Review: Season 0, Episode 13

Well…I lost count after two months spent writing this episode, though I’m pretty sure it came close to three. Between the Holiday Season (Thanksgiving as well as winter) and a general increased work load that I had to deal with, I practically wrote this entire episode one paragraph at a time. Hopefully that didn’t mess up the flow too badly. This also marks the lengthiest episode yet at 8600 words, even more than the last finale. But, as with last time, I wanted nothing important left unsaid, and I didn’t want to split it into any more episodes. But enough about that boring stuff.

I promised some background for King, so I guess I’ll start with that. He started out as just about the most flat, unoriginal villain that could ever exist. He’s only there because I needed our superhero to face off against a villain. As for what he would do and how he would do it, I took some inspiration from various depictions of Marvel Comics’ Kingpin villain, and the naming is not unrelated. To be honest, I really had no idea what I was doing. But as I was writing King’s first scene, I first decided to hide his face, make it seem more menacing, like Shadow had a real reason to be so concerned with him. I was still unsure at that point whether or not I wanted to make King a real wolf, but I decided last second to give him a mechanical arm that he constructed himself, so that I wouldn’t have to make that decision and reveal his species right then and there, as well as to show off some of his engineering skills that had been talked about at that point, but not very well shown. (I decided for certain that he would be a wolf by the time the scene was over.) The rest of his character grew from there. I was able to expand just from that one scene that he is obsessed with his own technology and its perfection over biology, that he has a loathing for most humans, and that he was affected in a deeply personal manner by the Black Arms invasion (and Shadow by extension). The specifics came as time went on.

I suppose one other point from this episode to mention is the role that G.U.N. has been playing so far, an almost antagonistic one. The reason why I’m revealing all of these facts seeming to suggest that they’re corrupt and untrustworthy…I suppose it’s all rooted in the fact that they have played so many similar roles in the past, despite supposedly being a force for good. In both Sonic Adventure 2 and Shadow the Hedgehog, G.U.N. hurt you a whole lot more than they help you, despite being the hero. Sonic 06 is the only G.U.N. appearance that seems to be completely benevolent, and even then I always felt that it seemed a little shady how they seemed to be stealing the Scepter of Darkness more than they were “retrieving” it. Anyways, after all of the times that G.U.N. nearly killed Sonic and/or Shadow, it certainly seems reasonable to me that neither of those two would be particularly interested in working with them, which is why it surprised me a little bit to learn that Shadow was working for G.U.N. for the first time. But I think I got it to work in a way that all makes sense. Point is, after making so many questionable actions, it would’ve seemed wrong to me to make them completely in the right now. So, I thought it would make for good story for all of the characters involved to have a lot of friction between them. Of course, this little sub-plot of G.U.N.’s evolution is far from over. Speaking of G.U.N. and Sonic 06, there was one ridiculously obscure reference I threw in there at the last moment. Rouge mentioned how she had to be trained in hacking King technology by “Old Frances from the decryption unit.” This refers to one of the Town Mission NPCs from that game, who introduced herself as the head of the G.U.N. Decryption Unit, and wanted to test the player’s IQ for candidacy to join the unit. This reference was not in the original episode, but I added it just before publishing, because these random obscure references to other games is exactly the kind of thing I want to use in order to help tie the whole Sonic game universe together.

Now, there’s one big thing I haven’t talked about yet. The Black Cloak arc is inspired by a theoretical game idea, just like all of the others of Season 0. Of course, this is the only arc that I didn’t conceptualize until after coming up with the whole Season 0 idea, but I still made it to fit in with the rest. Anyways, this, like many other Sonic games, would be much different as compared to previous ones. Rather than an adventure game, or a high-speed platformer, this game would function a lot more like…well, a superhero game. The number of “levels” as compared to most Sonic games would be relatively few, but that’s because a vast majority of the game’s content comes in the form of a huge hub world, that of Westopolis. Between levels, the player would be allowed to freely explore the city, playing as either Sonic, Rouge, or Black Cloak, depending on the point in the story. This hub world would be full of various NPCs to speak with (not unlike 06), and missions to complete, such as the fighting of randomized crimes including robberies, muggings, etc, as well as specific quests provided by some of those random NPCs, in addition to a few familiar faces (helping Big find Froggy, anyone?) Anyways, each character has their own advantages for playing. Sonic travels through the world the fastest, obviously, and can get on top of most buildings using wall jump and parkour. Rouge can fly and climb walls, giving her complete access to every location, though she is the slowest of the three. Black Cloak is the best for fighting, dealing more damage and having a wide variety of attacks, including long-ranged ones. His other tools, such as the grappling gun, are also useful for reaching difficult areas. In addition to these, certain NPCs might only be able to interact with certain characters and not others, encouraging variety. For example, a police officer might only be willing to speak with Rouge, while a serious opposer to King might only be willing to speak to Black Cloak, and…the owner of the hotel Sonic stayed in might only be willing to speak to Sonic. Speaking of the hotel, this game would also theoretically feature the return of Chao Gardens, seen at the top floor of that hotel. (I have found myself wishing that this location had more impact on the actual story, but once I was done with it I had no further need for it except in these silly game mechanics.) Anyways, unlocked by beating the game is the ability to switch between characters in the hub world freely, in addition to a few more of those less-than-totally-canon quests for familiar faces. The only other thing to point out about the game would be the soundtrack, focused heavily on more dramatic orchestrated music, much in the style of modern superhero movies. Much of this music would be dedicated to remixes of themes from Shadow the Hedgehog, and, to a lesser extent, Sonic Adventure 2. And…I suppose that’s all I have to say for now.

Next time, witness the tale of the one called Sunlight, the New Ultimate Life Form. What is this life form, and why has its existence been kept a secret? Soon, Darkness will fall upon the Light.

Review: Season 0, Episode 12

So, a lot of topics were actually brought up in this episode which I intend to explore further in the future. Of course, there is the unnamed Chaos-proof Black Comet material, the entire reason that Eggman is involved in this event. Then there’s the general relationship between humans and animoids that King briefly mentioned. There’s also general aftermath of the Black Arms invasion, though that has been touched upon already. Lastly, there’s Shadow’s mention of his faulty memories of the events of Sonic Adventure 2. Ever since the end of Shadow the Hedgehog, it has been heavily inferred that Shadow at least has a very good idea of his life before the ARK was shut down 50 years ago, and this is supported by the thorough flashbacks he’s had of that time period. But the only memories he’s ever been shown having of Adventure 2 were a couple of brief, confusing images brought about by going to the exact place where he spent much of his time in that game. And really, he’s had no need to remember any of that. It just seems likely to me that his personal memories of those events are spotty at best, only filled in by descriptions from Rouge and Sonic. It should only follow that he still holds some resentment towards having such an important event in his life be outside his reach. Exactly which memories he does and doesn’t have, I intend to examine much more closely in the coming series.

In case you couldn’t tell, this episode was pretty difficult for me to write, took much longer than average. It’s full of way too many scene breaks, which is an indicator that I’ve run out of things to say for any given time period, and need to skip ahead. Anyways, going into this episode, I was strongly expecting it to be the final of this arc. But by the time Sonic and Shadow had broken out of their chains after that long conversation, I realized that I was pretty much out of time, so I quickly came up with a few extra scenes to help fill in the remaining episode-and-a-half.

*SPOILER ALERT*

I suppose I should probably mention the fact that Shadow is the Black Cloak. I would hope that I’ve already explained it way too thoroughly within the super long conversations within the story, but in case you’re still confused, I’ll still gladly explain my thought process. It was a thought that I had long before the concept of the Chaos Project. I thought, “We haven’t seen Shadow in a really long time. I wonder what he’s doing with his life?” Though I had done a little bit of research into Sonic 06 at the time, I don’t think it had really dawned on me that Shadow was already working for G.U.N.. But my thoughts, the answer to my question, was “He would probably want to work towards fulfilling his promise of making a better future, in a way that only he can, and likely in a way that puts him as far away from Sonic as possible (thus why we don’t ever see him).” And who goes out alone, using special abilities to help people while trying not to be discovered? Superheroes! (I know, that joke wasn’t even funny the first time.) Point is, I decided that Shadow’s personality, past, and powers would very likely lead him to become a superhero. It sounds so silly, but it just makes sense. And making him an edgy, Batman-style hero wasn’t a hard connection to make.

Anyways, when I first started conceptualizing what would become the finale arc of the entire Chaos Project, one of the many included concepts was Shadow’s return to being the Black Cloak for a brief period of time (it was only at that point that I had come up with a name for him, and even then I wasn’t sure about it). And when I decided to expand the Chaos Project backwards to include what is now Season 0, I knew that it was an absolute necessity to include a Black Cloak origin story. Thus, this arc was born. The first order of business was to get Shadow out of the military, since it would be very difficult for him to do both of these things at the same time. It just so happened to work out perfectly that I needed Shadow to help develop Sonic’s character during Speed of Time anyways, and it was very easy to add in a lead-in to this arc, which even helped inspire the setting of said encounter (I originally imagined it in an outside area where Sonic would hit a tree instead of a wall). All in all, things have been working very well for me in the way of accidental perfect planning, and I’m very glad to be having each of these arcs leading into each other without requiring the reading of any other arcs to understand, nor too dramatically impacting the story of each individually.

Wow, this was a long one. One last thing to mention is that, until literally the very last moment, this episode was intended to be called “The Shadowed Knight,” a reference to “The Dark Knight,” a Batman movie, but I decided that I didn’t like that title, so I just turned this into the first part of what was originally going to be the single-part finale episode of this arc. I was also a little afraid that that title would spoil the contents of the episode. Okay, that’s all, I promise. And I didn’t even get to mention my thought process behind King. Maybe next time. But this time, thanks for reading!

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 9

I managed to write this episode in two days, which is incredible for me. It usually takes upwards of two weeks. I guess I was just excited after just having finished the last arc. Even then, a third of the time I spent on this episode was dedicated to the Previously section at the beginning. It’s easy enough to pull quotes from Sonic Adventure 2 now that I’ve written Cast by the Light, but things from Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic 06 are a bit harder. Anyways, this isn’t my longest episode, but it’s far from my shortest.

Now onto the episode itself. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m trying to go a little darker and grittier here, while still keeping that fantasy element that remains so consistent through Sonic games. And do you know what’s both dark and gritty, and fantastical at the same time? Superheroes! Now, obviously I hope, Black Cloak is heavily inspired by Batman, hence the episode title in reference to the movie title, Batman Begins. However, all of this is not the reason that I created the Black Cloak character in the first place. That will have to wait for when his identity is inevitably revealed.

Now, besides Batman, the other source of edginess that inspires this arc is Shadow the Hedgehog itself. I decided pretty early on that this arc would have to take place in Westopolis, and the decision to start referencing Shadow the Hedgehog as often as possible followed quickly. I tried to draw a lot of parallels between Shadow’s first encounter with this city and Sonic’s newest one. For example, the hill and tree from which Sonic looked off at the city is the very same location where the opening scene of Shadow the Hedgehog began, where Shadow too had a conveniently informative newspaper blown into him. More parallels are likely to follow. Does that mean that Sonic will be tempted by Darkness, as Shadow was at this time? We’ll just have to wait and see…

One more thing we haven’t directly discussed. Where did Shadow disappear to!? Well, I can confirm that he isn’t dead. But you could have figured that out for yourself, seeing as he appears in the future Crisis of Chaos arc. I’m afraid that I can’t spoil anything else at this point, seeing as Shadow’s whereabouts are the entire driving force of this arc.

Oh, and before I leave, I almost forgot. Those sharp red projectiles that Black Cloak throws, there’s a good reason that you haven’t gotten a good look at them yet, it’s not just because they’re generic shapes or something. Their existence is inspired by the Batarang, a key weapon of Batman.

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 5

Heh heh, funny thing… I thought that I had pre-written a review for this episode after I finished writing the episode itself (that would have been back in June, if memory serves)…but if that review ever existed, it’s missing now, likely gone forever. So…let’s see what I can remember.

I mentioned the time skip that happened in the review of the last episode, and, as I said there, all it really did is cut out a lot of story-lacking content intended for the format of a game. It would have been boring and senseless for me to write, and only slightly less boring for you to read, I hope. The meaning of the episode title “In Due Time…” is that this episode served as a major lead-in to the next arc in The Chaos Project, all about what’s going on with Shadow. I guess I should go there next. For some time in this story, I have been emphasizing that Sonic, while still physically capable, has had a recent personality change that has left him less psychologically capable of being a hero, a “fool” in the words of as many characters as I could possibly get to say it. Ever since Roger Craig Smith began voice-acting for Sonic (particularly in Sonic Colors), I have been noticing such a change. I needed Sonic to be a strong and mildly serious character for my series, more like he was in the late-Dreamcast early-Modern era of Shadow the Hedgehog through Sonic and the Black Knight, as performed by voice-actor Jason Griffith (I like Ryan Drummond too, but he didn’t get as serious) . Rather than simply ignore Sonic’s current personality, as many writers would, I decided not only to do something about it, but to use it to my advantage, and give Sonic a real character development arc. I thought, “Who better to snap Sonic out of his recent clouded judgement than the strong and serious character who has been missing from his life for all of this time?” It didn’t take long after that to imagine the scene in question. Funny thing is, that scene wasn’t originally intended for this arc at all, back before I had really planned these game ideas out as a real story. It was more likely going to be in the arc which will provide backstory for Chaos the Hedgehog, which I estimate to be about 14 episodes away at this point. Of course, that arc was supposed to take place a little earlier at that point, so it wouldn’t have been all that bad that way.  Actually, I originally imagined the scene in a grassy, outside area, and Sonic would have been hit into a tree instead of a wall. Anyways, when planning out this story, after putting everything in proper order, I decided very early on that I couldn’t go writing Sonic’s dialogue in the modern style for 20 episodes before he changes, that just wouldn’t have worked for me, and I don’t think that I could’ve been able to keep it up. So I knew that I had to do it now or never, and I chose to do it now. You may or may not have noticed a slight oddity in that Sonic was sent after a Sapphire which was only a very brief time in his own future, which Janice could easily have chosen as the time to recruit Sonic and sent him after it immediately. I still have a couple of excuses for that, either that Janice hadn’t found that Sapphire yet, or that she didn’t need to send him after it because she thought it would be faster to give him the one that she had. Point is, you may have noticed that the scene was kind of spliced in there. I could potentially have avoided such awkwardness by making the event in Sonic’s somewhat distant future instead, and there would have been an interesting layer of story added by having older Shadow suggest that Sonic has been this “fool” for years and years, and something went very wrong because of it. That would have been a nice bit of inspiration for Sonic to make the change. It was a choice between that, and leading into the next arc of this story with Shadow (which wouldn’t have worked if I made it in the far future). And, as mentioned above, I chose the lead-in. Maybe it was a mistake, but there’s no going back now.

What has yet to be discussed is Silver. If I remember correctly, I wasn’t 100% sure what I was going to do with that scene when I started the episode. I knew that I’d had it mentioned that Silver is “the last Controller,” and I knew I needed to do something to explain that (I originally said that because I needed some real reason as to why Silver is so important). So, I decided that he needed to go to his own future and meet himself. At first I was thinking along the lines of maybe having our Silver watch future Silver perish in some unusual manner which would somehow end the Controller lineage (perhaps by having him die in his Super Form, sort of like how the Avatar State works in Avatar: The Last Airbender). But I decided that that would require me introduce some incredible, indescribably dangerous force which would not only completely overshadow Sonic’s role in this episode, but would likely overshadow the entire arc. And then I’d have to get rid of it within half a chapter and ignore its existence for who-knows-how-many years. Instead, I decided to go with something a little more vague, suggest that something imperative is happening without outright showing it. That way, you don’t necessarily have to know the full story to understand what’s happening, while still leaving the room open for examining this idea in-depth at a later time. So, I had future Silver destroy the Chaos Emeralds, which is just as incredible, just as life-changing to know for our Silver, and still just as well explains why Silver is the last. (Still working towards explaining exactly what the Controller is.) Next came the setting. I quickly thought back to Cast by the Light (Sonic Adventure 2), and how the Master Emerald exists to counter the Chaos Emeralds. If anything has the power to destroy them, it would be that. Angel Island was the logical place to put it. Now all that’s left of note is that Silver not only saw a vision of the near-future within the Master Emerald, but activated its powers with a chant, things that only Knuckles has ever been known to do. Why that’s possible…well, let’s just say it has something to do with the concept of the Controller. But if you aren’t happy with that explanation, let’s put it a different way. Suppose, hypothetically (not actually going to spoil anything here, this is just a thought experiment), that Knuckles really is the last Echidna there is and ever will be. Wouldn’t the Master Emerald have to find a new, non-Echidna protector? Wouldn’t it be best if said protector had a pre-existing connection to Chaos, as Silver does? Not necessarily saying that Silver is the protector, but that he potentially could have the ability to interact with the Emerald. And…that’s everything that I can think of. Wow. I guess I overcompensated for the whole missing review thing. But, as they say…

– Live and learn, every day!

Review: Cast by the Light Finale

Like the episode release itself, this post details both Part 10 and the Epilogue. Starting with the beginning, I warped time a little bit to have Shadow not finish his boss fight until after the next cutscene had started, just a little creative liberty to improve the story’s flow. Next, the Final Hazard fight was fairly standard, though I did have a lot of fun picking and choosing between the large number of random lines shouted at you throughout the original fight, and stringing them together in ways which seemed to show progression that didn’t originally exist. It is notable that Sonic’s line to Shadow after the fight “at this rate your Super Form won’t last,” was supposed to be said during the fight if you start to run out of rings as Shadow. I moved it over to help convey the same sense of drama at a more appropriate time. Also added to that scene was the flashback describing Shadow’s Inhibitor Rings. What those rings are supposed to be is never once mentioned in the original game, and Shadow isn’t even seen removing them, despite the fact that Sonic is holding one of them later. However, I believe it was Sonic 06 that first canonized them as specifically being Inhibitor Rings, in the final cutscene of his story after the fight with Mephiles. Anyways, I felt it very much needed to be retroactively added. The last change in that scene was an added event in which Sonic grudgingly chooses not to save Shadow. In the original, the possibility of Shadow’s being rescued is not even considered, despite the fact that there’s no specific reason why Sonic can’t have gone after him.

Next is the change that came to what was originally the credits sequence. Particularly the discussion between Tails and Eggman. In the original, Tails shouted, at random, in an almost creepy manner, “We all did it together!” He’s quite famous for that line, actually. That’s why I saw it as particularly necessary to fix. First, I changed his attitude and mannerisms in saying it, though I didn’t remove or change any of the specific words said. I had it suggested that Tails is uncomfortable with the subject of idolized figures not turning out to be what they seem, explaining why he so dramatically changed the subject. Why he would have such discomfort is something that will be explored later in The Chaos Project. Anyways, perhaps that change alone might have been enough, but I took it a step further. I had Tails continue to speak, in way which ties his original statement back into the original subject, despite his discomfort. “Together” matters because it means that Eggman doesn’t need to concern himself with the grandfather that he has surpassed through teamwork. And that’s all for Part 10!

As for the Epilogue, there’s not a whole lot to say for such a short scene. It was actually quite interesting writing for it, since characters in Sonic Heroes are a lot more active and expressive than they were in Sonic Adventure 2, making the whole sequence take a lot longer to describe than it would have if the scene were made for an older game. Even in the middle of dialogue, each character would be behaving in their own way, making it difficult to get all of the timing right. But I enjoyed the change of pace. There were a few liberties taken with how long it takes for Shadow to be fully revealed, since it wasn’t kept much of a secret in the original (seeing as you’ve already chosen him on the character select screen by the time the scene starts). Lastly, I added a line to Rouge’s reconciliation at the end, detailing her own motivations which I felt were missing when defining those of the other two. And that’s all! Cast by the Light is officially finished!

– So until next time, remember to live and learn every day! And while you’re at it, don’t forget to set the stage for a heroes parade!

Review: Cast by the Light Part 8

This is where the story actually got quite difficult. At this point, the Hero story and Dark story start to contradict each other. Before, there had been minor differences such as those about who won certain fights, but then they each had the same cutscene afterwards anyways, so it was easily fixable. But much larger difference started to show up here, which you almost wouldn’t notice playing the game casually. For example, in the Dark story, Eggman defeats Tails, takes the Emerald, and tells Shadow to deal with Sonic. But in the hero story, Sonic makes it back to the ARK, defeats Shadow, puts the fake Emerald into the Cannon, and makes it back to the outside of the Research Lab just as Tails defeats Eggman. Time wise, it just doesn’t match up. Then, of course, there’s the problem of which Emerald actually makes it into the Cannon (which will be given an in-universe explanation in the next part). In the Dark story, the Cannon doesn’t explode, it just fails to fire and then the colony starts falling. In all technicality, the Dark story actually makes more sense to be what really happened, since the Cannon is in working order and is fired in Shadow the Hedgehog. Problem is, that would make for a terrible story if Tails failed to beat Eggman and then Eggman accomplished exactly what he set out to do. So, Tails beat Eggman, but Eggman still stole what he thought was the real Emerald, which, in the only explanation I could come up with, Sonic used Chaos Control to swap with the real one (and I had to add a few seconds to the timestamp to allow Sonic time to do this in a scene that didn’t exist in the original). Sonic never actually went back to the Cannon himself, allowing the timelines to line up a bit better. The only change left was to have Eggman tell Shadow to deal with Sonic during his fight with Tails instead of after.

As for other changes, the first major one was to add a thought to Shadow’s meeting with Sonic after believing him to be dead. In the original, Shadow first says that he believes Sonic’s Emerald is real, but then almost immediately turns around and accuses that Sonic can’t possibly have used a fake to do what he did. So, I felt it necessary to add a thought in which Shadow specifically realizes that the Emerald isn’t real like he thought it was, allowing for a more smooth, entire thought process to be expressed. Lastly, after Shadow’s statement upon being defeated, I added one last thought, suggesting that Shadow was, at some point, informed by the Professor about a being equal in strength to his own, able to use Chaos Control. This was a lead-in to the Chaos Project, in which I will be exploring the many memories which Shadow has still failed to recall in the present. And that will be all until next time, a special double episode for the Final Story, in which Sonic Adventure 2 reaches its final climax.

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

Cast by the Light Part 6: Unknown from M.E.

Another episode is up and ready!

You can read it right here!

“I am fighting my own mission, nothing’s gonna stand in my way, no…” With Knuckles’ mission nearly complete, he has the time to help out the others. But when his needs become different from theirs, he won’t stop for them. Let’s just hope he doesn’t crash the space shuttle…

Cast by the Light Part 5: Believe in Myself

The next episode is up and ready!

You can read it right here!

“There are things that only I can do…” And Tails must do these things as best he can if the heroes are to put a stop to Eggman without getting caught by the police. Little do they know, Eggman’s group is already prepared.

Cast by the Light Part 4: Fly in the Freedom

Another episode is up and ready!

You can read it right here!

“I can go…by myself.” So thinks Rouge the Bat as she infiltrates the G.U.N. base in search of the Chaos Emeralds. But can she really succeed on her own, or will the island blow up with her locked inside? And can Sonic and friends make it out in time?

Cast by the Light Part 3: My Sweet Passion

After all I did to get the last episode out early, this one’s a bit late. Oh, well.

The third episode of Cast by the Light is right here!

“So many things I want…” And for Amy Rose, the top of this list is Sonic the Hedgehog himself. But when she accidentally stumbles upon Eggman’s newest plot, meeting with the mysterious Shadow, she becomes determined to set Sonic free and help him save the world.