Part 6: Punishment…

Another five months, another one measly part of In the Shadow of Time. Read it right here!

“Those heartless humans who stand in our way…I’ll destroy them all,” the hybrid soldier swore. Punishment for the humans is the last way, the only way to protect the planet from destruction. The Ritual of Prosperity has arrived. And Shadow will ensure that it succeeds.

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Review: Chapter 11

Wow, this one came down to the wire. As an anniversary special, this one needed to be published on a particular date. And I left myself over a month from beginning to end to meet that date. I finished it three days before the deadline. I’m not entirely sure why it took so long. Perhaps it was mostly due to summertime distractions. But also, this episode required an immense amount of research, part of which included replaying the original Sonic Chronicles game (even though I already did about 8 months ago, I felt like doing it again). But enough of all that boring stuff. Let’s talk about why this episode exists in the first place.

So let’s think back. I first purchased Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood just over a week after it came out, so almost exactly ten years ago today. And…I hated it. The little child version of me couldn’t figure out how to use the touch screen prompts during battle, which meant no POW moves, which meant no chance at beating the first boss. So I gave up, put the game down for…probably six months, though it might’ve been as much as a year, and when I came back to it, I decided to start over from scratch, and pay closer attention to the tutorial. It payed off. I became practically obsessed with the game, playing it with any spare time I had. When my DS’s touch screen broke around the time I was entering Metropolis (mostly due to previous experience with Pokémon Ranger, if you played it you probably understand), I didn’t give up. I discovered that, by unscrewing the DS and temporarily removing the battery, resetting the system would cause the touch screen to function properly again for a few hours at a time. So I kept going like that, taking out the battery over and over again every few hours of play, because I so desperately wanted to finish. And when I finally did, that still wasn’t enough. Using the New Game+ feature, I proceeded to replay the game another four times over. Then I was finally done. For two or three years. Then I went back and beat it another three times (by this time, the touch screen had magically fixed itself, don’t ask me how). And then I was legitimately done. Or so I thought. Just over a year ago, after I was neck-deep in writing for the Chaos Project, the thought occurred to me, “I can write whatever I want. So what can I do with that?” It wasn’t long at all before I realized that Sonic Chronicles, the game I had beaten more times than any other in my life, the game that I had long since given up on hoping for a sequel for, had been sitting on an unfulfilled cliffhanger for nine-ish years. As a writer who strives to expand on unfulfilled plot points in the Sonic franchise, I couldn’t let that stand. Immediately, I began pondering on how I could do that. I quickly rejected the idea of simply telling a sequel story, as that would have far too many difficult canon implications, such as the presence of Shade. But the world they all arrived in at the end of that cliffhanger…looked shockingly similar to the world I was planning on building for war of The Chaos Project. So what if it actually was? What if, by mistake, the crew of the Cyclone ended up in a different world, the world of my story, instead of the one they were intending to reach? I know it’s a stretch, it’s pretty obvious that writers were actually going for their own world transformed due to the difference in the way time passes in the Twilight Cage. They were supposed to be in the future. But why couldn’t I stretch that, just a bit? Thus, this episode was born. Of course, at that point, I had no idea when I would place this episode, and in fact I figured it would be quite a bit later. But I decided to do another playthrough of the game, just so I could plan it better. Out of curiosity, once I was finished, I looked into the original release date, since I had no idea how long it had actually been. Surprise! The game’s 10th anniversary was coming in less than a year! There would be absolutely no more appropriate time to write this episode than on that date. I wasn’t totally convinced that making such an unusual episode would be a good idea so early on in the series. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. And so, when the time came a month ago, I decided to enjoy a celebratory tenth playthrough of the game, partly to make sure that I got a bunch of the more minor details correct. And I wrote. And you’ve read the results. That’s the whole story, beginning to end.

So, why did I love the game so much? Looking back on my most recent playthrough, without the obscuring goggles of nostalgia, I found that…it was enjoyable, but riddled with many, many problems. Why didn’t I notice them before? Well, the reason I got the game in the first place is because I was told it would be like Pokémon, but with Sonic characters. (Pokémon was one of the only RPGs I had been exposed to at the time.) And on that front, it delivered. I think they did an excellent job taking the usual formula for a slow, turn-based RPG, and turning it into something that feels very frantic and fast-paced, very good for a Sonic game, without losing the RPG appeal. Of course, movement in the overworld was very sluggish, but the use of abilities of different characters, including Sonic’s speed, to traverse certain areas of the map, made it feel like it all worked just fine. And of course, there’s the memorable storyline, heartwarming character moments, and all-around well-written dialogue. I’ve seen lots of complaints about Sonic being written like a total out-of-character jerk (which I actually addressed in the episode), but those were only some of the branching dialogue options, and as Sonic, you could choose to be as nice or as jerkish as you want. I didn’t feel that any of the options, taken alone, were too far outside the extremes of Sonic’s natural character. Then again, almost anything will feel more like Sonic’s natural character than his modern Roger Craig Smith writing.

But moving on…this game inspired me in so many ways. I once stated that I fell in love with the Sonic series more for the world and characters than for any one particular game. And I think this game is quite possibly the biggest reason for that. More than any other game in the franchise, Chronicles gets you a look deep into the psyche of almost every character, and really gets you thinking about Sonic’s world as a place with unified lore. Maybe the writing isn’t perfect, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best in the entire Sonic series. Sonic taking up a leadership role, showing a serious dedication to the mission with the occasional lighthearted snark, that precisely describes the way I write my Sonic now, and that’s no coincidence. If it weren’t for this game, Sonic probably wouldn’t be the leader of the Rebellion now. Then again, if it weren’t for this game, I probably wouldn’t be writing at all. A well kept secret that I’ve never told before is that I was actually writing a Sonic story long before I ever joined fanficiton.net. And that story…was Sonic Chronicles 2. It’s on the Sonic Fanon Wiki. No I won’t tell you which one it is, because there are many. And no, I don’t ever intend to finish it (I think I only got to the beginning of Chpater 3 out of an assumed ten). But if I hadn’t already started that when I was younger, I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to start writing The Chaos Project all those years later. And you know, that’s assuming that I’d be a Sonic fan at all anymore. I think it’s pretty hard to be a Sonic fan right now, and if I had one less Sonic game to look back on with intensely fond memories, I might have given up by now. So thank you, Sonic Chronicles, for inspiring me to do something that I love.

So I guess it’s on to the episode itself, though I don’t think there’s a whole lot to say in that area. The idea for this episode ended up being that, in the end, nothing really changes. If the real Sonic Chronicles 2 were somehow to be announced tomorrow, it could begin with them arriving in the ruined future of their world, just as was certainly planned, and this episode still wouldn’t interfere with that. But then, some things did change. Shadow gained a greater respect for Sonic. Shade learned to trust her friends a little more. That’s what this whole episode came down to. Chronicles ended on a ten years’ old cliffhanger. And no, I didn’t build the bridge to the other side. But I laid down the first plank. I explored character arcs and plot points that have been lost for ten long years.

Alright, let’s think about…references. Lots and lots of Chronicles quotes, obviously. The location of Cyber City AKA Genocide City is a reference to a zone that was scrapped from Sonic 2, supposedly turned into the third act of Metropolis. Genocide City was the beta name programmed into the game, but that was apparently a mistake made by designers who wanted something that sounded cool and edgy, but didn’t have a total understanding of English, and chose something that would be a bit too violent for the little ones. It was supposedly going to be renamed into Cyber City, but was instead scrapped entirely. And of course, the fact that it’s Metropolis, but also not Metropolis, was intentionally done for the Chronicles reference. And it helps that this whole season is taking place on the island setting of Sonic 2. And…so as to not stay here for hours, I think I’ll leave it at that for now. I’m still hard at work on the next Chaos Project episode, but in the meantime, I’ll finally be able to update Shadow of Time again! Be on the lookout!

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

Review: Season 1, Episode 5

I love this episode so much. It’s completely random. It has no bearing on the plot of this season. The storytelling pace is way off. But I love it anyways. Just having an episode about the Chaotix is something that I’ve been excited to do for a very long time, they’re a very fun group to work with. But it goes twofold, because of the lovely tie-in with Shadow the Hedgehog. Shadow is a game that deserves love. Because it leaves a lot of questions behind, not the least of which is “What the heck actually happened before the Last Story?” There are ten different endings, and each one is a skew on the true sequence of events. But that means we never actually get to know what the true sequence of events is. And I had the pleasure of spending this episode filling in some of those blanks. At first glance, it may seem like I simply chose one of the fake endings and canonized it, but that actually isn’t true. It is the case that I have long believed that the ending in question, Semi-Hero-Hero (Cosmic Fall, Vector’s mission), is by far the most believable of the ten. Ending on Cosmic Fall is the only way to see Shadow’s face-to-face encounter with the Commander, which he remembers during the Last Story, so that alone points to this ending pretty strongly. It is also necessary that Vector finds the computer room, since he and the Chaotix are accessing data from it in the Last Story. And if you do the Dark mission for this level, you end up fighting Eggman, which is…kind of unnecessary to the plot. But facing Black Doom in the existential moment when Shadow demands to know whether what the Commander said is true or not, that is very important to the plot. Plus, there’s the fact that Vector is the only partner character in these end scenes who actually interacts with Shadow, even ending the story on a cliffhanger. There’s just one problem. This story ends with Black Doom being killed aboard the ARK and Shadow walking away saying something very morbid with slight suicidal undertones. And Last Story mandates that Shadow find the seventh Emerald on the Black Comet, after which Black Doom approaches him and demands that he hands them over. Those two can’t really go together. Which is why I’ve written it such that they don’t. Shadow experiences events which are very similar to the Semi-Hero-Hero ending, but never actually fights Black Doom, never obtains the seventh Emerald, and ends up leaving for the Black Comet, exactly where he needs to be. This is not a skew, but the true sequence of events leading up to the Last Story. At least, as far as I’m concerned.

There’s a few other events that I’ve determined are necessary for the canon sequence of events. Sonic ends up on the Black Comet in the Last Story, and realistically, there is only one motivation for him to go up into space. The Black Arms attempting to infiltrate the ARK. “We’re heading to the ARK, so I guess that means we’re going too!” Hence, Sonic cameos in his unexplained spaceship during this episode, just to demonstrate that that part is canon. Now, what isn’t necessarily clear is whether or not Sonic invites Shadow to come with him. When the ship passed by in the episode, I never said that Shadow was in it. I would say that he probably is, but there’s nothing to prove it, so I left it ambiguous. Something similar can be said about Charmy’s mission. I intentionally left it unclear whether or not Shadow was there to help Charmy find the disks, since there’s nothing that requires him to do so. In general, I’d like to say that almost every event seen in Shadow the Hedgehog pretty much happened to some extent, though Shadow may not necessarily have been involved, but there are a few obvious exceptions. Like the Black Arms firing the Eclipse Cannon at the White House. As far as this canon is concerned, the aliens may have attempted that, but were successfully driven off by GUN, thanks in part to the Chaotix.

One other event I decided must have happened as we saw it was the opening to Mad Matrix, since Charmy learned from Shadow how to karate-chop the computer. And that’s what started to get me thinking about the plot for this episode. Because if Espio’s mission is canon, and Vector’s mission is canon, and they play such a large role in the Last Story, they must have a pretty big story of their own happening behind-the-scenes. And I thought it would be a fun idea to tell that story. And boy was I right. The obvious first step was to figure out exactly what it was they were doing. Did they stumble on the truth by accident? Were they looking for something on their own accord? Were they hired? To answer this, I asked how their missions were related. Charmy’s looking for data disks, Espio’s searching for data in Eggman’s computer, and Vector’s looking for the computer room. All very computer-centric. And as Espio made clear, they aren’t exactly computer experts. Which means this definitely wouldn’t be happening by accident, and they probably wouldn’t be attempting it of their own accord. That means they were most likely hired. They are detectives, after all. But hired by whom? Well, what were they doing? It’s impossible to say what data Espio and Charmy were looking for, but Vector was almost certainly seeking exactly what they found: the message from Prof. Gerald. And if we want to assume that Espio and Charmy’s missions were related, that means that someone, somewhere, wanted them to go to pretty great lengths to find this message. Someone who clearly has a motive for wanting Gerald to be seen as an innocent man. Someone who would have to know that that information was there on the ARK, or at least somewhere to be found. One answer that might come to mind is Eggman. But…they kind of had to steal from Eggman to complete the mission, and he sort of tried to kill Espio for doing it. So Eggman’s probably out…unless we’re doing another Neo Metal Sonic thing, but I really didn’t want to overcomplicate this, nor did I really want it to seem like I was just doing the Sonic Heroes story over again (though I didn’t mind calling back to it heavily in the opening). But I had another idea. And this idea is the third reason why I love this episode so much. Back in the Birth of Blacklight arc, Season 0, I invented the character of Lt. Alfred Robotnik, and while he did get some good character resolution, we never actually learned his final fate. I realized that, aging him up another 40 years, he could still very well be alive in the modern day, though he would be quite old. In small part, I believe I was inspired by the appearance of modern-day Peggy Carter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, seeing Captain America for the first time after he had been frozen in ice for decades, while she had aged into an old woman, I thought it was very meaningful for his character. But anyways, back on topic, I realized that Alfred had the means and the motivation to clear his father’s name and help Shadow in the process, but would obviously be too old to handle it himself, a perfect reason to hire the Chaotix. And the episode was born.

And to clear up any confusion, yes, he did die at the end. He was very old, and his character accomplished everything it needed to. Plus, I thought it would add an extra touch of sadness, when you think about the fact that Shadow had a friend from the past out there who he hypothetically could’ve met, but who died before he could. But of course, the cycle lives on. Shadow will eventually go back in time to befriend Alfred, who will grow old and eventually save Shadow before they ever meet. And yes, that would make this episode post-time-travel. So how would the story work without time-travel? I figure that even if Blacklight is dead and Alfred still hates Shadow, he still has the motivation to clear his father’s name. Or, you know, maybe he wasn’t involved at all, and the Chaotix solved the mystery on their own. Who knows? Either way, the time-travel happened, so now Alfred does want to help Shadow.

Okay, I think that covers most of the things I wanted to talk about, but there’s still a bit left. The space fight sequence was an interesting one, which has practically nothing to do with any particular event in Shadow the Hedgehog. The primary reason for it was simply that the Chaotix needed a means to get up into space, and they obviously don’t have a spaceship of their own. I knew that I’d be writing this part of the episode back in Forces of Chaos, when the Commander mentioned Vector’s “little joyride to the ARK” that he would have to pay for. That was meant to be direct foreshadowing/callback to this episode. Once I actually got to writing here, I took advantage of the situation to add a little bit of much-needed action to this episode, which also served the purpose of easing my conscience on having them steal the mech from the only organization that was protecting humanity from the alien threat. I didn’t want anyone to think that the Chaotix were endangering humanity with their sheer greed, so I made sure that they did more than their fair share in the war effort.

Of course, one of the other big reveals of this episode was the answer to the question of whether or not Gerald was innocent. Because, sure, Shadow the Hedgehog showed him at his best, before he went mad, but they gave no reason to believe that he didn’t go mad and try to blow up the Earth in Adventure 2. And yet, everyone talked as if they had him all wrong, as if he was a hero all along. He’s not a hero if he tried to freaking kill the Earth! My problem isn’t that they tried to go back on what SA2 established, I just wish they chose a side more properly. I don’t love the answer that I ended up needing to give in those regards. I ended up saying that Gerald almost tried to kill the Earth, set up the program as if he was going to, but never set it to actually do so. The implication was possibly that it was only a moment’s hesitation that made him run out of time. He was still totally nuts, but the point is that he never pressed the final “kill the Earth” button, and therefore was technically innocent. There’s definitely some questionable grey ground there, but I’d call it grey enough that who he was before he went mad was officially enough to redeem him properly.

And that’s all for this episode! Coming soon, on a special date September 30th, we’ll be celebrating a very special anniversary with a very special episode!

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

S1 E5: Team Chaotix and the Case of the Computer Room Caper

A familiar new episode of The Chaos Project has arrived! Read it right here!

Years ago, the Chaotix were hired for a case that would change their lives forever. Witness, for the very first time, the full story of how Vector, Charmy, and Espio saved the world from the threat of the Black Arms, and saved the honor of an innocent man along the way.

Review: Season 1, Episode 4

Well, this one took a lot longer than I was hoping, but it’s finally done! There was a lot that went into this episode, so I’m trying to think of where to start. I knew from the moment I learned that the Jackal Squad weren’t featured in Forces that I would want to dedicate an episode to them at some point. At the time, I didn’t imagine it would be quite this soon. And a hitch came in the plan when I realized that the general consensus was that Shadow had killed them all. I mean, sure, “destroyed the entire squad” certainly could imply that, but Shadow’s no mass-murderer…right? And I’d already written into Forces of Chaos that Infinite knew they were alive, but didn’t care about them. (That was totally meant to lead into this episode, by the way.) I got around this problem by suggesting that Infinite did think they were dead at the time, but learned the next day that they weren’t. And you know, there were more than just the three Jackals in the squad besides Infinite. They’re nowhere to be seen in this episode. Perhaps Shadow really did kill the rest of them? I intentionally left it very unclear, and it could simply be that Seth, Colm, and Tana were the only ones willing to go back to the squad after Shadow’s attack, and all the rest just ran away. Whichever makes you feel better, I guess.

Let’s move on to the members of the squad, I suppose. None of them were given names…or personalities…when they originally appeared in the prequel comic. But these three are the same three who appeared most prominently in that comic, and most of Seth’s monologue was dedicated to explaining that fact. It was kind of fun, taking these nameless nobodies and turning them into real characters. I’ve seen it done by others before, and it’s interesting to see how our interpretations differ. And anyways, Seth was the closest to getting something along those lines, as he was featured right alongside Infinite in that comic, and even had a single spoken line. Based on his more eager, energetic facial expressions, and the similar inflection I interpreted from his single line, I came to the conclusion that he’s maybe a bit younger than the rest of them, but his closeness to Infinite showed that he was still most likely his second in command. I built the character based around those two observations. The result was a surprisingly optimistic personality, an interesting contrast to Infinite himself, belonging to someone who considers Infinite to be his closest friend. Perhaps they even had a sort of darker, more twisted version of the brotherly bond shared by Sonic and Tails. Maybe I’ll dig into that a little in a future episode.

Something you, in all likelihood, probably didn’t notice, is that there was a pattern to the names I chose for these three members of the Jackal Squad. They all share their names with playable characters from a game called Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. They don’t have very much else in common with these characters, just the names. Part of the reason I did this has to do with a scrapped idea I had for Infinite. When contemplating what his name should have been before he became Infinite, one of the most prominent ideas that came to me was “Innes,” which means “small, secluded island,” and of course, begins with “In” just like Infinite does. Innes also happens to be the name of a Sacred Stones character. There’s also another reason I was considering Innes, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Anyways, I liked that name, but I liked Finn even better, where “Fin” literally means “end,” the opposite of Infinite, and is also derived from the “fin” in “InFINite.” So, that was going to be it, and this episode was going to have nothing to do with Fire Emblem. But I still needed a name for Seth and the other Jackals. And that brings me to my next point.

This episode was strongly, yet loosely, inspired by Egyptian mythology. The connection was sort of already there for me. Jackals are important figures in Egyptian lore, strongly associated with death due to the real life problem of jackals digging up graves. And Infinite’s very earliest appearance involved him raiding a pyramid, which are well-known to be used as the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs. In other words, Infinite was doing exactly what inspired those Egyptian myths. They even gave him a middle-eastern style curved blade. Throw in the Phantom Ruby, and you have a clear connection to the jackal-headed Egyptian god of the dead, Anubis. That was the angle from which I decided to work this episode. Having it take place in a pyramid was an obvious choice from there, and I figured the pyramid from SA2 would simply be a more creative choice. Anyways, one of the reasons I liked “Innes” as a potential name was due to the fact that it has a similar sound to “Anubis,” driving in that connection further. But I liked Finn too much to let it go. And then there’s Seth. Seth is an alternate pronunciation for Set, another Egyptian god. Set did a lot of…interesting things in Egyptian lore, but one of the more important things he did was teaming up with Ra, God of the Sun, to slay Apophis, the Serpent of Chaos. (Now that sounds like something that can be tied back into Sonic. So who in the Sonic universe made a Sun, who could team up with Seth? And who would that make Apophis? You may have to wait until Season 5 to find out.) Point is, much like the rest of this episode, Seth is inspired by that mythology. But wait, didn’t I say Seth was a Fire Emblem character? That I did, yes. Between the coincidental near-use of Innes and the definite use of Seth, I decided to roll with that reference, and name Tana and Colm after those characters as well. Lyon, the ex-member of the Jackal Squad who died, was also named similarly, and he even shares a bit in common with his namesake…in the fact that he’s dead. Spoiler alert!

I think it’s finally time to move on to other things. Before the Jackal Squad was ever involved, this episode was planned to be a team-up with Shadow and Hero, since Hero didn’t get a proper spotlight in his introduction episode, and Shadow, the second main character of the series, has been lurking in the background this entire season so far. And I realize that with so much focus on Seth, that got a little bit lost. I realized that with a third character in the mix, Hero, being mute, would be hard-pressed to get enough screen time, since Shadow and Seth would be able to keep talking to each other. With that in mind, I made sure to kick the episode off with a sweet little character moment with him and Bruno, so that he didn’t just seem like a flat, pointless character the entire time. This is probably the first time I can say that Bruno was pretty much totally useless, but now that I’ve written him in, I’ve got to stick with him. Anyways, Hero and Infinite are supposed to have a thing going, that was emphasized well enough back during Forces of Chaos, but once again, with so much focus on Seth, that got lost this time around. At least he made friends with Shadow, even if that was kind of forced in at the end.

So…there are three Phantom Rubies. And Shadow may or may not have promised to help Infinite find them. So why are there three? Well, why are there seven Emeralds? Why are there twelve Temporal Sapphires? Perhaps this is related somehow. We never did learn why Chaos and Ruby energy interact the way they do. Or what the Phantom Ruby really is. But now, we’re doing alright, and we’re on our way.

-So until next time, remember to face every moment, day by day!

S1 E4: Two Things are Infinite

There’s been a slight delay, but the next episode of The Chaos Project has finally arrived! Read it right here!

Life isn’t easy for a band of mercenaries. Especially after the squad was nearly destroyed by Shadow the Hedgehog. But now, Seth the Jackal  work with the last person he ever expected to team up with, if he has any hope of finding the member of the Jackal Squad who has been lost for far too long. If he’s even still alive.

Preview: Season 1, Episode 4

It’s that time again! Time to get a sneak peek at the next episode of The Chaos Project!

Shadow’s been acting strange recently. And Sonic has finally come to confront him about it. But it seems Sonic is the last person Shadow wants to hear from.

Sonic looks down in sadness from what Shadow says. “Shadow…”

Shadow suddenly stands, and walks past Sonic without a word.

“And where are you going?”

Shadow stops just long enough to answer, “For a walk. You wanted me to get out, didn’t you?” Then he continues his way out. Sonic doesn’t stop him.

Shadow marches along past the row of tents that mark the Rebellion camp, following along with the stream that runs through the center of the canyon. The camp seems to be pretty quiet, apparently mostly empty. He continues to walk in silence for quite some time. Eventually, he reaches a large, thick tree right in the canyon’s center, with an Emerald-shaped carving in its bark. The memorial for Chaos. He stops to stare at it for a while. His eyes shut as he clenches a fist at his side. Then he walks on past.

The area he proceeds into has quite a few more trees, almost like a small forest contained within the widening walls of the canyon. After a few moments, another pair of footsteps fall in line beside his. Shadow finally looks up and around his shoulder. Hero gives him a smile and a wave as he continues to walk alongside him.

“What do you want?”

Hero gives a shrug, and waves a hand past Shadow out to the forest.

“I don’t want your company. We may have worked together before, but that doesn’t make us friends.”

Beside Hero, Bruno lets out an angry squeak as he shakes a balled up tentacle at Shadow. Hero gasps at whatever it is he hears in the alien language, and starts waving his hands to get him to calm down.

Shadow rolls his eyes. “Whatever. Do what you want.” They continue their walk together for a while longer. Suddenly, Shadow stops in place again as one of his ears twitches. “Did you hear that?”

Hero glances around for a moment, but eventually gives another shrug.

A blur of motion passes behind Shadow. He turns sharply look at it, but he’s too slow to see anything. He tenses up as he advises quietly, “Be on guard. We’re being followed.”

Hero pulls his Wispon close, while Bruno moves around to watch his back. But everything is silent.

A dark-furred figure stands with his back pressed against the shadowed side of a tree, trying as hard as he can to glance around it without being seen. In his hand, the headband-wearing Jackal holds a weapon, a long dagger with a green hilt and a wavy blade.

Who could this bladed assailant be? What could he want? And what’s wrong with Shadow? Find out, on the next episode of The Chaos Project!

Review: Season 1, Episode 3

So I had just started writing this episode, when suddenly, I realized…”WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING!? Why am I cross-canon shipping Rouge the Bat with freaking Sly Cooper!?” Okay, so one, it’s not shipping, because they hate each other’s guts, and they never even kissed on-screen. Two, this was not, I repeat, NOT Sly Cooper. For those not aware, Sly Cooper is the titular character of a videogame franchise that released exclusively for the PlayStation family of systems. In those games, Sly is a thieving anthropomorphic raccoon born to a family with a history of thieving going back many generations. He wears a mostly blue outfit, and fights with his signature hooked cane. Given that information, it would be all too easy to misinterpret my Sly, who I’ll call Sylvester to make things easier, as being the very same person. So here’s how it went. Planning for this episode began with the simple desire to show why Rouge considers herself to be both a thief and a spy. The obvious answer to me was that she was once a thief, but her life was changed by an offer from GUN. I quickly decided that giving her a partner in crime, whom she would have to betray, would be a great way to add depth and drama to the episode. By adding a romantic relationship to the mix, I though it might subtly demonstrate the origin of Rouge’s flirtatious nature. The choice of a Raccoon for the other thief was beyond obvious. Calling him “Sly” wasn’t quite so obvious, but I’d hardly call it a stretch. At that point, I realized that a raccoon thief named Sly sounded oddly familiar. I’ve never actually owned a Sly game, but a friend of mine did, so I saw the first one played a fair amount. Anyways, I realized it was a thing, so I had two choices. I could start over from scratch, or I could keep rolling with the reference. I decided on the latter. So I added the blue outfit and the staff, and Sylvester was born.

There are a few notable differences, the largest being that Sly Cooper isn’t actually named Sylvester (as far as I know) and that Sylvester doesn’t have the last name Cooper. Additionally, Sly wears a blue beret and grey pants, which were notably missing from Sylvester’s outfit. Sylvester’s staff does not have a hook like Sly’s cane. That being said, Sylvester may have quoted Sly once or twice. His personality is intentionally very similar…with the whole criminally unstable thing added on top. I’d say the obsessiveness was also added, but…Sly actually was pretty obsessive in his games. And of course, Sly didn’t turn out to be a villain. Point is, it’s a reference. A parody, one might say. But absolutely not the same person. It’s still a little awkward that I put him in a relationship with a canon character, but I just had to keep reminding myself that he was never the point of the episode, just a character there to help tell Rouge’s story.

So, on to Rouge. I must say, minus the weirdness I’ve already talked about, I was really looking forward to this episode. My very first attempt at delving neck-deep backwards into Sonic lore, to tell the stories that were missed…unless you count the Forces Special, but that was recent enough that I wouldn’t call it “neck-deep backwards”. It’s one of the biggest reasons I decided to write this story in the first place. Maybe that’s why this is now among one of the fastest episode I’ve ever written. But why Rouge? I want to say that I mentioned something along these lines before, though I don’t really know when. I find Rouge to be a very…unique character, not necessarily in terms of her design or personality, but simply in simply in her role in the Sonic franchise. Rouge is one of the only characters introduced in the modern series who isn’t a completely special, one-of-a-kind person. I know that sounds like the opposite of what I just said, but think about it. Silver, Blaze, Infinite, Omega, even my own characters like Zero, Blacklight, and Chaos, they’re all very, very…specific characters. The only ones more like Rouge are Cream and Big, and they’re…well, not quite as interesting to work with. Rouge is just a normal person in the Sonic world, and yet she still manages to play an interesting role, and has a sort of mystery about her. I thought that made her the perfect candidate for my first backstory episode.

I already explained some of the basics behind planning for this episode, but there was one very important goal beyond Rouge herself. But I suppose it still began with her. When I knew I’d be telling a story about her joining GUN, I knew I needed to explain why. The answer seemed fairly obvious. She’s a jewel thief. And they needed seven very special jewels in their possession. As shown in Adventure 2, they absolutely were collecting Chaos Emeralds by that time, as they had three of them waiting in storage, not counting the one that Rouge was carrying with her (the very same one that kicked off this episode). In a general sense, it should be obvious why they would do that. But they’ve never done it before. So what got them started? I realized at that moment that I had the perfect opportunity to bridge the gap between Adventure 1 and Adventure 2. And that became my mission for this episode. After all, the Perfect Chaos incident certainly seems to be the first time Sonic ever really went public. All of a sudden, these world-ending scenarios are now happening in the public eye. And of course, GUN would’ve known about that. Realizing the destructive potential of the Chaos Emeralds, locking them away would easily become priority one. So they needed Rouge. Gap officially bridged. Of course, there were a few extra references thrown in just to bind things that much tighter. Of course, there’s the blue Emerald that Rouge apparently holds onto all the way through Adventure 2. The three reports she receives at the end line up with the three she later has to retrieve from Security Hall in SA2, as well as the extra one in Tails’ “safe hands,” which he received due to his actions in Adventure 1, as you might recall. Then she was ordered to investigate the Master Emerald, which how her story was started off at the very beginning of SA2. And of course, the Commander flips out when Eggman steals the information he later uses to wake up Shadow.

I suppose that leads me into my next topic. This is the first indication that the Commander was ever present before the events of Shadow the Hedgehog. But we’ll most certainly be seeing more of him in this timeframe. Ever wonder why GUN went after Sonic when their leader knew very well about Shadow? We’ll certainly go over that, eventually. It may also have something to do with that soldier at the end, Mr. J. Naka. That name ring a bell? Well it shouldn’t. Necessarily. We’ll likely be seeing more of him in the future, though. Think of this as a sneak preview.

Something else I forgot to mention. Rouge’s flashback outfit was heavily inspired by an official concept art sketch recently revealed on Sonic social media channels (thank you, Aaron Webber). Here, I think I can just show you.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FSonic%2Fposts%2F10156220547112418&width=500

The third photo shown is a prototype design for Rouge, where she looks quite a bit younger. This is what I was referencing when describing her design. And that’s all I got for now.

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

 

Review: Season 1, Episode 1

I finally did it! My first ever standalone episode! Obviously, since this is the premiere of Season 1, this episode has been in development for longer than almost any other. Over three years ago, I actually drafted this episode on about a page and a half of lined paper. But I never got that paper back, so unfortunately, it is lost to time. There are a few things I remember about it. There was no package, it skipped straight from Sonic finding Omega to them taking a rest in the forest. Omega’s thoughts weren’t seen internally, there was just a brief paragraph explaining how overwhelming the noise of the forest was. And it ended with Omega agreeing to reboot.

I suppose I should start with that package. The inspiration came when I finally beat Sonic Heroes for the first time last summer. Not counting the end sequence with Team Sonic alone, the entire story ended on the note of Omega picking up the broken form of Metal Sonic, and sharing a look with Shadow. I instantly knew that I would have to expand on that moment. I decided that the package would be a great way to expand the depth of this particular story, while giving a sense of direct continuation from Heroes. The identification number, SH-123003 refers to 12/30/03, the original Japanese release date of Sonic Heroes. It’s my hope that someone, somewhere, was able to guess it was Metal Sonic based on that information alone. I suppose that I should mention, while this is absolutely not the last you’ll see of Metal Sonic, it is going to be a little while. This isn’t a cliffhanger for the next episode, it’s a lead-in to the next Season.

That scene with Omega’s internal thoughts is also worth mentioning. Why did I do it? That’s a good question. As a whole, I really wanted this episode to be exemplary of the entire rest of the series. That’s why I selected this particular plot for the premiere, it’s a simple pair-up of two maybe slightly unexpected characters, who go on a little adventure, and bond a little in the process. Expect that to be one of the most common plots moving forward. But anyways, if this episode is an example, that means I need to set forward a few things. Among them, the possibility of writing things in unusual styles or from odd perspectives, just for the sake of creativity and because I can. I don’t want something else similar in the future to seem like a surprise. But also, part of it is because I didn’t like that scene I wrote in the original draft. It made Omega seem kind of useless, like he couldn’t ever handle being in a noisy place for any reason. This way, I made it seem a little more like Sonic’s fault, giving Omega faulty instructions, then specifically demonstrating how it goes wrong internally. Even so, I’m still worried that I didn’t quite capture that properly, like maybe it still kind of feels like Omega’s fault. I’m also worried that that scene was just a total bore to read, I really have no idea.

The use of Heavy Gunner in this episode was also a difficult choice. Hypothetically, this would be the time to reintroduce Heavy King as the leader of the Heavies, since this is the premiere and all. But like I said earlier, I want this episode to serve as an example for all the rest, which means not necessarily starting off with a bang. The whole reason I brought the Heavies into this story in the first place was to serve exactly this role, someone for the heroes to fight each episode that isn’t Eggman every single time. I chose Gunner partly for his rivalry with Omega, and partly for his presence as an officer of the law, since Sonic was getting arrested. Given those, I thought it would be a bit silly to choose anyone else. I did consider Rider just to change things up, but I feel like I should probably establish things before I go and change them. But already after this episode, I’m starting to worry that the Heavies will start seeming pretty pathetic if I have them losing every single time. I guess I’d better start thinking about having them win in the near future.

The last thing to talk about is Sonic and his role as leader. Obviously, this is something I’ve been leading up to since the very beginning. I think it was S0 E4 when Zero told Sonic “You couldn’t lead your way out of a paper bag.” And back then, it was totally true. Back in the early conceptual phases of this story, I thought about Sonic and his personality in Black Knight, and I thought that guy could make a great leader if he wanted to. I think he could’ve made a good King Arthur. And for this story, I knew I wanted Sonic to fill exactly that role. For one thing, I thought that having Sonic as the actual leader would help me to stand out a little bit from the comics. But also, I just thought it made sense. Sonic is the main character, and now the chosen one as well. Why shouldn’t he be a leader? But then I looked to Colors, and especially Lost World, and I thought, that guy would make a terrible leader. Like, it would be hard to get worse. So I knew I had to do something about that. That’s the entire reason why I put Sonic through his whole Season 0 character development arc. If I hadn’t thought about it that way, I would’ve never given a thought to Sonic’s current personality in the games, I would’ve just slapped on his personality from earlier and ignored the rest in a very pathetic way. So, I had Sonic build his way up, not just to being more heroic, but to becoming a better leader. And now, here he is. A related topic is that speech he gave. I was originally planning the speech to be a separate scene from the ritualistic handout of Emerald shards, but I combined them partly for effect, and partly just to save time. But I put a lot of thought into that speech, I stayed up until 1 in the morning to make sure I could write it all at once. I wanted to make something that, if said by a famous person at an important time, could totally go down in history. So I thought very carefully about dramatic structure and parallel wording, the kind of thing that makes a historical speech so memorable. And certainly, since Tails had the bright idea to record it, the “I know” speech will go down in this world’s history.

Now, I know this season has only just begun, but I’m afraid I may be going on a brief summer hiatus. It’s been difficult to write this past month, so the next episode isn’t even halfway done yet, and I usually like to write ahead. Hopefully, things should return in full force this autumn. I’m very excited to share what the future of this season holds, and I even have a Special episode planned for September. In the meantime, I have lots of edits I still need to make around the site for Season 1, as well as a new Opinionated Review planned (this’ll be a fun one).

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

Review: Season 0 Finale (Episode 32)

Oh, man. It’s hard to believe it’s over. I mean, The Chaos Project still has a long way to go, but Season 0, the backbone of the whole story, is actually over. It’s been two years. Two whole years! Ten percent of my life, I’ve spent on this season alone, and now it’s over! Two years ago, if you had told me I would end the season on a cliffhanger battle between Blacklight and Infinite, I would’ve…well, first I would’ve asked who Infinite is, because Forces wasn’t announced yet, but then I would’ve called you crazy. Certainly, I would’ve been on, like, Season 2 at least. And certainly, if it had somehow taken me that long to end Season 0, there’s no way I would’ve dedicated such an important episode to concepts from some bland Modern Sonic game that no one likes. After all, the stories of Modern Sonic games are specifically what I’m writing this story to combat. And yet, here we are. I guess you just never know what life’s gonna throw at you. But hey, make your move, work it out, that’s what life is all about. It’s an adventure. And somehow, through it all, it still leads into Crisis of Chaos in exactly the ways I wanted it to. I suppose I should probably explain that ending scene itself. The idea didn’t occur to me until some time during the writing of this episode, but I thought that, given the way this whole arc started, and the innate similarities between Infinite and Blacklight that have been drastically strengthened by the Ruby connection, their relationship needed better resolution than the climax offered.

Man, where do I even go from here, talking about this episode? SO. MUCH. ACTION. This was really testing the limits of my action-writing skills. I suppose that explains how this ended up being far and away the longest episode of this season, likely of the entire story. 14,000 words, where 5,000 is where I like to be, and 11,000 was the record set just one episode earlier. Dialogue is very efficient, one word of dialogue translates fairly well to one second of screen time. But for an action sequence, two or three sentences, long ones, could be necessary to describe just a quick few seconds of equivalent on-screen motion.

Anyways, I suppose I should start with the actual episode content now. I already mentioned in last episode’s review that that episode was like the “character finale,” while this is the “action and plot finale,” and that ended up holding pretty true. But what I didn’t say was that, while last episode was specifically for Shadow and his little group, this episode was for everyone. Usually I like to identify who the main characters for each episode are, and by my normal evaluation method, that would include pretty much the entire Sonic cast this time (the exceptions being Silver, Blaze, Classic Sonic, Zero, and arguably Sonic himself, plus spin-off characters like the Babylons). For such an important episode, I think that’s pretty fair.

Since it actually took up a pretty fair percentage of this episode, I suppose I should talk about Cream’s little character arc. I promised it would happen, and I think I delivered. In the end, she didn’t really “handle herself” as well as I’d hoped, but I also wanted to make sure to keep things within her established character. Fun fact; I was originally planning on having her actually accept the gun from the Commander, or maybe end up being forced to use his, but in the end, I realized that was kind of…wrong, to put a gun in the hands of a seven-year-old. Hence why I had to talk about the safeties in the gun to have the Commander offer the weapon in the first place without seeming like a terrible, terrible person in the process. The culprit, I think, for making me think it was okay before I came to my senses, is Ender’s Game, a sci-fi novel about a child sent to wage war against an alien race. You might remember it for the terrible movie it had a few years back, but the books are great. Anyways, the idea of a kid with a gun didn’t seem so crazy to me in light of that, but I realized that not everyone would agree with that assessment. But anyways, those scenes were also nice because I got to give the Commander a proper character arc, even if only a small one. I’ve been painting him as such a jerk throughout this series, but I do really like him as a character, so it was very nice to show his more caring, protective side. Not to mention his skills as a soldier, since he’s usually on the sidelines. Before our next topic, I’d like to confirm that Heavy Shinobi is not dead. I just wanted to prove a point about Infinite’s brutality, which I think went quite well.

Since I just mentioned soldiers, I guess I’ll move on to Hero next. I knew right from the beginning that I didn’t want to pull another fake Super Form with him like I did in After the Fight, but I also knew that he was much too important to this episode arc to be relegated to lesser fights. So, recalling the fact that Titanic Monarch was a Zone before it was a final boss, I thought that having Hero traverse that Zone in the middle of Shadow’s Super fight would be a great way to show off the sheer scale of the Monarch, while also giving him a great opportunity for a final interaction with Infinite. Of course, this planning was all before I was even done with After the Fight, so their entire thing they had going back then was all for the purpose of leading up to “I don’t want to see you burn.” Essentially, that was Infinite’s way of saying “I care about you,” which is insane for him, but that’s why I had them spend so much time together over the course of this arc. And then of course, Hero said his first words! Sort of. “Nuh-uh” aren’t exactly words. I originally planned on a more resolute “No,” but I was advised against such a drastic move at this time. Doesn’t mean he won’t say more in the future, but as his very first semblance of speech, something a little more like how he usually expresses himself seemed a little more appropriate. And of course, we have his resolution, becoming a proper GUN soldier. I mentioned this before, and I know that it felt rushed, almost out of the blue, but I couldn’t have him talk about it! The best I could do is hint that he’d be without a purpose after the war, and show that he has a respect for the Commander. Honestly, I think it’s a pretty reasonable step for him to take, given his character arc in Forces alone, but since it’s technically your custom character, I can see why anyone might disagree with that.

I guess I’ll talk about my shames of this episode now. Probably the biggest was how much Tails was shoved off to the side, considering that he was technically the first main character of this arc. Before Forces ever came along, this arc was intended to form a pretty important bond between Shadow and Tails, and I’ll admit that that part got completely dropped halfway through. I’ll just have to move the building of that relationship off into next season (or maybe the one after), which is fine by me. I can still use the early episodes of this arc as a foundation. But anyways, it’s actually pretty sad that Cream got more of a focus in this episode than Tails did, but in the grand scheme of things, he really just wasn’t that important, and I didn’t want to force anything. Next up is the Super fight. It was meant to be…a lot more exciting. But as you could probably tell, I gave up on actually describing most of it halfway through, and instead just implied that stuff was happening while they were talking. The problem is that the Monarch itself had a giant, blaring, fragile weak point, one hit and it’s over, which made it a lot harder to keep interesting. Not to mention the fact that the episode was intended to be much shorter, so one battle spread throughout all of it wouldn’t have seemed so dragged out that way. There’s one last disappointment, and it’s a small one. Considering that Bruno the Wisp is technically the only original character I introduced in this arc, I would’ve like for him to be…at least a little bit more important. I mean, he served his purpose, he gave Hero a way to communicate with others, he armed the Wispon when necessary, and he showed off character from Hero in that he’s less secure without him. And of course, he had a few entertaining interactions with Infinite. But he himself didn’t gain much in the way of character. Oh, well. And…that’s really all for disappointments. I’m quite fond of this episode over all.

I could probably keep talking here for hours, as seems to be becoming the norm. But I think I’ve covered all the most important parts. There are quite a few things I sort of intended to talk about, like more about those three ending scenes, but I think I wrote them in a way that each speaks for itself. So I guess this is where I’ll stop. So now is the time for another big announcement. I can now confirm that I will publish the premiere episode of Season 1 on June 23rd, the second anniversary of the story, and Sonic’s 27th. That’s next week! No need for a long seasonal break! (Though there may be a summer hiatus thereafter.) So keep an eye out!

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