Review: Season 1, Episode 18 (Finale)

Another kicker, this one was. I shouldn’t be surprised by now, the most important episodes are always the hardest to write, because everything needs to be absolutely perfect. As an episode…I’m a little bit hesitant to pass judgement on this one. I felt hyperaware during the writing process of how awkwardly paced this whole thing was, with lots of standing around and talking during what should have been intense and dramatic moments—it’s just hard to do otherwise when there are so many important things that need to be said—in addition to lots of sudden breaks between action sequences that were necessary in order to keep a wider view of events that doesn’t leave any one topic forgotten for too long. But as a conclusion to the season…I’m pretty happy with how everything turned out. I was worried about the daunting task of topping part 1 in terms of drama, and while it did take some doing, I think that I at least accomplished that much.

Not everything turned out exactly how I envisioned it. I originally imagined that the raid on the Death Egg would take up a more solid chunk of the episode, as Shadow grudgingly worked together with Sonic to overcome the station swarming with traps and guards and lots of thing to blow up. In general, the big question mark surrounding whether or not Shadow is able to trust Sonic was intended to play a much larger role in the episode. But then I threw Knuckles into the mix. Right up until the day I wrote the conclusion of Part 1, my intention was for that to be the last that was seen of Fang—he shoots Knuckles, takes the Emeralds, turns them over off-screen, and that’s the end of it. I soon decided that it would be too unceremonious of an end for a character who is effectively the main villain of the Season, so I decided the easiest way to get him to a more proper conclusion without changing plans too much would be to throw him on the Death Egg. At the time that I made that decision, it was actually supposed to be Tails who went up along with Sonic and Shadow—Knuckles was intended to be put out of commission for this episode when he was shot. So I figured that Sonic would be the most reasonable candidate of the three to have one final fight with Fang, and then Tails could even have a nice little growth story where he shows that fighting Eggman on his own is no longer proof of anything, but instead is now simply what he expects of himself as a hero. There were a few obvious logical issues that came out of all that. While Fang has certainly mentioned his hatred for Sonic quite frequently, Sonic as a rival for him hasn’t really been built up at all—they only met face-to-face once this Season before these episodes, and they only exchanged a few words. Knuckles, meanwhile, was specifically being built up as a rival (pretty much just for the purpose of taking his hat in the end), so having that final confrontation not include Knuckles would just be strange. Meanwhile, Tails, the medical expert of the Rebellion, abandoning Rouge when it’s being clearly established that she’s dying wouldn’t make any sense at all. And even then, Tails’ growth isn’t really something that’s been focused on this Season, it’s been deferred to next, so having him on the Death Egg wouldn’t really accomplish much. And so, even though it required a lot of rearranging and rethinking of this episode, I chose to swap Tails out for Knuckles. I’m definitely happy with that decision. Though I do wonder if that’s part of the reason writing this episode ended up taking so much longer.

Oh! Right, I was in the middle of something. Adding Knuckles (and Fang, counting those as one complicated decision) meant significantly increasing the amount of time that would be spent on these big boss confrontations, and so the idea of a Death Egg filled with traps and guards became not only unnecessary in terms of balancing the amount of action, but would’ve basically just wasted time. And I figured a completely empty, abandoned Death Egg would’ve added a layer of mystery to hint at Eggman’s true intentions…although I see now that may not have been clear enough, besides the part where Sonic and Shadow overtly discussed it.

There is one thing that did turn out exactly as I’d envisioned it. The simple ending scene, where Shadow learns of Rouge’s condition, and lets out all of his emotions at once on Sonic…that was a scene planned nearly word for word since before I even knew what this season was going to be about. I believe I’ve mentioned previously that the idea of Rouge turning spy for the Rebellion was one of a huge slew of ideas that were all bouncing around before the seasonal structure of this series was solidified, back in the very early phases of Season 0. Analyzing the emotional consequences of various dramatic scenarios was how I first populated this hypothetical series with episode ideas—so naturally, the scenario of Rouge seemingly turning traitor had to come with the weight of how Shadow would respond. That series of ideas eventually led me here.

And did I mention that hat? Why, yes, it was meant to be a reference to the Sonic OVA, thank you for asking. With another Sonic movie coming up, I suppose that’s pretty good timing. In fact, there may have been a couple of new Sonic Movie references thrown into this episode, if you were paying attention. But, anyways, the hat. I admit it. The idea of bringing Fang into the series wasn’t particularly appealing to me…until I realized that I could have Knuckles steal his hat. Yes. That was what sold me on the idea. That was what drove me to write basically this entire season. I regret nothing, and also everything. Usually, I pride myself on remaining vehemently game-canon, and I often have to go out of my way in order to not reference something like the Archie Comics. But if you ask me, Knuckles with a treasure hunter’s hat is the single most memorable thing to come out of that entire movie, and I just couldn’t resist the reference once I’d thought of it.

I suppose I can get into more random stuff now. The “Death Egg Emperor” was a rather last-minute addition. In the early planning phases (back when Tails was still going to be the one to fight it) a simple, perhaps slightly upgraded Death Egg Robot was what I assumed would fill this role. When you bring back the Death Egg, putting a Death Egg Robot on it seems like the next logical step. It only occurred to me as I began writing this episode that Sonic Generations, Mania, and Forces had really gone to great lengths to…I guess, normalize the Death Egg Robot. I realized that it wouldn’t make much of an impact if it were just another one of those things. The plan wasn’t necessarily to “merge” the DER with the final boss of Sonic Heroes, the whole Egg Emperor thing was just…an unfortunate(?) result of the fact that this completely new step up from the DER needed to reflect Eggman’s status as Emperor.

There were plans to have an extended ending scene where everyone meets back up, celebrate their victory, ponder the nature of Eggman’s pre-planning, and so on, but I ended up merging that all into the Daily Log addendum, mostly just for time. The episode was very ready to end, and I didn’t see much reason to drag it on longer than it had to go. I also skipped out on a scene where Eggman would be seen in his base, complaining about how much he hates that hedgehog, but it was cut for similar reasons.

Probably the most last-minute thing of all was Knuckles’ role specifically in the climax. Obviously everything about his role in the episode was last-minute, put this part was actually something that didn’t even occur to me until I wrote the words “What can I do to help?” When Tails was the plan, Sonic’s response was still going to be the same “Wait in the safety bunker” answer, and it was supposed to be a bit more touching with Sonic trying to protect his little bro. But Tails, instead of doing as he was told, would’ve instead gone out searching for a shuttle (planned before I I decided to mention that there were no shuttles) and, when Sonic realized that he was marooned and requested help, Tails would’ve swooped in at the perfect time to pick him up. That whole “I think I might need a little help here” joke was honestly just a hold-out from that otherwise-scrapped plan. The Death Egg room built over the Master Emerald Altar, then, was entirely unplanned until I realized in that moment that I needed something for Knuckles to do that didn’t involve flying. But I figured it would make sense that Eggman would “preserve” that particular location when building over Angel Island, given that Prof. Gerald proved with his replica on the ARK that the structure has a functional significance. Knuckles bringing the Master Emerald back to the closest thing left to “home” worked wonderfully to connect back to a comment he made in part 1 (not intended to be related at the time), as did his conjoined role with the Controller as mentioned by Tikal. Eggman putting a throne for himself on top of the monument that symbolically represents the people he’s conquered was a nice little cherry on top. I’ll admit that part of the inspiration behind that room, and even the throne on top, hearkens back to an issue of the new IDW Sonic Comics, in which, on a mechanized Angel Island (I had that idea first, I swear), Neo Metal Sonic awaited Sonic and friends in a throne room built out of the very same altar. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a reference, just inspiration.

A question I was sort of asking myself by the end was…”Why did I split the Death Egg in half?” Something I originally had in mind was that the Death Egg would naturally start falling apart in that way as it fell through the atmosphere, forcing Sonic and Shadow to each take a separate half. But…for some reason, that just didn’t make sense to me. But the image of the two halves falling one after the other into the ocean, like a literal egg cracked open, was one that stuck with me even as my other plans changed.

Well, I think this has gone on just about long enough. So what’s next? Well, I’ll properly announce here and now that there will be a Sonic Movie Tie-In Special published on February 14th, the day of the movie’s release. After that, we move into Season 2. Season 1 was nice and all, but…for me, it was really just a proving grounds. From here, I start telling the stories that I’ve been anticipating since I first envisioned this series, stories that could only be told on top of the strong foundations that I’ve spent all this time building. Even though you’re probably not, I hope that you’re as excited as I am.

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

 

Review: Season 1, Episode 17

Man, where do I even begin here? I suppose it should be with another apology about the delay. I didn’t mean for this episode to take significantly longer than any other. But then I got Fire Em–…uh, I mean, generic-dudes-with-swords-fantasy-tactical-RPG-in-which-you-choose-between-three-different-houses game. I put something like 150 hours into that game without ever typing once. I’m sorry, it’s a good game, okay? The fact that it encourages 3+ full playthroughs doesn’t help either…but I’m still a Sonic fan, okay!? I’m not giving up on this!

*ahem* Seriously, sorry about that. But let’s talk about this episode! I wrote two-thirds of it about three months ago, and the rest in the last three days. Hope it didn’t feel too disjointed because of that, but…when you’re writing an episode that’s just one giant fight scene, it’s kind of hard to be disjointed.

In a lot of ways, this was meant to be a sort of Sonic Adventure celebration part 2. If all had gone well, it actually would’ve come out around the time of the American 20th anniversary…but, you know…whatever. But anyways, when I first planned to make that first Adventure special, it came inherently with this episode as a conclusion. Before I came up with that first episode, this one would likely not have been a two-parter. It would’ve just been a disjointed Rouge returns story in the first half (with much less drama) followed by the conclusion of the Death Egg story in the second half. It actually would’ve been a lot like the mid-season finale in that way. I didn’t much care for how the mid-season finale turned out. Or wait, maybe I didn’t even have the Death Egg in mind by that point… Yeah, looking over my old notes, the story of fake Big as resolved in the Adventure special was originally planned to be part of the Rouge-returning finale. Man, that would’ve been a boring finale. So everything works out!

I think I was in the middle of saying before…oh, that’s right. This as a second part to the special. My preliminary idea for the Adventure special was little more than “let’s find a way to bring back Chaos 0”. When that idea gave way to the Discord idea, I still had the thought of bringing back the real Chaos bouncing around in the back of my mind. What I was thinking at first was that Discord would, in the end, join Chaos in the Master Emerald (as Knuckles was trying to make happen) so that neither Chaos nor Discord would be alone in the universe. That was the original intended meaning of Tikal’s vague “Chaos…alone…you…”. But, as usual, it was my good brother Yuni Oha who recommended the possibility that Discord be somehow cured, so the Chao could become a sort of mascot for the Rebellion. I loved the idea of giving this episode a real lasting impact for the rest of the series, so I made it work. Of course, Yuni also highly recommended the use of Perfect Chaos and/or Discord, and I had to disappoint on that front. But who knows? It may happen someday. *wink wink*

I keep meaning to go here and getting sidetracked. Chaos himself. I loved the way that scene turned out. He was on-screen for all of five minutes, didn’t say a word, and yet had one of the most compelling character moments I’ve ever had the pleasure of writing in this show. Not gonna lie, I teared up a little bit when I wrote about him stroking the Chao’s head. Is it weird to cry about something you wrote? Anyways, my only real complaint about that scene is that, after all the buildup Discord got, it was completely upstaged by Chaos. Then again, Discord is staying on as a permanent character, and Chaos isn’t, so I had to treat Chaos right for his brief cameo.

That was most recent on my mind, but I suppose there is much else to talk about. Rouge, for example. Every last scene of hers was extremely complicated to write. I had to approach some very dark and mature concepts in a PG (K+) format. How do you talk about someone getting stabbed in a way that makes sense when you’re not allowed to show blood coming out of a person? (I don’t know if that’s actually the rule, but it’s the rule I’ve taken to. There can be blood, it just can’t be seen actively coming out of a body.) And that’s after she got tied to a chair and beaten, after Shadow tried to blow her up, after Infinite and Fang seemingly murdered one another (something obviously went wrong there). So is she dead now? I’d have to say, “probably”. But we’ll all have to wait and see. I suppose I should say the same about Sly.

This episode set up A LOT of future character arcs. Sonic, Tails, Shadow, Knuckles, and Cream all come to mind immediately. I guess that’s the point of a good finale, isn’t it? My point is, I guess…pay attention? I don’t know, I always worry that the hints of foreshadowing I drop go completely unnoticed if I don’t make them super duper obvious, like “hey, this is something that might happen later!”. At least this time, you’ve already had hints of the future character dynamics between Sonic, Shadow, and Tails through the Green Light Riders Season 2 preview. (Man, I published that in May! Now it’s December! I was supposed to be caught up by now!)

Finally think I’m running out of things to say. One interesting note is that this is actually one of the first planned two-parters that didn’t get split from one or need to get split into three. I planned on the separation between this episode and the next from the beginning. Trouble with that is that I knew I would be forcing myself to write an episode-long fight scene, which, as I’ve said in the past, is a major weakness of mine. The discouragement of making one fight last so long might be part of the reason I wasn’t more adamant about balancing my writing with my video game life. I could already tell by the time I stopped writing that this one foe with a very specific skillset was making for a very stagnant fight. Having to juggle so many different allies for the fight did keep things a little bit less predictable on one hand, but also added its own challenge on the other.

Although, quite possibly the hardest part of the episode was managing the logic behind Knuckles, Shadow, Amy, and how they would interact with Rouge, how and why they would leave the fight with Discord, and how it could make sense that they react in just the ways they needed to. It’s what I spent a vast majority of my break time thinking about. And even now, I think it all came out a little forced. Knuckles and Rouge really needed a proper reunion to demonstrate that Knuckles was able to trust her, but that simply didn’t fit. It didn’t make a lot of sense that Amy felt right about leaving the fight with Discord to check on Shadow, and even less that she didn’t say a word when she passed Knuckles. Sonic calmly accepting Knuckles’ plan didn’t make sense either, especially considering his reaction when Tikal voiced the same intent back in the finale of Sonic Adventure. But Discord needed to be close by for Knuckles’ plan to go through, and if Sonic were there with the intent to stop Knuckles, he easily could have. I had no sound justification for getting rid of Sonic in that moment, so having him accept the plan was the only option. I think it was all just a bit of a mess. A mess that did its job wonderfully, mind you. These conclusions for Rouge and Discord’s stories worked out just as I always pictured them, which is a rare accomplishment for me.

And I think I’ve been ranting on for long enough, so I suppose I’ll have to leave you until we meet again for part 2, the finale of season 1! (It’s been a long time coming.)

A REAL Preview: Sonic Adventure Special Episode (S1 E12)

That’s right, folks. It’s happening again. I’ve poured all my heart and soul into making another sprite animation, this one in the true style of a trailer for the epic event that’s coming. Please, take a look.

 

Preview: Season 1, Episode 11

No, it’s not the Sonic Adventure special yet. But it is leading up to it. I promise that’ll be coming very soon. But until then, please enjoy what comes before.

???

A child’s eyes look down slowly from the blue sky above, to the mountain of a reddish hue that rises in front, to the base of the mountain at his feet, where an unmarked headstone is planted by a mound of recently-moved earth. The child does nothing, says nothing for quite some time. Finally, he looks to his gloved, spiked hand, which holds a familiar white flower. Then, he begins to speak. “We are both the last.” Slowly, he kneels down, and places the flower gently on the mound. “It shouldn’t have to be that way.” He remains there, kneeling on the ground in a somber silence.

“Knuckles…”

Knuckles turns sharply in the direction of the sound. “Huh!? Who said that?” The sound of his own voice prompts him to look down at his hands, no longer small like a child’s.

The distant feminine voice merely repeats, “Knuckles…”

Knuckles gets up from his spot on the ground, and starts to run in the direction of the voice, through a valley between two mountains. He calls as he goes, “Who’s there!? Who are you!?”

Soon, he exits into an open area. A bridge stretches out over a body of water towards an isolated landmass, where a crumbling stone shrine holds the Master Emerald at its top, in its whole form. The Emerald glows and pulsates brightly. “That shouldn’t be here…” He continues to run, across the bridge, and up the stone steps to the top of the shrine.

Once Knuckles reaches the top, he places a hand on the Emerald. “What’s happening here…?”

“Great danger is coming.”

Knuckles turns around with surprise. Standing there behind him is a familiar Echidna girl dressed in traditional tribal garb. “Tikal?”

Tikal looks down to the ground, as if in shame. “We couldn’t protect you any longer… But you must survive. Great danger is coming.”

“What do you mean? What danger?”

For a moment, Tikal seems to fade in and out of existence. As if not noticing, she continues, “A great calamity, as foretold long ago…  The entire world may be consumed.”

“Consumed by what? I don’t understand!”

As Tikal continues to fade, her words do as well. “… …Chaos… … …alone… … …you.” She disappears completely.

Knuckles reaches out for her. “Wait! Come back!” He turns around. The Master Emerald, too, begins to fade away. “No!” He looks down, and takes a step back in surprise. The ruins beneath his feet, the island it sits on, the ocean far below, the sky all around, all of it begins to give way to empty blackness. One by one, everything around him disappears. In the empty void, he collapses to his knees, staring down into the darkness.

A child’s voice mutters meekly, “I don’t want to be alone…”

 

Review: Season 0, Episode 25

Since part one was done last week, we’re now on to part 2, or at least, the transition between the two. As I mentioned that I didn’t plan on splitting these episodes, I had no obvious split point in mind. It needed to be a place roughly in the middle which still left both parts with an appropriate amount of action. Usually, that would mean putting the faux final battle in the first part, and the Super (Hyper in this case) final battle in the second. But this time, I was subverting the whole faux final battle thing to begin with. Sonic jumped straight into his Super fight against Lumis, but the true final battle turned out to be without the Emeralds, against Chaos. Even if splitting those two apart had worked out in terms of even word count, it would’ve shamefully ruined my subversion of the formula to mark an entire Super fight as “part 1”, since it would’ve been so obvious to predict there would be more. Luckily, I suppose, the need to have Tails, Knuckles, and Amy play a role by fending off Eggman and the Lumis clones took up quite a few more words than I expected, making for plenty of part 1 action. The specific cutoff point, with Amy dangling over the magma, was not intended to be a cliffhanger, just another dramatic part of the episode.

So the first thing to come up in this second part was the chant of the Master Emerald, otherwise known as Tikal’s Prayer. The decision to make an extended version…came fairly recently. It isn’t so much that I wanted a bond between Chaos and Knuckles, as that it was lingering in the back of my mind that they grated on each other a bit in an earlier episode, in a way that didn’t seem resolved. On top of that, I did actively want some more resolution to the themes of the first episode of this arc, in regards to the comparisons of Knuckles as Guardian to Sonic as Controller, and of course, the original reference to S3&K and the Super Emeralds. Of course, the stealing and recovery of the Master Emerald was supposed to be enough to make Knuckles seem important after his introduction, but I quickly realized that that alone would fall completely flat. So, I needed to make Knuckles integral to victory in the final battle, I needed to make my S3&K reference more important, and I needed some way to form a bond between Knuckles and Chaos. And the one thing that ties all of those things together is the Master Emerald, which really needed a better reason to be there anyways. It took some thinking, but I decided on Tikal’s Prayer as a good thing to link it together. Part of that thought process involved something that’s been nagging at me ever since Speed of Time. Ever since Cast by the Light, really, though I didn’t quite think about it at that time. The prayer on its own is so…empty. My vague-ish memories of Sonic X at that time made think of the prayer as a longer, more drawn out speech that could be repeated once or twice if necessary. But copying it down for Silver’s scene in Speed of Time, I realized it was way shorter and less dramatic than I was expecting. Then, analyzing the exact phrasing more closely, I realized that there was a bit of a hole in it. It’s almost kind of song-y in the way it’s presented, the servers are the Chaos, the Chaos is the power, the power relates to the heart…and then all of a sudden, the Controller links back to the Chaos. The structure gives the sense of a circle, but that circle is broken in the middle. Of course, Sonic X actually did something that I didn’t realize until I started researching, by adding the line “The heart is the controller,” thus making a complete circle. But that line…doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, especially seeing as Tikal seemed to imply that the Master Emerald is this unspecial non-capitalized “controller.” And since Sonic X isn’t exactly canon, I decided to ignore its suggestion in this instance, and go for something a little more helpful for my circumstances. I pose in this episode that this missing link between the heart and the Controller is, in fact, an entire missing half of the prayer that has been lost to time. But Chaos, who was there ten thousands years ago when the prayer was written (maybe he even wrote it himself, who knows?), knows this missing half, and was able to teach it to Knuckles. Conveniently for me, this half just so happens to encompass the underlying themes of Chaos and Balance that this series revolves around. Now, the prayer is far more dramatic and climactic, specifically built to be able to repeat itself if necessary. Also of note for this recomposition is the fact that in the past, Tikal used the phrase “The seven Chaos Emeralds are the servers,” where Knuckles says “The servers are the seven Chaos.” I pose that this is because Tikal picked up from the loop instead of the very beginning of the full prayer, and just so happened to leave out the important parts, being rushed for time.

Alright, sorry that topic was so long. On to the next. I already touched on it, but the Super Emeralds definitely deserve their own discussion. Now, I know that this is probably the second most fanfiction-y thing I’ve ever done (I don’t like to talk about the first), but I came to this decision after a lot of hard thinking. Sonic 3 & Knuckles, as a cohesive unit with Super Emeralds, is non-canon, and I hope I’ve made that much clear. Sonic Team themselves have taken a similar stance. But Sonic 3, and Sonic & Knuckles, are each individually canon. Which means that, hypothetically, the Super Emeralds could have happened, but the circumstances required simply didn’t occur in the canon timeline. And if it could have happened then, why not now? Of course, even then I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it all the way. The Super Emeralds technically did not appear in this episode, merely a representation of them. It was Chaos and the power of the Moonstone that induced the proper Hyper Transformation. And that brings me to another topic.

This is something that’s been a long time coming, something that I intended to do for the first episode of this arc, but ended up pushing back because Chaos didn’t really appear in that episode. That would be his conceptual origins. Much like Blacklight, Chaos is a reimagination of an old concept from the days when my brother and I were children, dreaming up concepts for Sonic game ideas. This idea, in particular, was more my brother’s idea than my own. This idea was for Hyper the Hedgehog. Hyper, an orange hedgehog with a “Hyper Emerald” embedded in his chest, and covered in grey circuit board-like lines that would become injected with color when he holds a Chaos Emerald, was created when Sonic touched the Hyper Emerald after it fell from the sky. The point of Hyper was to reintroduce Hyper Sonic to the modern canon, without the inclusion of Super Emeralds, as he could fuse with Sonic to induce that transformation. But that would be where the similarities to Chaos end. The Hyper Emerald, rather than coming from any kind of Realm of Chaos like the Moonstone, was instead one of many fragments of leftover material from the creation of the universe (a concept that may sound familiar to readers of Yuni Oha’s “Pokémon Cosmic Quest“). Hyper as a character was built to refill the anti-hero role that Shadow was slowly leaving in favor of a more heroic one, very different from the role of Chaos. I suppose there is also a similarity in that the final battle of Hyper’s introductory game idea took place in a volcano. Anyways, pictured below is a drawing I once made of Hyper in his first moments of life, which hangs on my wall just like the picture of Blacklight I showed off. “Who am I?” was his first words.

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This was quite a few years after that other picture, so I’m not nearly as embarrassed about it. In fact, I’m even a little proud, considering my poor art skills in general, especially at that time (although, the scanner I used didn’t do much justice to the already poorly used colored pencils). Anyways, if you look closely around the head, you may notice a lot of erasure marks. There was a lot of trial and error with those spikes. And one among many of those trials was a spike design which now exists in the form of Chaos (personally, I liked that design for Hyper, but Yuni insisted that I change it to what you see in the final product). Also of note is the little colorless robot by his foot. That’s Servo, who, in the scene depicted, was commanded to pick up the Hyper Emerald just before it transformed. Before Orbot and Cubot ever existed (well, Cubot anyways), Yuni invented Servo as a snarky servant robot who exists mostly as someone for Eggman to talk to. I considered using Servo for this series, but it would have been silly to replace Orbot and Cubot with a practically identical concept. The reason he’s colorless in the picture is because I never bothered finishing him. He’s actually supposed to have a body, not just wheels and a head, but I forgot about that when I first drew it, and again, never bothered fixing it.

So, back on the topic of the episode itself, I guess. I’ll skip along to things I was contemplating, but ultimately decided against, including a scene depicting Knuckles, Tails, and Amy making their way through a cave before making it to the volcano’s interior, and, more noticeably, a scene depicting Chaos being freed from Eggman’s control. I’m sure it probably ended up being a little awkward skipping straight from climax to epilogue without a clear resolution, but honestly, I had no idea how to really write this cancelled scene without just wasting time. I suppose it could have helped if I moved a little bit of the awkward dialogue with Chaos and the rest of the characters to this cancelled scene, but having everyone just standing around and talking on an empty battlefield would have felt even weirder. But it’s okay if it’s at a Birthday party. Speaking of the Birthday party, it’s a little sad that it’s a day late in universe, but five months late out here. Unfortunately, I simply couldn’t write any faster. Tails’ mention of the beach day he and Sonic had planned was a reference to the epilogue of Speed of Time. I planned on having that mentioned in part 1 of this arc, but it didn’t come up, and I forgot to add it back in before I published it. And even though there are other things to say, I’ll have to cut things off here, or risk talking for days to come. These two reviews have already taken me three full days of writing time to make. But…I suppose this makes the last planned publishing…indefinitely. Allow me to remedy that. Nothing’s changed for The Chaos Project, but I think I can promise another part of Shadow of Time in…two weeks. That would be December 16th. So…I guess I’ll see you then.

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

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.

S0 E17: Project: Shadow

The drama builds in this newest episode of the Birth of Blacklight arc. Read it here!

As Shadow and Sunlight arrive at the home of an ancient Echidna clan of thousands of years ago, Sunlight continues to invite havoc and destruction. Though hopes are low and Shadow is less certain than ever, one person still thinks that Sunlight can be saved. Can Shadow really do it? Or will Sunlight take away everything that he’s ever cared about?

Preview: Season 0, Episode 17

Happy Birthday to me! As my gift to you, please have another preview.

Shadow looks up with awe. Surrounding the elegant stone shrine are seven tall pillars, each one supporting a Chaos Emerald, most of which are pulsating with an odd pattern of light. At their center, atop the shrine, is the Master Emerald.

“Here they are.”

Shadow looks to the ground in front of him, where Tikal indicates. Circled around him at a distance, and staring at him curiously, are a group of young Chao.

“Don’t worry,” she bends down to tell them. “This one is a friend.”

Most of the Chao keep their distance. But one starts to waddle up towards Shadow’s feet. It stops and looks right up into his face. “Chao?” Shadow looks to Tikal questioningly.

She nods and smiles. “Go ahead.”

Hesitantly, Shadow reaches a hand down towards the little creature, and places it on its head. He starts to pet it gently. It closes its eyes and smiles contently, as the bubble above its head forms into the shape of a heart. All of the other Chao start to approach closer to him.

Tikal seems very pleased. “Look, they like you.”

Shadow takes his hand back, and turns back to Tikal. The Chao gives him a very confused look, unsure why he stopped. “I’m grateful to have seen this place, but why have you taken me here?”

Tikal sighs and looks to her feet, perhaps with shame. “This place…it is their sacred home. They can live here in peace, because there is a spirit who protects and watches over them.” While she speaks, the Chao all give up on Shadow, turn to face the shrine, and start to sing with little rhythm or structure. Tikal continues, “But my father…he wishes to destroy this place, and use the power of the Emeralds to help us win the war. If another battle comes…he will. His heart is closed off to the plight of these poor creatures, and even to me. I’ve asked the spirit to take the Chao and leave this place, but he is bound to the shrine somehow. I can only hope that we can all finally understand each other…before it’s too late.”

Shadow nods in understanding. “And if your father comes…you’ll be forced to choose between loyalty to your tribe, and justice for the Chao.”

She nods in return. “You understand, then.”

“So…what will you do?”

She thinks a while longer. “I love my father, truly I do. But I can’t allow his selfishness to destroy these creatures’ lives. I will do everything in my power to stop him.”

Shadow gives a very slow nod. “I see.”

“But whatever choice you make…I’m sure that you’ll be fine, as long as you follow your heart.”

A voice which Shadow has learned to instinctively flinch at shouts, “That’s the cheesiest thing I’ve ever heard in my life! I love it!” Sunlight leans casually back against the Master Emerald.