Review: Season 0, Episode 20

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

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

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

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

S0 E20: Earth and Sky

To celebrate the anniversary both of Sonic and of the Chaos Project, I’ve released this birthday special a few weeks early! Read it here!

“Everything is wrong.” It seems that Shadow’s meddling in the timeline may have disastrous consequences. But with Shadow nowhere to be seen, it’s up to Sonic and his oldest friends to find out what’s really going on.

Preview: Season 0, Episode 13

Sonic and Shadow have finally found King. But King has plans that neither of them could possibly comprehend. What really happened to him on the day of the invasion of Westopolis?

“I’ve been awaiting this day for far too long.” King the Wolf begins to step out of the shadows. Sonic gives a gasp, but Shadow doesn’t seem surprised. King waves about his robotic arm as he speaks. “Sonic, I have no qualms with you. You are free to leave. In fact, the Doctor will be waiting for you up on the twenty-fifth floor, likely downloading all of my files by now. You’d better hurry, if you want to catch him.” As he passes a computer console, he types few keys into it. A light activates on the pod in the center of the room.

Unexpectedly, Shadow agrees. “You should go. I can handle this.”

Sonic shakes his head. “Not a chance. I’m staying right here.”

King chuckles a bit. “Ooh, do I detect some animosity between the two of you?” He gives a very casual shrug. “Very well. Suit yourself.” He resumes his pacing, hitting a few more keys each time he passes the console. “After all I’ve been through…all my research…all my suffering…at last, it all becomes worthwhile, so much sooner than I was expecting. I certainly have the Doctor to thank for that. His previous experience was absolutely vital in the completion of my ultimate project.”

Shadow doesn’t seem amused. “I don’t know what you’re babbling about. And I don’t care. This is your one and only chance to surrender to me.”

“Oh, Shadow, you offend me. Though perhaps it was vain of me to assume that you keep track of those you’ve hurt.”

Shadow’s firm countenance suddenly falters. “What…what do you mean…?”

King barks out a quick laugh. “He really doesn’t know, the wretch!” It becomes clear that King is barely maintaining his calm manners. He holds up his mechanical arm, and waggles its fingers for emphasis. “You didn’t really believe that some alien did this to me, did you? No…this is on you!”

Preview: Season 0, Episode 10…and some special news.

Today is a special day, not just for the sake of this preview. Today marks the one-year anniversary from the day I first conclusively decided to write this story, which I marked by making this website. I was constantly questioning myself before then, but it was one year ago today that I knew I wouldn’t be going back. It was a few days later that I started writing Cast by the Light, in order to get the practice I wanted before getting started for real. Of course, the anniversary of The Chaos Project itself is still a full 5 months off, first published on June 23rd, Sonic’s Birthday. But this day is still important to me, and it really puts into perspective how big of a project I’m undertaking here. Anyways, without further delay, here’s your regularly-scheduled preview.

Unsure of where else to turn, Sonic has decided to enlist the help of the Black Cloak in his search for Shadow. But Black Cloak seems to have other plans.

Sonic stands high atop a building, perhaps the tallest in the whole city. Behind him, a huge red sign reads, “The Daily News.” Behind the sign is an incredible view of a great city, full of more tall buildings, and crisscrossing roads. But in the direction that Sonic stares off into, a different story is told. Just as many buildings are in shambles as in fair repair. Sections of road are torn from the ground, lying in rubble or twisted into all sorts of impossible ramps and loops. Massive fissures in the ground appear regularly, just a few of them with makeshift bridges stretched across. Wrecked cars still lie on many of the undamaged streets.

“What are you doing here?” The Black Cloak stands behind Sonic, cloak billowing in the wind.

Sonic doesn’t seem surprised at his sudden appearance. “The fact that you’re here tells me you already know the answer to that question.”

“How did you know I would come?”

“It’s a pretty tall building. You can see the whole city from here. Look.” Sonic points off to an area on the outskirts of the city, with a nearby welcome sign. “You can even see where we fought those robots together. If someone were in trouble, there or anywhere else in the city…you could see it from here. Seems like a pretty good spot for your line of work.”

“It’s certainly not the tallest building.” He points off to another building not far away, on the border between the thriving city and the ruined one. Many stories taller than the one they stand on now, the sign reads, “King Industries.”

“I figured you wouldn’t be thrilled if you had to hang out there often.”

“You aren’t wrong about that.” He is silent for a moment. “…I saw that you’ve brought a friend in with you. She shouldn’t be here. It’s too dangerous.”

“So you’ve been spying on me? No wonder you got here so quickly. Rouge can handle herself just fine. There’s someone else I’m worried about. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I want your help.”

“Help from a dangerous vigilante like me, for the great Sonic the Hedgehog? You must be desperate.”

“I’m not that kind of person anymore. There are things that matter a whole lot more than my reputation. Like my friends.” Sonic pulls out the folder the Commander gave to him, full of everything known about Shadow. He tosses it forward, and it slides across the building, coming to a stop at Black Cloak’s feet. He picks it up and begins looking through it. “His name is Shadow the Hedgehog, you’ve probably heard of him. Especially around these parts. He went missing a few weeks ago, without a trace.”

Black Cloak stays silent for a long moment. “…And you think this ‘Shadow’ is here, in Westopolis?”

“It’s the only lead we have.”

Black Cloak tosses the folder back. “I don’t do personal jobs. I have bigger things to worry about. But I’ll keep an eye out. If I see any sign of your friend, I’ll be sure to tell you. Do you have anything else to waste my time with?”

“Are you sure you don’t know anything about him? Where he might be?”

“I’m sure that I haven’t seen his face since…since before I started working here.”

“If I ever need your help again, can I meet you here?”

Black Cloak turns and starts to walk away. “Don’t count on it.”

“But how will I find you!?”

He stops on the edge of the building and looks back. “You won’t.” With that, he leaps off the side.

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.

S0 E1: A Glitch in Time

Just in time for the 25th Anniversary Party, the newest Chaos Project episode is up and ready to read!

Read it here!

One year before the events of Crisis of Chaos, and roughly one year after the events of Sonic Colors, strange vortexes begin appearing all over, with no obvious explanation. The obvious culprit is none other than Doctor Eggman. But a far greater threat may be at hand.

“Time to Rock and Roll!”

If any of you, like myself, weren’t lucky enough to get a ticket to the Sonic Anniversary Party in San Diego this weekend, not all is lost! The entire event is being live streamed at the link given below, starting at 6:00 Pacific Time this Friday, July 22nd (the same day that the next episode of The Chaos Project comes out). Join us for a night of fun and celebration, including the official reveal for the next Sonic the Hedgehog game, and, most importantly, a live musical performance by the one and only Crush 40! Crush 40 are the writers and performers of all of the best Sonic songs, including “Open Your Heart,” the theme of Sonic Adventure, “What I’m Made Of,” the final boss theme of Sonic Heroes, and of course, their most famous, “Live and Learn,” the theme of Sonic Adventure 2. As our good friend Sonic once said, “Looks like the party’s getting started! Time to rock and roll!”

Visit https://www.twitch.tv/sonicofficial for all of the fun! Hope to see you there!

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

Announcement: We’re Moving Up!

Apologies for anyone this may inconvenience, but from here forwards, The Chaos Project is moving from Thursdays (10:30 AM PDT, 1:30 PM EDT, 6:30 PM UTC) to Fridays at the same time of day. I originally posted the first episode on Thursday, June 23rd, in celebration of Sonic’s 25th Anniversary. Now that the month of the Anniversary is passed, and the premiere arc of the series is over, I have decided that Fridays work out much better for my schedule, and hopefully they will for yours as well. So, look out for the first episode of Season 0, and the beginning of the Speed of Time arc, on Friday, July 22nd.

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

Review: Premiere Event Part 3

The E-X robot models are each based upon a previous ultra-powerful foe of the hedgehogs, one that once took a super form to defeat. The main point of this was twofold. First it showed how powerful Eggman’s “Chaos Project” (I hope you caught that reference in the first episode) really was, actually able to power such powerful mechs. More importantly though, it showed just how much Sonic and Shadow have grown under Chaos’ teachings, and how strong Chaos is to begin with. Shadow’s mech, the E-4X Blackdevil, was based upon the final boss of Shadow the Hedgehog, Devil Doom. The 4 in the model number refers to Shadow the Hedgehog as the fourth core-series 3D Sonic game, just as the E-1X refers to Sonic Adventure as the first, it being a mechanized Perfect Chaos. For those who don’t recall, “Artificial Chaos” is an enemy which first appeared in Sonic Adventure 2, and made a return for Shadow the Hedgehog. Little is known about about them besides that they were made by Professor Gerald Robotnik in the model of the real Chaos from Sonic Adventure. This is what Eggman was referring to in the previous episode when he mentioned that E-1X was inspired by his grandfather. All that E-1X is is Artificial Chaos brought to a more powerful extent.

As for the E-25X, its point of origin is Season 0. Originally, the plan was for that to be based on Solaris from Sonic ’06 instead, but that wouldn’t make any sense seeing as Eggman’s knowledge of Solaris was erased from existence. The next thought was Dark Gaia from Sonic Unleashed, but there are a few obscure reasons that I decided that wouldn’t work (forget Season 0, you may not learn about that until as late as Season 4). The 25 is another nod to Sonic’s 25th Anniversary.

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

…4, 3, 2, 1!

Episode 1 comes out tomorrow! I promised you some more info, and here it is: a preview of what’s to come. A lot is at stake as Sonic and Tails try to find and stop Eggman. But Eggman, the evil genius that he is, is already ten steps ahead. What is this strange and terrible machine that he has made, that Sonic is so concerned about? Please have a look at this preview of Episode 2 of the Premiere Event.

Eggman stands alone in a small hangar. He appears to be impatient. Behind him sits an odd machine, long in shape. Three spike structures come out of the top towards the back. Long cables stick out of the far back. It hardly even looks like it’s meant to stand up on its own.

Sonic bursts through the roof and lands on the floor right in front of Eggman. “Give it up, Eggman. It’s over.” Tails flutters in after him.

“Over? Well, I suppose we can agree on something then. You’ve been so busy chasing me, I’m sure you haven’t even realized what’s going on.”

Tails demands, “What are you talking about!?”

“Oh, my poor Tails. I thought you were smarter than this. You can’t even recognize a diversion when you see one? As we speak, every major city in the world is under attack. Well, every city except for one.” He points straight downwards. “The invasion has already begun. But I would like to cut you a deal.” He pulls out a small device. “Surrender yourself and your one measly Chaos Emerald to me, and I will enter the code to deactivate every last robot I control. And the fine citizens of Station Square will never have to meet my friend here.” He pats the large machine behind him. “And I’m not talking for now. I’m talking for good. No more robots. Ever. And all you have to do is stay here for a few days, maybe a week or two, and then you’ll be free to return to your friends. Just think about the millions, maybe billions of people who won’t get hurt if you make the right decision. It’s an offer you can’t refuse.” Sonic stares curiously at the strange machine, as if recognizing it somehow. Eggman looks in the same direction. “You know, I am quite fond of this one.”

“And why is that?”

“Hmm… Well, to begin with, I couldn’t have possibly made it without the help of my grandfather. It’s almost as if this connects us. But, more importantly, it plays off of your weakness. And I didn’t even have to come up with it! But enough chatter. We were having a discussion.”

Sonic says nothing for a moment. Tails shouts, “Come on, Sonic! You can’t actually be thinking about this, can you?”

“Stay out of it, fox! This is between Sonic and I.” He turns back to Sonic. “Well then? What is your answer?”

Sonic remains silent a moment more. “…I don’t know what it is that you’re planning. I don’t know what you want me for. What I do know is that you’ve never once kept your word to me. If you expect me to bargain with you after making a reputation like that…then you really are as dumb as you look! Tails, grab that remote!” As Tails makes a grab for the device that Eggman holds, Sonic runs around the strange machine, looking for some sort of weak point.

Before Tails can ever reach his goal, Eggman says, “Very well then,” and presses a single key. The floor instantly parts open beneath the machine, and it plummets back towards earth.

Sonic shouts “No!” Without hesitation, he dives straight into the opening after it.

“Sonic!” Tails dives out after him.

Eggman shakes his head in disapproval, and presses another button to close the hatch. He takes out a communicator. “Orbot, Cubot, set our course back to base. The Hedgehog has been taken care of.” A voice responds briefly, “Yes, Sir.”

And there you  have it. See this episode in its full context on Thursday, June 30th, at 10:30 AM PDT. And remember to read the first episode tomorrow at that time, Sonic’s 25th Anniversary. Hope to see you there!