Review: Season 0, Episode 31 (again)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review: Season 0, Episode 25

Since part one was done last week, we’re now on to part 2, or at least, the transition between the two. As I mentioned that I didn’t plan on splitting these episodes, I had no obvious split point in mind. It needed to be a place roughly in the middle which still left both parts with an appropriate amount of action. Usually, that would mean putting the faux final battle in the first part, and the Super (Hyper in this case) final battle in the second. But this time, I was subverting the whole faux final battle thing to begin with. Sonic jumped straight into his Super fight against Lumis, but the true final battle turned out to be without the Emeralds, against Chaos. Even if splitting those two apart had worked out in terms of even word count, it would’ve shamefully ruined my subversion of the formula to mark an entire Super fight as “part 1”, since it would’ve been so obvious to predict there would be more. Luckily, I suppose, the need to have Tails, Knuckles, and Amy play a role by fending off Eggman and the Lumis clones took up quite a few more words than I expected, making for plenty of part 1 action. The specific cutoff point, with Amy dangling over the magma, was not intended to be a cliffhanger, just another dramatic part of the episode.

So the first thing to come up in this second part was the chant of the Master Emerald, otherwise known as Tikal’s Prayer. The decision to make an extended version…came fairly recently. It isn’t so much that I wanted a bond between Chaos and Knuckles, as that it was lingering in the back of my mind that they grated on each other a bit in an earlier episode, in a way that didn’t seem resolved. On top of that, I did actively want some more resolution to the themes of the first episode of this arc, in regards to the comparisons of Knuckles as Guardian to Sonic as Controller, and of course, the original reference to S3&K and the Super Emeralds. Of course, the stealing and recovery of the Master Emerald was supposed to be enough to make Knuckles seem important after his introduction, but I quickly realized that that alone would fall completely flat. So, I needed to make Knuckles integral to victory in the final battle, I needed to make my S3&K reference more important, and I needed some way to form a bond between Knuckles and Chaos. And the one thing that ties all of those things together is the Master Emerald, which really needed a better reason to be there anyways. It took some thinking, but I decided on Tikal’s Prayer as a good thing to link it together. Part of that thought process involved something that’s been nagging at me ever since Speed of Time. Ever since Cast by the Light, really, though I didn’t quite think about it at that time. The prayer on its own is so…empty. My vague-ish memories of Sonic X at that time made think of the prayer as a longer, more drawn out speech that could be repeated once or twice if necessary. But copying it down for Silver’s scene in Speed of Time, I realized it was way shorter and less dramatic than I was expecting. Then, analyzing the exact phrasing more closely, I realized that there was a bit of a hole in it. It’s almost kind of song-y in the way it’s presented, the servers are the Chaos, the Chaos is the power, the power relates to the heart…and then all of a sudden, the Controller links back to the Chaos. The structure gives the sense of a circle, but that circle is broken in the middle. Of course, Sonic X actually did something that I didn’t realize until I started researching, by adding the line “The heart is the controller,” thus making a complete circle. But that line…doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, especially seeing as Tikal seemed to imply that the Master Emerald is this unspecial non-capitalized “controller.” And since Sonic X isn’t exactly canon, I decided to ignore its suggestion in this instance, and go for something a little more helpful for my circumstances. I pose in this episode that this missing link between the heart and the Controller is, in fact, an entire missing half of the prayer that has been lost to time. But Chaos, who was there ten thousands years ago when the prayer was written (maybe he even wrote it himself, who knows?), knows this missing half, and was able to teach it to Knuckles. Conveniently for me, this half just so happens to encompass the underlying themes of Chaos and Balance that this series revolves around. Now, the prayer is far more dramatic and climactic, specifically built to be able to repeat itself if necessary. Also of note for this recomposition is the fact that in the past, Tikal used the phrase “The seven Chaos Emeralds are the servers,” where Knuckles says “The servers are the seven Chaos.” I pose that this is because Tikal picked up from the loop instead of the very beginning of the full prayer, and just so happened to leave out the important parts, being rushed for time.

Alright, sorry that topic was so long. On to the next. I already touched on it, but the Super Emeralds definitely deserve their own discussion. Now, I know that this is probably the second most fanfiction-y thing I’ve ever done (I don’t like to talk about the first), but I came to this decision after a lot of hard thinking. Sonic 3 & Knuckles, as a cohesive unit with Super Emeralds, is non-canon, and I hope I’ve made that much clear. Sonic Team themselves have taken a similar stance. But Sonic 3, and Sonic & Knuckles, are each individually canon. Which means that, hypothetically, the Super Emeralds could have happened, but the circumstances required simply didn’t occur in the canon timeline. And if it could have happened then, why not now? Of course, even then I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it all the way. The Super Emeralds technically did not appear in this episode, merely a representation of them. It was Chaos and the power of the Moonstone that induced the proper Hyper Transformation. And that brings me to another topic.

This is something that’s been a long time coming, something that I intended to do for the first episode of this arc, but ended up pushing back because Chaos didn’t really appear in that episode. That would be his conceptual origins. Much like Blacklight, Chaos is a reimagination of an old concept from the days when my brother and I were children, dreaming up concepts for Sonic game ideas. This idea, in particular, was more my brother’s idea than my own. This idea was for Hyper the Hedgehog. Hyper, an orange hedgehog with a “Hyper Emerald” embedded in his chest, and covered in grey circuit board-like lines that would become injected with color when he holds a Chaos Emerald, was created when Sonic touched the Hyper Emerald after it fell from the sky. The point of Hyper was to reintroduce Hyper Sonic to the modern canon, without the inclusion of Super Emeralds, as he could fuse with Sonic to induce that transformation. But that would be where the similarities to Chaos end. The Hyper Emerald, rather than coming from any kind of Realm of Chaos like the Moonstone, was instead one of many fragments of leftover material from the creation of the universe (a concept that may sound familiar to readers of Yuni Oha’s “Pokémon Cosmic Quest“). Hyper as a character was built to refill the anti-hero role that Shadow was slowly leaving in favor of a more heroic one, very different from the role of Chaos. I suppose there is also a similarity in that the final battle of Hyper’s introductory game idea took place in a volcano. Anyways, pictured below is a drawing I once made of Hyper in his first moments of life, which hangs on my wall just like the picture of Blacklight I showed off. “Who am I?” was his first words.

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This was quite a few years after that other picture, so I’m not nearly as embarrassed about it. In fact, I’m even a little proud, considering my poor art skills in general, especially at that time (although, the scanner I used didn’t do much justice to the already poorly used colored pencils). Anyways, if you look closely around the head, you may notice a lot of erasure marks. There was a lot of trial and error with those spikes. And one among many of those trials was a spike design which now exists in the form of Chaos (personally, I liked that design for Hyper, but Yuni insisted that I change it to what you see in the final product). Also of note is the little colorless robot by his foot. That’s Servo, who, in the scene depicted, was commanded to pick up the Hyper Emerald just before it transformed. Before Orbot and Cubot ever existed (well, Cubot anyways), Yuni invented Servo as a snarky servant robot who exists mostly as someone for Eggman to talk to. I considered using Servo for this series, but it would have been silly to replace Orbot and Cubot with a practically identical concept. The reason he’s colorless in the picture is because I never bothered finishing him. He’s actually supposed to have a body, not just wheels and a head, but I forgot about that when I first drew it, and again, never bothered fixing it.

So, back on the topic of the episode itself, I guess. I’ll skip along to things I was contemplating, but ultimately decided against, including a scene depicting Knuckles, Tails, and Amy making their way through a cave before making it to the volcano’s interior, and, more noticeably, a scene depicting Chaos being freed from Eggman’s control. I’m sure it probably ended up being a little awkward skipping straight from climax to epilogue without a clear resolution, but honestly, I had no idea how to really write this cancelled scene without just wasting time. I suppose it could have helped if I moved a little bit of the awkward dialogue with Chaos and the rest of the characters to this cancelled scene, but having everyone just standing around and talking on an empty battlefield would have felt even weirder. But it’s okay if it’s at a Birthday party. Speaking of the Birthday party, it’s a little sad that it’s a day late in universe, but five months late out here. Unfortunately, I simply couldn’t write any faster. Tails’ mention of the beach day he and Sonic had planned was a reference to the epilogue of Speed of Time. I planned on having that mentioned in part 1 of this arc, but it didn’t come up, and I forgot to add it back in before I published it. And even though there are other things to say, I’ll have to cut things off here, or risk talking for days to come. These two reviews have already taken me three full days of writing time to make. But…I suppose this makes the last planned publishing…indefinitely. Allow me to remedy that. Nothing’s changed for The Chaos Project, but I think I can promise another part of Shadow of Time in…two weeks. That would be December 16th. So…I guess I’ll see you then.

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

Opinionated Review: Shadow the Hedgehog (2005)

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