scrapped character intended to be Sonic’s girlfriend in the original Sonic the Hedgehog). She actually quoted a couple songs from the real-world artist Madonna (including “Open Your Heart,” a natural connection to make). Her disguises for Big and Froggy first referenced the recent Team Sonic Racing Overdrive animated shorts, then proceeded to reference Scratch and Grounder, Eggman’s robotic companions from the early Sonic cartoons, and of course, R2-D2 and C-3P0 of Star Wars, the most famous robotic duo of all time.

Let’s see, anything else to explain? Cubot’s role in this episode was inspired by…well, technically, myself. Back in Season 0, Cubot implied that he may have a crush on Magician. It was meant to be a one-off joke, but I decided to roll with it, thanks in part to a suggestion by our good friend Yuni Oha. There is one other joke which was a bit unusual. Sonic being set off at the thought of Tails thinking someone else is cooler than him. This was actually a request left by a reader after the last episode, so big thanks to “sonic vs evil” for contributing the idea to this episode. I don’t think that they quite had it in mind as a joke, but I adapted the idea to this episode as best I could.

I suppose I should talk about the lasting impact that this episode may have. I wasn’t intending on bringing in the Spacial Ruby plot quite so soon, but…well, I needed a macguffin. Even though no Ruby was actually present in this episode, they are very much real. And with Eggman and Infinite both looking for them, they’re bound to turn up eventually.

And of course, there’s the more immediate impacts. There is a Death Egg, and its launch is imminent. But what exactly could Eggman do with a Death Egg when he already controls the world? Well…we’ll find out very soon.

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

Review: Season 1, Episode 15

I’ve been waiting to make this episode for a long time. Well, technically half of this episode for longer than the other half. It was probably fairly easy to tell, but this was sort of like two incomplete episodes mashed together in order to save space and effort. But let’s be honest. Without Amy’s mystery, the episode would’ve been nothing but Tails and Shadow sitting in a pod and talking. And yet, without the brief bout of drama and action provided by the Shadow/Tails story, Amy’s mystery would’ve been little more than a glorified recap of the season. I felt that these ideas complemented each other well, which is why I wasn’t too concerned when I realized that the next episode, which was only fairly recently considered, would have to “replace” one of these two. And regardless, I am still heavily considering continuing with this idea of an A-plot and a B-plot for each episode, so it’s good that I keep getting chances to practice with it.

The idea out of these two that came earlier was the Shadow/Tails story. Even though the plot was technically a continuation of the relationship they began to form back in the Forces of Chaos arc of Season 0, that plot back then was actually inspired by the knowledge that this episode would eventually happen. This one came first. Why did I decide that I wanted Shadow and Tails to become good buddies? Well, I think Tails covered a lot of it. Tails likes Sonic because he’s cool, and to an impressionable pre-teen (as I was when Shadow became my favorite character) Shadow would easily be seen as basically a cooler version of Sonic. Why wouldn’t Tails like him? And, for spoiler-related story reasons, their friendship is going to become very important. But I knew it was something that couldn’t simply happen, Shadow and Tails are such fundamentally different characters that an episode would be required to justify how they first form a bond. This episode is what came to mind. It was largely inspired by an episode of Star Trek Deep Space 9, in which two similarly disparate characters, Julian Bashir and Miles O’Brien, were forced together on a close-quarters mission, and inevitably ended up becoming best friends for the rest of the series. However, the concept of having them trapped together in a ship, leading to desperate measures of survival when it is destroyed, likely came more from an episode of Star Trek Voyager, which started the romantic relationship between characters Tom Paris and B’elanna Torres. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that part. Don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea.

As for the Amy story, the idea came for it only recently, as I started counting on my fingers all of the characters who have had a spotlight this season, and realized that Amy was the only character left out entirely. Which also got me thinking that maybe females are a bit underrepresented in general in this series. I mean, Rouge is getting a spotlight role in this main premiere season of the show, so I don’t feel TOO bad about it. And a predominance of male characters is…not exactly out of the norm for the Sonic series in general. Regardless, that made me want to make sure that this Amy plot did good by this particular issue, so I started planning for something that would have her accomplish something important, something not in any way related to her relationship with Sonic. And I decided it was about time to reveal the full truth about Rouge. But…let’s be honest. As cheeky as I’ve been about it, the fact that Rouge has been a double agent was an obvious guess to make from the beginning, and I’ve only provided more evidence since then. And spending an entire episode leading up to Amy happening upon a fact that any reader could’ve guessed from the beginning felt somehow…anticlimactic. Certainly wouldn’t get across the point I intended of her solving an important problem. But since I wanted the information about Rouge to be confirmed either way, how about a fake out? Have Amy solve a true mystery, something completely unexpected even by the reader, and even accidentally find out about Rouge along the way. But what exactly did Amy solve? What was it she said? “She’s not on Eggman’s side.” If she wasn’t talking about Rouge, then what could she have meant? She had to be talking about someone. And Heavy Magician now appears to have been set free… What could that mean?

There was one other purpose to putting this episode at this time. I mentioned earlier that Amy’s story was sort of a glorified recap of the season, and that wasn’t unintentional. The season’s wrapping up, and it’s important that the reader remembers everything that’s led up to this point. That’s right! Only 3 episodes left in the season! (Man, if I’d kept last year’s pace this Summer, I could’ve actually started Season 2 before the Summer’s over. That would’ve been nice.) So, excluding the dark and serious two-part finale, there’s only one episode remaining. Naturally, how could it be anything else but a lighthearted comedy? I’m excited for what’s to come, and I hope you are as well!

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

Review: Season 1 Episodes 13 and 14 (Featuring Yuni Oha)

Yuni Oha here with a guest-written review for the guest-written episode.

When I suggested the idea of guest-writing to my brother, I knew right away that I wanted to do a story involving Shino the Hedgehog. You see, Shino originated in a time many years ago where I would, as a kid, create my own Sonic game concepts and narrate them to my brother. Shino, or, as I called him back then, Shinobi the Hedgehog, was one of the characters I created for those games, and one of my favorites who has yet to be adapted by my brother into a Chaos Project character. I came up with the idea of Shinobi when contemplating the fact that Shadow and Silver are essentially Sonic doppelgangers from the present and future respectively, so I decided there should be one from the past as well. My great love of ninja led me to create Shinobi, who was essentially the same character as Shino. The name Shinobi was selected to represent the fact that Sonic, Shadow, and Silver all had word-names that started with the letter S. Given The Chaos Project’s lore, it made perfect sense to bring in Shinobi as a past Controller. I changed his name to Shino both to avoid confusion with Heavy Shinobi and to make it a two syllable name like Sonic, Shadow, and Silver. Making him the head of the Shinobi Clan was a callback to his original name. Additionally, Nocta the Owl was created for the same game as Shino, while Ryu the Dragon was created a few games later for my concept for Sonic Heroes 2 as a power character in order to complete Team Ninja, who already had a speed and fly character with Shinobi and Nocta.

As for the story of this episode, it is extremely loosely based off of the original game concept I made to introduce Shinobi. I stress the loosely part, as I actually forgot most of that game’s story in the interceding years. Of course using both Espio and Heavy Shinobi in a plot revolving around a ninja-themed character seemed obvious, so I built from there. Obviously time travel was planned to be involved from the beginning, but I came up with the idea of stranding Sonic in the past so as to better be able to show off Nocta and Ryu, while also giving Sonic an important role. Kamitatsu was a new creation for these episodes. In my original concepts, Shino’s arch-nemesis was a shogun dictator called Bushido. My early plans for this episode involved Bushido using some great and powerful monster to attempt to defeat Shino, but I soon decided that I needed to cut down characters, so I combined Bushido and the monster into one character, and created Kamitatsu.

I scripted these episodes as I would one of my games, gameplay gimmicks and all. The game concept would have involved you switching back and forth between the past and present as Sonic and Shino respectively in order to progress through a level. Actions performed in the past would affect the present, while time vortexes could be opened to transport objects from the present to the past. This would allow- you to have both characters open up paths for one another.

On top of introducing Shino, the other objective of this game was to give some character development to the Chaotix, specifically Espio. I love the Chaotix, and as I said earlier, I love ninja, so naturally, Espio is a favorite of mine. I’ve always felt that the Chaotix got a little robbed, having their only main modern appearance being in Sonic Heroes, a game that gave little character development. One obvious question about them is why does Espio, the level-headed seeker of serenity, team up with the two outrageous personalities of Vector and Charmy. This episode was designed in part to explore this. At one point in the episode, Espio mentions how he used to be a hot-head. This is taken from his character biography from his original appearance in Knuckles’ Chaotix. Clearly this description does not match the character we know today, so I worked it into his backstory how he had to develop past it. It being Shino’s teachings that helped control his emotion also gives a foundation to his idolization of the ninja.

I hope you all enjoyed my episodes. I certainly enjoyed writing them. Perhaps some day in future, I might write again.

Review: Season 1, Episode 13 (Sort of)

Normally, I’d write reviews on an episode-by-episode basis, but I didn’t write this episode, and the author, Yuni, has chosen to wait to review both parts at once. So I suppose I’ll talk a little bit about the history that led up to this unusual episode. It’s a bit more personal than what I typically talk about here, but this event was a very personal one. Yuni has been an inspiration to me for a very long time. And I’ve been giving him plenty of inspiration as well. By that, I mean that we’re literally family, and we’ve been telling each other stories for as long as I can remember. Sonic was one of many such topics we liked to discuss. And while I had ideas such as Blackice, who would become Nova, who would become Blacklight, Yuni had ideas such as Shinobi the Hedgehog, now known as Shino. Another of his ideas, Hyper the Hedgehog, served as significant inspiration for who we now know as Chaos the Hedgehog. But while I was always drawn to these Sonic ideas, Yuni was just as interested in Pokémon, and invented a good handful of “Fakemon” from a very young age. I participated as well, but I was never quite as into it as he was.

Somehow, after years of these Sonic and Pokémon ideas, it was a rather sudden Yu-Gi-Oh concept that ended up spawning the first ever written work between the two of us. It was me who offhandedly brought up the fact while watching the “Waking  the Dragons” arc of the original series that it seemed rather odd that the characters Yugi and Kaiba seemed to reincarnate precisely every 5,000 years, even though no attention was ever drawn to it. If I remember correctly, it was a matter of days after that that Yuni came back to me with the idea for Yu-Gi-Oh! Millennium, a story taking place 5,000 years in the future of the original series, and drawing the origin back 5,000 years before the earliest known incarnations. He was prepared to share this story with me verbally as we had always done, meticulously planning out and describing every turn of every Duel. And he did try it that way for a while. But once he brought up how difficult it was to keep track of all the little number values like ATK and LP, I suggested that he type it out like a book, and have me read it. He felt that would be a waste of effort to be read by just one person. So that’s when I said, “You know, I’ve heard of this website called FanFiction, which is meant specifically for publishing and sharing that sort of thing.” It took some convincing, but I got him to do it. He wrote out the entire first Season over the course of a year or so, then published it all at once in August of 2013. Of course, I was tasked with carefully proofreading every episode before publication.

Yuni enjoyed writing his first story so much that he published his second less than a year later. Recycling and updating many of his earliest Fakemon ideas, he created Pokémon Cosmic Quest. I drew up a sprite of one of his Pokémon on a whim one day, and ended up becoming his permanent sprite artist. It quickly began to consume more and more of my time. And as he prepared to move across the state, I felt like without him, I…didn’t really have anything satisfying to do with my life. Sounds a little grim, but I wasn’t in the best mental state at the time. And while any Pokémon idea either of us could ever dream of was easily expressed in his story, all those old Sonic ideas were still sitting stagnant. I’d been doing all this work for him for so long, I decided I wanted something that’s mine. So I decided to write The Chaos Project, without informing Yuni until it was much too far into development for him to take it over.

Sonic Forces: After the Fight was the first episode of mine that he ever read, though it had been over a year since I told him about the story by that point. He was impressed enough to go back and read from the beginning, though it took quite a few months before he found the time to do so. In fact, at the time he started writing this very episode, he had only just caught up a few weeks earlier. But I’m skipping ahead a bit. He had only just started his readthrough when he brought up the possibility of a writer’s exchange. Seeing how Blacklight had come of the Nova idea he was so fond of, and how Chaos was inspired by Hyper, he was disappointed that one his favorite OC’s, Shinobi the Hedgehog, hadn’t found its way into The Chaos Project (even though Zero, in as much as he is a Chaos-user from the past, was technically inspired by Shinobi). I told him that I had no specific plans to do anything much like Shinobi, but that having the character available to me could be beneficial later in the story. After a bit of discussion, we agreed. He would write in his own character in as close to its original form as he desired, and I would get some free advertisement by writing an episode of Pokémon Cosmic Quest in exchange (his story is a lot more popular than mine). I just had to figure out what to write. And if you want to hear more about that…I suppose you’ll just have to stay tuned to Yuni’s website, where I’ll continue this conversation as I discuss the Cosmic Quest episode that I wrote. Other than that, that’s the entire story, full-circle.

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