Review: 50th Episode Special

As if it weren’t obvious, this episode was not exactly normal. I’ve mentioned multiple times before, both here and in the author’s notes of the actual story, that I had in mind the possibility of rewriting Crisis of Chaos, the four premiere episodes of the series. Besides just being generally poor in quality compared to my current standards of writing, those episodes had simply grown out of date as the series continued to grow. Being designed to come before the prequel, I of course did everything in my power to make sure that everything I would write thereafter would fit in correctly, but some inevitable contradictions and oddities popped up, especially in regards to Sonic Forces, which hadn’t even been announced at the time of those episodes being published. Eventually, I wanted to fix those problems, to address those conspicuously missing elements. But I’ve been focusing so hard on moving forwards that it always just seemed like a low priority. Then suddenly, I looked up from writing the Sonic Adventure Special, and realized that my next episode would be my 50th. Meanwhile, there were some unexpected delays in the episode that I had been planning on coming next. The secret Ninja Episode.

So, I realized that there would be no better time to go back to where it all began than for such a great milestone as a 50th episode. I figured that writing a new episode, rather than editing the old ones, would give me a lot more freedom to include things that would be considered spoilers if they’d been placed in those original episodes. Things like Fang, or even Infinite. It would also give me freedom in general, to write scenes which would have made for a very odd story flow if they’d been added before. I also figured that making a separate episode would attract a little more attention, and ensure that the new content would be read by people who already read the old episodes. So, with effectively no restrictions, I wrote.

This episode was dedicated to tying. Tying loose ends together, but also tying together the series as a whole. There are so many little things with considerable impacts that it would be hard to list them all. Probably the most important part, as mentioned above, was reconciling this story with the aspects that were introduced along with Forces (and Mania. I forget sometimes that that’s where the HBH’s come from.) It was addressing the questions of where Hero, Infinite, and of course, the Hard Boiled Heavies, were during this big war. I tried to write Hero’s introduction episode in this Season such that it didn’t matter too much, but still it left just a few questions hanging, which I hope have been answered. Infinite, on the other hand, benefited greatly from his one short scene in this episode. Where he was left at the end of Season 0, he had been given this odd sort of relationship with Blacklight which was left extremely vague, and next time we see him, Blacklight’s been dead for months and Infinite doesn’t say a word about him. I originally planned for him to at least say something at that point, but it just didn’t work with the episode. So finally, with this one, I was really able to show exactly what was going on between them. Infinite…had a friend…sort of. And that has a pretty significant degree of meaning for both of their characters.

The HBH’s are a little bit different. Technically speaking, there was nothing that really mandated their appearance in Crisis of Chaos, it would be very reasonable to say that, since they weren’t part of the big plan, they were just out fighting all the various offscreen battles. And technically that was true, though this episode actually retconned Heavy King into the ending scene of the original. But, just like Hero, it was nice to simply prove that they were there, and that they weren’t just sitting around and doing nothing.

Then, there were other things to reconcile. Things that, technically speaking, I could have planned for, but wasn’t able to anticipate, things that I would write of my own accord, knowing that they ran a bit against what the original Crisis seemed to suggest. One of the big ones there was Lumis. At the end of the Dawn of Chaos arc, Lumis was redeemed and welcomed back into the Realm of Chaos. But in the original Crisis, he was treated, both by myself the narrator, and by Chaos, as a villain, simply because all I had planned for Lumis at the time of Crisis was that he would be the future villain, with no details about how that story would end. That was reconciled in this episode by showing that Chaos was simply holding an unfounded grudge, with the added benefit of serious character development on both sides with the realization of similarities between them, and the fact that even the so-called-gods cannot be perfect.

And of course, there are the things I added simply to improve the depth of the story and characters, without any necessity otherwise. Little bits showing the relationships between Chaos, Sonic, and Shadow I found to be important because that dynamic was never really touched on outside of the original Crisis. And probably the part that added the most meat to this episode, the Commander subplot. At the time of the original Crisis, I had no idea how important the Commander would become in the grand scheme of the story. I knew I’d use him eventually, I just didn’t realize to what extent it would be. Naturally, I had to tell his missing story here after how much focus he got in Season 0, and even in the flashbacks of this season. Him combined with Hero was a fantastic way to show this war’s effect on the common man, something that was completely overlooked in the big robo-kaiju battle focus of the original Crisis.

And let’s not forgot the straight-up plotholes of the original that I had to fill here. Things that were pointed out me long after the original was published, such as “Why couldn’t the Hedgehogs just escape with Chaos Control?” and “Did Chaos die, or did he just go back to the Realm of Chaos?” and “Where did Tails get GUN technology from?” all got at least one dedicated scene to explaining. In regards to that last one, that “technology exchange” brought up for the first proper time in this episode was actually something I had planned on being discussed in a very, very similar scene in the original, and I’m not sure if I simply forgot to write it at the time, or if I actively decided to address it in what would become Forces of Chaos, and forgot once that came around. Either way, it never got addressed, so I had to fill it in here.

I’ll try not to drag this one out too much longer. I want to mention how I was randomly inspired to use the GUN Truck while watching a Sonic the Hedgehog Official Livestream a couple of weeks ago, and I’m very glad that I was. An action movie car chase scene just felt so right to use as the way that the Commander and Hero connect. To a certain extent, I was also inspired by a scene from the movie Captain America: Winter Soldier, in which Nick Fury, leader of the acronymed military organization SHIELD (I’ve drawn comparisons with the Commander before), was seemingly killed in a big, explosive car chase sequence. So what does that mean for the Commander? Is it possible that he’s still alive after being trapped in a sinking truck like that? Well, no one knows for certain. And eventually, that will become perhaps the single most relevant takeaway from this episode.

On a related note, this episode featured the second appearance of the mysterious “J. Naka”. Eventually, we will get to meet him in the present. But for now, his backstory just keeps getting built up little by little.

So what’s next after this big special episode? Normally, I’d say we’re going back to right where we left off in the main story of this season. But the specials aren’t over yet! Something important is happening in the next few days! The release of Team Sonic Racing! You didn’t think I’d let that slip by, did you? (Apparently I’ve never mentioned it on this site before. Wow, I really need to step up my game.) So does that mean we’re getting a Team Sonic Racing special episode? Actually…even better! This isn’t just any special episode. This is a very special preview at a full-length episode vital to Season 2, which celebrates all things Sonic Racing, and then some! Green Light Riders is coming very soon!

-And there’s no better feeling than to be here with you! Look out!

Preview: Season 1, Episode 8

Well, as much as I’d love to do an animated preview for every episode, that last one took almost as long to make as the episode itself, and that was supposed to be an easy one! If I kept making those, I wouldn’t have any time left to actually write the stories they’re trying to tell! So, for now, it’s back to the old, boring, block-of-text previews. That certainly doesn’t mean that I’ll never do another animation again, it just might be a while. We’ll have to wait and see. And so, without further delay, I give you the preview for the very first Mid-Season Finale, coming one week from today!

The Eggman Empire Day Festival — Empire City

Down on the streets, citizens of many races and species are gathered in great lines down the sidewalks, staring up silently as confetti rains down from the sky. Speakers loudly blare a familiar yet strangely upbeat tune celebrating the Eggman Empire, and the sound of cheering can be heard as the first balloon float approaches between the skyscrapers, depicting a more classic appearance of Eggman, even blown up in a familiar pose. Despite the odd cheering, there don’t seem to be many happy faces in the crowd. Large digital screens hung up on the walls of buildings show zoomed images of what appears to be the same crowd, though that digital crowd seems unusually excited. Several of the real people in the back rows give an occasional nervous glance back at the guard robots stationed periodically behind the groups of people, weapons raised raised up to their chests as if prepared to fire on a moment’s notice.

One robot is suddenly drawn back into the shadows in a blur, and the sound of crunching metal can be heard. No one seems to notice. A few moments later, another disappears in the same way. This time, just a few people manage to see. Whispers quickly begin to spread through the crowd. The guard robots start to scan around on high alert, but still they disappear one by one, some hit with weapons, others by more direct attacks. By the time the second float approaches, depicting the Egg Mobile carrying a large checkered ball on a chain, there’s a clear excitement and confusion amongst the crowd. And that’s when Sonic appears on top of it.

He wears a large earpiece with a microphone that extends most of the way down to his mouth. When he speaks, his voice is greatly amplified, booming through the streets of the city. “Citizens of Empire City! As most of you probably know, my name is Sonic the Hedgehog!” All of the screens on the walls that had been showing the floats are now pointed directly at him, so the entire city can see. “No matter what Eggman’s been trying to tell you, I’m still alive, and I’m still fighting!”

The members of the Rebellion, now spread throughout the crowd, start to cheer. The rest of the crowd quickly joins in.

“Eggman wants us to give up! To accept his rule, to celebrate it! But we’re doing no such thing! The Rebellion will keep fighting until this world is ours again! And if you care about this world, if you’re tired of Eggman’s tyranny, then you can–”

“You can scatter like insects to avoid a far worse fate.” Infinite’s voice projects through the streets just as loudly as Sonic’s. “Because your little blue savior won’t be saving anyone today.” Infinite descends down to stand on the float across from Sonic, caught on the cameras for the whole city to see.

Sonic doesn’t lose his confidence. “Well, look who’s back from the dead. The masked clown. I almost can’t believe you’ve been hiding from me all this time. It’s been years, hasn’t it? Guess I must’ve left a pretty big impression.”

Infinite lets out a booming laugh as he adjusts the mask on his face. “How amusing it is that you think I fear you, filthy little sewer rat. It may have been years for you, but it wasn’t so long ago that I held your life in my hands. You are the only one who has something to fear.”

“I wasn’t afraid of you before, and I’ve only gotten stronger since then.”

“You could never defeat me alone.”

“I never said I was alone.”

On the streets below, the members of the Rebellion step forwards amidst their crowds, cheered along by the citizens around them.

Infinite pushes his mask up once again. “True. But then, neither did I.”

Heavy King slams down onto the street in front of Knuckles and Hero. Citizens immediately begin to scatter, screaming in terror with the new danger so close to them. But he is also not alone. Heavy Rider zooms through the streets, skidding to a stop in front of Amy and Tails. Heavy Gunner jets through the air, drifting down with weapon pointed at Shadow and Omega. Heavy Shinobi leaps in to cut off the escape route of Vector and Espio.

“So, you’re working with Eggman again? Guess some things never change.”

Infinite answers as he lifts back into the air, “We’ve been expecting you. Are you afraid yet?”

“Hmph.” Sonic wipes across the bottom of his nose, and takes off at a run, leaping from the float in a Spin Attack.

Rouge watches all these battles unfold nervously, slowly stepping back into the shadows of an alleyway. Until she is stopped by the muzzle of a gun pointed at her head. Fang gives a smirk behind her. “Rouge. Fancy meeting you here.”

The Battle of Empire City has begun. But something far more sinister lurks behind. What is the Anti-Rebellion planning? And where’s Heavy Magician?

Review: Season 1, Episode 7

This episode was…not bad. The writing process dragged on a bit, but it was enjoyable really digging into Sonic’s emotions again. I almost cried for him in the beginning, but by the end I was cheering at him getting his spunk back. So theoretically that means I wrote it pretty well. But then again, I really didn’t care for the pacing as a whole. Nothing really happened for almost the entire episode, and then suddenly, there’s a brief bout of action, and then the episode ends rather suddenly, leaving the episode rather short by comparison to the rest of this season. This is the first time since episode one that I’ve used a Heavy solely for the purpose of adding action to an episode that otherwise wouldn’t have any. Not that it’s a bad thing, it made me really thank myself for bringing them in in the first place, but it does sort of emphasize the fact that this is a more boring episode.

I suppose I should mention, I intend for this to be the final significant impact of Chaos’ death, at least for a good long time. Three out of the last seven episodes felt a bit excessive, but I needed to deal with all of this while it’s still fresh (relatively speaking). So now, it’s on to other things when it comes to character development for Sonic and Shadow. Speaking of which, let’s talk about Big. If we’re being honest, he’s probably my single least favorite character in the entire Sonic franchise…at least as he’s been written (and played) in the games thus far. I’m still amused by the memes, though. But anyways, given that fact, I was very unsure of how to treat him in this series. I considered ignoring him entirely. I considered killing him off early on so I wouldn’t have to deal with him. I considered giving him a brief spotlight, and then sending him on his way so I wouldn’t have to keep dealing with him. Technically speaking, several of those options are still available. But anyways, I came to he conclusion that, if I was going to use him, as I ended up doing for the first time back in Crisis of Chaos, I would need to do something to elevate his character, if only a little bit. So I began the process back then.

Everyone sees Big as a bit slow (in more than one sense), so I thought it would be both refreshing and amusing if Chaos, someone who hadn’t yet met him, instead saw him as wise and misunderstood. This episode was simply a continuation of that. But, as it turns out, it wasn’t just Chaos’ unusual perspective that made it seem that way. Big spends his days isolated in the wilderness, like a guru or something, discovering the true meaning of life. Through the lens of fishing. The results, I think, are kind of hilarious, but also open up some interesting opportunities, such as those seen in this episode, making it more than worthwhile to include him, at least for the time being. What’s that you say? Malicious smile? I don’t know about any malicious smile. Big definitely isn’t an evil mastermind in disguise. Definitely. Probably. Well, actually… Wait and see.

And…I think that’s all I have to say on the episode. But there’s also the sprite animation to talk about. The reason why I made it? Well…it’s the same reason I made that official trailer a while back, the same reason I got into making sprites, the same reason I started writing The Chaos Project in the first place. I like to try new things. But what inspired me to do it now in particular? Well, I’ve actually been thinking about it for a while. But I decided a long time ago that frame-by-frame animation was more work than I was willing to do, and that Adobe Flash Builder was way outside of my price range. But I realized another option quite recently, while watching my Physics Professor give a lecture in class, which involved several animated objects on the PowerPoint slides. And I realized, if I can tell animated gif sprites to move across the screen in precise ways, that would be all I needed to create a quality animation. So yes, the video you’ve seen is actually a recording of a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. There were a couple of small limitations for this method, but honestly, it worked even better than I’d hoped. I mean, if it works, right? Generally speaking, I was also waiting to come across a scene to write which could have some powerful visual impact based on setting and dialogue, without the need for excessive movement, because that would be harder to animate. There are a couple of options I’ve considered from earlier in the series, which…I may consider retroactively animating in the future. But I’m still a writer at heart, so animations like these are going to remain very rare in the future. Obviously, there are some external inspirations for this as well. Sprite animations wouldn’t even be on my mind if it weren’t for great fan works I’ve seen over the years, like Super Mario Bros. Z, Sonic RPG, and the recently-revived Final Fantasy Sonic X. I suppose I should mention before I go, a kind reviewer (thanks as always, Heat Salamance) gave “props to everyone involved”. I apologize for the confusion, I realize that I did say “our website” on the original advertisement for this video, but this was actually a solo project. My brother did review the video after it was done, but he wasn’t involved with the creative process or anything. Just wanted to make sure that was clear. And…I think that’s all I have to say for now.

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

Review: Season 1, Episode 2

I’m having a hard time thinking right now, because I wrote this episode a little out of order. I decided on some last minute changes and additions that required me to go back and rewrite scenes after I’d already finished them. Probably the most important change was the mystery figure at the end. I was planning on holding off showing him until next episode. But he’s pretty important to this season, so I decided that sooner was better. The original plan was for Eggman, in the middle of the episode after finishing with the Moonstone, to contact one of the other Heavies, probably Rider, and instruct them to keep an eye on the Sunset Heights trap. Which, yes, means that the trap was originally intended to be set by Eggman, not the mystery character. As one contributing factor to this change, I thought it was a little cruel for Eggman’s character. It was also inspired by some other plans I had to change recently, when I was properly planning out each episode for the rest of this season. There was another Tails-focused episode, which was going to end with something…that can be described as cruel, happening. And the plan was for this mystery character to be behind that particular event, perhaps that episode even serving as the reveal of his face. But I decided that it would be much too soon for another Tails episode if I wanted to do that while it was still relevant, and this episode was much more important to have here at the beginning. So that episode has most likely been delayed to Season 2, where this mystery character won’t matter as much. But thinking back to those ideas, I realized I still had an opportunity to show off the cruelty of this mystery character with this trap that I already had planned for Eggman. So, the very last scene, where I was intending to have Eggman tell Heavy King to contact this mystery character, I instead introduced the character directly, and went back to include the old end scene as part of the middle scene. Part of this change also had to do with the episode’s word count. I put so much love and effort into the scene of Sonic and Tails being trapped together, that I didn’t have any space left for the big robot swarm/HBH fight afterwards that I had been planning. I decided the episode didn’t really need it anyways, since this one was supposed to be about the characters, not the action. So the middle scene I had already written where Eggman contacts Heavy Rider simply didn’t fit anymore, and I had to change my plans accordingly. Before I move on, the other change made was the scene in the Mess Tent. Originally, I was really lame and didn’t even specify a location, I just started that scene with Tails saying “I’m all set!” They proceeded to have a dialogue without any other characters involved, and then the scene ended. That didn’t sit well with me. And, separately, the thought occurred to me (while watching a rerun of Star Trek: Voyager) that I wanted to make more of an effort to show what day-to-day life is like at this Rebel base. And I already had all this talk about food in the episode, but never showed anyone actually eating. So while I was going back and changing things anyways, I decided to add in a more proper setting for that scene which accomplishes that goal, and while considering how to set that up, I decided that explaining my decision to make Tails third in command instead of Knuckles wasn’t a bad idea either. So I threw Knuckles into the scene, which also helped make everything feel more lively with people actually interacting.

So, on to the things that actually were planned. The basic setup for this episode occurred to me…basically as soon as I had written Chaos’ death back in Crisis of Chaos. I knew I wanted an early episode giving him a proper memorial, which led into Tails finding TAL, which I wanted to proceed into…some sort of episode about Tails becoming overreliant on technology, and eventually giving it up to Sonic. Obviously, neither Hero nor Sunset Heights even existed at that point. And thankfully for me, this episode continued to go otherwise-unplanned until well into my playthrough of Forces. Thinking about the fact that I wanted to bring the Avatar on board as part of the cast of this story, but realizing that he, like Omega, wasn’t brought into the Rebellion at the end of Crisis of Chaos, and therefore needed to come in separately, I came to the conclusion that this episode still needed a plot, and decided that it would make a good place for it all to happen. This actually all came before I was really certain what I would be doing with Forces of Chaos, so I planned this almost as if he was being introduced here for the very first time since original Forces. I suppose this episode ended up feeling all a little disjointed as a result. The memorial and TAL were already two pretty disparate ideas, and throwing in the search for Hero was just another element of confusion. But I thought with the theme of jealousy, and the references to Forces of Chaos, I was able to tie it all together relatively well.

So, what else do I have to say? Much like the last episode, I put a lot of thought into this one’s placement, and what it demonstrates about the series moving forward. I think these first three episodes of Season 1 are absolutely key to catching the attention of readers and showing what I plan to deliver from here on out. I wasn’t very keen on having Sonic as a spotlight character 2 episodes in a row, since I said I would try my best to keep things more varied than that. But this time, it was all about Tails, I wanted Tails to spotlight as early as possible, and whether I like it or not, Sonic is practically the only choice for an early episode if I want to deliver something emotional and meaningful. A “don’t rely on technology” story is probably one of the most obvious things I could do, but in a way, that was sort of the point. The writers over at Sonic Team seem to think that character development is an impossible feat, yet here I am showing off the easiest possible way to do it. But even then, I think I came to a more balanced conclusion than would be typical for a story like this. Where you’d expect to see “you’re smarter than any machine,” that’s not necessarily the message I sent. The machine worked. It did its job. The important part, the story I was telling along the way, was more about Tails gaining confidence in more than just the things he can build, and repairing his relationship with Sonic along the way.

I sort of wish I’d focused more on that schism I’d implied was growing between the two of them. It was never really my original intention, but it was the obvious way to go, after Sonic blew off their beach day to train with Chaos. So are they actually cursed? Well…let’s just say the next time they try to do something together, I don’t expect it to go too well. And maybe not the next time either. But I think Sonic’s right. They will work it out. Eventually.

One last thing. That mystery character. Who is he? Or could he be a she? Probably not. But let’s just say…I wouldn’t be teasing it like this…if it was someone who never existed before. I’ll leave it at that.

So what’s next? I’ve already covered an action-based episode with an unexpected pair of characters, and a character-based episode with an obvious pair. So next is one more standard type I’d like to try. The story-based single-character-focused flashback episode. Who’s it about? Well, there’s a reason Rouge has had a background role in these last two episodes. Now that the reader might be a little more invested in and curious about her character, it’s time to satisfy some of that curiosity.

Oh, there’s a little something I forgot to mention. A computer named SAL…I wonder if NICOLE would be jealous? I considered actually keeping the name and maybe even adding a female persona later on, but the last thing I want is for someone to come into the middle of the story later on and see Sonic talking to “SAL”, and assume it has something to do with the comics. Anything I can do to distance myself is a good thing.

So I guess that’s all for now! I’m excited to share the next episode with you in the coming weeks, even if it did turn out to be an odd one.

-But until then, remember to live and learn every day!

Review: Season 1, Episode 1

I finally did it! My first ever standalone episode! Obviously, since this is the premiere of Season 1, this episode has been in development for longer than almost any other. Over three years ago, I actually drafted this episode on about a page and a half of lined paper. But I never got that paper back, so unfortunately, it is lost to time. There are a few things I remember about it. There was no package, it skipped straight from Sonic finding Omega to them taking a rest in the forest. Omega’s thoughts weren’t seen internally, there was just a brief paragraph explaining how overwhelming the noise of the forest was. And it ended with Omega agreeing to reboot.

I suppose I should start with that package. The inspiration came when I finally beat Sonic Heroes for the first time last summer. Not counting the end sequence with Team Sonic alone, the entire story ended on the note of Omega picking up the broken form of Metal Sonic, and sharing a look with Shadow. I instantly knew that I would have to expand on that moment. I decided that the package would be a great way to expand the depth of this particular story, while giving a sense of direct continuation from Heroes. The identification number, SH-123003 refers to 12/30/03, the original Japanese release date of Sonic Heroes. It’s my hope that someone, somewhere, was able to guess it was Metal Sonic based on that information alone. I suppose that I should mention, while this is absolutely not the last you’ll see of Metal Sonic, it is going to be a little while. This isn’t a cliffhanger for the next episode, it’s a lead-in to the next Season.

That scene with Omega’s internal thoughts is also worth mentioning. Why did I do it? That’s a good question. As a whole, I really wanted this episode to be exemplary of the entire rest of the series. That’s why I selected this particular plot for the premiere, it’s a simple pair-up of two maybe slightly unexpected characters, who go on a little adventure, and bond a little in the process. Expect that to be one of the most common plots moving forward. But anyways, if this episode is an example, that means I need to set forward a few things. Among them, the possibility of writing things in unusual styles or from odd perspectives, just for the sake of creativity and because I can. I don’t want something else similar in the future to seem like a surprise. But also, part of it is because I didn’t like that scene I wrote in the original draft. It made Omega seem kind of useless, like he couldn’t ever handle being in a noisy place for any reason. This way, I made it seem a little more like Sonic’s fault, giving Omega faulty instructions, then specifically demonstrating how it goes wrong internally. Even so, I’m still worried that I didn’t quite capture that properly, like maybe it still kind of feels like Omega’s fault. I’m also worried that that scene was just a total bore to read, I really have no idea.

The use of Heavy Gunner in this episode was also a difficult choice. Hypothetically, this would be the time to reintroduce Heavy King as the leader of the Heavies, since this is the premiere and all. But like I said earlier, I want this episode to serve as an example for all the rest, which means not necessarily starting off with a bang. The whole reason I brought the Heavies into this story in the first place was to serve exactly this role, someone for the heroes to fight each episode that isn’t Eggman every single time. I chose Gunner partly for his rivalry with Omega, and partly for his presence as an officer of the law, since Sonic was getting arrested. Given those, I thought it would be a bit silly to choose anyone else. I did consider Rider just to change things up, but I feel like I should probably establish things before I go and change them. But already after this episode, I’m starting to worry that the Heavies will start seeming pretty pathetic if I have them losing every single time. I guess I’d better start thinking about having them win in the near future.

The last thing to talk about is Sonic and his role as leader. Obviously, this is something I’ve been leading up to since the very beginning. I think it was S0 E4 when Zero told Sonic “You couldn’t lead your way out of a paper bag.” And back then, it was totally true. Back in the early conceptual phases of this story, I thought about Sonic and his personality in Black Knight, and I thought that guy could make a great leader if he wanted to. I think he could’ve made a good King Arthur. And for this story, I knew I wanted Sonic to fill exactly that role. For one thing, I thought that having Sonic as the actual leader would help me to stand out a little bit from the comics. But also, I just thought it made sense. Sonic is the main character, and now the chosen one as well. Why shouldn’t he be a leader? But then I looked to Colors, and especially Lost World, and I thought, that guy would make a terrible leader. Like, it would be hard to get worse. So I knew I had to do something about that. That’s the entire reason why I put Sonic through his whole Season 0 character development arc. If I hadn’t thought about it that way, I would’ve never given a thought to Sonic’s current personality in the games, I would’ve just slapped on his personality from earlier and ignored the rest in a very pathetic way. So, I had Sonic build his way up, not just to being more heroic, but to becoming a better leader. And now, here he is. A related topic is that speech he gave. I was originally planning the speech to be a separate scene from the ritualistic handout of Emerald shards, but I combined them partly for effect, and partly just to save time. But I put a lot of thought into that speech, I stayed up until 1 in the morning to make sure I could write it all at once. I wanted to make something that, if said by a famous person at an important time, could totally go down in history. So I thought very carefully about dramatic structure and parallel wording, the kind of thing that makes a historical speech so memorable. And certainly, since Tails had the bright idea to record it, the “I know” speech will go down in this world’s history.

Now, I know this season has only just begun, but I’m afraid I may be going on a brief summer hiatus. It’s been difficult to write this past month, so the next episode isn’t even halfway done yet, and I usually like to write ahead. Hopefully, things should return in full force this autumn. I’m very excited to share what the future of this season holds, and I even have a Special episode planned for September. In the meantime, I have lots of edits I still need to make around the site for Season 1, as well as a new Opinionated Review planned (this’ll be a fun one).

-So until then, 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!

S0 E32 Finale: The Time of Reckoning Part 2

The end of an era has come. The final episode of Season 0 has arrived at last. This epic tale can be read right here!

Eggman controls a near-invincible instrument of destruction. The Resistance army faces a hard-fought battle. Infinite’s choice could decide the fate of the world. It all comes down to this. Trust in those you stand beside, believe that we can win this war.

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!

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!

Preview: Season 0, Episode 30

Central City is under attack, by a familiar yet unknown foe. But why does he seem so intent on destroying Knuckles?

Heavy King swings his scepter outwards, as the Phantom Ruby prototype at its top emits a violet ray of light that arcs across the floor beneath Knuckles’ feet.

Knuckles dives back just in time, as the ground the light contacted erupts in flames a moment later, creating a wall around Heavy King’s pedestal. Knuckles dives back at Heavy King, boosted in his glide by the draft from the flames. Heavy King pounds his scepter into the ground, and becomes surrounded by a crimson barrier of electrified energy, while his Ruby glows intensely. Knuckles is deflected off with a loud grunt. Not relenting, Heavy King holds his scepter high in the air, generating a circle of electrified energy spheres that orbit around the Ruby. One by one, the spheres fire at Knuckles. Knuckles dodges back and forth to avoid the onslaught, but one sphere finally strikes him, knocking him to the ground.

Heavy King finally moves from his place, leaping up to crash back down beside Knuckles’ fallen form. “Tell me…do you still guard the Master Emerald in this dimension? It’s no substitute for the Phantom Ruby, but it would still make an excellent prize.”

Knuckles glares up to Heavy King with hatred, growling in anger, but clearly too weakened to move.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Heavy King raises his scepter up high. “So will I have to pry it from your lifeless body? Or did you leave it undefended on the floating island? Perhaps that’s where I’ll conquer next.” Heavy King finally swings the staff downwards. But the attack is parried halfway down by a curved ruby blade. “What’s this!?”

Infinite stands above Knuckles, blade locked against Heavy King’s scepter, eyes locked on the object at its tip. “A prototype… You have a prototype… Give it to me!”  Infinite starts to swing his blade ferociously, attacking the Heavy King from every angle.

Can the new Resistance defeat the powerful Heavy King? Will Infinite finally obtain his Phantom Ruby prototype? Find out, on the next episode of The Chaos Project, coming next Saturday!