Opinion Piece: Sonic Forces

The name is real! Today, a panel was held for Sonic at SXSW (South by South-West), where details were revealed for Sonic Mania, and, more importantly, this game. The game formerly known as Project Sonic 2017 now has the official name of Sonic Forces, which I believe refers to a battle between the forces of good and evil. But that wasn’t the only news announced today, and I’m here to talk about what we now know.

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In addition to the logo pictured above, we also had a full reveal of a previously shown (but cropped) concept art, pictured below. Nothing too far beyond expectations based on what we already knew, the same dark, fiery, destructive theme. It was pretty obvious before, but it was confirmed early in the reveal that the game’s plot does involve the existence of the Eggman Empire “…as I always dreamed it!” (Quote from Mike Pollock, voice of Eggman). Also clarified information that we had before, this was confirmed as a game in the style of Sonic Unleashed, Colors, and Generations. If they think that they can get an Adventure lover like myself to love that formula, I’m glad to see them try. But as it stands, I currently and always have felt like watering down Modern Sonic’s gameplay with the 2D sidescrolling that we already get from Classic Sonic is just a bad idea, plain and simple. But once again, I could certainly learn to love the high-speed boosting style of gameplay if they execute it perfectly.

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Now, on to the real news. 3. I’m not talking about a certain non-child-friendly game series that will not be mentioned here, nor about any conspiracy theories. Three playstyles. That’s what they said this game would have. Modern Sonic. Classic Sonic. And a third. I don’t even want to begin at guessing what that third style is, for risk of disappointing myself in the future. But, needless to say, that leaves potential to include the style of gameplay which I have been sorely missing for over ten years of Sonic games, in which case I would be perfectly fine with the overuse of 2D in the other 2 styles. I would also mention that, in describing the title of the game, the words “Sonic and friends” were used, inferring that this third slot could be filled by a character other than Sonic. But that’s just a theory. A game

The video above was also unveiled at this event. The main theme of Sonic Forces. The rumors have been flying around for over a year now that Crush 40 would be performing music for this next Sonic game, though Johnny Gioeli (lead singer) confirmed in an interview some time ago that they hadn’t been in any way contacted about it or otherwise involved in it by that point. However, before this theme was played, they stated that it had only just recently been recorded, meaning that something could very well have changed since that interview, and finally come to fruition. Now, as you’ve probably listened to and heard, the above song has no vocals. However, it was confirmed that the real theme song does have vocals, and that this was merely an instrumental version. Now, let’s be honest here. The song doesn’t quite line up with Crush 40’s usual style. The guitar doesn’t even come in prominently until over 15 seconds in, and even then, it isn’t nearly as pronounced as I would expect. This probably isn’t a Crush 40 song, though I wouldn’t say that it’s absolutely impossible. What the musical style does remind me of, however, is that of Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Lost World, the final boss fight theme of the latter in particular. And Lost World had a pretty good soundtrack. It’s not like a Sonic song has to be composed by Jun Senoue (lead guitarist of Crush 40 and music director of the Sonic series starting with Sonic the Hedgehog 3) to be good. I am actually quite fond of “Endless Possibility,” the lyrical theme of Sonic Unleashed. But as a Sonic fan of the Adventure era, anything that can make this game feel more like what I know and love can be a good thing. Now, I suppose I haven’t said what I think about the song itself yet. I’ll admit, I am very happy with it, and the piano at the end got me feeling really emotional. It feels way too upbeat given the tone of the game as we’ve seen so far, but it’s still a good piece of music.

Most importantly for today’s reveals, some brief footage of gameplay. Now, around this time, they also talked a bit about the gameplay in general. They confirmed that this game runs on the entirely new “Hedgehog Engine 2.” It looks very pretty, but in all honesty, I didn’t notice anything that made it clearly superior to the old engine. The gameplay style appears exactly the same as you would expect based on how they explained this game’s relations to old ones. Though I would point out that they did not showcase any 2D sidescrolling, which could be a very good sign for me. Of course, it could just be that they didn’t want to bother showing it because it doesn’t look nearly as pretty or exciting. We’ll have to wait and see. What we don’t have to wait for is the confirmation that Wisps are indeed returning to this game. Sigh. Wisps were a very clever and creative gimmick for Sonic Colors which did a good job in tying the gameplay together with what little story that game had. Their return for Generations was perfectly normal, in fact, the Colors levels would have been rather empty without them. Then Lost World came around. The inclusion of Wisps in Lost World was ridiculous, senseless, and, quite frankly, wrong. The end of Colors clearly established that the Wisps were gone, returned to their home planets. Now…the possibility exists that Lost World actually takes place in the Wisp galaxy (or solar system or whatever), since literally the only thing we know about the Lost Hex is that it is a “floating continent.” (Honestly, it really irritates me how little we know about that entire story.) It could be a continent floating above an alien planet, no one said it had to be above the Earth we know. I probably would’ve been satisfied with that explanation. But there was no explanation, forcing us to assume that these creatures we thought were aliens also happen to live natively on a floating continent above the planet, which, apparently, no one ever noticed. And now, here the Wisps are again, not just on this distant, almost planet-like continent, but now also on what we can only assume to be the surface of Sonic’s Earth. They fuel his boost gauge, though they don’t appear quite like the same white Wisps we saw in Colors. Since it seems like this game might have an actual story, unlike what we’ve been getting recently, I really, really hope that they actually take a whole 20 seconds out of their way to explain why the heck the Wisps are still here.

Conclusion
I can no longer say that this game has the potential to be the absolute perfect game, in my opinion. But the outlook isn’t so bad. This game could still shape up into the absolute highlight of the Modern Sonic era. The soundtrack is looking good so far, they have a chance to perfect the gameplay style, and the story is looking like it might be the best we’ve gotten in ten years. I’m still looking forward to seeing what’s in store for that third playstyle, but I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high. All in all, I’m still very excited for this game. Though I am more worried than ever about it stepping on the toes of my story.

-Until next time, remember to live and learn every day!
(Couldn’t come up with a good “forces” pun.)

Edit: It has been confirmed that characters including Knuckles, Amy, and unspecified members of the Chaotix appear in the game, including dialogue spoken to Sonic over a radio during gameplay. It has also been confirmed that none of these characters are playable, and that Modern Sonic gameplay does include 2D sidescrolling “occasionally.” Just because these other characters aren’t playable doesn’t mean that they have no role in the story, which is a lot of what I care about. If they acknowledge the existence of these characters in the Sonic universe in a capacity greater than the normal pathetic cameo roles, I’ll be very happy. The sorts of roles these side characters had in Shadow the Hedgehog (2005), minus the second-player playability of course, is the kind of thing I’m talking about, where we simply come across the characters doing exactly what one might expect them to do given the situation. And of course, just because these specific characters aren’t playable, doesn’t mean that some other character won’t be. As for the 2D…meh. If the 3D is good, then having the 2D certainly won’t ruin the game, it will just mean having less time enjoying the maximum that the game has to offer. I expected as much.

Review: Season 0, Episode 5

Heh heh, funny thing… I thought that I had pre-written a review for this episode after I finished writing the episode itself (that would have been back in June, if memory serves)…but if that review ever existed, it’s missing now, likely gone forever. So…let’s see what I can remember.

I mentioned the time skip that happened in the review of the last episode, and, as I said there, all it really did is cut out a lot of story-lacking content intended for the format of a game. It would have been boring and senseless for me to write, and only slightly less boring for you to read, I hope. The meaning of the episode title “In Due Time…” is that this episode served as a major lead-in to the next arc in The Chaos Project, all about what’s going on with Shadow. I guess I should go there next. For some time in this story, I have been emphasizing that Sonic, while still physically capable, has had a recent personality change that has left him less psychologically capable of being a hero, a “fool” in the words of as many characters as I could possibly get to say it. Ever since Roger Craig Smith began voice-acting for Sonic (particularly in Sonic Colors), I have been noticing such a change. I needed Sonic to be a strong and mildly serious character for my series, more like he was in the late-Dreamcast early-Modern era of Shadow the Hedgehog through Sonic and the Black Knight, as performed by voice-actor Jason Griffith (I like Ryan Drummond too, but he didn’t get as serious) . Rather than simply ignore Sonic’s current personality, as many writers would, I decided not only to do something about it, but to use it to my advantage, and give Sonic a real character development arc. I thought, “Who better to snap Sonic out of his recent clouded judgement than the strong and serious character who has been missing from his life for all of this time?” It didn’t take long after that to imagine the scene in question. Funny thing is, that scene wasn’t originally intended for this arc at all, back before I had really planned these game ideas out as a real story. It was more likely going to be in the arc which will provide backstory for Chaos the Hedgehog, which I estimate to be about 14 episodes away at this point. Of course, that arc was supposed to take place a little earlier at that point, so it wouldn’t have been all that bad that way.  Actually, I originally imagined the scene in a grassy, outside area, and Sonic would have been hit into a tree instead of a wall. Anyways, when planning out this story, after putting everything in proper order, I decided very early on that I couldn’t go writing Sonic’s dialogue in the modern style for 20 episodes before he changes, that just wouldn’t have worked for me, and I don’t think that I could’ve been able to keep it up. So I knew that I had to do it now or never, and I chose to do it now. You may or may not have noticed a slight oddity in that Sonic was sent after a Sapphire which was only a very brief time in his own future, which Janice could easily have chosen as the time to recruit Sonic and sent him after it immediately. I still have a couple of excuses for that, either that Janice hadn’t found that Sapphire yet, or that she didn’t need to send him after it because she thought it would be faster to give him the one that she had. Point is, you may have noticed that the scene was kind of spliced in there. I could potentially have avoided such awkwardness by making the event in Sonic’s somewhat distant future instead, and there would have been an interesting layer of story added by having older Shadow suggest that Sonic has been this “fool” for years and years, and something went very wrong because of it. That would have been a nice bit of inspiration for Sonic to make the change. It was a choice between that, and leading into the next arc of this story with Shadow (which wouldn’t have worked if I made it in the far future). And, as mentioned above, I chose the lead-in. Maybe it was a mistake, but there’s no going back now.

What has yet to be discussed is Silver. If I remember correctly, I wasn’t 100% sure what I was going to do with that scene when I started the episode. I knew that I’d had it mentioned that Silver is “the last Controller,” and I knew I needed to do something to explain that (I originally said that because I needed some real reason as to why Silver is so important). So, I decided that he needed to go to his own future and meet himself. At first I was thinking along the lines of maybe having our Silver watch future Silver perish in some unusual manner which would somehow end the Controller lineage (perhaps by having him die in his Super Form, sort of like how the Avatar State works in Avatar: The Last Airbender). But I decided that that would require me introduce some incredible, indescribably dangerous force which would not only completely overshadow Sonic’s role in this episode, but would likely overshadow the entire arc. And then I’d have to get rid of it within half a chapter and ignore its existence for who-knows-how-many years. Instead, I decided to go with something a little more vague, suggest that something imperative is happening without outright showing it. That way, you don’t necessarily have to know the full story to understand what’s happening, while still leaving the room open for examining this idea in-depth at a later time. So, I had future Silver destroy the Chaos Emeralds, which is just as incredible, just as life-changing to know for our Silver, and still just as well explains why Silver is the last. (Still working towards explaining exactly what the Controller is.) Next came the setting. I quickly thought back to Cast by the Light (Sonic Adventure 2), and how the Master Emerald exists to counter the Chaos Emeralds. If anything has the power to destroy them, it would be that. Angel Island was the logical place to put it. Now all that’s left of note is that Silver not only saw a vision of the near-future within the Master Emerald, but activated its powers with a chant, things that only Knuckles has ever been known to do. Why that’s possible…well, let’s just say it has something to do with the concept of the Controller. But if you aren’t happy with that explanation, let’s put it a different way. Suppose, hypothetically (not actually going to spoil anything here, this is just a thought experiment), that Knuckles really is the last Echidna there is and ever will be. Wouldn’t the Master Emerald have to find a new, non-Echidna protector? Wouldn’t it be best if said protector had a pre-existing connection to Chaos, as Silver does? Not necessarily saying that Silver is the protector, but that he potentially could have the ability to interact with the Emerald. And…that’s everything that I can think of. Wow. I guess I overcompensated for the whole missing review thing. But, as they say…

– Live and learn, every day!

Cast by the Light: Finale

Funny story. In all the stress of wrapping up a story, I forgot to post about it here! But the final two chapters of Cast by the Light have been up and running for some time now, Part 10: Live and Learn and the Epilogue: This Machine.

Can you feel life, movin’ through your mind…?” Shadow certainly could, as his entire life led up to his confrontation with his own prototype. Can Sonic and Shadow work together and save the planet? Will Shadow at last fulfill his promise? Or will he die, trying?

“We all danced in fire, looking through the screen…” The final battle is long over. And Rouge has moved on with her life. But looking for treasure, she finds something else instead. Something she never could have expected.

Cast by the Light Part 9: Supporting Me

The action continues to rise in this newest part of Cast by the Light.

“I’m gonna be desperate… I’ll be losing you before long…” And this desperation could not be more true, as the explosive space colony hurdles towards the surface of the planet below, spelling the end of all life. The only way to save the planet is for Sonic, Tails Knuckles, Eggman, Rouge, and Shadow to all bind together in one final effort to stop the colony before it’s too late. But will Shadow really cooperate? Perhaps he wouldn’t, if he knew he were speeding towards his own demise…

Review: Cast by the Light Parts 6 and 7

Another combination review for lack of content. In fact, Part 6 has almost nothing. Just the note that I added a little bit to either side of the scene where Knuckles opens the door, the later end of which because, as I mentioned in an earlier review, they don’t like showing people actually opening doors for some reason. As for the beginning of the scene, I just wanted to clearly demonstrate that Knuckles did beat King Boom Boo, without actually describing the reality-screwing physics of that fight. And that’s all for that! As for part 7, there was a little bit of dialogue right at the beginning I felt the need to alter. Even though Sonic, Tails, and Amy had clearly been walking through the ARK for quite some time since landing, and Knuckles had every reason to have separated from them immediately upon landing (if not sooner), the original script had Sonic behave as if he were only just realizing that Knuckles was no longer with them. Not only that, but Sonic had only just been talking as if Knuckles clearly weren’t there (at least, I assume he wouldn’t insult Knuckles in the third-person if he were standing right there). So altered it just a bit to convey more the sense that Sonic had been ranting about Knuckles ever since he left, and only just then got to the question of where he actually went. Besides that, I added a few thoughts and flashbacks for Sonic throughout the part. And that’s all!

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

Cat by the Light Part 7: E.G.G.M.A.N.

The plot thickens with this newest episode!

Here it is!

“I am the Eggman, with the master plan…” And as his plan continues to unfold, Sonic and friends realize they could be in the greatest danger they’ve ever faced. Will Sonic survive his trip to the ARK, and save the kidnapped Amy?

Cast by the Light Part 6: Unknown from M.E.

Another episode is up and ready!

You can read it right here!

“I am fighting my own mission, nothing’s gonna stand in my way, no…” With Knuckles’ mission nearly complete, he has the time to help out the others. But when his needs become different from theirs, he won’t stop for them. Let’s just hope he doesn’t crash the space shuttle…

Cast by the Light Part 5: Believe in Myself

The next episode is up and ready!

You can read it right here!

“There are things that only I can do…” And Tails must do these things as best he can if the heroes are to put a stop to Eggman without getting caught by the police. Little do they know, Eggman’s group is already prepared.

Cast by the Light Part 4: Fly in the Freedom

Another episode is up and ready!

You can read it right here!

“I can go…by myself.” So thinks Rouge the Bat as she infiltrates the G.U.N. base in search of the Chaos Emeralds. But can she really succeed on her own, or will the island blow up with her locked inside? And can Sonic and friends make it out in time?

Review: Cast by the Light Part 3

Not a whole lot to talk about here. I added quite a few thoughts to Rouge’s scene at the beginning, to help explain her otherwise very confusing thought process. I added the part where she actually uses the key she had found, because for some reason the original game really likes skipping those parts (it happens again later with Knuckles).

You may be noticing at this point that I tend to skip quite a few fight scenes, the fight between Tails and Eggman in this case. In general, I find fight scenes to be pretty slow and boring to write, and I can’t imagine they’re a whole lot better to read. Action is something meant to be watched. Even if this wasn’t a factor though, I’m always faced with the serious problem of the fact that I can’t write the characters being hit by missiles and lasers and bullets and spikes, I just can’t. Sure, I could explain that they lose the rings they had collected when this happens, but this would seem like a complete joke placed in the middle of these very serious scenes, ruining the relatively realistic feel that I’m going for. So then it comes down to the individual scene, where I have to ask myself, “What can I get away with having them get hit by, and how can I cleverly explain why they aren’t hit (or are, but aren’t injured) without seeming repetitive?” If the answer to these questions are “nothing, and I can’t,” then I’m forced to skip over the scene, leaving the inferred action up to the reader’s mind. I could probably have gotten away with explaining off the lack of injury for this scene with shields of the mechs or something, but then I would have to show each of the two fighters getting hit with multiple missiles in order to justify the damage that the two mechs had sustained, which would have gotten very boring, very quickly. Whew. Glad I got that off my chest.

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