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!

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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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Sonic Forces: A Few Words

With less than one week remaining until this game comes out, I thought that I would take a moment to really think about what the game is promising and how likely it is to deliver, as compared to my initial thoughts from the game’s first announcement. Yeesh, what did I even say when this game was first announced? Let’s see here… I think it will be easiest to start with my thoughts on gameplay.

“…I was hopeful that [the Adventure-like narrative] would mean the gameplay could be closer to Adventure era as well. Although, they start with “team that brought you Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations,” which are pretty far off from adventure-style gameplay. ”

“…this was confirmed as a game in the style of Sonic Unleashed, Colors, and Generations. If they think that they can get an Adventure lover like myself to love that formula, I’m glad to see them try.”

“As for the 2D…meh. If the 3D is good, then having the 2D certainly won’t ruin the game, it will just mean having less time enjoying the maximum that the game has to offer.”

I’m going to be honest here, and I’m sorry to anyone who I might offend. I don’t like Boost formula. Personally, I find it’s tendency towards straight hallways to be intrinsically inferior to the open, yet still high-speed, exploration that the Adventure formula encourages. In recent times I’ve come to understand that Sonic Generations, Seaside Hill in particular, finds a pretty good balance. And I respect that. Of course, Sonic Generations as a whole was still plagued by far too much 2D as compared to 3D, and I don’t like that. But the point is, I’m not really in the position to analyze Forces’ gameplay as compared to other Boost games. In terms of control, I can understand the desire to have full control during quickstep sections (I hate those too), rather than being locked into using only the quickstep buttons, and I understand that as a flaw of this game compared to Generations, in addition to the missing drift ability and automatic turning. But any more specific than that, and it all seems kind of the same to me. Rather than complain about it, I’ve learned to accept that that’s what I’m getting. Based on my understanding, these specifics of the Boost formula is the primary source of legitimate dislike for this game. If the only thing worth complaining about in this game is something that I can’t realistically complain about…does that mean that this actually is the perfect Modern Sonic game for me? I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it’s a place to start. Moving on…

“Anyways, the existence of Classic Sonic pretty much removes any possible chance of other characters being involved.”

“I just find it so unfortunate, and it stands in the way of so many possible gameplay, and more importantly, story opportunities.”

Did I say that? Well, I was very wrong. It’s actually kind of insane thinking of how I went from “No possible chance of good story” to “Best story in over a decade.” I never would have thought that Classic Sonic and good story could go together in the same sentence, but here I am. It’s very hard for me to figure out what to say right now, because I feel like they’ve just made it so self-demonstrative. Obviously, the chance always exists that the full details of the game will shatter these Ruby Illusions of mine, and the story will turn out to be horribly anticlimactic. But…even if we’ve somehow already seen parts of every single cutscene in the game, the sum total will still be better than Colors. And Generations. And Mania. I’ll hold judgement on Lost World, because even though its story sucked too, it at least had some very good character going for it. What was I saying again? Oh, right. Somehow, Sonic Team has done the impossible by bringing back Classic Sonic, yet maintaining a cohesive story that doesn’t depend on his presence. I mean, imagine Sonic Rush, except that even though it is thoroughly explained how and why Blaze is there, a full, complex and enriching story existed separately from or only indirectly related to that explanation. It isn’t the obvious thing to do. It isn’t easy, either. But the results could be and are spectacular. And that’s all just the story. The other thing I mentioned was characters. Now, I’ll admit. It’s still kind of ridiculous that the playable characters of this game are Sonic, Sonic, and the opposite of Sonic. The Avatar (still waiting on that canon name, and no, Corvin the Bird doesn’t count) is slow, blandly-designed, and lacking in character. And even though I’m still not entirely sure how good of an idea the create-a-character deal is for Sonic…I’m okay with it. I see the appeal, not just for fanfic creators like myself, but for any child out there who dreams about going on an adventure with Sonic. It’s clear that the partner dynamic is going to be more than a little emphasized. On one hand, they’re really giving Tails the shaft, even going far enough to call the Avatar Sonic’s new sidekick. On the other hand, it’s opening the opportunity for a completely new, role-reversal type dynamic between Tails and Classic Sonic. What’s that? A character dynamic for Classic Sonic!? It’s actually happening! By the way, anyone else notice how Tails is taller and more mature than Classic Sonic, and yet he’s still considerably younger?

So, what’s the conclusion? Is this the perfect Modern Sonic game? No. Take the control and level design of Sonic Generations, flip the 2D-3D ratio the other way around, further expound on the intricacies of the level design, and slap on the story and creativity of Forces, and there you would have it. As Forces stands, it needs more 3D, more intricate level design, and more…something. Since the Avatar already plays so differently from Sonic, I feel like more creativity in that department would be appreciated. The addition of another playable character with more specific abilities could do it. As much as I would like that, I’m perfectly happy with how the characters are presently being used. To be totally honest, I don’t think we even need as many characters as we have in this game, as long as the characters used have variety, play important roles, and don’t get periodically forgotten. Back on topic, there is one very particular word I can use to describe my feeling about this entire game. Content. No, not like game content, like I am feeling content. Is it perfect? No. But accepting the fact that the gameplay will never be perfect for me, I derive serious satisfaction from almost everything else.

-So before I say goodbye to you, one more last fist bump!

I Know You’re Supporting Me

I almost cried. I literally almost cried.

Shadow in Sonic Forces has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for me. When he first appeared in gameplay footage for Sunset/City Heights, I was very, very excited. When the Villains trailer dropped the next day, the hype died quite a bit as I learned that Shadow was a villain, but I was still craving an answer as to why, far more so than I cared for Infinite at the time. When Enter Infinite came along, I shoved Shadow aside and never turned back, as I was far more interested in Infinite after that. I was accepting, if not satisfied, of the fact that Shadow would do whatever the heck Shadow does, and we would still get an interesting character out of Infinite either way. As we learned that Infinite is just another creation of Eggman’s, I became a bit less interested, but then this happened. I suppose I should post that last video as well. (Edit: Official English version.)

That’s all very interesting, and I’m excited for the story, but we’re talking about Shadow right now. Shadow who stood back and watched while Infinite beat Sonic to the ground. Shadow who didn’t even appear in the above story trailer. Shadow who, after Sonic Boom, had me very, very afraid for what Sonic developers really thought of him. But all of that changes now. Free DLC for all players, which includes a new playable character and 3 prequel levels to go with him (besides the “over 10 Modern Sonic-based stages” he can also play in) as well as a new side of the story. Story! I say it a lot, and I mean it! Supposedly, these new levels chronicle the fate of Team Dark (apparently that’s now an official term outside of the comics) and teach the player about the true nature and origin of Infinite. That is really exciting.

But that does bring up some concerns. Are they seriously telling me that you don’t actually learn about Infinite’s origin in the actual main game? If so, that’s a pretty bad sign for the game’s plot as a whole. I’m glad that they’re telling us at all (that’s more than we got for Lost World), but a story with a powerful villain who never gets an explanation in the main story sounds a bit lackluster. Additionally, that seems to confirm that Rouge and Omega don’t appear in any significant role in the main story, which isn’t necessarily bad, but removes the possibility of some good character interactions that could have gone on with Shadow.

And…there’s something else I haven’t mentioned yet. Even though I’ve been waiting to play as Shadow again for the last ten years, this isn’t exactly what I was hoping for in terms of gameplay. I was kind of hoping that I would never have to see Shadow in 2D. There goes that. And canonically giving Shadow Boost gameplay severely, severely decreases any future chances of him playing in the Adventure style in any future games where they might choose to bring back separate playstyles. The level design that they just showed us…looks okay at best. If they wanted to get us hyped, they should have cut the footage time in half and showed us 3D gameplay instead. Unless…Shadow is almost all 2D. *shivers* I don’t really want to think about that. But these days, who knows? Seeing as Shadow, unlike Sonic and the Custom Hero alike, has only ever appeared in 3D, it seems like this would be the correct opportunity to make Shadow’s levels, like the tag team ones, entirely in 3D (guess I never talked about tag team on this site either. Gameplay style looks like a fun changeup, all-3D levels looks and sounds very nice.). Anyways, I’m sad that it had to happen this way, but I’m thrilled that it’s happening at all. After ten years, Shadow finally gets his chance to shine. Let’s hope that Kirk Thornton doesn’t screw this up too badly.

-Until next time, let’s hope we won’t be losing Shadow before long.

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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Opinionated Review: Sonic Mania

Sonic Mania is now 1 week old. Yeah that’s right. Sonic Mania. Last I really spoke on this topic, I did nothing but whine and complain that “indie” developers are biased against Nintendo, and wouldn’t make a game for the Switch as a result. I still don’t have a very high opinion of indies, but since that time, they not only announced that it would come Switch, not only that the Collector’s Edition would come to Switch, but I, being the Sonic nerd that I am, couldn’t resist buying said Collector’s Edition (it’s pretty nice, but I’m a little disappointed in the statue. Its chin is totally flat, it barely looks like the picture at all! And then, why wouldn’t they let you put the fake Mania cartridge into the fake Genesis? Seriously. Such a wasted opportunity. I also wish it came with a soundtrack, but now I’m just rambling). So, I’ve got it, I’ve played it, and I’m prepared to make a full, detailed review, from a perspective that you shouldn’t expect to find anywhere else on the internet. I am one of an insanely small handful of people, probably in the world, who can appreciate the classic games, not hate on them just for being old, while also not being completely and utterly blinded by nostalgia. Be warned if you haven’t played the game, as the following review contains immense spoilers. It is also very long, so click the “Read More” tag to show the content.

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Review: Season 0, Episode 20

Keep in mind, this is the review for the first episode of the Dawn of Chaos arc, published (oh dear Lords of Chaos help me) 43 days ago. Let’s make a deal. I’m going to publish the next episode within the next two weeks, no matter how little I get done in that time. You have to hold me to that! Writing this arc is just as troublesome as it was last time we touched bases, but hopefully this will encourage me to finish something by that time. Anyways…

Chaos has dawned. I’ve been noticing a trend that involves me focusing on a new component of writing with the first episode of each new arc. While I wasn’t planning anything this time around, I ended up emphasizing pretty heavily the friendly banter that goes on between the characters, which I’m pretty happy with. I suppose this is probably the most “normal” of all the Sonic game ideas I’m using, as if you could use the word to describe a Sonic game. Everything else I do tends to be more on the mold-breaking side, focusing on unusual characters and topics. But this time around, it’s about Sonic and his closest friends, involved in a relatively normal adventure, giving me more time and motivation to focus on those pre-existing relationships. I didn’t mean for the opening scene to be reminiscent of the first scene of Lost World (technically the general idea was planned for before Lost World even came out), but there are definitely some clear similarities, and I suppose that emphasizes the whole “normal” thing. Of course, I think I did it better. I suppose I can also mention about writing style that I was trying to invoke the idea of a horror film when describing the movements of the mysterious blob of light.

This is probably the most reference-filled episode I’ve ever made, embracing about 17 years of history. Hopefully the references to Sonic 3 &/or Knuckles were obvious, between the Hidden Palace Zone and Sonic’s references to the day he and Knuckles met. There was also talk about Sonic’s previous Birthday party, a reference to the events of Sonic Generations. There was Sonic Adventure 2 with the references to fake Chaos Emeralds, as well as Sonic’s mention of when Knuckles popped out of a sewer. Sonic Adventure with the chant of the Master Emerald and references to Perfect Chaos (the dragon destined to destroy the world). But I’ve passed over an important point here. Sonic’s Birthday! Happy Birthday, Sonic! Now, Sonic has technically never been given an official, canon birth date before. However, it is generally accepted that his Birthday is on June 23rd, the day the original Sonic the Hedgehog 1 came out. This is the first of many characters who will be receiving birth dates in the story. Anyways, making this episode take place on Sonic’s Birthday was completely unplanned. I came in knowing that it would be during summer, and that’s about it. I was throwing around a few random dates, and one of them just happened to be June 23rd, before I realized what that meant. I was going to throw it out, but then I started thinking about the fact that my current publishing schedule would put me pretty close to that exact date. I looked at a calendar, and realized that it would theoretically be exactly one day after. I decided it was too perfect to ignore, so I adapted what I had into a makeshift anniversary episode. Not just an anniversary of Sonic, but an anniversary of the Chaos Project as well. I published the very first episode exactly one year before I published this one, on the day of Sonic’s 25th celebration last year (the buzzing still haunts my dreams). Which makes this the Birthday not just of Sonic the Hedgehog, but also Chaos the Hedgehog, both in-universe and out. That actually has some pretty interesting story implications for the future…

Coming back to the original point I was trying to make, this episode contains the first major references I’ve made to the entire Classic era, not counting a few vague references to CD. As I said, my goal in this story is to embrace all of Sonic’s mainstream video game history, and that includes the classic games. I’ve seen theories before relating to the meaning of the Hidden Palace mural, but it’s always been a supporting part of my Controller idea/theory, and I’m glad to finally show that in the story. Knuckles’ explanation that the Controller is usually interpreted as referring to the Master Emerald is actually something I realized had to be said while doing some research into Tikal for her appearance in the last arc. Apparently, I had forgotten that she had specifically figured out the Master Emerald was the Controller named in the chant. When Sonic said that didn’t make any sense in this episode, that might as well have been me talking, as I agree that it doesn’t make much sense. I’ve certainly never seen the Master Emerald “unify” Chaos before. Anyways, bringing the canon of the old games into the new games felt like good way to celebrate Sonic’s history for his anniversary.

Official Announcement: Sonic Forces me to Question My Own Judgement

Long title, but I couldn’t resist. Anyhow, I’ve mentioned a few times before that the general theme of Sonic Forces is very similar to my own ideas for this story, which scares me. I’m getting a little tired of using the words “wait and see.” Well, I waited until today, and I saw. New Sonic Forces footage has been released from E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), with more likely to come. This new footage, seen below, actually has me a heck of a lot more excited for the game than I already was, but it also makes me even more scared than ever.

The very first thing you do as Sonic is to go look for Shadow (I think)! It’s so obvious, and it’s so amazing! Story implications for this game just went through the roof! After Sonic Boom, I was really afraid for what they would do with Shadow should he ever reappear in the canon, but now it’s clear that they’re putting him in what is perhaps the exact role I would want to see. But, while nothing absolutely shockingly new happened in this footage (except maybe Silver, but that was already leaked), it put a lot of things in perspective. It is now clear that “Join the Resistance” isn’t just an arbitrary tagline. There is very clearly a larger resistance force at work than just Sonics and the Hero (or is it Avatar now?), especially given the appearance of “Soldier” during the Hero gameplay, suggesting that the forces go beyond even Sonic’s group of friends (a step above what I had planned for at least the first season, so kudos to Sonic Team for that).

Point is, this is turning out a lot closer to what I have than what I was expecting. But it’s not time to abandon ship just yet. Currently, we are finishing up the “Birth of Blacklight” arc. Next up is the “Dawn of Chaos” arc (I’ll give you one guess at the character it introduces). After that was a planned arc which does not have a solidified name yet, which would tie up loose ends and set the stage for Crisis of Chaos. The concept for that…well, let’s just call it “Shadow Forces.” It’s not exactly the same setup as Sonic Forces, but it’s very similar. Sonic becomes incapacitated, and Eggman (as well as another foe) begin taking over the world, with little to stand in their way. Tails manages to recruit Shadow to fight back, then GUN manages to recruit both of them to form a team of generals, composed of all (or most, anyways) of Sonic’s friends. What ensues is a war, including tactics of diversion and defense very similar to those described by the characters in this new gameplay footage. I can no longer ignore these similarities. That’s why I’ve decided to hold back on writing this arc altogether, until I witness the story of Forces for myself, beginning to end. November is quite a ways away. I’ll continue releasing the next two arcs as normal, but after that there will be a long break while I figure this out. I purposefully left room in the timeline for more games to happen between Sonic Lost World and Speed of Time, but I never expected something so heavy on lore after what we’ve been getting over the past 10 years or so. Worst case scenario, Sonic Forces completely obliterates any semblance of canon that my story ever had, and I’ll have to make a spectacular decanonizing special episode very soon into Season 1. That would likely mean that the events of Sonic Forces would be ignored for this upcoming arc, and it would proceed as normal. Best case scenario (which probably isn’t happening at this point because of Silver), everything about Forces falls perfectly into place, stepping on none of my metaphorical toes, in which case I might even be able to convert what I have into a Forces sequel (or at least tie-in).

Speaking of Silver, I give about a 95% chance that I’ll have to start doing some retconning (assuming that I accept Forces as canon to the Chaos Project universe). That would mean literally going back and changing the content of those episodes, and making a note on this website of what was changed. I did what I did with Silver because I assumed he would almost certainly never appear in an important role in a canon Sonic game ever again. Because of that assumption, I constructed the story in a way that does not allow for him to appear between then and 06. But now, he does. Of course, I feel like chances are relatively high (maybe 40% as of now) that this game will end with a giant reset button ala Sonic 06, self-decanonizing the entire contents of the game, including any interactions with Silver. I’m not sure why they would want to do that after the way people complained about 06, but then again, how else would they explain such a rapid removal of Eggman’s influence over 99% of the world? Of course, there are plenty of magic explanations out there, but a time reset would certainly be the easiest and cleanest. One last thing of note is the “Soldier” mentioned earlier. In my story, I have so far inferred and intend to elaborate on the fact that Shadow was one of the only animoids involved with GUN. Of course, there are others, such as Rouge, but the point being made was that it is an occupation dominated by humans. Mr. Soldier was definitely not a human. This doesn’t exactly contradict my story, but I’d say it deserves an explanation. Mr. Soldier may end up with a real name and a character-of-the-week appearance in the Chaos Project. Of course, he might not have been GUN at all, but I’d say the helmet was pretty reminiscent. I’d actually be a little upset if they decided that they should include a military that isn’t GUN. It exists for a reason. But, I suppose Mr. Soldier could be an average joe who only became a soldier when he joined Sonic’s forces, sort of like the Rebel Alliance from Star Wars. I’d be okay with that, but I still really hope they don’t ignore the existence of GUN in this game. It’d be a big waste and a disappointment.

-Until next time, remember, destiny lies before you.

EDIT: 10 steps forward and 1 step back! Take a look.

The preview image for the video alone tells you all you need to know. I was very wrong about the role of Shadow. I’m very fearful of character reversion, but, if we’re being honest, it’s small price to pay for a game with a dramatic, potentially deep and enriching story with continuity to the rest of the series. I won’t even go in to the thousand different theories running through my head. (By the way, Chaos looks gorgeous.)

Opinion Piece 2: Sonic Forces

Well… I…. No, just watch.

Well, there you have it. I first watched this video an hour before writing this, and I’m still sort of in shock. I’ve seen endless comments on just about anything Sonic-related online asking something along the lines of, “Will the third character in Sonic Forces be a self-insert?” My reaction every single time was, “What the heck would give you that idea?” Well…it is. I am not angry. Far from it, in fact. I’m just confused. If done right, this game could have had plenty going for it without such an extreme gimmick. It seems a little…desperate, I guess. I know it sounds kind of odd, coming from me, a guy whose story is practically dependent on its OCs. You’d think I’d be thrilled to make them at least somewhat of a reality. Of course, how much freedom is allowed is a complete other question, but I don’t see it as likely that any of my characters can be replicated in the game. But, the point I was originally making, while there certainly is a considerable fanbase that this would excite, I don’t know if they’re really making the right targeting choices. More on that a bit later. First, take a look at this “Hero” gameplay unveiled at the same time (“Hero” is what this guy seems to be called until further notice).

First of all, the setting of this footage has been given the newly-unveiled name of Park Avenue. Sounds a little happy, but I’m not here to criticize names. Hero uses gadgets such as a grapple gun and his wrist-mounted “Wispon” to make his way through the Eggman-ruled planet (technically it can be a girl, but I’m using male pronouns for simplicity). The first thing that I noticed is that it seems like he is not only in the same location as the Modern Sonic gameplay that we’ve seen, but that it seems like it could be literally Sonic’s level, played as a different character. This concerns me. I suppose I have no right to complain, seeing as level recycling is a major factor of the Adventure games that I hold so highly. But if Modern and Classic Sonic have completely different levels, but this character just shares his with Modern Sonic, it’s going to feel like he’s completely useless, shoehorned in just to appeal to the OC makers. Then there’s the sad fact that, based on what little footage we have, it seems that Hero has more 2D than 3D. It really saddens me, because this once-mysterious third character seemed like the perfect chance to appeal to all three of the largest fanbase factions at once. Give the Classicals Classic Sonic, the Modernists Modern Sonic, and the Adventurers this third character. A 2D style, a 3D style, and a hybrid style. Who could ask for more (bad question)? And while that may just sound like pining coming from an Adventurer like myself, it does bring up a real issue. If Classic Sonic has his complete own style, but this new character just plays like slower Modern Sonic plus gadgets, it could make the entire game feel disjointed, disproportional, whatever you want to call it. Unless, of course, Classic Sonic has as much gameplay as the other two combined, which would actually be even worse, completely ripping the spotlight away from the main character. Point is, opportunity missed, potential problems presented.

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The next thing to talk about is lore/story. First, the character himself. His existence scares me in terms of story for a few reasons. On the more obvious side, a create-your-own-character is very difficult to develop as a character, since who they are is supposed to be more dependent on you. But this person doesn’t have to have to have complicated backstory by any means, so long as his presence in the game’s narrative is justified, which is still just a little more difficult than it sounds. The most comparable thing that I’m familiar with would be Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Awakening, and its use of Robin. Robin is completely customizable to the player’s liking, including his/her name. I won’t give any spoilers for those who haven’t played, but I can say that Robin was handled perfectly, because they act as far more in the story than just an avatar. And, as much as I like Sonic, I don’t know if I trust Sonic Team to do so well, and that’s why I’m scared. Even if Hero’s gameplay were the most fun, entertaining thing to ever come the Sonic series, I wouldn’t want him to just be there because he is in terms of the story. On a lesser note, we have the logistical concerns for how the story is presented. The trailer suggests (though doesn’t confirm) that this customizable character appears in full-rendered cutscenes, which is a development nightmare. Game engine-rendered cutscenes are one thing, as all of the characters can share the same basic skeleton and movements. But as for the cinematic stuff, the scenes where all of the most important story events happen, that’s a lot harder to generalize for all custom possibilities. If you look closely at the reveal trailer, you can see how Hero’s fur blows around in the wind and explosions, which can’t translate easily to the other species choices, who don’t all have fur in that specific location. Point being, that either means they’re going to severely limit such cinematic cutscenes, which is a bad sign for the story, or they’re going to limit Hero’s appearances in such cutscenes, which is a bad sign for his personal story as well as the game as a whole. Or, they can do what pretty much no one expects them to do at this point, and put in a ton of time and effort to make this game absolutely perfect. Ha ha, as if.sonicforces-hero-screen-03-1493934652-1494948811938

The other thing to talk about is the Wispon, best seen in the image above. Supposedly, it is customizable to some degree, though exactly how is unclear. Point is, this is meant to be the next step in Color Powers, the thing that makes Wisps a real element in this game, rather than just being thrown in as they were in Lost World. It might surprise you to hear that I actually like the sound of that. As much as I disapprove of the abuse of Wisps, this is a good sign that something might actually get explained this time. The device suggests that Wisps, at least to some degree, are becoming normalized in the Sonic world, such that people are studying them and creating technology dependent upon them. I’m still waiting to hear why they left the planet and then were magically back again, but this is at least a start. The only other general reaction to speak of are the customization options. I’m fairly impressed by number of choices available…unless what we see in the trailer is all there is, in which case I’ll be disappointed. As I mentioned earlier, I doubt you can do anything with the shape of the body (or head-and-spikes) beyond the choice of species meaning that there’s pretty much no way I’ll be able to make Zero or Chaos, and, unless they specifically intend for the ability to make Shadow clones, that goes for Blacklight as well (Black Cloak is a maybe). The one other thing to point out are the freaking Chao backpacks! Not counting Generations, this is the first mainstream acknowledgement of Chaos as far as I know of since 2005 with Shadow the Hedgehog (where they had a great send-off: letting you murder a room full of them for free dark points). I doubt that it means anything for other Chao appearances in the game, but it’s very nice to see. These options are actually a very good opportunity to reference other forgotten things of Sonic history, and maybe even a few other SEGA things as well. I can only say that I hope the options are as wide and varied as possible.

https://i2.wp.com/nintendo-power.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Sonic-Forces-Custom-Character.jpgOf course, as always, we now have my specific Chaos Project-related reactions. Since that’s in recent memory (I started writing an hour and a half ago), I’ll start with the Wisps. As glad as I am that Wisps have a purpose, that also means that I’ll have to start acknowledging them as a normalized part of the world in my story, something I certainly haven’t been doing so far. If they really are so normal, it might actually make my existing episodes a contradiction, seeing as the Wisps don’t seem to exist at all. I’ll probably have to dedicate a Season 1 episode to rectifying that, which I was already planning on just for the sake of Lost World, but will now have to be a bit more complicated. Don’t expect to see any Wisps in the story until then.

Now, for Hero. I’m definitely going to have to wait to see more until I determine how to treat him in the long-run of the canon. His existence in and of itself certainly doesn’t contradict anything that I have (though his use of gadgets certainly bears a resemblance to Black Cloak). But, so far as I can tell, there is no easy way to integrate this. First of all, the red Wolf with glasses, the one seen in the trailer and gameplay, may or may not be acknowledged as the “real” face of this Hero, similar to how white hair is assumed real for Robin in Fire Emblem. It also might just be a proof-of-concept example. And Robin brings up another important question. Does this “Hero” have a default name? If he does, that, combined with the look shared by the trailer and the gameplay, may just be enough to allow for, at very least, an appearance in the Chaos Project. If there is no strongly-pushed default name like Robin, then there’s not much I can do. Of course, he could be killed at the end of the game or whatever else, making this discussion pointless. But if there’s even the slightest chance that I can use this character, I want to. More characters means more—and in some cases better—stories to tell. Maybe, if this game falls short on Hero’s backstory, I can…pick up the slack? Wishful thinking, I know. To conclude, even though a real character probably would have been better for my purposes, this guy still has some pretty good potential, if all of the stars align.

-Until next time, I’m gonna reach for those stars. Are you?

Opinion Piece: Sonic Forces

The name is real! Today, a panel was held for Sonic at SXSW (South by South-West), where details were revealed for Sonic Mania, and, more importantly, this game. The game formerly known as Project Sonic 2017 now has the official name of Sonic Forces, which I believe refers to a battle between the forces of good and evil. But that wasn’t the only news announced today, and I’m here to talk about what we now know.

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In addition to the logo pictured above, we also had a full reveal of a previously shown (but cropped) concept art, pictured below. Nothing too far beyond expectations based on what we already knew, the same dark, fiery, destructive theme. It was pretty obvious before, but it was confirmed early in the reveal that the game’s plot does involve the existence of the Eggman Empire “…as I always dreamed it!” (Quote from Mike Pollock, voice of Eggman). Also clarified information that we had before, this was confirmed as a game in the style of Sonic Unleashed, Colors, and Generations. If they think that they can get an Adventure lover like myself to love that formula, I’m glad to see them try. But as it stands, I currently and always have felt like watering down Modern Sonic’s gameplay with the 2D sidescrolling that we already get from Classic Sonic is just a bad idea, plain and simple. But once again, I could certainly learn to love the high-speed boosting style of gameplay if they execute it perfectly.

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Now, on to the real news. 3. I’m not talking about a certain non-child-friendly game series that will not be mentioned here, nor about any conspiracy theories. Three playstyles. That’s what they said this game would have. Modern Sonic. Classic Sonic. And a third. I don’t even want to begin at guessing what that third style is, for risk of disappointing myself in the future. But, needless to say, that leaves potential to include the style of gameplay which I have been sorely missing for over ten years of Sonic games, in which case I would be perfectly fine with the overuse of 2D in the other 2 styles. I would also mention that, in describing the title of the game, the words “Sonic and friends” were used, inferring that this third slot could be filled by a character other than Sonic. But that’s just a theory. A game

The video above was also unveiled at this event. The main theme of Sonic Forces. The rumors have been flying around for over a year now that Crush 40 would be performing music for this next Sonic game, though Johnny Gioeli (lead singer) confirmed in an interview some time ago that they hadn’t been in any way contacted about it or otherwise involved in it by that point. However, before this theme was played, they stated that it had only just recently been recorded, meaning that something could very well have changed since that interview, and finally come to fruition. Now, as you’ve probably listened to and heard, the above song has no vocals. However, it was confirmed that the real theme song does have vocals, and that this was merely an instrumental version. Now, let’s be honest here. The song doesn’t quite line up with Crush 40’s usual style. The guitar doesn’t even come in prominently until over 15 seconds in, and even then, it isn’t nearly as pronounced as I would expect. This probably isn’t a Crush 40 song, though I wouldn’t say that it’s absolutely impossible. What the musical style does remind me of, however, is that of Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Lost World, the final boss fight theme of the latter in particular. And Lost World had a pretty good soundtrack. It’s not like a Sonic song has to be composed by Jun Senoue (lead guitarist of Crush 40 and music director of the Sonic series starting with Sonic the Hedgehog 3) to be good. I am actually quite fond of “Endless Possibility,” the lyrical theme of Sonic Unleashed. But as a Sonic fan of the Adventure era, anything that can make this game feel more like what I know and love can be a good thing. Now, I suppose I haven’t said what I think about the song itself yet. I’ll admit, I am very happy with it, and the piano at the end got me feeling really emotional. It feels way too upbeat given the tone of the game as we’ve seen so far, but it’s still a good piece of music.

Most importantly for today’s reveals, some brief footage of gameplay. Now, around this time, they also talked a bit about the gameplay in general. They confirmed that this game runs on the entirely new “Hedgehog Engine 2.” It looks very pretty, but in all honesty, I didn’t notice anything that made it clearly superior to the old engine. The gameplay style appears exactly the same as you would expect based on how they explained this game’s relations to old ones. Though I would point out that they did not showcase any 2D sidescrolling, which could be a very good sign for me. Of course, it could just be that they didn’t want to bother showing it because it doesn’t look nearly as pretty or exciting. We’ll have to wait and see. What we don’t have to wait for is the confirmation that Wisps are indeed returning to this game. Sigh. Wisps were a very clever and creative gimmick for Sonic Colors which did a good job in tying the gameplay together with what little story that game had. Their return for Generations was perfectly normal, in fact, the Colors levels would have been rather empty without them. Then Lost World came around. The inclusion of Wisps in Lost World was ridiculous, senseless, and, quite frankly, wrong. The end of Colors clearly established that the Wisps were gone, returned to their home planets. Now…the possibility exists that Lost World actually takes place in the Wisp galaxy (or solar system or whatever), since literally the only thing we know about the Lost Hex is that it is a “floating continent.” (Honestly, it really irritates me how little we know about that entire story.) It could be a continent floating above an alien planet, no one said it had to be above the Earth we know. I probably would’ve been satisfied with that explanation. But there was no explanation, forcing us to assume that these creatures we thought were aliens also happen to live natively on a floating continent above the planet, which, apparently, no one ever noticed. And now, here the Wisps are again, not just on this distant, almost planet-like continent, but now also on what we can only assume to be the surface of Sonic’s Earth. They fuel his boost gauge, though they don’t appear quite like the same white Wisps we saw in Colors. Since it seems like this game might have an actual story, unlike what we’ve been getting recently, I really, really hope that they actually take a whole 20 seconds out of their way to explain why the heck the Wisps are still here.

Conclusion
I can no longer say that this game has the potential to be the absolute perfect game, in my opinion. But the outlook isn’t so bad. This game could still shape up into the absolute highlight of the Modern Sonic era. The soundtrack is looking good so far, they have a chance to perfect the gameplay style, and the story is looking like it might be the best we’ve gotten in ten years. I’m still looking forward to seeing what’s in store for that third playstyle, but I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high. All in all, I’m still very excited for this game. Though I am more worried than ever about it stepping on the toes of my story.

-Until next time, remember to live and learn every day!
(Couldn’t come up with a good “forces” pun.)

Edit: It has been confirmed that characters including Knuckles, Amy, and unspecified members of the Chaotix appear in the game, including dialogue spoken to Sonic over a radio during gameplay. It has also been confirmed that none of these characters are playable, and that Modern Sonic gameplay does include 2D sidescrolling “occasionally.” Just because these other characters aren’t playable doesn’t mean that they have no role in the story, which is a lot of what I care about. If they acknowledge the existence of these characters in the Sonic universe in a capacity greater than the normal pathetic cameo roles, I’ll be very happy. The sorts of roles these side characters had in Shadow the Hedgehog (2005), minus the second-player playability of course, is the kind of thing I’m talking about, where we simply come across the characters doing exactly what one might expect them to do given the situation. And of course, just because these specific characters aren’t playable, doesn’t mean that some other character won’t be. As for the 2D…meh. If the 3D is good, then having the 2D certainly won’t ruin the game, it will just mean having less time enjoying the maximum that the game has to offer. I expected as much.