Wow, this one came down to the wire. As an anniversary special, this one needed to be published on a particular date. And I left myself over a month from beginning to end to meet that date. I finished it three days before the deadline. I’m not entirely sure why it took so long. Perhaps it was mostly due to summertime distractions. But also, this episode required an immense amount of research, part of which included replaying the original Sonic Chronicles game (even though I already did about 8 months ago, I felt like doing it again). But enough of all that boring stuff. Let’s talk about why this episode exists in the first place.
So let’s think back. I first purchased Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood just over a week after it came out, so almost exactly ten years ago today. And…I hated it. The little child version of me couldn’t figure out how to use the touch screen prompts during battle, which meant no POW moves, which meant no chance at beating the first boss. So I gave up, put the game down for…probably six months, though it might’ve been as much as a year, and when I came back to it, I decided to start over from scratch, and pay closer attention to the tutorial. It payed off. I became practically obsessed with the game, playing it with any spare time I had. When my DS’s touch screen broke around the time I was entering Metropolis (mostly due to previous experience with Pokémon Ranger, if you played it you probably understand), I didn’t give up. I discovered that, by unscrewing the DS and temporarily removing the battery, resetting the system would cause the touch screen to function properly again for a few hours at a time. So I kept going like that, taking out the battery over and over again every few hours of play, because I so desperately wanted to finish. And when I finally did, that still wasn’t enough. Using the New Game+ feature, I proceeded to replay the game another four times over. Then I was finally done. For two or three years. Then I went back and beat it another three times (by this time, the touch screen had magically fixed itself, don’t ask me how). And then I was legitimately done. Or so I thought. Just over a year ago, after I was neck-deep in writing for the Chaos Project, the thought occurred to me, “I can write whatever I want. So what can I do with that?” It wasn’t long at all before I realized that Sonic Chronicles, the game I had beaten more times than any other in my life, the game that I had long since given up on hoping for a sequel for, had been sitting on an unfulfilled cliffhanger for nine-ish years. As a writer who strives to expand on unfulfilled plot points in the Sonic franchise, I couldn’t let that stand. Immediately, I began pondering on how I could do that. I quickly rejected the idea of simply telling a sequel story, as that would have far too many difficult canon implications, such as the presence of Shade. But the world they all arrived in at the end of that cliffhanger…looked shockingly similar to the world I was planning on building for war of The Chaos Project. So what if it actually was? What if, by mistake, the crew of the Cyclone ended up in a different world, the world of my story, instead of the one they were intending to reach? I know it’s a stretch, it’s pretty obvious that writers were actually going for their own world transformed due to the difference in the way time passes in the Twilight Cage. They were supposed to be in the future. But why couldn’t I stretch that, just a bit? Thus, this episode was born. Of course, at that point, I had no idea when I would place this episode, and in fact I figured it would be quite a bit later. But I decided to do another playthrough of the game, just so I could plan it better. Out of curiosity, once I was finished, I looked into the original release date, since I had no idea how long it had actually been. Surprise! The game’s 10th anniversary was coming in less than a year! There would be absolutely no more appropriate time to write this episode than on that date. I wasn’t totally convinced that making such an unusual episode would be a good idea so early on in the series. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. And so, when the time came a month ago, I decided to enjoy a celebratory tenth playthrough of the game, partly to make sure that I got a bunch of the more minor details correct. And I wrote. And you’ve read the results. That’s the whole story, beginning to end.
So, why did I love the game so much? Looking back on my most recent playthrough, without the obscuring goggles of nostalgia, I found that…it was enjoyable, but riddled with many, many problems. Why didn’t I notice them before? Well, the reason I got the game in the first place is because I was told it would be like Pokémon, but with Sonic characters. (Pokémon was one of the only RPGs I had been exposed to at the time.) And on that front, it delivered. I think they did an excellent job taking the usual formula for a slow, turn-based RPG, and turning it into something that feels very frantic and fast-paced, very good for a Sonic game, without losing the RPG appeal. Of course, movement in the overworld was very sluggish, but the use of abilities of different characters, including Sonic’s speed, to traverse certain areas of the map, made it feel like it all worked just fine. And of course, there’s the memorable storyline, heartwarming character moments, and all-around well-written dialogue. I’ve seen lots of complaints about Sonic being written like a total out-of-character jerk (which I actually addressed in the episode), but those were only some of the branching dialogue options, and as Sonic, you could choose to be as nice or as jerkish as you want. I didn’t feel that any of the options, taken alone, were too far outside the extremes of Sonic’s natural character. Then again, almost anything will feel more like Sonic’s natural character than his modern Roger Craig Smith writing.
But moving on…this game inspired me in so many ways. I once stated that I fell in love with the Sonic series more for the world and characters than for any one particular game. And I think this game is quite possibly the biggest reason for that. More than any other game in the franchise, Chronicles gets you a look deep into the psyche of almost every character, and really gets you thinking about Sonic’s world as a place with unified lore. Maybe the writing isn’t perfect, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best in the entire Sonic series. Sonic taking up a leadership role, showing a serious dedication to the mission with the occasional lighthearted snark, that precisely describes the way I write my Sonic now, and that’s no coincidence. If it weren’t for this game, Sonic probably wouldn’t be the leader of the Rebellion now. Then again, if it weren’t for this game, I probably wouldn’t be writing at all. A well kept secret that I’ve never told before is that I was actually writing a Sonic story long before I ever joined fanficiton.net. And that story…was Sonic Chronicles 2. It’s on the Sonic Fanon Wiki. No I won’t tell you which one it is, because there are many. And no, I don’t ever intend to finish it (I think I only got to the beginning of Chpater 3 out of an assumed ten). But if I hadn’t already started that when I was younger, I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to start writing The Chaos Project all those years later. And you know, that’s assuming that I’d be a Sonic fan at all anymore. I think it’s pretty hard to be a Sonic fan right now, and if I had one less Sonic game to look back on with intensely fond memories, I might have given up by now. So thank you, Sonic Chronicles, for inspiring me to do something that I love.
So I guess it’s on to the episode itself, though I don’t think there’s a whole lot to say in that area. The idea for this episode ended up being that, in the end, nothing really changes. If the real Sonic Chronicles 2 were somehow to be announced tomorrow, it could begin with them arriving in the ruined future of their world, just as was certainly planned, and this episode still wouldn’t interfere with that. But then, some things did change. Shadow gained a greater respect for Sonic. Shade learned to trust her friends a little more. That’s what this whole episode came down to. Chronicles ended on a ten years’ old cliffhanger. And no, I didn’t build the bridge to the other side. But I laid down the first plank. I explored character arcs and plot points that have been lost for ten long years.
Alright, let’s think about…references. Lots and lots of Chronicles quotes, obviously. The location of Cyber City AKA Genocide City is a reference to a zone that was scrapped from Sonic 2, supposedly turned into the third act of Metropolis. Genocide City was the beta name programmed into the game, but that was apparently a mistake made by designers who wanted something that sounded cool and edgy, but didn’t have a total understanding of English, and chose something that would be a bit too violent for the little ones. It was supposedly going to be renamed into Cyber City, but was instead scrapped entirely. And of course, the fact that it’s Metropolis, but also not Metropolis, was intentionally done for the Chronicles reference. And it helps that this whole season is taking place on the island setting of Sonic 2. And…so as to not stay here for hours, I think I’ll leave it at that for now. I’m still hard at work on the next Chaos Project episode, but in the meantime, I’ll finally be able to update Shadow of Time again! Be on the lookout!
-And until next time, remember to live and learn every day!