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.
The final battle between Super Shadow and Black Night, the Super form of Blacklight, has begun. But where is it happening?
An intense, continuous sound can be heard, like that of a raging river. Slowly, Super Shadow opens his eyes. He is surrounded on all sides by two kinds of energy, one of gold and white, the other of purple and black, which flow around him. The two are unevenly mixed, in small shreds in some places, and large patches in others. In a somewhat erratic fashion, the two energies are constantly morphing and flowing, one type of energy almost constantly flowing into and overtaking the other, only to be itself overtaken. “What…what is this place…?” His voice echoes off into the distance.
“An excellent question.” Another loud cough announces the presence of Black Night.
Shadow groans. “Why can’t we both have just died?”
Black Night emerges from the swirl of energy. As he does, the area around him grows intensely more erratic, with light and darkness shifting and stabbing into each other so quickly that it almost can’t be tracked by the eye. “But Shadow! If I were dead, then the world would have to miss out on my unique and exciting brand of comedy!” Shadow glares at him. “What? I wasn’t joking. Or was I? Hm.”
Shadow sighs. “What do you know about this place?”
“Oh, right, that. Tell me, Shadow, when you use Chaos Control, what do you see?”
“See?” Black Night nods. “I see the place that I was, and then the place that I end up.”
“I’m afraid that’s incorrect. Go ahead. Think about it. Think about that one, momentary instant,” he snaps his fingers, “between starting point and destination.”
Shadow scrunches his face as he thinks hard. “There isn’t any…or…is there?” He starts to look around, perhaps gaining some vague recognition of the strange realm.
“You got it. Welcome to the Flow of Chaos. We are currently connected to all of space, and all of time.”
“And…this energy around us?”
Black Night shrugs. “Heck if I know. So…what now?”
“I’d say nothing’s changed.” Shadow takes a fighting stance in the air.
“Yes, yes, you’re probably right. But do you really want to fight in here? Doesn’t it seem almost…blasphemous?” Shadow says nothing. “Fine, fine, take the first move. I’m ready.”
Shadow takes the opportunity. “Chaos Frost!” He throws his hand forward. But nothing happens.
“Uh…hate to break this to you, but there isn’t any ice in here.”
“Or air, for that matter. Here, let me try. Chaos Void!” Rather than emerging from himself, the dark energy from the realm around them is thrown from its place, towards Shadow in a massive, unavoidable onrush.
Alright, lots to talk about this time around. The concept of having Shadow face off against Chaos was one of the earliest ideas I had for this whole arc. The thought has always stood out to me that the events of Sonic Adventure are the only really interesting thing to ever happen to Sonic that Shadow had no chance of being involved with. In the past I had considered making some kind of joke off that, having Shadow not believe that those events actually happened because nothing interesting can happen if he doesn’t know about it. But I decided that this episode was far more important than some vague and not-very-funny joke. The difficulty came with Sunlight (though I suppose I should officially be calling him Blacklight now). In Crisis of Chaos, Blacklight, when shown Mechaos 7.0, the Artificial Perfect Chaos, specifically mentioned having no knowledge or memory of it. So throughout this episode, I had to carefully avoid having him directly interact with either the real one or an active artificial one. As an accidental result, I kind of ended up having Chaos become a real enemy of Shadow. But I certainly have no problem with having that much more backstory I can work with later, so expect Shadow to face off against Chaos once more in the far-distant future. Anyways, I had planned on Artificial Chaos playing a far more important role in this episode than what ended up happening, seeing as its the one Shadow had actually encountered before, and had reason to fear. But Blacklight’s story took precedence, and I found that between him and the real Chaos, anything I did would have seemed dull and boring, as I felt the two actual paragraphs involving them were. Speaking of the real Chaos, my original idea involved Shadow being there to witness Perfect Chaos destroying the Echidna village, and never actually fighting it directly. But between Blacklight’s need to never encounter it, and his need to get another Chaos Emerald on this trip, using Chaos 6 worked out much better. The idea about Shadow’s strife in attempting to use Chaos Frost came fairly-last minute, when I was doing some research into the specifics of how the original Chaos 6 fight worked. I originally planned for Shadow to beat Chaos like normal, but decided that a failure would not only lead to a more emotional climax between Tikal and Chaos, but also make the problem with Artificial Chaos feel a little more personal (though, as I said, that part didn’t work out as planned). That’s in addition to the concerns he now has over his own abilities as compared to Blacklight’s.
Now, on to Tikal. The comparison between her and Maria has existed in my mind…ever since I first played Sonic Adventure, I guess. Having Shadow meet her was as much an inspiration for this episode as having having him face Chaos was. The connection between her dilemma and Shadow’s current one is something that I did have to force a little bit, but I thought it worked out quite well for my purposes. Speaking of said dilemma, Shadow’s conflict over Maria’s promise is the very reason why, last episode, I decided to send Shadow to the future, instead of to the ARK as was the original plan. I can’t say everything, since this has yet to be resolved until next episode, but I knew it would make for a generally better story to have Shadow questioning his ties to humanity for much longer. And just to make it clear before I move on to the next topic, Shadow is actively avoiding interacting with Maria, despite this being his first time actually seeing her since her death. One would certainly expect the opposite reaction, but Shadow is certainly going through a lot right now.
Now, there’s a lot going on behind-the-scenes with Blacklight as well. I mentioned last episode having the intention of showing that there is more to his madness than the simple factors that one might expect. Unmentioned in that episode was his quoting of classical poetry. Specifically, Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice” (no I’m not talking about Sonic Boom). Now, his thought process as he said those things is up to the interpretation of the reader. Perhaps Lt. Alfred did give Sunlight a thorough instruction in the literary arts, and he is merely playing off of what he knows. Alternatively, such works of literature might not even exist in this world, and Blacklight simply has the soul of a poet. Either way, it really adds an intellectual level to his already complicated personality. I continued in my attempts to express this intellect throughout this episode, first with his using the French phrase, “Au contraire, mon ami.” The translation would be “On the contrary, my friend.” Next to “Bon appetit” and “Bonjour,” they are probably the most well-known French words in the English language, but that doesn’t prevent it from contributing to his air of intelligence, by knowing at least some slight amount about a foreign language, and one of the languages of romance at that. Additionally, there were two more direct references. The first was when he held the head module of Artificial Chaos, a reference to William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” known as one of the most famous tales of a tragic hero of all time. In particular it was the famous “skull scene” being emulated, in which Prince Hamlet speaks to the skull of an old friend. The head module was the stand-in for the skull. Now, contrary to what many believe, Hamlet never says “To be or not to be” during the skull scene, but I thought that I would add that quote just to make sure that readers understood what I was trying to get across. And besides, it fit well with the theme of contemplation that I was going for. Unlike the previous literary reference, this one was completely unplanned until the moment I realized how much the head module would resemble a skull, which happened while I was describing his holding it. The other reference, also unplanned, was to Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” spoken by Blacklight in marveling over his new name. Unlike Hamlet, which I have read quite recently (in fact, I performed as King Claudius), I haven’t seen a word out of The Raven in almost 5 years. But I still remember the language very well, and as I was having Blacklight appreciate his own name, I recalled the lines, “But the Raven…spoke only that one word, as if his soul, in that one word, he did outpour.” I couldn’t not use it after I realized how well it fit. Now, Blacklight not only seems more intellectual in his insanity, but has also been likened to a tragic hero, and to a poet known for extremely dark and depressing writing. Now, on to one last thing.
Shadow and Blacklight’s little “war of Chaos Control” meant a lot more to me than just a cool action sequence. I was unusually particular about the details. That’s because this exact sequence has been hanging on my wall for longer than the Chaos Project has even existed as an idea. I had to be in 5th or 6th grade when I was at my first peak in Sonic obsession, surpassed only now, and only because of this very story. Anyways, I’ve mentioned before on this website how I (and my older brother, he deserves credit too) as a child loved to create my (our) own Sonic stories. They were absolutely nothing cohesive or deep, and most of those ideas have been all but forgotten. But there is one idea which has stood the test of time. It was my very first attempt at an Original Character, something that I didn’t even know was a thing back then. It was made in conjunction with my still-close friend, who contributed a lot of stories, and also indulged me in allowing me to share my own. Anyways, this character was relatively simple, a hedgehog with ice powers who would serve as a rival to Shadow. He was dubbed Frostbite. Sound familiar? That was one of the names that Blacklight has been contemplating throughout this arc. Later, as Frostbite’s backstory was solidified as not a replica of the Ultimate Life Form, but a prototype to it (between the Biolizard and Shadow), he was renamed to Blackice (which I would’ve actually used last episode instead of Frostbite, but I didn’t like the way it looked spelled out, and still don’t like). Blackice persisted for some time, until I described him to my older brother, who loved the idea so much that he embraced it as his own. Of course, he wouldn’t accept it exactly as-is. He didn’t like that he was limited to only ice powers. He asked, “Why not all of the elements?” Of course, a character with generic elemental powers couldn’t have the word “ice” (or “frost”) in his name, and so he was renamed to Nova (another name that may sound familiar), almost entirely for the sake of the “Super Nova” pun. All of this renaming is the source of inspiration for Blacklight’s entire name crisis, which is not only a driving force behind his character development in this arc, but was planned for from the very beginning, as you can see by looking at some of Blacklight’s comments in Crisis of Chaos. Anyways, to continue the story, Nova became a central feature in all of my brother’s best stories, which, at the time, he was better at creating than I was. Perhaps as some sort of attempt to make sure I still felt like the character was mine, I started to draw him using his various powers (I was a 5th grader at the time, and not exactly the best artist even by those standards. I couldn’t even figure out what Shadow’s spikes were supposed to look like from the side), including one picture of him threatening Eggman with icicle spears, a scene I specifically recreated as his introduction in Crisis of Chaos. But my favorite of all the pictures I ever drew, which I still have hanging on my wall to this day, shows him facing off against Shadow in a war of Chaos Control. The picture, as shown below if you’re interested, shows almost exactly the sequence I described in this episode, with the characters appearing in many places at once, neither with a clear advantage.
To finish the story, when I had the dream that inspired the Chaos Project 3 or 4 years later, Nova was not involved, as it was meant to be its own, single, inclusive story. But as I began to imagine the context of that story (what became Crisis of Chaos), I couldn’t resist the urge to include my old characters. But, as I wanted it to be my own story unrelated to my brother’s, I decided that Nova had to be completely re-imagined. I was very hesitant to give him any kind of special powers at all beyond Shadow’s, but I came to the conclusion that, if I could come up with a good justification for having those powers, I would keep them. It was another week or two before I decided to link each element to an Emerald, and that was good enough for me. I don’t know if I can really describe an exact inspiration for the change in backstory from Shadow’s prequel to Shadow’s sequel, but I felt that it would make for a better story, especially given the inclusion of Professor Gerald’s son and Maria’s father, an idea that I didn’t want to ignore after I had first thought of it. I chose the new name of Blacklight, partly as a nod towards the original Blackice name, but also to emphasize the balance/contrast of opposites theme which his story centers around. Lastly was the more specific changes made to his personality. Originally, Blackice was intended to have the mild, cool and polite villain personality which I later recycled for King (which, as you may recall, didn’t have the most pleasing results until much later on), with just a hint of passive-aggressive dislike towards Shadow. Once again, I can’t really say for certain what inspired this change, but I think it may have had something to do with Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal, as I was actively watching that series at around that time, and, in hindsight, Blacklight seems very closely related to the character of Ray/Vector (yes, I realize that those are both names of Sonic characters, but I promise it’s from Yu-Gi-Oh). And…I suppose that concludes the story. Once all of those ideas were set, I started writing, and the rest is history.
-And until next time, remember that it’s a good idea to turn back once in a while.
Mostly, I’m here to deliver the unfortunate news that, as happened after the Speed of Time arc, The Chaos Project will now be going on another short break while I finish writing the final episode of the upcoming arc, Birth of Blacklight, now that the Black Cloak arc is finished. As was the case last time, I’ll be spreading out the posting content so that I still have something to publish every Saturday. Normally, I would be posting the review of last week’s episode now, but between Thursday’s Opinion Piece of Sonic Forces and this post, I feel that I have enough to push that off to next week. Expect a preview of next episode the following week, and the episode itself to be published the week after that.
Now, there is a little more to talk about. I’ve been neglecting to update some of the finer details on the website after publishing the last few episodes, but now everything is completely up-to-date, and then some. Preparations for the upcoming arc have been made, such as the reorganization of the character guide to reflect the most important characters to come. More importantly, I’ve published a new page, title “Image Gallery,” which contains all of the custom images I’ve ever made for these stories, including several images which have been replaced and can no longer be seen anywhere else. Also included are some first looks at custom-made sprites for characters who haven’t had their official debuts yet, such as Omega and the Chaotix. Most importantly, there is a 100% exclusive image of “Super Black Cloak,” Shadow in his Super Form as seen in the final episode of the Black Cloak arc, complete with broken chains, torn face mask, material burned away from the feet, and of course, his new superhero emblem emblazoned on his chest. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for the addition of a preview look at the cover art for the upcoming story arc.
-And until next time, remember to live and learn every day!
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!
The hedgehogs have been banished to a place from which there seems no escape. They only have one hope left, the Chaos Emerald. Can they make it in time?
The hedgehogs have stopped. Steep, sharp, high-rising cliffs of ice rise high all around them. High on the top of the cliff directly in front of them, an opening deeper into the cave can be seen. Silver says, “I could probably get us up there. But it would take a while.”
Sonic steps forward. “No time. I’ll go, and bring back the Emerald as fast as I can.” Without waiting for a reply, Sonic runs straight for the wall in front of him. His momentum is enough to allow him to run up several steps. Just as he reaches his peak, he kicks off the wall and onto another, which he runs up for a few more steps. He continues this way, leaping from wall to wall, taking advantage of whatever foothold he can find, until he finally makes it into the opening at the top. He continues in at top speed, leaving his friends behind.
Sonic has reached a wide clearing in the very center of the glacier. The yellow Chaos Emerald lies in the center. “There it is.” He reaches down to pick it up.
Suddenly, his communicator goes off. “Sonic…I think this is it. This is the end.”
“Don’t say that Tails, I have the Emerald! We’re going to fix everything, right now!”
“I’ve taken shelter in the basement, the rifts seem to move slower through solid mass than they do through air. But they’ve made it all the way through. I’m surrounded on all sides. I only have a few minutes left, maybe less.” Sonic takes on renewed anger and determination at the words, but says nothing. “Sonic…I believe in you. You can fix this. If it’s possible to close the rifts, then it doesn’t matter if I get swallowed. It’ll be like it never happened.” He’s silent for another moment. “I was right. It was less. Sonic…good luck. I–” The message cuts to static.
“Tails? Tails? Tails!?” Static is the only response.
Sonic looks down to the Emerald he holds. He pushes it up slightly, and it begins to float into the air, orbiting around him. Six more Emeralds join it. He closes his eyes and clenches his outstretched hand into a fist. As his fist begins to shake, he begins to lift into the air. His quills raise up as if blown by an unseen wind, as his fur takes on a golden glow. The Emeralds around him orbit faster and faster, until Sonic’s eyes burst open, now a deep red color. “Chaos Control.” With those words, he disappears from the room.