Opinionated Review: Sonic Forces

Yeah, I’ve been holding out on this for a while, even though it’s the whole reason I started these reviews in the first place. This game…was something. And I’m honestly not going to be sure what something means until I’ve finished writing here. When I first finished the game, I was unsure of what to think, and while my opinions have solidified a little more since then, I was hoping to have a better idea by now. So here we go—even I don’t know where.

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Review: Season 0, Episode 29

So, this episode was…a bit different than I was originally expecting. There’s nothing in particular that was changed, it’s just that the three different stories going on between Eggmanland, the Empire Fortress, and the Resistance base, ended up taking a lot more time than I was expecting. I had in mind that those scenes would go by quickly, so the bulk of the episode could take place in Central City. The sad thing is, we’re now two episodes in to what I was originally thinking might be a three or four episode arc, and we technically aren’t even out of what would constitute the tutorial of the hypothetical game that this arc represents. But when has an arc ever been as short as I planned? Speaking of the game, I’ll get to explaining that in a moment, but let me think if there’s anything else about the episode first. I was originally planning on leaving the Heavies out until next season, but I was convinced that now, in the fallout of the Phantom Ruby troubles, would be the best time, the most convenient excuse to get them here, not to mention that they fit well not only into the story, but even better into the game concept. The only real problem now is that, if I want them to stick around, I have to come up with an excuse for why they weren’t in Crisis of Chaos.

Anyways, onto that game I mentioned. This Forces of Chaos arc, like everything else in Season 0, stems from a hypothetical game idea, which I’ve been calling “Sonic Conquest”. Yes, I know the game’s about Shadow instead of Sonic, but “Shadow Conquest” doesn’t have even close to the same ring to it. I’m going to be honest here and say that the concept is strongly based off of Pokémon Conquest, a spinoff title of its respective franchise for the Nintendo DS, which was a crossover with the Japanese “Nobunaga’s Ambition” series. The game featured you as a self-insert leader, who, by strategically deploying your troops and their Pokémon, would eventually unite all territories on the continent under your rule. And there lies the core idea of “Sonic Conquest.” Let me start from the beginning.

Pokémon Conquest is a sort of tactical RPG, but Sonic Conquest plays much more like a standard Sonic game, with levels where you destroy enemies and reach a goal. The difference comes in how those levels are selected, and who you play as in each. You begin with a single character, Shadow, in the Seaside Hill territory. Territories are an important part of this game. The entire globe is divided into territories, each of which has an allegiance – Federation (represented by Shadow), Empire (represented by Eggman) or Infinite (represented by Blacklight). But the allegiance mechanic doesn’t come in until later, for the beginning of the game it’s just a place. Each territory also has at least one level location, and a boss location. So, once you play through the tutorial level location (Sea Gate, I figure), you proceed to the boss arena, Whale Island, for your first bout with Blacklight, the new Infinite. After the boss, you view the World Map for the first time, and Tails joins your army. At this point the game is still in tutorial mode, so only one more territory becomes available to view, Sunset Heights. This is also the initial introduction to allegiances, as Seaside Hill becomes aligned to Federation, and Sunset Heights becomes aligned to Empire. For the tutorial purposes, you must then “invade” the Sunset Heights territory, once again as Shadow, this time along with Tails.

In any kind of deployment or invasion, only a limited number of units can be deployed, a unit being either a single character, known as a General, or an army squadron. Sunset Heights is defended by one army squadron of Empire robots, and one General, Blacklight. When a territory has at least one squadron deployed, an invasion of that territory requires you to play through the level location (guarded by enemies, or double or triple the enemies if multiple squadrons are deployed), which in this case is Park Avenue. Similarly, if a territory has a General deployed, but no squadrons, you go straight to the boss location, which in this case I figure is “Red Gate Plaza” (a slight liberty taken, since it’s not a running boss and so can’t take place on the bridge itself). If it has some combination of the two, you must do both. If you are successful, then you claim the territory in the name of the United Federation. When Shadow broke the flag at the end of the level last episode, that was a midifcation on the standard “victory pose” for the end of each level, where whichever character you’re playing as plants a United Federation flag in the ground (or a different flag, for some of the postgame modes, but more on that later).

But back to the normal progression. Between the level and the boss, the Avatar joins your army, and automatically becomes part of your current invasion as well. (I don’t know whether the Avatar would actually be customizable in this game or not. It seems silly that the Avatar would be included without customization, but then for a game that doesn’t focus on him as a character, it seems like it would be a pretty silly distraction from the rest of the game. Perhaps there are just a few limited options that you select from at the beginning of the game, but then there’s no changing it afterwards.) Once you beat the boss, Sunset Heights becomes yours. This is where the real game starts…sort of. The entire World Map opens up, giving you a detailed look at the waging war. I don’t know how many territories there would be for the game, but for the purpose of this explanation, let’s just say that there’s 12. 8 of them (the 60 percent mentioned in the story) is aligned to Empire, while the remaining four (Seaside Hill, Sunset Heights, Central City, and Mystic Ruins) are aligned to Federation (you). However, immediately, half of the Empire territories become taken by Infinite, as Blacklight splits off from the Eggman Empire, leaving one third of the planet for each alignment. There’s still a little bit of tutorial left, in teaching you troop management. The tutorial instructs you to deploy Tails in Mystic Ruins, Shadow in Seaside Hill, and leave the Avatar in Sunset Heights, in order to best defend your borders. On this map, an army can only invade a neighboring territory, and the opposing armies behave just as you do. If an undefended territory is attacked, it is taken over automatically. By having troops deployed around your borders, you protect your inner territories from being claimed so easily. However, because you only have three available units, one of your four territories are left undefended. Because you’ve already invaded Sunset Heights using all of your available units, you must proceed to “end your turn.” During Blacklight’s turn, you are attacked at Mystic Ruins, teaching you the mechanics of defending. Just like if you attack a General, if one of your Generals is attacked, you must fight a boss, and if you are attacked by an army squadron, you must play through a special “destroy all enemies” modification of the level area, or a separate defense area, depending on the location. For example, Sea Gate serves as a separate defense area for Seaside Hill in addition to being the tutorial setting (Ocean Palace being the attack stage that you probably won’t see in your first playthrough), while Central City has Radial Highway for attack and Cityscape for defense (hope you caught those references, Radial Highway being a one-letter modification of Radical Highway, and Cityscape being the same for City Escape). Anyways, win or lose, next comes Eggman’s turn. Eggman attacks Central City, and, undefended, takes it. Once your turn comes again, the very last thing that you are forced to do is take back Central City. Once you do, you meet up with GUN in the story, and gain command of several army squadrons of your own. That part hasn’t happened in the story yet. From there on out, you’re on your own. Your goal is to take back the entire world, one territory at a time. Unlock more characters as you take certain territories, strategically deploy your units to keep your borders protected, choose who you play as and when. I won’t go into detail on later game happenings, to avoid story spoilers. I suppose I forgot to mention, after the split, Eggman’s Generals are the Hard Boiled Heavies, while Blacklight’s Generals are the Phantom Ruby Replicas. But one of the best parts of this game is the extreme post-game content. Because once you beat “Shadow’s Story,” you begin to unlock other stories, simple little scenarios of questionable canon, where you have some other character as your head Commander, instead of Shadow. These stories may take place within limited parts of the world, or have some other manner of gimmick in order to complete, but every last General, including the villains, would have their own story. The prize for completing all the rest would be Sonic’s story, who otherwise wouldn’t be playable in the game. Sonic’s story, though still taking place in the same world and levels, would be arranged such that you must play through levels in order, no armies to fight back against you, no Generals to collect, but still with periodic bosses to fight. Essentially, a normal Sonic game.

Let’s see…anything I’m missing? I suppose I forgot to mention what the purpose is of having multiple Generals deployed in a single area. Somewhat like Sonic Forces, this game doesn’t have a traditional life system. But unlike Forces, a “Game Over” is still a very real possibility. Your available lives is directly tied to the number of Generals you have deployed. If you lose a life as one General, you start from your last checkpoint as the next. If you run through all of the Generals you have deployed, you lose the battle, and the territory. If you’re very skilled at the game, you’ll only ever need to deploy one General in any given area, and you can wrap up the game very quickly by spreading out your forces. But if you need that extra safety cusion, you’ll have to concentrate your forces more, which means you won’t be able to accomplish as much each turn,  and completeing the game will take considerably longer. As you proceed through the many postgame stories, you’re bound to get good enough to do the former. And…I think that’s all.

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

S0 E29: The Gears Begin to Turn

After a short delay, the next episode of The Chaos Project is finally out! Read it right here!

The Second Great Eggman War has been set in motion. Now fighting a war on two fronts, against Eggman with his Hard Boiled Heavies, and Blacklight with his Phantom Ruby Replicas, Shadow and the rest of the new Resistance will take help anywhere they can get it. Even from the darkest of villains.


Review: Season 0, Episode 28

Behold, the monstrosity that is simultaneously Shadow the Hedgehog 3, Sonic Forces 2, and also some random spinoff game! I’d love to go into detail right now, but explaining the hypothetical game idea that inspires this Forces of Chaos arc would involve quite a few story spoilers. So I’ll stick to a review of just the episode for now.

I mentioned this before, during the review of the first Sonic Forces special, but this whole Forces thing really just fell into my lap. In the early planning phases for this arc, before Sonic Forces was even announced, this was supposed to be a fairly simple story, Eggman wakes up Blacklight, Blacklight betrays Eggman and takes Eggmanland for himself, Shadow defeats both and ends up making friends with Chaos the Hedgehog, thus setting everything up for Crisis of Chaos to happen. In the very beginning, this was just supposed to be a direct continuation from Birth of Blacklight, a lack of greater story content was okay, because the important part was the character arcs of Shadow and Blacklight. But I quickly decided that three Shadow-focused arcs in a row (Black Cloak, Birth of Blacklight, and now this) would be way too much, so I rearranged things to have Dawn of Chaos come in between. But without being able to ride off of Birth of Blacklight’s story directly anymore, this arc didn’t have anything going for it anymore. It was in its death phases. I considered, more than once, trying to integrate Blacklight’s revival into Dawn of Chaos so that I wouldn’t have to bother with this one, but I knew that would be too much going on at once, especially since by that point I had already written Metalumis into Crisis of Chaos. So I decided that a boring arc that makes sense would be better than no arc at all.

So, the arc sat there in the back of my mind for a long time, never getting much pre-planning beyond a few vital scenes, as I continued to check off the arcs that came before it. It was some time around when I was writing the end of Birth of Blacklight that I realized that the release of Sonic Forces was fast-approaching. At that time my writing was really starting to slow down, and I estimated that at that slower pace, I wouldn’t be able to finish writing this final arc before Forces comes out. And at that time, my biggest fear was that Forces would come in and start majorly contradicting me. I had two choices. I could put the rest of my life on hold and dedicate the next six months to being a writing machine, getting everything done before Forces so that I can wait until the more episodic Season 1 to start addressing any discontinuities. Or, let the writing come naturally, under the knowledge that I might have to rethink the entire arc from scratch in order to let it work with Forces. Wait a minute, I thought. If I could dedicate an entire arc to celebrating Sonic Forces, that could be really great. It could also be totally impossible, unfeasible to write a tie-in arc or my original planned arc, leaving me with nothing. Given all the factors, I decided to take the risk. And boy, did it pay off. I was afraid that this arc’s similarity to the presentation of Forces would make it ridiculous for both of them to exist, but, quite the opposite, it made integrating them so easy, so perfect.

So, I guess it makes sense to go over similarities and changes due to the Forces tie-in. As I mentioned before, the Infinite Possibilities special was originally just a single fight against regular Blacklight, which wouldn’t have taken up more than half of the original episode. The several-week time skip with Sonic in a coma still would’ve proceeded, Chaos would still convince Tails to go after Shadow. Originally, Shadow probably would’ve been found in the heart of some random unnamed forest. I was only inspired to use Seaside Hill because Forces teased us with it without actually showing it, so I wanted to actually show it in some capacity. From there, I figure the two of them would’ve tracked Blacklight to…some kind of city (not Sunset Heights, obviously), where they would’ve encountered…someone, probably Knuckles or Amy. As you can probably tell, it was all very rudimentary before Forces came around.

The inclusion of the Avatar in this story was something that I just felt obligated to do after how much I invested in his character and his relation to Infinite during the second Forces special. And honestly, even before Forces, the plan was going to be for Shadow to get everyone together in a single army (so pretty much the Resistance minus Silver), so it would be pretty ridiculous not to include the Avatar as part of that group now that he’s an established character. Having him be the first one that Shadow and Tails meet was the more important decision, allowing a continuation of his character arc, and solidifying this as arc as a tie-in to Forces. As for “the Jackal” (old Infinite), I’ll talk a little more about him next time. But for right now, after the disappointing end he got out of second Forces special, I think he at least deserves a starring role in this arc. So yes, he will remain important after this surprise appearance.

One last thing to mention is the flashback scene to Dawn of Chaos. Not exactly a flashback, but whatever. Originally, that scene was meant to be a part of the original finale episode of that arc, as I mentioned in that review. But the episode ran long, I wanted to get to the conclusion while the climax was still fresh, and, as you could probably tell, the scene didn’t really add much to that story. But, the fact that the anchor for the ritual (the fake black Emerald) was never destroyed onscreen was still nagging at me. I considered writing another “deleted scene” like I did with Shadow meeting the young Commander in Birth of Blacklight, but the possibility of using the “all of my alliances fail” line from Eggman to lead into his partnership with Blacklight was already on my mind, and with Blacklight already set to become Infinite, I knew I had to wait to make a decision like that until after I was prepared to reconcile it with Forces. And by the time Forces was out of the way and I’d written the second Forces special, I decided having that scene as a bridge between the two specials would be too important to leave to a deleted scene. On one hand, I wish that I could’ve known before. But on the other hand, teasing it back then would’ve spoiled a lot of the drama and mystery that the three episodes since have had. And…that’s all I have for this episode.

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


S0 E28: No One Left to Save the World

Yesterday, a new episode of The Chaos Project was finally released! Read it right here!

Almost two years have passed since the First Great Eggman War came to an end, but still the fighting goes onward. With Sonic defeated by the new wielder of the Phantom Ruby, Eggman has started war once again, taking the planet piece by piece. And with Sonic gone, who else can stand up to such power?


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.)


In the Shadow of Time: Part 4: Destruction and Scorn

It’s now a week later than I promised, but the next part of the Shadow of Time story is finally here! Read it right here!

“Finally…justice is served,” the ex-resident of the ARK shouted. Nothing but destruction and scorn awaits Shadow aboard the Space Colony ARK, the space gadget that was once his own home. A cosmic fall is imminent. And then the Black Arms can finally rule.


Preview: Shadow of Time, Part 4

I figured, “Eh, why not?” So here’s a little preview of what I’m posting next week.

Shadow opens fire on the strange green mechanism that serves as the ARK’s floating defense unit with his heavy machine gun. In seconds, it is destroyed. “The Eclipse Cannon is ours.”

Doom’s Eye approaches from behind. “Well done, Shadow. Meet me in the cannon’s control room.” It flies off just as quickly as it arrived.

With no ammo remaining, Shadow discards the weapon, as heavy footsteps across the glass floor can be heard from behind him. “It’s been a long time…Shadow.” Shadow turns to look into the achromatic eyes of the GUN Commander, who points his pistol directly at Shadow’s head.

Shadow turns to face him calmly. “Who are you supposed to be? Another one claiming to know who I am?”

The Commander continues to step forward, never lowering the weapon. “I know you…Shadow the Hedgehog.” He stops a few feet short of Shadow. “You killed everyone I loved. My family. Maria!” He jabs the gun forward for emphasis, as Shadow lets out the slightest gasp at the name. “I’ve been waiting all my life for this day!”

Shadow closes his eyes, and clenches a fist tightly. “You’re wrong. I didn’t kill anyone, not on that day.” He opens his eyes again, and looks directly into the face of his opponent. “Even though Maria didn’t know who I really am, even though she would have been terrified of me if she did, I still tried to save her, because I thought she was a good person. But there are no good people.”

“How dare you!? Maria was like a sister to me! She meant more to me than anyone else! And because of you…she was killed!” The Commander closes his eyes as he thinks back. “I witnessed it all…the Professor and that black alien planning to create a horrifying, evil creature!”

Shadow is once again struck with surprise. “You’re saying that…I was created by Black Doom?”

“And that insane Professor who unleashed it all!”

Shadow has to take a step back as he clutches at his head. “That explains…why…” His eyes dart back and forth as he starts to connect everything, the promises, the demands, the memories, the alien soldiers.

The Commander snaps him out of it with a loud shout. “You don’t fool me! It’s not just about Maria! Thanks to you, everyone I knew and loved was killed aboard the ARK. Finally…justice is served!” He suddenly pulls the trigger, and the gunshot sounds violently through the otherwise silent space. But no one is standing in front him. He only has a moment to realize that he missed before he is struck in the back of the head by Shadow’s kick. He collapses onto the floor as his dropped weapon slides a fair distance away.

Shadow looks down on the white-haired man with scorn. “You’ve wasted enough of my time.” He turns to leave. “I have work to do.”

The Commander tries to contain his rage by pressing his fingers into the solid glass floor. He mutters quietly, “I’ve waited too long to let you get away that easily.” Too far from his gun, he draws a knife that he had concealed. “You’ll regret turning your back on me!” He quickly stands and charges at his foe with the sharp weapon.


Well, things seem to be turning out a bit differently this time. Shadow physically attacks the Commander? The Commander has a knife? Could this be the end for either of them? Find out, next week on “In the Shadow of Time.”

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


Review: Season 0, Episode 25

Since part one was done last week, we’re now on to part 2, or at least, the transition between the two. As I mentioned that I didn’t plan on splitting these episodes, I had no obvious split point in mind. It needed to be a place roughly in the middle which still left both parts with an appropriate amount of action. Usually, that would mean putting the faux final battle in the first part, and the Super (Hyper in this case) final battle in the second. But this time, I was subverting the whole faux final battle thing to begin with. Sonic jumped straight into his Super fight against Lumis, but the true final battle turned out to be without the Emeralds, against Chaos. Even if splitting those two apart had worked out in terms of even word count, it would’ve shamefully ruined my subversion of the formula to mark an entire Super fight as “part 1”, since it would’ve been so obvious to predict there would be more. Luckily, I suppose, the need to have Tails, Knuckles, and Amy play a role by fending off Eggman and the Lumis clones took up quite a few more words than I expected, making for plenty of part 1 action. The specific cutoff point, with Amy dangling over the magma, was not intended to be a cliffhanger, just another dramatic part of the episode.

So the first thing to come up in this second part was the chant of the Master Emerald, otherwise known as Tikal’s Prayer. The decision to make an extended version…came fairly recently. It isn’t so much that I wanted a bond between Chaos and Knuckles, as that it was lingering in the back of my mind that they grated on each other a bit in an earlier episode, in a way that didn’t seem resolved. On top of that, I did actively want some more resolution to the themes of the first episode of this arc, in regards to the comparisons of Knuckles as Guardian to Sonic as Controller, and of course, the original reference to S3&K and the Super Emeralds. Of course, the stealing and recovery of the Master Emerald was supposed to be enough to make Knuckles seem important after his introduction, but I quickly realized that that alone would fall completely flat. So, I needed to make Knuckles integral to victory in the final battle, I needed to make my S3&K reference more important, and I needed some way to form a bond between Knuckles and Chaos. And the one thing that ties all of those things together is the Master Emerald, which really needed a better reason to be there anyways. It took some thinking, but I decided on Tikal’s Prayer as a good thing to link it together. Part of that thought process involved something that’s been nagging at me ever since Speed of Time. Ever since Cast by the Light, really, though I didn’t quite think about it at that time. The prayer on its own is so…empty. My vague-ish memories of Sonic X at that time made think of the prayer as a longer, more drawn out speech that could be repeated once or twice if necessary. But copying it down for Silver’s scene in Speed of Time, I realized it was way shorter and less dramatic than I was expecting. Then, analyzing the exact phrasing more closely, I realized that there was a bit of a hole in it. It’s almost kind of song-y in the way it’s presented, the servers are the Chaos, the Chaos is the power, the power relates to the heart…and then all of a sudden, the Controller links back to the Chaos. The structure gives the sense of a circle, but that circle is broken in the middle. Of course, Sonic X actually did something that I didn’t realize until I started researching, by adding the line “The heart is the controller,” thus making a complete circle. But that line…doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, especially seeing as Tikal seemed to imply that the Master Emerald is this unspecial non-capitalized “controller.” And since Sonic X isn’t exactly canon, I decided to ignore its suggestion in this instance, and go for something a little more helpful for my circumstances. I pose in this episode that this missing link between the heart and the Controller is, in fact, an entire missing half of the prayer that has been lost to time. But Chaos, who was there ten thousands years ago when the prayer was written (maybe he even wrote it himself, who knows?), knows this missing half, and was able to teach it to Knuckles. Conveniently for me, this half just so happens to encompass the underlying themes of Chaos and Balance that this series revolves around. Now, the prayer is far more dramatic and climactic, specifically built to be able to repeat itself if necessary. Also of note for this recomposition is the fact that in the past, Tikal used the phrase “The seven Chaos Emeralds are the servers,” where Knuckles says “The servers are the seven Chaos.” I pose that this is because Tikal picked up from the loop instead of the very beginning of the full prayer, and just so happened to leave out the important parts, being rushed for time.

Alright, sorry that topic was so long. On to the next. I already touched on it, but the Super Emeralds definitely deserve their own discussion. Now, I know that this is probably the second most fanfiction-y thing I’ve ever done (I don’t like to talk about the first), but I came to this decision after a lot of hard thinking. Sonic 3 & Knuckles, as a cohesive unit with Super Emeralds, is non-canon, and I hope I’ve made that much clear. Sonic Team themselves have taken a similar stance. But Sonic 3, and Sonic & Knuckles, are each individually canon. Which means that, hypothetically, the Super Emeralds could have happened, but the circumstances required simply didn’t occur in the canon timeline. And if it could have happened then, why not now? Of course, even then I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it all the way. The Super Emeralds technically did not appear in this episode, merely a representation of them. It was Chaos and the power of the Moonstone that induced the proper Hyper Transformation. And that brings me to another topic.

This is something that’s been a long time coming, something that I intended to do for the first episode of this arc, but ended up pushing back because Chaos didn’t really appear in that episode. That would be his conceptual origins. Much like Blacklight, Chaos is a reimagination of an old concept from the days when my brother and I were children, dreaming up concepts for Sonic game ideas. This idea, in particular, was more my brother’s idea than my own. This idea was for Hyper the Hedgehog. Hyper, an orange hedgehog with a “Hyper Emerald” embedded in his chest, and covered in grey circuit board-like lines that would become injected with color when he holds a Chaos Emerald, was created when Sonic touched the Hyper Emerald after it fell from the sky. The point of Hyper was to reintroduce Hyper Sonic to the modern canon, without the inclusion of Super Emeralds, as he could fuse with Sonic to induce that transformation. But that would be where the similarities to Chaos end. The Hyper Emerald, rather than coming from any kind of Realm of Chaos like the Moonstone, was instead one of many fragments of leftover material from the creation of the universe (a concept that may sound familiar to readers of Yuni Oha’s “Pokémon Cosmic Quest“). Hyper as a character was built to refill the anti-hero role that Shadow was slowly leaving in favor of a more heroic one, very different from the role of Chaos. I suppose there is also a similarity in that the final battle of Hyper’s introductory game idea took place in a volcano. Anyways, pictured below is a drawing I once made of Hyper in his first moments of life, which hangs on my wall just like the picture of Blacklight I showed off. “Who am I?” was his first words.


This was quite a few years after that other picture, so I’m not nearly as embarrassed about it. In fact, I’m even a little proud, considering my poor art skills in general, especially at that time (although, the scanner I used didn’t do much justice to the already poorly used colored pencils). Anyways, if you look closely around the head, you may notice a lot of erasure marks. There was a lot of trial and error with those spikes. And one among many of those trials was a spike design which now exists in the form of Chaos (personally, I liked that design for Hyper, but Yuni insisted that I change it to what you see in the final product). Also of note is the little colorless robot by his foot. That’s Servo, who, in the scene depicted, was commanded to pick up the Hyper Emerald just before it transformed. Before Orbot and Cubot ever existed (well, Cubot anyways), Yuni invented Servo as a snarky servant robot who exists mostly as someone for Eggman to talk to. I considered using Servo for this series, but it would have been silly to replace Orbot and Cubot with a practically identical concept. The reason he’s colorless in the picture is because I never bothered finishing him. He’s actually supposed to have a body, not just wheels and a head, but I forgot about that when I first drew it, and again, never bothered fixing it.

So, back on the topic of the episode itself, I guess. I’ll skip along to things I was contemplating, but ultimately decided against, including a scene depicting Knuckles, Tails, and Amy making their way through a cave before making it to the volcano’s interior, and, more noticeably, a scene depicting Chaos being freed from Eggman’s control. I’m sure it probably ended up being a little awkward skipping straight from climax to epilogue without a clear resolution, but honestly, I had no idea how to really write this cancelled scene without just wasting time. I suppose it could have helped if I moved a little bit of the awkward dialogue with Chaos and the rest of the characters to this cancelled scene, but having everyone just standing around and talking on an empty battlefield would have felt even weirder. But it’s okay if it’s at a Birthday party. Speaking of the Birthday party, it’s a little sad that it’s a day late in universe, but five months late out here. Unfortunately, I simply couldn’t write any faster. Tails’ mention of the beach day he and Sonic had planned was a reference to the epilogue of Speed of Time. I planned on having that mentioned in part 1 of this arc, but it didn’t come up, and I forgot to add it back in before I published it. And even though there are other things to say, I’ll have to cut things off here, or risk talking for days to come. These two reviews have already taken me three full days of writing time to make. But…I suppose this makes the last planned publishing…indefinitely. Allow me to remedy that. Nothing’s changed for The Chaos Project, but I think I can promise another part of Shadow of Time in…two weeks. That would be December 16th. So…I guess I’ll see you then.

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


Review: Infinite Possibilities

I normally pre-write these, but I didn’t have any time for that! I considered just waiting until later so I could sound more knowledgeable about the details of Forces (still haven’t played yet), but I decided that honesty was more important. So, let’s talk about all of the methods I used to make you think that I’ve played Forces, even though I haven’t! Do note, this review is for the special episode posted a week ago, not the regular Dawn of Chaos episode from a few days ago.

Of course, there were like a hundred and one quotes and references I could list off to you, but I’ll stick to the most important ones, like the words Sonic was greeted with each time the time loop iterated. “In the darkest of times…the world needs a hero.” These were the very first words that the public ever saw in regards to Forces, serving as the opening to the introduction trailer that aired at the 25th Anniversary party. I, for one, will probably never forget those words. They were the beginning of the roller-coaster ride towards what seems to have become the greatest Sonic narrative seen in the last decade. Also of note, in general, Infinite (and Sonic towards the end) quoted lines from him seen in the trailers, as well as his theme song. This helped (I hope) create the illusion that I actually knew what Infinite’s personality would be like.

Okay, on to bigger stuff. The biggest trouble I had for this episode, both conceptually and in terms of writing, was that I had no idea how Forces would end. I figured the exact content of the game wouldn’t pose too much trouble, but right up until the end I figured that there was about a 50-50 chance of a time-space reset at the end of the game. If that were the case, there would be no telling whether or not Sonic would actually remember Infinite, or any of the events of the game. So I had to work with that possibility in mind. In order to fill the content of the episode and create a sense of drama, without diverging from the Forces theme too much, nor standing too big of a chance of being contradicted by Forces, I decided that a time loop would satisfy all of those needs, while simultaneously reflecting the concept of “Infinite.” That way I only really needed to make one Forces-related event, repeated a bunch of times, and a fight against Infinite was the obvious choice for that, since the the trailers have given us a pretty good idea of his fighting capabilities and style. Of course, I knew right off the bat that I couldn’t just pull Infinite straight from Forces. I had practically no idea who that person under the mask was, and what their motives would be. I did see the sketched cover of the fourth prequel comic as it was leaked in the PDF of the first, so I knew that he wasn’t a character that we’ve seen before. And interviews with Sonic Team officials confirmed pretty resolutely that Infinite was indeed a regular animal character (animoid by my terminology) who was turned into a powerful entity by Eggman and the Phantom Ruby. And if Eggman could do it once, why not do it again? Obviously there’s bound to be some kind of reason why not, but I figure I can address that in the next chronological episode. Point is, I thought it would be a good idea to have Eggman make a new Infinite, so any discrepancy in character or plot (he might have died in Forces) could be easily dismissed. But who would this new Infinite be? Well, this arc was planned to be the return of Blacklight before Forces was even announced. And Blacklight is the kind of character who deserves to come back with a bang. So why not take care of both at once? To be honest, this episode, minus the time loop and Forces tie-ins, was pretty much how I planned to kick this arc off anyways, with a surprise, not-yet-explained return of Blacklight, who immediately takes Sonic out so that the real story can begin. So it almost feels like this Forces thing sort of fell into my lap. Of course, there were plenty of other problems, not the least of which was whether or not Sonic would remember Infinite, as I mentioned earlier. I needed to find a way, a specific behavior and/or statement from Sonic which could be interpreted either as remembering or as not remembering. What I settled on was his “This isn’t possible. Just what are you!?” If Sonic does remember, that would mean that he knows Infinite was defeated long ago, and so is baffled to see him return. If he doesn’t remember, then he is simply surprised at Infinite’s incredible power. Also related is Tails’ line of “Sonic, you can’t outspeed him!” Either he remembers this from last time, or he’s simply reacting in a different way than he did last time. I chose Chaos Control as a way to instigate the time loop because, as we know from Sonic Mania, the Ruby clearly does react in some odd way with the Emeralds, and yet I knew that the odds of Sonic ever using Chaos Control in Forces were practically zero. Seriously, I think the recent “Twitter Takeover” was the first time Roger Craig Smith Sonic has ever said Chaos Control. Episode Shadow puts a bit of a damper on things, but I still figure it’s pretty unlikely that the Emerald will touch the Ruby (assuming that Shadow has an Emerald at all. Please let him have an Emerald). Anyways, there were some other little things. I made sure to avoid having Sonic get hit by any of Infinite’s cubes, because I don’t really know what they would do (though the footage from a while ago from the Infinite vs. Avatar boss fight gives me a general idea).

Let’s see, is there anything else? Even though this episode worked out somewhat naturally with my plans, it certainly wasn’t my first idea. I considered having a sort of flashback episode, taking place during the time of Forces but from the perspective of another character. But without knowing the actual events of Forces, there’s really no character worth telling a story about who isn’t already in the game, and therefore involved in events that I don’t want to contradict. I considered bringing the Custom Hero back into the present-day fold as a character, but I couldn’t be sure that he wasn’t going to die after Forces, or get erased by the time reset or something. Besides, I don’t even know his name! (At this point I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t have a name, and that really sucks.) But anyways, the conclusion I came to just made the most logistical sense. And…I think that’s all I got until next time!

-So until next time, always see the light of hope shining in the distance…
(Gotta win, or we lose it all…)