Review: Season 0, Episode 31 (again)

Again, because the numbering system for the episodes was changed. This review is in regards to the episode that came out last week, “The Time of Reckoning Part 1.”

This episode was much more difficult than I was expecting. Every single one of these scenes was something I’ve been planning out for quite some time now, and I guess that was sort of my problem. I prepared so much that I had a hard time getting all the completely separate ideas to fit together. I had to constantly go back and edit scenes, that meditation with Chaos and Shadow was rearranged and added to at least 4 or 5 times over the course of my writing the episode. And now it’s my longest episode ever, even longer than After the Fight, the Forces Special. It’s so long, it’s going to be hard to remember what my thoughts were on the earlier scenes. But I’ll do my best.

It was a last-minute decision to include Cream, but I decided to use this episode as an opportunity to showcase as many characters as physically possible, and I decided she needed a proper introduction before Season 1 anyways. But, no need to worry about her being shoved to the side, she’ll play a more important role in the next episode. Anyways though, I was definitely happy to start a bond between Cheese and Bruno early, because that will be pretty important later. The conversation with Amy and the Commander immediately afterwards probably seemed very random, because it sort of was. But, I wanted to show off a bit of character for the Commander, I wanted to set up for his role in Cream’s plot next episode, and Amy was really just conveniently there for me to do that.

Let’s see…after that, it was my awkward best attempt at finding a good excuse for them to not go into battle right away, so Shadow and Chaos could have their conversation. I was hoping to have the vote come in as a tie, and then have Hero come in to break that tie, but the numbers just didn’t work out that way. I was kind of forcing certain votes as it was. So, I had to come up with some other way to break the tie. I considered accounting for the votes of Cheese and Bruno, but…I thought that would be a bit unfair, since it’s a given that they would vote with their partners, not to mention the fact that for the numbers to work, I would’ve needed them to each vote differently anyways, which would’ve defeated the purpose and brought back the tie.

I almost forgot about the Commander with Hero. That interaction was definitely important, and I probably would’ve led into it a bit better…if Hero could talk. But, him being silent, there’s only so much I can express with just gestures and grunts. The silent point I’m trying to make is that Hero is sort of without a purpose at the moment. He spent a long time searching for Infinite, but it seems his true calling is as a soldier. Perhaps soon, he will figure that out for himself.

Onto Shadow and Chaos. Usually here in Season 0, I write with the intention that you shouldn’t have to know what happened in the premiere, Crisis of Chaos. But in this case, I kept in mind that Chaos and Shadow were pretty close at that point. So, just when it seemed like they were starting to bond, I wanted to make a shock by having them suddenly hate each other. Of course, they were already over that by the end of the episode. One of the disadvantages of bringing Chaos in so late in the arc. Anyways though, I really enjoyed that scene, because it referenced the events of every single one of my previous arcs, which really helped to tie this whole season together in my mind.

So…did you catch any of the references during the “Null Space is leaking” narrative? I mean, Blaze and Classic Sonic were obvious, but anything else? I also referred to Boom Sonic pretty directly, the one that wears a scarf. But then there were the rest, different colors, different outfits, different numbers of spikes. The idea was sort of for you to fill in the blanks for yourself. Who had a different number of spikes? Maybe Sonic from Sonic X? Or any other cartoon, for that matter? Who has a different color of fur? Maybe Scourge? Who has a strange outfit? Maybe Stealth the Hedgehog? If you wanted to, you could even imagine Super Mario poking his head through one of those fissures, since he has a basis for crossing over with the Sonic universe. Now, to be clear, none of this is canon. Except maybe Boom, who I specifically described. But don’t expect the story to start regularly crossing over with Sonic Boom now, let alone the comics.

The fights in this episode probably felt pretty rushed, and that’s because they were. I was feeling completely uninspired when I got to each of the three major action sequences, so I skipped them, choosing to come back to them later. But, as it turned out, by the time I reached the end, I was already well over 9000 words (where I like 6000 to be my high average), and those fights still had to be written. So, I felt obligated to cut them a bit short. Besides, we’ve already seen Infinite fights like 10 different ways, and the same goes for Blacklight fights, so how much could these ones really add? But action wasn’t really the point of this episode anyway. You can think of this as more of the “character finale” while the next and last part is going to be more of the “action and plot finale.” Obviously, both have both, but this is where I wanted all of the character arcs to reach their climax, while next time is where the story itself actually resolves, obviously with a spectacular show, as I hope you’ve come to expect out of this series. I just hope that the next one doesn’t end up looking ridiculously short compared to this one. (Forget I said that. It’s actually 50% longer.)

There’s probably a lot I could say about the many important character interactions that happened thereafter, but honestly, there’s so much that happened, I wouldn’t even know where to start. And honestly, I hope that it all speaks for itself, except for the parts that will get wrapped up next episode, obviously. So…I guess that’s sort of it. So before I go, one last big announcement. One week from today, I’ll be forgoing the usual Preview piece, in favor of publishing the season finale a week early! I just finished writing last night, and as I mentioned above, it’s a big one. Like, really big. Like, more words in this one episode than in all four parts of Crisis of Chaos combined. But I promise, it will be exciting, and terrifying, and heartwarming, and it will bring everything together so that Crisis of Chaos can finally happen.

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

Advertisements

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!

Preview: Season 0, Episode 29

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

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

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

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

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

“Excellent. Open the portal.”

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

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

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

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

Heavy King scrutinizes Eggman closely.

Review: After the Fight

Wow. This was an undertaking. Where do I even begin? From the beginning, I suppose. Our starting point would be the moment I finished Infinite Possibilities, the first Sonic Forces special. At that point, I had literally no idea what would come next. I had the basic, rudimentary outline of what the next episode arc would be, and made that first special purely as a way to kick off that arc while simultaneously celebrating the release of Forces. I wrote it knowing that I would eventually have to explain how Blacklight became Infinite, but I figured, based on the “Phantom Ruby prototype” concept (which I only knew about because of the beta release of the mobile game, Sonic Forces Speed Battle) that it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to explain later that Eggman simply made another fake, if all else failed.

Unrelated to that train of thought, a little while after the game came out, I was accidentally spoiled by a single name. “Null Space.” I had no idea what it was, or what its role was in the game (though the spoiler in question did contain the statement that it was underused in the plot). I knew at that moment that I had found my connection between Sonic Forces and my story. From the beginning, back when I wrote the final episode of the Birth of Blacklight arc, I specifically left one very vague statement at the end. “He is safely hidden away.” On one hand, I actually hadn’t yet put the thought into where exactly that hiding place would be, as I knew that I had the whole Dawn of Chaos arc in the middle to think of a good location to kick off this new arc (originally, the location of Sonic’s fight in what would become the first Forces special was supposed to be that hiding spot, he was supposed to see Blacklight getting woken up). On the other hand, the imminent release of Forces was in the back of my mind, and I had a pretty good feeling at that point that it would coincide with the beginning of this new arc. I saw an opportunity to connect them, so I decided that a great way to do so would be to make that hiding place an important location from Forces itself. So when I saw the words “Null Space,” what I saw was something that could almost certainly be the exact place I was looking for to bring this all together. The decision to make Blacklight into Infinite was entirely separate, so when I actually played the game for myself, and learned that Null Space was so intrinsically related to the Phantom Ruby and Infinite, I was almost giddy. The connection wasn’t just there, it was perfect.

One other spoiler I accidentally got was a snapshot of the final scene before the credits, all the characters cheering in front of what I later learned was the Eggman Empire Fortress. By that point, I had already learned quite a bit about Infinite as a character, between the prequel comics, the trailers, and my own attempt with Blacklight-Infinite. I had grown very attached to him. I thought that the face under his mask was…well, sort of adorable. Maybe handsome would be a better word. Either way, I liked him. I wanted to see that guy be happy. So I started planning for a redemption story. I wanted him to come crawling back at the moment of that snapshot I saw, begging for forgiveness, warning of some greater threat. I wanted he and the Avatar to become good friends, for the Avatar to truly show him the way back to heroism. Sound familiar? Bcause that’s pretty much exactly what I ended up writing…up to the last three minutes or so. More on that in a moment.

After I played the game, things just kept falling into place. The “Fading World” background song for Imperial Tower (that level was a great experience, by the way) implied that the Ruby prototype was calling to the Avatar’s dark emotions, helping to justify Infinite’s being a better person without it. Infinite disappeared towards the end of the story, without a clear end, without any serious character resolution. Best of all (or worst, from any standpoint other than mine as a writer) Eggman didn’t even use the real Ruby! He used Infinite’s prototype! (At least, I’m 90% sure on that. It wasn’t extremely clear, and I’ve seen some debate about it.) All of the pieces lined up into a perfect puzzle, where the Phantom Ruby itself could be framed as the true final villain, Infinite would have perfect reason to be the necessary exposition to explain that, and could be truly redeemed from there. I explained some of the basics of my ideas to my brother and fellow writer, Yuni Oha. He was skeptical. He didn’t really see redemption as a reasonable option, because Infinite was so darned evil in the real story. I argued back that his one blue eye was meant to show that he still had some good in him, and he just tried to cover it up with the mask. He countered that everything I said may make for a good excuse, after the fact, of why I did it, but none of it makes for a proper reason to make it happen in the first place. Not long later, the full Sonic Forces soundtrack was released. After he listened to Infinite’s full theme for the first time, he begged me not redeem him. And, after some further discussion, I was convinced. No more redemption for Infinite. Problem was, I’d already planned such a full and complex story to write, that heavily depended on Infinite as a character. In fact, I still started writing this episode less than 24 hours after that. So I thought…Let’s fake it! More specifically, let’s help out Infinite’s character in a different way. Let’s see him at his lowest, see him show a level of caring that we haven’t seen before, give all of us a reason to care about him as a person, even as he stays evil to the end. I was still able to write a fundamentally similar story, just with an added moment of extra drama right at the end. But that still left one problem. If Infinite is still Infinite, how can Blacklight become Infinite? In order to answer that question, I ended up coming up with a much better concluding scene than I was originally planning. “Better” being a relative term. Because it was kind of sad for me, going through all that work to bring Infinite back to power, only to take it away from him. But at that point, the first Forces special had been out there for well over a month, and it was absolutely necessary that Blacklight become the primary problem. I needed to write myself out of that hole with that scene. And it was a good scene, sudden and unexpected, but disappointing from Infinite’s perspective all the same.

So, what else is there to talk about? I ended up writing this episode with the thought in mind to make it as easy as possible to read for someone who’s never read any part of the rest of the series before, partly because Yuni said he wanted to read it after the Infinite conversation we had, and partly just because, as a direct insert into Sonic Forces, direct connections to the rest of my story weren’t really all that necessary. That’s why I didn’t actually name Lt. Alfred when he was voicing over at the beginning, why I had him give a brief synopsis of the Birth of Blacklight arc in the first place.

The design and concept of the Phantom Nightmare was something that came to me quickly and easily. After all the buildup with the Replicas, you only ended up fighting half of them in the final game, and even then they never really did anything. Plus, it was something Yuni and I had been talking about long before the game came out, that all four of the advertised Replicas had some manner of Super Form. It was a logical step to give them all a purpose, while creating an opponent worthy of Super Sonic. With the Ruby’s illusionary powers, fusing them all together into a single monster seemed like a logical extreme. The addition of Heavy King was something that I was debating at first, but in the end I decided that anything that gives Classic Sonic a reason to exist is a good thing. (That one line, “This was never your fight,” was a stab at the fact that Classic Sonic didn’t even belong in this game). I also debated using Titanic Monarch instead of Phantom King as the Heavy King’s “Super Form,” but I was convinced that it just couldn’t properly be justified at this time. Originally, I was planning on having the Phantom Nightmare simply tear out of Null Space right from the get-go. But Yuni, once again, convinced me to have a clear scene where each of the Replicas transform before fusing, just to make it clear what’s really happening.

Let’s see, what else? I was glad to give an excuse to exclude Shadow and Silver from this Super fight, where Generations DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER. *Ahem* Sorry, that’s just a thing that bothers me.

The Avatar’s character arc is something that most people would say Forces did relatively well, especially compared to most recent Sonic games. But I knew that it could use a little extra something. The Avatar grew from point A to point B, which was good. But any good character development arc requires a moment of reflection. A moment where a question is posed, and resolutely answered, of how valid that development was. Speaking of the Avatar, his new little Wisp friend is something that came to me sort of randomly, but I thought it would be good for him to have someone he could call a partner, even when he’s out there alone.

Well, there’s more I could probably say, but I think this has gone on long enough. But rest assured. This is not the last you’ve seen of Infinite or the Avatar.

-And before I say goodbye to you, one more last fist bump!
(For real this time, last one, I promise.)