Review: Season 1, Episode 4

Well, this one took a lot longer than I was hoping, but it’s finally done! There was a lot that went into this episode, so I’m trying to think of where to start. I knew from the moment I learned that the Jackal Squad weren’t featured in Forces that I would want to dedicate an episode to them at some point. At the time, I didn’t imagine it would be quite this soon. And a hitch came in the plan when I realized that the general consensus was that Shadow had killed them all. I mean, sure, “destroyed the entire squad” certainly could imply that, but Shadow’s no mass-murderer…right? And I’d already written into Forces of Chaos that Infinite knew they were alive, but didn’t care about them. (That was totally meant to lead into this episode, by the way.) I got around this problem by suggesting that Infinite did think they were dead at the time, but learned the next day that they weren’t. And you know, there were more than just the three Jackals in the squad besides Infinite. They’re nowhere to be seen in this episode. Perhaps Shadow really did kill the rest of them? I intentionally left it very unclear, and it could simply be that Seth, Colm, and Tana were the only ones willing to go back to the squad after Shadow’s attack, and all the rest just ran away. Whichever makes you feel better, I guess.

Let’s move on to the members of the squad, I suppose. None of them were given names…or personalities…when they originally appeared in the prequel comic. But these three are the same three who appeared most prominently in that comic, and most of Seth’s monologue was dedicated to explaining that fact. It was kind of fun, taking these nameless nobodies and turning them into real characters. I’ve seen it done by others before, and it’s interesting to see how our interpretations differ. And anyways, Seth was the closest to getting something along those lines, as he was featured right alongside Infinite in that comic, and even had a single spoken line. Based on his more eager, energetic facial expressions, and the similar inflection I interpreted from his single line, I came to the conclusion that he’s maybe a bit younger than the rest of them, but his closeness to Infinite showed that he was still most likely his second in command. I built the character based around those two observations. The result was a surprisingly optimistic personality, an interesting contrast to Infinite himself, belonging to someone who considers Infinite to be his closest friend. Perhaps they even had a sort of darker, more twisted version of the brotherly bond shared by Sonic and Tails. Maybe I’ll dig into that a little in a future episode.

Something you, in all likelihood, probably didn’t notice, is that there was a pattern to the names I chose for these three members of the Jackal Squad. They all share their names with playable characters from a game called Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. They don’t have very much else in common with these characters, just the names. Part of the reason I did this has to do with a scrapped idea I had for Infinite. When contemplating what his name should have been before he became Infinite, one of the most prominent ideas that came to me was “Innes,” which means “small, secluded island,” and of course, begins with “In” just like Infinite does. Innes also happens to be the name of a Sacred Stones character. There’s also another reason I was considering Innes, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Anyways, I liked that name, but I liked Finn even better, where “Fin” literally means “end,” the opposite of Infinite, and is also derived from the “fin” in “InFINite.” So, that was going to be it, and this episode was going to have nothing to do with Fire Emblem. But I still needed a name for Seth and the other Jackals. And that brings me to my next point.

This episode was strongly, yet loosely, inspired by Egyptian mythology. The connection was sort of already there for me. Jackals are important figures in Egyptian lore, strongly associated with death due to the real life problem of jackals digging up graves. And Infinite’s very earliest appearance involved him raiding a pyramid, which are well-known to be used as the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs. In other words, Infinite was doing exactly what inspired those Egyptian myths. They even gave him a middle-eastern style curved blade. Throw in the Phantom Ruby, and you have a clear connection to the jackal-headed Egyptian god of the dead, Anubis. That was the angle from which I decided to work this episode. Having it take place in a pyramid was an obvious choice from there, and I figured the pyramid from SA2 would simply be a more creative choice. Anyways, one of the reasons I liked “Innes” as a potential name was due to the fact that it has a similar sound to “Anubis,” driving in that connection further. But I liked Finn too much to let it go. And then there’s Seth. Seth is an alternate pronunciation for Set, another Egyptian god. Set did a lot of…interesting things in Egyptian lore, but one of the more important things he did was teaming up with Ra, God of the Sun, to slay Apophis, the Serpent of Chaos. (Now that sounds like something that can be tied back into Sonic. So who in the Sonic universe made a Sun, who could team up with Seth? And who would that make Apophis? You may have to wait until Season 5 to find out.) Point is, much like the rest of this episode, Seth is inspired by that mythology. But wait, didn’t I say Seth was a Fire Emblem character? That I did, yes. Between the coincidental near-use of Innes and the definite use of Seth, I decided to roll with that reference, and name Tana and Colm after those characters as well. Lyon, the ex-member of the Jackal Squad who died, was also named similarly, and he even shares a bit in common with his namesake…in the fact that he’s dead. Spoiler alert!

I think it’s finally time to move on to other things. Before the Jackal Squad was ever involved, this episode was planned to be a team-up with Shadow and Hero, since Hero didn’t get a proper spotlight in his introduction episode, and Shadow, the second main character of the series, has been lurking in the background this entire season so far. And I realize that with so much focus on Seth, that got a little bit lost. I realized that with a third character in the mix, Hero, being mute, would be hard-pressed to get enough screen time, since Shadow and Seth would be able to keep talking to each other. With that in mind, I made sure to kick the episode off with a sweet little character moment with him and Bruno, so that he didn’t just seem like a flat, pointless character the entire time. This is probably the first time I can say that Bruno was pretty much totally useless, but now that I’ve written him in, I’ve got to stick with him. Anyways, Hero and Infinite are supposed to have a thing going, that was emphasized well enough back during Forces of Chaos, but once again, with so much focus on Seth, that got lost this time around. At least he made friends with Shadow, even if that was kind of forced in at the end.

So…there are three Phantom Rubies. And Shadow may or may not have promised to help Infinite find them. So why are there three? Well, why are there seven Emeralds? Why are there twelve Temporal Sapphires? Perhaps this is related somehow. We never did learn why Chaos and Ruby energy interact the way they do. Or what the Phantom Ruby really is. But now, we’re doing alright, and we’re on our way.

-So until next time, remember to face every moment, day by day!

Advertisements

Review: Season 0 Finale (Episode 32)

Oh, man. It’s hard to believe it’s over. I mean, The Chaos Project still has a long way to go, but Season 0, the backbone of the whole story, is actually over. It’s been two years. Two whole years! Ten percent of my life, I’ve spent on this season alone, and now it’s over! Two years ago, if you had told me I would end the season on a cliffhanger battle between Blacklight and Infinite, I would’ve…well, first I would’ve asked who Infinite is, because Forces wasn’t announced yet, but then I would’ve called you crazy. Certainly, I would’ve been on, like, Season 2 at least. And certainly, if it had somehow taken me that long to end Season 0, there’s no way I would’ve dedicated such an important episode to concepts from some bland Modern Sonic game that no one likes. After all, the stories of Modern Sonic games are specifically what I’m writing this story to combat. And yet, here we are. I guess you just never know what life’s gonna throw at you. But hey, make your move, work it out, that’s what life is all about. It’s an adventure. And somehow, through it all, it still leads into Crisis of Chaos in exactly the ways I wanted it to. I suppose I should probably explain that ending scene itself. The idea didn’t occur to me until some time during the writing of this episode, but I thought that, given the way this whole arc started, and the innate similarities between Infinite and Blacklight that have been drastically strengthened by the Ruby connection, their relationship needed better resolution than the climax offered.

Man, where do I even go from here, talking about this episode? SO. MUCH. ACTION. This was really testing the limits of my action-writing skills. I suppose that explains how this ended up being far and away the longest episode of this season, likely of the entire story. 14,000 words, where 5,000 is where I like to be, and 11,000 was the record set just one episode earlier. Dialogue is very efficient, one word of dialogue translates fairly well to one second of screen time. But for an action sequence, two or three sentences, long ones, could be necessary to describe just a quick few seconds of equivalent on-screen motion.

Anyways, I suppose I should start with the actual episode content now. I already mentioned in last episode’s review that that episode was like the “character finale,” while this is the “action and plot finale,” and that ended up holding pretty true. But what I didn’t say was that, while last episode was specifically for Shadow and his little group, this episode was for everyone. Usually I like to identify who the main characters for each episode are, and by my normal evaluation method, that would include pretty much the entire Sonic cast this time (the exceptions being Silver, Blaze, Classic Sonic, Zero, and arguably Sonic himself, plus spin-off characters like the Babylons). For such an important episode, I think that’s pretty fair.

Since it actually took up a pretty fair percentage of this episode, I suppose I should talk about Cream’s little character arc. I promised it would happen, and I think I delivered. In the end, she didn’t really “handle herself” as well as I’d hoped, but I also wanted to make sure to keep things within her established character. Fun fact; I was originally planning on having her actually accept the gun from the Commander, or maybe end up being forced to use his, but in the end, I realized that was kind of…wrong, to put a gun in the hands of a seven-year-old. Hence why I had to talk about the safeties in the gun to have the Commander offer the weapon in the first place without seeming like a terrible, terrible person in the process. The culprit, I think, for making me think it was okay before I came to my senses, is Ender’s Game, a sci-fi novel about a child sent to wage war against an alien race. You might remember it for the terrible movie it had a few years back, but the books are great. Anyways, the idea of a kid with a gun didn’t seem so crazy to me in light of that, but I realized that not everyone would agree with that assessment. But anyways, those scenes were also nice because I got to give the Commander a proper character arc, even if only a small one. I’ve been painting him as such a jerk throughout this series, but I do really like him as a character, so it was very nice to show his more caring, protective side. Not to mention his skills as a soldier, since he’s usually on the sidelines. Before our next topic, I’d like to confirm that Heavy Shinobi is not dead. I just wanted to prove a point about Infinite’s brutality, which I think went quite well.

Since I just mentioned soldiers, I guess I’ll move on to Hero next. I knew right from the beginning that I didn’t want to pull another fake Super Form with him like I did in After the Fight, but I also knew that he was much too important to this episode arc to be relegated to lesser fights. So, recalling the fact that Titanic Monarch was a Zone before it was a final boss, I thought that having Hero traverse that Zone in the middle of Shadow’s Super fight would be a great way to show off the sheer scale of the Monarch, while also giving him a great opportunity for a final interaction with Infinite. Of course, this planning was all before I was even done with After the Fight, so their entire thing they had going back then was all for the purpose of leading up to “I don’t want to see you burn.” Essentially, that was Infinite’s way of saying “I care about you,” which is insane for him, but that’s why I had them spend so much time together over the course of this arc. And then of course, Hero said his first words! Sort of. “Nuh-uh” aren’t exactly words. I originally planned on a more resolute “No,” but I was advised against such a drastic move at this time. Doesn’t mean he won’t say more in the future, but as his very first semblance of speech, something a little more like how he usually expresses himself seemed a little more appropriate. And of course, we have his resolution, becoming a proper GUN soldier. I mentioned this before, and I know that it felt rushed, almost out of the blue, but I couldn’t have him talk about it! The best I could do is hint that he’d be without a purpose after the war, and show that he has a respect for the Commander. Honestly, I think it’s a pretty reasonable step for him to take, given his character arc in Forces alone, but since it’s technically your custom character, I can see why anyone might disagree with that.

I guess I’ll talk about my shames of this episode now. Probably the biggest was how much Tails was shoved off to the side, considering that he was technically the first main character of this arc. Before Forces ever came along, this arc was intended to form a pretty important bond between Shadow and Tails, and I’ll admit that that part got completely dropped halfway through. I’ll just have to move the building of that relationship off into next season (or maybe the one after), which is fine by me. I can still use the early episodes of this arc as a foundation. But anyways, it’s actually pretty sad that Cream got more of a focus in this episode than Tails did, but in the grand scheme of things, he really just wasn’t that important, and I didn’t want to force anything. Next up is the Super fight. It was meant to be…a lot more exciting. But as you could probably tell, I gave up on actually describing most of it halfway through, and instead just implied that stuff was happening while they were talking. The problem is that the Monarch itself had a giant, blaring, fragile weak point, one hit and it’s over, which made it a lot harder to keep interesting. Not to mention the fact that the episode was intended to be much shorter, so one battle spread throughout all of it wouldn’t have seemed so dragged out that way. There’s one last disappointment, and it’s a small one. Considering that Bruno the Wisp is technically the only original character I introduced in this arc, I would’ve like for him to be…at least a little bit more important. I mean, he served his purpose, he gave Hero a way to communicate with others, he armed the Wispon when necessary, and he showed off character from Hero in that he’s less secure without him. And of course, he had a few entertaining interactions with Infinite. But he himself didn’t gain much in the way of character. Oh, well. And…that’s really all for disappointments. I’m quite fond of this episode over all.

I could probably keep talking here for hours, as seems to be becoming the norm. But I think I’ve covered all the most important parts. There are quite a few things I sort of intended to talk about, like more about those three ending scenes, but I think I wrote them in a way that each speaks for itself. So I guess this is where I’ll stop. So now is the time for another big announcement. I can now confirm that I will publish the premiere episode of Season 1 on June 23rd, the second anniversary of the story, and Sonic’s 27th. That’s next week! No need for a long seasonal break! (Though there may be a summer hiatus thereafter.) So keep an eye out!

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

S0 E31: The Time of Reckoning, Part 1

After far too long of a wait, the first part of the epic Season 0 Finale is finally here! You can read it right here!

The sun may not be falling in the sky beyond, but light is still fading from our world. The Phantom Ruby will destroy all of reality if it cannot be stopped. There’s only one last chance to get it away from Blacklight. But he won’t give it up without a fight. Not to anyone. The final battle has begun.

Preview: Season 0, Episode…31 Again?

Since last time we spoke on this series, I changed around the episode numbers a little bit. After the Fight, the Sonic Forces Special which does include a single event contemporary to the story, no longer counts towards the Season’s episode count, and is instead its own separate entity. It’s still located in the same place, it just isn’t numbered. The result of this is that all episodes thereafter had their number lowered by one, making what I once called 31 into 30, and this, which would have once been 32, into 31. Why did I do it? Well, like I said, that episode was very unusual for the story as a whole, taking place 100% in the past, so it makes sense that it wouldn’t count. I may have flashback episodes in the future, but there will always be a base in the present. But…perhaps the more important reason is that this way, the Season will now end at a nice round 32 episodes. That’s right. This is the next-to-last episode of the Season. But enough of all that, you came here for a preview, right?

Backed by Chaos, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Rouge, Omega, Vector, Espio, Charmy, Hero, Infinite, and an army of GUN soldiers, human and animoid alike, Shadow stands ready to lead the charge against the horde of Replicas that stand opposite to them, including Zavok, Metal Sonic, Chaos 0, Mephiles, and countless of Blacklight’s shadowy minion creatures. Blacklight, still bearing the mask of Infinite, and the intensely-glowing Phantom Ruby, floats high above them, slowly drifting down until he stands before his army just as Shadow does. He speaks with a strange, distorted voice overlaid with his own, “So good to see you again, Shadow. We were wondering how long it would it would take you to take our bait.” The air is filled with strange glowing fissures in space itself, leaking out small violet particles. “And we see that you brought all your friends. That will make them much easier to destroy.”

Shadow at first seems surprised at the coherence of Blacklight’s thoughts. “Blacklight…is that still you?”

Blacklight laughs softly. “Of course it’s us, Shadow. Who else would it be?”

“Us? You and who else?”

“No one else. Just us.” He places his hand over the Ruby. “We are one, now.”

“No, no, don’t you see it!? That Ruby is taking over your mind! But it’s not too late to fight it! You have to fight it!”

“Fight it? Why would we want to do that? We were always destined to be together, don’t you see it, Shadow?”

Behind Shadow, Infinite growls and clenches his hand around his blade.

Shadow responds, “What happened to the free spirit, who hated rules and wouldn’t listen to anyone but himself!? Isn’t he still in there!?”

“Yes…and no. Besides, we still listen only to ourselves. Hence, why we aren’t listening to you now. So we would suggest you stop wasting your time. That is, if you still intend to stop us.”

Shadow closes his eyes and sighs, ready to take his last shot. “I have something for you.”

“What’s this? A gift?”

“That’s right.” Somewhat hesitantly, Shadow pulls something out and holds it up high for Blacklight to see. It’s a shiny red apple.

Blacklight gasps. “Is that…could it be?”

Shadow nods encouragingly. “I brought it for you. Just you. I thought you might enjoy it.”

“Shadow…that really means a lot, you know?” Slowly, Blacklight starts to lift his mask, revealing a genuine smile underneath. But, halfway up, he seems to change his mind, and lowers the mask back down. “Only two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine more before you’ve repaid your debt to us.” He directs out a hand, a violet glow is cast over the apple in Shadow’s hand. With the flick of a wrist, the apple is plucked out of Shadow’s hand with the Ruby’s power, and drawn into Blacklight’s. He lifts his mask up again, just high enough to take a large bite. “Hm. Not bad.”

Shadow lets out another sigh, realizing that there will be no easy way out.

Through a mouthful of apple, Blacklight continues, “Well, what will it be, Shadow? Who will make the first move?”

Behind Shadow, Infinite suddenly shouts, “We will!” Sword drawn, he charges alone out of line. Immediately, Hero runs after him, raising his Wispon in preparation to back him up.

Blacklight merely laughs, extending his arms wide as a command for his entire army to charge in response.

Havoc erupts on the battlefield.

The final battle has begun.

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

Review: Season 0, Episode 30

Not again! I already mentioned that about 3/4 of this episode were supposed to be part of the last, but that one ran long. And I did have something new in mind to accommodate this episode’s new structure. And that STILL didn’t work, because this one ran long as well. This time, I had to give in and tag on a couple thousand extra words, and it still wasn’t enough. This episode originally had the title that will now be held by the next, because this one was supposed to focus on a topic that I didn’t even get to start. (Here’s a hint for you: The next episode will be called “Don’t Believe.”) That ending was just the beginning. I even had to rearrange some of the scenes to have the more dramatic ending.

Beyond all of that, I’m not sure that I have a whole lot to say about this episode. I suppose I should start with the story of Heavy King. In case it wasn’t clear, yes, I’m implying that King is the very same Egg Robo who served as an antagonist in Knuckles’ story in Sonic & Knuckles. Back when I used to play that game a lot as a kid, I would play Knuckles’ story A LOT more than Sonic’s, and I wasn’t nearly good enough to get very far in either of them. So I had no idea what this thing that isn’t Eggman was that I was fighting, because I’d never seen it as an enemy in Sky Sanctuary. In fact, I don’t think I ever figured that out until Sonic Generations came around, that was my first experience with the zone. I was probably a little bit disappointed when I learned that this thing was nothing more than a random enemy robot trying to take Eggman’s place. But there was still a latent curiosity about the character, which is probably what inspired me to make this unusual headcanon. At least, I’ve never seen it theorized by anyone else. I’m trying to establish Heavy King as a sort of rival to Knuckles, which is perfectly reasonable seeing as Knuckles had an exclusive fight against him in Mania, but now it’s a lot more personal than that. Other characters are going to have their own Heavy rivals as well, I might go a bit into Omega’s rivalry with Heavy Gunner next episode, but King is the important one for the purposes of this story, hence why he got this little backstory. Eventually, I hope to give similar backstories to each of the Heavies, basic explanations as to why the Ruby changed them each the way it did, though plans are tentative at best. Again, Gunner is currently the closest to a complete idea.

I want to talk about Infinite, but I’m not quite sure what I can say at this point. It’s not altogether clear what the future has in store for him. What is clear is that right now, he’s at his absolute lowest. And the Phantom Ruby matters more to him than anything else.

I’m trying hard to reference not just as many of my own arcs as possible, but as much of the entire Sonic history as well, for this penultimate arc of Season 0. Hence, a few things. I chose Star Light Zone for a location, because I wanted a location from the classic games that wouldn’t automatically look like a reference to Forces, Generations, or Mania, and for a place that seems like it could be of some strategic value to conquer, Star Light seemed like the obvious choice. On the opposite side of things, we have Mephiles. I never much considered what Replicas Blacklight would have during the planning phases for this arc, and when the time came two episodes ago and I only wanted three to face off against the three characters, Shadow seemed like the obvious one to exclude, to avoid confusion and unnecessary dialogue. I was fine just leaving it that way at first, but in the scene where Blacklight is pondering over what to conquer, I realized that three wasn’t really enough compared to Eggman’s five Heavies. I considered bringing Shadow back as a Replica without any fanfare, but I was also wanting to do something that would set him apart from Infinite. I remembered how I had Blacklight mention learning about Mephiles from the Chaos Emeralds, and also thought about how much people were talking before the release of Forces about Mephiles needing to be a part of Infinite’s villain squad, or even Infinite being Mephiles himself. Most importantly, I was thinking about a scene for the next couple of episodes which may have included Mephiles as a Replica anyways, with or without this introduction. So I decided with was better.

Also worth mentioning here is the Apotos ice cream man. Come on, you all remember him, right? The guy who gave Chip his name? Do you remember how he talked? I was still fairly young when I first played Unleashed, and I didn’t know much about voice actors, but when that man first started speaking, I looked around, excited to see Knuckles. But there was no Knuckles. Just a man voiced by Dan Green, the same talented actor who was voicing Knuckles at the time. Ironically enough, he also voiced Mephiles. Back on topic though, when I realized that I was sending Knuckles into the city from Unleashed, I couldn’t not make this joke, them realizing that they have the same voice. Just to drive it in, I likened the ice cream recipe to the Master Emerald, making them seem not just similar in voice, but in character as well. I was mistakenly thinking he was from Spagonia, not Apotos, so I actually ended up changing which city they were going to just to accommodate this scene. It’s not like this was totally out of the blue, I wanted him and Amy to have some kind of character moment between the battles, and this seemed like the obvious one to do.

I also mentioned the references to my own arcs. Obviously, it isn’t necessary to force references to Birth of Blacklight, since Blacklight just being here is doing that for me. To a lesser extent, the same is true about Dawn of Chaos, but I still have to have it discussed as long as Chaos himself isn’t here. But I did make sure in this episode to call back to Shadow’s time as the Black Cloak, as well as how Sonic changed all the way back in Speed of Time. The continuation from there to here isn’t as obvious, so I need to make sure that this arc properly seems like the culmination of everything that’s happened so far. It’s a bit of a shame that Sonic isn’t here for this big conclusion, but now that Sonic is training with Chaos, he’s all caught up with Crisis of Chaos, he just doesn’t need anything more. Shadow, on the other hand, is a bit farther off than I’d hoped by this point. That conversation with Tails before Mephiles showed up wasn’t totally planned, but was absolutely vital in getting him where he needs to be. The key moment can’t come until very close to the end, but he needs to go from “I don’t want to be here” to “I want to be a better person,” over the course of just a few episodes, which is really asking a lot. I planned on Birth of Blacklight being that transition point I need, but I ended up taking it way too far there (as you might have been able to tell by Shadow’s statement in the last episode about being weak and gullible at the time), and I ended up having to dial it back this time, removing that transition, which I’m really kicking myself for right about now. I just hope that I can make up for it with one powerful moment. And by the way, as to Sonic, no need to worry about him not being here. You’ll be seeing him again very soon.

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

Opinionated Review: Sonic Forces

Yeah, I’ve been holding out on this for a while, even though it’s the whole reason I started these reviews in the first place. This game…was something. And I’m honestly not going to be sure what something means until I’ve finished writing here. When I first finished the game, I was unsure of what to think, and while my opinions have solidified a little more since then, I was hoping to have a better idea by now. So here we go—even I don’t know where.

Continue reading

Review: Season 0, Episode 29

So, this episode was…a bit different than I was originally expecting. There’s nothing in particular that was changed, it’s just that the three different stories going on between Eggmanland, the Empire Fortress, and the Resistance base, ended up taking a lot more time than I was expecting. I had in mind that those scenes would go by quickly, so the bulk of the episode could take place in Central City. The sad thing is, we’re now two episodes in to what I was originally thinking might be a three or four episode arc, and we technically aren’t even out of what would constitute the tutorial of the hypothetical game that this arc represents. But when has an arc ever been as short as I planned? Speaking of the game, I’ll get to explaining that in a moment, but let me think if there’s anything else about the episode first. I was originally planning on leaving the Heavies out until next season, but I was convinced that now, in the fallout of the Phantom Ruby troubles, would be the best time, the most convenient excuse to get them here, not to mention that they fit well not only into the story, but even better into the game concept. The only real problem now is that, if I want them to stick around, I have to come up with an excuse for why they weren’t in Crisis of Chaos.

Anyways, onto that game I mentioned. This Forces of Chaos arc, like everything else in Season 0, stems from a hypothetical game idea, which I’ve been calling “Sonic Conquest”. Yes, I know the game’s about Shadow instead of Sonic, but “Shadow Conquest” doesn’t have even close to the same ring to it. I’m going to be honest here and say that the concept is strongly based off of Pokémon Conquest, a spinoff title of its respective franchise for the Nintendo DS, which was a crossover with the Japanese “Nobunaga’s Ambition” series. The game featured you as a self-insert leader, who, by strategically deploying your troops and their Pokémon, would eventually unite all territories on the continent under your rule. And there lies the core idea of “Sonic Conquest.” Let me start from the beginning.

Pokémon Conquest is a sort of tactical RPG, but Sonic Conquest plays much more like a standard Sonic game, with levels where you destroy enemies and reach a goal. The difference comes in how those levels are selected, and who you play as in each. You begin with a single character, Shadow, in the Seaside Hill territory. Territories are an important part of this game. The entire globe is divided into territories, each of which has an allegiance – Federation (represented by Shadow), Empire (represented by Eggman) or Infinite (represented by Blacklight). But the allegiance mechanic doesn’t come in until later, for the beginning of the game it’s just a place. Each territory also has at least one level location, and a boss location. So, once you play through the tutorial level location (Sea Gate, I figure), you proceed to the boss arena, Whale Island, for your first bout with Blacklight, the new Infinite. After the boss, you view the World Map for the first time, and Tails joins your army. At this point the game is still in tutorial mode, so only one more territory becomes available to view, Sunset Heights. This is also the initial introduction to allegiances, as Seaside Hill becomes aligned to Federation, and Sunset Heights becomes aligned to Empire. For the tutorial purposes, you must then “invade” the Sunset Heights territory, once again as Shadow, this time along with Tails.

In any kind of deployment or invasion, only a limited number of units can be deployed, a unit being either a single character, known as a General, or an army squadron. Sunset Heights is defended by one army squadron of Empire robots, and one General, Blacklight. When a territory has at least one squadron deployed, an invasion of that territory requires you to play through the level location (guarded by enemies, or double or triple the enemies if multiple squadrons are deployed), which in this case is Park Avenue. Similarly, if a territory has a General deployed, but no squadrons, you go straight to the boss location, which in this case I figure is “Red Gate Plaza” (a slight liberty taken, since it’s not a running boss and so can’t take place on the bridge itself). If it has some combination of the two, you must do both. If you are successful, then you claim the territory in the name of the United Federation. When Shadow broke the flag at the end of the level last episode, that was a midifcation on the standard “victory pose” for the end of each level, where whichever character you’re playing as plants a United Federation flag in the ground (or a different flag, for some of the postgame modes, but more on that later).

But back to the normal progression. Between the level and the boss, the Avatar joins your army, and automatically becomes part of your current invasion as well. (I don’t know whether the Avatar would actually be customizable in this game or not. It seems silly that the Avatar would be included without customization, but then for a game that doesn’t focus on him as a character, it seems like it would be a pretty silly distraction from the rest of the game. Perhaps there are just a few limited options that you select from at the beginning of the game, but then there’s no changing it afterwards.) Once you beat the boss, Sunset Heights becomes yours. This is where the real game starts…sort of. The entire World Map opens up, giving you a detailed look at the waging war. I don’t know how many territories there would be for the game, but for the purpose of this explanation, let’s just say that there’s 12. 8 of them (the 60 percent mentioned in the story) is aligned to Empire, while the remaining four (Seaside Hill, Sunset Heights, Central City, and Mystic Ruins) are aligned to Federation (you). However, immediately, half of the Empire territories become taken by Infinite, as Blacklight splits off from the Eggman Empire, leaving one third of the planet for each alignment. There’s still a little bit of tutorial left, in teaching you troop management. The tutorial instructs you to deploy Tails in Mystic Ruins, Shadow in Seaside Hill, and leave the Avatar in Sunset Heights, in order to best defend your borders. On this map, an army can only invade a neighboring territory, and the opposing armies behave just as you do. If an undefended territory is attacked, it is taken over automatically. By having troops deployed around your borders, you protect your inner territories from being claimed so easily. However, because you only have three available units, one of your four territories are left undefended. Because you’ve already invaded Sunset Heights using all of your available units, you must proceed to “end your turn.” During Blacklight’s turn, you are attacked at Mystic Ruins, teaching you the mechanics of defending. Just like if you attack a General, if one of your Generals is attacked, you must fight a boss, and if you are attacked by an army squadron, you must play through a special “destroy all enemies” modification of the level area, or a separate defense area, depending on the location. For example, Sea Gate serves as a separate defense area for Seaside Hill in addition to being the tutorial setting (Ocean Palace being the attack stage that you probably won’t see in your first playthrough), while Central City has Radial Highway for attack and Cityscape for defense (hope you caught those references, Radial Highway being a one-letter modification of Radical Highway, and Cityscape being the same for City Escape). Anyways, win or lose, next comes Eggman’s turn. Eggman attacks Central City, and, undefended, takes it. Once your turn comes again, the very last thing that you are forced to do is take back Central City. Once you do, you meet up with GUN in the story, and gain command of several army squadrons of your own. That part hasn’t happened in the story yet. From there on out, you’re on your own. Your goal is to take back the entire world, one territory at a time. Unlock more characters as you take certain territories, strategically deploy your units to keep your borders protected, choose who you play as and when. I won’t go into detail on later game happenings, to avoid story spoilers. I suppose I forgot to mention, after the split, Eggman’s Generals are the Hard Boiled Heavies, while Blacklight’s Generals are the Phantom Ruby Replicas. But one of the best parts of this game is the extreme post-game content. Because once you beat “Shadow’s Story,” you begin to unlock other stories, simple little scenarios of questionable canon, where you have some other character as your head Commander, instead of Shadow. These stories may take place within limited parts of the world, or have some other manner of gimmick in order to complete, but every last General, including the villains, would have their own story. The prize for completing all the rest would be Sonic’s story, who otherwise wouldn’t be playable in the game. Sonic’s story, though still taking place in the same world and levels, would be arranged such that you must play through levels in order, no armies to fight back against you, no Generals to collect, but still with periodic bosses to fight. Essentially, a normal Sonic game.

Let’s see…anything I’m missing? I suppose I forgot to mention what the purpose is of having multiple Generals deployed in a single area. Somewhat like Sonic Forces, this game doesn’t have a traditional life system. But unlike Forces, a “Game Over” is still a very real possibility. Your available lives is directly tied to the number of Generals you have deployed. If you lose a life as one General, you start from your last checkpoint as the next. If you run through all of the Generals you have deployed, you lose the battle, and the territory. If you’re very skilled at the game, you’ll only ever need to deploy one General in any given area, and you can wrap up the game very quickly by spreading out your forces. But if you need that extra safety cusion, you’ll have to concentrate your forces more, which means you won’t be able to accomplish as much each turn,  and completeing the game will take considerably longer. As you proceed through the many postgame stories, you’re bound to get good enough to do the former. And…I think that’s all.

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

S0 E29: The Gears Begin to Turn

After a short delay, the next episode of The Chaos Project is finally out! Read it right here!

The Second Great Eggman War has been set in motion. Now fighting a war on two fronts, against Eggman with his Hard Boiled Heavies, and Blacklight with his Phantom Ruby Replicas, Shadow and the rest of the new Resistance will take help anywhere they can get it. Even from the darkest of villains.

S0 E28: No One Left to Save the World

Yesterday, a new episode of The Chaos Project was finally released! Read it right here!

Almost two years have passed since the First Great Eggman War came to an end, but still the fighting goes onward. With Sonic defeated by the new wielder of the Phantom Ruby, Eggman has started war once again, taking the planet piece by piece. And with Sonic gone, who else can stand up to such power?

Review: After the Fight

Wow. This was an undertaking. Where do I even begin? From the beginning, I suppose. Our starting point would be the moment I finished Infinite Possibilities, the first Sonic Forces special. At that point, I had literally no idea what would come next. I had the basic, rudimentary outline of what the next episode arc would be, and made that first special purely as a way to kick off that arc while simultaneously celebrating the release of Forces. I wrote it knowing that I would eventually have to explain how Blacklight became Infinite, but I figured, based on the “Phantom Ruby prototype” concept (which I only knew about because of the beta release of the mobile game, Sonic Forces Speed Battle) that it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to explain later that Eggman simply made another fake, if all else failed.

Unrelated to that train of thought, a little while after the game came out, I was accidentally spoiled by a single name. “Null Space.” I had no idea what it was, or what its role was in the game (though the spoiler in question did contain the statement that it was underused in the plot). I knew at that moment that I had found my connection between Sonic Forces and my story. From the beginning, back when I wrote the final episode of the Birth of Blacklight arc, I specifically left one very vague statement at the end. “He is safely hidden away.” On one hand, I actually hadn’t yet put the thought into where exactly that hiding place would be, as I knew that I had the whole Dawn of Chaos arc in the middle to think of a good location to kick off this new arc (originally, the location of Sonic’s fight in what would become the first Forces special was supposed to be that hiding spot, he was supposed to see Blacklight getting woken up). On the other hand, the imminent release of Forces was in the back of my mind, and I had a pretty good feeling at that point that it would coincide with the beginning of this new arc. I saw an opportunity to connect them, so I decided that a great way to do so would be to make that hiding place an important location from Forces itself. So when I saw the words “Null Space,” what I saw was something that could almost certainly be the exact place I was looking for to bring this all together. The decision to make Blacklight into Infinite was entirely separate, so when I actually played the game for myself, and learned that Null Space was so intrinsically related to the Phantom Ruby and Infinite, I was almost giddy. The connection wasn’t just there, it was perfect.

One other spoiler I accidentally got was a snapshot of the final scene before the credits, all the characters cheering in front of what I later learned was the Eggman Empire Fortress. By that point, I had already learned quite a bit about Infinite as a character, between the prequel comics, the trailers, and my own attempt with Blacklight-Infinite. I had grown very attached to him. I thought that the face under his mask was…well, sort of adorable. Maybe handsome would be a better word. Either way, I liked him. I wanted to see that guy be happy. So I started planning for a redemption story. I wanted him to come crawling back at the moment of that snapshot I saw, begging for forgiveness, warning of some greater threat. I wanted he and the Avatar to become good friends, for the Avatar to truly show him the way back to heroism. Sound familiar? Bcause that’s pretty much exactly what I ended up writing…up to the last three minutes or so. More on that in a moment.

After I played the game, things just kept falling into place. The “Fading World” background song for Imperial Tower (that level was a great experience, by the way) implied that the Ruby prototype was calling to the Avatar’s dark emotions, helping to justify Infinite’s being a better person without it. Infinite disappeared towards the end of the story, without a clear end, without any serious character resolution. Best of all (or worst, from any standpoint other than mine as a writer) Eggman didn’t even use the real Ruby! He used Infinite’s prototype! (At least, I’m 90% sure on that. It wasn’t extremely clear, and I’ve seen some debate about it.) All of the pieces lined up into a perfect puzzle, where the Phantom Ruby itself could be framed as the true final villain, Infinite would have perfect reason to be the necessary exposition to explain that, and could be truly redeemed from there. I explained some of the basics of my ideas to my brother and fellow writer, Yuni Oha. He was skeptical. He didn’t really see redemption as a reasonable option, because Infinite was so darned evil in the real story. I argued back that his one blue eye was meant to show that he still had some good in him, and he just tried to cover it up with the mask. He countered that everything I said may make for a good excuse, after the fact, of why I did it, but none of it makes for a proper reason to make it happen in the first place. Not long later, the full Sonic Forces soundtrack was released. After he listened to Infinite’s full theme for the first time, he begged me not redeem him. And, after some further discussion, I was convinced. No more redemption for Infinite. Problem was, I’d already planned such a full and complex story to write, that heavily depended on Infinite as a character. In fact, I still started writing this episode less than 24 hours after that. So I thought…Let’s fake it! More specifically, let’s help out Infinite’s character in a different way. Let’s see him at his lowest, see him show a level of caring that we haven’t seen before, give all of us a reason to care about him as a person, even as he stays evil to the end. I was still able to write a fundamentally similar story, just with an added moment of extra drama right at the end. But that still left one problem. If Infinite is still Infinite, how can Blacklight become Infinite? In order to answer that question, I ended up coming up with a much better concluding scene than I was originally planning. “Better” being a relative term. Because it was kind of sad for me, going through all that work to bring Infinite back to power, only to take it away from him. But at that point, the first Forces special had been out there for well over a month, and it was absolutely necessary that Blacklight become the primary problem. I needed to write myself out of that hole with that scene. And it was a good scene, sudden and unexpected, but disappointing from Infinite’s perspective all the same.

So, what else is there to talk about? I ended up writing this episode with the thought in mind to make it as easy as possible to read for someone who’s never read any part of the rest of the series before, partly because Yuni said he wanted to read it after the Infinite conversation we had, and partly just because, as a direct insert into Sonic Forces, direct connections to the rest of my story weren’t really all that necessary. That’s why I didn’t actually name Lt. Alfred when he was voicing over at the beginning, why I had him give a brief synopsis of the Birth of Blacklight arc in the first place.

The design and concept of the Phantom Nightmare was something that came to me quickly and easily. After all the buildup with the Replicas, you only ended up fighting half of them in the final game, and even then they never really did anything. Plus, it was something Yuni and I had been talking about long before the game came out, that all four of the advertised Replicas had some manner of Super Form. It was a logical step to give them all a purpose, while creating an opponent worthy of Super Sonic. With the Ruby’s illusionary powers, fusing them all together into a single monster seemed like a logical extreme. The addition of Heavy King was something that I was debating at first, but in the end I decided that anything that gives Classic Sonic a reason to exist is a good thing. (That one line, “This was never your fight,” was a stab at the fact that Classic Sonic didn’t even belong in this game). I also debated using Titanic Monarch instead of Phantom King as the Heavy King’s “Super Form,” but I was convinced that it just couldn’t properly be justified at this time. Originally, I was planning on having the Phantom Nightmare simply tear out of Null Space right from the get-go. But Yuni, once again, convinced me to have a clear scene where each of the Replicas transform before fusing, just to make it clear what’s really happening.

Let’s see, what else? I was glad to give an excuse to exclude Shadow and Silver from this Super fight, where Generations DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER. *Ahem* Sorry, that’s just a thing that bothers me.

The Avatar’s character arc is something that most people would say Forces did relatively well, especially compared to most recent Sonic games. But I knew that it could use a little extra something. The Avatar grew from point A to point B, which was good. But any good character development arc requires a moment of reflection. A moment where a question is posed, and resolutely answered, of how valid that development was. Speaking of the Avatar, his new little Wisp friend is something that came to me sort of randomly, but I thought it would be good for him to have someone he could call a partner, even when he’s out there alone.

Well, there’s more I could probably say, but I think this has gone on long enough. But rest assured. This is not the last you’ve seen of Infinite or the Avatar.

-And before I say goodbye to you, one more last fist bump!
(For real this time, last one, I promise.)