Review: Season 2, Episode 4

I have been waiting for such a long time to write this episode. It wasn’t necessarily my earliest idea, but I knew from the moment I thought of it that it was a story that needed to be told. For the longest time, whenever I tried to think to the future of this series, this was almost always the episode that my thoughts drifted to first. It’s hard to explain exactly why that is. I believe I’ve said before that growth and coming of age is one of the greatest overarching themes of this series, and even in the canon, Tails has long been the representative of that idea. Everyone grows up over time, and in this series, Tails is no exception. Knowing that he would one day, years from now, be grown into a mature adult, I suppose I always saw this episode as a vital transition point. If there will ever be a moment where you can say that Tails grew up, it will be this episode. Sonic has long kept him in a world of black-and-white—we’re the good guys, and we fight the bad guys. But on this day, Tails was pushed into a much greyer world. And, more to the point, it was a reflection of Sonic who gave him that push.

And I suppose this is the part where I talk about Metal Sonic. That big twist at the end…wasn’t necessarily part of the original plan. I suppose I must give credit where credit is due. Usually in this series, I try to make everything my own. When it comes to new ideas and big reveals that were never a part of the original games, I have to dig deep to put the pieces together, and form my own ideas about what does and doesn’t work in the established world of Sonic. It’s rare that I become truly inspired by another person’s theories or headcanons, but this would be one of those instances. When I saw The Sega Scourge’s “Metal Sonic is Sonic, Roboticized” video, I was inspired—not because the theory was particularly convincing, but because it added so much weight and meaning to Metal Sonic’s long history that wasn’t there before. And weight and meaning are exactly the primary factors I consider when writing in such ideas. It’s not enough to have an interesting idea if it doesn’t add anything to the greater context, but this most certainly did. I started wondering immediately if there was a way I could make this admittedly outlandish theory work in my favor. And when I considered what that big reveal would add to this particular episode, I was sold.

Unfortunately, while the story of Tails and Metal Sonic was well planned and put together, the rest was not so much. As often as I thought ahead to this episode, I never muched considered how it could be made any more than one long, slightly boring conversation. A rescue party going after them was obvious of course, but what wasn’t obvious was how to make that relevant. Sonic running off to rescue Tails without any other kind of conflict or moral just wouldn’t have been interesting. At first I thought, with how I’ve been setting up a rivalry between Omega and Metal Sonic, it would be reasonable to have Omega go with him, and I could go through with some of the Metal Sonic-related conflicts I’d been planning in that area, but then I realized…I already had an episode just like that last season. While I enjoy pairing up characters in unusual ways for episodes, I certainly didn’t want to use the same unusual pair a second time when there are so many other pairs waiting to be done. I decided on Espio instead, for fairly obvious reasons, but…there was no conflict there. Both Sonic and Espio would want the same thing, both would be very focused on the task, I wouldn’t be much better off than with Sonic on his own. I decided to compromise and go for both. I thought that I could have the primary friction be between Espio and Omega, since they clash on a more fundamental level than Sonic ever did with Omega, but…that didn’t really go anywhere. They disagreed, and then…that was it. I mean, that conflict could have been taken as a warning sign for what was to come, but it just didn’t add anything to the bulk of the episode. The only other real option would’ve been having them make up and come to a better understanding of one another by the end, which there definitely wasn’t room for with the focus on Tails. It might have been possible without having Sonic awkwardly in the middle, but I was not willing to remove Sonic from the episode when the plot was so personal to him.

There’s one other disappointment of this episode, which you may have noticed. The ending was…not exactly conclusive. What did Metal Sonic do with Omega? I didn’t say. Why did they leave him behind? I didn’t say. What were the repercussions of that decision? I didn’t say. What ever happened to Charmy becoming a doctor? I didn’t say. The problem here is, the answer to each of those questions would’ve required just one more scene tacked onto the end of the episode. As it is, I already felt like I gave up a very good ending by continuing on after the moment that Metal Sonic attacked Omega, but Sonic and Tails talking about what happened was an absolute necessity. As for the rest…most of it will be integrated into the beginning of the next episode, where it will be irrelevant and out of place and distracting from the intended plot. But that’ll still be better than ending this episode five times over.

And now, for some general trivia! (I hope to make this a tradition with future reviews.)

  • The following locations from previous Sonic games were featured in this episode:
    • Emerald Hill Zone (Sonic 2)
    • Aquatic Ruin Zone (Sonic 2)
    • Hill Top Zone (Sonic 2)
    • Mystic Cave Zone (Sonic 2) (implied)
    • Lost Labyrinth Zone (Sonic 4) (cameo appearance)
    • Metallic Madness (Sonic CD) (implied)
  • Metal Sonic’s memory featuring the Lost Labyrinth was an exact first-person recreation of a cutscene from Sonic 4 Episode Metal.
    • The artifact obtained in this scene was stated to be the source of Metal Sonic’s copy ability and shapeshifting power seen in Sonic Heroes.
      • The actual purpose/history of this artifact has never been officially confirmed. However, in-game text does pose the question, “Just how did Metal Sonic make his comeback after Sonic the Hedgehog CD?” Given that Metal Sonic’s first canon chronological comeback after CD would be in Heroes, this implies a connection between the plots of the two games.
  • Both Metal Sonic and Tails frequently refer to the events of Sonic Heroes—particularly, the battle between Team Sonic and Metal Overlord—which took place approximately five years before this episode.
  • In describing how he was betrayed by Eggman, Metal Sonic refers to the events of Sonic CD, Sonic 4 Episode Metal, and an unspecified number of Classic Sonic games which take place in between, and feature some form of mechanical Sonic.
    • As there are no such “main series” Sonic games, this must refer to more obscure titles. Sonic Triple Trouble is the most likely candidate, as it has already been Chaos-Project-canonized by the appearance of Fang in Season 1.
  • Metal Sonic frequently quotes the phrase, “I am no longer afraid of anything,” originally spoken in the opening moments of the Metal Overlord fight.
    • He quotes himself on several other occasions, including the famous “I am the one true Sonic.”
  • This episode marks the first in-universe usage of the name of one of Metal Sonic’s abilities, V. Maximum Overdrive.
    • I have no idea what the “V” stands for. Maybe velocity? Metal Sonic was also shown using the Black Shield, an ability not seen outside of the 2-player mode of Sonic Adventure 2 Battle.
  • The episode title “Before I Sleep,” combines with the title of the previous episode, “Miles to Go” (also meant to be a reference to Tails’ given name) to form the line, “Miles to go before I sleep,” a repeated phrase from the Robert Frost poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
    • While this is not a two-part episode, the related titles show that the episodes are meant to be grouped together.
    • The implication of this line is that someone is on a path towards their end (sleep), and has much to do before that time comes.
  • This episode marks the first time the Chaotix tent has been shown in an episode written by me. Its original appearance in Season 1, episodes 13 and 14, (“Out of the Shadows” parts 1 and 2) was written by a guest author.
  • When attempting to convince Tails, Metal Sonic provides the first ever CP-canon implication of a population size of Sonic’s world, giving the approximation of 10 billion.
    • Given that the real world has a population of about 8 billion, and that Sonic’s Earth typically approximates the very near future of ours, this implies that the number of animoids in Sonic’s world is somewhat less than 2 billion.
    • This number was chosen as one that is large enough to reasonably populate large-scale animoid-majority cities such as Sunset Heights, while still showing that they are vastly outnumbered by humans as implied by most other relevant games.
    • It is also notable that 10 billion is predicted as the maximum stable human population that Earth can support.
  • During a conversation with Sonic, Espio refers to himself as Charmy’s guardian. It is not specified whether this title is legal or honorary. Either way, it is a component of their relationship which has not previously been described.
  • Metal Sonic suggests that he does not remember Omega, despite having fought him as Metal Madness during the events of Sonic Heroes, as well as several prior encounters while disguised as Eggman.
    • It is possible that Metal Sonic has forgotten that particular detail, or that he was pretending not to care in order to maintain a more menacing image.
  • While it is never stated directly, Metal Sonic implies that his head may contain Sonic’s actual organic brain.
    • This is supported by his especially protective actions towards the machinery around his head.
    • A direct confirmation was avoided, partly because I may want to change my mind about that in the future, partly because the image of it might be a bit graphic for children, and partly because I felt the idea might be a bit more powerful if the reader could come up with it themselves.
  • This episode marks Espio’s first successful usage of an entirely new chakra-based Ninja Arts technique—the Shadow Sealing, which he was shown failing to do in S1 E15: In Too Deep—opening the way for him to potentially learn many more.
    • Why did I decide to give Espio magic shadow powers? I mean, he can already create a whirlwind using his fingers, so I didn’t think this would be much of a stretch.
    • Regardless, I expect any future technique he learns to be similarly underpowered. It isn’t exactly efficient to spend a minute-long fight scene drawing a seal on the ground and hoping that the enemy stands right in the middle of it without noticing.
    • What do I mean by chakra-based? That’ll be explained in a future episode.

And there we have it. Flawed though it may be, I still love this episode and all of the deep implications it presents. There’s one other interesting note here. This episode was designed with the idea in mind that the reader may have to choose a side. If Sonic is right, then every word Metal Sonic said was a convoluted attempt at psychological warfare, forcing Tails to play into his hand. But if Tails is right, then Metal Sonic is still Sonic at his core, and can be saved. So are you Team Sonic? Or Team Tails? Make your choice.

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

S2 E4: Before I Sleep

It’s that time again! Another episode of The Chaos Project is now published! Read it right here!

Tails is missing. Captured by Metal Sonic, with lives on the line, Tails must play by his captor’s rules if he hopes to survive. Help is on the way—but how long will it take? Can they rescue Tails before he learns the truth?

Also, an important date slipped by this week—you may know it as the 29th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog, but I know it as the 4th anniversary of The Chaos Project! 4 years! Amazing! (And we’re like a quarter of the way done at best. I’m going to spend the rest of my life on this project at this rate…)

Preview: Season 2, Episode 4

Ah, so nice to be back in the land of the living. I didn’t want to go dead silent for so long, but…sometimes, life…is a thing…that happens. But yeah, the next episode is coming, so…take a look!

? ? ?

“…”  A distant voice calls out quietly. “Tails… Tails.”

Tails lets out a groan as he struggles to open his eyes. “Sonic…?”

The mechanical voice answers, “Not quite.”

Tails lets out a sharp gasp as he opens his eyes on Metal Sonic, and his head instantly clears. He moves to crawl backwards, away from the threat, but the pain from his broken leg quickly halts that movement as he lets out a tear-filled cry.

Metal Sonic shakes his head slowly. “Such a frail little thing.”

Tightly gripping his injured leg, Tails is finally forced to look his captor in the eye. “You… What are you do–…” He trails off as he starts to look around. His back is against the wall of a dark, earthy cave, with visible light coming in through the small entrance a short distance away. A jagged line of claw marks decorates the wall opposite to him. Finally, he remembers. “Charmy… What have you done with Charmy!?”

“He’s alive. For now.” Metal Sonic takes a step closer to Tails, kneeling down to look at him at eye level. Tails nervously presses himself as far back into the wall as he can go. “And if you would like him to stay that way, you will do exactly as I say.”

In spite of his fear, Tails spits back, “You won’t get away with this. Sonic will find me, and he’ll beat you like he always does! Hopefully for good this time.”

Metal Sonic rises back to his feet, letting out a mechanical chuckle. “Sonic is far away from here. And he is hardly my most pressing concern.”

“What do you want with me?”

Metal Sonic turns away from Tails, lifting up a robotic hand close to his face, and slowly turning it over. As the hand moves, it begins to stutter. “I am damaged. I require repair.” His head turns back to face Tails. “You will repair me. Your tools will be provided.”

“You want a tune-up? Go find Eggman. I’m not helping you.”

“I believe that you will help me, Tails. And I believe that you will be happy to do it.”

“And why’s that?”

Metal Sonic lets out another long chuckle. “Because once you do, I’m going to kill Doctor Eggman for you.”

What is Metal Sonic planning? Will Tails really agree to help him? Find out, on the next exciting episode of The Chaos Project! Secrets will be revealed…

Review: Season 2, Episode 3

I’m trying to figure out exactly how the planning process for this episode went. I want to say it was among the earliest episode ideas I’ve ever had, but then I’m not sure this even resembles that original idea anymore. I don’t even fully remember what that original idea was. Here’s what I do know. Just as I did back with “In Too Deep,” I have once again taken two entirely disparate episode ideas, slapped them together, and called it a day. I’m beginning to have second thoughts about my “A-plot, B-plot” plans. An episode in which Sonic and Amy check up on the Little Planet and watch over it until it disappears was definitely an early idea as well, but it never had anything to with Tails and Charmy’s mission. The plan was for the missing space in the Little Planet plot to filled by flashbacks to Sonic CD, where I would just straight up retell the story of the game, only with actual dialogue added in. In a way, I was kind of excited about doing something like that. I was thinking about making an entire “Unspoken” subseries in that vein, retelling the classic stories as if they were modern. But when I got to thinking about what that would entail…I just couldn’t do it. Of all the classic games, CD is probably the one that is most…thorough about its visual storytelling. It isn’t intensely visual in the way that 3&K is with its storytelling, there’s just a bit less of a story to tell, so it gets it all done. I realized that, in the case of CD, there just isn’t really anything significant that dialogue could add, so I’d be wasting everyone’s time by adding it. But I still felt like the regular appearance of the Little Planet was something that needed to be addressed, so I was left with only half of a functional episode. I decided that using it as a B-plot for another episode was my best bet. I chose the Charmy and Tails plot to stick it to, not necessarily because they meshed well or because it needed that extra content. I really just did it because it was the only way I could get it to fit. Both of these plots needed to happen this season. The CD plot needed to happen on the last day of December, and this Tails-focused episode needed to happen early on so that it wouldn’t be closely condensed with other Tails episodes this season. Thankfully, I had Metal Sonic to tie the two together. The general idea was that you were supposed to expect Metal Sonic to show up in the Sonic and Amy plot, so it would be an even bigger surprise when he shows up for Tails instead. I’m not sure that I managed to pull that off quite right, though. I spent so much more time on the Tails plot, it probably would’ve seemed odd if it was the other one that became important in the end. The general pacing was also really off for similar reasons. If the Tails and Charmy episode had stood on its own, they probably would’ve spent quite a bit more time in the other Rebel camp, and perhaps the rock slide would’ve even happened while they were there instead of before, adding an extra bit of action/drama in the right place. Instead, that ended up being the easiest place to trim the fat, so to speak, so the important part where they meet these other Rebels ended up happening awkwardly more than halfway through the episode, even more awkwardly suddenly interrupting the standard back-and-forth between the two plots that had been going. Oh well.

On that note, let’s talk about those other Rebels. They won’t be becoming main characters, but they will be appearing again in the future. Now that our Rebellion has been fighting on their own for a year, I thought this would be the ideal time to show that they aren’t really alone in the world. When it comes to seeking a better world, no one is really alone. The individual characters, of course, also served individual functions. I wanted Captain Fox to be someone you can imagine Tails easily looking up to, maybe like an older, more mature, Fox version of Sonic. I even considered giving him a little Hedgehog sidekick, but that didn’t seem very relevant. Anyways, I wanted you to be a bit surprised when they came close to bumping heads. The reasons why will be explored in the future. And then, of course, there’s Katherine and Charmy. I suppose I have to back up a bit to Charmy, first. For the same reason that I made Amy into the official counselor of the Rebellion, I spent a long time thinking about how I can give Charmy something important to do. Technically speaking, I can see why it may not seem necessary. The Chaotix work very well when treated collectively as one character, so it almost seems silly to break them apart and analyze them individually. But delving deep into character growth is one of the primary reasons that this story exists. So I could’ve left Charmy as a static, unchanging joke of a character, or I could show him growing up just like everybody else. The choice seemed obvious to me.

The leap from detective to doctor might not be so obvious. But…what do we really know about Charmy’s personality? I mean, he’s loud, he’s hyperactive, he’s childlike…so basically, he’s a child. But he’s not 6 anymore, it’s been 5 years, so he’s 11. He’s getting to the point where most children would start putting some more serious thought into what they want to do with their lives. And there is one other thing we know about him. He loves flowers. He loves nature. He loves living things. Seems like a prime candidate for a healer to me. (Also he’s a healer in SEGA Heroes, RIP.) More importantly…I kind of needed a doctor. I have been keenly aware of the fact that every new medical feat pulled off by Tails, a thirteen year old mechanic, has been more unbelievable than the last. I certainly could’ve introduced an OC to do the job, but…the way I see it, the canon cast always takes precedence, and I saw this as an opportunity to really build on Charmy’s character in a way that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. I needed him to be able to accomplish something as a character that no one else could do, and this seemed like the most viable option. So this is what I decided on. (Still working on something to do for Cream, though. She’s officially taken the spot of most useless character.)

So anyways, I needed a doctor, I decided on Charmy, and for reasons I can’t talk about yet, I need him to have embraced that role full-force by the end of the season. So I needed to construct an episode that would push him hard into that decision. The mildly traumatic experience of patching up Tails, so closely followed by validation from an authority figure in the form of Katherine, was intended to do just that in the most reasonable way I could think of. And that’s that.

Back to the topic I originally started with, the other Rebels were all named in theme, just as Jackal Squad was previously. This time, the characters were named after…drum roll please…Star Trek characters! We have Captain James (Kirk) and Leonard (McCoy) of the original USS Enterprise, and then we have Katherine (Janeway) and Harry (Kim) of Voyager. Why did I choose Star Trek names? Entirely arbitrary! Sort of. Just like last time. I was debating the name of Captain James the Fox right up until the moment I introduced him. I knew that I wanted to refer to him as Captain Fox, but the first name was up for grabs. Even though the names ended up being inspired by Star Trek, the designs definitely weren’t. That honor goes to Nintendo’s Star Fox series. Captain Fox was loosely inspired by the titular Fox McCloud, and Katherine was similarly based on a character named Krystal. I was originally thinking about playing off of that and calling them Kloud the Fox and Christa the Wolf or something like that, but after the weirdness that ended up happening with Sly, I decided I’d be better off distancing myself a bit with the names. James McCloud is also a Star Fox character, and while I would like to call that a coincidence, it probably was that fact that got me thinking about the possibility of my character being Captain James and referencing Star Trek.

Once that was set in stone, it was intended to be a one-time deal, but then when I got around to naming Katherine, I decided I wanted them to have standard nicknames for each other, and I also wanted to keep the “K” sound, which led me pretty quickly to Katie as a nickname. I could’ve gone for something different as the real name, like Katelyn or something, but the connection from Katherine to Star Trek was too good to pass up as a running theme. Then I needed a couple of throwaway names, and Harry the Rabbit (Hare) and Leonard (Leo) the Lion came pretty naturally.

These kinds of standard “human” names aren’t generally common for Sonic characters, so why did I put so much thought into them for this? Well, it ties back into a theme for the episode as a whole. After all the crazy fantasy weirdness of the last three episodes, with spirits descending from the heavens, space stations falling out of the sky, and some of the most complicated time travel I’ve ever experienced, I really wanted to dial this one back to a very “human” level. This is an episode about people. People getting into arguments, talking about their feelings and their interests, getting hurt because of their own mistakes and moving on because it’s all they can do. The other Rebels were meant to be a reflection of that. While our Rebellion is practically a band of superheroes who typically have superhero problems, the other Rebels are just a bunch of regular guys who happen to be fighting for a cause. This contrast will continue to be explored in the future.

Speaking of the future, what has Metal Sonic done with Tails!? To learn that, you’ll just have to stay tuned…

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

S2 E3: Miles to Go

For the first time in a year, a chronologically new episode of The Chaos Project has arrived! It’s finally time to learn what happened after Metal Sonic was released. Read the episode right here!

With Metal Sonic on the loose, the world is a more dangerous place than ever. But for this world, the Rebellion must keep on fighting. What is Metal Sonic’s true plan? Can he be stopped?

Please note that, with the slight reorganization of episodes now that Green Light Riders has been moved up to its correct chronological position, links on the website may be slightly inaccurate for a while until I get around to fixing all of them.

Preview: Season 2, Episode 3

Yes, that’s right. We’re skipping from 1 to 3. 2 was posted almost exactly a year ago, as the Team Sonic Racing special episode. (It wasn’t supposed to take this long to catch up…) Regardless, here is the preview.

“Hey, is this it?”

Charmy and Tails both stop. They’ve arrived at a thin valley between two peaks on either side of them. Beyond the valley is a wide crater-like depression in the ground, completely surrounded on all sides by similar peaks, making this the only clear entrance to the area. “Yeah, this is definitely it. There should be a system of volcanic caves that all open near the top here. We should go check out–”

Charmy shoots him an intense glare.

Tails innocently finishes, “…just one of them, not gonna spend all day here. If its size and depth are adequate for shelter, then that’ll be it. It’ll make this place just about perfect for a rebel base.”

“Look out!” Charmy suddenly dives into Tails, tackling them both to the floor as a bolt of energy sails over their heads. Tails lets out a cry of pain. The first shot is followed by dozens of others, a continuous stream of laser fire striking against the rock they’ve taken cover behind. Charmy panics, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”

Tails answers through gritted teeth, “It’s fine, I’m fine.” He looks out at some of the stray laser bolts that strike the ground behind them. “That looks like Eggman weaponry. What are Eggman’s robots doing here?”

“Could it be a trap?”

“I don’t know, maybe.”

“Well what do we do!?”

“I don’t know, let me think!” Tails cautiously tries to peek his head over the rock, but is forced to retreat back down before he can see anything. “We definitely won’t make it out if we run for it. And there’s too many to try and fight.” He reaches up to tap his communicator. “Sonic, we–” He frustratedly taps it a few more times. “Busted. Must’ve broken in the fall.”

“What other options do we have?”

Struck by an idea, Tails pulls off his pack. “Just one.” He pulls out a shiny white med kit. “Closest thing we have to a white flag.”

 

Review: Season 2, Episode 1

Meant to post this a while ago. Oh well, here it is.

I’ve already brought up a couple of episodes which were among the earliest concepts I ever came up with, but I’m pretty sure this one has officially taken first place in that area. (Although that spot will be taken again very soon.) Following the very earliest plans for what will eventually become the finale, and a few related ideas for Season 0 and Crisis of Chaos, this was perhaps my very first idea for what comes in between. “If this is war is such a problem, why didn’t travel back in time and fix it the first chance they got?” I knew that if I was going to turn this into a series, that question would need to be answered. The way I saw it, there were only two possible options. Either they physically couldn’t, or they realized they shouldn’t. That had to get an episode either way. Either I had to come up with some sort of crazy, universe-bending excuse that would prevent me from ever using time travel for any reason throughout the remainder of the series (which admittedly could’ve made for a halfway decent episode on it’s own, if I’d really put some thought into it), or, I could come up with a time travel plot so ridiculously convoluted and deeply disturbing that no one involved would ever try anything like it again. The second option sounded like the far more interesting of the two, and was the far less restrictive. Certainly, Sonic and Shadow would never want to try time travel again, but now, if I ever need them to, they still can.

I was generally intending to leave it up in the air exactly when this episode would have to take place, but it became obvious pretty quickly that it wouldn’t make sense for them to do it if they didn’t do it as soon as they possibly could—the moment they obtained their second Emerald. That actually turned out to be a huge contributing factor towards the decision to do the Rouge-focused story arc for Season 1. I…to be totally honest…was actually legitimately planning on killing off Rouge. Maybe. Maybe not till a bit later. I don’t know. But I figured that the death of a main character would be the absolute best possible justification for attempting to fix things through time travel. It seemed like the, uhh…anime thing to do. And that’s not an insult, mind you. But anyways, I eventually decided a couple of things. One, I didn’t have the gall to kill off a canon character so early in the game. And two, this episode would be the most powerful if the timeline were brought back exactly the way it was—actually having Rouge die, and then be magically brought back because of accidental butterfly-effect would cheapen the effect. So, I settled for a nod to that scrapped concept, and a near-death into medical miracle. Besides, I still have at least a couple of plans for Rouge yet to come. And hey, maybe there were some unintended side-effects of injecting her with Chao blood that I haven’t come up with yet.

So, back on track, I had a framework in mind for an episode where they would try time travel and fail miserably, but that still left the question of content. Going back to Crisis of Chaos was really the only choice for time travel destination, given the context, and, believe it or not, I actually wrote the original Crisis of Chaos scene, where Sonic leaves Eggman alone in hangar bay, with the idea in mind that a time traveller from the future would eventually show up right at that moment. Fulfilling that plan was immensely satisfying. But that was only a small piece. What situation could possibly be traumatic enough to make a person like Sonic completely disavow the miracle cure-all that is time travel? I figured I’d have to go as traumatic as it gets by having him witness his own death. I originally had a slightly more gruesome death in mind, but I decided to dial it back just a bit. Still a PG story, after all. That change required introducing a new concept in a very odd way. Blacklight being able to drain life through physical contact was teased at the end of the 50th episode special, but I was not intending that to become relevant any time soon. But I thought that dropping the reader into the middle of what seems like it could have easily been the finale of a Season that never happened, with plot points and a history completely foreign, would not only be an interesting twist, but might also help the reader identify a little better with the completely nonsensically overwhelming nature of Sonic’s experiences, and so better understand why Sonic makes a rule against time travel in the end.

That was the first half. Actually, I originally had this in mind as a two-parter that would break as the Future Sonic appears, but I decided against that…mostly because this Season is crammed a little bit full, and didn’t really need the filler. I figured keeping it all focused and fast-paced would help avoid confusion, anyways, which is important for an episode like this. But anyways, why Future Sonic? Well, the whole, “go back in time, change the future for the worse, realize your mistake and fix it” plot certainly served my purposes, but on it’s own, it felt a bit…predictable. And, as you ought to know by now, an episode with a halfway decent plot but no character relevance just isn’t enough for me. I wanted something more, at very least, an extra layer of complexity that would really get the characters thinking hard about what’s going on. In other words, I needed to layer up the anti-time travel excuses. Sonic failing once was certainly traumatic. But him realizing that he would be destined to fail over and over again, countless dozens or hundreds of times, could completely transform his view of what is or isn’t possible. That’s basically the gist of it. Of course, that wasn’t twisty enough for me, so I decided that I had to make things even more complicated with the “kill your past self” suggestion. The idea there was to add an element of distrust—and if you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust? Actually, I meant for Future Sonic to be the antagonist. The intention was for Present Sonic to be so overwhelmed by what’s going on that he would, at first, give in to the self-killing plan, but in the moment, would realize that he couldn’t go through with it, suddenly making an enemy of Future Sonic who will not allow this to go wrong. Seeing himself driven to that madness was supposed to be the nail in the coffin for the establishment of the no time travel rule. But I just…couldn’t justify getting our Sonic to agree to murder, even if it is only himself that he’s killing. Meanwhile, Shadow ended up being right smack in the middle of a character arc that, while seeming obvious given the episodes that needed to lead up to this one, I did not realize would be happening during the early planning phases for the episode. I certainly couldn’t ignore what he was going through, but my original plans for the episode really only had him there out of the necessity of a second Chaos-Controller. So, a lot of relatively last-minute changes resulted. I had it in mind that an interaction with Chaos had potential for an interesting story to tell, and when it came down to it, I decided that Shadow needed it more. If this had turned out to be a two-parter that focuses on Sonic as originally planned, I probably would’ve included a subplot about Sonic wanting to try to save Chaos, or bring him back to the present with them, but, once again, I settled for a quick nod to that scrapped concept instead.

Given the shifting focus to Shadow, turning Future Shadow into the true antagonist seemed like the natural way to go. I decided to keep the suggested mistrust of Future Sonic as a sort red herring instead. Anyways, Shadow seeing himself go so bad felt like a very sensible reason for him to finally start making his way towards becoming a nice person again. But wait! Shadow was a total jerk in the Team Sonic Racing special! Umm…oops. My goal in doing that was to show how much crazy stuff was going to happen in the Season finale, and I did not even consider the fact that I might be stepping on my own toes for this episode. But that turned out to be a beautiful inspiration. The idea of Past, Present, Future, and Original Sonic and Shadow all existing during the same moment in time was crazy enough, but mixing and matching them for who goes home in the end was exactly the sort of embracing of the insanity that I wanted out of this episode. Having Past Shadow suddenly confronted with two diametrically opposed versions of his future self was an obvious place to go from there, and fits in so unbelievably well with the central theme of his character. And…I suppose that just about covers the important points.

So, what does this episode mean for the rest of the season? Well…not much actually. This was as much a part three to last season’s finale as it was anything else. I like the idea of connecting one Season to the next so directly. (Little bit of inspiration from Star Trek there, which liked to have two-part episodes split up as the finale of one season and the premiere of the next.) But anyways, there was a little bit of effort made in a few places. One of my goals for Season 2 is to have emotions expressed a little more physically, and a little less verbally. Show, don’t tell, you know? I feel like that tends to be one of my bigger shortcomings as a writer, trying a little too hard to explain what people are feeling. Having Sonic give Tails an actual hug was a big step in that direction. That really shouldn’t feel like such a weird thing to do, but it did anyways. I guess I’m just worried people might interpret it the wrong way? Next episode probably isn’t going to help that either… Regardless, I do want to sell that brotherly bond between Sonic and Tails a bit harder this season. Let’s just say, it’ll become pretty important. I didn’t exactly embrace it for this episode, but I believe I’ve also mentioned that I hope to go a little more in the direction of an A-plot B-plot for more episodes in the coming season. Hopefully, that’ll allow me to do a little more exploring of the world and characters without mandating that additional dramatic plots be attached to all of them. I don’t know, I’ll see how it goes.

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

Review: Season 1, Episode 18 (Finale)

Another kicker, this one was. I shouldn’t be surprised by now, the most important episodes are always the hardest to write, because everything needs to be absolutely perfect. As an episode…I’m a little bit hesitant to pass judgement on this one. I felt hyperaware during the writing process of how awkwardly paced this whole thing was, with lots of standing around and talking during what should have been intense and dramatic moments—it’s just hard to do otherwise when there are so many important things that need to be said—in addition to lots of sudden breaks between action sequences that were necessary in order to keep a wider view of events that doesn’t leave any one topic forgotten for too long. But as a conclusion to the season…I’m pretty happy with how everything turned out. I was worried about the daunting task of topping part 1 in terms of drama, and while it did take some doing, I think that I at least accomplished that much.

Not everything turned out exactly how I envisioned it. I originally imagined that the raid on the Death Egg would take up a more solid chunk of the episode, as Shadow grudgingly worked together with Sonic to overcome the station swarming with traps and guards and lots of thing to blow up. In general, the big question mark surrounding whether or not Shadow is able to trust Sonic was intended to play a much larger role in the episode. But then I threw Knuckles into the mix. Right up until the day I wrote the conclusion of Part 1, my intention was for that to be the last that was seen of Fang—he shoots Knuckles, takes the Emeralds, turns them over off-screen, and that’s the end of it. I soon decided that it would be too unceremonious of an end for a character who is effectively the main villain of the Season, so I decided the easiest way to get him to a more proper conclusion without changing plans too much would be to throw him on the Death Egg. At the time that I made that decision, it was actually supposed to be Tails who went up along with Sonic and Shadow—Knuckles was intended to be put out of commission for this episode when he was shot. So I figured that Sonic would be the most reasonable candidate of the three to have one final fight with Fang, and then Tails could even have a nice little growth story where he shows that fighting Eggman on his own is no longer proof of anything, but instead is now simply what he expects of himself as a hero. There were a few obvious logical issues that came out of all that. While Fang has certainly mentioned his hatred for Sonic quite frequently, Sonic as a rival for him hasn’t really been built up at all—they only met face-to-face once this Season before these episodes, and they only exchanged a few words. Knuckles, meanwhile, was specifically being built up as a rival (pretty much just for the purpose of taking his hat in the end), so having that final confrontation not include Knuckles would just be strange. Meanwhile, Tails, the medical expert of the Rebellion, abandoning Rouge when it’s being clearly established that she’s dying wouldn’t make any sense at all. And even then, Tails’ growth isn’t really something that’s been focused on this Season, it’s been deferred to next, so having him on the Death Egg wouldn’t really accomplish much. And so, even though it required a lot of rearranging and rethinking of this episode, I chose to swap Tails out for Knuckles. I’m definitely happy with that decision. Though I do wonder if that’s part of the reason writing this episode ended up taking so much longer.

Oh! Right, I was in the middle of something. Adding Knuckles (and Fang, counting those as one complicated decision) meant significantly increasing the amount of time that would be spent on these big boss confrontations, and so the idea of a Death Egg filled with traps and guards became not only unnecessary in terms of balancing the amount of action, but would’ve basically just wasted time. And I figured a completely empty, abandoned Death Egg would’ve added a layer of mystery to hint at Eggman’s true intentions…although I see now that may not have been clear enough, besides the part where Sonic and Shadow overtly discussed it.

There is one thing that did turn out exactly as I’d envisioned it. The simple ending scene, where Shadow learns of Rouge’s condition, and lets out all of his emotions at once on Sonic…that was a scene planned nearly word for word since before I even knew what this season was going to be about. I believe I’ve mentioned previously that the idea of Rouge turning spy for the Rebellion was one of a huge slew of ideas that were all bouncing around before the seasonal structure of this series was solidified, back in the very early phases of Season 0. Analyzing the emotional consequences of various dramatic scenarios was how I first populated this hypothetical series with episode ideas—so naturally, the scenario of Rouge seemingly turning traitor had to come with the weight of how Shadow would respond. That series of ideas eventually led me here.

And did I mention that hat? Why, yes, it was meant to be a reference to the Sonic OVA, thank you for asking. With another Sonic movie coming up, I suppose that’s pretty good timing. In fact, there may have been a couple of new Sonic Movie references thrown into this episode, if you were paying attention. But, anyways, the hat. I admit it. The idea of bringing Fang into the series wasn’t particularly appealing to me…until I realized that I could have Knuckles steal his hat. Yes. That was what sold me on the idea. That was what drove me to write basically this entire season. I regret nothing, and also everything. Usually, I pride myself on remaining vehemently game-canon, and I often have to go out of my way in order to not reference something like the Archie Comics. But if you ask me, Knuckles with a treasure hunter’s hat is the single most memorable thing to come out of that entire movie, and I just couldn’t resist the reference once I’d thought of it.

I suppose I can get into more random stuff now. The “Death Egg Emperor” was a rather last-minute addition. In the early planning phases (back when Tails was still going to be the one to fight it) a simple, perhaps slightly upgraded Death Egg Robot was what I assumed would fill this role. When you bring back the Death Egg, putting a Death Egg Robot on it seems like the next logical step. It only occurred to me as I began writing this episode that Sonic Generations, Mania, and Forces had really gone to great lengths to…I guess, normalize the Death Egg Robot. I realized that it wouldn’t make much of an impact if it were just another one of those things. The plan wasn’t necessarily to “merge” the DER with the final boss of Sonic Heroes, the whole Egg Emperor thing was just…an unfortunate(?) result of the fact that this completely new step up from the DER needed to reflect Eggman’s status as Emperor.

There were plans to have an extended ending scene where everyone meets back up, celebrate their victory, ponder the nature of Eggman’s pre-planning, and so on, but I ended up merging that all into the Daily Log addendum, mostly just for time. The episode was very ready to end, and I didn’t see much reason to drag it on longer than it had to go. I also skipped out on a scene where Eggman would be seen in his base, complaining about how much he hates that hedgehog, but it was cut for similar reasons.

Probably the most last-minute thing of all was Knuckles’ role specifically in the climax. Obviously everything about his role in the episode was last-minute, put this part was actually something that didn’t even occur to me until I wrote the words “What can I do to help?” When Tails was the plan, Sonic’s response was still going to be the same “Wait in the safety bunker” answer, and it was supposed to be a bit more touching with Sonic trying to protect his little bro. But Tails, instead of doing as he was told, would’ve instead gone out searching for a shuttle (planned before I I decided to mention that there were no shuttles) and, when Sonic realized that he was marooned and requested help, Tails would’ve swooped in at the perfect time to pick him up. That whole “I think I might need a little help here” joke was honestly just a hold-out from that otherwise-scrapped plan. The Death Egg room built over the Master Emerald Altar, then, was entirely unplanned until I realized in that moment that I needed something for Knuckles to do that didn’t involve flying. But I figured it would make sense that Eggman would “preserve” that particular location when building over Angel Island, given that Prof. Gerald proved with his replica on the ARK that the structure has a functional significance. Knuckles bringing the Master Emerald back to the closest thing left to “home” worked wonderfully to connect back to a comment he made in part 1 (not intended to be related at the time), as did his conjoined role with the Controller as mentioned by Tikal. Eggman putting a throne for himself on top of the monument that symbolically represents the people he’s conquered was a nice little cherry on top. I’ll admit that part of the inspiration behind that room, and even the throne on top, hearkens back to an issue of the new IDW Sonic Comics, in which, on a mechanized Angel Island (I had that idea first, I swear), Neo Metal Sonic awaited Sonic and friends in a throne room built out of the very same altar. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a reference, just inspiration.

A question I was sort of asking myself by the end was…”Why did I split the Death Egg in half?” Something I originally had in mind was that the Death Egg would naturally start falling apart in that way as it fell through the atmosphere, forcing Sonic and Shadow to each take a separate half. But…for some reason, that just didn’t make sense to me. But the image of the two halves falling one after the other into the ocean, like a literal egg cracked open, was one that stuck with me even as my other plans changed.

Well, I think this has gone on just about long enough. So what’s next? Well, I’ll properly announce here and now that there will be a Sonic Movie Tie-In Special published on February 14th, the day of the movie’s release. After that, we move into Season 2. Season 1 was nice and all, but…for me, it was really just a proving grounds. From here, I start telling the stories that I’ve been anticipating since I first envisioned this series, stories that could only be told on top of the strong foundations that I’ve spent all this time building. Even though you’re probably not, I hope that you’re as excited as I am.

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

 

Review: Season 1, Episode 17

Man, where do I even begin here? I suppose it should be with another apology about the delay. I didn’t mean for this episode to take significantly longer than any other. But then I got Fire Em–…uh, I mean, generic-dudes-with-swords-fantasy-tactical-RPG-in-which-you-choose-between-three-different-houses game. I put something like 150 hours into that game without ever typing once. I’m sorry, it’s a good game, okay? The fact that it encourages 3+ full playthroughs doesn’t help either…but I’m still a Sonic fan, okay!? I’m not giving up on this!

*ahem* Seriously, sorry about that. But let’s talk about this episode! I wrote two-thirds of it about three months ago, and the rest in the last three days. Hope it didn’t feel too disjointed because of that, but…when you’re writing an episode that’s just one giant fight scene, it’s kind of hard to be disjointed.

In a lot of ways, this was meant to be a sort of Sonic Adventure celebration part 2. If all had gone well, it actually would’ve come out around the time of the American 20th anniversary…but, you know…whatever. But anyways, when I first planned to make that first Adventure special, it came inherently with this episode as a conclusion. Before I came up with that first episode, this one would likely not have been a two-parter. It would’ve just been a disjointed Rouge returns story in the first half (with much less drama) followed by the conclusion of the Death Egg story in the second half. It actually would’ve been a lot like the mid-season finale in that way. I didn’t much care for how the mid-season finale turned out. Or wait, maybe I didn’t even have the Death Egg in mind by that point… Yeah, looking over my old notes, the story of fake Big as resolved in the Adventure special was originally planned to be part of the Rouge-returning finale. Man, that would’ve been a boring finale. So everything works out!

I think I was in the middle of saying before…oh, that’s right. This as a second part to the special. My preliminary idea for the Adventure special was little more than “let’s find a way to bring back Chaos 0”. When that idea gave way to the Discord idea, I still had the thought of bringing back the real Chaos bouncing around in the back of my mind. What I was thinking at first was that Discord would, in the end, join Chaos in the Master Emerald (as Knuckles was trying to make happen) so that neither Chaos nor Discord would be alone in the universe. That was the original intended meaning of Tikal’s vague “Chaos…alone…you…”. But, as usual, it was my good brother Yuni Oha who recommended the possibility that Discord be somehow cured, so the Chao could become a sort of mascot for the Rebellion. I loved the idea of giving this episode a real lasting impact for the rest of the series, so I made it work. Of course, Yuni also highly recommended the use of Perfect Chaos and/or Discord, and I had to disappoint on that front. But who knows? It may happen someday. *wink wink*

I keep meaning to go here and getting sidetracked. Chaos himself. I loved the way that scene turned out. He was on-screen for all of five minutes, didn’t say a word, and yet had one of the most compelling character moments I’ve ever had the pleasure of writing in this show. Not gonna lie, I teared up a little bit when I wrote about him stroking the Chao’s head. Is it weird to cry about something you wrote? Anyways, my only real complaint about that scene is that, after all the buildup Discord got, it was completely upstaged by Chaos. Then again, Discord is staying on as a permanent character, and Chaos isn’t, so I had to treat Chaos right for his brief cameo.

That was most recent on my mind, but I suppose there is much else to talk about. Rouge, for example. Every last scene of hers was extremely complicated to write. I had to approach some very dark and mature concepts in a PG (K+) format. How do you talk about someone getting stabbed in a way that makes sense when you’re not allowed to show blood coming out of a person? (I don’t know if that’s actually the rule, but it’s the rule I’ve taken to. There can be blood, it just can’t be seen actively coming out of a body.) And that’s after she got tied to a chair and beaten, after Shadow tried to blow her up, after Infinite and Fang seemingly murdered one another (something obviously went wrong there). So is she dead now? I’d have to say, “probably”. But we’ll all have to wait and see. I suppose I should say the same about Sly.

This episode set up A LOT of future character arcs. Sonic, Tails, Shadow, Knuckles, and Cream all come to mind immediately. I guess that’s the point of a good finale, isn’t it? My point is, I guess…pay attention? I don’t know, I always worry that the hints of foreshadowing I drop go completely unnoticed if I don’t make them super duper obvious, like “hey, this is something that might happen later!”. At least this time, you’ve already had hints of the future character dynamics between Sonic, Shadow, and Tails through the Green Light Riders Season 2 preview. (Man, I published that in May! Now it’s December! I was supposed to be caught up by now!)

Finally think I’m running out of things to say. One interesting note is that this is actually one of the first planned two-parters that didn’t get split from one or need to get split into three. I planned on the separation between this episode and the next from the beginning. Trouble with that is that I knew I would be forcing myself to write an episode-long fight scene, which, as I’ve said in the past, is a major weakness of mine. The discouragement of making one fight last so long might be part of the reason I wasn’t more adamant about balancing my writing with my video game life. I could already tell by the time I stopped writing that this one foe with a very specific skillset was making for a very stagnant fight. Having to juggle so many different allies for the fight did keep things a little bit less predictable on one hand, but also added its own challenge on the other.

Although, quite possibly the hardest part of the episode was managing the logic behind Knuckles, Shadow, Amy, and how they would interact with Rouge, how and why they would leave the fight with Discord, and how it could make sense that they react in just the ways they needed to. It’s what I spent a vast majority of my break time thinking about. And even now, I think it all came out a little forced. Knuckles and Rouge really needed a proper reunion to demonstrate that Knuckles was able to trust her, but that simply didn’t fit. It didn’t make a lot of sense that Amy felt right about leaving the fight with Discord to check on Shadow, and even less that she didn’t say a word when she passed Knuckles. Sonic calmly accepting Knuckles’ plan didn’t make sense either, especially considering his reaction when Tikal voiced the same intent back in the finale of Sonic Adventure. But Discord needed to be close by for Knuckles’ plan to go through, and if Sonic were there with the intent to stop Knuckles, he easily could have. I had no sound justification for getting rid of Sonic in that moment, so having him accept the plan was the only option. I think it was all just a bit of a mess. A mess that did its job wonderfully, mind you. These conclusions for Rouge and Discord’s stories worked out just as I always pictured them, which is a rare accomplishment for me.

And I think I’ve been ranting on for long enough, so I suppose I’ll have to leave you until we meet again for part 2, the finale of season 1! (It’s been a long time coming.)

S1 E17: Doomsday Part 1

After much too long a wait, the first part of the Chaos Project Season 1 Finale has finally arrived! Read it right here!

The time has come for Eggman to enact his most dangerous plan yet. As Rouge faces the danger of delivering his plans, the Rebellion faces their final confrontation with the deadly Discord. Who will survive this dangerous battle? Who won’t? And what does Eggman truly plan to do with the Death Egg?