Review: Season 0, Episode 24

So…here we are again. Five months later, and it’s all the same. So what am I going to say this time? That I, for the fourth time in a row, wrote a single finale episode that ended up being so long that I had to split it in two? Or perhaps that I cut out all but the most bare essentials, and still ended up with something that dragged on for far too long? Well, all of the above. But let’s start from the beginning. I was originally going to do one combined review for both parts of this episode, but that review, like the episode itself, ended up being way too long. So here’s part one instead.

I suppose I should clear up that Chaos blacked out and lost the Emerald in the last episode because Eggman used the device to control him. I tried to infer it, but it wasn’t very clear. Sonic’s concerns about his leadership skills, and subsequent reference to Zero and the Speed of Time arc, wasn’t something I was originally thinking about. It came up when I wanted to have everyone blame themselves for something to create a sense of hopelessness, and it was the best I could come up with for Sonic. I inserted the resolution to that concern in a conversation that I had been planning for a bit longer. Over the summer, I had my first real conversation with my older brother (fanfic writer Yuni Oha) about my story. He’s known about it since last December, but that was the first time we ever really talked about it. And when I brought up my headcanon on Sonic as the Controller, he brought up a point that I couldn’t ignore. While the concept of a “Chosen One” can add a certain sense of importance to the events of a story, and he agreed that my logic behind applying this concept to Sonic was sound, he warned that Chosen One implies destiny, and destiny discredits the actions and decisions of the One in question. If Sonic was really destined at birth to save the world, that means that every time he ever saved the world, it’s because he was destined to instead of because he has a kind and heroic heart. You can’t call him a hero for braving danger, because he never had a choice in the matter. I had never thought of it that way before. So I realized that I had to address it as soon as possible. And although actions speak louder than words, I decided that words were still quite important in this case. Words from someone wise, who would know exactly why it isn’t true. So I built the sunrise scene around that concept, to confirm once and for all that Sonic is as much in charge of his own actions as he ever was, even going further to say that he would still be a hero even without his abilities. Regardless, I absolutely love how that scene turned out. Besides being some wonderful and much-needed bonding between Sonic and Chaos, it also set up Lumis as a villain with much more depth, something that I was afraid I couldn’t get to work. And with that, I also disproved another common grievance with fanfiction. It is often said that fanfiction writers ruin the characters by making all of them share the writer’s opinions. Here I presented a clear difference in opinion between Sonic and Chaos, where even though Sonic agrees to protect the Balance, he disagrees on the best way maintain it. He believes some joy and some sorrow to be better than neither at all. And…I’m inclined to agree with him. I avoided the trap of using an OC to convert everyone to my opinions, by putting him against my opinions, while still making him a good person whose ideals can be respected. At least, that’s what I hope happened. This kind of thing is up to the reader.

From then through the end of part one, pretty much everything felt a bit obligatory, only existing to progress the story from middle to end, with one exception. The scene where Sonic goes into Lumis’ orb of light was, once again, meant to add depth to Lumis’ character, concluding for certain that he is not evil, but misguided. Anything else for part 1? There was that little bit Lumis said about Sonic’s pain of abandonment. That probably means something. Probably. Rewinding a bit, Eggman’s face being carved into the mountain is something that also happened in Sonic CD. Still trying to keep up those classic references. I’m glad that I got something to work out for the fake Emeralds, because I had no idea what I was going to do with them when I first brought the idea back up. Umm…the “backwards eclipse” marking the Ritual of Illumination is supposed to be what was pictured on the cover art for this arc, but that art was removed for Sonic Forces, so you can only see it in the Image Gallery now. The way Sonic tried to recharge the Chaos Emeralds was a direct callback to Sonic Adventure, where Perfect Chaos drained the negative energy of the Emeralds, but Sonic still went Super. This was an intentional subversion. Sonic proceeded to reference when Knuckles stopped the Emeralds in Adventure 2, as well as the Gaia Temples of Sonic Unleashed. And I’m pretty sure that’s everything for part 1. But…

This next part was meant to be part of the part 2 review, but that one even on its own was way too long, so I’m transferring it here. This is something that I’ve forgotten to do in every review up until now. That would be the game idea. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, every arc I write seems to be less and less like a game, but technically the underlying concept is still there…even though this one isn’t really all that thought out. This one wouldn’t have multiple stories or anything, but it would have, akin to Sonic 06, a number of “amigo” characters. In general, the game would focus on a “tag-team” mechanic, not unlike Sonic Forces. However, in this case, it would behave more like the classic Sonic games (or Shadow the Hedgehog), in that your partner would be controlled by an AI, unless a second player picks up another remote. For the most part, this team would be Sonic as the leader, with some other character following, though on certain occasions in the story, it would be Tails and Knuckles, or Knuckles and Amy, or something else like that. Different combinations of characters have different abilities and special Team Attacks, and in the post-game (as well as a few special parts of the story) you would be able to pick-and-choose both team members, some of which have access to secrets and areas which the mandated team for the first playthrough wouldn’t be able to reach. There would be a few exceptions where you don’t have a teammate, such as the tutorial Starry Hill Zone, and the first boss fight against Chaos. Although…thinking about it now, it would be pretty awesome if Chaos would be the teammate for that fight, creating a player vs. player battle. I don’t know, it’s not like I’m actually making the game. But anyways, that’s all for the basics of that. Except…I guess I never really came up with a title. Perhaps…Sonic Chaos? Oh wait, that’s already a Game Gear title. So…Sonic Chaos 2? Nope, that would be Sonic Triple Trouble. Maybe something more about the tag-team mechanic? How about Sonic Duo? Sonic Doubles? Oh, I got it! Sonic Double Trouble, make it spiritually linked to a Sonic Chaos sequel. But no, those titles are all lame. Yeesh, this is harder than I thought. Sonic Shining, reflect the concepts of Light? No, I don’t want this to sound like a horror film. Sonic Synergy, back on the teamwork concept? No, don’t want his to be confused with Sonic Boom. Sonic Fellowship…eh, Sonic Balance sounds lame, Sonic Moonstone is too vague…maybe I should just stick with Double Trouble. I don’t really know. But that’s all I have on that right now, so I suppose that wraps up this review of part 1.

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

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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!

Opinionated Review: Shadow the Hedgehog (2005)

As I mentioned on the footnote of Shadow of Time, I published it to celebrate something very special to me. For the first time in my near-15 year experience with Sonic games, I can finally call myself an expert at one of them. I completed Shadow the Hedgehog’s “Expert Mode” (with 90 lives to spare at that. Thanks, chicken gun.), a feat which I assume most players never even get the chance to attempt. (Just a few days later, I finally got the seventh Chaos Emerald and experienced the final boss for the first time in Sonic Heroes. This has been a really good week for me.) Anyways, in working towards getting an A-rank on every single mission of the game, I got an excellent chance to really analyze its core gameplay elements, while, writing for Shadow of Time, I’ve gotten an equally appropriate chance to analyze the story. Normally, I wouldn’t want to review a game that I first started playing over a decade ago, but these are special circumstances. Additionally, with Mania done and Forces on the way, I am interested in establishing a baseline of comparison between classic games, Adventure-style games, and modern games. Now, since this game came out 12 years ago, it would be unfair of me to compare it directly to modern games (unlike Sonic Mania, which came out last month). So, most comparisons will be made to Sonic Heroes and other Adventure-era games. So, without further ado, let us begin.
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Review: Season 0, Episode 21

So, this episode probably felt a bit…disjointed. Altogether, this one took about nine weeks to write. I don’t know how I can go from a two-day episode to a nine-week episode, but I was writing steadily all the way up until the wall I hit after the hedgehog (Chaos) escaped from Sonic and Amy. Over the next few days, I struggled to crank out the one very short scene immediately after. After that, nothing. Not a single word. For almost a month. I simply didn’t know what to do with it next. Several times I sat down and stared at the story, or reviewed the last episode, for an hour or more before giving up. But finally, after weeks of brainstorming, I managed to start going at about one paragraph per day of writing, and that pace finally started to increase towards the end. In the end, I actually managed to even get a few extra ideas in there which weren’t necessary for the purpose of completing the episode.

But enough of that boring stuff. Thinking back to what I can remember, I find it kind of funny, but I wrote about the appearance of Lumis just a few weeks before the appearance of the character “Steve Eggman” (Morpho) in the Sonic Boom show, who looks relatively similar to what I always imagined for Lumis.

Now, in case you couldn’t tell, the “Moonstone” is not a name which I had originally planned back in Crisis of Chaos. It would have been named such if I had been planning it. Originally it was simply to be called the rainbow Chaos Emerald, or simply not have a name at all, but I realized that I couldn’t be calling him “The Rainbow Chaos Emerald hedgehog” for the entire episode plus. I decided that it probably should get a real name, so I started looking into possibilities. There aren’t a lot of gemstones which legitimately contain multiple colors at once, but when I saw that moonstone could, I was immediately sold on the idea. I had already planned on it coming from space before then, so that fell into place quite nicely.

Another interesting note for this episode is its use of Amy. Originally, I was going to have her play her usual “mistake character-of-the-week for Sonic” role. I even set up for this by having his fur be blue at the time she sees him. But in the end, I decided that I wanted to play off of expectations instead. Last time we saw Amy in this series, she was quite a bit younger. Last time she played an actual role in the games (not counting Forces), she wasn’t all that much older. But approximately two years have passed since the events of Sonic 06, and my proposition in this episode is that she’s finally starting to mature a bit. We saw the first hints of that in Sonic Unleashed, when she actually did some work instead of fawning over Sonic the whole time. I wanted to continue the development seen through those two games. It was satisfying, in a way, making her not-totally-useless. And besides, while I haven’t decided on a concrete relative age for Chaos yet, I want him to be a sort of father figure for Sonic, which would make him much too old for Amy. I don’t want to get creepy with this.

And…there’s not a lot more I can say without spoiling the future of this arc, even though you probably already know where it’s going.

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

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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Fist Bump!

(Ugh, I can’t believe I just said that.) *clears throat* What I meant to say was, because Sonic game music matters so much to me, I’ve decided to do an entire opinion piece on the Sonic Forces announcement made today. Take a look.

Since I already brought it up, let’s talk about that title first. I guess I can see what they’re going for? They want it to sound cool, and hip, and teen-like, right? Because I have some news for them. Fist bumps aren’t cool. The line which the song title appears in, “One more last fist bump” made me cringe just as much as seeing the title for the first time did, mostly because a solid 70% of the song otherwise sounded pretty good. To move along with the negatives, the first two lines, “I can’t do this alone / Even though I am strong” made me cringe almost as much as the previously mentioned line. As someone with experience writing lines to represent Sonic, having Sonic praise himself in such a context, even when asking for help, appears pitiful and out of character to me. Of course, it’s not too far off from what we’ve been seeing in the past few Sonic games with Roger Craig Smith, but everything we know about the game so far has been leading me to believe that the writers might actually be giving him back his less obnoxious, more serious character seen in games like Sonic Unleashed. Now, what these two negative factors do heavily remind me of is Sonic’s character in the Sonic Boom series, a caricature of the already less-than-desirable modern personality. Then again, I don’t think that character would even be humble enough to admit the need for help, even if praising himself while doing so. I hope I’m on the side of the majority here who wouldn’t want to see the Boom personality in a real game, right?

Now for the stuff I’m not really sure what to think about. As I mentioned before, I like about 70% of lyrics, but the first and last lines are so bad that I don’t know if I can call them good lyrics as a whole. All the stuff about working together and sharing a belief, it fits perfectly for a Sonic song. Nothing particularly special about it, but fitting. I could say the same about the singer. Apparently, the singer, Douglass Robb, sings for a relatively popular band called “Hoobastank.” That news surprised me, because I honestly felt that the singing skill sounded a bit on the amateurish side. I’ll also take this moment to say that this Douglass Robb person sounds close enough to Crush 40 that they should have just gone with Crush 40. I mean, seriously, Jun Senoue is still on the music team for this game, that’s half the band already. Even if the lyrics themselves would still have taken some getting used to (I can say that about plenty of other Crush 40 songs), Crush 40 would have left me with no qualms about the quality of the singing, and could have easily hit the nostalgia cord for myself and hundreds of thousands of Sonic fans like me. Anyways, the sum total of this song sounds…kind of like a fan dub of the instrumentals to me. And I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way, fan dubs can have some pretty high quality when they try hard enough. And this felt like one of those high-quality fan projects to me, good and thorough, but lacking a certain professional touch. Sort of like good fanfiction, but in song form.

Even though it’s just a song, and songs have had some weird and false implications for Sonic games in the past, I feel the need to analyze the lyrics. Over and over again, it refers to two individuals. Not three. Two. So who’s getting left out? Does this mean that Sonic doesn’t interact much with the Hero character, meaning that this Hero has his own separate story? Or does Sonic not count Classic Sonic because they’re essentially the same person? I’d say either is possible. Either way, I still love the music, and I’m still excited for the Solaris Phase 2/Perfect Dark Gaia style final boss remix.

-So, until next time…one more last fist bump?

(I still don’t get it.)

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.

Review: Season 0, Episode 8

Since I’m taking a longer break between episodes than usual, I decided to spread out my in-between content a bit more, so I’m publishing this today, and will publish the preview for next episode next week.

Well, I predicted 10,000 words for this episode in the last review I wrote, and I went just over 8,000. Still enough to make this episode the longest I have ever written, and probably ever will write. In fact, I believe this single chapter is longer than a majority of entire Sonic fanfictions that there are, considering that most of those are mini-stories or one-shots. So…sorry? I assume it’s a bit of a hassle to read such a long chapter, but I wanted to make sure that nothing was left unsaid.

So, where to begin? I feel a bit like Silver here, as if there’s so much to be said but none of it seems worth saying. So let’s start with Silver, then. I tried my best to make sure that everything I did with him wasn’t outside the range of his original character, but Sonic 06 made his original character a little bit hard to objectify and understand. So I took a lot of liberties. I feel that none of it was forced in and of itself, but I don’t know if that changes compared to the outside. As for Blaze, I had actually completely forgotten that she had ever been outright mentioned until I started writing his vision scene. But I realized that bringing her back in would not only be a very interesting conclusion to his character arc, but would also be better justification for him giving the locket to Sonic, which I had already planned. There was something said about her, however, that will eventually become very important. Only in post-apocalyptic futures, the existence of Blaze was a constant. Why, you might ask? The answer to come around the end of Season 3. Sorry for the wait, but I think it will be worth it.

I don’t think there’s anything important to be said specifically of Sonic’s or Zero’s scene, so I guess I’ll move on to the general. The Lords of Chaos are something that I’ve been throwing around for a while now in the story, and I’m glad to finally have them explained, in addition to a lot of the Flow, Balance, Network, Chaos mumbo-jumbo that I’ve been discussing. It’s probable that the Crisis of Chaos arc will make a little more sense now that you know all of this, but if you intend to re-read it I would advise waiting until I re-introduce Chaos and Blacklight as characters. Despite the sheer overload of information that the Lords of Chaos gave in this episode, there is almost none of it that isn’t important. For example, the mention of why gemstones are so important in relation to them directly pertains to Chaos the Hedgehog. But he’s not the only one. In fact, I intend to use this one little fact to tie a lot of the entire Sonic the Hedgehog series together. Sonic 06. Sonic Unleashed. Sonic Rush. It all ties back to the realm in which the Lords of Chaos exist.

Let’s see, anything else? I suppose I can mention that writing for the final boss fight was painful. It’s hard and boring enough to write about Super Forms smacking into the enemy over and over again when I’m just describing something that already happened, like what I did for the Finalhazard fight in Cast by the Light. But this time, I had to do it all from scratch, figuring out what the abilities of the enemy are, how to describe their weakness, and how each of the fighters uses their abilities in different ways, all without sounding stupidly repetitive. In the end, I feel like the Chronos fight was probably more interesting than the Janice fight. But hey, it’s supposed to be more fun to play, not to read about. Also…I’d like to mention that it was a complete accident/coincidence that the arc’s opening and climax were both in the cold and snow, coming full circle, so to speak. I decided on the setting in each for completely different reasons, and they just so happened to line up perfectly. By the way, the setting for the climax was chosen as a good place for each of the characters to put their abilities to the test, in addition to added drama of freezing in the blizzard. I thought it worked out pretty well. And I suppose that’s all for now.

Next time: when Shadow the Hedgehog goes missing in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Sonic must harden up and face one of his most deadly threats yet in order to find his friend. But who is the mysterious Black Cloak?

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 6

Well, this is the first ever episode I’ve made to go over my expected word count limit of 5,000 with a total of 5,337 by the count of my word processing program. If it had gone on much longer, I probably would have just split it into two, but this entire arc already has way too many episodes. The funny thing is, I went into this episode unsure of whether or not I would have to include what will now be the first scene of the next episode, because this one wouldn’t be long enough.

Now, I feel like this episode overall was pretty self-explanatory, and I’ll leave it to you to guess at its implications for the Sonic universe. Everything that was vaguely hinted at in this episode will get a more thorough explanation at a later point in the series. Originally, this whole history with the experiments and the Chaos War was not intended to be explained until not just the final season, but the epilogue, which is years and years away at this point. But when the time came to make Zero, I decided that this would make the perfect backstory for him.

Now, since I have a little bit of free space here, I’ve decided to explain something that I’ve been meaning to for quite a while. As I have mentioned before, Season 0 is composed of what, if matched to my original vision, would actually be video games, not a TV show like the rest of the series. As such, this Speed of Time arc actually has intended gameplay style and mechanics. Loosely resembling the style of Sonic 06, this game would have 3 initial stories, however each one has only one playable character each (Sonic, Zero, and Silver, though Tails, Amy, and Shadow would also be playable in 2-player mode only). Sonic’s story would be unlocked first, and other stories would be unlocked as you encounter their characters for the first time. There would also be a final story unlocked upon beating the other three (which we will be getting into over the next couple of episodes). Now, each character has their own play style, though it would be possible to go back and play old levels as any of the three characters. Sonic’s play style would pretty closely resemble the current accepted model of Sonic games, a high-speed 2D/3D hybrid, focusing on Boost and with parkour as an ability. Silver, breaking from his more traditional 06 style, would more closely resemble dungeon-crawling puzzle solving, making heavy use of Silver’s psychic abilities. Lastly, Zero’s play style might be described as a cross between how Sonic used to play in the Adventure era, and the Werehog portion of Sonic Unleashed, with maybe a little bit of Shadow in 06. A moderate-speed exploration/beat-em-up, in which you would be required to defeat large numbers of enemies in order to progress, and would gain experience and learn new abilities as time goes on. Some abilities, such as those relating to Time Control, would be locked to story progression.

As I said before, any character could play any level, which would be the primary method for unlocking secrets and collectibles. An area in Silver’s level, for example, might be blocked off by a psychic puzzle to solve. However, also nearby might be a cracked wall which Zero can break through, leading to a shortcut area through the level (full of enemies to defeat in Zero’s style), or there might be a long gap with a ramp that only Sonic can Boost over, or wall jump over, or a low wall which only Sonic can run up (leading to a 2D area in Sonic’s style). I guess that sums up all game mechanics that aren’t self-evident. I suppose I can mention that Zero fights more Bosses than anyone else, Sonic plays more levels, and Silver’s levels are far longer. I can also mention music. Obviously, I haven’t actually composed any music myself, but theoretically, Sonic’s theme music and stage music would be primarily orchestrated in the style of Sonic Unleashed and Lost World, Zero’s music would be primarily guitar in the style of the Adventure games, and Silver would be primarily techno/synth, only really comparable to the Classic Sonic levels of Sonic Generations. At some point, all of this information may end up on its own page for game ideas, but this is the only place to put it for now.

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

Opinion Piece: Sonic Mania

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

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

SM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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