Preview: Season 0, Episode…31 Again?

Since last time we spoke on this series, I changed around the episode numbers a little bit. After the Fight, the Sonic Forces Special which does include a single event contemporary to the story, no longer counts towards the Season’s episode count, and is instead its own separate entity. It’s still located in the same place, it just isn’t numbered. The result of this is that all episodes thereafter had their number lowered by one, making what I once called 31 into 30, and this, which would have once been 32, into 31. Why did I do it? Well, like I said, that episode was very unusual for the story as a whole, taking place 100% in the past, so it makes sense that it wouldn’t count. I may have flashback episodes in the future, but there will always be a base in the present. But…perhaps the more important reason is that this way, the Season will now end at a nice round 32 episodes. That’s right. This is the next-to-last episode of the Season. But enough of all that, you came here for a preview, right?

Backed by Chaos, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Rouge, Omega, Vector, Espio, Charmy, Hero, Infinite, and an army of GUN soldiers, human and animoid alike, Shadow stands ready to lead the charge against the horde of Replicas that stand opposite to them, including Zavok, Metal Sonic, Chaos 0, Mephiles, and countless of Blacklight’s shadowy minion creatures. Blacklight, still bearing the mask of Infinite, and the intensely-glowing Phantom Ruby, floats high above them, slowly drifting down until he stands before his army just as Shadow does. He speaks with a strange, distorted voice overlaid with his own, “So good to see you again, Shadow. We were wondering how long it would it would take you to take our bait.” The air is filled with strange glowing fissures in space itself, leaking out small violet particles. “And we see that you brought all your friends. That will make them much easier to destroy.”

Shadow at first seems surprised at the coherence of Blacklight’s thoughts. “Blacklight…is that still you?”

Blacklight laughs softly. “Of course it’s us, Shadow. Who else would it be?”

“Us? You and who else?”

“No one else. Just us.” He places his hand over the Ruby. “We are one, now.”

“No, no, don’t you see it!? That Ruby is taking over your mind! But it’s not too late to fight it! You have to fight it!”

“Fight it? Why would we want to do that? We were always destined to be together, don’t you see it, Shadow?”

Behind Shadow, Infinite growls and clenches his hand around his blade.

Shadow responds, “What happened to the free spirit, who hated rules and wouldn’t listen to anyone but himself!? Isn’t he still in there!?”

“Yes…and no. Besides, we still listen only to ourselves. Hence, why we aren’t listening to you now. So we would suggest you stop wasting your time. That is, if you still intend to stop us.”

Shadow closes his eyes and sighs, ready to take his last shot. “I have something for you.”

“What’s this? A gift?”

“That’s right.” Somewhat hesitantly, Shadow pulls something out and holds it up high for Blacklight to see. It’s a shiny red apple.

Blacklight gasps. “Is that…could it be?”

Shadow nods encouragingly. “I brought it for you. Just you. I thought you might enjoy it.”

“Shadow…that really means a lot, you know?” Slowly, Blacklight starts to lift his mask, revealing a genuine smile underneath. But, halfway up, he seems to change his mind, and lowers the mask back down. “Only two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine more before you’ve repaid your debt to us.” He directs out a hand, a violet glow is cast over the apple in Shadow’s hand. With the flick of a wrist, the apple is plucked out of Shadow’s hand with the Ruby’s power, and drawn into Blacklight’s. He lifts his mask up again, just high enough to take a large bite. “Hm. Not bad.”

Shadow lets out another sigh, realizing that there will be no easy way out.

Through a mouthful of apple, Blacklight continues, “Well, what will it be, Shadow? Who will make the first move?”

Behind Shadow, Infinite suddenly shouts, “We will!” Sword drawn, he charges alone out of line. Immediately, Hero runs after him, raising his Wispon in preparation to back him up.

Blacklight merely laughs, extending his arms wide as a command for his entire army to charge in response.

Havoc erupts on the battlefield.

The final battle has begun.

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

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Review: Season 0, Episode 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 16

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

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

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

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 13

Well…I lost count after two months spent writing this episode, though I’m pretty sure it came close to three. Between the Holiday Season (Thanksgiving as well as winter) and a general increased work load that I had to deal with, I practically wrote this entire episode one paragraph at a time. Hopefully that didn’t mess up the flow too badly. This also marks the lengthiest episode yet at 8600 words, even more than the last finale. But, as with last time, I wanted nothing important left unsaid, and I didn’t want to split it into any more episodes. But enough about that boring stuff.

I promised some background for King, so I guess I’ll start with that. He started out as just about the most flat, unoriginal villain that could ever exist. He’s only there because I needed our superhero to face off against a villain. As for what he would do and how he would do it, I took some inspiration from various depictions of Marvel Comics’ Kingpin villain, and the naming is not unrelated. To be honest, I really had no idea what I was doing. But as I was writing King’s first scene, I first decided to hide his face, make it seem more menacing, like Shadow had a real reason to be so concerned with him. I was still unsure at that point whether or not I wanted to make King a real wolf, but I decided last second to give him a mechanical arm that he constructed himself, so that I wouldn’t have to make that decision and reveal his species right then and there, as well as to show off some of his engineering skills that had been talked about at that point, but not very well shown. (I decided for certain that he would be a wolf by the time the scene was over.) The rest of his character grew from there. I was able to expand just from that one scene that he is obsessed with his own technology and its perfection over biology, that he has a loathing for most humans, and that he was affected in a deeply personal manner by the Black Arms invasion (and Shadow by extension). The specifics came as time went on.

I suppose one other point from this episode to mention is the role that G.U.N. has been playing so far, an almost antagonistic one. The reason why I’m revealing all of these facts seeming to suggest that they’re corrupt and untrustworthy…I suppose it’s all rooted in the fact that they have played so many similar roles in the past, despite supposedly being a force for good. In both Sonic Adventure 2 and Shadow the Hedgehog, G.U.N. hurt you a whole lot more than they help you, despite being the hero. Sonic 06 is the only G.U.N. appearance that seems to be completely benevolent, and even then I always felt that it seemed a little shady how they seemed to be stealing the Scepter of Darkness more than they were “retrieving” it. Anyways, after all of the times that G.U.N. nearly killed Sonic and/or Shadow, it certainly seems reasonable to me that neither of those two would be particularly interested in working with them, which is why it surprised me a little bit to learn that Shadow was working for G.U.N. for the first time. But I think I got it to work in a way that all makes sense. Point is, after making so many questionable actions, it would’ve seemed wrong to me to make them completely in the right now. So, I thought it would make for good story for all of the characters involved to have a lot of friction between them. Of course, this little sub-plot of G.U.N.’s evolution is far from over. Speaking of G.U.N. and Sonic 06, there was one ridiculously obscure reference I threw in there at the last moment. Rouge mentioned how she had to be trained in hacking King technology by “Old Frances from the decryption unit.” This refers to one of the Town Mission NPCs from that game, who introduced herself as the head of the G.U.N. Decryption Unit, and wanted to test the player’s IQ for candidacy to join the unit. This reference was not in the original episode, but I added it just before publishing, because these random obscure references to other games is exactly the kind of thing I want to use in order to help tie the whole Sonic game universe together.

Now, there’s one big thing I haven’t talked about yet. The Black Cloak arc is inspired by a theoretical game idea, just like all of the others of Season 0. Of course, this is the only arc that I didn’t conceptualize until after coming up with the whole Season 0 idea, but I still made it to fit in with the rest. Anyways, this, like many other Sonic games, would be much different as compared to previous ones. Rather than an adventure game, or a high-speed platformer, this game would function a lot more like…well, a superhero game. The number of “levels” as compared to most Sonic games would be relatively few, but that’s because a vast majority of the game’s content comes in the form of a huge hub world, that of Westopolis. Between levels, the player would be allowed to freely explore the city, playing as either Sonic, Rouge, or Black Cloak, depending on the point in the story. This hub world would be full of various NPCs to speak with (not unlike 06), and missions to complete, such as the fighting of randomized crimes including robberies, muggings, etc, as well as specific quests provided by some of those random NPCs, in addition to a few familiar faces (helping Big find Froggy, anyone?) Anyways, each character has their own advantages for playing. Sonic travels through the world the fastest, obviously, and can get on top of most buildings using wall jump and parkour. Rouge can fly and climb walls, giving her complete access to every location, though she is the slowest of the three. Black Cloak is the best for fighting, dealing more damage and having a wide variety of attacks, including long-ranged ones. His other tools, such as the grappling gun, are also useful for reaching difficult areas. In addition to these, certain NPCs might only be able to interact with certain characters and not others, encouraging variety. For example, a police officer might only be willing to speak with Rouge, while a serious opposer to King might only be willing to speak to Black Cloak, and…the owner of the hotel Sonic stayed in might only be willing to speak to Sonic. Speaking of the hotel, this game would also theoretically feature the return of Chao Gardens, seen at the top floor of that hotel. (I have found myself wishing that this location had more impact on the actual story, but once I was done with it I had no further need for it except in these silly game mechanics.) Anyways, unlocked by beating the game is the ability to switch between characters in the hub world freely, in addition to a few more of those less-than-totally-canon quests for familiar faces. The only other thing to point out about the game would be the soundtrack, focused heavily on more dramatic orchestrated music, much in the style of modern superhero movies. Much of this music would be dedicated to remixes of themes from Shadow the Hedgehog, and, to a lesser extent, Sonic Adventure 2. And…I suppose that’s all I have to say for now.

Next time, witness the tale of the one called Sunlight, the New Ultimate Life Form. What is this life form, and why has its existence been kept a secret? Soon, Darkness will fall upon the Light.

Review: Cast by the Light Finale

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

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

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

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