Review: Season 1, Episode 11

So yeah. This was supposed to be the Sonic Adventure special that I’ve been teasing for far too long. So I started writing said special, and I got about a page and a half in, and then I realized, “the last three episodes in a row have all heavily featured Rouge, and this would be the fourth. I’m also wasting an opportunity to better lead up to this special, and call back to [the episode I’m now reviewing]. Given that the anniversary I’m trying to celebrate is 2 days from now, and there’s absolutely zero chance of getting this done by then, perhaps I should consider fitting another episode in between?” Yeah, that was well over a month ago. Regardless, one iteration of my storyboard for this season did have this episode coming before the special, and I only planned to accelerate the special because I thought I wasn’t going to meet the anniversary date, which happened anyways. So I ended up reverting back to that earlier plan, and Condition Extreme was born in its final form.

I suppose it’s probably for the best that the Sonic X-Treme episode come in as a lead up to the Adventure special. What’s that? You have no idea what I’m talking about? I suppose it’s actually pretty obscure at this point. Sonic X-Treme was supposed to be the first ever proper 3D Sonic game, developed for the Sega Saturn, well before Adventure could appear on the Dreamcast. There’s some conflicting information on exactly what happened during development (it was a nightmare no matter which source you believe), but when the game failed to make its intended Holiday ’96 release window, the entire project ended up getting scrapped. Hey, that story sounds kind of familiar…
Anyways, during the game’s development, there were at least a good 5 different stories written for it. Among those stories, there was one frequently recurring plot element (besides Sonic’s new girlfriend Tiara Boobowski): the DoomVirus. Now that should sound familiar. But it gets better. In these stories, the DoomVirus gets released, and infects Sonic, when the Master Emerald is shattered. I’m sure you see the connection, but I’ll get back to that topic later. Interestingly enough, plot elements relating to the DoomVirus were later repurposed for the Chaos character in Sonic Adventure, and even, to my utter shock, the Deadly Six from Sonic Lost World, nearly 20 years later! But I think that’s enough obscure trivia for now.

On to this episode itself, finally. Fun fact. After deciding to make The Chaos Project a full-length, multi-season series, this was the second episode idea I ever came up with. Given that the first episode idea was shallow and uninteresting and I have no current plans to actually use it, that makes this episode the very earliest look at The Chaos Project anyone will ever have. And…that age probably shows. The original idea was really more of a general concept with two specific scenes attached. The idea was that Knuckles, due to leaving the Master Emerald shattered for too long, would lose his connection to it, and his powers as well. The two attached scenes were him fainting in the opening scene, and him jumping off the cliff to discover that he is unable to glide. The episode remained in that simple, unplanned state, up until about a year and a half ago, when I was doing some reading on the cancelled Sonic X-Treme. When I saw the original concept for the DoomVirus, I knew right then and there that I had my episode. I couldn’t pass up on the connection between the shattering Master Emerald and the incapacitation of characters as a result, and I was downright excited to reference and acknowledge that portion of Sonic history. Throw in the drama of the race for a cure and everyone else becoming infected, and I figured that would be enough to fill the necessary episode length.

But that’s all this episode really ended up feeling like in the end. Filler. Given, that was technically the plan. At the time, the prospect of a multi-season project terrified me because I didn’t believe that I could come up with the requisite number of episodes. These days, I’m more worried about overstuffing my seasons and running out of space to fit in my funnest filler-ish ideas. And you know, it’s not like this episode is without its merits, as I’ve even had a reviewer like it especially. It’s our very first look into Knuckles’ personal history, something we’ve known absolutely nothing about up until now. And the chance to really dig into what happened to the Echidnas post-Perfect Chaos (Knuckles did all the necessary explaining on that point) satisfied what’s been bothering me for years. But one big question still remains. What was the “shadow” that allegedly spread the Doom Virus all those years ago? Anyways, my point is, this episode was necessary for a lot of reasons, but I feel like it just doesn’t stand up very well on its own. But that’s just my opinion.

So, coming up next (hopefully two weeks from now, if all goes well), the long-anticipated Sonic Adventure 20th Anniversary Special. In the meantime, there might be something else to look forward to. I’ve recently opened the “Theatre” page on this website, and not without good reason…

-But until then, remember to…keep an open heart!

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Review: Season 1, Episode 10

I could’ve sworn that I pre-wrote this one as usual. But I couldn’t seem to find it. So I guess I’ll have to see what I can remember now.

So since last episode was the “Episode Shadow based introduction,” that would make this one the rest of Forces from a different perspective. With this one, I was finally able to give an answer to that question that was bugging me so much in the last review. That being, “WHERE THE HECK WAS SHADOW OVER THE FOLLOWING SIX MONTHS!!??”  In essence, that was the main reason I bothered with this episode in the first place. I hated that no answer to that question was ever given in the game, so I knew I had to answer for myself at some point. The other major reason had to do with the original “After the Fight” Forces special episode, in which I had Rouge state that she had to steal her Chaos Emerald off of the Death Egg. I figured I had to put a story to that, as I intend to do for most of the other Emeralds shown in that scene as well. But in general, there are a lot of questions regarding Rouge that I felt the need to answer as well. The first hint of her existence in the original game was when Knuckles stated that “his spies” found Sonic on the “orbiting prison.” I was really, really hoping when I first saw that that he was talking about Rouge, and as it turns out, I was right. At least…I’m pretty sure about that. It was all left a bit vague. When Rouge finally made her first real appearance, everyone was weirdly acting as if they hadn’t ever discussed the Death Egg before, even though Knuckles and the others were already on their way there to get Sonic. I mean, did they think that “Orbiting Prison” meant something else? Anyways, Rouge continues to make appearances just like that for about two thirds of the game, dropping in to leave some vital bit of information over the radio, but throughout all of that time, she never made a physical appearance. At first, I believed that she only finally appeared on screen at the final Eggman Empire Fortress battle, which would be ridiculous. Turns out, I had missed the fact that she was standing there silently in the background while the Death Egg was being destroyed. That was her first appearance. A silent role, standing there, watching something. You’d think, if they spend two thirds of the game suggesting that she’s off doing something important, that would be building up for something, right? Well this is Forces we’re talking about, so no.

So anyways, the main question was, “Why does Rouge spend so much of the game apart from the rest of the Resistance, only to reappear at a seemingly random time?” I felt like there was only one reasonable answer. A deep-cover mission. Rouge was acting as a double-agent in the enemy camp, gathering vital information to pass along to the Resistance, culminating in their destruction of the Death Egg. That was the basis for this episode’s plot. But wait a minute…there’s something else about that scene of the Death Egg’s destruction that’s been nagging at me… Oh, yeah! WHAT THE HECK ARE KNUCKLES AND VECTOR DOING IN THERE!? When you’re playing as Classic Sonic in that level, it is very, very strongly implied that Knuckles and Vector are right in there with you. But then, cut to Resistance HQ, and Knuckles and Vector are there too! And yet, almost as if they cared about continuity, Classic Sonic is not there. I guess they just ditched him early and left him to die in the Death Egg’s explosion. And here I thought this was a children’s game. So the only reasonable answer that I can come up with is Chaos Control, as you saw in the episode. Except, Shadow wasn’t there. So, the best I could do was have him hang out with Classic Sonic in the back of the room, just behind the camera. It’s a lame solution, but I didn’t exactly have much to work with.

There was one other major problem I encountered in writing this episode. Remember when Sonic and Shadow finally met after Sunset Heights? Once Shadow finally started explaining what was going on, he practically started with “According to Rouge…” Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold up a minute there. Rouge has been in steady contact with the Resistance for the entire game up until now. And the Resistance has been having some serious problems with fake Shadows rampaging through cities and tearing down their forces. Are you telling me that Rouge not only knew that these Shadows were fake, not only knew that the real Shadow was out there alive, not only has been in direct contact with him, but also has been sharing extremely important Phantom Ruby information with him, and didn’t bother to tell ONE WORD OF IT to the Resistance!?!? No! Just no! This is one of the most pathetic plot holes I’ve ever seen, not just in a Sonic game, but ever! There is no sane excuse for this! Often times when I encounter a problem like this, I look to the original Japanese script for help. But there was no help to found there, this was one of the more literal translations in the game! So here’s my answer. If you want to take what Shadow is saying at face value, there’s no way to make it work. But if he were lying, we’d be good. So I’ve determined that when Shadow said “According to Rouge,” what he wanted to say was “According to that Replica I destroyed,” but he figured that the Resistance wouldn’t want to trust intel from the mouth of the enemy, so he lied and pretended that Rouge said it. That’s the best I’ve got, take it or leave it.

What else can I say here? A lot that I’m forgetting, I’m sure. This episode marks the first instance in The Chaos Project of a Sonic character being able to breath in the vacuum of space. The Chaotix were on the outside of the ARK, but you could make an argument for some kind of…atmosphere bubble or something. This time, it was clearly a vacuum. It’s pretty much a canon fact that Sonic characters can do this, but it’s not exactly scientific. In other news, the appearance of “Splash Fortress” at the beginning of this episode was a reference to some unused Forces concept art, of a very similar-looking fortress in Green Hill. It was a very interesting aesthetic that I wish they’d used, and I was glad to find a place for it. Why move it to Splash Hill? Because Green Hill is severely oversaturated in Forces, and I figured I might as well take the opportunity to make my first ever Sonic 4 reference.

I think that’s all I’ve got for now!

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

Review: Season 1, Episode 9

Well…I’ve dedicated about six straight, no-distractions, nearly-uninterrupted days into writing this episode. I reached 14,000 words before I realized that there was simply no reasonable way I could publish this as a single episode. Even though I really wanted to. Seriously, this season doesn’t have room for any two-parters. So I guess I’m just expanding the season. Needless to say, this episode wasn’t exactly supposed to end where it did. It wasn’t exactly a cliffhanger, we all know what happened to Shadow in the end. But, eh, it was dramatic, and roughly in the middle. It is sort of nice now that I have the two separate “Episode Shadow from another perspective” and “the rest of Forces from another perspective” episodes. This episode was originally supposed to be just the latter with a brief Episode Shadow based introduction, but, much like Vector, I guess I just got too caught up in the story. So that “brief introduction” basically became an entire episode of its own.

I suppose I should probably explain the whole “Tales of the Resistance” thing. Sonic Forces is…incredibly unique in the way that it handled its story. Yes, I know, that’s a pretty funny way to say “terrible”. But that’s the thing. Generally speaking, Sonic game stories tend to fall into two categories. Either you have something like the Classic games or Lost World or Colors or something, where there’s a very loose, simple plot that is presented as it is with no questions to be asked, or it’s something like SA2 or ’06 where the plot is complicated and presents lots of questions, but is still designed to be self-inclusive and answer those questions for itself. But Forces is different. Forces presents this grandiose plot, one of the biggest in the franchise, but then leaves 90% of it up to your imagination. And when it comes to Sonic, I have a very active imagination. So that’s why I’ve decided to work on this sort of…subseries to take place within The Chaos Project. The idea is not to rewrite Forces, but simply to tell the stories that Forces left out. In fact, the Forces special I wrote nearly a year ago, After the Fight, would probably be considered a part of this subseries as well. I did consider writing this as its own separate story, instead of making it a part of The Chaos Project, but…why should I leave these things separate when they stand to benefit from the context of each other? Plus, as you may know from Shadow of Time, I don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to reliably working on non-Chaos Project content. I’ll probably compile it all on the website with C.P. content removed anyways.

One of the reasons I love this part so much (and why it dragged so much longer than expected) is because I couldn’t pass up the chance to reimplement some nearly-canon yet lost material of Forces. To most of my readers, half of the dialogue during the Virtual Reality novelization was probably completely unfamiliar. But all of it (right up before the end) was actual dialogue programmed into the real Episode Shadow, but left inaccessible for unknown reasons. I might’ve mentioned this before, but Shadow’s line “I thought you said he was destroyed three months ago…” was one of the most spectacular deliveries I’ve ever heard from this voice actor of Shadow. But they cut it out. So to spite them, I put it back in. Even at the end, once Shadow started talking about “Showing them Ultimate Power,” those were cut lines as well, although they seemed to be intended for Eggman’s Facility (possibly implying a cut Jackal Squad fight, curse you Sonic Team). In general, Tales of the Resistance is expected to be full of such references to cut content, little-known trivia, and even some unused concept art, as you will be seeing right at the beginning of the next part. In terms of the “little-known trivia,” I should probably mention that the first flashback scene, of Rouge coordinating Shadow’s run through Enemy Territory while Omega deals with Infinite, was actually, for the most part, straight out of one of the official Sonic Forces prequel comics. But that’s not the trivia part. What’s interesting is that that particular comic, “Looming Shadow,” ended with a brief exchange between Rouge and Shadow which was entirely missing from the original game, despite the dialogue otherwise lining up perfectly. That would be because that ending exchange was, you guessed it, made up of lines that are programmed in but cut from the final game. It’s hard to say whether the comic writers actually saw a beta version of the game where those lines were used, or if they were simply given a bulk script to work with before anything got cut. But the way I see it, I’m simply doing the comic’s work. Only better. Eat your heart out, Ian Flynn (not really I love your work plz don’t be mad).

Coming back to the episode as a whole, I would say this one in particular was inspired by a few very specific questions.
1) What the heck happened at the end of Episode Shadow that made Rouge call Shadow over?
2) Why the heck did Episode Shadow end showing Sonic being defeated by Infinite without any additional context of any kind? What was the significance of that scene?
3) WHERE THE HECK WAS SHADOW OVER THE FOLLOWING SIX MONTHS!!?? Seriously! They dedicate an entire prequel story to Shadow, and they don’t even bother answering the one question about him that was actually posed by the main game? What were they thinking!?

Over all, the ending of Episode Shadow was severely, severely lacking. It’s almost like they decided to cancel the second half so they could get it out in time for day-one DLC. IT’S ALREADY DLC!! YOU MIGHT AS WELL JUST TAKE THE TIME TO PUT ACTUAL WORK INTO IT!! Sorry. Anyways, two out of three of those questions were definitively answered by this first part. And that brings me to the Battle of Lost Valley. Green Hill was one of the many, many things in Forces that everyone reacted to, but never actually talked about. Why is it covered in sand? Why is it inhabited by an alien worm from the Lost Hex? Why is it littered with the scattered remains of Death Egg Robots? These are things that everyone points out, yet no one ever bothers answering. For these questions, I got one out of three. It’s a start. Writing the Battle of Lost Valley was immensely satisfying, just because it answered so many questions. It explains what Rouge saw at the end of Episode Shadow. It explains where the Death Egg Robots came from. It even explains where GUN went for the duration of the game. To top that all off, it gives the sand worm an actual purpose, and ties Episode Shadow quite neatly into the main story of Forces.

And I suppose that’s all I’ve got for this part!

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 8

And it’s done! The mid-season finale of The Chaos Project Season 1! Yes, that means this season’s going to be quite a bit shorter than the last, but Season 0 was always supposed to be a special case. And actually, I’m really liking this 16-episode format so far, it gives the perfect amount of focus on the episodes that matter, while leaving just enough room for the occasional fun filler episode. But, on to the episode itself.

Obviously, I’ve been waiting to do this one for a long time, it being a turning point for the season and all. But that really only applies to the second half of the episode, as the event that would lead up to Rouge leaving was always left vague in my plans. It was by a series of coincidences that I ended up going with the 4th of July date. During early planning for this Season, this episode was actually going to be in early June, but about four episodes in, I decided to accelerate my plans for Sonic’s Birthday episode so that I could get Big in a bit earlier, which meant this one had to be at the end of June or later. I decided early July would leave a good amount of time between this episode and the last, and the 4th, obviously, was the first early July number that came to mind. Before I discarded the date for that reason, it occurred to me that I could have some irony, having the Rebellion take such a big loss on a day of independence. It was around that time, on an entirely separate train of thought, that the timeline of Sonic Forces came to mind. Six months Sonic was out of commission, plus three days for Eggman to execute his big Sun plan, applied to the start date of this new war, January 1st, makes July 4th. It was too perfect. So I went all-out with the Empire Day thing from there. Even so, the details of the big fight weren’t set until well after I had written this episode’s opening scene. Which means, Sonic’s fight with Infinite on top of the balloon floats was actually inspired by my own showcase of a balloon float on the news report at the beginning. I had only done that for something that makes sense to see, I was only planning fireworks at first, but you obviously wouldn’t be able to see those before the actual event. Of course, I was also inspired by a Spider-Man movie, which had a similar balloon float fight scene that I always thought was really cool as a kid. I think I captured that kind of action really well, even for the relatively short fight sequence.

I should, of course, mention the fact that I’m perfectly aware 4th of July is a specifically American holiday. There’s not much reason for anyone else in the world to celebrate it, and there’s even less reason for it to be celebrated in the Sonic universe. That’s why I had to be very careful in the way I phrased things. It was never stated in any way that the date had any significance beyond what Eggman had given it. But if you should happen to celebrate the holiday, then you’re very likely to agree with Sonic’s sentiment of it making you sick, just for considerably different reasons.

And…I guess that’s all I really have to say. Surprisingly short for such a long and important episode. From here, I may be going on a brief holiday/mid-season break, but then again, there’s a certain date I’m trying to make for a special episode coming soon, so episodes may actually be coming out even more rapidly than usual. We’ll have to wait and see.

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

Review: Season 1, Episode 7

This episode was…not bad. The writing process dragged on a bit, but it was enjoyable really digging into Sonic’s emotions again. I almost cried for him in the beginning, but by the end I was cheering at him getting his spunk back. So theoretically that means I wrote it pretty well. But then again, I really didn’t care for the pacing as a whole. Nothing really happened for almost the entire episode, and then suddenly, there’s a brief bout of action, and then the episode ends rather suddenly, leaving the episode rather short by comparison to the rest of this season. This is the first time since episode one that I’ve used a Heavy solely for the purpose of adding action to an episode that otherwise wouldn’t have any. Not that it’s a bad thing, it made me really thank myself for bringing them in in the first place, but it does sort of emphasize the fact that this is a more boring episode.

I suppose I should mention, I intend for this to be the final significant impact of Chaos’ death, at least for a good long time. Three out of the last seven episodes felt a bit excessive, but I needed to deal with all of this while it’s still fresh (relatively speaking). So now, it’s on to other things when it comes to character development for Sonic and Shadow. Speaking of which, let’s talk about Big. If we’re being honest, he’s probably my single least favorite character in the entire Sonic franchise…at least as he’s been written (and played) in the games thus far. I’m still amused by the memes, though. But anyways, given that fact, I was very unsure of how to treat him in this series. I considered ignoring him entirely. I considered killing him off early on so I wouldn’t have to deal with him. I considered giving him a brief spotlight, and then sending him on his way so I wouldn’t have to keep dealing with him. Technically speaking, several of those options are still available. But anyways, I came to he conclusion that, if I was going to use him, as I ended up doing for the first time back in Crisis of Chaos, I would need to do something to elevate his character, if only a little bit. So I began the process back then.

Everyone sees Big as a bit slow (in more than one sense), so I thought it would be both refreshing and amusing if Chaos, someone who hadn’t yet met him, instead saw him as wise and misunderstood. This episode was simply a continuation of that. But, as it turns out, it wasn’t just Chaos’ unusual perspective that made it seem that way. Big spends his days isolated in the wilderness, like a guru or something, discovering the true meaning of life. Through the lens of fishing. The results, I think, are kind of hilarious, but also open up some interesting opportunities, such as those seen in this episode, making it more than worthwhile to include him, at least for the time being. What’s that you say? Malicious smile? I don’t know about any malicious smile. Big definitely isn’t an evil mastermind in disguise. Definitely. Probably. Well, actually… Wait and see.

And…I think that’s all I have to say on the episode. But there’s also the sprite animation to talk about. The reason why I made it? Well…it’s the same reason I made that official trailer a while back, the same reason I got into making sprites, the same reason I started writing The Chaos Project in the first place. I like to try new things. But what inspired me to do it now in particular? Well, I’ve actually been thinking about it for a while. But I decided a long time ago that frame-by-frame animation was more work than I was willing to do, and that Adobe Flash Builder was way outside of my price range. But I realized another option quite recently, while watching my Physics Professor give a lecture in class, which involved several animated objects on the PowerPoint slides. And I realized, if I can tell animated gif sprites to move across the screen in precise ways, that would be all I needed to create a quality animation. So yes, the video you’ve seen is actually a recording of a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. There were a couple of small limitations for this method, but honestly, it worked even better than I’d hoped. I mean, if it works, right? Generally speaking, I was also waiting to come across a scene to write which could have some powerful visual impact based on setting and dialogue, without the need for excessive movement, because that would be harder to animate. There are a couple of options I’ve considered from earlier in the series, which…I may consider retroactively animating in the future. But I’m still a writer at heart, so animations like these are going to remain very rare in the future. Obviously, there are some external inspirations for this as well. Sprite animations wouldn’t even be on my mind if it weren’t for great fan works I’ve seen over the years, like Super Mario Bros. Z, Sonic RPG, and the recently-revived Final Fantasy Sonic X. I suppose I should mention before I go, a kind reviewer (thanks as always, Heat Salamance) gave “props to everyone involved”. I apologize for the confusion, I realize that I did say “our website” on the original advertisement for this video, but this was actually a solo project. My brother did review the video after it was done, but he wasn’t involved with the creative process or anything. Just wanted to make sure that was clear. And…I think that’s all I have to say for now.

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

Review: Shadow of Time Part 6

Well, this is where the story really starts getting interesting. The number of word-for-word scenes from the original Shadow the Hedgehog were extremely small this time. It would probably be easier to count those than it would be to count the changes. However, there was a slight problem as a result of that. This Part was supposed to reflect The Last Way, the level played during Final Mode. But because Shadow was on Black Doom’s side, there was no reason to play that level, leaving this entire part almost completely devoid of action. But then, Shadow did get to hit a few people, and I think those moments of intense drama made up for it. I wasn’t totally sure about the decision to leave Rouge alive, but I’m glad I did, because that moment of striking her proved to be very meaningful for Shadow, the final turning point in his path to Darkness. And of course, technically speaking, I wouldn’t want to kill her just in case something goes wrong involving this story’s surprise twist. It’s pretty unlikely it was ever going to matter, and at this point it’s practically impossible, but you never know. As a last note, the whole Shadow Android part was kind of unfortunate. Everything in this story so far has been very interconnected and important, so this, much like it did in the original game, kind of just felt like filler. It was necessary to give Eggman a role in the story, and introduced several necessary concepts for the big twist, I just wish the meaning could’ve been somehow greater.

And now, as usual, a list of changes.
1. Shadow defeats the Egg Dealer after already having fought Diablon.
2. Shadow has a flashback to the first Shadow Android seen in Sonic Heroes. (This was really only here obligatorily, I didn’t want to violate the one-flashback-per-part rule until the final part.)
3. Shadow obtains one of Black Doom’s trinkets, using it to cut the back of his hand, proving that he is not an android.
4. Shadow shuts up Eggman with some very hurtful insults.
5. Because Sonic and Eggman are already on the scene, and Knuckles is incapacitated, it is Rouge who shows up with Tails and Amy to stop Shadow from giving the Chaos Emeralds to Black Doom. Amy is wearing some unusual gloves.
6. Shadow attacks Rouge at the mention of Maria, knocking her out.
7. With one last chance to convince him, Sonic tries to give Shadow the Inhibitor Ring that he kept after the events of Sonic Adventure 2, which Shadow breaks in rejection.
8. The Ritual of Prosperity proceeds without The Last Way ever happening.
9. Breaking free from the effects of the nerve gas under Black Doom’s advision, Shadow kneels to him and swears his loyalty, instead of swearing to destroy him.
10. After his own transformation, Black Doom willingly gives the Chaos Emeralds to Shadow.

Review: Chapter 11

Wow, this one came down to the wire. As an anniversary special, this one needed to be published on a particular date. And I left myself over a month from beginning to end to meet that date. I finished it three days before the deadline. I’m not entirely sure why it took so long. Perhaps it was mostly due to summertime distractions. But also, this episode required an immense amount of research, part of which included replaying the original Sonic Chronicles game (even though I already did about 8 months ago, I felt like doing it again). But enough of all that boring stuff. Let’s talk about why this episode exists in the first place.

So let’s think back. I first purchased Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood just over a week after it came out, so almost exactly ten years ago today. And…I hated it. The little child version of me couldn’t figure out how to use the touch screen prompts during battle, which meant no POW moves, which meant no chance at beating the first boss. So I gave up, put the game down for…probably six months, though it might’ve been as much as a year, and when I came back to it, I decided to start over from scratch, and pay closer attention to the tutorial. It payed off. I became practically obsessed with the game, playing it with any spare time I had. When my DS’s touch screen broke around the time I was entering Metropolis (mostly due to previous experience with Pokémon Ranger, if you played it you probably understand), I didn’t give up. I discovered that, by unscrewing the DS and temporarily removing the battery, resetting the system would cause the touch screen to function properly again for a few hours at a time. So I kept going like that, taking out the battery over and over again every few hours of play, because I so desperately wanted to finish. And when I finally did, that still wasn’t enough. Using the New Game+ feature, I proceeded to replay the game another four times over. Then I was finally done. For two or three years. Then I went back and beat it another three times (by this time, the touch screen had magically fixed itself, don’t ask me how). And then I was legitimately done. Or so I thought. Just over a year ago, after I was neck-deep in writing for the Chaos Project, the thought occurred to me, “I can write whatever I want. So what can I do with that?” It wasn’t long at all before I realized that Sonic Chronicles, the game I had beaten more times than any other in my life, the game that I had long since given up on hoping for a sequel for, had been sitting on an unfulfilled cliffhanger for nine-ish years. As a writer who strives to expand on unfulfilled plot points in the Sonic franchise, I couldn’t let that stand. Immediately, I began pondering on how I could do that. I quickly rejected the idea of simply telling a sequel story, as that would have far too many difficult canon implications, such as the presence of Shade. But the world they all arrived in at the end of that cliffhanger…looked shockingly similar to the world I was planning on building for war of The Chaos Project. So what if it actually was? What if, by mistake, the crew of the Cyclone ended up in a different world, the world of my story, instead of the one they were intending to reach? I know it’s a stretch, it’s pretty obvious that writers were actually going for their own world transformed due to the difference in the way time passes in the Twilight Cage. They were supposed to be in the future. But why couldn’t I stretch that, just a bit? Thus, this episode was born. Of course, at that point, I had no idea when I would place this episode, and in fact I figured it would be quite a bit later. But I decided to do another playthrough of the game, just so I could plan it better. Out of curiosity, once I was finished, I looked into the original release date, since I had no idea how long it had actually been. Surprise! The game’s 10th anniversary was coming in less than a year! There would be absolutely no more appropriate time to write this episode than on that date. I wasn’t totally convinced that making such an unusual episode would be a good idea so early on in the series. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. And so, when the time came a month ago, I decided to enjoy a celebratory tenth playthrough of the game, partly to make sure that I got a bunch of the more minor details correct. And I wrote. And you’ve read the results. That’s the whole story, beginning to end.

So, why did I love the game so much? Looking back on my most recent playthrough, without the obscuring goggles of nostalgia, I found that…it was enjoyable, but riddled with many, many problems. Why didn’t I notice them before? Well, the reason I got the game in the first place is because I was told it would be like Pokémon, but with Sonic characters. (Pokémon was one of the only RPGs I had been exposed to at the time.) And on that front, it delivered. I think they did an excellent job taking the usual formula for a slow, turn-based RPG, and turning it into something that feels very frantic and fast-paced, very good for a Sonic game, without losing the RPG appeal. Of course, movement in the overworld was very sluggish, but the use of abilities of different characters, including Sonic’s speed, to traverse certain areas of the map, made it feel like it all worked just fine. And of course, there’s the memorable storyline, heartwarming character moments, and all-around well-written dialogue. I’ve seen lots of complaints about Sonic being written like a total out-of-character jerk (which I actually addressed in the episode), but those were only some of the branching dialogue options, and as Sonic, you could choose to be as nice or as jerkish as you want. I didn’t feel that any of the options, taken alone, were too far outside the extremes of Sonic’s natural character. Then again, almost anything will feel more like Sonic’s natural character than his modern Roger Craig Smith writing.

But moving on…this game inspired me in so many ways. I once stated that I fell in love with the Sonic series more for the world and characters than for any one particular game. And I think this game is quite possibly the biggest reason for that. More than any other game in the franchise, Chronicles gets you a look deep into the psyche of almost every character, and really gets you thinking about Sonic’s world as a place with unified lore. Maybe the writing isn’t perfect, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best in the entire Sonic series. Sonic taking up a leadership role, showing a serious dedication to the mission with the occasional lighthearted snark, that precisely describes the way I write my Sonic now, and that’s no coincidence. If it weren’t for this game, Sonic probably wouldn’t be the leader of the Rebellion now. Then again, if it weren’t for this game, I probably wouldn’t be writing at all. A well kept secret that I’ve never told before is that I was actually writing a Sonic story long before I ever joined fanficiton.net. And that story…was Sonic Chronicles 2. It’s on the Sonic Fanon Wiki. No I won’t tell you which one it is, because there are many. And no, I don’t ever intend to finish it (I think I only got to the beginning of Chpater 3 out of an assumed ten). But if I hadn’t already started that when I was younger, I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to start writing The Chaos Project all those years later. And you know, that’s assuming that I’d be a Sonic fan at all anymore. I think it’s pretty hard to be a Sonic fan right now, and if I had one less Sonic game to look back on with intensely fond memories, I might have given up by now. So thank you, Sonic Chronicles, for inspiring me to do something that I love.

So I guess it’s on to the episode itself, though I don’t think there’s a whole lot to say in that area. The idea for this episode ended up being that, in the end, nothing really changes. If the real Sonic Chronicles 2 were somehow to be announced tomorrow, it could begin with them arriving in the ruined future of their world, just as was certainly planned, and this episode still wouldn’t interfere with that. But then, some things did change. Shadow gained a greater respect for Sonic. Shade learned to trust her friends a little more. That’s what this whole episode came down to. Chronicles ended on a ten years’ old cliffhanger. And no, I didn’t build the bridge to the other side. But I laid down the first plank. I explored character arcs and plot points that have been lost for ten long years.

Alright, let’s think about…references. Lots and lots of Chronicles quotes, obviously. The location of Cyber City AKA Genocide City is a reference to a zone that was scrapped from Sonic 2, supposedly turned into the third act of Metropolis. Genocide City was the beta name programmed into the game, but that was apparently a mistake made by designers who wanted something that sounded cool and edgy, but didn’t have a total understanding of English, and chose something that would be a bit too violent for the little ones. It was supposedly going to be renamed into Cyber City, but was instead scrapped entirely. And of course, the fact that it’s Metropolis, but also not Metropolis, was intentionally done for the Chronicles reference. And it helps that this whole season is taking place on the island setting of Sonic 2. And…so as to not stay here for hours, I think I’ll leave it at that for now. I’m still hard at work on the next Chaos Project episode, but in the meantime, I’ll finally be able to update Shadow of Time again! Be on the lookout!

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

Review: Season 1, Episode 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Season 1, Episode 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Review: Season 1, Episode 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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