Review: Season 2, Episode 9

Well, good news for those of you who couldn’t read the episode when it came out because of the technical difficulties. You get to read the review early! Sort of.

Well, at this rate, I might just run out of random early episode ideas by the end of the season. Needless to say, this is another one I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. (Big shame that its stats suffered so badly because of these issues.) Now usually, I have a fairly long story about how various pieces come together to form an episode like this. But the way I remember it, this episode actually came to me pretty much fully formed. Very early in the planning phases of this series, I thought, “What can I do with Shadow androids?” And the twist at the end of this episode came to me within a matter of minutes, with the structure building up to it following quite naturally. Now, to be fair, that isn’t saying much, as, in the end, this was a fairly uneventful episode. It was basically just that one split second twist expanded out into a 40 minute narrative, spending a majority of that time just asking and answering its own questions. But it just worked out so nicely that I was able to base like 5 or 6 future episode ideas off of concepts introduced in this one.

I should probably mention that this still not the mid-season finale. That comes next. Originally, the mid-season would’ve been here, but it was brought to my attention that this first half of the season was way too concentrated in its flashback episodes, so I pulled this one forward from the second half of the season in order to spread those out a bit more.

This episode was meant to be heavily rooted in the…existential themes that the original Shadow the Hedgehog game was seemingly based on, admittedly with some pretty flawed execution that I was attempting to rectify. Just as that game did, I was intending to thoroughly pose a series of questions for the viewer to ponder. “What does it mean to be Shadow the Hedgehog? Is existence in the mind? In the soul? Would it be possible for two people to share that same existence? If so, does that existence have any meaning at all?” Of course, as in any fiction, “Shadow the Hedgehog” is a stand-in for “you.” For more on this idea, you can read my Opinionated Review of Shadow the Hedgehog. To sum up the important point, the entire purpose behind that game, the perfect synergy between story and gameplay, is that you the player are taking the place of Shadow’s conscience. Not knowing who he truly is, Shadow trusts his instincts to lead him to do what the real Shadow the Hedgehog would do, and you are deciding what those instincts are telling him. Obviously there was no such interactive element in this story, but the same theme was still explored. Shadow (the one that turned out to be the android) couldn’t remember what it is that the real Shadow would do, so he had to trust his own instincts to guide him, along with the added layer of Other Shadow’s questionably trustworthy claims.

In general, it was also a goal to simply use the Shadow Android concept to its fullest extent, since it was so severely underutilized in the original game. From the deep emotional torment that Shadow should feel at knowing that these things exist, to the legitimate fear of not knowing who is or isn’t an android, I personally feel that I succeeded all around where the game failed. I think the biggest shame of this episode is that I couldn’t reasonably show onscreen the moment where the real Shadow goes crazy enough to slice his own arm open to check for android parts underneath. I’ll admit that this particular idea was loosely inspired by a similar scene from a movie I once watched called “Ex Machina,” where the protagonist trapped in a house of androids breaks a mirror and cuts himself on the glass in a pretty one-note moment of him questioning his own sanity. That scene was kind of weird in that movie, it didn’t quite line up with the other themes that were going on, so I feel like I used it better, even if it only happened offscreen. Theoretically, that was supposed to be spurred on by the android requesting sleep, which Shadow didn’t expect to be possible, making him wonder if the android was actually the real Shadow. Unfortunately, I couldn’t explain that without spoiling the twist.

I suppose I also did a thing with Johnny. I know I said that this episode came mostly whole, but that there was a big last-minute decision. Even though, as this episode was approaching, I was liking the rapport that the two Shadows were going to have, I realized that it wouldn’t really be enough to fuel a meaningful climax. They would fight the androids, they would win, nothing would really feel like it changed. After that, it was a question of Johnny or Omega. (Poor Omega, he’s been completely shafted since the beginning of this season, and I feel bad about leaving him out again. This is actually the first time we’ve seen him repaired. Expect this to become a character arc for him.) Anyways, I decided on Johnny because this episode didn’t really have much to do with what I wanted Omega’s role for this season to be, and more importantly because the relationship between Johnny and Shadow is an important one that I wanted to establish sooner rather than later. As it is, the fact that Shadow and Johnny have history together that hasn’t been mentioned until now is a little odd. I was still considering a Deus Ex Omega at the end, but I left that out because I figured it wouldn’t add anything to the story. Anyways, there were definitely some awkward points that came of Johnny’s inclusion. His level of communication with Other Shadow compared to android Shadow was definitely suspicious, which I didn’t want, but the one who had the memories needed to be the one doing the talking most of the time. In the end, adding him didn’t really change the issue I was having with the climax not being climactic enough, so writing that whole scene dragged on for longer than I was hoping. The emotional moments between Johnny and Shadow during that whole fight scene were added more out of necessity than anything. My original plan was for them to be a little more indifferent towards each other by the end of this, and build it up more later. Still not sure what I’m gonna do about that, because they can’t be best friends come the next time they interact significantly. But I think that’s all I have to say now.

On to the trivia!

  • The episode title, “A Shadow of Myself,” is a quote of the opening lyrics to Team Dark’s Sonic Heroes theme, “This Machine.”
    • The song was also referenced elsewhere in the episode.
  • GUN Fortress was the only location from a previous Sonic game featured in this episode.
    • This marks the first episode since the introduction of the Rebellion Base in the premiere of Season 1 that Emerald Hill has not been featured in any capacity.
    • This is the smallest number of established locations used for an episode since S1 E14, which only featured Emerald Hill and new locations. However, if you count Kamitatsu’s Palace as an extension of Press Garden, and the GUN Base from S1 E1 as equivalent to the GUN Fortress, then the record extends all the way back to S0 E25, which, besides new locations, only featured Tails’ workshop in the Mystic Ruins.
  • The introductory sequence of this episode intentionally parallels a scene written for In the Shadow of Time, which showed Shadow’s first waking moments from his own perspective.
  • This episode marks the first time in chronological CP-Canon that Eggman has referred to himself as Dr. Robotnik since the events of Sonic Adventure.
  • The training room “specifically designed” for Shadow appeared to use solid, cube-constructed holograms which bear a striking similarity to Phantom Ruby Replicas. This will be explored in the future.
    • This training room was also a reference to something else. But I’ll leave that one as a surprise.
  • There were a few quotes back to Shadow the Hedgehog and SA2. See if you can catch them all!
    • Here’s one to start with. “This blue sky, staring at it from afar…” (I think we all wanted to shut Shadow up before he could finish saying that nonsense the first time.)
    • There was also an instance of the familiar “Sayonara” which was added by the suggestion of the editor.
  • An interesting statement about the lore of Shadow the Hedgehog was made. It is now established that something resembling the events of the Neutral Story, taking on the Lava Shelter where the Shadow Androids were being made, happened—not during, but soon after—the game’s story. This will be touched on a bit more later.

That’s all for today’s trivia. I’ll see you all next time for the mid-season finale, which will hopefully be pretty soon! Stay tuned!

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

Review: Season 2, Episode 7

Season 2 is the graveyard of early ideas that didn’t fit anywhere else, I guess. As much as I’ve said it before, this episode was the true template example. Once again, this was another of the earliest episode concepts I ever considered. By this point, as I recall, I’d already conceptualized most of the big ideas that would form the backbones of each season, though they had not yet been distributed as such. It was just a small pile of big, lore-bending ideas that I could use to make episodes. And I thought, “Okay, these are great, but if I’m writing nothing but premieres and finales, I don’t have much of a show, now do I? How can I fill up the rest?” What I needed was, you guessed it, filler. Not just random nonsense to waste time, of course, but instead, a large number of neat little self-inclusive ideas that explore the characters or world without really leaving anything much different than the way it started. On this train of thought, this was the very first such idea that I composed. This was the template filler episode. But then, funny enough, it turned out I didn’t need nearly as many of these as I first thought. The season-important episodes come first, and I’m noticing that they tend to fill up the available episode slots rather quickly. In fact the only reason I’ve placed this episode here is because I don’t have much other choice. If I’d waited any longer to make this episode, some of the important parts of it wouldn’t have made sense anymore, because of some big upcoming changes.

One unfortunate fact that I came to realize while writing this episode is that…Rouge and Knuckles have actually almost never interacted over the course of this story. And this episode idea in the back of my mind is probably to blame for that. I didn’t see a focus on their relationship as being super important knowing that I would eventually come to this episode. And I didn’t want to make any changes to their dynamic that might affect how this episode would play out. So I guess I just kept them away from each other, short of a few brief interactions.

What’s interesting to note is that I’ve always felt a little strange about the way I write Rouge’s character. I’ve always had her as the serious spy and the loyal friend, but her more flirtatious side was usually ignored. This episode quickly helped me realize that that’s because Rouge is a foil. Next to Shadow, I’ve been writing her just fine. It’s when she’s next to Knuckles that this other side is supposed to come out, and that finally happened here. And…I’m not sure I have a lot else to say about the making of this episode. On to the trivia!

  • The following locations from previous Sonic games appeared or were mentioned in this episode:
    • Casino Night Zone (Sonic 2)
    • Press Garden Zone (mentioned, Sonic Mania)
      • Yes, that’s it. Simple episode.
  • This episode attempts to explain, for the first time in CP-canon, the use of Rings from an in-universe perspective.
    • Their production of magnetic field explains why they float and spin, why they can be used to restore health to machines such as Tails and Eggman’s mechs in SA2, and why they protect a player from damage.
      • The stated reason for protecting from damage, repelling robots and energy attacks, only covers about 90% of actual damaging enemies and objects throughout Sonic history. I…don’t really have an explanation for the rest. Doing the best I can here.
    • Their holding of Chaos Energy explains why they can be used to maintain a Super Form.
    • Rouge later states that a capsule of 100 Rings is worth as much as a person’s life, a reference to the fact that collecting 100 Rings grants an extra life. This does not provide an actual in-universe explanation of why that would be the case.
    • The use of Rings as currency in CP-Canon was previously established in S0 E9 Black Cloak Begins. Their other uses were not mentioned at that time.
      The fact that Rings exist in-universe at all was confirmed in Sonic Generations, when Classic Tails asked Modern Tails where Sonic keeps them.
  • The appearance of Casino Night Zone in this episode does not closely resemble any particular iteration of it seen in a previous game. However, a city can be seen in the background of typical Casino Night levels, and this episode is assumed to take place within that city.
  • The “Casino Night Tournament of the Fighters” is worded in such a way as to reference the arcade game Sonic the Fighters.
    • The challenger, Polar Crusher, may or may not be a character from that game. I will neither confirm nor deny.
    • Rouge’s challenger, the Tail Twister, may or may not also be an existing lemur character from other Sonic media who recently appeared in games for the first time.
  • This episode marks the first appearance of animoids of the Skunk and Rat species.
    • The word “kitten” was used to describe Cat children, which is not an established trend.
  • The metal mask worn by Knuckles is intended to resemble an article from, of all places, the Sonic movie.

    Not sure why I went for that. Just thought it would be a good fit. Also, I like the idea having Knuckles keeping it around in case I get the opportunity to bring it up if another Sonic Movie crossover ever comes around.
  • Throughout the episode, many quotes were made to Knuckles and Rouge’s initial encounters in Sonic Adventure 2, occasionally role-reversed.
  • The newspaper from Press Garden was included to address a request of our good friend Yuni Oha. This is the first reference to Press Garden as a part of Eggman’s propaganda machine since his own episodes, S1 E13 and 14 Out of the Shadows.

And that’s all I’ve got for today! I guess a filler episode means less trivia.

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

Review: Season 2, Episode 6

Another early episode idea, this one was. I’m beginning to realize that there’s a lot of those this season. The big idea was, of course, “Let’s fill as many plot holes of SA2 as possible, while also showing where the Commander was during that game, since, realistically, he had to be involved somehow.” The idea definitely came while I was still doing my basic writing practice, Cast by the Light, the SA2 novelization. I made efforts while writing that to doctor up small awkward or contradicting bits of dialogue, and occasionally used the narrator’s voice to explain something that definitely wasn’t obvious in the original. But even with all that, there was just no way to clear up some of the biggest points of confusion surrounding the plot that I was now able to see from an outside perspective. While writing the episode from the Commander’s point of view probably would’ve been the obvious way to go, the Commander would have zero chance of mistaking Shadow for Sonic, which would only compound the exact issue I was most trying to resolve. That’s why I had the idea of writing it from a soldier’s perspective instead. This soldier would either have to misinterpret the Commander’s orders to “arrest that hedgehog,” or else be forced to make certain erroneous decisions in the Commander’s absence. This was, of course, long before the idea of SCOPE. This, admittedly, is the only reason why Johnny as a character was created in the first place. He’ll have other uses, of course, but in a way, they will all be to justify the existence of this episode. In order to fill these plot holes in a meaningful and interesting way, I needed eyes through which to see the other perspective on these events, eyes that wouldn’t automatically dismiss the idea of Sonic being guilty. I knew I wanted to frame it as that mystery slowly being solved.

A lot of this episode’s content was left in a limbo state once I’d gotten that far. I had vague ideas for why Sonic might have ended up being targeted, basically boiling down to Johnny questioning if the silhouette is Sonic, and the Commander not hearing him, then ordering all units to “arrest that hedgehog,” Johnny thus taking that as an affirmation of his question. It made sense enough when I thought of it, but looked pretty silly when I started planning how to write it. The other major component dwelling there in limbo was the Flying Dog. No one ever said as much in the game, but the circumstances made it pretty clear that Rouge killed that pilot. Which would almost be acceptable in terms of self-defense, if Rouge didn’t work for the same organization that he did! As far as the game tells you, there’s no reason why Rouge can’t have gotten out along with this guy who set the trap in the first place, but she didn’t, which means he couldn’t have either. I knew that I wanted to tell the story of this guy, either how he got out or why he didn’t, but definite thoughts on how to go about that weren’t really coming to me until not long before I started writing.

Once again, I have to thank Yuni for basically everything at this point. Right up to the minute where Johnny was called into the Command Room, I had no idea what he was going to find in there. When I posed the issue I was having to Yuni, he strongly recommended that I weave SCOPE as thoroughly into this plot as possible, which is a thought I was having, but wasn’t convinced of until then. I don’t know why it wasn’t more clear to me before that talk. It’s obvious that, to show that this organization is relevant, I need to not only show their impact immediately after introducing them, but that I also need to prove that their relevance extends back as far as I’ve claimed it does. Using them as a vessel for filling these plot holes should have been the obvious way to go. I had also told Yuni about the Flying Dog guy already, and he recommended that this person be a SCOPE agent, so that Rouge killing him doesn’t feel like so much of a problem. I decided to go a slightly different direction on that one.

Can’t think of anything else to say at the moment, so let’s move on to the general trivia!

  • The following locations and/or levels from previous Sonic games appeared or were mentioned in this episode.
    • Station Square (Sonic Adventure, Adventure Field)
    • Central City (Shadow the Hedgehog)
    • Speed Highway (Sonic Adventure, mentioned)
    • GUN Fortress (Shadow the Hedgehog)
    • Iron Gate (SA2)
    • Prison Island (Shadow the Hedgehog)
    • Adabat (Sonic Unleashed, hub world, mentioned)
    • The Doom (Shadow the Hedgehog, visually referenced)
      • The hill on which Sonic was arrested was intended to be the same location in which Shadow was given the vision in which The Doom took place.
    • City Escape (SA2)
    • Green Forest/White Jungle (SA2)
    • Weapons Bed/Metal Harbor (SA2)
    • Security Hall (SA2)
    • Pyramid Cave/Egg Quarters/Death Chamber (SA2)
  • The opening scene featured a large number of NPCs, locations, and other references from the Station Square Adventure Field in Sonic Adventure.
  • This episode marks the earliest chronological appearance of chilli dogs, preceding Unleashed as the first canon reference, and Black Knight as the first canon use within a cutscene.
  • Throughout the episode, GUN and the full expansion of the acronym, Guardian Units of Nations, was spoken several times, despite never being spoken in the English version of the original SA2 (always referred to as “the military” instead, due to the fact that “gun” is a literal Japanese translation of “military” in addition to the acronym).
    • This is potentially explained by the possibility that Sonic did not hear, did not remember, or did not particularly care what the name of the military force is.
  • The scene in which Sonic throws his chilli dogs into the air, completing his work before they fall, is a reference to a very similar scene from Sonic and the Black Knight.
    • Sonic suggested that he needs more practice with the trick, which appears to have paid off by the time of Black Knight, where he completes the trick with greater success.
  • While Sonic and Tails were intentionally written so that their manners of speaking would more closely resemble what they were back in the Sonic Adventure games, Amy was not held to the same standard. This is because I don’t like the way Adventure Amy was written. I chose to infuse some of her present-day attitude, because she would’ve been pretty useless in this episode without it. kinda like she was in the actual games
  • The ceremony held at City Hall for Tails is an event that was referenced in a newspaper clipping in SA2, but never actually seen until now.
    • This newspaper is presumably the same one that James the Fox claimed to have read in S2 E3 Miles to Go.
    • The fact that the Mayor introduced Tails as “Tails Prower” is a reference to the fact that this is how his name was written on the title of the newspaper article in question.
    • Tails’ speech contained several references to his theme song, “Believe in Myself.”
  • Sonic’s mention of the Satellite TVs that Tails installed was an attempt to correct a very odd line in SA2, in which Tails specifies that he saw that Sonic was arrested specifically on satellite TV, for no apparent reason. The idea in mind is that the specification makes a little more sense when Sonic specifically instructed him to keep an eye out for him on satellite TV.
    • However, this factoid does, in some sense, contradict SA2, as, in the character recap for that particular scene, Tails narrates that he wasn’t expecting to see Sonic on TV. This would be false if Sonic specifically told him otherwise, even if it was for a different reason. Fixing the in-game dialogue was deemed more important than adhering strictly to the questionably canon recaps.
  • As this is the first attempt to put faces to a significant number of ordinary GUN soldiers, an attempt was made to make it feel concretely like a multinational organization by including names of various origins.
    • Ayanna is a name of Eastern African descent, meaning “beautiful flower.”
    • Victor’s last name, “Voynakov,” is intended to sound Russian in descent (though Russia obviously doesn’t exist in the Sonic universe). While I’m no expert on the Russian language, my understanding is that “kov” means “son of” and “Voyna” means “war,” implying that Victor was quite literally born to fight.
  • Footage of a silhouetted Shadow the Hedgehog taking out the Hot Shot was the first direct use of a scene from SA2 in this episode.
  • Several times throughout the episode, it is mentioned that information regarding Project: Shadow was leaked out at an earlier time. This is a reference to the events of S1 E3 Thief’s Honor, taking place a couple of weeks before this episode, in which Johnny clandestinely informed Rouge that a top secret project had been leaked out, occupying the time of the enraged Commander.
    • This detail from the previous episode, in turn, is based on the assumption that Eggman had to have stolen his grandfather’s diary at some point in order to begin the events of SA2.
  • The Commander’s intended vacation spot is Adabat, a tropical island location from Sonic Unleashed.
  • Sigma-Alpha 2 (as in, SA2, as in Sonic Adventure 2), as piloted by Johnny, was named in the original game, in the opening cutscene of Sonic’s story. However, it is unclear whether this name refers to the vehicle that he flies in (as I always assumed), or the group which occupies the vehicle (as the Archie comics interpreted). The designation was intentionally left similarly vague in this episode.
  • The scene in which Sonic is captured is based primarily off of what little information is provided by the associated recap narration, which can only be accessed in-game by intentionally quitting out of the first level, or getting a game over.
    • A large majority of Sonic’s dialogue in that scene directly quotes that recap, followed by a new perspective on the actual opening cutscene.
    • In the original recap, the word “deserter” is used where it doesn’t quite belong, as a deserter is an enlisted soldier who flees from duty, not a prison escapee. The word is again referenced in a later recap, after Sonic actually does break out of Prison Island. This is assumed to be the result of awkward translation.
      • The attempted explanation is that Sonic only heard the words “escape from military facility,” and drew that line in the wrong direction. However, the fact that Sonic uses the word again when he actually does escape from prison implies that he honestly just thinks that’s what that word means.
    • For the purposes of this scene, a strong effort was made to show that Sonic was not recklessly endangering the lives of everyone on board, by adding a line in which he insists that the pilot continue flying.
    • Compared to the original cutscene, the timing of certain lines of dialogue were changed slightly to accomodate a scene that…actually makes sense.
  • The weapons which present-day Johnny described contained many references.
    • His go-to plasma rifle is called the 32X, a reference to a SEGA console on which Knuckles’ Chaotix was released. It loads an SK lock-on plasma cartridge, referencing the lock-on feature of the Sonic & Knuckles game cartridge.
    • The flamethrower is the SD05, as in Sol Dimension, 2005, the year of Sonic Rush’s release. Because Blaze, fire, whatever.
    • The laser refractor is an SCD, as in Sonic CD, the one on a “laser disc” where you go to the future.
  • The following plot holes/common questions about SA2 were answered in rather quick succession.
    • Why did literally no one seem to see Sonic and Shadow together after the Big Foot was destroyed?
    • How did Amy get the card to free Sonic?
      • The question of how Amy got to the island in the first place was still not answered. Maybe there was some element of truth to her story?
    • Why wasn’t the island alerted to evacuate by Rouge?
    • Why didn’t the Commander prevent Sonic from being imprisoned when he knew he wasn’t Shadow?
    • Why did Rouge seem to kill the pilot of the Hot Shot?
    • What was the point of all those rockets in Metal Harbor?
      • Why were they launching?
    • What was GUN doing in the second half of the game?
  • Johnny’s reaction to the threat to Prison Island intentionally mirrored Sonic’s. (“Blows up!?”)
  • The episode is intended to lead into Sonic Heroes, which opens both on Sonic running on his own out in the middle of nowhere, and Rouge tracking down Eggman’s secret treasure.
    • It is theorized by some that the events of Sonic 4 take place immediately or soon before Sonic Heroes. I am not prepared to confirm nor deny such theories at this time. However, if it is true, the ending of Sonic running out on his own would still be an appropriate lead-in to Sonic 4 Episode 1.
  • Big the Cat cameo? What Big the Cat cameo? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Yeah, I expected this one to be pretty trivia-heavy. Exploring the weird bits of SA2 trivia is basically the reason this episode was written. But that’s all I have for now.

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

Review: Season 2, Episode 5

So this episode was…interesting. Obviously, the first third of it was dedicated to resolving hanging plot threads from the last few episodes, but that led organically enough where I needed it to go. This was…not exactly a well-developed episode idea by the time I started, so I honestly needed the extra filler space anyways. Otherwise, I’m fairly pleased with the way things turned out, even if the rest was relatively straightforward. The idea of a secret division of GUN that continues to operate under Eggman’s rule was one provided by a name you should all know by now, Yuni Oha. While this concept meshes well with a few established plans I already had, this particular implementation is not something I’d thought of, and it does a good job of drawing a few disparate ideas together. The Sergeant himself, for example, was a character I’d already planned to introduce for a different purpose later on, and Captain Naka, of course, is a character I’ve been planning to introduce for quite some time.

I was debating right up until the moment I began writing this episode which characters I would use for it. Very, VERY early on, before the idea that became SCOPE, when this was simply an unspecified search for the Commander that would result in the meeting with Captain Naka, I figured that this might be a more straightforward Team Dark episode, with Shadow, Rouge, and Omega, or perhaps some selection of two out of those three. They were the canon GUN agents, so that made the most sense. At that point, this episode wasn’t even placed in the series yet. When I decided that I wanted this to be an early Season 2 episode, plans shifted a bit. I was keenly aware of the fact that Hero was SEVERELY underutilized in the second half of Season 1, so I knew I wanted to feature him early on this Season to make up for it. The introduction of Bruno’s translator was something I, absolutely set in stone, needed to happen around this time, and I really didn’t want to shove it into an episode that didn’t feature Hero prominently otherwise. So including him in this episode was basically a given, and that actually informed much of what I ended up writing back in the 50th Episode Special, where I tied together the stories of Hero and the Commander. So that left me thinking Hero and Shadow for this episode. I thought it might be vaguely amusing having Shadow be irritated by Bruno’s blabbering habits and by the translator malfunctions, but Hero and Shadow were already paired up for an episode last season, and I wasn’t sure I could do anything more meaningful for their relationship than was already done. Anyways, Shadow already has plenty going for him this season, including an important upcoming episode, and Omega ended up a bit…indisposed for this episode, so that just left Rouge. Even then, I wasn’t really sure if I could do anything with Hero and Rouge as a pair, so I was hesitant. But as it turned out, playing up the interaction between the two didn’t turn out to be very necessary. Just having her be interested in Bruno’s large chunks of exposition was meaningful enough.

The conversation between Rouge and the Sergeant was definitely the most difficult part of the episode to write, perhaps the only part that didn’t quite flow naturally. I had to go back and alter it more than a few times. How do you make someone sound intelligent and threatening while simultaneously having them explain why they made the enormously stupid decision of teaming up with Eggman? The result was something that turned out to be a weird sort of inversion of the conversation Tails had with Metal Sonic just last episode, almost to an uncanny degree. The weirdest part is that Metal Sonic had the far more convincing argument. I was also planning on the weight of the suggestion that the Commander was dead to last much longer before finally getting flipped around at the end of the episode, but for some reason, I just couldn’t fit that line anywhere else in the conversation.

Oh, and let’s talk about SCOPE itself. Can I mention that the acronym used to be even worse? Originally, I was calling it RIFLE: the Regiment for Intelligence Functions and Latent Enigma. It’s on the right track, and then suddenly, “Latent Enigma.” I honestly have no idea what that means, I was just trying to use words that explain that this is a secretive organization. Believe me, I spent far too many hours wracking my brain around this specific problem, but it was, once again, a brainstorming session with Yuni that led to the improved name. At least AMMO turned out well.

I don’t feel like talking about this anymore. Let’s skip to the trivia!

  • The following locations from previous Sonic games were featured or mentioned in this episode:
    • Genocide City Zone (Sonic 2, scrapped)
    • Emerald Hill Zone (I’m skipping this one from now on)
    • Metropolis Zone (Sonic 2)
    • Route 101 (Sonic Adventure 2)
    • GUN Fortress (Shadow the Hedgehog)
      • The base itself was not used, but the layout of the SCOPE base was hypothetically the same.
  • When Metal Sonic reads the data of the inferior Metal Sonic, he names off data regarding Extreme Gear racing, footracing, kart racing, and Olympic sports. These are references to that Metal Sonic’s appearances in the Sonic Riders series, the Sonic Rivals series, Team Sonic Racing, and the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games series, respectively.
    • Riders has already been confirmed in CP-Canon, and Mario & Sonic has already been referenced in the past, but this marks the first direct references to TSR or Rivals in the Chaos Project.
    • Despite outright having a TSR Special, the events of that game were never directly referenced in that episode, making this the first indication that it could be canon.
  • Metal Sonic states that the replica Metal’s copy abilities are based on Gizoid technology. This is new to CP-Canon, and has not been confirmed in the games.
    • This marks the first direct reference to Gizoids, as well as the Sonic Advance series in general, in the Chaos Project.
  • This episode marks the first use of the nomer “Rebel Camp Alpha,” rather than “The Rebellion Base.” While this was not explained within the episode, the Rebellion is now considered to be a multi-camp organization, with Camp Beta consisting of the rebels recently met in the Hill Top Zone.
  • Omega’s degree of incapacitation bears a slight resemblance to events in the recent run of IDW Sonic comics. This is entirely coincidental.
  • In addition to referencing the events of Sonic Colors, Bruno’s translator malfunctions were also loosely inspired by a similar joke from the film “Iron Man 3,” in which, at the end of a sentence, Iron Man’s computer assistant “Jarvis” would say the wrong cranberry.
  • Bruno is implied to have some degree of singing talent. This may become important later.
  • The symbols used to represent Wisp language (◯⬜※△X) are derived from dialogue in the mobile game Sonic Runners.
    • In the Nintendo DS version of Sonic Colors, Wisp language was instead represented by more traditional symbols, most commonly #, $, %, ^, &, and some letters. In the IDW Sonic Comics, entirely unique symbols are used, which cannot be typed at all. The Runners interpretation was used under the assumption that the symbols used in Colors were meant reflect “gibberish,” while those used in Runners were meant to reflect a known alien dialect.
    • Also, the Colors symbols look a bit too much like actual censorship of English profanities, which I did not want to imply.
    • It’s shockingly difficult to find an ASCII character for a simple square. The symbol used is filled with white, even though it should hypothetically be transparent.
  • Bruno references his Mama. This most likely refers to the Mother Wisp, a character from Sonic Colors DS which has not otherwise been confirmed as canon.
  • This episode marks the first direct reference to Yacker as a character, as well as the first direct, spoken reference to the events of Sonic Colors.
  • The GUN Hunter robot is a common enemy from Sonic Adventure 2. This marks the first time it has been named in CP-Canon.
  • The SCOPE organization is inspired partly by the role of HYDRA in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as infiltrators running so deep that the organization wouldn’t exist without them, as well as that of Section 31 in the Star Trek prime universe, an intelligence division that operates on secrets on top of secrets on top of secrets.
  • The Sergeant references the events of Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Unleashed, and Sonic Generations.
    • Rouge implies that he should not be able to know about Generations, because it took place outside of time.
  • Rouge’s commission number is a reference to the announcement date of Sonic Adventure 2, with a few extra 0’s thrown in.
    • Similarly, the Commander’s commission number is a reference to the announcement date of Shadow the Hedgehog.
  • Captain Johnnathan Naka, formerly known as J. Naka, was first introduced in S1 E3, Thief’s Honor, in a flashback to events taking place soon before SA2. He later appeared in the 50th Episode Special as the soldier placed in charge of negotiating GUN’s surrender to the Eggman Empire. This episode marks his first appearance in the present.
    • His last name, Naka, is shared with that of Yuji Naka, the former real-world head of Sonic Team.
    • Captain Naka’s grandfather, Ulysses G. Naka (U.G. Naka), is, technically, a canon character. In gameplay of Shadow the Hedgehog, the GUN soldier NPC’s are capable of saying the line “Mr. Yuji Naka is alright!” Given that the pronunciation of this name is effectively identical to “U.G. Naka,” and that the line is not subtitled, making the actual spelling of the name unknown, the assumption is being made that they are actually saying, “Mr. U.G. Naka is alright!”
      • U.G. most likely stands for Ulysses Grant, the name of a former real-world United States President.
    • The original plan was to leave the name as Yuji. However, using the name of an actual real-world person in a fictional story without their permission in a way that cannot be dismissed as coincidence is, I’m pretty sure, illegal. Writing fanfiction is of questionable enough legality, I definitely don’t want to get sued here.
  • The AMMO special operations team was briefly mentioned in S0 E29, This Reality. This is the first mention of the team since then.

Wow, a lot this time. But that’s all for today!

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

Review: Season 2, Episode 4

I have been waiting for such a long time to write this episode. It wasn’t necessarily my earliest idea, but I knew from the moment I thought of it that it was a story that needed to be told. For the longest time, whenever I tried to think to the future of this series, this was almost always the episode that my thoughts drifted to first. It’s hard to explain exactly why that is. I believe I’ve said before that growth and coming of age is one of the greatest overarching themes of this series, and even in the canon, Tails has long been the representative of that idea. Everyone grows up over time, and in this series, Tails is no exception. Knowing that he would one day, years from now, be grown into a mature adult, I suppose I always saw this episode as a vital transition point. If there will ever be a moment where you can say that Tails grew up, it will be this episode. Sonic has long kept him in a world of black-and-white—we’re the good guys, and we fight the bad guys. But on this day, Tails was pushed into a much greyer world. And, more to the point, it was a reflection of Sonic who gave him that push.

And I suppose this is the part where I talk about Metal Sonic. That big twist at the end…wasn’t necessarily part of the original plan. I suppose I must give credit where credit is due. Usually in this series, I try to make everything my own. When it comes to new ideas and big reveals that were never a part of the original games, I have to dig deep to put the pieces together, and form my own ideas about what does and doesn’t work in the established world of Sonic. It’s rare that I become truly inspired by another person’s theories or headcanons, but this would be one of those instances. When I saw The Sega Scourge’s “Metal Sonic is Sonic, Roboticized” video, I was inspired—not because the theory was particularly convincing, but because it added so much weight and meaning to Metal Sonic’s long history that wasn’t there before. And weight and meaning are exactly the primary factors I consider when writing in such ideas. It’s not enough to have an interesting idea if it doesn’t add anything to the greater context, but this most certainly did. I started wondering immediately if there was a way I could make this admittedly outlandish theory work in my favor. And when I considered what that big reveal would add to this particular episode, I was sold.

Unfortunately, while the story of Tails and Metal Sonic was well planned and put together, the rest was not so much. As often as I thought ahead to this episode, I never muched considered how it could be made any more than one long, slightly boring conversation. A rescue party going after them was obvious of course, but what wasn’t obvious was how to make that relevant. Sonic running off to rescue Tails without any other kind of conflict or moral just wouldn’t have been interesting. At first I thought, with how I’ve been setting up a rivalry between Omega and Metal Sonic, it would be reasonable to have Omega go with him, and I could go through with some of the Metal Sonic-related conflicts I’d been planning in that area, but then I realized…I already had an episode just like that last season. While I enjoy pairing up characters in unusual ways for episodes, I certainly didn’t want to use the same unusual pair a second time when there are so many other pairs waiting to be done. I decided on Espio instead, for fairly obvious reasons, but…there was no conflict there. Both Sonic and Espio would want the same thing, both would be very focused on the task, I wouldn’t be much better off than with Sonic on his own. I decided to compromise and go for both. I thought that I could have the primary friction be between Espio and Omega, since they clash on a more fundamental level than Sonic ever did with Omega, but…that didn’t really go anywhere. They disagreed, and then…that was it. I mean, that conflict could have been taken as a warning sign for what was to come, but it just didn’t add anything to the bulk of the episode. The only other real option would’ve been having them make up and come to a better understanding of one another by the end, which there definitely wasn’t room for with the focus on Tails. It might have been possible without having Sonic awkwardly in the middle, but I was not willing to remove Sonic from the episode when the plot was so personal to him.

There’s one other disappointment of this episode, which you may have noticed. The ending was…not exactly conclusive. What did Metal Sonic do with Omega? I didn’t say. Why did they leave him behind? I didn’t say. What were the repercussions of that decision? I didn’t say. What ever happened to Charmy becoming a doctor? I didn’t say. The problem here is, the answer to each of those questions would’ve required just one more scene tacked onto the end of the episode. As it is, I already felt like I gave up a very good ending by continuing on after the moment that Metal Sonic attacked Omega, but Sonic and Tails talking about what happened was an absolute necessity. As for the rest…most of it will be integrated into the beginning of the next episode, where it will be irrelevant and out of place and distracting from the intended plot. But that’ll still be better than ending this episode five times over.

And now, for some general trivia! (I hope to make this a tradition with future reviews.)

  • The following locations from previous Sonic games were featured in this episode:
    • Emerald Hill Zone (Sonic 2)
    • Aquatic Ruin Zone (Sonic 2)
    • Hill Top Zone (Sonic 2)
    • Mystic Cave Zone (Sonic 2) (implied)
    • Lost Labyrinth Zone (Sonic 4) (cameo appearance)
    • Metallic Madness (Sonic CD) (implied)
  • Metal Sonic’s memory featuring the Lost Labyrinth was an exact first-person recreation of a cutscene from Sonic 4 Episode Metal.
    • The artifact obtained in this scene was stated to be the source of Metal Sonic’s copy ability and shapeshifting power seen in Sonic Heroes.
      • The actual purpose/history of this artifact has never been officially confirmed. However, in-game text does pose the question, “Just how did Metal Sonic make his comeback after Sonic the Hedgehog CD?” Given that Metal Sonic’s first canon chronological comeback after CD would be in Heroes, this implies a connection between the plots of the two games.
  • Both Metal Sonic and Tails frequently refer to the events of Sonic Heroes—particularly, the battle between Team Sonic and Metal Overlord—which took place approximately five years before this episode.
  • In describing how he was betrayed by Eggman, Metal Sonic refers to the events of Sonic CD, Sonic 4 Episode Metal, and an unspecified number of Classic Sonic games which take place in between, and feature some form of mechanical Sonic.
    • As there are no such “main series” Sonic games, this must refer to more obscure titles. Sonic Triple Trouble is the most likely candidate, as it has already been Chaos-Project-canonized by the appearance of Fang in Season 1.
  • Metal Sonic frequently quotes the phrase, “I am no longer afraid of anything,” originally spoken in the opening moments of the Metal Overlord fight.
    • He quotes himself on several other occasions, including the famous “I am the one true Sonic.”
  • This episode marks the first in-universe usage of the name of one of Metal Sonic’s abilities, V. Maximum Overdrive.
    • I have no idea what the “V” stands for. Maybe velocity? Metal Sonic was also shown using the Black Shield, an ability not seen outside of the 2-player mode of Sonic Adventure 2 Battle.
  • The episode title “Before I Sleep,” combines with the title of the previous episode, “Miles to Go” (also meant to be a reference to Tails’ given name) to form the line, “Miles to go before I sleep,” a repeated phrase from the Robert Frost poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
    • While this is not a two-part episode, the related titles show that the episodes are meant to be grouped together.
    • The implication of this line is that someone is on a path towards their end (sleep), and has much to do before that time comes.
  • This episode marks the first time the Chaotix tent has been shown in an episode written by me. Its original appearance in Season 1, episodes 13 and 14, (“Out of the Shadows” parts 1 and 2) was written by a guest author.
  • When attempting to convince Tails, Metal Sonic provides the first ever CP-canon implication of a population size of Sonic’s world, giving the approximation of 10 billion.
    • Given that the real world has a population of about 8 billion, and that Sonic’s Earth typically approximates the very near future of ours, this implies that the number of animoids in Sonic’s world is somewhat less than 2 billion.
    • This number was chosen as one that is large enough to reasonably populate large-scale animoid-majority cities such as Sunset Heights, while still showing that they are vastly outnumbered by humans as implied by most other relevant games.
    • It is also notable that 10 billion is predicted as the maximum stable human population that Earth can support.
  • During a conversation with Sonic, Espio refers to himself as Charmy’s guardian. It is not specified whether this title is legal or honorary. Either way, it is a component of their relationship which has not previously been described.
  • Metal Sonic suggests that he does not remember Omega, despite having fought him as Metal Madness during the events of Sonic Heroes, as well as several prior encounters while disguised as Eggman.
    • It is possible that Metal Sonic has forgotten that particular detail, or that he was pretending not to care in order to maintain a more menacing image.
  • While it is never stated directly, Metal Sonic implies that his head may contain Sonic’s actual organic brain.
    • This is supported by his especially protective actions towards the machinery around his head.
    • A direct confirmation was avoided, partly because I may want to change my mind about that in the future, partly because the image of it might be a bit graphic for children, and partly because I felt the idea might be a bit more powerful if the reader could come up with it themselves.
  • This episode marks Espio’s first successful usage of an entirely new chakra-based Ninja Arts technique—the Shadow Sealing, which he was shown failing to do in S1 E15: In Too Deep—opening the way for him to potentially learn many more.
    • Why did I decide to give Espio magic shadow powers? I mean, he can already create a whirlwind using his fingers, so I didn’t think this would be much of a stretch.
    • Regardless, I expect any future technique he learns to be similarly underpowered. It isn’t exactly efficient to spend a minute-long fight scene drawing a seal on the ground and hoping that the enemy stands right in the middle of it without noticing.
    • What do I mean by chakra-based? That’ll be explained in a future episode.

And there we have it. Flawed though it may be, I still love this episode and all of the deep implications it presents. There’s one other interesting note here. This episode was designed with the idea in mind that the reader may have to choose a side. If Sonic is right, then every word Metal Sonic said was a convoluted attempt at psychological warfare, forcing Tails to play into his hand. But if Tails is right, then Metal Sonic is still Sonic at his core, and can be saved. So are you Team Sonic? Or Team Tails? Make your choice.

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

Blacklight Answers the Hard Questions

blacklightlogo

[Blacklight]: Alright, this’ll be a rapid-fire one. Shadow, are you all ready with the questions?

[Shadow]: I don’t understand the point of this.

[Blacklight]: These are questions that Sonic fans have been asking for years! Who better to answer them than someone who actually lives in that universe?

[Shadow]: I don’t see this going very well…

[Blacklight]: Well that’s your opinion! Hit me with the first question!

[Shadow]: Question 1: “Why can we see the entire moon when half of it was destroyed in Sonic Adventure 2?”

[Blacklight]: There is no moon. The moon is a hoax. It’s just a set piece. Next!

[Shadow]: Question 2: “Where does Sonic keep all of his rings?”

[Blacklight]: You don’t want to know.

[Shadow]: Question 3: “What do Sonic’s hands look like under his gloves?”

[Blacklight]: You thought those were gloves? Those are just his hands.

[Shadow]: Question 4: “Which story path is canon in Shadow the Hedgehog?”

[Blacklight]: It’s the one that leads to the secret twelfth ending, where Shadow learns that he’s actually a figment of Sonic’s imagination.

[Shadow]: That’s false.

[Blacklight]: Prove it.

[Shadow]: No thanks. Question 5: “What happened to Eggman’s appearance in Sonic ’06?”

[Blacklight]: One word. Diet and exercise.

[Shadow]: Question 6: “Where is–…” Oh, dear… “Where is that FOURTH Chaos Emerald?”

[Blacklight]: We’re still searching for it to this day.

[Shadow]: …Question 7: “Is Sonic Rivals canon? Is Sonic Spinball canon? Is Tails’ Adventure canon?” It…goes on for a while.

[Blacklight]: Yes, yes, and yes! Everything is canon! Sonic All Stars Racing is canon, Sonic’s Schoolhouse is canon, Sonic’s appearance in Pac Man is canon! What don’t you people understand about this!?

[Shadow]: Didn’t you write these questions?

[Blacklight]: Shut up and ask the next one.

[Shadow]: Question 8: “How did Sonic get his powers?”

[Blacklight]: Too much coffee.

[Shadow]: Question 9: “What exactly is the Lost Hex?”

[Blacklight]: It’s a lost hex, duh.

[Shadow]: Question 10: “How can Blaze be from the Future and the Sol Dimension?”

[Blacklight]: Well, according to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, time and space are actually one conglomerated concept known as time-space. If we look to M-theory, a subset of string theory, more specifically, superstring theory, we know that there are in fact 11 dimensions of space-time. There is no distinguishing between the spatial and temporal dimensions. To our simple three-dimensional perspective, 11-dimensional space can take on a multitude of interpretations, including other dimensional worlds coexisting within the same confines of space and time we live in. Given the duality of space-time, this other spatial dimension, which one might call another world, can also be referred to as another temporal dimension, which one might call the future. The equivalence of space and time means that these two very different concepts are in fact one and the same. The future is another world, another world is the future.

[Shadow]: …

[Blacklight]: What’s that look for? I said I was going to answer the questions, didn’t I?

[Shadow]: Right…well, that’s all of them.

[Blacklight]: Over so soon? That’s alright, I suppose. But what hard questions would you have wanted me to answer? Tell us in the comments below! Make sure to get those questions in in time for the Q&A session at the end of the day!

Villain Chat! with Shadow the Hedgehog

blacklightlogo

[Audience]: *applause*

[Blacklight]: Yeah, that’s right, you’re excited. Avid Chaos Project fans may remember that hosting a late-night Villain Chat talk show has always been my dream in life.

[Shadow]: Always? It was only brought up offhandedly in the 50th Episode Special that retconned the premiere, and even that took place almost six months after your chronological introduction to the current events of the story.

[Blacklight]: Nah ah ah. I’m the one asking questions here. We’re kicking off today’s festivities by interviewing the second most popular character in the entire Sonic canon, Shadow the Hedgehog.

[Shadow]: Your show is called Villain Chat. Why would I be your first choice to interview?

[Blacklight]: That brings us to our first question of the night! Shadow, tell me, how does it feel to be branded as a villain by the very people who created you?

[Shadow]: I…don’t follow.

[Blacklight]: I speak of our parent companies, SEGA and Sonic Team, of course.

[Shadow]: I still don’t follow.

[Blacklight]: Well, just look at your presentation in any recent Sonic game. Take Sonic Boom, for instance. In that world, Shadow the Hedgehog exists as nothing more than an obstacle, an angry jerkwad who hates Sonic and hates friendship because…reasons.

[Shadow]: Different world. Why does it matter?

[Blacklight]: Is it really different? Regardless of whether you look at the games or the TV show, Sonic Boom presents its cast of characters as if they’re people with a long history that you should be intimately familiar with. Most of its jokes downright depend on that frame of reference. For example, the often-repeated joke of presenting the fighting between Sonic and Eggman as if it’s an office job is only funny if you assume that it isn’t the norm, and it’s only abnormal if you include the context of the canon games. And that brings us to Shadow. Shadow, like everyone else, is introduced as if you already know exactly who he is and what he should be doing. So naturally, he immediately attempts to destroy Sonic, because that’s totally in-character.

[Shadow]: Yeah, I think it’s pretty clear that the people who made Sonic Boom had very little idea of what Sonic is supposed to be. It’s as if they took one look at the original version of me and said, “Oh, that must be an evil version of Sonic.” That was never really in question. To answer your question, everything about Sonic Boom makes me feel disappointed, and this is no different.

[Blacklight]: Okay, so let’s ignore Sonic Boom, then. Instead, we turn our attention to Sonic Generations, your only significant role in the decade that came between Sonic ’06 and Sonic Forces. In Generations, you attempted to kill Sonic to stop him from acquiring the Chaos Emerald, because…reasons.

[Shadow]: That game depicted me as a rival, not a villain.

[Blacklight]: *clears throat* “I don’t know where we are, nor do I care. This is where I finish you, Sonic.”

[Shadow]: That…doesn’t make me a villain…

[Blacklight]: Right, because you were totally redeemed by that heroic and heartfelt speech you gave at the end of the game. Roll the clip!

[Shadow]: …I blame the game’s poor writing and lack of direction.

[Blacklight]: Yeah, that tends to be a running theme when it comes to Sonic games these days. But wherever you place the blame, it shows just the same that the people making these games seem to have absolutely no idea what Shadow the Hedgehog is supposed to be.

[Shadow]: Well, at least they started getting back on track with Sonic Forces. That game finally gave me a large enough spotlight to prove that I’m still the same person I always was.

[Blacklight]: Did it? Did it really? Sonic Forces has become notorious for its poor handling of villains, and you’re right there in that group. You’re placed on Infinite’s team in the game and all of its promotional material, and yet there’s no greater mystery surrounding that fact than there is about any of the other Replicas. Of all people, Knuckles is the only person who seems to show any legitimate concern over what’s going on. Sonic is upset by it, but it certainly doesn’t seem to surprise him much.

[Shadow]: Sonic wouldn’t be upset by it if he thought it was normal, which means that I’m clearly not thought of as a villain. The running theory they give is that I was being controlled.

[Blacklight]: True. But that isn’t the only issue. We also have Episode Shadow.

[Shadow]: The best thing to happen to the Sonic franchise in twelve years.

[Audience]: *laughter*

[Blacklight]: I wouldn’t be so sure about that. You may have been the protagonist of Episode Shadow, but that doesn’t make you the hero.

[Shadow]: Coordinated attacks against Eggman’s facilities to prevent a war, plus a dramatic escape of Infinite’s most powerful Virtual prison, doesn’t sound heroic enough to you?

[Blacklight]: Well, A for effort, but…uhh…Episode Shadow shows unapologetically that your reckless behavior and total lack of empathy are responsible for instigating a war that resulted in millions of deaths.

[Shadow]: …

[Blacklight]: You don’t have to fight the hero to be a villain. And it’d be one thing if you finished what you started, but no. Instead, you seemed to disappear from the face of the Earth for six months of war, for…reasons. Finally, you return…to deliver a few lines of exposition. That’s it. That’s Shadow the Hedgehog’s role in Sonic Forces. Starting a war, then sitting back and watching while other people fight it. In fact, by the sounds of it, you’re not just a villain. You’re a master manipulator, sewing chaos in the world and never getting blamed for it.

[Shadow]: I’m a monster…

[Blacklight]: It’s okay, buddy. You’re among friends.

[Audience]: *awwww*

[Blacklight]: So, now that we know how you really feel, let’s look back on some happier times with our next question.

[Shadow]: How long is this going to go on for?

[Blacklight]: As long as I feel like it. But trust me, I think you’ll like this question. You…have a LOT of theme songs.

[Shadow]: That’s true.

[Blacklight]: (reading from list) Let’s see here… We have “Throw it All Away” from Sonic Adventure 2, “This Machine” from Sonic Heroes…

[Shadow]: That’s Team Dark’s theme, not just mine.

[Blacklight]: Technically, yes, but it’s sung from your perspective, and repeats the words “Chaos Control” more than a few times.

[Shadow]: True.

[Blacklight]: Anyways, then we have a whopping six songs from the Shadow the Hedgehog game, from “I Am…All of Me” to “Never Turn Back,” and finally a repeat of “All Hail Shadow” for Sonic ’06. You’re already making me jealous here. But there’s also some extra vocal themes associated with you in Sonic Adventure 2, “Rhythm and Balance,” “Supporting Me,” “For True Story,” “Live and Learn” to some degree, and…”The Supernatural?” I don’t even remember that one…

[Shadow]: The theme of the Final Rush level. Lyrics were a bit hard to hear.

[Blacklight]: Yeah, whatever. That’s fourteen songs! Fourteen! How in blazes do you keep track of them all!?

[Shadow]: Categorizing by game and/or level certainly helps.

[Blacklight]: That was a rhetorical question. The real question is…of all these songs, which do you feel most accurately depicts you? Which of these songs is the essence of Shadow the Hedgehog?

[Shadow]: Well…that’s a difficult question to answer. Each song serves its own purpose. Sometimes, I’m a lost soul. Sometimes, I’m fighting for my ideals. Sometimes, I’m simply the coolest.

[Blacklight]: So what, you have a song for each mood? For each day of the week!? Some of us don’t even get one theme song, you privileged little—

[Audience]: *gasps*

[Mr. C]: (offscreen) Language!

[Blacklight]: Sorry…what I meant to say was…even the newest of those songs is fifteen years old now. So which one would you say has still…retained its value, so to speak? Which one has the most staying power, which one aged the best?

[Shadow]: Well…”Live and Learn” is a classic…but it’s not quite personal enough. As fond as I am of “All Hail Shadow,” I suppose I’d have to say that “Never Turn Back” is the one that still works best for the place I’m at right now.

[Blacklight]: Ah, I see. Least favorite?

[Shadow]: You want me to choose a least favorite of my precious children?

[Blacklight]: …

[Mr. C]: …

[Audience]: …

[Blacklight]: Who are you and what have you done with the real Shadow?

[Shadow]: I was trying to be funny…

[Blacklight]: Well you’re terrible at it. Just answer the question.

[Shadow]: Fine. I’d have to go with “Almost Dead,” the theme of the Dark ending in my game. It’s noisy, it’s repetitive, and it has very little meaning beyond “being ambivalent,” which is kind of strange, since you’d think it would be about pure evil. Basically, it’s a standard heavy metal song.

[Blacklight]: Are you saying that you don’t like heavy metal? You certainly seem like the type who would.

[Shadow]: You’re talking about the wrong Shadow. Try asking the one from Sonic Boom. You might get a different answer.

[Blacklight]: Oh, I see. You’re trying to tie this whole piece together by making commentary about the harm of judging a person by appearance without understanding who that person really is.

[Shadow]: No, I just don’t like heavy metal.

[Blacklight]: Ah, to each his own, I suppose. And I’m gonna have to stop you there. Villain Chat! will be right back after a quick word from our sponsors. But before we leave, don’t forget! We’ll be doing a special Q&A session at the end of the day to answer all of your burning questions! What would you have asked Shadow in this interview? Tell us in the comments below, or shoot a message our way! Be right back!

Opinion Piece: Sonic the Hedgehog (2020 Movie)

Hey there, everyone! Long time no see! Way…too long, actually… Heh heh… When was my last post again? September? Yikes. Well, no need to worry, I’m not dead, and neither is the Chaos Project. I’ve just been taking it slow with the writing for life reasons. And video game reasons. Which are basically my life, so…

Anyways, who doesn’t love sequels!? Today, we’re looking at the follow-up to my previous analysis of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, published back in May. Oh, geez, have I still not published that Sonic ’06 review I talked about at the beginning? I don’t have time for that anymore!! *ahem* Anyways, after waiting many long months to see the much-anticipated character redesign that they delayed the movie half a year to do, an official trailer showcasing the new design has finally been released!

And there he is! What a difference it is! This new Sonic is—wait a minute…what do you mean, ‘I said that I liked the old design’? Preposterous! Who would say a blasphemous thing like that!? Oh, wait, I did say that, didn’t I?

Untitled

…Let’s talk design. To put it briefly…I’m very okay with this. To be fair, I did choose what is perhaps the most flattering shot in the entire trailer to put above. But I think that shot looks pretty darn good, actually. Sure, this new design doesn’t look flattering from every angle. And sure, I dislike that his stomach is a different color than his muzzle. And sure, I’d rather him have gloves to cover up those freaky hedgehog fingers. And sure, I don’t get why he isn’t wearing socks. But other than that…I don’t see much problem with this design. It looks like Sonic in live action.

Main point, the redesign is certainly shocking at first glance, but there’s nothing about it that makes it “not Sonic”.

No, I wasn’t exactly gushing over it. But given the public outrage I was seeing, I felt the need to express my “okay, whatever” opinion about it. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I would have been fine with it. But with that out of the way…oh, what a difference it is! Basically, what I had in mind with the old design was “choose either tan or white for his non-blue fur (not both), expand the shape of his chin and the whites of his eyes, slap on some gloves (and socks, still don’t understand why those were missing in the first place), and you’re golden.” They did all that and more. And that makes me think…maybe…too much more. I just can’t let up with these controversial opinions, can I?

Untitled

Hard to complain about the face. A “handsome package” it certainly is.

The trailer begins with Sonic in Green Hill Zone (a gorgeous representation of it, I might add). Instant respect right there. I will take any and all references to the Sonic canon I can possibly get, anything to make this movie less generic. But, yeah, yeah, I know, Sonic himself is the only topic of interest on the Internet right now. So what do I mean when I say ‘too much’? Well, one major difference between the two images shown thus far is that Sonic’s spines splayed out a bit more drastically in the original design. Though it’s hard to tell here, the spines themselves were also shortened for the new design. Both were done, I assume, to make the character look more “cartoonish,” which is exactly what people were asking for. But I would’ve been happier with them left exactly as they were. I believe I’ve mentioned this before in comparisons of Sonic’s Modern and Classic designs, but having longer spines allows for more interactions with wind and body movement, which conveys a better sense of speed and a more “cinematic” feel. Given that this is a movie, I’m pretty sure that “cinematic” is a good thing. I also have a bit of a problem with the new mouth. I’ve always felt that Sonic in 3D with his mouth modeled at the center of his face makes it look like he has this weird overbite going on. The old design had a center-mouth as well, but, being linked to a more humanoid jawline with actual lips mitigated that particular issue. I’ll still take what we have over what we might have gotten, but that doesn’t mean what we have is perfect. I’ll also note that Sonic’s serious-face doesn’t look nearly as serious anymore, but given that he’s not being portrayed as a very serious character, I can certainly live with that. I’ll also add that having the fur on his face more messy and unkempt as it was in the original design was one of the best parts of that design compared with the new one. Having it so smooth and shiny as it is in the new design makes it a lot less believable as a creature that could exist in our world, especially when viewed from far away or in less focus, making it look almost too much like the smooth clay-like texture seen on in-game models.

Untitled

So am I psychic or what?

So with that out of the way, we can finally talk about other parts of the trailer. And so…uh…here’s what I said about the last trailer.

Apparently, Sonic now generates electricity when he runs, which sticks to his quills even after they fall off. This is a fact that is constantly brought up throughout the trailer…If you’ve ever had experience with “The Flash,” a DC Comics character, you may recall that this speedster does the same thing…

Untitled.png

And look at this! We have another example of Sonic pretending to be The Flash as he goes into “Flashtime,” slowing the world around him to a pace that even “the speed of sound” wouldn’t be nearly enough to justify.

Glad to see that connection wasn’t an accident. But regardless, this scene’s showcasing of Sonic as a child roughing it on his own in some hole or basement or wherever he lives did a much better job showing him as a relatable character than the first trailer managed to do. Seeing him speeding through the comics of someone who interests and most likely inspires him, seeing him play games with himself and seek other means of amusement, all of it well demonstrated not just a concealed sense of loneliness, but also his happy-go-lucky resistance to such dark feelings. It made him feel like a relatable person, far better that the previous trailer’s brief glimpses of a pile of shoes and an old tape player did. (Not claiming that the movie has been changed in any significant way, I’m working under the assumption that it hasn’t, just trying to say that this trailer was better put-together than the last one.)  Honestly though, the baseball scene that came next was probably a bit too much, the glimpses of him in his home did the same job in less time (and with fewer fart jokes, which is always a plus). Though I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I approve of references. And the use of the Green Hill Zone theme (which is rather difficult to secure the rights to, from what I understand), was, of course appreciated, even if it is rather odd that it wasn’t used when we were actually looking at Green Hill Zone earlier.

Untitled

Ahhhh!

I know I said I was done with the design stuff, but I will note that I find the gaping size of his mouth in this scene to be downright creepy. To have his teeth that far apart, he would most certainly have to dislocate his jaw. Honestly, I never understood the whole “teeth” problem people were having with the old design, but I don’t find this to be any better. But anyways, there’s that Warp Ring again, which continues to show up in several other places throughout the trailer. I hold to what I said about the last trailer, that I’m very interested to see how they go about acknowledging this piece of lore which has never before been acknowledged in the canon. Eh, it’s probably just a meaningless plot device. Still, it’ll be interesting. What else is of interest here is that, despite appearing to be the same  Sonic screaming scene seen in the previous trailer, the context seems to be a bit different, as Sonic was holding neither the ring nor the sack(?) he seems to have now, in the previous trailer. This is the one indication I’ve seen that would suggest that modifications may have been made to the movie beyond the aesthetic since last time. (Also, the close face shots seen above may be the same scene, despite one being on a random desert highway and the other being in Green Hill Zone. I would wager that was not a change made due to the movie’s delay, rather, they showed us an intentionally false setting the first time because they wanted to leave Green Hill as a surprise reveal for later.)

Untitled

Apparently, Sonic is now an alien fugitive.

So the whole “I’m not from your planet” thing was brought up in the last trailer, but they definitely drove the point in this time. Sonic frequently refers to the fact that he is from a planet which is not Earth (even though they very specifically call the planet Earth in the Adventure era fhnwrpslsjkjdrkgksnekngsingl*mashing head on keyboard angrily*). The use of the words “planet” and “Earth” confirms that Sonic does not come from some alternate Earth, and strongly suggests that the distance between the worlds is spacial, not dimensional. Which would mean that Sonic is literally a space alien. I mean, I suppose it’s certainly one way to interpret the whole hotly-debated “two worlds” issue of Sonic lore. It’s not like space travel is taken as a very significant event in the Sonic games, so I suppose I would probably like that explanation better than the more commonly accepted separate universes, or worse yet separate canons. But can we talk for a second about Sonic’s motivations for coming to Earth? He claims that people on his planet are after his powers. What people!? Who in a universe even remotely resembling the games (Eggman excluded) would be after Sonic’s powers!? Could it be that we’re actually dealing with potential antagonists who have absolutely nothing to do with Eggman? I do sincerely hope that this is a question that will actually be answered in the movie. Eh, it’s probably just a meaningless plot device. Regardless, I think I smell a potential plot for a Chaos Project crossover episode… (or maybe that’s just the smell of body spray and an old ham sandwich).

Untitled

Never thought I’d see Robotnik do the Robot.

I’ll say this again as well. I see a lot more Jim Carrey here than I see Eggman. Or should I be saying Robotnik? I was somewhat surprised to hear the Robotnik nomer used, seeing as they seem to have been doing away with it ever since its one offhanded mention in Generations. But, as I said before, the evolution of an eccentric Doctor into the mad genius Eggman is the plotline I most look forward to seeing out of this movie. So anyways, they can shape “Robotnik” however they want, as long as I’m able to recognize him as Eggman come the movie’s end. And I won’t lie, I’ve found just about every shot he’s in to be hilarious thus far. Especially when he got punched in the face. You just don’t get that kind of satisfying slapstick violence in the games. On another note, I am getting more and more curious about Robotnik’s assistant. Is he supposed to be a reference to something? He seems…almost too perfect. You know what? Calling it right now, he’s the true villain of the movie. I got the Flash thing right, so let’s see if my future-telling powers hold out.

Untitled

Seriously though, why wasn’t this a reference to the first boss of Sonic 2?

One interesting change of note seen throughout the trailer is that they seem to have drastically reduced the intensity of the lightning effect used to represent Sonic’s powers. His discarded quills now seem to only glow, rather than having electricity constantly running through them, and the picture shown above has all of the electricity used to knock it over completely dissipated, where it was still going strong at the same point in the first trailer. Not sure that it necessarily means anything in particular, but it’s a change I’m happy they made. I necessarily mind used as a representation of his power, but dialing it back as they did better shows that it’s just a representation, rather than having his powers actually revolving around lightning as the old effects seemed to suggest.

Untitled

Glad to see that some things will actually be taken seriously.

There’s not a whole lot else to talk about from this trailer. It was certainly dedicated much more Sonic’s character than it was to the plot, and rightfully so, seeing as the character is what we all tuned in to this trailer to see. I’ll still reserve judgement on whether or not like this interpretation of the character until I see the full range of his personality, but I’m not gonna lie, his excitable personally, expressive animation, and good-looking new design made me really start to think of him as adorable, which never would’ve flown with the old design…or…any interpretation of Sonic, for that matter. Sonic has never been “cute” to me, but this movie seems to be pulling it off well. That is, of course, until things get serious, which I see as a necessity. Sonic is at his best when he knowingly risks everything to perform a heroic deed, not because it’s heroic, but because it’s right. I saw a lot of people shouting “Super Sonic!” at the picture shown above, and…I seriously doubt it. More likely just him discovering the true extent of inner power or whatever. I don’t see Super Sonic fitting into this movie at all, in all honesty. Even though he’s a blue hedgehog who runs faster than the speed of sound, they wouldn’t want to break their precious live-action realism by bringing magic fur-color-changing invincibility-granting rocks into the fray. I’d love to see it—anything that makes this movie more uniquely Sonic and less generic Hollywood is a good thing in my eyes. But it’s not happening.

Image result for sonic the hedgehog movie promotional image instagram

My boi’s back in the best pose!

So what’s the final verdict? If the old design was a 4 out of 10, this one’s a 9. Not perfect, but pretty darned close. And as to the movie itself, my opinion hasn’t changed much. I expect it to be mediocre at best. But a mediocre movie staring a lovable character can still be pretty good in its own right, so in that sense, I’m more excited to see the movie than ever before. So…

-I have no idea how it isn’t dead, but that’s a cause for celebration!
(And somebody give Robotnik a big fat break. He’s too skinny.)

Review: Season 1, Episode 9

Well…I’ve dedicated about six straight, no-distractions, nearly-uninterrupted days into writing this episode. I reached 14,000 words before I realized that there was simply no reasonable way I could publish this as a single episode. Even though I really wanted to. Seriously, this season doesn’t have room for any two-parters. So I guess I’m just expanding the season. Needless to say, this episode wasn’t exactly supposed to end where it did. It wasn’t exactly a cliffhanger, we all know what happened to Shadow in the end. But, eh, it was dramatic, and roughly in the middle. It is sort of nice now that I have the two separate “Episode Shadow from another perspective” and “the rest of Forces from another perspective” episodes. This episode was originally supposed to be just the latter with a brief Episode Shadow based introduction, but, much like Vector, I guess I just got too caught up in the story. So that “brief introduction” basically became an entire episode of its own.

I suppose I should probably explain the whole “Tales of the Resistance” thing. Sonic Forces is…incredibly unique in the way that it handled its story. Yes, I know, that’s a pretty funny way to say “terrible”. But that’s the thing. Generally speaking, Sonic game stories tend to fall into two categories. Either you have something like the Classic games or Lost World or Colors or something, where there’s a very loose, simple plot that is presented as it is with no questions to be asked, or it’s something like SA2 or ’06 where the plot is complicated and presents lots of questions, but is still designed to be self-inclusive and answer those questions for itself. But Forces is different. Forces presents this grandiose plot, one of the biggest in the franchise, but then leaves 90% of it up to your imagination. And when it comes to Sonic, I have a very active imagination. So that’s why I’ve decided to work on this sort of…subseries to take place within The Chaos Project. The idea is not to rewrite Forces, but simply to tell the stories that Forces left out. In fact, the Forces special I wrote nearly a year ago, After the Fight, would probably be considered a part of this subseries as well. I did consider writing this as its own separate story, instead of making it a part of The Chaos Project, but…why should I leave these things separate when they stand to benefit from the context of each other? Plus, as you may know from Shadow of Time, I don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to reliably working on non-Chaos Project content. I’ll probably compile it all on the website with C.P. content removed anyways.

One of the reasons I love this part so much (and why it dragged so much longer than expected) is because I couldn’t pass up the chance to reimplement some nearly-canon yet lost material of Forces. To most of my readers, half of the dialogue during the Virtual Reality novelization was probably completely unfamiliar. But all of it (right up before the end) was actual dialogue programmed into the real Episode Shadow, but left inaccessible for unknown reasons. I might’ve mentioned this before, but Shadow’s line “I thought you said he was destroyed three months ago…” was one of the most spectacular deliveries I’ve ever heard from this voice actor of Shadow. But they cut it out. So to spite them, I put it back in. Even at the end, once Shadow started talking about “Showing them Ultimate Power,” those were cut lines as well, although they seemed to be intended for Eggman’s Facility (possibly implying a cut Jackal Squad fight, curse you Sonic Team). In general, Tales of the Resistance is expected to be full of such references to cut content, little-known trivia, and even some unused concept art, as you will be seeing right at the beginning of the next part. In terms of the “little-known trivia,” I should probably mention that the first flashback scene, of Rouge coordinating Shadow’s run through Enemy Territory while Omega deals with Infinite, was actually, for the most part, straight out of one of the official Sonic Forces prequel comics. But that’s not the trivia part. What’s interesting is that that particular comic, “Looming Shadow,” ended with a brief exchange between Rouge and Shadow which was entirely missing from the original game, despite the dialogue otherwise lining up perfectly. That would be because that ending exchange was, you guessed it, made up of lines that are programmed in but cut from the final game. It’s hard to say whether the comic writers actually saw a beta version of the game where those lines were used, or if they were simply given a bulk script to work with before anything got cut. But the way I see it, I’m simply doing the comic’s work. Only better. Eat your heart out, Ian Flynn (not really I love your work plz don’t be mad).

Coming back to the episode as a whole, I would say this one in particular was inspired by a few very specific questions.
1) What the heck happened at the end of Episode Shadow that made Rouge call Shadow over?
2) Why the heck did Episode Shadow end showing Sonic being defeated by Infinite without any additional context of any kind? What was the significance of that scene?
3) WHERE THE HECK WAS SHADOW OVER THE FOLLOWING SIX MONTHS!!?? Seriously! They dedicate an entire prequel story to Shadow, and they don’t even bother answering the one question about him that was actually posed by the main game? What were they thinking!?

Over all, the ending of Episode Shadow was severely, severely lacking. It’s almost like they decided to cancel the second half so they could get it out in time for day-one DLC. IT’S ALREADY DLC!! YOU MIGHT AS WELL JUST TAKE THE TIME TO PUT ACTUAL WORK INTO IT!! Sorry. Anyways, two out of three of those questions were definitively answered by this first part. And that brings me to the Battle of Lost Valley. Green Hill was one of the many, many things in Forces that everyone reacted to, but never actually talked about. Why is it covered in sand? Why is it inhabited by an alien worm from the Lost Hex? Why is it littered with the scattered remains of Death Egg Robots? These are things that everyone points out, yet no one ever bothers answering. For these questions, I got one out of three. It’s a start. Writing the Battle of Lost Valley was immensely satisfying, just because it answered so many questions. It explains what Rouge saw at the end of Episode Shadow. It explains where the Death Egg Robots came from. It even explains where GUN went for the duration of the game. To top that all off, it gives the sand worm an actual purpose, and ties Episode Shadow quite neatly into the main story of Forces.

And I suppose that’s all I’ve got for this part!

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

Review: Shadow of Time Part 6

Well, this is where the story really starts getting interesting. The number of word-for-word scenes from the original Shadow the Hedgehog were extremely small this time. It would probably be easier to count those than it would be to count the changes. However, there was a slight problem as a result of that. This Part was supposed to reflect The Last Way, the level played during Final Mode. But because Shadow was on Black Doom’s side, there was no reason to play that level, leaving this entire part almost completely devoid of action. But then, Shadow did get to hit a few people, and I think those moments of intense drama made up for it. I wasn’t totally sure about the decision to leave Rouge alive, but I’m glad I did, because that moment of striking her proved to be very meaningful for Shadow, the final turning point in his path to Darkness. And of course, technically speaking, I wouldn’t want to kill her just in case something goes wrong involving this story’s surprise twist. It’s pretty unlikely it was ever going to matter, and at this point it’s practically impossible, but you never know. As a last note, the whole Shadow Android part was kind of unfortunate. Everything in this story so far has been very interconnected and important, so this, much like it did in the original game, kind of just felt like filler. It was necessary to give Eggman a role in the story, and introduced several necessary concepts for the big twist, I just wish the meaning could’ve been somehow greater.

And now, as usual, a list of changes.
1. Shadow defeats the Egg Dealer after already having fought Diablon.
2. Shadow has a flashback to the first Shadow Android seen in Sonic Heroes. (This was really only here obligatorily, I didn’t want to violate the one-flashback-per-part rule until the final part.)
3. Shadow obtains one of Black Doom’s trinkets, using it to cut the back of his hand, proving that he is not an android.
4. Shadow shuts up Eggman with some very hurtful insults.
5. Because Sonic and Eggman are already on the scene, and Knuckles is incapacitated, it is Rouge who shows up with Tails and Amy to stop Shadow from giving the Chaos Emeralds to Black Doom. Amy is wearing some unusual gloves.
6. Shadow attacks Rouge at the mention of Maria, knocking her out.
7. With one last chance to convince him, Sonic tries to give Shadow the Inhibitor Ring that he kept after the events of Sonic Adventure 2, which Shadow breaks in rejection.
8. The Ritual of Prosperity proceeds without The Last Way ever happening.
9. Breaking free from the effects of the nerve gas under Black Doom’s advision, Shadow kneels to him and swears his loyalty, instead of swearing to destroy him.
10. After his own transformation, Black Doom willingly gives the Chaos Emeralds to Shadow.