Sonic Mania is now 1 week old. Yeah that’s right. Sonic Mania. Last I really spoke on this topic, I did nothing but whine and complain that “indie” developers are biased against Nintendo, and wouldn’t make a game for the Switch as a result. I still don’t have a very high opinion of indies, but since that time, they not only announced that it would come Switch, not only that the Collector’s Edition would come to Switch, but I, being the Sonic nerd that I am, couldn’t resist buying said Collector’s Edition (it’s pretty nice, but I’m a little disappointed in the statue. Its chin is totally flat, it barely looks like the picture at all! And then, why wouldn’t they let you put the fake Mania cartridge into the fake Genesis? Seriously. Such a wasted opportunity. I also wish it came with a soundtrack, but now I’m just rambling). So, I’ve got it, I’ve played it, and I’m prepared to make a full, detailed review, from a perspective that you shouldn’t expect to find anywhere else on the internet. I am one of an insanely small handful of people, probably in the world, who can appreciate the classic games, not hate on them just for being old, while also not being completely and utterly blinded by nostalgia. Be warned if you haven’t played the game, as the following review contains immense spoilers. It is also very long, so click the “Read More” tag to show the content.
When I posted the episode 24 hours ago, I apparently forgot about this part of the process. Anyways, you can finally read the newest episode of the Chaos Project right here.
Sonic isn’t the same irresponsible person he used to be. He’s determined to solve any problem that he’s caused. But with a powerful creature on the loose, that may be a harder task than it sounds. Who is the Moonstone hedgehog?
Be prepared to ask yourself: “Is that really how it happened?” To celebrate the release of Sonic Mania, I’ve published a new page on the website; the Sonic the Hedgehog Timeline. This page attempts to set straight the many events, historical and modern alike, that have occurred in the Sonic Universe, including events from The Chaos Project. This timeline is not official, nor canon, but explains the timescale as it is used in the story. It was constructed using a combination of specific dates mentioned in-game, extrapolation of approximate time between games, and plenty of wild guesses.
With one week remaining until my promised time of next publishing, it’s finally time for the usual preview. Also exciting this week is the release of Sonic Mania! (Dang, another distraction to stop me from meeting the deadline.) This episode is unrelated though. I promise. Though, that doesn’t mean there won’t be references in the future…
Anyways, here it is.
Eggman crouches over the hunk of meteorite at the center of the crater. “You’re certain this was the source of the readings? It’s just an old rock!”
Orbot answers from next to the parked Eggmobile, “Yes, sir. There was a large spike in Chaos energy readings at this location when the meteorite struck the earth.” He and Cubot both join Eggman at the crater.
“Then why is there nothing here?”
Cubot picks up the rock. “Maybe it’s just hidden underneath!”
Orbot tries to take it away. “Put that down, you might damage it!”
“Give it back, I saw it first!”
“Actually, the Doctor saw it first!” The two continue to struggle back and forth, until the rock breaks in two, causing them both to drop the pieces.
Cubot looks up to Eggman, and points to his companion. “Orbot did it.”
Eggman is too distracted examining the newly exposed sides of the meteor. One of them holds a glowing drop of light. “What’s this…?” He reaches out for it. Suddenly, the drop leaps from the rock to Eggman’s hand. “Argh! What is this thing!? Get it off me!”
“Oh no, the Doctor’s under attack!”
“What do we do!?”
Orbot and Cubot run around in senseless panic as Eggman tries to flick the substance off. After a few tries, he is successful, and the light splatters back onto the ground. Almost instantly, it starts to bubble and increase rapidly in size. It quickly takes on a large humanoid shape, somewhat similar to Eggman himself. But then it starts to thin out into more normal human proportions.
Eggman takes a step back to look at the back of the new person standing in front of him. He wears clothing similar to Eggman’s, though colored only yellow, white, and gold. Eggman questions, “And just who are you supposed to be?”
The person turns to face Eggman. He has no mustache, but a full head of blond hair. Despite bearing a vague resemblance to Eggman, he might be described as handsome. He speaks, “Your heart is disgusting.”
“Unfortunately, I have need of this…unsightly form.”
“I’ll have you know, I am Doctor Eggman, world-renowned scientist, and you–”
“I suggest you enjoy your final days in this world, villain. Your kind will soon be obsolete. Now, I really must be on my way. It’s vital that I locate the Controller.”
Who is this strange, handsome, blond-haired man? What does he have to do with the living murals that attacked Sonic? And what ever happened to the strange Moonstone-turned-hedgehog? Find out this and more, as the Dawn of Chaos arc continues.
Keep in mind, this is the review for the first episode of the Dawn of Chaos arc, published (oh dear Lords of Chaos help me) 43 days ago. Let’s make a deal. I’m going to publish the next episode within the next two weeks, no matter how little I get done in that time. You have to hold me to that! Writing this arc is just as troublesome as it was last time we touched bases, but hopefully this will encourage me to finish something by that time. Anyways…
Chaos has dawned. I’ve been noticing a trend that involves me focusing on a new component of writing with the first episode of each new arc. While I wasn’t planning anything this time around, I ended up emphasizing pretty heavily the friendly banter that goes on between the characters, which I’m pretty happy with. I suppose this is probably the most “normal” of all the Sonic game ideas I’m using, as if you could use the word to describe a Sonic game. Everything else I do tends to be more on the mold-breaking side, focusing on unusual characters and topics. But this time around, it’s about Sonic and his closest friends, involved in a relatively normal adventure, giving me more time and motivation to focus on those pre-existing relationships. I didn’t mean for the opening scene to be reminiscent of the first scene of Lost World (technically the general idea was planned for before Lost World even came out), but there are definitely some clear similarities, and I suppose that emphasizes the whole “normal” thing. Of course, I think I did it better. I suppose I can also mention about writing style that I was trying to invoke the idea of a horror film when describing the movements of the mysterious blob of light.
This is probably the most reference-filled episode I’ve ever made, embracing about 17 years of history. Hopefully the references to Sonic 3 &/or Knuckles were obvious, between the Hidden Palace Zone and Sonic’s references to the day he and Knuckles met. There was also talk about Sonic’s previous Birthday party, a reference to the events of Sonic Generations. There was Sonic Adventure 2 with the references to fake Chaos Emeralds, as well as Sonic’s mention of when Knuckles popped out of a sewer. Sonic Adventure with the chant of the Master Emerald and references to Perfect Chaos (the dragon destined to destroy the world). But I’ve passed over an important point here. Sonic’s Birthday! Happy Birthday, Sonic! Now, Sonic has technically never been given an official, canon birth date before. However, it is generally accepted that his Birthday is on June 23rd, the day the original Sonic the Hedgehog 1 came out. This is the first of many characters who will be receiving birth dates in the story. Anyways, making this episode take place on Sonic’s Birthday was completely unplanned. I came in knowing that it would be during summer, and that’s about it. I was throwing around a few random dates, and one of them just happened to be June 23rd, before I realized what that meant. I was going to throw it out, but then I started thinking about the fact that my current publishing schedule would put me pretty close to that exact date. I looked at a calendar, and realized that it would theoretically be exactly one day after. I decided it was too perfect to ignore, so I adapted what I had into a makeshift anniversary episode. Not just an anniversary of Sonic, but an anniversary of the Chaos Project as well. I published the very first episode exactly one year before I published this one, on the day of Sonic’s 25th celebration last year (the buzzing still haunts my dreams). Which makes this the Birthday not just of Sonic the Hedgehog, but also Chaos the Hedgehog, both in-universe and out. That actually has some pretty interesting story implications for the future…
Coming back to the original point I was trying to make, this episode contains the first major references I’ve made to the entire Classic era, not counting a few vague references to CD. As I said, my goal in this story is to embrace all of Sonic’s mainstream video game history, and that includes the classic games. I’ve seen theories before relating to the meaning of the Hidden Palace mural, but it’s always been a supporting part of my Controller idea/theory, and I’m glad to finally show that in the story. Knuckles’ explanation that the Controller is usually interpreted as referring to the Master Emerald is actually something I realized had to be said while doing some research into Tikal for her appearance in the last arc. Apparently, I had forgotten that she had specifically figured out the Master Emerald was the Controller named in the chant. When Sonic said that didn’t make any sense in this episode, that might as well have been me talking, as I agree that it doesn’t make much sense. I’ve certainly never seen the Master Emerald “unify” Chaos before. Anyways, bringing the canon of the old games into the new games felt like good way to celebrate Sonic’s history for his anniversary.
This is a scene I had planned since pretty much the very first conceptualization of the Birth of Blacklight arc. I’ve mentioned before that part of the idea with this arc was to fill in the empty space between when Shadow was launched from the arc and when he was found on Prison Island. This scene was supposed to be a big part of that. In the story I’ve directly told, there was no clear explanation of how Shadow’s pod ended up in the hands of GUN, only an inference made in Alfred’s final note to Shadow. Writing that note was actually a little awkward, because I originally planned it to be built off of this scene. The reason I didn’t end up placing this scene in the original story is because, as I was getting up to the point where it would have been in the story, I decided that I needed to have a moment where Alfred realizes his mistakes before the alleged final battle, so that he could be there to help before real final battle started. So, I wrote the second major scene of that episode, where Alfred tries to tackle Shadow before being told that Blacklight holds Maria captive. theoretically, this deleted scene would have come chronologically right after that. But, if you pay close attention, you’ll notice that this scene has a lot of similar themes and ideas as that one, so it would have been almost like showing the same scene twice in a row, distracting from the battle at hand. So, I deleted it. But, after it was all said and done, I realized, as I wrote in the episode review, that the overarching theme of humanity betraying Shadow got a little bit lost. This scene was supposed to be the beginning of a resolution to that theme, but I deleted it! So, I decided to write the scene anyways, and post it here as bonus content for you. Enjoy!
March 21st, 42 B.E.
Somewhere East of Research Facility EDEN
Approximate Placement: Season 0, Episode 18
“Hold it right there!” Shadow stops as he hears the unmistakable shout of a soldier, and the clatter of a raising gun. Slowly, he turns to look at the soldier. “I-I said freeze! Don’t move! I know what you are!”
Shadow freezes again as he hears the words and lays eyes on the soldier. His uniform closely resembles that of the GUN soldiers once seen aboard the ARK, with a lighter brown coloring. A few locks of silver hair hang out from his helmet, covering parts of his otherwise boyish face, revealing him to be no older than 18. Most surprisingly, his right eye is a dark maroon-red, while his left is a bright cyan-green. He points a rifle directly at Shadow. Shadow answers slowly, “I know who you are as well, Commander…” Shadow looks more closely at the few decorations that the soldier wears, which he is clearly able to read. “…or should I say, Lieutenant?”
The soon-to-be Commander, now Lieutenant, doesn’t seem to hear or care about what Shadow says. “When I heard the call, I knew it had to be you! I knew you would have to turn up eventually!” Shadow tries to take a slow step towards him, but he jabs the rifle forwards to keep him back. An odd rattling sound can be heard. “You’re Project: Shadow. You’re the one who killed everyone on the ARK! You’re the one who killed Maria! But I survived! And I’ve been preparing for this moment for ten years!” The rattling grows louder.
Shadow stares at the rifle emitting the sound, held in the Lieutenant’s trembling hands. Shadow shakes his head. “I don’t have time for this.” He starts rapidly marching towards the soldier.
The Lieutenant jabs the weapon forwards again. “Stay back, o-or I’ll shoot!”
Shadow doesn’t relent. “One day, a long time from now, you will get the guts to pull that trigger. But not today.” Shadow grabs the muzzle of the gun, rips it from the soldier’s hands, and flings it aside. The Lieutenant starts to step back in fear, now trembling all over. Shadow keeps pace with him. “Blacklight was right. Humans have a hard time dealing with things they don’t understand in any way other than violence. They have a hard time learning. But you will learn. And so will they, no matter how long it takes.” He stops walking. “Don’t worry. You will see me again.” He turns and starts to walk away, as the Lieutenant drops to his hands and knees.
Even overcome by fear, staring at the floor, the soldier shouts, “Come back here, Shadow! I’m not finished with you yet!”
Shadow stops one last time. “I didn’t kill Maria. I couldn’t save her, maybe that was my fault. But I didn’t kill her.” He thinks for another moment. “You’ll find me unconscious in a stasis pod, in the basement of a research facility not far from here. It’s password protected, so you won’t be able to open it. Make sure you’re the one who finds it, or you won’t be let in on the secret, no matter how high in the ranks you go.” With that business settled, Shadow continues with his exit, off towards the place where Blacklight waits with Maria, prepared for their final confrontation.
I hope what I said up there makes a little more sense now. The same essential idea of Shadow confronting someone who doesn’t like him, but leaving for lack of time, trying to convince them of their error as he goes exists in both scene. The other scene was more important for immediate plot resolution, but this one was important for resolution of the overarching themes of the story. It’s this encounter that puts the idea in Shadow’s head that humans, even if slow to learn, can learn, which is what convinces him in the end that Blacklight is wrong.
In other news, I would like to apologize for the lack of activity recently. I simply haven’t had as much time to type as I would have wanted, and the Dawn of Chaos arc is giving me a lot of trouble on top of that. Over the next few weeks, look out for a new page on the site, as well as the review for the first epsiode of Dawn of Chaos, the anniversary special. (Wow, it’s been over a month since I published that.) Hopefully, it shouldn’t be long after that that the next episode is published.
-Until then, remember to live and learn every day!
Another new reveal!
Certainly an enigmatic introduction. First of all, I’ve been hearing this character called “Infinite” since day one of his reveal, even though I have no idea where that name could have come from. Well, however it was known, it is correct. His voice sounds vaguely familiar, but I can’t put my finger on it. One of the first things I noticed was the quality of the game-rendered cutscene, this being the first we’ve seen from this game. I think it kind of hit that uncanny curve for me. It looked good enough that the flaws that existed were really strongly emphasized in my perception, so the whole thing came out looking a little weird. And the colors all looked a little bright considering the darker tone of the scene, but it would make sense that I would think that having just recently spent a lot of time playing and watching Shadow the Hedgehog. On the positive side, the usage of black-and-white certainly suggests flashbacks, which can be a very strong indicator of a good story. I have nothing more than trivial complaints, but those are far outweighed by the actual story! The initial reveal of this character made him seem more like a force of nature than a character, but this scene starts to suggest otherwise. And speaking of character, he has a character theme.
What the scene suggests, this song shouts at your face. And I love it. It is no longer a question of if, but how deep they are willing to go with his story. “I was born with this pain, it only hurts if you let it.” Sounds like the answer is “pretty deep.” I also note the implication of an eventual, final, one-on-one confrontation between Infinite and his enemy, presumably Sonic. “Who is gonna save you now?” Does this mean that Sonic’s friends will meet with a terrible fate? Or perhaps that he can’t really trust them? Could the Hero character actually be a traitor? Or in a surprise twist, could Infinite actually be talking to Hero, not Sonic? And that’s just the lyrics.
The song itself is…wow. Fist Bump disappointed a bit, but this absolutely did not. The initial tune is catchy in and of itself, but the moment when the guitar starts was just so exciting for me. The directness of lines, like with Fist Bump, was a little jarring, but in this case I feel it was executed a lot better, in addition to being more worth it for telling the story of the character. I suppose even Eggman’s theme from Adventure 2 didn’t execute the direct, first person song quite as well. Speaking of which, I have no way of knowing for certain, but I feel like I can hear Jun Senoue’s contribution to this composition, as it reminds me quite a lot of his work in Shadow the Hedgehog. Now I might be a little blinded by all the excitement right now, but, balancing that with nostalgia from long ago, I can confidently put this in my top five favorite Sonic songs of all time. And that’s all I can say for now.
-So until next time, remember what it takes to be Infinite.
I meant to post this last week, but I guess it just slipped my mind. Oh well, I guess that means more weeks worth of filler content while we wait for Forces. Keep in mind, this for the finale of the Birth of Blacklight arc, not the premiere of the Dawn of Chaos arc that was published 5 days later.
Since this was supposed to be a part of the last episode, I have a lot less to say. The first thing that comes to mind is how I wanted Shadow’s temporal displacement to be resolved. The way I saw, from the moment I had parallel-Sonic mention the one-way nature of the time machine, I had three options. The first was, as actually happened, to come up with some new convoluted means of time-travel. The second was also quite an enticing option, which was still referenced in the end. I considered having Shadow be put back in a stasis pod alongside Blacklight, spend another 40 years unconscious, to be awoken only when Blacklight is awoken as well. I was very much intrigued by the thought of having the two end with the same fate, and having Shadow dedicate himself solely to the task of protecting the world from his doppelganger. It would also be a nice, convenient way to exclude Shadow from the next story arc, not being reawoken until the following one. Making that choice would have required me to remove Maria from the equation, however, as she would have no means of returning home, and I think that would have taken away too much from the rest of the story to be worth it. There would have been a couple other minor problems as well.
The third option is actually what I was originally planning on doing. That would be to introduce a new Chaos-wielding character who could use Chaos Control to open another rift with Shadow. I had already conceptualized this character’s basic characteristics, personality, abilities, and even the dynamic he would have with Shadow. But then I started planning more specifically for Shadow’s first few interactions with Blacklight, and there ended being no good place to introduce an extra character before they had made their first time jump together, cutting out half of my chances. I suppose I could have altered his story to make him come from another time period instead, but I feel that would have ruined too much of what I had planned for him. And besides, by that point, I had decided that introducing another character that late in would seem silly, and take too much focus off of Shadow and Blacklight. This guy would be a “minor” character, he wouldn’t even get a sprite for this website. Anything I could do with him from that point would seem like a silly contrivance, like he’s only there because he has to be. Anyways, this guy hasn’t been forgotten about just yet, as he’ll certainly get a proper introduction later in the series. But even now, remnants of his existence can still be found. Gerald’s story in Shadow’s dream/flashback referred to this very character.
Speaking of that sequence, it was a reference to more than just the past and the future of this series. Some readers may recall from Cast by the Light, my Sonic Adventure 2 novelization, that I added a look into Shadow’s thoughts immediately after his final loss to Sonic aboard the ARK. His thought: “what is it about him…that allows him to fight me…to fight like me? Could it be…what the Professor told me about?” What the Professor told Shadow about was this very story, the story of the Controller.
I tried to make it as obvious as possible, but I should confirm that the realm in which Shadow and Blacklight faced each other for the final time is the very same place seen in a vision by all three hedgehogs in the premiere of Crisis of Chaos. This wasn’t something I was originally planning, and so I had to do a little bit of working around the fact that Shadow didn’t behave as if he had already been there when he saw it in that premiere. His specific statement was explained by Blacklight’s line in this episode, “Heck if I know.” Shadow doesn’t necessarily not recognize the realm, but, with his newfound learnings under Chaos, he is realizing for the first time what the energies are that he asked Blacklight about in this episode.
Lastly, I want to mention the meaning of the password, “MARIA.” As you may recall from Sonic Adventure 2 and/or Cast by the Light, that was the very same password which Eggman had to use to wake up Shadow from his pod. It never made sense to me that this was the case. If the military found Shadow and sealed him in a stasis pod, why did they seal it with a password that means nothing to them? Now, I’ve seen a few possible explanations, but none of them quite make perfect sense. When I first scheduled this arc to be written, all I knew is that it would be the introduction to Blacklight. I already had the framework of his backstory in mind, that Gerald’s son created him in an attempt to perfect the Ultimate Life Form after its initial failure. In building upon that backstory into this story arc, my central idea was to use this opportunity to fill in the blanks between Maria launching Shadow’s escape pod, and the military having Shadow safely sealed away. In light of everything else that happened during this arc, that original, core idea almost got lost. But in the end, I wanted to make sure that the original password problem wasn’t forgotten. The final explanation: Alfred found Shadow’s escape pod, and transferred him to a stasis pod sealed by a password of his own daughter’s name. The military obtained this pod, but never managed to change the password. There’s an interesting little note about how the military found Shadow’s pod, but I’m going to have to ask you to stay tuned for that answer.
-So, until next time, remember to live and learn every day!
(Ugh, I can’t believe I just said that.) *clears throat* What I meant to say was, because Sonic game music matters so much to me, I’ve decided to do an entire opinion piece on the Sonic Forces announcement made today. Take a look.
Since I already brought it up, let’s talk about that title first. I guess I can see what they’re going for? They want it to sound cool, and hip, and teen-like, right? Because I have some news for them. Fist bumps aren’t cool. The line which the song title appears in, “One more last fist bump” made me cringe just as much as seeing the title for the first time did, mostly because a solid 70% of the song otherwise sounded pretty good. To move along with the negatives, the first two lines, “I can’t do this alone / Even though I am strong” made me cringe almost as much as the previously mentioned line. As someone with experience writing lines to represent Sonic, having Sonic praise himself in such a context, even when asking for help, appears pitiful and out of character to me. Of course, it’s not too far off from what we’ve been seeing in the past few Sonic games with Roger Craig Smith, but everything we know about the game so far has been leading me to believe that the writers might actually be giving him back his less obnoxious, more serious character seen in games like Sonic Unleashed. Now, what these two negative factors do heavily remind me of is Sonic’s character in the Sonic Boom series, a caricature of the already less-than-desirable modern personality. Then again, I don’t think that character would even be humble enough to admit the need for help, even if praising himself while doing so. I hope I’m on the side of the majority here who wouldn’t want to see the Boom personality in a real game, right?
Now for the stuff I’m not really sure what to think about. As I mentioned before, I like about 70% of lyrics, but the first and last lines are so bad that I don’t know if I can call them good lyrics as a whole. All the stuff about working together and sharing a belief, it fits perfectly for a Sonic song. Nothing particularly special about it, but fitting. I could say the same about the singer. Apparently, the singer, Douglass Robb, sings for a relatively popular band called “Hoobastank.” That news surprised me, because I honestly felt that the singing skill sounded a bit on the amateurish side. I’ll also take this moment to say that this Douglass Robb person sounds close enough to Crush 40 that they should have just gone with Crush 40. I mean, seriously, Jun Senoue is still on the music team for this game, that’s half the band already. Even if the lyrics themselves would still have taken some getting used to (I can say that about plenty of other Crush 40 songs), Crush 40 would have left me with no qualms about the quality of the singing, and could have easily hit the nostalgia cord for myself and hundreds of thousands of Sonic fans like me. Anyways, the sum total of this song sounds…kind of like a fan dub of the instrumentals to me. And I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way, fan dubs can have some pretty high quality when they try hard enough. And this felt like one of those high-quality fan projects to me, good and thorough, but lacking a certain professional touch. Sort of like good fanfiction, but in song form.
Even though it’s just a song, and songs have had some weird and false implications for Sonic games in the past, I feel the need to analyze the lyrics. Over and over again, it refers to two individuals. Not three. Two. So who’s getting left out? Does this mean that Sonic doesn’t interact much with the Hero character, meaning that this Hero has his own separate story? Or does Sonic not count Classic Sonic because they’re essentially the same person? I’d say either is possible. Either way, I still love the music, and I’m still excited for the Solaris Phase 2/Perfect Dark Gaia style final boss remix.
-So, until next time…one more last fist bump?
(I still don’t get it.)
To celebrate the anniversary both of Sonic and of the Chaos Project, I’ve released this birthday special a few weeks early! Read it here!
“Everything is wrong.” It seems that Shadow’s meddling in the timeline may have disastrous consequences. But with Shadow nowhere to be seen, it’s up to Sonic and his oldest friends to find out what’s really going on.