I Know You’re Supporting Me

I almost cried. I literally almost cried.

Shadow in Sonic Forces has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for me. When he first appeared in gameplay footage for Sunset/City Heights, I was very, very excited. When the Villains trailer dropped the next day, the hype died quite a bit as I learned that Shadow was a villain, but I was still craving an answer as to why, far more so than I cared for Infinite at the time. When Enter Infinite came along, I shoved Shadow aside and never turned back, as I was far more interested in Infinite after that. I was accepting, if not satisfied, of the fact that Shadow would do whatever the heck Shadow does, and we would still get an interesting character out of Infinite either way. As we learned that Infinite is just another creation of Eggman’s, I became a bit less interested, but then this happened. I suppose I should post that last video as well. (Edit: Official English version.)

That’s all very interesting, and I’m excited for the story, but we’re talking about Shadow right now. Shadow who stood back and watched while Infinite beat Sonic to the ground. Shadow who didn’t even appear in the above story trailer. Shadow who, after Sonic Boom, had me very, very afraid for what Sonic developers really thought of him. But all of that changes now. Free DLC for all players, which includes a new playable character and 3 prequel levels to go with him (besides the “over 10 Modern Sonic-based stages” he can also play in) as well as a new side of the story. Story! I say it a lot, and I mean it! Supposedly, these new levels chronicle the fate of Team Dark (apparently that’s now an official term outside of the comics) and teach the player about the true nature and origin of Infinite. That is really exciting.

But that does bring up some concerns. Are they seriously telling me that you don’t actually learn about Infinite’s origin in the actual main game? If so, that’s a pretty bad sign for the game’s plot as a whole. I’m glad that they’re telling us at all (that’s more than we got for Lost World), but a story with a powerful villain who never gets an explanation in the main story sounds a bit lackluster. Additionally, that seems to confirm that Rouge and Omega don’t appear in any significant role in the main story, which isn’t necessarily bad, but removes the possibility of some good character interactions that could have gone on with Shadow.

And…there’s something else I haven’t mentioned yet. Even though I’ve been waiting to play as Shadow again for the last ten years, this isn’t exactly what I was hoping for in terms of gameplay. I was kind of hoping that I would never have to see Shadow in 2D. There goes that. And canonically giving Shadow Boost gameplay severely, severely decreases any future chances of him playing in the Adventure style in any future games where they might choose to bring back separate playstyles. The level design that they just showed us…looks okay at best. If they wanted to get us hyped, they should have cut the footage time in half and showed us 3D gameplay instead. Unless…Shadow is almost all 2D. *shivers* I don’t really want to think about that. But these days, who knows? Seeing as Shadow, unlike Sonic and the Custom Hero alike, has only ever appeared in 3D, it seems like this would be the correct opportunity to make Shadow’s levels, like the tag team ones, entirely in 3D (guess I never talked about tag team on this site either. Gameplay style looks like a fun changeup, all-3D levels looks and sounds very nice.). Anyways, I’m sad that it had to happen this way, but I’m thrilled that it’s happening at all. After ten years, Shadow finally gets his chance to shine. Let’s hope that Kirk Thornton doesn’t screw this up too badly.

-Until next time, let’s hope we won’t be losing Shadow before long.

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Review: Season 0, Episode 17

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.

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I know, embarrassing, right? Oh, the things I do for you.

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.

Review: Cast by the Light Finale

Like the episode release itself, this post details both Part 10 and the Epilogue. Starting with the beginning, I warped time a little bit to have Shadow not finish his boss fight until after the next cutscene had started, just a little creative liberty to improve the story’s flow. Next, the Final Hazard fight was fairly standard, though I did have a lot of fun picking and choosing between the large number of random lines shouted at you throughout the original fight, and stringing them together in ways which seemed to show progression that didn’t originally exist. It is notable that Sonic’s line to Shadow after the fight “at this rate your Super Form won’t last,” was supposed to be said during the fight if you start to run out of rings as Shadow. I moved it over to help convey the same sense of drama at a more appropriate time. Also added to that scene was the flashback describing Shadow’s Inhibitor Rings. What those rings are supposed to be is never once mentioned in the original game, and Shadow isn’t even seen removing them, despite the fact that Sonic is holding one of them later. However, I believe it was Sonic 06 that first canonized them as specifically being Inhibitor Rings, in the final cutscene of his story after the fight with Mephiles. Anyways, I felt it very much needed to be retroactively added. The last change in that scene was an added event in which Sonic grudgingly chooses not to save Shadow. In the original, the possibility of Shadow’s being rescued is not even considered, despite the fact that there’s no specific reason why Sonic can’t have gone after him.

Next is the change that came to what was originally the credits sequence. Particularly the discussion between Tails and Eggman. In the original, Tails shouted, at random, in an almost creepy manner, “We all did it together!” He’s quite famous for that line, actually. That’s why I saw it as particularly necessary to fix. First, I changed his attitude and mannerisms in saying it, though I didn’t remove or change any of the specific words said. I had it suggested that Tails is uncomfortable with the subject of idolized figures not turning out to be what they seem, explaining why he so dramatically changed the subject. Why he would have such discomfort is something that will be explored later in The Chaos Project. Anyways, perhaps that change alone might have been enough, but I took it a step further. I had Tails continue to speak, in way which ties his original statement back into the original subject, despite his discomfort. “Together” matters because it means that Eggman doesn’t need to concern himself with the grandfather that he has surpassed through teamwork. And that’s all for Part 10!

As for the Epilogue, there’s not a whole lot to say for such a short scene. It was actually quite interesting writing for it, since characters in Sonic Heroes are a lot more active and expressive than they were in Sonic Adventure 2, making the whole sequence take a lot longer to describe than it would have if the scene were made for an older game. Even in the middle of dialogue, each character would be behaving in their own way, making it difficult to get all of the timing right. But I enjoyed the change of pace. There were a few liberties taken with how long it takes for Shadow to be fully revealed, since it wasn’t kept much of a secret in the original (seeing as you’ve already chosen him on the character select screen by the time the scene starts). Lastly, I added a line to Rouge’s reconciliation at the end, detailing her own motivations which I felt were missing when defining those of the other two. And that’s all! Cast by the Light is officially finished!

– So until next time, remember to live and learn every day! And while you’re at it, don’t forget to set the stage for a heroes parade!

Cast by the Light: Finale

Funny story. In all the stress of wrapping up a story, I forgot to post about it here! But the final two chapters of Cast by the Light have been up and running for some time now, Part 10: Live and Learn and the Epilogue: This Machine.

Can you feel life, movin’ through your mind…?” Shadow certainly could, as his entire life led up to his confrontation with his own prototype. Can Sonic and Shadow work together and save the planet? Will Shadow at last fulfill his promise? Or will he die, trying?

“We all danced in fire, looking through the screen…” The final battle is long over. And Rouge has moved on with her life. But looking for treasure, she finds something else instead. Something she never could have expected.