Review: Season 0, Episode 18

Alright, so, if this were the real game, the initial story would have ended about 20 seconds earlier, with Blacklight taking Shadow’s hand. Yay, a happy ending, right? Unfortunately, completing the initial story after all seven Emeralds are accounted for would unlock final mode, which begins with Blacklight’s coughing deception. Because, despite my best efforts to entice readers to take his side, we already know where his future leads. But, interestingly enough, I had no intentions of stopping the episode here. From the beginning, I planned on this being the final episode of the arc. Then I finished this “final episode,” and realized that I had written well over ten thousand words. Four thousand tends to be my lower limit. It was one thing, having 8000 word episodes for the past two finales, which could barely make two full episodes if split into two. There was no good splitting point near the middle for Black Cloak, and splitting Speed of Time would have made for a finale episode of almost entirely plot resolution with almost no action. But this time around, I had no such excuses. As much as I want to keep the episode count for this season down as much as possible, it would be silly of me to ask of my readers to sit through such an incredibly long episode. It just so happened to work out that this end point of the initial story and transition to final mode happened just before the middle of those 10,000 words.

Now that’s the end of the episode, let’s go back to the beginning. It’s actually been a long time since I started writing it because of the whole double length problem, but I’ll see what I can remember. Starting with the very first lines, there seems to be something odd going on with Professor Gerald, as if he had not only met Blacklight, but watched him die. We’ve already seen Blacklight’s death during Crisis of Chaos, so obviously that’s not true. Perhaps he’s mistaken Blacklight for someone else? The answer…not for quite some time to come. As for Maria…the idea to have her kidnapped didn’t come to me until I started to think about what to write for Blacklight’s connection about the Robotnik family. I realized that I’d made a plan for the goodbye scene between Shadow and Maria which no longer had any convenient place to be included if I wanted to use the goodbye scene with Gerald as well. I also realized that there were so many plot points throughout this arc which could be resolved far better by keeping Maria in the fold for a while longer. The results turned out quite wonderfully. And…I don’t have much to say, other than that. I suppose this episode was pretty…standard.

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 14

So to start with, I decided to go with a highly unusual writing style for this episode, having a story be told “vocally” as the same story can be seen progressing. I’m not going to lie, it was probably more effort than it was worth. It was incredibly difficult to find the right balance of the story to the scene, and I know that I ended up with far too much emphasis on the story. The way I had it, it would have a theoretical watcher looking at one character doing nothing for a long period of time while the story is being told, perhaps minutes on end. And where I had an important scene playing out at the same time as the story, I had to make sure that the scene would be described at the appropriate moment in the story, without interrupting the story’s flow too much. Most importantly, the way I have this episode would NEVER work out if this were a real game, seeing as this would potentially make for a 20+ minute opening scene with absolutely no gameplay. And it’s not even done yet. If this were to somehow be converted into a game, the first bit of help would be splitting the thing into part before the title screen, and part after you create your save file. Then, most of the story would probably be cut out to keep the thing as brief as possible, perhaps with the full version available to be read in the instruction manual or something. But there was something else, perhaps less noticeable, that I attempted with this episode. In the past, I’ve put a lot of emphasis on what’s being done and what’s being said. For the Black Cloak arc, I tried to shift over a little bit and put a heavier emphasis on the setting instead. And while that wasn’t ignored this time around, I tried out a new style of emphasis, this time on the more abstract thoughts and feelings of the characters, things that they wouldn’t be thinking about in words. I’d say I was inspired to do this by writing the epilogue section of Cast by the Light, the part from Sonic Heroes. What I realized while writing that was, despite all I’ve complained about its lack story-progressing cutscenes, that the cutscenes it had were detailed in the extreme. All the characters on screen at any given time show so much individualized facial expression and body language that its almost as if you can read their minds, even when they don’t say a word. When I was writing that epilogue, I had a hard time fitting the description of that detail in right in the middle of a long piece of dialogue. I tried to emulate that a little bit with this episode (and hopefully the rest of this arc), describing the feelings and emotions which you would theoretically be able to read on the characters faces, were you able to see them.

Now the interesting thing about writing this episode is that it required me to introduce a character who…we technically already know. And it made it all the stranger that we already know how he’ll be renamed in the future. But I was able to use that to my advantage a little bit, by giving Sunlight/Blacklight an odd sort of obsession over names. It already helps to show his madness, but it’s even more meaningful under consideration of the future. Anyways, it was definitely enjoyable to write for my favorite of my OCs again. But I did go for something a little different this time. Back in Crisis of Chaos, I essentially tried to make Blacklight seem criminally insane. But, in part by inspiration from one of my readers (if you’re out there, thanks Eba-Chan), I tried to make Sunlight seem crazy in a more childish, sort of endearing way. For one thing I wanted to justify Alfred’s conclusion that Sunlight was only a child and didn’t know what he was doing. But, more importantly, I wanted to put into question how much of a villain he could really be, and make it a truly emotional event when he inevitably becomes completely evil. The goal was to make you, as readers, want to root for Sunlight to be saved by Shadow and become good, even if you know that it isn’t possible.

Oh, and that reminds me. Lt. Alfred is named after the geneticist Alfred Day Hershey, known for proving that DNA contained the genetic code of life, rather than simple proteins. Not quite as well-known of a name as Gregor Mendel, the namesake of Dr. Gregor Robotnik, but I believe that the name fits quite well. As for the whole Lieutenant part…I suppose I was just trying to make fun of Dr. Eggman and Prof. Gerald by having another abbreviated title in the family. But, just to be clear, it is absolutely true that doctors in the real-life military do typically hold the title of Lieutenant. So I used that fact to make my joke seem more story-important. And that’s all for now.

– Until next time, remember to live and learn every day!

Review: Season 0, Episode 13

Well…I lost count after two months spent writing this episode, though I’m pretty sure it came close to three. Between the Holiday Season (Thanksgiving as well as winter) and a general increased work load that I had to deal with, I practically wrote this entire episode one paragraph at a time. Hopefully that didn’t mess up the flow too badly. This also marks the lengthiest episode yet at 8600 words, even more than the last finale. But, as with last time, I wanted nothing important left unsaid, and I didn’t want to split it into any more episodes. But enough about that boring stuff.

I promised some background for King, so I guess I’ll start with that. He started out as just about the most flat, unoriginal villain that could ever exist. He’s only there because I needed our superhero to face off against a villain. As for what he would do and how he would do it, I took some inspiration from various depictions of Marvel Comics’ Kingpin villain, and the naming is not unrelated. To be honest, I really had no idea what I was doing. But as I was writing King’s first scene, I first decided to hide his face, make it seem more menacing, like Shadow had a real reason to be so concerned with him. I was still unsure at that point whether or not I wanted to make King a real wolf, but I decided last second to give him a mechanical arm that he constructed himself, so that I wouldn’t have to make that decision and reveal his species right then and there, as well as to show off some of his engineering skills that had been talked about at that point, but not very well shown. (I decided for certain that he would be a wolf by the time the scene was over.) The rest of his character grew from there. I was able to expand just from that one scene that he is obsessed with his own technology and its perfection over biology, that he has a loathing for most humans, and that he was affected in a deeply personal manner by the Black Arms invasion (and Shadow by extension). The specifics came as time went on.

I suppose one other point from this episode to mention is the role that G.U.N. has been playing so far, an almost antagonistic one. The reason why I’m revealing all of these facts seeming to suggest that they’re corrupt and untrustworthy…I suppose it’s all rooted in the fact that they have played so many similar roles in the past, despite supposedly being a force for good. In both Sonic Adventure 2 and Shadow the Hedgehog, G.U.N. hurt you a whole lot more than they help you, despite being the hero. Sonic 06 is the only G.U.N. appearance that seems to be completely benevolent, and even then I always felt that it seemed a little shady how they seemed to be stealing the Scepter of Darkness more than they were “retrieving” it. Anyways, after all of the times that G.U.N. nearly killed Sonic and/or Shadow, it certainly seems reasonable to me that neither of those two would be particularly interested in working with them, which is why it surprised me a little bit to learn that Shadow was working for G.U.N. for the first time. But I think I got it to work in a way that all makes sense. Point is, after making so many questionable actions, it would’ve seemed wrong to me to make them completely in the right now. So, I thought it would make for good story for all of the characters involved to have a lot of friction between them. Of course, this little sub-plot of G.U.N.’s evolution is far from over. Speaking of G.U.N. and Sonic 06, there was one ridiculously obscure reference I threw in there at the last moment. Rouge mentioned how she had to be trained in hacking King technology by “Old Frances from the decryption unit.” This refers to one of the Town Mission NPCs from that game, who introduced herself as the head of the G.U.N. Decryption Unit, and wanted to test the player’s IQ for candidacy to join the unit. This reference was not in the original episode, but I added it just before publishing, because these random obscure references to other games is exactly the kind of thing I want to use in order to help tie the whole Sonic game universe together.

Now, there’s one big thing I haven’t talked about yet. The Black Cloak arc is inspired by a theoretical game idea, just like all of the others of Season 0. Of course, this is the only arc that I didn’t conceptualize until after coming up with the whole Season 0 idea, but I still made it to fit in with the rest. Anyways, this, like many other Sonic games, would be much different as compared to previous ones. Rather than an adventure game, or a high-speed platformer, this game would function a lot more like…well, a superhero game. The number of “levels” as compared to most Sonic games would be relatively few, but that’s because a vast majority of the game’s content comes in the form of a huge hub world, that of Westopolis. Between levels, the player would be allowed to freely explore the city, playing as either Sonic, Rouge, or Black Cloak, depending on the point in the story. This hub world would be full of various NPCs to speak with (not unlike 06), and missions to complete, such as the fighting of randomized crimes including robberies, muggings, etc, as well as specific quests provided by some of those random NPCs, in addition to a few familiar faces (helping Big find Froggy, anyone?) Anyways, each character has their own advantages for playing. Sonic travels through the world the fastest, obviously, and can get on top of most buildings using wall jump and parkour. Rouge can fly and climb walls, giving her complete access to every location, though she is the slowest of the three. Black Cloak is the best for fighting, dealing more damage and having a wide variety of attacks, including long-ranged ones. His other tools, such as the grappling gun, are also useful for reaching difficult areas. In addition to these, certain NPCs might only be able to interact with certain characters and not others, encouraging variety. For example, a police officer might only be willing to speak with Rouge, while a serious opposer to King might only be willing to speak to Black Cloak, and…the owner of the hotel Sonic stayed in might only be willing to speak to Sonic. Speaking of the hotel, this game would also theoretically feature the return of Chao Gardens, seen at the top floor of that hotel. (I have found myself wishing that this location had more impact on the actual story, but once I was done with it I had no further need for it except in these silly game mechanics.) Anyways, unlocked by beating the game is the ability to switch between characters in the hub world freely, in addition to a few more of those less-than-totally-canon quests for familiar faces. The only other thing to point out about the game would be the soundtrack, focused heavily on more dramatic orchestrated music, much in the style of modern superhero movies. Much of this music would be dedicated to remixes of themes from Shadow the Hedgehog, and, to a lesser extent, Sonic Adventure 2. And…I suppose that’s all I have to say for now.

Next time, witness the tale of the one called Sunlight, the New Ultimate Life Form. What is this life form, and why has its existence been kept a secret? Soon, Darkness will fall upon the Light.

Updates!

Mostly, I’m here to deliver the unfortunate news that, as happened after the Speed of Time arc, The Chaos Project will now be going on another short break while I finish writing the final episode of the upcoming arc, Birth of Blacklight, now that the Black Cloak arc is finished. As was the case last time, I’ll be spreading out the posting content so that I still have something to publish every Saturday. Normally, I would be posting the review of last week’s episode now, but between Thursday’s Opinion Piece of Sonic Forces and this post, I feel that I have enough to push that off to next week. Expect a preview of next episode the following week, and the episode itself to be published the week after that.

Now, there is a little more to talk about. I’ve been neglecting to update some of the finer details on the website after publishing the last few episodes, but now everything is completely up-to-date, and then some. Preparations for the upcoming arc have been made, such as the reorganization of the character guide to reflect the most important characters to come. More importantly, I’ve published a new page, title “Image Gallery,” which contains all of the custom images I’ve ever made for these stories, including several images which have been replaced and can no longer be seen anywhere else. Also included are some first looks at custom-made sprites for characters who haven’t had their official debuts yet, such as Omega and the Chaotix. Most importantly, there is a 100% exclusive image of “Super Black Cloak,” Shadow in his Super Form as seen in the final episode of the Black Cloak arc, complete with broken chains, torn face mask, material burned away from the feet, and of course, his new superhero emblem emblazoned on his chest. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for the addition of a preview look at the cover art for the upcoming story arc.

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

S0 E13: Black Cloak Forever Part 2

Here it is, the exciting conclusion of the Black Cloak arc! Read it here!

The time has come for King to carry out his revenge. After all of this time, he is prepared to do whatever it takes to destroy the hedgehog who ruined his life. Shadow the Hedgehog. Does the Ultimate Life Form stand a chance against the self-proclaimed Ultimate Being?

Preview: Season 0, Episode 13

Sonic and Shadow have finally found King. But King has plans that neither of them could possibly comprehend. What really happened to him on the day of the invasion of Westopolis?

“I’ve been awaiting this day for far too long.” King the Wolf begins to step out of the shadows. Sonic gives a gasp, but Shadow doesn’t seem surprised. King waves about his robotic arm as he speaks. “Sonic, I have no qualms with you. You are free to leave. In fact, the Doctor will be waiting for you up on the twenty-fifth floor, likely downloading all of my files by now. You’d better hurry, if you want to catch him.” As he passes a computer console, he types few keys into it. A light activates on the pod in the center of the room.

Unexpectedly, Shadow agrees. “You should go. I can handle this.”

Sonic shakes his head. “Not a chance. I’m staying right here.”

King chuckles a bit. “Ooh, do I detect some animosity between the two of you?” He gives a very casual shrug. “Very well. Suit yourself.” He resumes his pacing, hitting a few more keys each time he passes the console. “After all I’ve been through…all my research…all my suffering…at last, it all becomes worthwhile, so much sooner than I was expecting. I certainly have the Doctor to thank for that. His previous experience was absolutely vital in the completion of my ultimate project.”

Shadow doesn’t seem amused. “I don’t know what you’re babbling about. And I don’t care. This is your one and only chance to surrender to me.”

“Oh, Shadow, you offend me. Though perhaps it was vain of me to assume that you keep track of those you’ve hurt.”

Shadow’s firm countenance suddenly falters. “What…what do you mean…?”

King barks out a quick laugh. “He really doesn’t know, the wretch!” It becomes clear that King is barely maintaining his calm manners. He holds up his mechanical arm, and waggles its fingers for emphasis. “You didn’t really believe that some alien did this to me, did you? No…this is on you!”

Review: Season 0, Episode 12

So, a lot of topics were actually brought up in this episode which I intend to explore further in the future. Of course, there is the unnamed Chaos-proof Black Comet material, the entire reason that Eggman is involved in this event. Then there’s the general relationship between humans and animoids that King briefly mentioned. There’s also general aftermath of the Black Arms invasion, though that has been touched upon already. Lastly, there’s Shadow’s mention of his faulty memories of the events of Sonic Adventure 2. Ever since the end of Shadow the Hedgehog, it has been heavily inferred that Shadow at least has a very good idea of his life before the ARK was shut down 50 years ago, and this is supported by the thorough flashbacks he’s had of that time period. But the only memories he’s ever been shown having of Adventure 2 were a couple of brief, confusing images brought about by going to the exact place where he spent much of his time in that game. And really, he’s had no need to remember any of that. It just seems likely to me that his personal memories of those events are spotty at best, only filled in by descriptions from Rouge and Sonic. It should only follow that he still holds some resentment towards having such an important event in his life be outside his reach. Exactly which memories he does and doesn’t have, I intend to examine much more closely in the coming series.

In case you couldn’t tell, this episode was pretty difficult for me to write, took much longer than average. It’s full of way too many scene breaks, which is an indicator that I’ve run out of things to say for any given time period, and need to skip ahead. Anyways, going into this episode, I was strongly expecting it to be the final of this arc. But by the time Sonic and Shadow had broken out of their chains after that long conversation, I realized that I was pretty much out of time, so I quickly came up with a few extra scenes to help fill in the remaining episode-and-a-half.

*SPOILER ALERT*

I suppose I should probably mention the fact that Shadow is the Black Cloak. I would hope that I’ve already explained it way too thoroughly within the super long conversations within the story, but in case you’re still confused, I’ll still gladly explain my thought process. It was a thought that I had long before the concept of the Chaos Project. I thought, “We haven’t seen Shadow in a really long time. I wonder what he’s doing with his life?” Though I had done a little bit of research into Sonic 06 at the time, I don’t think it had really dawned on me that Shadow was already working for G.U.N.. But my thoughts, the answer to my question, was “He would probably want to work towards fulfilling his promise of making a better future, in a way that only he can, and likely in a way that puts him as far away from Sonic as possible (thus why we don’t ever see him).” And who goes out alone, using special abilities to help people while trying not to be discovered? Superheroes! (I know, that joke wasn’t even funny the first time.) Point is, I decided that Shadow’s personality, past, and powers would very likely lead him to become a superhero. It sounds so silly, but it just makes sense. And making him an edgy, Batman-style hero wasn’t a hard connection to make.

Anyways, when I first started conceptualizing what would become the finale arc of the entire Chaos Project, one of the many included concepts was Shadow’s return to being the Black Cloak for a brief period of time (it was only at that point that I had come up with a name for him, and even then I wasn’t sure about it). And when I decided to expand the Chaos Project backwards to include what is now Season 0, I knew that it was an absolute necessity to include a Black Cloak origin story. Thus, this arc was born. The first order of business was to get Shadow out of the military, since it would be very difficult for him to do both of these things at the same time. It just so happened to work out perfectly that I needed Shadow to help develop Sonic’s character during Speed of Time anyways, and it was very easy to add in a lead-in to this arc, which even helped inspire the setting of said encounter (I originally imagined it in an outside area where Sonic would hit a tree instead of a wall). All in all, things have been working very well for me in the way of accidental perfect planning, and I’m very glad to be having each of these arcs leading into each other without requiring the reading of any other arcs to understand, nor too dramatically impacting the story of each individually.

Wow, this was a long one. One last thing to mention is that, until literally the very last moment, this episode was intended to be called “The Shadowed Knight,” a reference to “The Dark Knight,” a Batman movie, but I decided that I didn’t like that title, so I just turned this into the first part of what was originally going to be the single-part finale episode of this arc. I was also a little afraid that that title would spoil the contents of the episode. Okay, that’s all, I promise. And I didn’t even get to mention my thought process behind King. Maybe next time. But this time, thanks for reading!

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

S0 E12: Black Cloak Forever Part 1

I’ll admit, I dropped the ball on this one. Saturday came and went, and the thought of publishing this episode didn’t even occur to me until late last night. Anywho, without further ado, here is the newest exciting episode of The Chaos Project!

Sonic thinks that he’s finally caught on to the Black Cloak’s deceptions, but Black Cloak still won’t allow Sonic to stand in his way. But Sonic isn’t the only one who’s learned something. And when King captures Black Cloak at last, the truth will finally be revealed.

Preview: Season 0, Episode 12

The Black Cloak has finally been caught. Now all that remains for King is to remove the hood, and discover his true identity.

The Black Cloak mutters, “How could I have slipped up like this…?”

“Slipped up, you have, my irritating adversary.” From the shadows of the cavern, behind the lineup of androids, a pair of yellow eyes stare out.

Sonic says with disdain, “King.”

“Shut up, you. You are nothing to me.”

Sonic sighs in irritation, but obeys.

“And as for you…” Black Cloak remains almost impossibly still. “…you will drop to your knees. Now.”

“I…I’m not afraid of you.”

“Oh really? Well, you had me fooled. But just to make sure, let’s get one thing clear. Get on the ground, or my androids will open fire.”

“Your weapons don’t scare me. I won’t let you control me.”

“Oh, they won’t fire at you. They’ll fire at your little blue friend over there.” Suddenly, all the weapons in the room turn to face Sonic. A strangely distant, quiet voice can almost be heard shouting, “What!?”

Sonic tries to interject, “Don’t let–”

“I said shut up!” Sonic bows his head again. “So, tell me, hero. What’s it going to be? Your pride? Or the innocent life?”

Black Cloak looks from Sonic, to the androids, to the eyes of King. Finally, slowly, he raises his arms, and drops to his knees. “My life is yours. I surrender.”

“Oh, marvelous! I must give you credit, you are an intelligent man. And I am quite impressed at how you’ve managed to pique my curiosity so. But I must know. I must learn. Androids…bring him here. Let us see who this vigilante really is.” Two androids step out of line to grab Black Cloak by the arms, dragging him to the edge of the shadows. He doesn’t resist.

King’s mechanical arm reaches out from his place in the shadows, and firmly grasps the rim of Black Cloak’s hood. Sonic shows surprise at the robotic limb, but a look into King’s eyes reassures him. The two androids who broke formation still hold Black Cloak by the arms, but the rest have all stepped out of the way, leaving little resistance between Sonic and King. But then Sonic shakes his head. His eyes are drawn back to the Black Cloak. Little by little, his hood is being pulled back. First to be revealed are the red fringes streaking the top of his eyes. Sonic’s eyes fill with curiosity at the sight. “No…”

S0 E11: Black Cloak and Sonic

The mystery of the Black Cloak continues to unfold in this revealing new episode of The Chaos Project. Read it here!

Sonic and Black Cloak have been lost down a chasm, barely escaping the last fight with their lives. Now they must escape together. Sonic wants to take advantage of the time to learn all he can. And the Black Cloak seems surprisingly willing to share. But for every question he answers, two more are posed. What is he really hiding?