Opinion Piece: Sonic the Hedgehog (2020 Movie)

Hey there, everyone! Long time no see! Way…too long, actually… Heh heh… When was my last post again? September? Yikes. Well, no need to worry, I’m not dead, and neither is the Chaos Project. I’ve just been taking it slow with the writing for life reasons. And video game reasons. Which are basically my life, so…

Anyways, who doesn’t love sequels!? Today, we’re looking at the follow-up to my previous analysis of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, published back in May. Oh, geez, have I still not published that Sonic ’06 review I talked about at the beginning? I don’t have time for that anymore!! *ahem* Anyways, after waiting many long months to see the much-anticipated character redesign that they delayed the movie half a year to do, an official trailer showcasing the new design has finally been released!

And there he is! What a difference it is! This new Sonic is—wait a minute…what do you mean, ‘I said that I liked the old design’? Preposterous! Who would say a blasphemous thing like that!? Oh, wait, I did say that, didn’t I?

Untitled

…Let’s talk design. To put it briefly…I’m very okay with this. To be fair, I did choose what is perhaps the most flattering shot in the entire trailer to put above. But I think that shot looks pretty darn good, actually. Sure, this new design doesn’t look flattering from every angle. And sure, I dislike that his stomach is a different color than his muzzle. And sure, I’d rather him have gloves to cover up those freaky hedgehog fingers. And sure, I don’t get why he isn’t wearing socks. But other than that…I don’t see much problem with this design. It looks like Sonic in live action.

Main point, the redesign is certainly shocking at first glance, but there’s nothing about it that makes it “not Sonic”.

No, I wasn’t exactly gushing over it. But given the public outrage I was seeing, I felt the need to express my “okay, whatever” opinion about it. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I would have been fine with it. But with that out of the way…oh, what a difference it is! Basically, what I had in mind with the old design was “choose either tan or white for his non-blue fur (not both), expand the shape of his chin and the whites of his eyes, slap on some gloves (and socks, still don’t understand why those were missing in the first place), and you’re golden.” They did all that and more. And that makes me think…maybe…too much more. I just can’t let up with these controversial opinions, can I?

Untitled

Hard to complain about the face. A “handsome package” it certainly is.

The trailer begins with Sonic in Green Hill Zone (a gorgeous representation of it, I might add). Instant respect right there. I will take any and all references to the Sonic canon I can possibly get, anything to make this movie less generic. But, yeah, yeah, I know, Sonic himself is the only topic of interest on the Internet right now. So what do I mean when I say ‘too much’? Well, one major difference between the two images shown thus far is that Sonic’s spines splayed out a bit more drastically in the original design. Though it’s hard to tell here, the spines themselves were also shortened for the new design. Both were done, I assume, to make the character look more “cartoonish,” which is exactly what people were asking for. But I would’ve been happier with them left exactly as they were. I believe I’ve mentioned this before in comparisons of Sonic’s Modern and Classic designs, but having longer spines allows for more interactions with wind and body movement, which conveys a better sense of speed and a more “cinematic” feel. Given that this is a movie, I’m pretty sure that “cinematic” is a good thing. I also have a bit of a problem with the new mouth. I’ve always felt that Sonic in 3D with his mouth modeled at the center of his face makes it look like he has this weird overbite going on. The old design had a center-mouth as well, but, being linked to a more humanoid jawline with actual lips mitigated that particular issue. I’ll still take what we have over what we might have gotten, but that doesn’t mean what we have is perfect. I’ll also note that Sonic’s serious-face doesn’t look nearly as serious anymore, but given that he’s not being portrayed as a very serious character, I can certainly live with that. I’ll also add that having the fur on his face more messy and unkempt as it was in the original design was one of the best parts of that design compared with the new one. Having it so smooth and shiny as it is in the new design makes it a lot less believable as a creature that could exist in our world, especially when viewed from far away or in less focus, making it look almost too much like the smooth clay-like texture seen on in-game models.

Untitled

So am I psychic or what?

So with that out of the way, we can finally talk about other parts of the trailer. And so…uh…here’s what I said about the last trailer.

Apparently, Sonic now generates electricity when he runs, which sticks to his quills even after they fall off. This is a fact that is constantly brought up throughout the trailer…If you’ve ever had experience with “The Flash,” a DC Comics character, you may recall that this speedster does the same thing…

Untitled.png

And look at this! We have another example of Sonic pretending to be The Flash as he goes into “Flashtime,” slowing the world around him to a pace that even “the speed of sound” wouldn’t be nearly enough to justify.

Glad to see that connection wasn’t an accident. But regardless, this scene’s showcasing of Sonic as a child roughing it on his own in some hole or basement or wherever he lives did a much better job showing him as a relatable character than the first trailer managed to do. Seeing him speeding through the comics of someone who interests and most likely inspires him, seeing him play games with himself and seek other means of amusement, all of it well demonstrated not just a concealed sense of loneliness, but also his happy-go-lucky resistance to such dark feelings. It made him feel like a relatable person, far better that the previous trailer’s brief glimpses of a pile of shoes and an old tape player did. (Not claiming that the movie has been changed in any significant way, I’m working under the assumption that it hasn’t, just trying to say that this trailer was better put-together than the last one.)  Honestly though, the baseball scene that came next was probably a bit too much, the glimpses of him in his home did the same job in less time (and with fewer fart jokes, which is always a plus). Though I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I approve of references. And the use of the Green Hill Zone theme (which is rather difficult to secure the rights to, from what I understand), was, of course appreciated, even if it is rather odd that it wasn’t used when we were actually looking at Green Hill Zone earlier.

Untitled

Ahhhh!

I know I said I was done with the design stuff, but I will note that I find the gaping size of his mouth in this scene to be downright creepy. To have his teeth that far apart, he would most certainly have to dislocate his jaw. Honestly, I never understood the whole “teeth” problem people were having with the old design, but I don’t find this to be any better. But anyways, there’s that Warp Ring again, which continues to show up in several other places throughout the trailer. I hold to what I said about the last trailer, that I’m very interested to see how they go about acknowledging this piece of lore which has never before been acknowledged in the canon. Eh, it’s probably just a meaningless plot device. Still, it’ll be interesting. What else is of interest here is that, despite appearing to be the same  Sonic screaming scene seen in the previous trailer, the context seems to be a bit different, as Sonic was holding neither the ring nor the sack(?) he seems to have now, in the previous trailer. This is the one indication I’ve seen that would suggest that modifications may have been made to the movie beyond the aesthetic since last time. (Also, the close face shots seen above may be the same scene, despite one being on a random desert highway and the other being in Green Hill Zone. I would wager that was not a change made due to the movie’s delay, rather, they showed us an intentionally false setting the first time because they wanted to leave Green Hill as a surprise reveal for later.)

Untitled

Apparently, Sonic is now an alien fugitive.

So the whole “I’m not from your planet” thing was brought up in the last trailer, but they definitely drove the point in this time. Sonic frequently refers to the fact that he is from a planet which is not Earth (even though they very specifically call the planet Earth in the Adventure era fhnwrpslsjkjdrkgksnekngsingl*mashing head on keyboard angrily*). The use of the words “planet” and “Earth” confirms that Sonic does not come from some alternate Earth, and strongly suggests that the distance between the worlds is spacial, not dimensional. Which would mean that Sonic is literally a space alien. I mean, I suppose it’s certainly one way to interpret the whole hotly-debated “two worlds” issue of Sonic lore. It’s not like space travel is taken as a very significant event in the Sonic games, so I suppose I would probably like that explanation better than the more commonly accepted separate universes, or worse yet separate canons. But can we talk for a second about Sonic’s motivations for coming to Earth? He claims that people on his planet are after his powers. What people!? Who in a universe even remotely resembling the games (Eggman excluded) would be after Sonic’s powers!? Could it be that we’re actually dealing with potential antagonists who have absolutely nothing to do with Eggman? I do sincerely hope that this is a question that will actually be answered in the movie. Eh, it’s probably just a meaningless plot device. Regardless, I think I smell a potential plot for a Chaos Project crossover episode… (or maybe that’s just the smell of body spray and an old ham sandwich).

Untitled

Never thought I’d see Robotnik do the Robot.

I’ll say this again as well. I see a lot more Jim Carrey here than I see Eggman. Or should I be saying Robotnik? I was somewhat surprised to hear the Robotnik nomer used, seeing as they seem to have been doing away with it ever since its one offhanded mention in Generations. But, as I said before, the evolution of an eccentric Doctor into the mad genius Eggman is the plotline I most look forward to seeing out of this movie. So anyways, they can shape “Robotnik” however they want, as long as I’m able to recognize him as Eggman come the movie’s end. And I won’t lie, I’ve found just about every shot he’s in to be hilarious thus far. Especially when he got punched in the face. You just don’t get that kind of satisfying slapstick violence in the games. On another note, I am getting more and more curious about Robotnik’s assistant. Is he supposed to be a reference to something? He seems…almost too perfect. You know what? Calling it right now, he’s the true villain of the movie. I got the Flash thing right, so let’s see if my future-telling powers hold out.

Untitled

Seriously though, why wasn’t this a reference to the first boss of Sonic 2?

One interesting change of note seen throughout the trailer is that they seem to have drastically reduced the intensity of the lightning effect used to represent Sonic’s powers. His discarded quills now seem to only glow, rather than having electricity constantly running through them, and the picture shown above has all of the electricity used to knock it over completely dissipated, where it was still going strong at the same point in the first trailer. Not sure that it necessarily means anything in particular, but it’s a change I’m happy they made. I necessarily mind used as a representation of his power, but dialing it back as they did better shows that it’s just a representation, rather than having his powers actually revolving around lightning as the old effects seemed to suggest.

Untitled

Glad to see that some things will actually be taken seriously.

There’s not a whole lot else to talk about from this trailer. It was certainly dedicated much more Sonic’s character than it was to the plot, and rightfully so, seeing as the character is what we all tuned in to this trailer to see. I’ll still reserve judgement on whether or not like this interpretation of the character until I see the full range of his personality, but I’m not gonna lie, his excitable personally, expressive animation, and good-looking new design made me really start to think of him as adorable, which never would’ve flown with the old design…or…any interpretation of Sonic, for that matter. Sonic has never been “cute” to me, but this movie seems to be pulling it off well. That is, of course, until things get serious, which I see as a necessity. Sonic is at his best when he knowingly risks everything to perform a heroic deed, not because it’s heroic, but because it’s right. I saw a lot of people shouting “Super Sonic!” at the picture shown above, and…I seriously doubt it. More likely just him discovering the true extent of inner power or whatever. I don’t see Super Sonic fitting into this movie at all, in all honesty. Even though he’s a blue hedgehog who runs faster than the speed of sound, they wouldn’t want to break their precious live-action realism by bringing magic fur-color-changing invincibility-granting rocks into the fray. I’d love to see it—anything that makes this movie more uniquely Sonic and less generic Hollywood is a good thing in my eyes. But it’s not happening.

Image result for sonic the hedgehog movie promotional image instagram

My boi’s back in the best pose!

So what’s the final verdict? If the old design was a 4 out of 10, this one’s a 9. Not perfect, but pretty darned close. And as to the movie itself, my opinion hasn’t changed much. I expect it to be mediocre at best. But a mediocre movie staring a lovable character can still be pretty good in its own right, so in that sense, I’m more excited to see the movie than ever before. So…

-I have no idea how it isn’t dead, but that’s a cause for celebration!
(And somebody give Robotnik a big fat break. He’s too skinny.)

Review: Season 1, Episode 10

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

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

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

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

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

I think that’s all I’ve got for now!

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

Review: Season 1, Episode 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Season 0 Finale (Episode 32)

Oh, man. It’s hard to believe it’s over. I mean, The Chaos Project still has a long way to go, but Season 0, the backbone of the whole story, is actually over. It’s been two years. Two whole years! Ten percent of my life, I’ve spent on this season alone, and now it’s over! Two years ago, if you had told me I would end the season on a cliffhanger battle between Blacklight and Infinite, I would’ve…well, first I would’ve asked who Infinite is, because Forces wasn’t announced yet, but then I would’ve called you crazy. Certainly, I would’ve been on, like, Season 2 at least. And certainly, if it had somehow taken me that long to end Season 0, there’s no way I would’ve dedicated such an important episode to concepts from some bland Modern Sonic game that no one likes. After all, the stories of Modern Sonic games are specifically what I’m writing this story to combat. And yet, here we are. I guess you just never know what life’s gonna throw at you. But hey, make your move, work it out, that’s what life is all about. It’s an adventure. And somehow, through it all, it still leads into Crisis of Chaos in exactly the ways I wanted it to. I suppose I should probably explain that ending scene itself. The idea didn’t occur to me until some time during the writing of this episode, but I thought that, given the way this whole arc started, and the innate similarities between Infinite and Blacklight that have been drastically strengthened by the Ruby connection, their relationship needed better resolution than the climax offered.

Man, where do I even go from here, talking about this episode? SO. MUCH. ACTION. This was really testing the limits of my action-writing skills. I suppose that explains how this ended up being far and away the longest episode of this season, likely of the entire story. 14,000 words, where 5,000 is where I like to be, and 11,000 was the record set just one episode earlier. Dialogue is very efficient, one word of dialogue translates fairly well to one second of screen time. But for an action sequence, two or three sentences, long ones, could be necessary to describe just a quick few seconds of equivalent on-screen motion.

Anyways, I suppose I should start with the actual episode content now. I already mentioned in last episode’s review that that episode was like the “character finale,” while this is the “action and plot finale,” and that ended up holding pretty true. But what I didn’t say was that, while last episode was specifically for Shadow and his little group, this episode was for everyone. Usually I like to identify who the main characters for each episode are, and by my normal evaluation method, that would include pretty much the entire Sonic cast this time (the exceptions being Silver, Blaze, Classic Sonic, Zero, and arguably Sonic himself, plus spin-off characters like the Babylons). For such an important episode, I think that’s pretty fair.

Since it actually took up a pretty fair percentage of this episode, I suppose I should talk about Cream’s little character arc. I promised it would happen, and I think I delivered. In the end, she didn’t really “handle herself” as well as I’d hoped, but I also wanted to make sure to keep things within her established character. Fun fact; I was originally planning on having her actually accept the gun from the Commander, or maybe end up being forced to use his, but in the end, I realized that was kind of…wrong, to put a gun in the hands of a seven-year-old. Hence why I had to talk about the safeties in the gun to have the Commander offer the weapon in the first place without seeming like a terrible, terrible person in the process. The culprit, I think, for making me think it was okay before I came to my senses, is Ender’s Game, a sci-fi novel about a child sent to wage war against an alien race. You might remember it for the terrible movie it had a few years back, but the books are great. Anyways, the idea of a kid with a gun didn’t seem so crazy to me in light of that, but I realized that not everyone would agree with that assessment. But anyways, those scenes were also nice because I got to give the Commander a proper character arc, even if only a small one. I’ve been painting him as such a jerk throughout this series, but I do really like him as a character, so it was very nice to show his more caring, protective side. Not to mention his skills as a soldier, since he’s usually on the sidelines. Before our next topic, I’d like to confirm that Heavy Shinobi is not dead. I just wanted to prove a point about Infinite’s brutality, which I think went quite well.

Since I just mentioned soldiers, I guess I’ll move on to Hero next. I knew right from the beginning that I didn’t want to pull another fake Super Form with him like I did in After the Fight, but I also knew that he was much too important to this episode arc to be relegated to lesser fights. So, recalling the fact that Titanic Monarch was a Zone before it was a final boss, I thought that having Hero traverse that Zone in the middle of Shadow’s Super fight would be a great way to show off the sheer scale of the Monarch, while also giving him a great opportunity for a final interaction with Infinite. Of course, this planning was all before I was even done with After the Fight, so their entire thing they had going back then was all for the purpose of leading up to “I don’t want to see you burn.” Essentially, that was Infinite’s way of saying “I care about you,” which is insane for him, but that’s why I had them spend so much time together over the course of this arc. And then of course, Hero said his first words! Sort of. “Nuh-uh” aren’t exactly words. I originally planned on a more resolute “No,” but I was advised against such a drastic move at this time. Doesn’t mean he won’t say more in the future, but as his very first semblance of speech, something a little more like how he usually expresses himself seemed a little more appropriate. And of course, we have his resolution, becoming a proper GUN soldier. I mentioned this before, and I know that it felt rushed, almost out of the blue, but I couldn’t have him talk about it! The best I could do is hint that he’d be without a purpose after the war, and show that he has a respect for the Commander. Honestly, I think it’s a pretty reasonable step for him to take, given his character arc in Forces alone, but since it’s technically your custom character, I can see why anyone might disagree with that.

I guess I’ll talk about my shames of this episode now. Probably the biggest was how much Tails was shoved off to the side, considering that he was technically the first main character of this arc. Before Forces ever came along, this arc was intended to form a pretty important bond between Shadow and Tails, and I’ll admit that that part got completely dropped halfway through. I’ll just have to move the building of that relationship off into next season (or maybe the one after), which is fine by me. I can still use the early episodes of this arc as a foundation. But anyways, it’s actually pretty sad that Cream got more of a focus in this episode than Tails did, but in the grand scheme of things, he really just wasn’t that important, and I didn’t want to force anything. Next up is the Super fight. It was meant to be…a lot more exciting. But as you could probably tell, I gave up on actually describing most of it halfway through, and instead just implied that stuff was happening while they were talking. The problem is that the Monarch itself had a giant, blaring, fragile weak point, one hit and it’s over, which made it a lot harder to keep interesting. Not to mention the fact that the episode was intended to be much shorter, so one battle spread throughout all of it wouldn’t have seemed so dragged out that way. There’s one last disappointment, and it’s a small one. Considering that Bruno the Wisp is technically the only original character I introduced in this arc, I would’ve like for him to be…at least a little bit more important. I mean, he served his purpose, he gave Hero a way to communicate with others, he armed the Wispon when necessary, and he showed off character from Hero in that he’s less secure without him. And of course, he had a few entertaining interactions with Infinite. But he himself didn’t gain much in the way of character. Oh, well. And…that’s really all for disappointments. I’m quite fond of this episode over all.

I could probably keep talking here for hours, as seems to be becoming the norm. But I think I’ve covered all the most important parts. There are quite a few things I sort of intended to talk about, like more about those three ending scenes, but I think I wrote them in a way that each speaks for itself. So I guess this is where I’ll stop. So now is the time for another big announcement. I can now confirm that I will publish the premiere episode of Season 1 on June 23rd, the second anniversary of the story, and Sonic’s 27th. That’s next week! No need for a long seasonal break! (Though there may be a summer hiatus thereafter.) So keep an eye out!

-And until then, 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.

Continue reading

Review: After the Fight

Wow. This was an undertaking. Where do I even begin? From the beginning, I suppose. Our starting point would be the moment I finished Infinite Possibilities, the first Sonic Forces special. At that point, I had literally no idea what would come next. I had the basic, rudimentary outline of what the next episode arc would be, and made that first special purely as a way to kick off that arc while simultaneously celebrating the release of Forces. I wrote it knowing that I would eventually have to explain how Blacklight became Infinite, but I figured, based on the “Phantom Ruby prototype” concept (which I only knew about because of the beta release of the mobile game, Sonic Forces Speed Battle) that it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to explain later that Eggman simply made another fake, if all else failed.

Unrelated to that train of thought, a little while after the game came out, I was accidentally spoiled by a single name. “Null Space.” I had no idea what it was, or what its role was in the game (though the spoiler in question did contain the statement that it was underused in the plot). I knew at that moment that I had found my connection between Sonic Forces and my story. From the beginning, back when I wrote the final episode of the Birth of Blacklight arc, I specifically left one very vague statement at the end. “He is safely hidden away.” On one hand, I actually hadn’t yet put the thought into where exactly that hiding place would be, as I knew that I had the whole Dawn of Chaos arc in the middle to think of a good location to kick off this new arc (originally, the location of Sonic’s fight in what would become the first Forces special was supposed to be that hiding spot, he was supposed to see Blacklight getting woken up). On the other hand, the imminent release of Forces was in the back of my mind, and I had a pretty good feeling at that point that it would coincide with the beginning of this new arc. I saw an opportunity to connect them, so I decided that a great way to do so would be to make that hiding place an important location from Forces itself. So when I saw the words “Null Space,” what I saw was something that could almost certainly be the exact place I was looking for to bring this all together. The decision to make Blacklight into Infinite was entirely separate, so when I actually played the game for myself, and learned that Null Space was so intrinsically related to the Phantom Ruby and Infinite, I was almost giddy. The connection wasn’t just there, it was perfect.

One other spoiler I accidentally got was a snapshot of the final scene before the credits, all the characters cheering in front of what I later learned was the Eggman Empire Fortress. By that point, I had already learned quite a bit about Infinite as a character, between the prequel comics, the trailers, and my own attempt with Blacklight-Infinite. I had grown very attached to him. I thought that the face under his mask was…well, sort of adorable. Maybe handsome would be a better word. Either way, I liked him. I wanted to see that guy be happy. So I started planning for a redemption story. I wanted him to come crawling back at the moment of that snapshot I saw, begging for forgiveness, warning of some greater threat. I wanted he and the Avatar to become good friends, for the Avatar to truly show him the way back to heroism. Sound familiar? Bcause that’s pretty much exactly what I ended up writing…up to the last three minutes or so. More on that in a moment.

After I played the game, things just kept falling into place. The “Fading World” background song for Imperial Tower (that level was a great experience, by the way) implied that the Ruby prototype was calling to the Avatar’s dark emotions, helping to justify Infinite’s being a better person without it. Infinite disappeared towards the end of the story, without a clear end, without any serious character resolution. Best of all (or worst, from any standpoint other than mine as a writer) Eggman didn’t even use the real Ruby! He used Infinite’s prototype! (At least, I’m 90% sure on that. It wasn’t extremely clear, and I’ve seen some debate about it.) All of the pieces lined up into a perfect puzzle, where the Phantom Ruby itself could be framed as the true final villain, Infinite would have perfect reason to be the necessary exposition to explain that, and could be truly redeemed from there. I explained some of the basics of my ideas to my brother and fellow writer, Yuni Oha. He was skeptical. He didn’t really see redemption as a reasonable option, because Infinite was so darned evil in the real story. I argued back that his one blue eye was meant to show that he still had some good in him, and he just tried to cover it up with the mask. He countered that everything I said may make for a good excuse, after the fact, of why I did it, but none of it makes for a proper reason to make it happen in the first place. Not long later, the full Sonic Forces soundtrack was released. After he listened to Infinite’s full theme for the first time, he begged me not redeem him. And, after some further discussion, I was convinced. No more redemption for Infinite. Problem was, I’d already planned such a full and complex story to write, that heavily depended on Infinite as a character. In fact, I still started writing this episode less than 24 hours after that. So I thought…Let’s fake it! More specifically, let’s help out Infinite’s character in a different way. Let’s see him at his lowest, see him show a level of caring that we haven’t seen before, give all of us a reason to care about him as a person, even as he stays evil to the end. I was still able to write a fundamentally similar story, just with an added moment of extra drama right at the end. But that still left one problem. If Infinite is still Infinite, how can Blacklight become Infinite? In order to answer that question, I ended up coming up with a much better concluding scene than I was originally planning. “Better” being a relative term. Because it was kind of sad for me, going through all that work to bring Infinite back to power, only to take it away from him. But at that point, the first Forces special had been out there for well over a month, and it was absolutely necessary that Blacklight become the primary problem. I needed to write myself out of that hole with that scene. And it was a good scene, sudden and unexpected, but disappointing from Infinite’s perspective all the same.

So, what else is there to talk about? I ended up writing this episode with the thought in mind to make it as easy as possible to read for someone who’s never read any part of the rest of the series before, partly because Yuni said he wanted to read it after the Infinite conversation we had, and partly just because, as a direct insert into Sonic Forces, direct connections to the rest of my story weren’t really all that necessary. That’s why I didn’t actually name Lt. Alfred when he was voicing over at the beginning, why I had him give a brief synopsis of the Birth of Blacklight arc in the first place.

The design and concept of the Phantom Nightmare was something that came to me quickly and easily. After all the buildup with the Replicas, you only ended up fighting half of them in the final game, and even then they never really did anything. Plus, it was something Yuni and I had been talking about long before the game came out, that all four of the advertised Replicas had some manner of Super Form. It was a logical step to give them all a purpose, while creating an opponent worthy of Super Sonic. With the Ruby’s illusionary powers, fusing them all together into a single monster seemed like a logical extreme. The addition of Heavy King was something that I was debating at first, but in the end I decided that anything that gives Classic Sonic a reason to exist is a good thing. (That one line, “This was never your fight,” was a stab at the fact that Classic Sonic didn’t even belong in this game). I also debated using Titanic Monarch instead of Phantom King as the Heavy King’s “Super Form,” but I was convinced that it just couldn’t properly be justified at this time. Originally, I was planning on having the Phantom Nightmare simply tear out of Null Space right from the get-go. But Yuni, once again, convinced me to have a clear scene where each of the Replicas transform before fusing, just to make it clear what’s really happening.

Let’s see, what else? I was glad to give an excuse to exclude Shadow and Silver from this Super fight, where Generations DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER. *Ahem* Sorry, that’s just a thing that bothers me.

The Avatar’s character arc is something that most people would say Forces did relatively well, especially compared to most recent Sonic games. But I knew that it could use a little extra something. The Avatar grew from point A to point B, which was good. But any good character development arc requires a moment of reflection. A moment where a question is posed, and resolutely answered, of how valid that development was. Speaking of the Avatar, his new little Wisp friend is something that came to me sort of randomly, but I thought it would be good for him to have someone he could call a partner, even when he’s out there alone.

Well, there’s more I could probably say, but I think this has gone on long enough. But rest assured. This is not the last you’ve seen of Infinite or the Avatar.

-And before I say goodbye to you, one more last fist bump!
(For real this time, last one, I promise.)

Sonic Forces Special 2: After the Fight

Here it is! After such a long wait, the reactionary episode to Sonic Forces is finally here! (And it’s way better than that first special.) Read it right here!

Infinite was defeated. The war was won. The world was saved. Or was it? What happened to the real Phantom Ruby? What happened to Infinite? Why did it take so long for Classic Sonic to go home? Perhaps there is more to the story than we know. Witness, now, the true final battle that Sonic Forces deserved.

Sonic Forces: A Few Words

With less than one week remaining until this game comes out, I thought that I would take a moment to really think about what the game is promising and how likely it is to deliver, as compared to my initial thoughts from the game’s first announcement. Yeesh, what did I even say when this game was first announced? Let’s see here… I think it will be easiest to start with my thoughts on gameplay.

“…I was hopeful that [the Adventure-like narrative] would mean the gameplay could be closer to Adventure era as well. Although, they start with “team that brought you Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations,” which are pretty far off from adventure-style gameplay. ”

“…this was confirmed as a game in the style of Sonic Unleashed, Colors, and Generations. If they think that they can get an Adventure lover like myself to love that formula, I’m glad to see them try.”

“As for the 2D…meh. If the 3D is good, then having the 2D certainly won’t ruin the game, it will just mean having less time enjoying the maximum that the game has to offer.”

I’m going to be honest here, and I’m sorry to anyone who I might offend. I don’t like Boost formula. Personally, I find it’s tendency towards straight hallways to be intrinsically inferior to the open, yet still high-speed, exploration that the Adventure formula encourages. In recent times I’ve come to understand that Sonic Generations, Seaside Hill in particular, finds a pretty good balance. And I respect that. Of course, Sonic Generations as a whole was still plagued by far too much 2D as compared to 3D, and I don’t like that. But the point is, I’m not really in the position to analyze Forces’ gameplay as compared to other Boost games. In terms of control, I can understand the desire to have full control during quickstep sections (I hate those too), rather than being locked into using only the quickstep buttons, and I understand that as a flaw of this game compared to Generations, in addition to the missing drift ability and automatic turning. But any more specific than that, and it all seems kind of the same to me. Rather than complain about it, I’ve learned to accept that that’s what I’m getting. Based on my understanding, these specifics of the Boost formula is the primary source of legitimate dislike for this game. If the only thing worth complaining about in this game is something that I can’t realistically complain about…does that mean that this actually is the perfect Modern Sonic game for me? I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it’s a place to start. Moving on…

“Anyways, the existence of Classic Sonic pretty much removes any possible chance of other characters being involved.”

“I just find it so unfortunate, and it stands in the way of so many possible gameplay, and more importantly, story opportunities.”

Did I say that? Well, I was very wrong. It’s actually kind of insane thinking of how I went from “No possible chance of good story” to “Best story in over a decade.” I never would have thought that Classic Sonic and good story could go together in the same sentence, but here I am. It’s very hard for me to figure out what to say right now, because I feel like they’ve just made it so self-demonstrative. Obviously, the chance always exists that the full details of the game will shatter these Ruby Illusions of mine, and the story will turn out to be horribly anticlimactic. But…even if we’ve somehow already seen parts of every single cutscene in the game, the sum total will still be better than Colors. And Generations. And Mania. I’ll hold judgement on Lost World, because even though its story sucked too, it at least had some very good character going for it. What was I saying again? Oh, right. Somehow, Sonic Team has done the impossible by bringing back Classic Sonic, yet maintaining a cohesive story that doesn’t depend on his presence. I mean, imagine Sonic Rush, except that even though it is thoroughly explained how and why Blaze is there, a full, complex and enriching story existed separately from or only indirectly related to that explanation. It isn’t the obvious thing to do. It isn’t easy, either. But the results could be and are spectacular. And that’s all just the story. The other thing I mentioned was characters. Now, I’ll admit. It’s still kind of ridiculous that the playable characters of this game are Sonic, Sonic, and the opposite of Sonic. The Avatar (still waiting on that canon name, and no, Corvin the Bird doesn’t count) is slow, blandly-designed, and lacking in character. And even though I’m still not entirely sure how good of an idea the create-a-character deal is for Sonic…I’m okay with it. I see the appeal, not just for fanfic creators like myself, but for any child out there who dreams about going on an adventure with Sonic. It’s clear that the partner dynamic is going to be more than a little emphasized. On one hand, they’re really giving Tails the shaft, even going far enough to call the Avatar Sonic’s new sidekick. On the other hand, it’s opening the opportunity for a completely new, role-reversal type dynamic between Tails and Classic Sonic. What’s that? A character dynamic for Classic Sonic!? It’s actually happening! By the way, anyone else notice how Tails is taller and more mature than Classic Sonic, and yet he’s still considerably younger?

So, what’s the conclusion? Is this the perfect Modern Sonic game? No. Take the control and level design of Sonic Generations, flip the 2D-3D ratio the other way around, further expound on the intricacies of the level design, and slap on the story and creativity of Forces, and there you would have it. As Forces stands, it needs more 3D, more intricate level design, and more…something. Since the Avatar already plays so differently from Sonic, I feel like more creativity in that department would be appreciated. The addition of another playable character with more specific abilities could do it. As much as I would like that, I’m perfectly happy with how the characters are presently being used. To be totally honest, I don’t think we even need as many characters as we have in this game, as long as the characters used have variety, play important roles, and don’t get periodically forgotten. Back on topic, there is one very particular word I can use to describe my feeling about this entire game. Content. No, not like game content, like I am feeling content. Is it perfect? No. But accepting the fact that the gameplay will never be perfect for me, I derive serious satisfaction from almost everything else.

-So before I say goodbye to you, one more last fist bump!

Opinionated Review: Sonic Mania

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.

Continue reading

Fist Bump!

(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.)