Review: Shadow of Time Parts 1 and 2

So I’ve been talking a lot about how the purpose of this story is to explain what would have happened if Shadow had stuck to the dark path. I’ve also mentioned a surprise twist, which is another big part of the inspiration. But there’s something else that I haven’t really talked about. I suppose it’s less inspiration and more opportunity, but one of my goals with this story is to tie everything together. People complain about the story of Shadow the Hedgehog being disjointed and confusing, and yet each individual part is missing far too much information. Even though this isn’t the canon story of Shadow, the idea is to take concepts from all of the different stories and beyond, to create one fluid tale of the path to darkness. This required me to break the traditional level order, and have Central City come after the dark mission of The Doom. This story will be a full tour of all of the most evil things Shadow had a chance to do, so this isn’t the first time you’ll be seeing broken level order. But this is about more than levels. It’s even about more than creating a seamless story between the levels. There’s also the characters. Part of the problem with the original Shadow the Hedgehog is that you were often introduced to “important” characters who you never end up seeing again. I don’t want that to be the case here. If you meet a character, you can be assured that that character will get a full resolution. For many characters, this means writing entire scenes that did not exist in the original. Just wait until you see what happens to the President…

And now, a chronicle of changes between this story and the original.
1. Shadow has a flashback to Sonic Adventure 2 during The Doom, which inspires him to protect Maria at all costs, and causing him to complete the dark mission. As a result, the Maria of Shadow’s memories becomes afraid of him, and flees.
2. Back in Sonic Adventure 2, the first real change happened. Instead of letting Shadow fall, Sonic attempted to rescue him. This memory becomes the catalyst for all of Shadow’s future actions.
3. Change in level order, The Doom dark mission leads to Central City.
4. Additional scene in which Shadow is introduced to his own personal army by Black Doom.
5. Shadow must “ensure that the bombs detonate” rather than “detonate the bombs.” We don’t really want Shadow to be standing in the middle of the city next to a “City Annihilator Bomb” when it goes off. That would be bad.
6. Knuckles is critically injured by one of the bombs.
7. The Commander shatters the President’s photograph. (This is a big one, one of many powerfully symbolic events that are used to tie the story together.) In said photograph, Sonic’s arms are wrapped in white bandages. Now why would that be?
8. The executive office is destroyed by the bombs; Shadow is standing somewhere else when ordered to go to the Air Fleet. He uses Chaos Control by his own will to get there.

I suppose I forgot to mention those symbols. Generally, they didn’t exist in the original, but they’re so perfect, and the existing story makes them so easy, that I just keep finding more and more. The story is full of lots other literary techniques as well, with a focus on symbolism and irony, if you know how to look for them. As a whole, I feel like it’s been making this story feel a lot more enriching, and, to a certain degree, professional. So please, enjoy the deep complexities that this story has to offer. By the way, have you figure out the surprise twist yet? Some serious hints were dropped in part 2, and by part 3 you’ll have everything you need to know.

-So, until next time…live and learn every day!
(I wanted to do an “Almost Dead” pun, but I wasn’t really feeling it.)

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Opinionated Review: Shadow the Hedgehog (2005)

As I mentioned on the footnote of Shadow of Time, I published it to celebrate something very special to me. For the first time in my near-15 year experience with Sonic games, I can finally call myself an expert at one of them. I completed Shadow the Hedgehog’s “Expert Mode” (with 90 lives to spare at that. Thanks, chicken gun.), a feat which I assume most players never even get the chance to attempt. (Just a few days later, I finally got the seventh Chaos Emerald and experienced the final boss for the first time in Sonic Heroes. This has been a really good week for me.) Anyways, in working towards getting an A-rank on every single mission of the game, I got an excellent chance to really analyze its core gameplay elements, while, writing for Shadow of Time, I’ve gotten an equally appropriate chance to analyze the story. Normally, I wouldn’t want to review a game that I first started playing over a decade ago, but these are special circumstances. Additionally, with Mania done and Forces on the way, I am interested in establishing a baseline of comparison between classic games, Adventure-style games, and modern games. Now, since this game came out 12 years ago, it would be unfair of me to compare it directly to modern games (unlike Sonic Mania, which came out last month). So, most comparisons will be made to Sonic Heroes and other Adventure-era games. So, without further ado, let us begin.
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In the Shadow of Time: Part 1

Whoops. This is a pretty big deal, but I totally missed the part where I actually talk about it. I’ve published a new story! This is something that I’ve vaguely talked about here and there, but now it’s finally here (well, the first part of it, anyways). The basic premise is this: throughout most of Shadow the Hedgehog (2005) you are given a constant choice on what decisions you make and how you progress. But then, in the end, in final mode, the part of the game that really matters, the choice is taken away. This story is a hypothetical proposal, an alternate universe ending, if you will, that asks the question, “What would have happened if Shadow had made the other choice? And, perhaps more importantly, what could have caused him to make such a choice?” This new timeline may only be a shadow of what really happened, but it still grants a new perspective on Shadow’s deepest feelings, and how they could have led him down a darker path. But that’s not all. This is all leading up to a surprise twist. The hints are already there. Let’s just say, once you’ve read this complete story, you may never look at a certain spin-off the same way again. In this part…

“Shadow, help me,” The Doomed girl cried. Thrown into a world of his own lost memories, Shadow must decide once and for all who he really is. Even if that means losing what’s closest to him. Revenge, at last, is at hand.

And before I go, here’s an HD look at the story’s cover artwork. Make of it what you will…

Shadow of Time Cover

Deleted Scene I: The Commander

This is a scene I had planned since pretty much the very first conceptualization of the Birth of Blacklight arc. I’ve mentioned before that part of the idea with this arc was to fill in the empty space between when Shadow was launched from the arc and when he was found on Prison Island. This scene was supposed to be a big part of that. In the story I’ve directly told, there was no clear explanation of how Shadow’s pod ended up in the hands of GUN, only an inference made in Alfred’s final note to Shadow. Writing that note was actually a little awkward, because I originally planned it to be built off of this scene. The reason I didn’t end up placing this scene in the original story is because, as I was getting up to the point where it would have been in the story, I decided that I needed to have a moment where Alfred realizes his mistakes before the alleged final battle, so that he could be there to help before real final battle started. So, I wrote the second major scene of that episode, where Alfred tries to tackle Shadow before being told that Blacklight holds Maria captive. theoretically, this deleted scene would have come chronologically right after that. But, if you pay close attention, you’ll notice that this scene has a lot of similar themes and ideas as that one, so it would have been almost like showing the same scene twice in a row, distracting from the battle at hand. So, I deleted it. But, after it was all said and done, I realized, as I wrote in the episode review, that the overarching theme of humanity betraying Shadow got a little bit lost. This scene was supposed to be the beginning of a resolution to that theme, but I deleted it! So, I decided to write the scene anyways, and post it here as bonus content for you. Enjoy!

March 21st, 42 B.E.

Somewhere East of Research Facility EDEN

Approximate Placement: Season 0, Episode 18

“Hold it right there!” Shadow stops as he hears the unmistakable shout of a soldier, and the clatter of a raising gun. Slowly, he turns to look at the soldier. “I-I said freeze! Don’t move! I know what you are!”

Shadow freezes again as he hears the words and lays eyes on the soldier. His uniform closely resembles that of the GUN soldiers once seen aboard the ARK, with a lighter brown coloring. A few locks of silver hair hang out from his helmet, covering parts of his otherwise boyish face, revealing him to be no older than 18. Most surprisingly, his right eye is a dark maroon-red, while his left is a bright cyan-green. He points a rifle directly at Shadow. Shadow answers slowly, “I know who you are as well, Commander…” Shadow looks more closely at the few decorations that the soldier wears, which he is clearly able to read. “…or should I say, Lieutenant?”

The soon-to-be Commander, now Lieutenant, doesn’t seem to hear or care about what Shadow says. “When I heard the call, I knew it had to be you! I knew you would have to turn up eventually!” Shadow tries to take a slow step towards him, but he jabs the rifle forwards to keep him back. An odd rattling sound can be heard. “You’re Project: Shadow. You’re the one who killed everyone on the ARK! You’re the one who killed Maria! But I survived! And I’ve been preparing for this moment for ten years!” The rattling grows louder.

Shadow stares at the rifle emitting the sound, held in the Lieutenant’s trembling hands. Shadow shakes his head. “I don’t have time for this.” He starts rapidly marching towards the soldier.

The Lieutenant jabs the weapon forwards again. “Stay back, o-or I’ll shoot!”

Shadow doesn’t relent. “One day, a long time from now, you will get the guts to pull that trigger. But not today.” Shadow grabs the muzzle of the gun, rips it from the soldier’s hands, and flings it aside. The Lieutenant starts to step back in fear, now trembling all over. Shadow keeps pace with him. “Blacklight was right. Humans have a hard time dealing with things they don’t understand in any way other than violence. They have a hard time learning. But you will learn. And so will they, no matter how long it takes.” He stops walking. “Don’t worry. You will see me again.” He turns and starts to walk away, as the Lieutenant drops to his hands and knees.

Even overcome by fear, staring at the floor, the soldier shouts, “Come back here, Shadow! I’m not finished with you yet!”

Shadow stops one last time. “I didn’t kill Maria. I couldn’t save her, maybe that was my fault. But I didn’t kill her.” He thinks for another moment. “You’ll find me unconscious in a stasis pod, in the basement of a research facility not far from here. It’s password protected, so you won’t be able to open it. Make sure you’re the one who finds it, or you won’t be let in on the secret, no matter how high in the ranks you go.” With that business settled, Shadow continues with his exit, off towards the place where Blacklight waits with Maria, prepared for their final confrontation.

I hope what I said up there makes a little more sense now. The same essential idea of Shadow confronting someone who doesn’t like him, but leaving for lack of time, trying to convince them of their error as he goes exists in both scene. The other scene was more important for immediate plot resolution, but this one was important for resolution of the overarching themes of the story. It’s this encounter that puts the idea in Shadow’s head that humans, even if slow to learn, can learn, which is what convinces him in the end that Blacklight is wrong.

In other news, I would like to apologize for the lack of activity recently. I simply haven’t had as much time to type as I would have wanted, and the Dawn of Chaos arc is giving me a lot of trouble on top of that. Over the next few weeks, look out for a new page on the site, as well as the review for the first epsiode of Dawn of Chaos, the anniversary special. (Wow, it’s been over a month since I published that.) Hopefully, it shouldn’t be long after that that the next episode is published.

-Until then, remember to live and learn every day!

 

S0 E18: Project: Shadow

The climactic final battle begins in the newest installment of the Birth of Blacklight Arc. Read it here!

Blacklight stands between Shadow and the girl he never though he would get to see again. “Time and time again you’ve proven to me that you don’t deserve my help!” This time, Blacklight has gone too far. This time, Shadow can’t hold back. “Maria!”

Review: Season 0, Episode 17

Alright, lots to talk about this time around. The concept of having Shadow face off against Chaos was one of the earliest ideas I had for this whole arc. The thought has always stood out to me that the events of Sonic Adventure are the only really interesting thing to ever happen to Sonic that Shadow had no chance of being involved with. In the past I had considered making some kind of joke off that, having Shadow not believe that those events actually happened because nothing interesting can happen if he doesn’t know about it. But I decided that this episode was far more important than some vague and not-very-funny joke. The difficulty came with Sunlight (though I suppose I should officially be calling him Blacklight now). In Crisis of Chaos, Blacklight, when shown Mechaos 7.0, the Artificial Perfect Chaos, specifically mentioned having no knowledge or memory of it. So throughout this episode, I had to carefully avoid having him directly interact with either the real one or an active artificial one. As an accidental result, I kind of ended up having Chaos become a real enemy of Shadow. But I certainly have no problem with having that much more backstory I can work with later, so expect Shadow to face off against Chaos once more in the far-distant future. Anyways, I had planned on Artificial Chaos playing a far more important role in this episode than what ended up happening, seeing as its the one Shadow had actually encountered before, and had reason to fear. But Blacklight’s story took precedence, and I found that between him and the real Chaos, anything I did would have seemed dull and boring, as I felt the two actual paragraphs involving them were. Speaking of the real Chaos, my original idea involved Shadow being there to witness Perfect Chaos destroying the Echidna village, and never actually fighting it directly. But between Blacklight’s need to never encounter it, and his need to get another Chaos Emerald on this trip, using Chaos 6 worked out much better. The idea about Shadow’s strife in attempting to use Chaos Frost came fairly-last minute, when I was doing some research into the specifics of how the original Chaos 6 fight worked. I originally planned for Shadow to beat Chaos like normal, but decided that a failure would not only lead to a more emotional climax between Tikal and Chaos, but also make the problem with Artificial Chaos feel a little more personal (though, as I said, that part didn’t work out as planned). That’s in addition to the concerns he now has over his own abilities as compared to Blacklight’s.

Now, on to Tikal. The comparison between her and Maria has existed in my mind…ever since I first played Sonic Adventure, I guess. Having Shadow meet her was as much an inspiration for this episode as having having him face Chaos was. The connection between her dilemma and Shadow’s current one is something that I did have to force a little bit, but I thought it worked out quite well for my purposes. Speaking of said dilemma, Shadow’s conflict over Maria’s promise is the very reason why, last episode, I decided to send Shadow to the future, instead of to the ARK as was the original plan. I can’t say everything, since this has yet to be resolved until next episode, but I knew it would make for a generally better story to have Shadow questioning his ties to humanity for much longer. And just to make it clear before I move on to the next topic, Shadow is actively avoiding interacting with Maria, despite this being his first time actually seeing her since her death. One would certainly expect the opposite reaction, but Shadow is certainly going through a lot right now.

Now, there’s a lot going on behind-the-scenes with Blacklight as well. I mentioned last episode having the intention of showing that there is more to his madness than the simple factors that one might expect. Unmentioned in that episode was his quoting of classical poetry. Specifically, Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice” (no I’m not talking about Sonic Boom). Now, his thought process as he said those things is up to the interpretation of the reader. Perhaps Lt. Alfred did give Sunlight a thorough instruction in the literary arts, and he is merely playing off of what he knows. Alternatively, such works of literature might not even exist in this world, and Blacklight simply has the soul of a poet. Either way, it really adds an intellectual level to his already complicated personality. I continued in my attempts to express this intellect throughout this episode, first with his using the French phrase, “Au contraire, mon ami.” The translation would be “On the contrary, my friend.” Next to “Bon appetit” and “Bonjour,” they are probably the most well-known French words in the English language, but that doesn’t prevent it from contributing to his air of intelligence, by knowing at least some slight amount about a foreign language, and one of the languages of romance at that. Additionally, there were two more direct references. The first was when he held the head module of Artificial Chaos, a reference to William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” known as one of the most famous tales of a tragic hero of all time. In particular it was the famous “skull scene” being emulated, in which Prince Hamlet speaks to the skull of an old friend. The head module was the stand-in for the skull. Now, contrary to what many believe, Hamlet never says “To be or not to be” during the skull scene, but I thought that I would add that quote just to make sure that readers understood what I was trying to get across. And besides, it fit well with the theme of contemplation that I was going for. Unlike the previous literary reference, this one was completely unplanned until the moment I realized how much the head module would resemble a skull, which happened while I was describing his holding it. The other reference, also unplanned, was to Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” spoken by Blacklight in marveling over his new name. Unlike Hamlet, which I have read quite recently (in fact, I performed as King Claudius), I haven’t seen a word out of The Raven in almost 5 years. But I still remember the language very well, and as I was having Blacklight appreciate his own name, I recalled the lines, “But the Raven…spoke only that one word, as if his soul, in that one word, he did outpour.” I couldn’t not use it after I realized how well it fit. Now, Blacklight not only seems more intellectual in his insanity, but has also been likened to a tragic hero, and to a poet known for extremely dark and depressing writing. Now, on to one last thing.

Shadow and Blacklight’s little “war of Chaos Control” meant a lot more to me than just a cool action sequence. I was unusually particular about the details. That’s because this exact sequence has been hanging on my wall for longer than the Chaos Project has even existed as an idea. I had to be in 5th or 6th grade when I was at my first peak in Sonic obsession, surpassed only now, and only because of this very story. Anyways, I’ve mentioned before on this website how I (and my older brother, he deserves credit too) as a child loved to create my (our) own Sonic stories. They were absolutely nothing cohesive or deep, and most of those ideas have been all but forgotten. But there is one idea which has stood the test of time. It was my very first attempt at an Original Character, something that I didn’t even know was a thing back then. It was made in conjunction with my still-close friend, who contributed a lot of stories, and also indulged me in allowing me to share my own. Anyways, this character was relatively simple, a hedgehog with ice powers who would serve as a rival to Shadow. He was dubbed Frostbite. Sound familiar? That was one of the names that Blacklight has been contemplating throughout this arc. Later, as Frostbite’s backstory was solidified as not a replica of the Ultimate Life Form, but a prototype to it (between the Biolizard and Shadow), he was renamed to Blackice (which I would’ve actually used last episode instead of Frostbite, but I didn’t like the way it looked spelled out, and still don’t like). Blackice persisted for some time, until I described him to my older brother, who loved the idea so much that he embraced it as his own. Of course, he wouldn’t accept it exactly as-is. He didn’t like that he was limited to only ice powers. He asked, “Why not all of the elements?” Of course, a character with generic elemental powers couldn’t have the word “ice” (or “frost”) in his name, and so he was renamed to Nova (another name that may sound familiar), almost entirely for the sake of the “Super Nova” pun. All of this renaming is the source of inspiration for Blacklight’s entire name crisis, which is not only a driving force behind his character development in this arc, but was planned for from the very beginning, as you can see by looking at some of Blacklight’s comments in Crisis of Chaos. Anyways, to continue the story, Nova became a central feature in all of my brother’s best stories, which, at the time, he was better at creating than I was. Perhaps as some sort of attempt to make sure I still felt like the character was mine, I started to draw him using his various powers (I was a 5th grader at the time, and not exactly the best artist even by those standards. I couldn’t even figure out what Shadow’s spikes were supposed to look like from the side), including one picture of him threatening Eggman with icicle spears, a scene I specifically recreated as his introduction in Crisis of Chaos. But my favorite of all the pictures I ever drew, which I still have hanging on my wall to this day, shows him facing off against Shadow in a war of Chaos Control. The picture, as shown below if you’re interested, shows almost exactly the sequence I described in this episode, with the characters appearing in many places at once, neither with a clear advantage.

img003

I know, embarrassing, right? Oh, the things I do for you.

To finish the story, when I had the dream that inspired the Chaos Project 3 or 4 years later, Nova was not involved, as it was meant to be its own, single, inclusive story. But as I began to imagine the context of that story (what became Crisis of Chaos), I couldn’t resist the urge to include my old characters. But, as I wanted it to be my own story unrelated to my brother’s, I decided that Nova had to be completely re-imagined. I was very hesitant to give him any kind of special powers at all beyond Shadow’s, but I came to the conclusion that, if I could come up with a good justification for having those powers, I would keep them. It was another week or two before I decided to link each element to an Emerald, and that was good enough for me. I don’t know if I can really describe an exact inspiration for the change in backstory from Shadow’s prequel to Shadow’s sequel, but I felt that it would make for a better story, especially given the inclusion of Professor Gerald’s son and Maria’s father, an idea that I didn’t want to ignore after I had first thought of it. I chose the new name of Blacklight, partly as a nod towards the original Blackice name, but also to emphasize the balance/contrast of opposites theme which his story centers around. Lastly was the more specific changes made to his personality. Originally, Blackice was intended to have the mild, cool and polite villain personality which I later recycled for King (which, as you may recall, didn’t have the most pleasing results until much later on), with just a hint of passive-aggressive dislike towards Shadow. Once again, I can’t really say for certain what inspired this change, but I think it may have had something to do with Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal, as I was actively watching that series at around that time, and, in hindsight, Blacklight seems very closely related to the character of Ray/Vector (yes, I realize that those are both names of Sonic characters, but I promise it’s from Yu-Gi-Oh). And…I suppose that concludes the story. Once all of those ideas were set, I started writing, and the rest is history.

-And until next time, remember that it’s a good idea to turn back once in a while.

Opinion Piece 2: Sonic Forces

Well… I…. No, just watch.

Well, there you have it. I first watched this video an hour before writing this, and I’m still sort of in shock. I’ve seen endless comments on just about anything Sonic-related online asking something along the lines of, “Will the third character in Sonic Forces be a self-insert?” My reaction every single time was, “What the heck would give you that idea?” Well…it is. I am not angry. Far from it, in fact. I’m just confused. If done right, this game could have had plenty going for it without such an extreme gimmick. It seems a little…desperate, I guess. I know it sounds kind of odd, coming from me, a guy whose story is practically dependent on its OCs. You’d think I’d be thrilled to make them at least somewhat of a reality. Of course, how much freedom is allowed is a complete other question, but I don’t see it as likely that any of my characters can be replicated in the game. But, the point I was originally making, while there certainly is a considerable fanbase that this would excite, I don’t know if they’re really making the right targeting choices. More on that a bit later. First, take a look at this “Hero” gameplay unveiled at the same time (“Hero” is what this guy seems to be called until further notice).

First of all, the setting of this footage has been given the newly-unveiled name of Park Avenue. Sounds a little happy, but I’m not here to criticize names. Hero uses gadgets such as a grapple gun and his wrist-mounted “Wispon” to make his way through the Eggman-ruled planet (technically it can be a girl, but I’m using male pronouns for simplicity). The first thing that I noticed is that it seems like he is not only in the same location as the Modern Sonic gameplay that we’ve seen, but that it seems like it could be literally Sonic’s level, played as a different character. This concerns me. I suppose I have no right to complain, seeing as level recycling is a major factor of the Adventure games that I hold so highly. But if Modern and Classic Sonic have completely different levels, but this character just shares his with Modern Sonic, it’s going to feel like he’s completely useless, shoehorned in just to appeal to the OC makers. Then there’s the sad fact that, based on what little footage we have, it seems that Hero has more 2D than 3D. It really saddens me, because this once-mysterious third character seemed like the perfect chance to appeal to all three of the largest fanbase factions at once. Give the Classicals Classic Sonic, the Modernists Modern Sonic, and the Adventurers this third character. A 2D style, a 3D style, and a hybrid style. Who could ask for more (bad question)? And while that may just sound like pining coming from an Adventurer like myself, it does bring up a real issue. If Classic Sonic has his complete own style, but this new character just plays like slower Modern Sonic plus gadgets, it could make the entire game feel disjointed, disproportional, whatever you want to call it. Unless, of course, Classic Sonic has as much gameplay as the other two combined, which would actually be even worse, completely ripping the spotlight away from the main character. Point is, opportunity missed, potential problems presented.

sonic-forces-crabot-final-image-1[1]

The next thing to talk about is lore/story. First, the character himself. His existence scares me in terms of story for a few reasons. On the more obvious side, a create-your-own-character is very difficult to develop as a character, since who they are is supposed to be more dependent on you. But this person doesn’t have to have to have complicated backstory by any means, so long as his presence in the game’s narrative is justified, which is still just a little more difficult than it sounds. The most comparable thing that I’m familiar with would be Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Awakening, and its use of Robin. Robin is completely customizable to the player’s liking, including his/her name. I won’t give any spoilers for those who haven’t played, but I can say that Robin was handled perfectly, because they act as far more in the story than just an avatar. And, as much as I like Sonic, I don’t know if I trust Sonic Team to do so well, and that’s why I’m scared. Even if Hero’s gameplay were the most fun, entertaining thing to ever come the Sonic series, I wouldn’t want him to just be there because he is in terms of the story. On a lesser note, we have the logistical concerns for how the story is presented. The trailer suggests (though doesn’t confirm) that this customizable character appears in full-rendered cutscenes, which is a development nightmare. Game engine-rendered cutscenes are one thing, as all of the characters can share the same basic skeleton and movements. But as for the cinematic stuff, the scenes where all of the most important story events happen, that’s a lot harder to generalize for all custom possibilities. If you look closely at the reveal trailer, you can see how Hero’s fur blows around in the wind and explosions, which can’t translate easily to the other species choices, who don’t all have fur in that specific location. Point being, that either means they’re going to severely limit such cinematic cutscenes, which is a bad sign for the story, or they’re going to limit Hero’s appearances in such cutscenes, which is a bad sign for his personal story as well as the game as a whole. Or, they can do what pretty much no one expects them to do at this point, and put in a ton of time and effort to make this game absolutely perfect. Ha ha, as if.sonicforces-hero-screen-03-1493934652-1494948811938

The other thing to talk about is the Wispon, best seen in the image above. Supposedly, it is customizable to some degree, though exactly how is unclear. Point is, this is meant to be the next step in Color Powers, the thing that makes Wisps a real element in this game, rather than just being thrown in as they were in Lost World. It might surprise you to hear that I actually like the sound of that. As much as I disapprove of the abuse of Wisps, this is a good sign that something might actually get explained this time. The device suggests that Wisps, at least to some degree, are becoming normalized in the Sonic world, such that people are studying them and creating technology dependent upon them. I’m still waiting to hear why they left the planet and then were magically back again, but this is at least a start. The only other general reaction to speak of are the customization options. I’m fairly impressed by number of choices available…unless what we see in the trailer is all there is, in which case I’ll be disappointed. As I mentioned earlier, I doubt you can do anything with the shape of the body (or head-and-spikes) beyond the choice of species meaning that there’s pretty much no way I’ll be able to make Zero or Chaos, and, unless they specifically intend for the ability to make Shadow clones, that goes for Blacklight as well (Black Cloak is a maybe). The one other thing to point out are the freaking Chao backpacks! Not counting Generations, this is the first mainstream acknowledgement of Chaos as far as I know of since 2005 with Shadow the Hedgehog (where they had a great send-off: letting you murder a room full of them for free dark points). I doubt that it means anything for other Chao appearances in the game, but it’s very nice to see. These options are actually a very good opportunity to reference other forgotten things of Sonic history, and maybe even a few other SEGA things as well. I can only say that I hope the options are as wide and varied as possible.

https://i0.wp.com/nintendo-power.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Sonic-Forces-Custom-Character.jpgOf course, as always, we now have my specific Chaos Project-related reactions. Since that’s in recent memory (I started writing an hour and a half ago), I’ll start with the Wisps. As glad as I am that Wisps have a purpose, that also means that I’ll have to start acknowledging them as a normalized part of the world in my story, something I certainly haven’t been doing so far. If they really are so normal, it might actually make my existing episodes a contradiction, seeing as the Wisps don’t seem to exist at all. I’ll probably have to dedicate a Season 1 episode to rectifying that, which I was already planning on just for the sake of Lost World, but will now have to be a bit more complicated. Don’t expect to see any Wisps in the story until then.

Now, for Hero. I’m definitely going to have to wait to see more until I determine how to treat him in the long-run of the canon. His existence in and of itself certainly doesn’t contradict anything that I have (though his use of gadgets certainly bears a resemblance to Black Cloak). But, so far as I can tell, there is no easy way to integrate this. First of all, the red Wolf with glasses, the one seen in the trailer and gameplay, may or may not be acknowledged as the “real” face of this Hero, similar to how white hair is assumed real for Robin in Fire Emblem. It also might just be a proof-of-concept example. And Robin brings up another important question. Does this “Hero” have a default name? If he does, that, combined with the look shared by the trailer and the gameplay, may just be enough to allow for, at very least, an appearance in the Chaos Project. If there is no strongly-pushed default name like Robin, then there’s not much I can do. Of course, he could be killed at the end of the game or whatever else, making this discussion pointless. But if there’s even the slightest chance that I can use this character, I want to. More characters means more—and in some cases better—stories to tell. Maybe, if this game falls short on Hero’s backstory, I can…pick up the slack? Wishful thinking, I know. To conclude, even though a real character probably would have been better for my purposes, this guy still has some pretty good potential, if all of the stars align.

-Until next time, I’m gonna reach for those stars. Are you?

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.

Opinion Piece: Sonic Forces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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