Part 5: Apogee of Darkness

Don’t think that a five month break means that I forgot! The next part of Shadow of Time has finally arrived! Read it right here!”

“This is what I was born to do,” Shadow stated calmly, letting go of his final haunt. On the Black Comet, the paths of Light and Darkness finally cross. And when the Darkness reaches its apogee, the Ritual of Prosperity can finally begin.

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Preview: Shadow of Time, Part 5

The next episode of The Chaos Project isn’t quite ready yet, so we’ll be taking a brief detour for the return of Shadow of Time! Here’s a preview!

Amidst the alien world that is the interior of the Black Comet, Shadow steps forward slowly, wielding easily in one hand a long gatling gun, several times his own size. Before him waits a massive squadron of GUN Trooper robots, headed by three mass-produced Big Foot models, all with weapons directed at Shadow.

Doom’s Eye comments from behind, “So, the humans have decided to play their hand, have they? Go! Show them your true power, Shadow!”

“Hmph.” Shadow pulls down on the trigger, letting loose a continuous stream of destruction from the powerful weapon in his hand, which shreds through every last robot in the path Shadow directs it along, until there’s nothing left but smoke and a few scraps of metal. Shadow tosses the emptied weapon aside, and it clatters across the ground as he goes to pick up a new one from the rubble.

“Yes…show them how powerless they truly are!”

Another voice interjects, “Powerless? You hear that, Commander? The jellyfish with an eyeball just called us powerless!”

Shadow doesn’t turn to the source of the voice. “Sonic.”

Sonic stands with his arms crossed in front of a giant red mech. The mech floats with no legs, but has two massive, powerful looking arms, and a single large eye-like structure on the front of its head. Small white print on each of the mech’s arms reads “U78-X/D Diablon”. Holding the purple Chaos Emerald in one hand, Sonic points accusingly with his other at Doom’s Eye. “Why don’t you come out of hiding and meet us face-to-face, Boss Man? We’ll show you just how ‘powerless’ we are.”

Shadow turns angrily at Sonic. “I thought I told you to stay out of my way!”

“Yeah. And I told you to stay away from that thing.” Sonic again points at Doom’s Eye. “I guess neither of us is very good at taking orders. Which makes me wonder why you’re taking orders from a jellyfish!”

Shadow closes his eyes and clenches a fist. “You wouldn’t understand.”

“Is that what you told Tails before you attacked him? Or Knuckles, before you blasted him into a building? Or what you would’ve told Rouge, before you obliterated the military base!?” Shadow growls, and clenches even harder. “Shadow, I want to understand. I want to help you! But you have to talk to me!”

The Commander barks at Sonic, “Don’t you get it!? That monster doesn’t want to be helped! He’s chosen his side! And he’s ready to destroy us all!”

“Shadow…why are you siding with those black creatures?”

“It’s because…it’s what I have to do.”

“You don’t have to do anything, Shadow! You have your own free will! You don’t have to live for anyone else! You can help people, you can do whatever you think is right! I thought you already learned that!”

“You’re wrong! These humans don’t deserve help! They don’t value life, I’ve seen it with my own eyes! I’ve relived it over and over again! Even the innocent don’t understand! This is what I was born to do, Sonic. I can bring order to this planet.” Shadow closes his eyes again. “Just hand over the Emerald, Sonic. You don’t have to be a part of this.”

Sonic shakes his head. “I can’t let you go, Shadow. Not like this.”

“I don’t want it to come to this, Sonic. But if you try to stop me…I’ll destroy you, too.”

“If that’s how it’s gonna be, Shadow…” Sonic raises his fists “…then bring it on!”

Doom’s Eye commands, “Enough fooling around! Shadow, finish them!”

The Diablon bangs its metal fists together, and some sort of yellow ray shield raises around the mech. “This is for my family, and for Maria! I’ll settle this once and for all!”

Untitled

After all that’s happened, the paths of Sonic and Shadow must finally collide. And only one can come out on top.

Review: Season 0, Episode 31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S0 E31: Don’t Believe

One of the most exciting episodes of The Chaos Project yet has finally arrived! Read it right here!

What you call reality, may just be a fantasy. Faced with enemies virtual and real alike, can the Resistance beat Blacklight’s virtual insanity? You must trust your heart, not what you see.

Preview: Season 0, Episode 31

Strange things are happening as the war goes on. Some may question their belief in reality itself.

Hero the Wolf struggles to open his eyes, slowly regaining consciousness. Clutching at his head, he rises back to his feet with a loud grunt.

Shadow’s voice comes in over the communicator. “Hero! Hero, what’s going on?”

Hero looks around in confusion. He stands on the crest of a small hill, in broad daylight. One side of the hill leads off into wide grassy plains, while the opposite side gives way to dirt and rock. A small town lies off not far in the distance.

“What are you doing out there? You need to get back to base.”

Hero looks down at the Burst Wispon in his hand. He taps the side of it a couple times. Nothing happens. He seems to be completely alone.

“Get moving. You’re wasting time.”

Seeming unsettled, Hero slowly begins to step down the grassy side of the hill. Something in front of him begins to move. A cluster of shadowy figures begin to rise out of the ground. Blacklight’s minion creatures. Dark clouds are quickly forming in the sky. Pointing his weapon at them, Hero backs off slowly, preparing to run the other way. But more creatures rise behind him as well. He’s soon completely surrounded. The creatures begin to lurch towards him from all sides. Hero lets loose a stream of fire at each one as it draws close, but can’t handle them all quickly enough, as they continue to draw in closer as a group. The first few drops of rain begin to fall.

Changing tactics, Hero concentrates his fire in a single direction, then charges through as quickly as he can, carving a line through the solid mass of creatures. The creatures close in behind him, reaching and clawing after him. The drizzle has become a downpour. As he makes it through the last row of creatures, one of them manages to claw right at his shoulder. He cries out in pain from the wound, but keeps on running, quickly leaving the creatures behind.

His feet splash through a deepening puddle, already reaching up to his ankles. But it isn’t a puddle. All around him, as far as the eye can see, the water level has risen up to the same constant height, and still continues to rise from the pouring rain. He looks over his shoulder and gasps, seeing a massive tidal wave approaching. Panting now, he runs from the torrent of water as fast as he can move, but it’s no use, as the wave soon crashes over him, sending him flailing through the water.

What is this strange place that Hero has awoken to? Find out, in the next episode of The Chaos Project!

Review: Season 0, Episode 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S0 E30: This Reality

New episode, right here!

As Shadow’s team continues to grow, things finally seem to be looking up. With the support of GUN, the new Resistance finally has a chance to turn the war around. But nothing is infinite. When things go wrong, there will be nowhere to run.

Opinionated Review: Sonic Forces

Yeah, I’ve been holding out on this for a while, even though it’s the whole reason I started these reviews in the first place. This game…was something. And I’m honestly not going to be sure what something means until I’ve finished writing here. When I first finished the game, I was unsure of what to think, and while my opinions have solidified a little more since then, I was hoping to have a better idea by now. So here we go—even I don’t know where.

Continue reading

Preview: Season 0, Episode 30

Central City is under attack, by a familiar yet unknown foe. But why does he seem so intent on destroying Knuckles?

Heavy King swings his scepter outwards, as the Phantom Ruby prototype at its top emits a violet ray of light that arcs across the floor beneath Knuckles’ feet.

Knuckles dives back just in time, as the ground the light contacted erupts in flames a moment later, creating a wall around Heavy King’s pedestal. Knuckles dives back at Heavy King, boosted in his glide by the draft from the flames. Heavy King pounds his scepter into the ground, and becomes surrounded by a crimson barrier of electrified energy, while his Ruby glows intensely. Knuckles is deflected off with a loud grunt. Not relenting, Heavy King holds his scepter high in the air, generating a circle of electrified energy spheres that orbit around the Ruby. One by one, the spheres fire at Knuckles. Knuckles dodges back and forth to avoid the onslaught, but one sphere finally strikes him, knocking him to the ground.

Heavy King finally moves from his place, leaping up to crash back down beside Knuckles’ fallen form. “Tell me…do you still guard the Master Emerald in this dimension? It’s no substitute for the Phantom Ruby, but it would still make an excellent prize.”

Knuckles glares up to Heavy King with hatred, growling in anger, but clearly too weakened to move.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Heavy King raises his scepter up high. “So will I have to pry it from your lifeless body? Or did you leave it undefended on the floating island? Perhaps that’s where I’ll conquer next.” Heavy King finally swings the staff downwards. But the attack is parried halfway down by a curved ruby blade. “What’s this!?”

Infinite stands above Knuckles, blade locked against Heavy King’s scepter, eyes locked on the object at its tip. “A prototype… You have a prototype… Give it to me!”  Infinite starts to swing his blade ferociously, attacking the Heavy King from every angle.

Can the new Resistance defeat the powerful Heavy King? Will Infinite finally obtain his Phantom Ruby prototype? Find out, on the next episode of The Chaos Project, coming next Saturday!