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?

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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, 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!

Preview: Season 0, Episode 29

I had it in mind to post this over the weekend, but I was way too busy. So have a preview instead!

Eggman stares at the readings on a cracked but functional console screen, tugging at his mustache in contemplation. “Can you confirm these readings?”

Orbot, from the console of a familiar chamber, answers back, “Confirmed, sir. The identification codes line up with the Eggman identification system.”

“And yet their specific identification numbers don’t match anything registered on the system. They’re my robots, but I didn’t make them.” He contemplates for a moment longer. “Activate the Phantom Ruby prototype. Prepare to pull them through.”

“Aye aye, sir.” Orbot begins to work at the console, and inside the chamber, a Phantom Ruby prototype of the traditional shape begins to glow. “Sir, the Ruby is charged, and the signals have been locked on to.”

“Excellent. Open the portal.”

Orbot presses a few more keys on the console, and the Ruby prototype begins to pulsate intensely. A small black point in the space in the center of the room begins to expand. Finally, the Null Space portal opens wide enough to let out a troop of five egg-shaped robots, before collapsing closed again.

Eggman opens his arms wide. “Let me be the first to welcome you all, to my wonderful dimension!”

The leader of the troop, wearing a billowing red cape, a jacket similar in appearance to that of the Eggman that stands before him, and a bronze chestplate emblazoned with the insignia of a regal crown, points his glass-topped scepter at the Doctor in response. Behind him, the rest of the Hard Boiled Heavies take similar stances of challenge.

Eggman backs off nervously. “Now, now, let’s not be so hasty, hm? I’m not the Doctor Eggman that you know.”

Heavy King scrutinizes Eggman closely.

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.)

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.

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