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.

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Review: Season 1, Episode 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Season 1, Episode 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 22

What was it that I said about the last episode? That I got stuck, not knowing what to write? Well, this episode took almost as long, and for an essentially opposite reason. Because I had such trouble figuring out what to write in the last episode, I thought it would be a good idea to set up an entire plot for this one. Have Sonic captured, make a sub-plot about Tails and Knuckles rescuing him. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but I felt like I spent almost this entire episode writing myself out of that hole I dug. Rather than having no idea where to go, I knew I exactly where I was going, but struggled to fill what comes in between with interesting content. It was definitely worth it, or else I would have no idea how to manage an entire 4-5 episodes for the arc. But it was troublesome.

Tails and Knuckles were an interesting development that I wasn’t really planning on originally. Even though Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles seem like a practically inseparable trio, I propose that not all is as it seems in that relationship. The only time we’ve ever seen Tails and Knuckles together without Sonic, as far as I can remember, is the opening scene for Team Sonic from Sonic Heroes, and that only lasted for a few seconds before Sonic entered the picture. We have no idea how they might have been interacting before the scene started, and so, I was able to invent my own dynamic. The idea is that Tails and Knuckles, two people with very different personalities and outlooks, actually clash strongly…when Sonic isn’t around. The three as a whole work very well together, because both consider themselves to be best friends with Sonic. But without Sonic, the two share very little in common, and so they shouldn’t get along too well. Sonic is like the glue of the relationship, holding the other two together when they otherwise wouldn’t stick. For this dynamic…I’ve actually drawn inspiration from my own personal experiences. I was once the Sonic in a relationship like this one. Once upon a time, back in Middle School, my friends and I made a successful Yu-Gi-Oh group. Every lunch period, we would stay in the cafeteria and play cards together. Anyone who would look at our trio from the outside would think that we were all very close friends. But if I ever left the room for any reason, I would always come back to find them arguing. One day, one of those arguments nearly came to blows, and it might have if I hadn’t gotten there in time. The group completely fell apart, and I haven’t heard more than a few words from those two ever since. But with the power of the pen, I was able to write a happier ending for this story.

After that…came the big robot battle royale. I’d like to confirm that “Blue Bomber” is neither a Worlds Collide comic reference, nor a Mega Man reference in general. That entire sequence was actually more of a reference to Sonic Chronicles: the Dark Brotherhood (to this day one of my favorite handheld video games of all time. Seriously, I beat that game like 8 times over). For those who aren’t aware, Sonic Chronicles was an RPG style game for the Nintendo DS, loosely inspired by, though not necessarily related to, the comics. Anyways, one component of that game’s battle system was POW moves, in which you would have to follow a correct sequence on the touchscreen in order to deal extra damage or some additional effect. Some POW move are done individually, while others require multiple characters to be on the same team. One POW move, requiring Sonic and Tails, was titled “Blue Bomber,” which behaved exactly as described in the story. Similarly, one requiring Sonic and Amy was called “Fastball.” “Spike Me” is not a POW move, as Sonic and Knuckles had no such POW move. The closest would be “Knuckles Sandwich,” which requires Amy as well as Sonic and Knuckles. At first I was just going to have Sonic shouting specific commands to everyone in addition to “spike me,” but I wanted to demonstrate the high degree of teamwork by having everyone understand what he’s saying based on no more than two words. I was just going to make up these brief 1-2 word commands, but then remembered the POW moves, and thought, “Why make it up when this is already here?”

So, what’s left? The thing I had going on with Eggman and Cubot probably seemed a little random, but that was actually me making fun of myself. I’ve noticed that, even though I have Cubot as a character, Eggman only ever calls on Orbot when something actually needs to get done. Since I don’t like to use Orbot and Cubot too much without making some kind of joke, I thought it would be fun to subvert that usual tendency by implying that Cubot screwed something up and deactivated Orbot. It’s part of the joke that you don’t really need to know what happened.

Anything else? Just as with Janice, I do wonder how much of a mystery was really left with the identities of Chaos and Lumis. Obviously, it was spoiled by Crisis of Chaos, but this whole arc has been written with the intention of forcing the reader to forget that fact and look at what’s going on for what it is. I just don’t know whether or not that was successful. I suppose that’s all for what did happen in the episode, but there’s also what didn’t. Very, very few of my original plans for this arc actually ended up surviving the writing process. Some of those original plans included Chaos having a fight with Shadow, and Eggman tricking Chaos into thinking that he himself is the Controller instead of Sonic, thereby swaying him to his side. I decided to include Amy instead of Shadow, mostly as an experiment to see how well I could perform by using only classic characters, as well as just for the sake of having Amy play some kind of important role before the season ends. As for that part about Eggman, that was mostly leftover from the original plans for the story before I had invented Lumis for Crisis of Chaos. I would have done that story if Lumis weren’t in the picture, but I decided that making Chaos an antagonist in addition to Eggman would draw too much importance away from Lumis in the end. I essentially had two different scenes planned for Chaos finally getting his wits about him: one in Eggman’s lab, and one in Tails’. I decided on the latter. And I suppose that’s all.

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

Opinionated Review: Shadow the Hedgehog (2005)

As I mentioned on the footnote of Shadow of Time, I published it to celebrate something very special to me. For the first time in my near-15 year experience with Sonic games, I can finally call myself an expert at one of them. I completed Shadow the Hedgehog’s “Expert Mode” (with 90 lives to spare at that. Thanks, chicken gun.), a feat which I assume most players never even get the chance to attempt. (Just a few days later, I finally got the seventh Chaos Emerald and experienced the final boss for the first time in Sonic Heroes. This has been a really good week for me.) Anyways, in working towards getting an A-rank on every single mission of the game, I got an excellent chance to really analyze its core gameplay elements, while, writing for Shadow of Time, I’ve gotten an equally appropriate chance to analyze the story. Normally, I wouldn’t want to review a game that I first started playing over a decade ago, but these are special circumstances. Additionally, with Mania done and Forces on the way, I am interested in establishing a baseline of comparison between classic games, Adventure-style games, and modern games. Now, since this game came out 12 years ago, it would be unfair of me to compare it directly to modern games (unlike Sonic Mania, which came out last month). So, most comparisons will be made to Sonic Heroes and other Adventure-era games. So, without further ado, let us begin.
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Review: Season 0, Episode 14

So to start with, I decided to go with a highly unusual writing style for this episode, having a story be told “vocally” as the same story can be seen progressing. I’m not going to lie, it was probably more effort than it was worth. It was incredibly difficult to find the right balance of the story to the scene, and I know that I ended up with far too much emphasis on the story. The way I had it, it would have a theoretical watcher looking at one character doing nothing for a long period of time while the story is being told, perhaps minutes on end. And where I had an important scene playing out at the same time as the story, I had to make sure that the scene would be described at the appropriate moment in the story, without interrupting the story’s flow too much. Most importantly, the way I have this episode would NEVER work out if this were a real game, seeing as this would potentially make for a 20+ minute opening scene with absolutely no gameplay. And it’s not even done yet. If this were to somehow be converted into a game, the first bit of help would be splitting the thing into part before the title screen, and part after you create your save file. Then, most of the story would probably be cut out to keep the thing as brief as possible, perhaps with the full version available to be read in the instruction manual or something. But there was something else, perhaps less noticeable, that I attempted with this episode. In the past, I’ve put a lot of emphasis on what’s being done and what’s being said. For the Black Cloak arc, I tried to shift over a little bit and put a heavier emphasis on the setting instead. And while that wasn’t ignored this time around, I tried out a new style of emphasis, this time on the more abstract thoughts and feelings of the characters, things that they wouldn’t be thinking about in words. I’d say I was inspired to do this by writing the epilogue section of Cast by the Light, the part from Sonic Heroes. What I realized while writing that was, despite all I’ve complained about its lack story-progressing cutscenes, that the cutscenes it had were detailed in the extreme. All the characters on screen at any given time show so much individualized facial expression and body language that its almost as if you can read their minds, even when they don’t say a word. When I was writing that epilogue, I had a hard time fitting the description of that detail in right in the middle of a long piece of dialogue. I tried to emulate that a little bit with this episode (and hopefully the rest of this arc), describing the feelings and emotions which you would theoretically be able to read on the characters faces, were you able to see them.

Now the interesting thing about writing this episode is that it required me to introduce a character who…we technically already know. And it made it all the stranger that we already know how he’ll be renamed in the future. But I was able to use that to my advantage a little bit, by giving Sunlight/Blacklight an odd sort of obsession over names. It already helps to show his madness, but it’s even more meaningful under consideration of the future. Anyways, it was definitely enjoyable to write for my favorite of my OCs again. But I did go for something a little different this time. Back in Crisis of Chaos, I essentially tried to make Blacklight seem criminally insane. But, in part by inspiration from one of my readers (if you’re out there, thanks Eba-Chan), I tried to make Sunlight seem crazy in a more childish, sort of endearing way. For one thing I wanted to justify Alfred’s conclusion that Sunlight was only a child and didn’t know what he was doing. But, more importantly, I wanted to put into question how much of a villain he could really be, and make it a truly emotional event when he inevitably becomes completely evil. The goal was to make you, as readers, want to root for Sunlight to be saved by Shadow and become good, even if you know that it isn’t possible.

Oh, and that reminds me. Lt. Alfred is named after the geneticist Alfred Day Hershey, known for proving that DNA contained the genetic code of life, rather than simple proteins. Not quite as well-known of a name as Gregor Mendel, the namesake of Dr. Gregor Robotnik, but I believe that the name fits quite well. As for the whole Lieutenant part…I suppose I was just trying to make fun of Dr. Eggman and Prof. Gerald by having another abbreviated title in the family. But, just to be clear, it is absolutely true that doctors in the real-life military do typically hold the title of Lieutenant. So I used that fact to make my joke seem more story-important. And that’s all for now.

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 11

I totally meant to post this last week, but I guess I just forgot. Oh, well. *clears throat*

And the plot thickens! Right now, I’m going to apologize for how ridiculously long that conversation between Sonic and Black Cloak was. Literally half the episode contained in one conversation, it’s almost a little sad. But I had a lot that I wanted to have said, and I got all of it said in a way that makes sense, so I’m proud of it. In fact, there was even a little more that I wanted to have said, but I couldn’t find a place in the conversation to put it. So have you figured out who the Black Cloak is yet? Last episode was all about throwing you off, but I dropped a great number of hints this time around. That cliffhanger at the end was one of the big ones.

Now, I am feeling a little bit sad at this point that I’m having Sonic being so mistrustful as a person. It does sort of go against his old character. But then, I suppose, that’s exactly what I’m aiming for. With a big change coming in his life, Sonic, like any other character, needs time to figure himself out. One thing I am very glad for, however, is the time he’s getting with Rouge. These are two characters who have essentially never interacted before, besides him giving her the Inhibitor Ring, and them fighting once in Sonic Heroes. Ideally, I would be showing their personalities clashing a bit more, considering that they each have very different outlooks on life, but Sonic’s character struggles are making that a lot less true. But what’s more important is that they are getting this time to bond over Shadow. In the future of the series, I have something very important planned, which requires Sonic to trust her far more than their few previous encounters would justify. And…I suppose that’s all I have this time.

– So, until next time, remember to 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!

Cast by the Light: Finale

Funny story. In all the stress of wrapping up a story, I forgot to post about it here! But the final two chapters of Cast by the Light have been up and running for some time now, Part 10: Live and Learn and the Epilogue: This Machine.

Can you feel life, movin’ through your mind…?” Shadow certainly could, as his entire life led up to his confrontation with his own prototype. Can Sonic and Shadow work together and save the planet? Will Shadow at last fulfill his promise? Or will he die, trying?

“We all danced in fire, looking through the screen…” The final battle is long over. And Rouge has moved on with her life. But looking for treasure, she finds something else instead. Something she never could have expected.

Opinion Piece: Sonic Mania

I rather enjoyed writing the opinion piece on Project Sonic 2017, so I thought that I would do another one, this time on the other game announced at the same event. Once again, watch the below trailer first if you haven’t already.

This paragraph is mostly a rant, so skip to the bottom if you want to get to actual discussion about the game. Since I started the last one with a thank you to developers for including Nintendo, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to start here by expressing my strong disapproval at this game’s nonexistence for any Nintendo platform. I don’t necessarily have any outright dislike towards X-Box or Playstation. In fact, I still own my old PS2 slim, the console on which I first started playing Sonic games with Sonic Mega Collection Plus. But as a not-particularly-wealthy gamer, I don’t have the luxury of simply getting every gaming technology available in the world. I had to make a choice between the primarily M-rated market of X-Box and Playstation, or the primarily family-oriented market of Nintendo. I chose Nintendo. It is my honest belief that Sonic as a series fits far more homogeneously with Mario, Zelda, and Animal Crossing than it ever could with Halo, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto. That being said, I still think that it’s unfair to Sonic fans to put Sonic games exclusively on Nintendo systems. What they did with Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog, I believe, is by far the best option, developing games which can play exactly the same no matter what system you own. Sonic Unleashed was also adequate, but it is unfortunate that some players (such as myself, who got the cheaper PS2 version) had to settle for non-optimal versions of the game. Anyways, what seems likely to me is that the slew of third-party developers which worked on Sonic Mania simply had a bias against Nintendo, as most third-party developers do. I find it hard to believe that a game meant to play exactly like games for the SEGA Genesis could possibly be unable to be handled by a Nintendo handheld, let alone the Wii U.
In short, when it comes to platforms of release, Project Sonic did it right, Sonic Mania did it wrong.

SM

Now, to the actual game. Unlike Project Sonic, we’ve actually been treated to a considerable amount of information about the game this time around, including the gameplay of two levels, Green Hill Zone and Studiopolis Zone (NOT pronounced “studio-opolis” as Gamexplain would have you believe). Overall, I was quite satisfied by Studiopolis. I thought that its design really did capture the feel of those classic Sonic games, particularly Sonic CD and a little bit of Sonic 2. The aesthetic background elements had exactly as much detail put into them as I would expect out of a classic game. Green Hill Zone, on the other hand…well, let’s just say that it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Rant alert! Right at the moment where the preview level transitions from an exact copy of the original level into new territory, I felt the time and effort put into that classic level just slip away. To use a quote from the 20th Anniversary book, The History of Sonic the Hedgehog,

“The level was remade countless times. It was modified and restarted again and again, and was finally completed after almost eight months of work…Sonic Team wanted to make sure that this first level portrayed their hero in just the right way.”

That’s the kind of effort that I’m talking about. That’s the kind of effort that I felt was missing from the second half of the new level. One of the wonderful things about the real Green Hill Zone is that it gives off the feeling that, in some perfect world, it is a place that could somehow really exist. That feeling is completely shattered when that spring at the middle of the level suddenly bounces you up to a huge land mass that’s just kind of chilling up there in the sky, not supported by any sort of cliff like the real level does for its highest areas. Of course, there are floating platforms in the original, but they are tiny and add to the magical feel of the place. But this particular breach of physics serves only to shatter the illusion that this is a reality which is only just out of reach. End Cluck Alert…uh, I mean, rant alert. As for the rest of the level design, it felt like it probably would have been more homogeneous in Sonic 2 than in the original, but I suppose that that much is excusable. It does, after all, have that faster-paced feel that the original Sonic the Hedgehog was a little bit lacking in, all things considered.

Next up, the music. I was really expecting something that sounded like it might have come right out of the Genesis, I was looking for a few of my most nostalgic instruments in particular. Instead the music is a little more reminiscent of Sonic CD, sort of classic-sounding in the way that it’s composed, but with no actual recognizable sound quality limitations. Below is an example, the Studiopolis theme. It’s a pretty good theme all around, but apparently I’m not as impressed as most of the vocal Sonic community, and once again, I would have rather it had Genesis sound quality to match the graphics.

Last to discuss is the entire idea of the game as a whole. I’m going to be frank here. As I’m sure you can tell, if nothing else than by the banner of this very website, I do have a thing for sprites. I find them to be quite charming, and it’s very interesting to see how much expression can be packed into so few pixels. But above all else, they are easy. Infinitely easier than full-quality artwork, at least in my opinion from my experience. And that’s why I’ve always had trouble accepting modern games which purposefully use sprites. It makes me feel like they’re being lazy, not doing as much work as they possibly could to make the game look good and professional. But that’s what makes this so weird. Sonic already tried to go back to a classic feel without sprites, in the form of Sonic the Hedgehog 4. And for some reason that I fail to comprehend, those games were apparently a failure (though I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the reason were that Episode 2 never came to a Nintendo system *cough* looking at you Mania *cough*). I felt that Sonic 4 was a great way to satisfy the Sonicwunners (to borrow a term from Pokémon players in reference to Genwunners who only like the original games) who demanded that Sonic be in 2D. As we’ve been seeing in the past few Sonic games, when those people aren’t satisfied by spin-offs, their needs instead infiltrate the games that would otherwise be entirely in 3D like many other fans (like myself) want. Anyways, I enjoyed Sonic 4, and I’m sad that Episode 3 (& Knuckles?) will never come. But, back on topic, I understand that if Sonic 4 won’t do it, this is the only way to keep die-hard fans of the classics happy. In short, the sprites, just because they’re easier to do, aren’t necessarily done out of laziness, but out of necessity.

Final Conclusions: some people think that Sonic needs a game that can restore him to his “former glory,” and this could be it. It’s not the ideal game for me, but it very well could be for others. If any Sonic game could ever be out of my playable reach, I suppose that I’m good with it being this one. Of course I would rather play it than forever go without playing it, but then, I feel the same way about Sonic 06. If this game is what it takes to keep everyone happy, then I shall embrace it with open arms.

– And until next time, you too should open your arms, and open your heart!

Edit: Direct encoding of videos, a few typo fixes, and the addition of a missing tag.