Review: Season 1, Episode 17

Man, where do I even begin here? I suppose it should be with another apology about the delay. I didn’t mean for this episode to take significantly longer than any other. But then I got Fire Em–…uh, I mean, generic-dudes-with-swords-fantasy-tactical-RPG-in-which-you-choose-between-three-different-houses game. I put something like 150 hours into that game without ever typing once. I’m sorry, it’s a good game, okay? The fact that it encourages 3+ full playthroughs doesn’t help either…but I’m still a Sonic fan, okay!? I’m not giving up on this!

*ahem* Seriously, sorry about that. But let’s talk about this episode! I wrote two-thirds of it about three months ago, and the rest in the last three days. Hope it didn’t feel too disjointed because of that, but…when you’re writing an episode that’s just one giant fight scene, it’s kind of hard to be disjointed.

In a lot of ways, this was meant to be a sort of Sonic Adventure celebration part 2. If all had gone well, it actually would’ve come out around the time of the American 20th anniversary…but, you know…whatever. But anyways, when I first planned to make that first Adventure special, it came inherently with this episode as a conclusion. Before I came up with that first episode, this one would likely not have been a two-parter. It would’ve just been a disjointed Rouge returns story in the first half (with much less drama) followed by the conclusion of the Death Egg story in the second half. It actually would’ve been a lot like the mid-season finale in that way. I didn’t much care for how the mid-season finale turned out. Or wait, maybe I didn’t even have the Death Egg in mind by that point… Yeah, looking over my old notes, the story of fake Big as resolved in the Adventure special was originally planned to be part of the Rouge-returning finale. Man, that would’ve been a boring finale. So everything works out!

I think I was in the middle of saying before…oh, that’s right. This as a second part to the special. My preliminary idea for the Adventure special was little more than “let’s find a way to bring back Chaos 0”. When that idea gave way to the Discord idea, I still had the thought of bringing back the real Chaos bouncing around in the back of my mind. What I was thinking at first was that Discord would, in the end, join Chaos in the Master Emerald (as Knuckles was trying to make happen) so that neither Chaos nor Discord would be alone in the universe. That was the original intended meaning of Tikal’s vague “Chaos…alone…you…”. But, as usual, it was my good brother Yuni Oha who recommended the possibility that Discord be somehow cured, so the Chao could become a sort of mascot for the Rebellion. I loved the idea of giving this episode a real lasting impact for the rest of the series, so I made it work. Of course, Yuni also highly recommended the use of Perfect Chaos and/or Discord, and I had to disappoint on that front. But who knows? It may happen someday. *wink wink*

I keep meaning to go here and getting sidetracked. Chaos himself. I loved the way that scene turned out. He was on-screen for all of five minutes, didn’t say a word, and yet had one of the most compelling character moments I’ve ever had the pleasure of writing in this show. Not gonna lie, I teared up a little bit when I wrote about him stroking the Chao’s head. Is it weird to cry about something you wrote? Anyways, my only real complaint about that scene is that, after all the buildup Discord got, it was completely upstaged by Chaos. Then again, Discord is staying on as a permanent character, and Chaos isn’t, so I had to treat Chaos right for his brief cameo.

That was most recent on my mind, but I suppose there is much else to talk about. Rouge, for example. Every last scene of hers was extremely complicated to write. I had to approach some very dark and mature concepts in a PG (K+) format. How do you talk about someone getting stabbed in a way that makes sense when you’re not allowed to show blood coming out of a person? (I don’t know if that’s actually the rule, but it’s the rule I’ve taken to. There can be blood, it just can’t be seen actively coming out of a body.) And that’s after she got tied to a chair and beaten, after Shadow tried to blow her up, after Infinite and Fang seemingly murdered one another (something obviously went wrong there). So is she dead now? I’d have to say, “probably”. But we’ll all have to wait and see. I suppose I should say the same about Sly.

This episode set up A LOT of future character arcs. Sonic, Tails, Shadow, Knuckles, and Cream all come to mind immediately. I guess that’s the point of a good finale, isn’t it? My point is, I guess…pay attention? I don’t know, I always worry that the hints of foreshadowing I drop go completely unnoticed if I don’t make them super duper obvious, like “hey, this is something that might happen later!”. At least this time, you’ve already had hints of the future character dynamics between Sonic, Shadow, and Tails through the Green Light Riders Season 2 preview. (Man, I published that in May! Now it’s December! I was supposed to be caught up by now!)

Finally think I’m running out of things to say. One interesting note is that this is actually one of the first planned two-parters that didn’t get split from one or need to get split into three. I planned on the separation between this episode and the next from the beginning. Trouble with that is that I knew I would be forcing myself to write an episode-long fight scene, which, as I’ve said in the past, is a major weakness of mine. The discouragement of making one fight last so long might be part of the reason I wasn’t more adamant about balancing my writing with my video game life. I could already tell by the time I stopped writing that this one foe with a very specific skillset was making for a very stagnant fight. Having to juggle so many different allies for the fight did keep things a little bit less predictable on one hand, but also added its own challenge on the other.

Although, quite possibly the hardest part of the episode was managing the logic behind Knuckles, Shadow, Amy, and how they would interact with Rouge, how and why they would leave the fight with Discord, and how it could make sense that they react in just the ways they needed to. It’s what I spent a vast majority of my break time thinking about. And even now, I think it all came out a little forced. Knuckles and Rouge really needed a proper reunion to demonstrate that Knuckles was able to trust her, but that simply didn’t fit. It didn’t make a lot of sense that Amy felt right about leaving the fight with Discord to check on Shadow, and even less that she didn’t say a word when she passed Knuckles. Sonic calmly accepting Knuckles’ plan didn’t make sense either, especially considering his reaction when Tikal voiced the same intent back in the finale of Sonic Adventure. But Discord needed to be close by for Knuckles’ plan to go through, and if Sonic were there with the intent to stop Knuckles, he easily could have. I had no sound justification for getting rid of Sonic in that moment, so having him accept the plan was the only option. I think it was all just a bit of a mess. A mess that did its job wonderfully, mind you. These conclusions for Rouge and Discord’s stories worked out just as I always pictured them, which is a rare accomplishment for me.

And I think I’ve been ranting on for long enough, so I suppose I’ll have to leave you until we meet again for part 2, the finale of season 1! (It’s been a long time coming.)

Review: Season 1, Episode 12

Well…I’m running into the usual problem here of not being sure what to write about an episode that was started a very long time ago. I’ve touched on this a bit already, but I started this episode on December 20th, more than three months ago, three days before the actual anniversary. About a page in, I decided that writing the entire episode in three days would be unreasonable, and that Condition Extreme would be much better placed at that time, so I took a pause on this one and started writing that one instead.

So by now, you might be wondering…what was the point of this episode? Why make a Sonic Adventure episode focused on Rouge of all people? Well…I did fudge it a bit. In early planning phases of The Chaos Project, having a fake Big that infiltrates the Rebellion was one of my very first ideas (even before Heavy Magician existed). I wasn’t thinking much about that old idea, until I decided for certain that I was going to do Rouge’s arc for this Season, and I realized that I could work the two stories together. Everything about this episode that involved Rouge, Sly, and Big, were all planned at this point. But at that point, I figured it would be more like a “meanwhile, with Rouge” type of thing, while a different episode was happening with our normal characters. But I was never really sure what kind of episode I could fit that into. Eventually, the looming date of the Adventure 20th anniversary was brought to my attention, and I knew immediately that I had to celebrate it somehow. Big being such and important character to that game, this plot was brought to mind. But I knew that I couldn’t just make another Big episode and call it a day. That’s when the thought of Discord came to me. The moment I thought of it, I knew I had my episode, I knew that Discord would be an immensely fun character to explore. Eta came much later down the line. In fact, I wasn’t even certain that I was going to do Eta at all, until I started working on the assets for the Sprite Animation. But I knew I needed some kind of big, dramatic pull for the trailer, and a death match between not-Chaos and not-Gamma would totally do the trick.

Moving on to a related topic, given that Gamma was a very important character to Adventure, while Chaos was more a force of nature than a character, it was supposed to come as a bit of a shock which of their two substitutes turned out to be the victor this time around. As I was writing Eta’s destruction, it occurred to me that it might have been interesting to keep it around as well, but it was really only there as someone for Discord to fight, and I didn’t have any plans that could justify doing otherwise. I suppose Eta can always be rebuilt, if it comes down to that.

I suppose I should talk about Big as well. To be honest, writing the entire episode, right up to the end, my plan was to write him out at the end, send him to some isolated place where he can live in peace, as Sonic suggested. Big was the one character I was never really sure about whether or not I wanted to use in my story at all, as I mentioned once that he’s not exactly my favorite. Part of the whole point of this episode arc was to give him a good send-off so that I could justifiably not bother with him thereafter. But after everything I put him through, everything I expressed about his character, I simply couldn’t justify anything short of a promise to fight with his friends no matter what. So…I guess I’m stuck with him now. Maybe I’ll just kill him off later or something…

Heavy Magician is also of note here. Honestly, that entire end scene where Big meets Magician…I had no concrete plans for how that would go. I knew that no matter what I did, it would feel either awkwardly tagged onto the end of this episode, or onto the beginning of the next. The thought occurred to me while I was in the middle of it that I could’ve split this up into…not so much a two-parter as one episode directly continuing off of another, but honestly, after three months, I really just wanted to be done with that plot. And doing that would’ve required me to come up with something entirely new right on the spot to fill that second part. I mused over a few ideas, especially regarding what happened to Froggy after he jumped into Magician’s hat, but I decided against it. All of this lack of planning also means that Heavy Magician’s capture was a very last-minute decision. There was a small future scene I had in mind with Magician, but with this new decision came an entire future character arc revolving around that scene. That’s right. A character arc for Heavy Magician. And it’s gonna be a good one, too. So anyways, I winged that whole sequence, and I’m happy with it.

So let’s see, what else is there to say? You might be…a little bit confused in regards to how you’re supposed to feel about Discord. He’s cute, and kind, and deadly, and quite possibly evil. That’s exactly the point. Everything about Discord is supposed to make you feel uneasy. You want to believe that he’s still just a harmless Chao, but there’s really no way to tell for sure. You might be having a similar confusion about Rouge at this point. Is she, or is she not, working against the Rebellion? It’s less clear than ever. No matter what the answer is, this episode was built to show that she’s still a good person. And as to that answer, you’ll just have to wait and see.

And…I believe that’s all I have. So, until next time–

What’s this!?

[Shadow]: “This is a challenge to you, Sonic the Hedgehog! This planet now belongs to the Black Arms! If you want to stop me, then come and face me now!”

[Sonic]: “Okay, Shadow. Bring it on.”

Coming Soon: In the Shadow of Time — The Final Chapter

S1 E12: Water Rising (Sonic Adventure 20th Anniversary Special)

Thunder, rain, and lightning. Danger, water rising. Clamor, sirens wailing. The newest episode of The Chaos Project looks like a bad sign. Can Eggman’s newest creation be trusted, by friend or foe alike? Or will it inevitably seek the world’s destruction?

You can read this very special episode, right now, right here!

On a side note, I really want to apologize. This entire website has been completely inactive since I published the sprite preview over a month ago. I wanted to get this episode out the very next week, but sometimes, life just gets in the way. Regardless, I think it’ll be worth the wait!

-Until next time, open your heart, and it’s gonna be alright!

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!

Preview: Season 1, Episode 11

No, it’s not the Sonic Adventure special yet. But it is leading up to it. I promise that’ll be coming very soon. But until then, please enjoy what comes before.

???

A child’s eyes look down slowly from the blue sky above, to the mountain of a reddish hue that rises in front, to the base of the mountain at his feet, where an unmarked headstone is planted by a mound of recently-moved earth. The child does nothing, says nothing for quite some time. Finally, he looks to his gloved, spiked hand, which holds a familiar white flower. Then, he begins to speak. “We are both the last.” Slowly, he kneels down, and places the flower gently on the mound. “It shouldn’t have to be that way.” He remains there, kneeling on the ground in a somber silence.

“Knuckles…”

Knuckles turns sharply in the direction of the sound. “Huh!? Who said that?” The sound of his own voice prompts him to look down at his hands, no longer small like a child’s.

The distant feminine voice merely repeats, “Knuckles…”

Knuckles gets up from his spot on the ground, and starts to run in the direction of the voice, through a valley between two mountains. He calls as he goes, “Who’s there!? Who are you!?”

Soon, he exits into an open area. A bridge stretches out over a body of water towards an isolated landmass, where a crumbling stone shrine holds the Master Emerald at its top, in its whole form. The Emerald glows and pulsates brightly. “That shouldn’t be here…” He continues to run, across the bridge, and up the stone steps to the top of the shrine.

Once Knuckles reaches the top, he places a hand on the Emerald. “What’s happening here…?”

“Great danger is coming.”

Knuckles turns around with surprise. Standing there behind him is a familiar Echidna girl dressed in traditional tribal garb. “Tikal?”

Tikal looks down to the ground, as if in shame. “We couldn’t protect you any longer… But you must survive. Great danger is coming.”

“What do you mean? What danger?”

For a moment, Tikal seems to fade in and out of existence. As if not noticing, she continues, “A great calamity, as foretold long ago…  The entire world may be consumed.”

“Consumed by what? I don’t understand!”

As Tikal continues to fade, her words do as well. “… …Chaos… … …alone… … …you.” She disappears completely.

Knuckles reaches out for her. “Wait! Come back!” He turns around. The Master Emerald, too, begins to fade away. “No!” He looks down, and takes a step back in surprise. The ruins beneath his feet, the island it sits on, the ocean far below, the sky all around, all of it begins to give way to empty blackness. One by one, everything around him disappears. In the empty void, he collapses to his knees, staring down into the darkness.

A child’s voice mutters meekly, “I don’t want to be alone…”

 

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!

 

Preview: Season 0, Episode…31 Again?

Since last time we spoke on this series, I changed around the episode numbers a little bit. After the Fight, the Sonic Forces Special which does include a single event contemporary to the story, no longer counts towards the Season’s episode count, and is instead its own separate entity. It’s still located in the same place, it just isn’t numbered. The result of this is that all episodes thereafter had their number lowered by one, making what I once called 31 into 30, and this, which would have once been 32, into 31. Why did I do it? Well, like I said, that episode was very unusual for the story as a whole, taking place 100% in the past, so it makes sense that it wouldn’t count. I may have flashback episodes in the future, but there will always be a base in the present. But…perhaps the more important reason is that this way, the Season will now end at a nice round 32 episodes. That’s right. This is the next-to-last episode of the Season. But enough of all that, you came here for a preview, right?

Backed by Chaos, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Rouge, Omega, Vector, Espio, Charmy, Hero, Infinite, and an army of GUN soldiers, human and animoid alike, Shadow stands ready to lead the charge against the horde of Replicas that stand opposite to them, including Zavok, Metal Sonic, Chaos 0, Mephiles, and countless of Blacklight’s shadowy minion creatures. Blacklight, still bearing the mask of Infinite, and the intensely-glowing Phantom Ruby, floats high above them, slowly drifting down until he stands before his army just as Shadow does. He speaks with a strange, distorted voice overlaid with his own, “So good to see you again, Shadow. We were wondering how long it would it would take you to take our bait.” The air is filled with strange glowing fissures in space itself, leaking out small violet particles. “And we see that you brought all your friends. That will make them much easier to destroy.”

Shadow at first seems surprised at the coherence of Blacklight’s thoughts. “Blacklight…is that still you?”

Blacklight laughs softly. “Of course it’s us, Shadow. Who else would it be?”

“Us? You and who else?”

“No one else. Just us.” He places his hand over the Ruby. “We are one, now.”

“No, no, don’t you see it!? That Ruby is taking over your mind! But it’s not too late to fight it! You have to fight it!”

“Fight it? Why would we want to do that? We were always destined to be together, don’t you see it, Shadow?”

Behind Shadow, Infinite growls and clenches his hand around his blade.

Shadow responds, “What happened to the free spirit, who hated rules and wouldn’t listen to anyone but himself!? Isn’t he still in there!?”

“Yes…and no. Besides, we still listen only to ourselves. Hence, why we aren’t listening to you now. So we would suggest you stop wasting your time. That is, if you still intend to stop us.”

Shadow closes his eyes and sighs, ready to take his last shot. “I have something for you.”

“What’s this? A gift?”

“That’s right.” Somewhat hesitantly, Shadow pulls something out and holds it up high for Blacklight to see. It’s a shiny red apple.

Blacklight gasps. “Is that…could it be?”

Shadow nods encouragingly. “I brought it for you. Just you. I thought you might enjoy it.”

“Shadow…that really means a lot, you know?” Slowly, Blacklight starts to lift his mask, revealing a genuine smile underneath. But, halfway up, he seems to change his mind, and lowers the mask back down. “Only two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine more before you’ve repaid your debt to us.” He directs out a hand, a violet glow is cast over the apple in Shadow’s hand. With the flick of a wrist, the apple is plucked out of Shadow’s hand with the Ruby’s power, and drawn into Blacklight’s. He lifts his mask up again, just high enough to take a large bite. “Hm. Not bad.”

Shadow lets out another sigh, realizing that there will be no easy way out.

Through a mouthful of apple, Blacklight continues, “Well, what will it be, Shadow? Who will make the first move?”

Behind Shadow, Infinite suddenly shouts, “We will!” Sword drawn, he charges alone out of line. Immediately, Hero runs after him, raising his Wispon in preparation to back him up.

Blacklight merely laughs, extending his arms wide as a command for his entire army to charge in response.

Havoc erupts on the battlefield.

The final battle has begun.

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

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.

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Review: Season 0, Episode 24

So…here we are again. Five months later, and it’s all the same. So what am I going to say this time? That I, for the fourth time in a row, wrote a single finale episode that ended up being so long that I had to split it in two? Or perhaps that I cut out all but the most bare essentials, and still ended up with something that dragged on for far too long? Well, all of the above. But let’s start from the beginning. I was originally going to do one combined review for both parts of this episode, but that review, like the episode itself, ended up being way too long. So here’s part one instead.

I suppose I should clear up that Chaos blacked out and lost the Emerald in the last episode because Eggman used the device to control him. I tried to infer it, but it wasn’t very clear. Sonic’s concerns about his leadership skills, and subsequent reference to Zero and the Speed of Time arc, wasn’t something I was originally thinking about. It came up when I wanted to have everyone blame themselves for something to create a sense of hopelessness, and it was the best I could come up with for Sonic. I inserted the resolution to that concern in a conversation that I had been planning for a bit longer. Over the summer, I had my first real conversation with my older brother (fanfic writer Yuni Oha) about my story. He’s known about it since last December, but that was the first time we ever really talked about it. And when I brought up my headcanon on Sonic as the Controller, he brought up a point that I couldn’t ignore. While the concept of a “Chosen One” can add a certain sense of importance to the events of a story, and he agreed that my logic behind applying this concept to Sonic was sound, he warned that Chosen One implies destiny, and destiny discredits the actions and decisions of the One in question. If Sonic was really destined at birth to save the world, that means that every time he ever saved the world, it’s because he was destined to instead of because he has a kind and heroic heart. You can’t call him a hero for braving danger, because he never had a choice in the matter. I had never thought of it that way before. So I realized that I had to address it as soon as possible. And although actions speak louder than words, I decided that words were still quite important in this case. Words from someone wise, who would know exactly why it isn’t true. So I built the sunrise scene around that concept, to confirm once and for all that Sonic is as much in charge of his own actions as he ever was, even going further to say that he would still be a hero even without his abilities. Regardless, I absolutely love how that scene turned out. Besides being some wonderful and much-needed bonding between Sonic and Chaos, it also set up Lumis as a villain with much more depth, something that I was afraid I couldn’t get to work. And with that, I also disproved another common grievance with fanfiction. It is often said that fanfiction writers ruin the characters by making all of them share the writer’s opinions. Here I presented a clear difference in opinion between Sonic and Chaos, where even though Sonic agrees to protect the Balance, he disagrees on the best way maintain it. He believes some joy and some sorrow to be better than neither at all. And…I’m inclined to agree with him. I avoided the trap of using an OC to convert everyone to my opinions, by putting him against my opinions, while still making him a good person whose ideals can be respected. At least, that’s what I hope happened. This kind of thing is up to the reader.

From then through the end of part one, pretty much everything felt a bit obligatory, only existing to progress the story from middle to end, with one exception. The scene where Sonic goes into Lumis’ orb of light was, once again, meant to add depth to Lumis’ character, concluding for certain that he is not evil, but misguided. Anything else for part 1? There was that little bit Lumis said about Sonic’s pain of abandonment. That probably means something. Probably. Rewinding a bit, Eggman’s face being carved into the mountain is something that also happened in Sonic CD. Still trying to keep up those classic references. I’m glad that I got something to work out for the fake Emeralds, because I had no idea what I was going to do with them when I first brought the idea back up. Umm…the “backwards eclipse” marking the Ritual of Illumination is supposed to be what was pictured on the cover art for this arc, but that art was removed for Sonic Forces, so you can only see it in the Image Gallery now. The way Sonic tried to recharge the Chaos Emeralds was a direct callback to Sonic Adventure, where Perfect Chaos drained the negative energy of the Emeralds, but Sonic still went Super. This was an intentional subversion. Sonic proceeded to reference when Knuckles stopped the Emeralds in Adventure 2, as well as the Gaia Temples of Sonic Unleashed. And I’m pretty sure that’s everything for part 1. But…

This next part was meant to be part of the part 2 review, but that one even on its own was way too long, so I’m transferring it here. This is something that I’ve forgotten to do in every review up until now. That would be the game idea. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, every arc I write seems to be less and less like a game, but technically the underlying concept is still there…even though this one isn’t really all that thought out. This one wouldn’t have multiple stories or anything, but it would have, akin to Sonic 06, a number of “amigo” characters. In general, the game would focus on a “tag-team” mechanic, not unlike Sonic Forces. However, in this case, it would behave more like the classic Sonic games (or Shadow the Hedgehog), in that your partner would be controlled by an AI, unless a second player picks up another remote. For the most part, this team would be Sonic as the leader, with some other character following, though on certain occasions in the story, it would be Tails and Knuckles, or Knuckles and Amy, or something else like that. Different combinations of characters have different abilities and special Team Attacks, and in the post-game (as well as a few special parts of the story) you would be able to pick-and-choose both team members, some of which have access to secrets and areas which the mandated team for the first playthrough wouldn’t be able to reach. There would be a few exceptions where you don’t have a teammate, such as the tutorial Starry Hill Zone, and the first boss fight against Chaos. Although…thinking about it now, it would be pretty awesome if Chaos would be the teammate for that fight, creating a player vs. player battle. I don’t know, it’s not like I’m actually making the game. But anyways, that’s all for the basics of that. Except…I guess I never really came up with a title. Perhaps…Sonic Chaos? Oh wait, that’s already a Game Gear title. So…Sonic Chaos 2? Nope, that would be Sonic Triple Trouble. Maybe something more about the tag-team mechanic? How about Sonic Duo? Sonic Doubles? Oh, I got it! Sonic Double Trouble, make it spiritually linked to a Sonic Chaos sequel. But no, those titles are all lame. Yeesh, this is harder than I thought. Sonic Shining, reflect the concepts of Light? No, I don’t want this to sound like a horror film. Sonic Synergy, back on the teamwork concept? No, don’t want his to be confused with Sonic Boom. Sonic Fellowship…eh, Sonic Balance sounds lame, Sonic Moonstone is too vague…maybe I should just stick with Double Trouble. I don’t really know. But that’s all I have on that right now, so I suppose that wraps up this review of part 1.

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

Opinionated Review: Shadow the Hedgehog (2005)

As I mentioned on the footnote of Shadow of Time, I published it to celebrate something very special to me. For the first time in my near-15 year experience with Sonic games, I can finally call myself an expert at one of them. I completed Shadow the Hedgehog’s “Expert Mode” (with 90 lives to spare at that. Thanks, chicken gun.), a feat which I assume most players never even get the chance to attempt. (Just a few days later, I finally got the seventh Chaos Emerald and experienced the final boss for the first time in Sonic Heroes. This has been a really good week for me.) Anyways, in working towards getting an A-rank on every single mission of the game, I got an excellent chance to really analyze its core gameplay elements, while, writing for Shadow of Time, I’ve gotten an equally appropriate chance to analyze the story. Normally, I wouldn’t want to review a game that I first started playing over a decade ago, but these are special circumstances. Additionally, with Mania done and Forces on the way, I am interested in establishing a baseline of comparison between classic games, Adventure-style games, and modern games. Now, since this game came out 12 years ago, it would be unfair of me to compare it directly to modern games (unlike Sonic Mania, which came out last month). So, most comparisons will be made to Sonic Heroes and other Adventure-era games. So, without further ado, let us begin.
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