An Artist is Born

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[Blacklight]: Hey, how did we get the budget for a new couch?

[Mr. C]: (offscreen) We didn’t. I dragged this one in from my living room. Please try not to destroy it.

[Blacklight]: You got it, boss! So, Shadow, fan art is a pretty big part of the Sonic community, wouldn’t you say?

[Shadow]: Only for the weird ones.

[Blacklight]: You clearly haven’t been looking closely enough. The Sonic community has put forward some truly beautiful pieces of art, and many of its members have gone on to become successful artists, even employed at SEGA. Take Tyson Hesse, for example. Starting off making fan comics, he went on to create the famed animated intro cutscene for Sonic Mania, not to mention Sonic Mania Adventures, Team Sonic Racing Overdrive, and Chao in Space.

[Shadow]: That so-called “fan comic” is a monstrosity. It’s a miracle that they didn’t sue him over it. The fact that they hired him instead shows how little faith we should have in them as a company. And that’s not even the worst it gets…

[Blacklight]: Just because you don’t appreciate comedy gold doesn’t mean it didn’t take talent. Regardless, my real question is this: why isn’t there any fan art of me!?

[Shadow]: I don’t think you want that.

[Mr. C]: (offscreen) Umm…have you looked up recently? There’s literally 2D artwork of you winking at us right now.

[Blacklight]: It doesn’t count as fan art if the creator is the one who makes it! That’s just plain old art!

[Shadow]: It’s art of you. What else could you possibly want?

[Blacklight]: Says the guy who gets more fan art than anyone else! Anyone else, that is, except for Sonic himself. Sonic gets more art than anyone! His name is practically synonymous with fan art! Why can’t I get what he has!?

[Shadow]: Because you need fans in order to have fan art?

[Blacklight]: Oh really? And what do my fans have to say about that?

[Audience]: *booing*

[Shadow]: Still just an audio clip.

[Blacklight]: Regardless, I am my own biggest fan.

[Shadow]: You’re not wrong about that.

[Blacklight]: Which is why I prepared this for myself! The first ever piece of Blacklight fan art!

Blkleet

[Shadow]: …

[Blacklight]: I call him…wait for it…”Blkleet.”

[Shadow]: This is what you were jealous of? Sanic art?

[Blacklight]: Isn’t he beautiful?

[Shadow]: “He” is literally just a recolored Sanic. And not even recolored well. Would it really have been so hard to draw your own freak of nature to unleash upon this world?

[Blacklight]: Nonsense! Recolored art is the most highly respected form of Sonic fan art!

[Shadow]: And you’re getting this information from where, exactly?

[Blacklight]: The Internet, obviously.

[Shadow]: No part of the Internet I’ve ever seen before…

[Blacklight]: Well, allow me to educate you. There’s this place called “Twitter” where they share “memes,” often pronounced as “may-mays.” It’s what happens when millions of people agree on something being respected enough to “re-tweet.”

[Shadow]: Therein lies your confusion. Being respected and being funny are not always the same thing.

[Blacklight]: Preposterous! Laughter is a universal symbol of respect.

[Shadow]: In your own little universe, maybe…

[Blacklight]: Sanic is one of the most well-respected memes ever created. Not to mention Sonichu, Coldsteel, and Big the Cat.

[Shadow]: That last one’s an actual character. Is there supposed to be running theme here?

[Blacklight]: Yes. Yes there is. The Official Sonic Twitter account is the glorious wellspring from which these wonderful memes flow. Wait…Mr. C?

[Mr. C]: (offscreen) Yes, I do follow it. Well, the Facebook page, anyways.

[Blacklight]: Great! What’re the chances of getting the guy who runs it on the show?

[Mr. C]: (offscreen) Uhh…less than zero?

[Blacklight]: So that’s a maybe?

[Mr. C]: (offscreen) Sure…?

[Shadow]: Wasn’t this supposed to be a conversation about fan art?

[Blacklight]: In a manner of speaking, aren’t all memes a form of art?

[Shadow]: Or is it that all Sonic fan art is just a meme?

[Mr. C]: (offscreen) There’s no reason that heartfelt talent and unrestricted fun can’t coexist.

[Blacklight]: Nobody asked you.

Review: Season 1, Episode 18 (Finale)

Another kicker, this one was. I shouldn’t be surprised by now, the most important episodes are always the hardest to write, because everything needs to be absolutely perfect. As an episode…I’m a little bit hesitant to pass judgement on this one. I felt hyperaware during the writing process of how awkwardly paced this whole thing was, with lots of standing around and talking during what should have been intense and dramatic moments—it’s just hard to do otherwise when there are so many important things that need to be said—in addition to lots of sudden breaks between action sequences that were necessary in order to keep a wider view of events that doesn’t leave any one topic forgotten for too long. But as a conclusion to the season…I’m pretty happy with how everything turned out. I was worried about the daunting task of topping part 1 in terms of drama, and while it did take some doing, I think that I at least accomplished that much.

Not everything turned out exactly how I envisioned it. I originally imagined that the raid on the Death Egg would take up a more solid chunk of the episode, as Shadow grudgingly worked together with Sonic to overcome the station swarming with traps and guards and lots of thing to blow up. In general, the big question mark surrounding whether or not Shadow is able to trust Sonic was intended to play a much larger role in the episode. But then I threw Knuckles into the mix. Right up until the day I wrote the conclusion of Part 1, my intention was for that to be the last that was seen of Fang—he shoots Knuckles, takes the Emeralds, turns them over off-screen, and that’s the end of it. I soon decided that it would be too unceremonious of an end for a character who is effectively the main villain of the Season, so I decided the easiest way to get him to a more proper conclusion without changing plans too much would be to throw him on the Death Egg. At the time that I made that decision, it was actually supposed to be Tails who went up along with Sonic and Shadow—Knuckles was intended to be put out of commission for this episode when he was shot. So I figured that Sonic would be the most reasonable candidate of the three to have one final fight with Fang, and then Tails could even have a nice little growth story where he shows that fighting Eggman on his own is no longer proof of anything, but instead is now simply what he expects of himself as a hero. There were a few obvious logical issues that came out of all that. While Fang has certainly mentioned his hatred for Sonic quite frequently, Sonic as a rival for him hasn’t really been built up at all—they only met face-to-face once this Season before these episodes, and they only exchanged a few words. Knuckles, meanwhile, was specifically being built up as a rival (pretty much just for the purpose of taking his hat in the end), so having that final confrontation not include Knuckles would just be strange. Meanwhile, Tails, the medical expert of the Rebellion, abandoning Rouge when it’s being clearly established that she’s dying wouldn’t make any sense at all. And even then, Tails’ growth isn’t really something that’s been focused on this Season, it’s been deferred to next, so having him on the Death Egg wouldn’t really accomplish much. And so, even though it required a lot of rearranging and rethinking of this episode, I chose to swap Tails out for Knuckles. I’m definitely happy with that decision. Though I do wonder if that’s part of the reason writing this episode ended up taking so much longer.

Oh! Right, I was in the middle of something. Adding Knuckles (and Fang, counting those as one complicated decision) meant significantly increasing the amount of time that would be spent on these big boss confrontations, and so the idea of a Death Egg filled with traps and guards became not only unnecessary in terms of balancing the amount of action, but would’ve basically just wasted time. And I figured a completely empty, abandoned Death Egg would’ve added a layer of mystery to hint at Eggman’s true intentions…although I see now that may not have been clear enough, besides the part where Sonic and Shadow overtly discussed it.

There is one thing that did turn out exactly as I’d envisioned it. The simple ending scene, where Shadow learns of Rouge’s condition, and lets out all of his emotions at once on Sonic…that was a scene planned nearly word for word since before I even knew what this season was going to be about. I believe I’ve mentioned previously that the idea of Rouge turning spy for the Rebellion was one of a huge slew of ideas that were all bouncing around before the seasonal structure of this series was solidified, back in the very early phases of Season 0. Analyzing the emotional consequences of various dramatic scenarios was how I first populated this hypothetical series with episode ideas—so naturally, the scenario of Rouge seemingly turning traitor had to come with the weight of how Shadow would respond. That series of ideas eventually led me here.

And did I mention that hat? Why, yes, it was meant to be a reference to the Sonic OVA, thank you for asking. With another Sonic movie coming up, I suppose that’s pretty good timing. In fact, there may have been a couple of new Sonic Movie references thrown into this episode, if you were paying attention. But, anyways, the hat. I admit it. The idea of bringing Fang into the series wasn’t particularly appealing to me…until I realized that I could have Knuckles steal his hat. Yes. That was what sold me on the idea. That was what drove me to write basically this entire season. I regret nothing, and also everything. Usually, I pride myself on remaining vehemently game-canon, and I often have to go out of my way in order to not reference something like the Archie Comics. But if you ask me, Knuckles with a treasure hunter’s hat is the single most memorable thing to come out of that entire movie, and I just couldn’t resist the reference once I’d thought of it.

I suppose I can get into more random stuff now. The “Death Egg Emperor” was a rather last-minute addition. In the early planning phases (back when Tails was still going to be the one to fight it) a simple, perhaps slightly upgraded Death Egg Robot was what I assumed would fill this role. When you bring back the Death Egg, putting a Death Egg Robot on it seems like the next logical step. It only occurred to me as I began writing this episode that Sonic Generations, Mania, and Forces had really gone to great lengths to…I guess, normalize the Death Egg Robot. I realized that it wouldn’t make much of an impact if it were just another one of those things. The plan wasn’t necessarily to “merge” the DER with the final boss of Sonic Heroes, the whole Egg Emperor thing was just…an unfortunate(?) result of the fact that this completely new step up from the DER needed to reflect Eggman’s status as Emperor.

There were plans to have an extended ending scene where everyone meets back up, celebrate their victory, ponder the nature of Eggman’s pre-planning, and so on, but I ended up merging that all into the Daily Log addendum, mostly just for time. The episode was very ready to end, and I didn’t see much reason to drag it on longer than it had to go. I also skipped out on a scene where Eggman would be seen in his base, complaining about how much he hates that hedgehog, but it was cut for similar reasons.

Probably the most last-minute thing of all was Knuckles’ role specifically in the climax. Obviously everything about his role in the episode was last-minute, put this part was actually something that didn’t even occur to me until I wrote the words “What can I do to help?” When Tails was the plan, Sonic’s response was still going to be the same “Wait in the safety bunker” answer, and it was supposed to be a bit more touching with Sonic trying to protect his little bro. But Tails, instead of doing as he was told, would’ve instead gone out searching for a shuttle (planned before I I decided to mention that there were no shuttles) and, when Sonic realized that he was marooned and requested help, Tails would’ve swooped in at the perfect time to pick him up. That whole “I think I might need a little help here” joke was honestly just a hold-out from that otherwise-scrapped plan. The Death Egg room built over the Master Emerald Altar, then, was entirely unplanned until I realized in that moment that I needed something for Knuckles to do that didn’t involve flying. But I figured it would make sense that Eggman would “preserve” that particular location when building over Angel Island, given that Prof. Gerald proved with his replica on the ARK that the structure has a functional significance. Knuckles bringing the Master Emerald back to the closest thing left to “home” worked wonderfully to connect back to a comment he made in part 1 (not intended to be related at the time), as did his conjoined role with the Controller as mentioned by Tikal. Eggman putting a throne for himself on top of the monument that symbolically represents the people he’s conquered was a nice little cherry on top. I’ll admit that part of the inspiration behind that room, and even the throne on top, hearkens back to an issue of the new IDW Sonic Comics, in which, on a mechanized Angel Island (I had that idea first, I swear), Neo Metal Sonic awaited Sonic and friends in a throne room built out of the very same altar. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a reference, just inspiration.

A question I was sort of asking myself by the end was…”Why did I split the Death Egg in half?” Something I originally had in mind was that the Death Egg would naturally start falling apart in that way as it fell through the atmosphere, forcing Sonic and Shadow to each take a separate half. But…for some reason, that just didn’t make sense to me. But the image of the two halves falling one after the other into the ocean, like a literal egg cracked open, was one that stuck with me even as my other plans changed.

Well, I think this has gone on just about long enough. So what’s next? Well, I’ll properly announce here and now that there will be a Sonic Movie Tie-In Special published on February 14th, the day of the movie’s release. After that, we move into Season 2. Season 1 was nice and all, but…for me, it was really just a proving grounds. From here, I start telling the stories that I’ve been anticipating since I first envisioned this series, stories that could only be told on top of the strong foundations that I’ve spent all this time building. Even though you’re probably not, I hope that you’re as excited as I am.

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

 

Review: 50th Episode Special

As if it weren’t obvious, this episode was not exactly normal. I’ve mentioned multiple times before, both here and in the author’s notes of the actual story, that I had in mind the possibility of rewriting Crisis of Chaos, the four premiere episodes of the series. Besides just being generally poor in quality compared to my current standards of writing, those episodes had simply grown out of date as the series continued to grow. Being designed to come before the prequel, I of course did everything in my power to make sure that everything I would write thereafter would fit in correctly, but some inevitable contradictions and oddities popped up, especially in regards to Sonic Forces, which hadn’t even been announced at the time of those episodes being published. Eventually, I wanted to fix those problems, to address those conspicuously missing elements. But I’ve been focusing so hard on moving forwards that it always just seemed like a low priority. Then suddenly, I looked up from writing the Sonic Adventure Special, and realized that my next episode would be my 50th. Meanwhile, there were some unexpected delays in the episode that I had been planning on coming next. The secret Ninja Episode.

So, I realized that there would be no better time to go back to where it all began than for such a great milestone as a 50th episode. I figured that writing a new episode, rather than editing the old ones, would give me a lot more freedom to include things that would be considered spoilers if they’d been placed in those original episodes. Things like Fang, or even Infinite. It would also give me freedom in general, to write scenes which would have made for a very odd story flow if they’d been added before. I also figured that making a separate episode would attract a little more attention, and ensure that the new content would be read by people who already read the old episodes. So, with effectively no restrictions, I wrote.

This episode was dedicated to tying. Tying loose ends together, but also tying together the series as a whole. There are so many little things with considerable impacts that it would be hard to list them all. Probably the most important part, as mentioned above, was reconciling this story with the aspects that were introduced along with Forces (and Mania. I forget sometimes that that’s where the HBH’s come from.) It was addressing the questions of where Hero, Infinite, and of course, the Hard Boiled Heavies, were during this big war. I tried to write Hero’s introduction episode in this Season such that it didn’t matter too much, but still it left just a few questions hanging, which I hope have been answered. Infinite, on the other hand, benefited greatly from his one short scene in this episode. Where he was left at the end of Season 0, he had been given this odd sort of relationship with Blacklight which was left extremely vague, and next time we see him, Blacklight’s been dead for months and Infinite doesn’t say a word about him. I originally planned for him to at least say something at that point, but it just didn’t work with the episode. So finally, with this one, I was really able to show exactly what was going on between them. Infinite…had a friend…sort of. And that has a pretty significant degree of meaning for both of their characters.

The HBH’s are a little bit different. Technically speaking, there was nothing that really mandated their appearance in Crisis of Chaos, it would be very reasonable to say that, since they weren’t part of the big plan, they were just out fighting all the various offscreen battles. And technically that was true, though this episode actually retconned Heavy King into the ending scene of the original. But, just like Hero, it was nice to simply prove that they were there, and that they weren’t just sitting around and doing nothing.

Then, there were other things to reconcile. Things that, technically speaking, I could have planned for, but wasn’t able to anticipate, things that I would write of my own accord, knowing that they ran a bit against what the original Crisis seemed to suggest. One of the big ones there was Lumis. At the end of the Dawn of Chaos arc, Lumis was redeemed and welcomed back into the Realm of Chaos. But in the original Crisis, he was treated, both by myself the narrator, and by Chaos, as a villain, simply because all I had planned for Lumis at the time of Crisis was that he would be the future villain, with no details about how that story would end. That was reconciled in this episode by showing that Chaos was simply holding an unfounded grudge, with the added benefit of serious character development on both sides with the realization of similarities between them, and the fact that even the so-called-gods cannot be perfect.

And of course, there are the things I added simply to improve the depth of the story and characters, without any necessity otherwise. Little bits showing the relationships between Chaos, Sonic, and Shadow I found to be important because that dynamic was never really touched on outside of the original Crisis. And probably the part that added the most meat to this episode, the Commander subplot. At the time of the original Crisis, I had no idea how important the Commander would become in the grand scheme of the story. I knew I’d use him eventually, I just didn’t realize to what extent it would be. Naturally, I had to tell his missing story here after how much focus he got in Season 0, and even in the flashbacks of this season. Him combined with Hero was a fantastic way to show this war’s effect on the common man, something that was completely overlooked in the big robo-kaiju battle focus of the original Crisis.

And let’s not forgot the straight-up plotholes of the original that I had to fill here. Things that were pointed out me long after the original was published, such as “Why couldn’t the Hedgehogs just escape with Chaos Control?” and “Did Chaos die, or did he just go back to the Realm of Chaos?” and “Where did Tails get GUN technology from?” all got at least one dedicated scene to explaining. In regards to that last one, that “technology exchange” brought up for the first proper time in this episode was actually something I had planned on being discussed in a very, very similar scene in the original, and I’m not sure if I simply forgot to write it at the time, or if I actively decided to address it in what would become Forces of Chaos, and forgot once that came around. Either way, it never got addressed, so I had to fill it in here.

I’ll try not to drag this one out too much longer. I want to mention how I was randomly inspired to use the GUN Truck while watching a Sonic the Hedgehog Official Livestream a couple of weeks ago, and I’m very glad that I was. An action movie car chase scene just felt so right to use as the way that the Commander and Hero connect. To a certain extent, I was also inspired by a scene from the movie Captain America: Winter Soldier, in which Nick Fury, leader of the acronymed military organization SHIELD (I’ve drawn comparisons with the Commander before), was seemingly killed in a big, explosive car chase sequence. So what does that mean for the Commander? Is it possible that he’s still alive after being trapped in a sinking truck like that? Well, no one knows for certain. And eventually, that will become perhaps the single most relevant takeaway from this episode.

On a related note, this episode featured the second appearance of the mysterious “J. Naka”. Eventually, we will get to meet him in the present. But for now, his backstory just keeps getting built up little by little.

So what’s next after this big special episode? Normally, I’d say we’re going back to right where we left off in the main story of this season. But the specials aren’t over yet! Something important is happening in the next few days! The release of Team Sonic Racing! You didn’t think I’d let that slip by, did you? (Apparently I’ve never mentioned it on this site before. Wow, I really need to step up my game.) So does that mean we’re getting a Team Sonic Racing special episode? Actually…even better! This isn’t just any special episode. This is a very special preview at a full-length episode vital to Season 2, which celebrates all things Sonic Racing, and then some! Green Light Riders is coming very soon!

-And there’s no better feeling than to be here with you! Look out!

Review: Season 0, Episode 31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opinionated Review: Sonic Forces

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

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Review: Infinite Possibilities

I normally pre-write these, but I didn’t have any time for that! I considered just waiting until later so I could sound more knowledgeable about the details of Forces (still haven’t played yet), but I decided that honesty was more important. So, let’s talk about all of the methods I used to make you think that I’ve played Forces, even though I haven’t! Do note, this review is for the special episode posted a week ago, not the regular Dawn of Chaos episode from a few days ago.

Of course, there were like a hundred and one quotes and references I could list off to you, but I’ll stick to the most important ones, like the words Sonic was greeted with each time the time loop iterated. “In the darkest of times…the world needs a hero.” These were the very first words that the public ever saw in regards to Forces, serving as the opening to the introduction trailer that aired at the 25th Anniversary party. I, for one, will probably never forget those words. They were the beginning of the roller-coaster ride towards what seems to have become the greatest Sonic narrative seen in the last decade. Also of note, in general, Infinite (and Sonic towards the end) quoted lines from him seen in the trailers, as well as his theme song. This helped (I hope) create the illusion that I actually knew what Infinite’s personality would be like.

Okay, on to bigger stuff. The biggest trouble I had for this episode, both conceptually and in terms of writing, was that I had no idea how Forces would end. I figured the exact content of the game wouldn’t pose too much trouble, but right up until the end I figured that there was about a 50-50 chance of a time-space reset at the end of the game. If that were the case, there would be no telling whether or not Sonic would actually remember Infinite, or any of the events of the game. So I had to work with that possibility in mind. In order to fill the content of the episode and create a sense of drama, without diverging from the Forces theme too much, nor standing too big of a chance of being contradicted by Forces, I decided that a time loop would satisfy all of those needs, while simultaneously reflecting the concept of “Infinite.” That way I only really needed to make one Forces-related event, repeated a bunch of times, and a fight against Infinite was the obvious choice for that, since the the trailers have given us a pretty good idea of his fighting capabilities and style. Of course, I knew right off the bat that I couldn’t just pull Infinite straight from Forces. I had practically no idea who that person under the mask was, and what their motives would be. I did see the sketched cover of the fourth prequel comic as it was leaked in the PDF of the first, so I knew that he wasn’t a character that we’ve seen before. And interviews with Sonic Team officials confirmed pretty resolutely that Infinite was indeed a regular animal character (animoid by my terminology) who was turned into a powerful entity by Eggman and the Phantom Ruby. And if Eggman could do it once, why not do it again? Obviously there’s bound to be some kind of reason why not, but I figure I can address that in the next chronological episode. Point is, I thought it would be a good idea to have Eggman make a new Infinite, so any discrepancy in character or plot (he might have died in Forces) could be easily dismissed. But who would this new Infinite be? Well, this arc was planned to be the return of Blacklight before Forces was even announced. And Blacklight is the kind of character who deserves to come back with a bang. So why not take care of both at once? To be honest, this episode, minus the time loop and Forces tie-ins, was pretty much how I planned to kick this arc off anyways, with a surprise, not-yet-explained return of Blacklight, who immediately takes Sonic out so that the real story can begin. So it almost feels like this Forces thing sort of fell into my lap. Of course, there were plenty of other problems, not the least of which was whether or not Sonic would remember Infinite, as I mentioned earlier. I needed to find a way, a specific behavior and/or statement from Sonic which could be interpreted either as remembering or as not remembering. What I settled on was his “This isn’t possible. Just what are you!?” If Sonic does remember, that would mean that he knows Infinite was defeated long ago, and so is baffled to see him return. If he doesn’t remember, then he is simply surprised at Infinite’s incredible power. Also related is Tails’ line of “Sonic, you can’t outspeed him!” Either he remembers this from last time, or he’s simply reacting in a different way than he did last time. I chose Chaos Control as a way to instigate the time loop because, as we know from Sonic Mania, the Ruby clearly does react in some odd way with the Emeralds, and yet I knew that the odds of Sonic ever using Chaos Control in Forces were practically zero. Seriously, I think the recent “Twitter Takeover” was the first time Roger Craig Smith Sonic has ever said Chaos Control. Episode Shadow puts a bit of a damper on things, but I still figure it’s pretty unlikely that the Emerald will touch the Ruby (assuming that Shadow has an Emerald at all. Please let him have an Emerald). Anyways, there were some other little things. I made sure to avoid having Sonic get hit by any of Infinite’s cubes, because I don’t really know what they would do (though the footage from a while ago from the Infinite vs. Avatar boss fight gives me a general idea).

Let’s see, is there anything else? Even though this episode worked out somewhat naturally with my plans, it certainly wasn’t my first idea. I considered having a sort of flashback episode, taking place during the time of Forces but from the perspective of another character. But without knowing the actual events of Forces, there’s really no character worth telling a story about who isn’t already in the game, and therefore involved in events that I don’t want to contradict. I considered bringing the Custom Hero back into the present-day fold as a character, but I couldn’t be sure that he wasn’t going to die after Forces, or get erased by the time reset or something. Besides, I don’t even know his name! (At this point I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t have a name, and that really sucks.) But anyways, the conclusion I came to just made the most logistical sense. And…I think that’s all I got until next time!

-So until next time, always see the light of hope shining in the distance…
(Gotta win, or we lose it all…)

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!

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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