Review: Season 0 Finale (Episode 32)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review: Season 0, Episode 31 (again)

Again, because the numbering system for the episodes was changed. This review is in regards to the episode that came out last week, “The Time of Reckoning Part 1.”

This episode was much more difficult than I was expecting. Every single one of these scenes was something I’ve been planning out for quite some time now, and I guess that was sort of my problem. I prepared so much that I had a hard time getting all the completely separate ideas to fit together. I had to constantly go back and edit scenes, that meditation with Chaos and Shadow was rearranged and added to at least 4 or 5 times over the course of my writing the episode. And now it’s my longest episode ever, even longer than After the Fight, the Forces Special. It’s so long, it’s going to be hard to remember what my thoughts were on the earlier scenes. But I’ll do my best.

It was a last-minute decision to include Cream, but I decided to use this episode as an opportunity to showcase as many characters as physically possible, and I decided she needed a proper introduction before Season 1 anyways. But, no need to worry about her being shoved to the side, she’ll play a more important role in the next episode. Anyways though, I was definitely happy to start a bond between Cheese and Bruno early, because that will be pretty important later. The conversation with Amy and the Commander immediately afterwards probably seemed very random, because it sort of was. But, I wanted to show off a bit of character for the Commander, I wanted to set up for his role in Cream’s plot next episode, and Amy was really just conveniently there for me to do that.

Let’s see…after that, it was my awkward best attempt at finding a good excuse for them to not go into battle right away, so Shadow and Chaos could have their conversation. I was hoping to have the vote come in as a tie, and then have Hero come in to break that tie, but the numbers just didn’t work out that way. I was kind of forcing certain votes as it was. So, I had to come up with some other way to break the tie. I considered accounting for the votes of Cheese and Bruno, but…I thought that would be a bit unfair, since it’s a given that they would vote with their partners, not to mention the fact that for the numbers to work, I would’ve needed them to each vote differently anyways, which would’ve defeated the purpose and brought back the tie.

I almost forgot about the Commander with Hero. That interaction was definitely important, and I probably would’ve led into it a bit better…if Hero could talk. But, him being silent, there’s only so much I can express with just gestures and grunts. The silent point I’m trying to make is that Hero is sort of without a purpose at the moment. He spent a long time searching for Infinite, but it seems his true calling is as a soldier. Perhaps soon, he will figure that out for himself.

Onto Shadow and Chaos. Usually here in Season 0, I write with the intention that you shouldn’t have to know what happened in the premiere, Crisis of Chaos. But in this case, I kept in mind that Chaos and Shadow were pretty close at that point. So, just when it seemed like they were starting to bond, I wanted to make a shock by having them suddenly hate each other. Of course, they were already over that by the end of the episode. One of the disadvantages of bringing Chaos in so late in the arc. Anyways though, I really enjoyed that scene, because it referenced the events of every single one of my previous arcs, which really helped to tie this whole season together in my mind.

So…did you catch any of the references during the “Null Space is leaking” narrative? I mean, Blaze and Classic Sonic were obvious, but anything else? I also referred to Boom Sonic pretty directly, the one that wears a scarf. But then there were the rest, different colors, different outfits, different numbers of spikes. The idea was sort of for you to fill in the blanks for yourself. Who had a different number of spikes? Maybe Sonic from Sonic X? Or any other cartoon, for that matter? Who has a different color of fur? Maybe Scourge? Who has a strange outfit? Maybe Stealth the Hedgehog? If you wanted to, you could even imagine Super Mario poking his head through one of those fissures, since he has a basis for crossing over with the Sonic universe. Now, to be clear, none of this is canon. Except maybe Boom, who I specifically described. But don’t expect the story to start regularly crossing over with Sonic Boom now, let alone the comics.

The fights in this episode probably felt pretty rushed, and that’s because they were. I was feeling completely uninspired when I got to each of the three major action sequences, so I skipped them, choosing to come back to them later. But, as it turned out, by the time I reached the end, I was already well over 9000 words (where I like 6000 to be my high average), and those fights still had to be written. So, I felt obligated to cut them a bit short. Besides, we’ve already seen Infinite fights like 10 different ways, and the same goes for Blacklight fights, so how much could these ones really add? But action wasn’t really the point of this episode anyway. You can think of this as more of the “character finale” while the next and last part is going to be more of the “action and plot finale.” Obviously, both have both, but this is where I wanted all of the character arcs to reach their climax, while next time is where the story itself actually resolves, obviously with a spectacular show, as I hope you’ve come to expect out of this series. I just hope that the next one doesn’t end up looking ridiculously short compared to this one. (Forget I said that. It’s actually 50% longer.)

There’s probably a lot I could say about the many important character interactions that happened thereafter, but honestly, there’s so much that happened, I wouldn’t even know where to start. And honestly, I hope that it all speaks for itself, except for the parts that will get wrapped up next episode, obviously. So…I guess that’s sort of it. So before I go, one last big announcement. One week from today, I’ll be forgoing the usual Preview piece, in favor of publishing the season finale a week early! I just finished writing last night, and as I mentioned above, it’s a big one. Like, really big. Like, more words in this one episode than in all four parts of Crisis of Chaos combined. But I promise, it will be exciting, and terrifying, and heartwarming, and it will bring everything together so that Crisis of Chaos can finally happen.

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

Preview: Season 0, Episode…31 Again?

Since last time we spoke on this series, I changed around the episode numbers a little bit. After the Fight, the Sonic Forces Special which does include a single event contemporary to the story, no longer counts towards the Season’s episode count, and is instead its own separate entity. It’s still located in the same place, it just isn’t numbered. The result of this is that all episodes thereafter had their number lowered by one, making what I once called 31 into 30, and this, which would have once been 32, into 31. Why did I do it? Well, like I said, that episode was very unusual for the story as a whole, taking place 100% in the past, so it makes sense that it wouldn’t count. I may have flashback episodes in the future, but there will always be a base in the present. But…perhaps the more important reason is that this way, the Season will now end at a nice round 32 episodes. That’s right. This is the next-to-last episode of the Season. But enough of all that, you came here for a preview, right?

Backed by Chaos, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Rouge, Omega, Vector, Espio, Charmy, Hero, Infinite, and an army of GUN soldiers, human and animoid alike, Shadow stands ready to lead the charge against the horde of Replicas that stand opposite to them, including Zavok, Metal Sonic, Chaos 0, Mephiles, and countless of Blacklight’s shadowy minion creatures. Blacklight, still bearing the mask of Infinite, and the intensely-glowing Phantom Ruby, floats high above them, slowly drifting down until he stands before his army just as Shadow does. He speaks with a strange, distorted voice overlaid with his own, “So good to see you again, Shadow. We were wondering how long it would it would take you to take our bait.” The air is filled with strange glowing fissures in space itself, leaking out small violet particles. “And we see that you brought all your friends. That will make them much easier to destroy.”

Shadow at first seems surprised at the coherence of Blacklight’s thoughts. “Blacklight…is that still you?”

Blacklight laughs softly. “Of course it’s us, Shadow. Who else would it be?”

“Us? You and who else?”

“No one else. Just us.” He places his hand over the Ruby. “We are one, now.”

“No, no, don’t you see it!? That Ruby is taking over your mind! But it’s not too late to fight it! You have to fight it!”

“Fight it? Why would we want to do that? We were always destined to be together, don’t you see it, Shadow?”

Behind Shadow, Infinite growls and clenches his hand around his blade.

Shadow responds, “What happened to the free spirit, who hated rules and wouldn’t listen to anyone but himself!? Isn’t he still in there!?”

“Yes…and no. Besides, we still listen only to ourselves. Hence, why we aren’t listening to you now. So we would suggest you stop wasting your time. That is, if you still intend to stop us.”

Shadow closes his eyes and sighs, ready to take his last shot. “I have something for you.”

“What’s this? A gift?”

“That’s right.” Somewhat hesitantly, Shadow pulls something out and holds it up high for Blacklight to see. It’s a shiny red apple.

Blacklight gasps. “Is that…could it be?”

Shadow nods encouragingly. “I brought it for you. Just you. I thought you might enjoy it.”

“Shadow…that really means a lot, you know?” Slowly, Blacklight starts to lift his mask, revealing a genuine smile underneath. But, halfway up, he seems to change his mind, and lowers the mask back down. “Only two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine more before you’ve repaid your debt to us.” He directs out a hand, a violet glow is cast over the apple in Shadow’s hand. With the flick of a wrist, the apple is plucked out of Shadow’s hand with the Ruby’s power, and drawn into Blacklight’s. He lifts his mask up again, just high enough to take a large bite. “Hm. Not bad.”

Shadow lets out another sigh, realizing that there will be no easy way out.

Through a mouthful of apple, Blacklight continues, “Well, what will it be, Shadow? Who will make the first move?”

Behind Shadow, Infinite suddenly shouts, “We will!” Sword drawn, he charges alone out of line. Immediately, Hero runs after him, raising his Wispon in preparation to back him up.

Blacklight merely laughs, extending his arms wide as a command for his entire army to charge in response.

Havoc erupts on the battlefield.

The final battle has begun.

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 31

…Do I even need to say it? Pretty much all of this was supposed to be part of the last episode. The exception there would be the scene of the Heavies’ betrayal. That was supposed to come next time. But when I realized how long this episode was getting, I decided to fastforward it a bit, so that pretty much all lose ends can be tied up before we start getting into the finale. That’s right, the finale comes next. Can’t promise it will only be one episode, but that’s hypothetically my goal.

I can say now that this ranks among my favorite episodes yet. The sheer horror and insanity of the Virtual Reality, the intrigue of the Replicas, and the satisfying character progression of the Heavies conveniently combined to make a single, focused episode. This is probably quite a bit like how episodes will look once Season 1 finally comes around, with a focused primary plot (Virtual Reality), and a subplot in the background (the Sonic Replicas), that both end up resolved by the episode’s end. And there’s a reason that I plan on making a majority of this series in such an episodic format, while only this prequel season is so serialized. It’s because those focused plots should allow for better storytelling, as they have here.

But enough of that, on to the more specific. As I mentioned above, the idea with the Virtual Reality was to make it as horrific yet ridiculous as possible. Let me start from the beginning. I don’t think it occurred to me while I was playing Shadow’s Virtual Reality for the first time, but when I was playing the Avatar’s Capital City immediately after (I jumped into Episode Shadow the moment things were cleared up after Sunset Heights). I saw those giant stretched Infinite illusions (“longbois” as I’ve seen them called), and that’s when I realized that, with Blacklight as Infinite, I’d have to step it up. If the old Infinite could concoct something that terrifying, what would a complete psychopath make? I got to planning this quite quickly. I wasn’t sure who or why at that point, but after I finished the story and looked back on it in retrospect, I realized I could best emphasize this through a complete Virtual Reality, not just illusions. Something acknowledging Blacklight’s fixation with apples quickly came to mind. It was the fake Zavok’s snake tongue from a few episodes that made me think he might have a thing for snakes as well. Between the apple, the snake, the flood, and the fact that this whole thing takes place not far from EDEN…read into that symbology how you will. Anyways though, it was only as the scene was approaching that I thought to step things up slowly, from pretty scary, to completely insane, to incomprehensible madness. As well, it was only soon before writing in the last episode that it occurred to me to make Sonic’s coma induced by Virtual Reality, which came right along with the idea to have him meet Hero in there.

And Sonic leads me on to my next topic, the Sonic Replicas. I was, to a slight degree, inspired by a fellow FanFiction user out there (if you’re reading, thanks, CapitalGMA) who I’ve been discussing the plot of Sonic Forces with for quite some time. There isn’t much relation, just the thought of the Ruby being used to create a Replica of Sonic. Mephiles in the last episode was really only there to lead into this plot point, because otherwise it would just be kind of random. I originally had it in mind to play off of the confusion between the Replicas and the Virtual Reality Sonic, make it unclear which is real and which is fake, but…I couldn’t really come up with anything along those lines. I thought it would be so completely obvious that the Virtual Reality one was real, that it would ruin the drama and uncertainty over the Replicas. And I keep saying Replicas, even though one of them wasn’t that at all. I used Heavy Magician in that way, because I wanted more than just King to be used, and I wasn’t planning on Gunner at the time. Besides King, I thought that Magician would make for the most interesting battle, but I was thinking it would be a total waste to use Magician without utilizing her ability to disguise herself as obscure and forgotten characters. But…I wasn’t quite ready to go that far myself. So, with a little inspiration, I thought instead to play a different sort of trick, fool the Resistance and the leader into thinking that Sonic had joined them. But, as I said in the last review, Sonic isn’t playable in the main story. That would’ve given it away, if you were paying attention.

Also worth mentioning is Heavy Gunner and Omega’s scene. I mentioned last time that I might hint at Gunner’s deeper backstory, and I did just that. It was just a slight reference, a little obscure by some standards, but if something that Gunner said sounded odd and familiar to you, there’s a good reason for that.

Last to talk about is the big betrayal. As I mentioned earlier, the Heavies were originally included mostly just for parity, so Eggman can have his Generals to counter the Replicas and Resistance. So in initial planning, I didn’t really think much about the possibility of the Heavies wanting to work against Eggman. I was even thinking about Eggman maybe just making his own, totally obedient Heavies, instead of taking the original Mania ones. But I was convinced, once again by my brother Yuni (he’s been helping out a lot lately) that with King ending Mania by betraying Eggman, they should likely still be working against him now. I came to agree, but I still needed my Generals! So I thought to have Eggman force them to work for him, solving both problems and opening the way to this nice character development later. The Titanic Monarch seemed like a perfectly reasonable way for the Heavies to try and get around Eggman, while also nicely tying up a severe loose end from Mania. Now Eggman is all ready for a Super fight (something I wasn’t sure about before), and he and King will be working together for a long time to come, now out of a well-established mutual respect. And…that’s all I got for today. But in the near future, keep an eye on the website for some very special bonus content.

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 30

Not again! I already mentioned that about 3/4 of this episode were supposed to be part of the last, but that one ran long. And I did have something new in mind to accommodate this episode’s new structure. And that STILL didn’t work, because this one ran long as well. This time, I had to give in and tag on a couple thousand extra words, and it still wasn’t enough. This episode originally had the title that will now be held by the next, because this one was supposed to focus on a topic that I didn’t even get to start. (Here’s a hint for you: The next episode will be called “Don’t Believe.”) That ending was just the beginning. I even had to rearrange some of the scenes to have the more dramatic ending.

Beyond all of that, I’m not sure that I have a whole lot to say about this episode. I suppose I should start with the story of Heavy King. In case it wasn’t clear, yes, I’m implying that King is the very same Egg Robo who served as an antagonist in Knuckles’ story in Sonic & Knuckles. Back when I used to play that game a lot as a kid, I would play Knuckles’ story A LOT more than Sonic’s, and I wasn’t nearly good enough to get very far in either of them. So I had no idea what this thing that isn’t Eggman was that I was fighting, because I’d never seen it as an enemy in Sky Sanctuary. In fact, I don’t think I ever figured that out until Sonic Generations came around, that was my first experience with the zone. I was probably a little bit disappointed when I learned that this thing was nothing more than a random enemy robot trying to take Eggman’s place. But there was still a latent curiosity about the character, which is probably what inspired me to make this unusual headcanon. At least, I’ve never seen it theorized by anyone else. I’m trying to establish Heavy King as a sort of rival to Knuckles, which is perfectly reasonable seeing as Knuckles had an exclusive fight against him in Mania, but now it’s a lot more personal than that. Other characters are going to have their own Heavy rivals as well, I might go a bit into Omega’s rivalry with Heavy Gunner next episode, but King is the important one for the purposes of this story, hence why he got this little backstory. Eventually, I hope to give similar backstories to each of the Heavies, basic explanations as to why the Ruby changed them each the way it did, though plans are tentative at best. Again, Gunner is currently the closest to a complete idea.

I want to talk about Infinite, but I’m not quite sure what I can say at this point. It’s not altogether clear what the future has in store for him. What is clear is that right now, he’s at his absolute lowest. And the Phantom Ruby matters more to him than anything else.

I’m trying hard to reference not just as many of my own arcs as possible, but as much of the entire Sonic history as well, for this penultimate arc of Season 0. Hence, a few things. I chose Star Light Zone for a location, because I wanted a location from the classic games that wouldn’t automatically look like a reference to Forces, Generations, or Mania, and for a place that seems like it could be of some strategic value to conquer, Star Light seemed like the obvious choice. On the opposite side of things, we have Mephiles. I never much considered what Replicas Blacklight would have during the planning phases for this arc, and when the time came two episodes ago and I only wanted three to face off against the three characters, Shadow seemed like the obvious one to exclude, to avoid confusion and unnecessary dialogue. I was fine just leaving it that way at first, but in the scene where Blacklight is pondering over what to conquer, I realized that three wasn’t really enough compared to Eggman’s five Heavies. I considered bringing Shadow back as a Replica without any fanfare, but I was also wanting to do something that would set him apart from Infinite. I remembered how I had Blacklight mention learning about Mephiles from the Chaos Emeralds, and also thought about how much people were talking before the release of Forces about Mephiles needing to be a part of Infinite’s villain squad, or even Infinite being Mephiles himself. Most importantly, I was thinking about a scene for the next couple of episodes which may have included Mephiles as a Replica anyways, with or without this introduction. So I decided with was better.

Also worth mentioning here is the Apotos ice cream man. Come on, you all remember him, right? The guy who gave Chip his name? Do you remember how he talked? I was still fairly young when I first played Unleashed, and I didn’t know much about voice actors, but when that man first started speaking, I looked around, excited to see Knuckles. But there was no Knuckles. Just a man voiced by Dan Green, the same talented actor who was voicing Knuckles at the time. Ironically enough, he also voiced Mephiles. Back on topic though, when I realized that I was sending Knuckles into the city from Unleashed, I couldn’t not make this joke, them realizing that they have the same voice. Just to drive it in, I likened the ice cream recipe to the Master Emerald, making them seem not just similar in voice, but in character as well. I was mistakenly thinking he was from Spagonia, not Apotos, so I actually ended up changing which city they were going to just to accommodate this scene. It’s not like this was totally out of the blue, I wanted him and Amy to have some kind of character moment between the battles, and this seemed like the obvious one to do.

I also mentioned the references to my own arcs. Obviously, it isn’t necessary to force references to Birth of Blacklight, since Blacklight just being here is doing that for me. To a lesser extent, the same is true about Dawn of Chaos, but I still have to have it discussed as long as Chaos himself isn’t here. But I did make sure in this episode to call back to Shadow’s time as the Black Cloak, as well as how Sonic changed all the way back in Speed of Time. The continuation from there to here isn’t as obvious, so I need to make sure that this arc properly seems like the culmination of everything that’s happened so far. It’s a bit of a shame that Sonic isn’t here for this big conclusion, but now that Sonic is training with Chaos, he’s all caught up with Crisis of Chaos, he just doesn’t need anything more. Shadow, on the other hand, is a bit farther off than I’d hoped by this point. That conversation with Tails before Mephiles showed up wasn’t totally planned, but was absolutely vital in getting him where he needs to be. The key moment can’t come until very close to the end, but he needs to go from “I don’t want to be here” to “I want to be a better person,” over the course of just a few episodes, which is really asking a lot. I planned on Birth of Blacklight being that transition point I need, but I ended up taking it way too far there (as you might have been able to tell by Shadow’s statement in the last episode about being weak and gullible at the time), and I ended up having to dial it back this time, removing that transition, which I’m really kicking myself for right about now. I just hope that I can make up for it with one powerful moment. And by the way, as to Sonic, no need to worry about him not being here. You’ll be seeing him again very soon.

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

Opinionated Review: Sonic Forces

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

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Review: Season 0, Episode 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S0 E28: No One Left to Save the World

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

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