Opinion Piece 2: Sonic Forces

Well… I…. No, just watch.

Well, there you have it. I first watched this video an hour before writing this, and I’m still sort of in shock. I’ve seen endless comments on just about anything Sonic-related online asking something along the lines of, “Will the third character in Sonic Forces be a self-insert?” My reaction every single time was, “What the heck would give you that idea?” Well…it is. I am not angry. Far from it, in fact. I’m just confused. If done right, this game could have had plenty going for it without such an extreme gimmick. It seems a little…desperate, I guess. I know it sounds kind of odd, coming from me, a guy whose story is practically dependent on its OCs. You’d think I’d be thrilled to make them at least somewhat of a reality. Of course, how much freedom is allowed is a complete other question, but I don’t see it as likely that any of my characters can be replicated in the game. But, the point I was originally making, while there certainly is a considerable fanbase that this would excite, I don’t know if they’re really making the right targeting choices. More on that a bit later. First, take a look at this “Hero” gameplay unveiled at the same time (“Hero” is what this guy seems to be called until further notice).

First of all, the setting of this footage has been given the newly-unveiled name of Park Avenue. Sounds a little happy, but I’m not here to criticize names. Hero uses gadgets such as a grapple gun and his wrist-mounted “Wispon” to make his way through the Eggman-ruled planet (technically it can be a girl, but I’m using male pronouns for simplicity). The first thing that I noticed is that it seems like he is not only in the same location as the Modern Sonic gameplay that we’ve seen, but that it seems like it could be literally Sonic’s level, played as a different character. This concerns me. I suppose I have no right to complain, seeing as level recycling is a major factor of the Adventure games that I hold so highly. But if Modern and Classic Sonic have completely different levels, but this character just shares his with Modern Sonic, it’s going to feel like he’s completely useless, shoehorned in just to appeal to the OC makers. Then there’s the sad fact that, based on what little footage we have, it seems that Hero has more 2D than 3D. It really saddens me, because this once-mysterious third character seemed like the perfect chance to appeal to all three of the largest fanbase factions at once. Give the Classicals Classic Sonic, the Modernists Modern Sonic, and the Adventurers this third character. A 2D style, a 3D style, and a hybrid style. Who could ask for more (bad question)? And while that may just sound like pining coming from an Adventurer like myself, it does bring up a real issue. If Classic Sonic has his complete own style, but this new character just plays like slower Modern Sonic plus gadgets, it could make the entire game feel disjointed, disproportional, whatever you want to call it. Unless, of course, Classic Sonic has as much gameplay as the other two combined, which would actually be even worse, completely ripping the spotlight away from the main character. Point is, opportunity missed, potential problems presented.

sonic-forces-crabot-final-image-1[1]

The next thing to talk about is lore/story. First, the character himself. His existence scares me in terms of story for a few reasons. On the more obvious side, a create-your-own-character is very difficult to develop as a character, since who they are is supposed to be more dependent on you. But this person doesn’t have to have to have complicated backstory by any means, so long as his presence in the game’s narrative is justified, which is still just a little more difficult than it sounds. The most comparable thing that I’m familiar with would be Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Awakening, and its use of Robin. Robin is completely customizable to the player’s liking, including his/her name. I won’t give any spoilers for those who haven’t played, but I can say that Robin was handled perfectly, because they act as far more in the story than just an avatar. And, as much as I like Sonic, I don’t know if I trust Sonic Team to do so well, and that’s why I’m scared. Even if Hero’s gameplay were the most fun, entertaining thing to ever come the Sonic series, I wouldn’t want him to just be there because he is in terms of the story. On a lesser note, we have the logistical concerns for how the story is presented. The trailer suggests (though doesn’t confirm) that this customizable character appears in full-rendered cutscenes, which is a development nightmare. Game engine-rendered cutscenes are one thing, as all of the characters can share the same basic skeleton and movements. But as for the cinematic stuff, the scenes where all of the most important story events happen, that’s a lot harder to generalize for all custom possibilities. If you look closely at the reveal trailer, you can see how Hero’s fur blows around in the wind and explosions, which can’t translate easily to the other species choices, who don’t all have fur in that specific location. Point being, that either means they’re going to severely limit such cinematic cutscenes, which is a bad sign for the story, or they’re going to limit Hero’s appearances in such cutscenes, which is a bad sign for his personal story as well as the game as a whole. Or, they can do what pretty much no one expects them to do at this point, and put in a ton of time and effort to make this game absolutely perfect. Ha ha, as if.sonicforces-hero-screen-03-1493934652-1494948811938

The other thing to talk about is the Wispon, best seen in the image above. Supposedly, it is customizable to some degree, though exactly how is unclear. Point is, this is meant to be the next step in Color Powers, the thing that makes Wisps a real element in this game, rather than just being thrown in as they were in Lost World. It might surprise you to hear that I actually like the sound of that. As much as I disapprove of the abuse of Wisps, this is a good sign that something might actually get explained this time. The device suggests that Wisps, at least to some degree, are becoming normalized in the Sonic world, such that people are studying them and creating technology dependent upon them. I’m still waiting to hear why they left the planet and then were magically back again, but this is at least a start. The only other general reaction to speak of are the customization options. I’m fairly impressed by number of choices available…unless what we see in the trailer is all there is, in which case I’ll be disappointed. As I mentioned earlier, I doubt you can do anything with the shape of the body (or head-and-spikes) beyond the choice of species meaning that there’s pretty much no way I’ll be able to make Zero or Chaos, and, unless they specifically intend for the ability to make Shadow clones, that goes for Blacklight as well (Black Cloak is a maybe). The one other thing to point out are the freaking Chao backpacks! Not counting Generations, this is the first mainstream acknowledgement of Chaos as far as I know of since 2005 with Shadow the Hedgehog (where they had a great send-off: letting you murder a room full of them for free dark points). I doubt that it means anything for other Chao appearances in the game, but it’s very nice to see. These options are actually a very good opportunity to reference other forgotten things of Sonic history, and maybe even a few other SEGA things as well. I can only say that I hope the options are as wide and varied as possible.

https://i0.wp.com/nintendo-power.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Sonic-Forces-Custom-Character.jpgOf course, as always, we now have my specific Chaos Project-related reactions. Since that’s in recent memory (I started writing an hour and a half ago), I’ll start with the Wisps. As glad as I am that Wisps have a purpose, that also means that I’ll have to start acknowledging them as a normalized part of the world in my story, something I certainly haven’t been doing so far. If they really are so normal, it might actually make my existing episodes a contradiction, seeing as the Wisps don’t seem to exist at all. I’ll probably have to dedicate a Season 1 episode to rectifying that, which I was already planning on just for the sake of Lost World, but will now have to be a bit more complicated. Don’t expect to see any Wisps in the story until then.

Now, for Hero. I’m definitely going to have to wait to see more until I determine how to treat him in the long-run of the canon. His existence in and of itself certainly doesn’t contradict anything that I have (though his use of gadgets certainly bears a resemblance to Black Cloak). But, so far as I can tell, there is no easy way to integrate this. First of all, the red Wolf with glasses, the one seen in the trailer and gameplay, may or may not be acknowledged as the “real” face of this Hero, similar to how white hair is assumed real for Robin in Fire Emblem. It also might just be a proof-of-concept example. And Robin brings up another important question. Does this “Hero” have a default name? If he does, that, combined with the look shared by the trailer and the gameplay, may just be enough to allow for, at very least, an appearance in the Chaos Project. If there is no strongly-pushed default name like Robin, then there’s not much I can do. Of course, he could be killed at the end of the game or whatever else, making this discussion pointless. But if there’s even the slightest chance that I can use this character, I want to. More characters means more—and in some cases better—stories to tell. Maybe, if this game falls short on Hero’s backstory, I can…pick up the slack? Wishful thinking, I know. To conclude, even though a real character probably would have been better for my purposes, this guy still has some pretty good potential, if all of the stars align.

-Until next time, I’m gonna reach for those stars. Are you?

Updates!

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!

Review: Season 0, Episode 12

So, a lot of topics were actually brought up in this episode which I intend to explore further in the future. Of course, there is the unnamed Chaos-proof Black Comet material, the entire reason that Eggman is involved in this event. Then there’s the general relationship between humans and animoids that King briefly mentioned. There’s also general aftermath of the Black Arms invasion, though that has been touched upon already. Lastly, there’s Shadow’s mention of his faulty memories of the events of Sonic Adventure 2. Ever since the end of Shadow the Hedgehog, it has been heavily inferred that Shadow at least has a very good idea of his life before the ARK was shut down 50 years ago, and this is supported by the thorough flashbacks he’s had of that time period. But the only memories he’s ever been shown having of Adventure 2 were a couple of brief, confusing images brought about by going to the exact place where he spent much of his time in that game. And really, he’s had no need to remember any of that. It just seems likely to me that his personal memories of those events are spotty at best, only filled in by descriptions from Rouge and Sonic. It should only follow that he still holds some resentment towards having such an important event in his life be outside his reach. Exactly which memories he does and doesn’t have, I intend to examine much more closely in the coming series.

In case you couldn’t tell, this episode was pretty difficult for me to write, took much longer than average. It’s full of way too many scene breaks, which is an indicator that I’ve run out of things to say for any given time period, and need to skip ahead. Anyways, going into this episode, I was strongly expecting it to be the final of this arc. But by the time Sonic and Shadow had broken out of their chains after that long conversation, I realized that I was pretty much out of time, so I quickly came up with a few extra scenes to help fill in the remaining episode-and-a-half.

*SPOILER ALERT*

I suppose I should probably mention the fact that Shadow is the Black Cloak. I would hope that I’ve already explained it way too thoroughly within the super long conversations within the story, but in case you’re still confused, I’ll still gladly explain my thought process. It was a thought that I had long before the concept of the Chaos Project. I thought, “We haven’t seen Shadow in a really long time. I wonder what he’s doing with his life?” Though I had done a little bit of research into Sonic 06 at the time, I don’t think it had really dawned on me that Shadow was already working for G.U.N.. But my thoughts, the answer to my question, was “He would probably want to work towards fulfilling his promise of making a better future, in a way that only he can, and likely in a way that puts him as far away from Sonic as possible (thus why we don’t ever see him).” And who goes out alone, using special abilities to help people while trying not to be discovered? Superheroes! (I know, that joke wasn’t even funny the first time.) Point is, I decided that Shadow’s personality, past, and powers would very likely lead him to become a superhero. It sounds so silly, but it just makes sense. And making him an edgy, Batman-style hero wasn’t a hard connection to make.

Anyways, when I first started conceptualizing what would become the finale arc of the entire Chaos Project, one of the many included concepts was Shadow’s return to being the Black Cloak for a brief period of time (it was only at that point that I had come up with a name for him, and even then I wasn’t sure about it). And when I decided to expand the Chaos Project backwards to include what is now Season 0, I knew that it was an absolute necessity to include a Black Cloak origin story. Thus, this arc was born. The first order of business was to get Shadow out of the military, since it would be very difficult for him to do both of these things at the same time. It just so happened to work out perfectly that I needed Shadow to help develop Sonic’s character during Speed of Time anyways, and it was very easy to add in a lead-in to this arc, which even helped inspire the setting of said encounter (I originally imagined it in an outside area where Sonic would hit a tree instead of a wall). All in all, things have been working very well for me in the way of accidental perfect planning, and I’m very glad to be having each of these arcs leading into each other without requiring the reading of any other arcs to understand, nor too dramatically impacting the story of each individually.

Wow, this was a long one. One last thing to mention is that, until literally the very last moment, this episode was intended to be called “The Shadowed Knight,” a reference to “The Dark Knight,” a Batman movie, but I decided that I didn’t like that title, so I just turned this into the first part of what was originally going to be the single-part finale episode of this arc. I was also a little afraid that that title would spoil the contents of the episode. Okay, that’s all, I promise. And I didn’t even get to mention my thought process behind King. Maybe next time. But this time, thanks for reading!

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

S0 E12: Black Cloak Forever Part 1

I’ll admit, I dropped the ball on this one. Saturday came and went, and the thought of publishing this episode didn’t even occur to me until late last night. Anywho, without further ado, here is the newest exciting episode of The Chaos Project!

Sonic thinks that he’s finally caught on to the Black Cloak’s deceptions, but Black Cloak still won’t allow Sonic to stand in his way. But Sonic isn’t the only one who’s learned something. And when King captures Black Cloak at last, the truth will finally be revealed.

Preview: Season 0, Episode 12

The Black Cloak has finally been caught. Now all that remains for King is to remove the hood, and discover his true identity.

The Black Cloak mutters, “How could I have slipped up like this…?”

“Slipped up, you have, my irritating adversary.” From the shadows of the cavern, behind the lineup of androids, a pair of yellow eyes stare out.

Sonic says with disdain, “King.”

“Shut up, you. You are nothing to me.”

Sonic sighs in irritation, but obeys.

“And as for you…” Black Cloak remains almost impossibly still. “…you will drop to your knees. Now.”

“I…I’m not afraid of you.”

“Oh really? Well, you had me fooled. But just to make sure, let’s get one thing clear. Get on the ground, or my androids will open fire.”

“Your weapons don’t scare me. I won’t let you control me.”

“Oh, they won’t fire at you. They’ll fire at your little blue friend over there.” Suddenly, all the weapons in the room turn to face Sonic. A strangely distant, quiet voice can almost be heard shouting, “What!?”

Sonic tries to interject, “Don’t let–”

“I said shut up!” Sonic bows his head again. “So, tell me, hero. What’s it going to be? Your pride? Or the innocent life?”

Black Cloak looks from Sonic, to the androids, to the eyes of King. Finally, slowly, he raises his arms, and drops to his knees. “My life is yours. I surrender.”

“Oh, marvelous! I must give you credit, you are an intelligent man. And I am quite impressed at how you’ve managed to pique my curiosity so. But I must know. I must learn. Androids…bring him here. Let us see who this vigilante really is.” Two androids step out of line to grab Black Cloak by the arms, dragging him to the edge of the shadows. He doesn’t resist.

King’s mechanical arm reaches out from his place in the shadows, and firmly grasps the rim of Black Cloak’s hood. Sonic shows surprise at the robotic limb, but a look into King’s eyes reassures him. The two androids who broke formation still hold Black Cloak by the arms, but the rest have all stepped out of the way, leaving little resistance between Sonic and King. But then Sonic shakes his head. His eyes are drawn back to the Black Cloak. Little by little, his hood is being pulled back. First to be revealed are the red fringes streaking the top of his eyes. Sonic’s eyes fill with curiosity at the sight. “No…”

S0 E11: Black Cloak and Sonic

The mystery of the Black Cloak continues to unfold in this revealing new episode of The Chaos Project. Read it here!

Sonic and Black Cloak have been lost down a chasm, barely escaping the last fight with their lives. Now they must escape together. Sonic wants to take advantage of the time to learn all he can. And the Black Cloak seems surprisingly willing to share. But for every question he answers, two more are posed. What is he really hiding?

Preview: Season 0, Episode 11

Sonic and Black Cloak have been lost down a chasm, barely escaping the last fight with their lives. Now they must escape together. Maybe the Black Cloak is more open to teamwork than he first let on…

(A warning: this preview, and this episode as a whole, contains references to violence and some “animated” blood which may not be suitable for young children. I have still determined that the rating for this story should remain at K+, but just barely. Reader discretion is advised.)

Slowly, Sonic returns to consciousness. Though he opens his eyes, he still sees only blackness. “Wha…what happened?”

The voice of Black Cloak speaks from nearby, “You shoved us into the chasm, remember? You’re lucky I was able to break your fall, or you could’ve been injured a lot worse.”

“You don’t sound very grateful…considering I just saved your life.” He gets to his feet.

“I’ve been waiting on that encounter for a while now. It was supposed to be my way straight to King. Forgive me if I’m bothered at my own failure.”

Still a bit dazed, Sonic looks straight up. A small amount of dim moonlight filters down from high above. Some slight amount of visibility returns as Sonic’s eyes adjust to the darkness. Suddenly, he becomes aware of the mildly searing pain in his arm. He moves his hand up to cover the spot, and it comes away sticky with blood.

“The bullet grazed your arm. The one meant for me. You should get that wrapped up.”

Something dawns on Sonic. “You…you stayed here. Why didn’t you just leave?”

“Some hero I’d be if I left an injured man trapped at the bottom of a hole.”

“But I thought you weren’t a hero. You said that yourself.”

“Yeah, I– uh, I mean– you– ugh, nevermind! Forget I said anything…”

“What’s the matter? Did I hit a nerve? I was beginning to wonder if you even had any of those.”

“Come on. We need to get out of here.”

Sonic agrees to drop the last subject. “And how do you propose we do that?”

“You can use Chaos Control. Just warp us back up. You do have a Chaos Emerald, don’t you?”

Sonic pulls out his blue Chaos Emerald. Its soft light helps to illuminate the pit. “I…I could. But I shouldn’t.”

“Shouldn’t?”

“Chaos Control…I’ve only successfully used it a few times in my life. And every one of those times, it was absolutely necessary. Do you have any idea…how dangerous it is?”

“Dangerous? I think you’re talking about the wrong Chaos power. I’d say you have it lucky.”

“I had never really thought about it before…before recently. Warping instantly to any location you can think of…one lapse in concentration, and you end up inside of a wall or something. I’m not going to take that risk, not unless I have to. And certainly not if I’m putting someone else at risk.”

Black Cloak thinks on that for a moment. “I…guess I never thought about it that way. Well, luckily for you, I do know another way out of here. But it will have dangers of its own.”

Sonic shrugs, but winces from the pain in his arm. Through gritted teeth, he still lets out a sarcastic, “Lead the way.” The two walk off, the Chaos Emerald lighting their way.

Review: Season 0, Episode 10

Another quick episode, I really am impressed with myself. But I suppose it makes sense, since this whole arc is primarily plot-driven, which I can write for much more easily than the primarily action-driven Speed of Time arc.

That whole ending part was pretty dramatic, so I guess I’ll start from there. Before I started writing this episode, the plan was actually to end the episode with the scene that it began with, with Black Cloak and the Chaos Emerald. But on the one side, I decided I needed to try to get readers to feel more connected with Black Cloak by showing a personal moment, and on the other hand I decided that the end of last episode didn’t do a good enough job showing how evil King is. So, I moved that scene to the beginning and created a scene of King’s committing murder for the end. And it’s a good thing I did, as Black Cloak was in no position to be meditating in his cave by the end. And so we get to the previous scene, ending in his and Sonic’s falling into a bottomless pit. To be clear, these chasms are an acknowledgement of the in-game obstacles of Westopolis in Shadow the Hedgehog. The android which the three characters fought was loosely inspired by The Terminator, a film series about evil, nearly-indestructible humanoid robots. The emphasis on the word “terminate” in the next scene was not a complete accident.

The only other thing I really have to mention is the reference to Vector and the Chaotix. I came up with the scene a while ago, after most of the rest of the story was already constructed, because the thought crossed my mind that “Someone has gone missing, and the person looking for him personally knows a trio of private investigators. Why wouldn’t he ask them first?” So, I had to justify why they weren’t there, and thus keep my character list down to a more manageable number. That’s all for now, short one this time.

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

S0 E10: Black Cloak Rises

Usually I do these posts in the mornings, but I was occupied today. But that won’t stop me from publishing on my expected schedule, which means that the second part of the Black Cloak arc can now be read, right here!

Sonic may have made it into Westopolis, but the search for Shadow is far from over. Even with help from an old ally, much still stands in their way. And the Black Cloak is busy with plans of his own. With few leads to follow, and with King and Eggman together working against them, can the heroes ever find who their looking for? Can they even survive?

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.