Review: Season 0, Episode 31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review: Season 0, Episode 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Know You’re Supporting Me

I almost cried. I literally almost cried.

Shadow in Sonic Forces has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for me. When he first appeared in gameplay footage for Sunset/City Heights, I was very, very excited. When the Villains trailer dropped the next day, the hype died quite a bit as I learned that Shadow was a villain, but I was still craving an answer as to why, far more so than I cared for Infinite at the time. When Enter Infinite came along, I shoved Shadow aside and never turned back, as I was far more interested in Infinite after that. I was accepting, if not satisfied, of the fact that Shadow would do whatever the heck Shadow does, and we would still get an interesting character out of Infinite either way. As we learned that Infinite is just another creation of Eggman’s, I became a bit less interested, but then this happened. I suppose I should post that last video as well. (Edit: Official English version.)

That’s all very interesting, and I’m excited for the story, but we’re talking about Shadow right now. Shadow who stood back and watched while Infinite beat Sonic to the ground. Shadow who didn’t even appear in the above story trailer. Shadow who, after Sonic Boom, had me very, very afraid for what Sonic developers really thought of him. But all of that changes now. Free DLC for all players, which includes a new playable character and 3 prequel levels to go with him (besides the “over 10 Modern Sonic-based stages” he can also play in) as well as a new side of the story. Story! I say it a lot, and I mean it! Supposedly, these new levels chronicle the fate of Team Dark (apparently that’s now an official term outside of the comics) and teach the player about the true nature and origin of Infinite. That is really exciting.

But that does bring up some concerns. Are they seriously telling me that you don’t actually learn about Infinite’s origin in the actual main game? If so, that’s a pretty bad sign for the game’s plot as a whole. I’m glad that they’re telling us at all (that’s more than we got for Lost World), but a story with a powerful villain who never gets an explanation in the main story sounds a bit lackluster. Additionally, that seems to confirm that Rouge and Omega don’t appear in any significant role in the main story, which isn’t necessarily bad, but removes the possibility of some good character interactions that could have gone on with Shadow.

And…there’s something else I haven’t mentioned yet. Even though I’ve been waiting to play as Shadow again for the last ten years, this isn’t exactly what I was hoping for in terms of gameplay. I was kind of hoping that I would never have to see Shadow in 2D. There goes that. And canonically giving Shadow Boost gameplay severely, severely decreases any future chances of him playing in the Adventure style in any future games where they might choose to bring back separate playstyles. The level design that they just showed us…looks okay at best. If they wanted to get us hyped, they should have cut the footage time in half and showed us 3D gameplay instead. Unless…Shadow is almost all 2D. *shivers* I don’t really want to think about that. But these days, who knows? Seeing as Shadow, unlike Sonic and the Custom Hero alike, has only ever appeared in 3D, it seems like this would be the correct opportunity to make Shadow’s levels, like the tag team ones, entirely in 3D (guess I never talked about tag team on this site either. Gameplay style looks like a fun changeup, all-3D levels looks and sounds very nice.). Anyways, I’m sad that it had to happen this way, but I’m thrilled that it’s happening at all. After ten years, Shadow finally gets his chance to shine. Let’s hope that Kirk Thornton doesn’t screw this up too badly.

-Until next time, let’s hope we won’t be losing Shadow before long.

Review: Season 0, Episode 16

So before I explain the history of this episode, I think I would like to briefly describe the game idea which this arc corresponds to. This game would be the long-awaited though controversial Shadow the Hedgehog 2. A lot of people didn’t like the original, but personally, I think it might have been the single most fun Sonic game to play, even though it had its fair share of shortcomings. But I digress. So Shadow 2 would have a level progression gimmick similar to the original. However, instead of a branching storyline based on mission selection, the next level you play in Shadow 2 would be determined based on factors such as your score, time, and ring count in the previous level. Each time Shadow travels through time, his destination is different depending on those factors. By this variation, there would be no “correct” level order, as there would be many different arrangements one could take that still goes through all of the same places, just in different orders. Theoretically, one could “beat the game” in as few as three levels, if they meet the requirements necessary to progress to the final level early on. However, the only way to unlock final mode would be to play through a game in which all Chaos Emeralds are collected, and therefore all cutscenes are viewed. There’s everything important. Now for the episode.

Up until the first half of the episode was completed, I had entirely different plans. Instead of going to the future to meet Omega, I intended for Shadow and Sunlight to have their first time-travel excursion to a period which will now be one of their last. But, in the true spirit of this game, I decided last-second to play the levels in a different order instead. I decided that I wanted to drag out Shadow’s concerns over humanity for quite a bit longer. Now, the “levels” I show in this arc shouldn’t necessarily be taken at face value as the “canon” order. I’m actually skipping along to keep the story interesting, like I did with Speed of Time. Canon wise, I suppose there would probably be one more level between Shadow’s initial meeting with Sunlight and their meeting with Omega. It would be a journey to a different time period of no particular interest, where Sunlight would find the white Emerald and use Chaos Frost for the first time, leaving the Omega level afterwards free of any distraction from the betrayal of humanity theme, which I felt was actually a pretty big problem for this episode. Too many different ideas were going on, and the discussion dragged on for much too long after Omega was destroyed and the climax of the episode was over. It was also a little weird that Sunlight found two Emeralds in the same place in such a short time. But it still worked out better than wasting even more time by adding an extra level. Anyways, now looking back from the perspective of having completed this arc, I add that the whole level progression gimmick would no longer work the way it was intended if story is to be taken as anything even remotely close to the game. I suppose it could simply be that the second-to-last location of the arc be required in game to be the second-to-last level, or else the first story be ended in a flat, meaningless way. More on that once this is all over.

Now to talk about the elephant in the room. Or rather, the shadow demon. Much as I had Speed of Time be Silver’s character-development substitute for what was erased at the end of Sonic 06, so was this episode for Shadow. There were quite a large number of 06 quotes thrown around in the episode, from Shadow and Sunlight alike. Something that I would say was a bit of a flaw in the original story was that Shadow almost instantly rejected the proposals of Mephiles. But seeing as Mephiles was hated and mistrusted, and trying to be taken on his word alone, it makes perfect sense that Shadow would want nothing to do with it. But that meant that he experienced no emotional turmoil, making the whole thing seem a little arbitrary. Instead of a true dilemma, Shadow’s story amounted to the ravings of a manipulative enemy. I exaggerate, of course, but the point stands that a problem existed. But this time around, things are different. After witnessing firsthand humanity’s attempts to betray him, someone he truly wants to trust tries to make the same argument. And this time, Shadow believes it. Even though he decided in the end that Sunlight was insane, the ideas had already been set in his mind by that point. As for Sunlight’s insanity, even Shadow seems to be misjudging him. What he said certainly sounded insane, not only that the Emerald can talk to him, but that it told him the story of an erased timeline. But we, as outsiders, see that he is telling the truth, with the knowledge that Sonic 06 did happen. This was meant to show that Sunlight doesn’t think wrong, but merely different, to show that there’s more to his character than just craziness, all while helping to solidify Shadow’s fears about humanity on a subconscious level. And…that’s all I got.

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

Updates!

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

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

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

Review: Cast by the Light Finale

Like the episode release itself, this post details both Part 10 and the Epilogue. Starting with the beginning, I warped time a little bit to have Shadow not finish his boss fight until after the next cutscene had started, just a little creative liberty to improve the story’s flow. Next, the Final Hazard fight was fairly standard, though I did have a lot of fun picking and choosing between the large number of random lines shouted at you throughout the original fight, and stringing them together in ways which seemed to show progression that didn’t originally exist. It is notable that Sonic’s line to Shadow after the fight “at this rate your Super Form won’t last,” was supposed to be said during the fight if you start to run out of rings as Shadow. I moved it over to help convey the same sense of drama at a more appropriate time. Also added to that scene was the flashback describing Shadow’s Inhibitor Rings. What those rings are supposed to be is never once mentioned in the original game, and Shadow isn’t even seen removing them, despite the fact that Sonic is holding one of them later. However, I believe it was Sonic 06 that first canonized them as specifically being Inhibitor Rings, in the final cutscene of his story after the fight with Mephiles. Anyways, I felt it very much needed to be retroactively added. The last change in that scene was an added event in which Sonic grudgingly chooses not to save Shadow. In the original, the possibility of Shadow’s being rescued is not even considered, despite the fact that there’s no specific reason why Sonic can’t have gone after him.

Next is the change that came to what was originally the credits sequence. Particularly the discussion between Tails and Eggman. In the original, Tails shouted, at random, in an almost creepy manner, “We all did it together!” He’s quite famous for that line, actually. That’s why I saw it as particularly necessary to fix. First, I changed his attitude and mannerisms in saying it, though I didn’t remove or change any of the specific words said. I had it suggested that Tails is uncomfortable with the subject of idolized figures not turning out to be what they seem, explaining why he so dramatically changed the subject. Why he would have such discomfort is something that will be explored later in The Chaos Project. Anyways, perhaps that change alone might have been enough, but I took it a step further. I had Tails continue to speak, in way which ties his original statement back into the original subject, despite his discomfort. “Together” matters because it means that Eggman doesn’t need to concern himself with the grandfather that he has surpassed through teamwork. And that’s all for Part 10!

As for the Epilogue, there’s not a whole lot to say for such a short scene. It was actually quite interesting writing for it, since characters in Sonic Heroes are a lot more active and expressive than they were in Sonic Adventure 2, making the whole sequence take a lot longer to describe than it would have if the scene were made for an older game. Even in the middle of dialogue, each character would be behaving in their own way, making it difficult to get all of the timing right. But I enjoyed the change of pace. There were a few liberties taken with how long it takes for Shadow to be fully revealed, since it wasn’t kept much of a secret in the original (seeing as you’ve already chosen him on the character select screen by the time the scene starts). Lastly, I added a line to Rouge’s reconciliation at the end, detailing her own motivations which I felt were missing when defining those of the other two. And that’s all! Cast by the Light is officially finished!

– So until next time, remember to live and learn every day! And while you’re at it, don’t forget to set the stage for a heroes parade!

Review: Premiere Event Part 4

And so, all of the OC’s died, and Eggman lived happily ever after. Except that this is not the end. It is just the beginning…

First off, I would like to talk about the conversation between Chaos and Shadow. That was actually completely unplanned, originally I had Sonic and Shadow arriving at about the same time. The first change came when I decided to have Shadow arrive first, to show the contrast between his near-death and Sonic’s relative ease. But then, as I was writing his reappearance, things just sort of naturally flowed into a “be careful” conversation, as that is what Chaos’ character dictates that he would say. But exactly what would be said there was more for planning ahead. Chaos just died, so there will not be any more chances for emotional scenes between him and Shadow. Sonic will get his chance in Season 0, so I decided to let Shadow have his now, at the only possible opportunity.

Next up… fusion…. Honestly, I’m not proud of that scene at all, as you may have been able to tell by Chaos’ speech, which was directed as much to you the reader as it was to Sonic and Shadow. I’ve never read another Sonic FanFiction before, but I get the strange feeling that fusing the two main characters through some magical power is just about the most stereotypical “FanFictiony” thing that one can do. I came up with the idea quite a few years ago, and I’ve been trying to find a way around it ever since. But I just couldn’t find a good way that wouldn’t ruin other story purposes. Oh, well. By the way, Shadow’s emotions will actually prevent this from being used as a plot device in the future, since his character is moving towards light while the process requires him to be dark, which I suppose is a plot device in and of itself, since that will be the reason that Eggman will not be easily defeated by this fusion later.

I would talk about the clock tower now, but I would hope that the cinematic effect it created was clear. If not, I suppose I failed at my job as a writer, to make that scene as intense and dramatic as possible. I’ll add that it was supposed to be…ironic, I suppose, that the fall of the planet to Eggman can really be pointed to as having happened at exactly midnight, New Year’s Eve. Once that was over, I made sure at the end of the episode to acknowledge the wide cast of characters which will not necessarily get an introduction when Season 1 begins, but hopefully in a way which doesn’t kill the dramatic mood of the previous scene. Two major things to take note of in that scene are that, firstly, Big was not in contact with the others, which will be an important fact, and secondly that Omega was entirely missing from the series of scenes. This is because he (yes, I do intend to use “he” and not “it” because he has been identified as male in the past) will be one of the few to get a serious introduction into the first episode of Season 1. And I guess that’s all, for now. Oh, and by the way, the Character Guide and Episode Guide have been updated to appropriately include the events of this episode.

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