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.
As I mentioned on the footnote of Shadow of Time, I published it to celebrate something very special to me. For the first time in my near-15 year experience with Sonic games, I can finally call myself an expert at one of them. I completed Shadow the Hedgehog’s “Expert Mode” (with 90 lives to spare at that. Thanks, chicken gun.), a feat which I assume most players never even get the chance to attempt. (Just a few days later, I finally got the seventh Chaos Emerald and experienced the final boss for the first time in Sonic Heroes. This has been a really good week for me.) Anyways, in working towards getting an A-rank on every single mission of the game, I got an excellent chance to really analyze its core gameplay elements, while, writing for Shadow of Time, I’ve gotten an equally appropriate chance to analyze the story. Normally, I wouldn’t want to review a game that I first started playing over a decade ago, but these are special circumstances. Additionally, with Mania done and Forces on the way, I am interested in establishing a baseline of comparison between classic games, Adventure-style games, and modern games. Now, since this game came out 12 years ago, it would be unfair of me to compare it directly to modern games (unlike Sonic Mania, which came out last month). So, most comparisons will be made to Sonic Heroes and other Adventure-era games. So, without further ado, let us begin.
Well…I lost count after two months spent writing this episode, though I’m pretty sure it came close to three. Between the Holiday Season (Thanksgiving as well as winter) and a general increased work load that I had to deal with, I practically wrote this entire episode one paragraph at a time. Hopefully that didn’t mess up the flow too badly. This also marks the lengthiest episode yet at 8600 words, even more than the last finale. But, as with last time, I wanted nothing important left unsaid, and I didn’t want to split it into any more episodes. But enough about that boring stuff.
I promised some background for King, so I guess I’ll start with that. He started out as just about the most flat, unoriginal villain that could ever exist. He’s only there because I needed our superhero to face off against a villain. As for what he would do and how he would do it, I took some inspiration from various depictions of Marvel Comics’ Kingpin villain, and the naming is not unrelated. To be honest, I really had no idea what I was doing. But as I was writing King’s first scene, I first decided to hide his face, make it seem more menacing, like Shadow had a real reason to be so concerned with him. I was still unsure at that point whether or not I wanted to make King a real wolf, but I decided last second to give him a mechanical arm that he constructed himself, so that I wouldn’t have to make that decision and reveal his species right then and there, as well as to show off some of his engineering skills that had been talked about at that point, but not very well shown. (I decided for certain that he would be a wolf by the time the scene was over.) The rest of his character grew from there. I was able to expand just from that one scene that he is obsessed with his own technology and its perfection over biology, that he has a loathing for most humans, and that he was affected in a deeply personal manner by the Black Arms invasion (and Shadow by extension). The specifics came as time went on.
I suppose one other point from this episode to mention is the role that G.U.N. has been playing so far, an almost antagonistic one. The reason why I’m revealing all of these facts seeming to suggest that they’re corrupt and untrustworthy…I suppose it’s all rooted in the fact that they have played so many similar roles in the past, despite supposedly being a force for good. In both Sonic Adventure 2 and Shadow the Hedgehog, G.U.N. hurt you a whole lot more than they help you, despite being the hero. Sonic 06 is the only G.U.N. appearance that seems to be completely benevolent, and even then I always felt that it seemed a little shady how they seemed to be stealing the Scepter of Darkness more than they were “retrieving” it. Anyways, after all of the times that G.U.N. nearly killed Sonic and/or Shadow, it certainly seems reasonable to me that neither of those two would be particularly interested in working with them, which is why it surprised me a little bit to learn that Shadow was working for G.U.N. for the first time. But I think I got it to work in a way that all makes sense. Point is, after making so many questionable actions, it would’ve seemed wrong to me to make them completely in the right now. So, I thought it would make for good story for all of the characters involved to have a lot of friction between them. Of course, this little sub-plot of G.U.N.’s evolution is far from over. Speaking of G.U.N. and Sonic 06, there was one ridiculously obscure reference I threw in there at the last moment. Rouge mentioned how she had to be trained in hacking King technology by “Old Frances from the decryption unit.” This refers to one of the Town Mission NPCs from that game, who introduced herself as the head of the G.U.N. Decryption Unit, and wanted to test the player’s IQ for candidacy to join the unit. This reference was not in the original episode, but I added it just before publishing, because these random obscure references to other games is exactly the kind of thing I want to use in order to help tie the whole Sonic game universe together.
Now, there’s one big thing I haven’t talked about yet. The Black Cloak arc is inspired by a theoretical game idea, just like all of the others of Season 0. Of course, this is the only arc that I didn’t conceptualize until after coming up with the whole Season 0 idea, but I still made it to fit in with the rest. Anyways, this, like many other Sonic games, would be much different as compared to previous ones. Rather than an adventure game, or a high-speed platformer, this game would function a lot more like…well, a superhero game. The number of “levels” as compared to most Sonic games would be relatively few, but that’s because a vast majority of the game’s content comes in the form of a huge hub world, that of Westopolis. Between levels, the player would be allowed to freely explore the city, playing as either Sonic, Rouge, or Black Cloak, depending on the point in the story. This hub world would be full of various NPCs to speak with (not unlike 06), and missions to complete, such as the fighting of randomized crimes including robberies, muggings, etc, as well as specific quests provided by some of those random NPCs, in addition to a few familiar faces (helping Big find Froggy, anyone?) Anyways, each character has their own advantages for playing. Sonic travels through the world the fastest, obviously, and can get on top of most buildings using wall jump and parkour. Rouge can fly and climb walls, giving her complete access to every location, though she is the slowest of the three. Black Cloak is the best for fighting, dealing more damage and having a wide variety of attacks, including long-ranged ones. His other tools, such as the grappling gun, are also useful for reaching difficult areas. In addition to these, certain NPCs might only be able to interact with certain characters and not others, encouraging variety. For example, a police officer might only be willing to speak with Rouge, while a serious opposer to King might only be willing to speak to Black Cloak, and…the owner of the hotel Sonic stayed in might only be willing to speak to Sonic. Speaking of the hotel, this game would also theoretically feature the return of Chao Gardens, seen at the top floor of that hotel. (I have found myself wishing that this location had more impact on the actual story, but once I was done with it I had no further need for it except in these silly game mechanics.) Anyways, unlocked by beating the game is the ability to switch between characters in the hub world freely, in addition to a few more of those less-than-totally-canon quests for familiar faces. The only other thing to point out about the game would be the soundtrack, focused heavily on more dramatic orchestrated music, much in the style of modern superhero movies. Much of this music would be dedicated to remixes of themes from Shadow the Hedgehog, and, to a lesser extent, Sonic Adventure 2. And…I suppose that’s all I have to say for now.
Next time, witness the tale of the one called Sunlight, the New Ultimate Life Form. What is this life form, and why has its existence been kept a secret? Soon, Darkness will fall upon the Light.
Sonic and Shadow have finally found King. But King has plans that neither of them could possibly comprehend. What really happened to him on the day of the invasion of Westopolis?
“I’ve been awaiting this day for far too long.” King the Wolf begins to step out of the shadows. Sonic gives a gasp, but Shadow doesn’t seem surprised. King waves about his robotic arm as he speaks. “Sonic, I have no qualms with you. You are free to leave. In fact, the Doctor will be waiting for you up on the twenty-fifth floor, likely downloading all of my files by now. You’d better hurry, if you want to catch him.” As he passes a computer console, he types few keys into it. A light activates on the pod in the center of the room.
Unexpectedly, Shadow agrees. “You should go. I can handle this.”
Sonic shakes his head. “Not a chance. I’m staying right here.”
King chuckles a bit. “Ooh, do I detect some animosity between the two of you?” He gives a very casual shrug. “Very well. Suit yourself.” He resumes his pacing, hitting a few more keys each time he passes the console. “After all I’ve been through…all my research…all my suffering…at last, it all becomes worthwhile, so much sooner than I was expecting. I certainly have the Doctor to thank for that. His previous experience was absolutely vital in the completion of my ultimate project.”
Shadow doesn’t seem amused. “I don’t know what you’re babbling about. And I don’t care. This is your one and only chance to surrender to me.”
“Oh, Shadow, you offend me. Though perhaps it was vain of me to assume that you keep track of those you’ve hurt.”
Shadow’s firm countenance suddenly falters. “What…what do you mean…?”
King barks out a quick laugh. “He really doesn’t know, the wretch!” It becomes clear that King is barely maintaining his calm manners. He holds up his mechanical arm, and waggles its fingers for emphasis. “You didn’t really believe that some alien did this to me, did you? No…this is on you!”
Another quick episode, I really am impressed with myself. But I suppose it makes sense, since this whole arc is primarily plot-driven, which I can write for much more easily than the primarily action-driven Speed of Time arc.
That whole ending part was pretty dramatic, so I guess I’ll start from there. Before I started writing this episode, the plan was actually to end the episode with the scene that it began with, with Black Cloak and the Chaos Emerald. But on the one side, I decided I needed to try to get readers to feel more connected with Black Cloak by showing a personal moment, and on the other hand I decided that the end of last episode didn’t do a good enough job showing how evil King is. So, I moved that scene to the beginning and created a scene of King’s committing murder for the end. And it’s a good thing I did, as Black Cloak was in no position to be meditating in his cave by the end. And so we get to the previous scene, ending in his and Sonic’s falling into a bottomless pit. To be clear, these chasms are an acknowledgement of the in-game obstacles of Westopolis in Shadow the Hedgehog. The android which the three characters fought was loosely inspired by The Terminator, a film series about evil, nearly-indestructible humanoid robots. The emphasis on the word “terminate” in the next scene was not a complete accident.
The only other thing I really have to mention is the reference to Vector and the Chaotix. I came up with the scene a while ago, after most of the rest of the story was already constructed, because the thought crossed my mind that “Someone has gone missing, and the person looking for him personally knows a trio of private investigators. Why wouldn’t he ask them first?” So, I had to justify why they weren’t there, and thus keep my character list down to a more manageable number. That’s all for now, short one this time.
– So until next time, remember to live and learn every day!
Today is a special day, not just for the sake of this preview. Today marks the one-year anniversary from the day I first conclusively decided to write this story, which I marked by making this website. I was constantly questioning myself before then, but it was one year ago today that I knew I wouldn’t be going back. It was a few days later that I started writing Cast by the Light, in order to get the practice I wanted before getting started for real. Of course, the anniversary of The Chaos Project itself is still a full 5 months off, first published on June 23rd, Sonic’s Birthday. But this day is still important to me, and it really puts into perspective how big of a project I’m undertaking here. Anyways, without further delay, here’s your regularly-scheduled preview.
Unsure of where else to turn, Sonic has decided to enlist the help of the Black Cloak in his search for Shadow. But Black Cloak seems to have other plans.
Sonic stands high atop a building, perhaps the tallest in the whole city. Behind him, a huge red sign reads, “The Daily News.” Behind the sign is an incredible view of a great city, full of more tall buildings, and crisscrossing roads. But in the direction that Sonic stares off into, a different story is told. Just as many buildings are in shambles as in fair repair. Sections of road are torn from the ground, lying in rubble or twisted into all sorts of impossible ramps and loops. Massive fissures in the ground appear regularly, just a few of them with makeshift bridges stretched across. Wrecked cars still lie on many of the undamaged streets.
“What are you doing here?” The Black Cloak stands behind Sonic, cloak billowing in the wind.
Sonic doesn’t seem surprised at his sudden appearance. “The fact that you’re here tells me you already know the answer to that question.”
“How did you know I would come?”
“It’s a pretty tall building. You can see the whole city from here. Look.” Sonic points off to an area on the outskirts of the city, with a nearby welcome sign. “You can even see where we fought those robots together. If someone were in trouble, there or anywhere else in the city…you could see it from here. Seems like a pretty good spot for your line of work.”
“It’s certainly not the tallest building.” He points off to another building not far away, on the border between the thriving city and the ruined one. Many stories taller than the one they stand on now, the sign reads, “King Industries.”
“I figured you wouldn’t be thrilled if you had to hang out there often.”
“You aren’t wrong about that.” He is silent for a moment. “…I saw that you’ve brought a friend in with you. She shouldn’t be here. It’s too dangerous.”
“So you’ve been spying on me? No wonder you got here so quickly. Rouge can handle herself just fine. There’s someone else I’m worried about. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I want your help.”
“Help from a dangerous vigilante like me, for the great Sonic the Hedgehog? You must be desperate.”
“I’m not that kind of person anymore. There are things that matter a whole lot more than my reputation. Like my friends.” Sonic pulls out the folder the Commander gave to him, full of everything known about Shadow. He tosses it forward, and it slides across the building, coming to a stop at Black Cloak’s feet. He picks it up and begins looking through it. “His name is Shadow the Hedgehog, you’ve probably heard of him. Especially around these parts. He went missing a few weeks ago, without a trace.”
Black Cloak stays silent for a long moment. “…And you think this ‘Shadow’ is here, in Westopolis?”
“It’s the only lead we have.”
Black Cloak tosses the folder back. “I don’t do personal jobs. I have bigger things to worry about. But I’ll keep an eye out. If I see any sign of your friend, I’ll be sure to tell you. Do you have anything else to waste my time with?”
“Are you sure you don’t know anything about him? Where he might be?”
“I’m sure that I haven’t seen his face since…since before I started working here.”
“If I ever need your help again, can I meet you here?”
Black Cloak turns and starts to walk away. “Don’t count on it.”
“But how will I find you!?”
He stops on the edge of the building and looks back. “You won’t.” With that, he leaps off the side.
I managed to write this episode in two days, which is incredible for me. It usually takes upwards of two weeks. I guess I was just excited after just having finished the last arc. Even then, a third of the time I spent on this episode was dedicated to the Previously section at the beginning. It’s easy enough to pull quotes from Sonic Adventure 2 now that I’ve written Cast by the Light, but things from Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic 06 are a bit harder. Anyways, this isn’t my longest episode, but it’s far from my shortest.
Now onto the episode itself. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m trying to go a little darker and grittier here, while still keeping that fantasy element that remains so consistent through Sonic games. And do you know what’s both dark and gritty, and fantastical at the same time? Superheroes! Now, obviously I hope, Black Cloak is heavily inspired by Batman, hence the episode title in reference to the movie title, Batman Begins. However, all of this is not the reason that I created the Black Cloak character in the first place. That will have to wait for when his identity is inevitably revealed.
Now, besides Batman, the other source of edginess that inspires this arc is Shadow the Hedgehog itself. I decided pretty early on that this arc would have to take place in Westopolis, and the decision to start referencing Shadow the Hedgehog as often as possible followed quickly. I tried to draw a lot of parallels between Shadow’s first encounter with this city and Sonic’s newest one. For example, the hill and tree from which Sonic looked off at the city is the very same location where the opening scene of Shadow the Hedgehog began, where Shadow too had a conveniently informative newspaper blown into him. More parallels are likely to follow. Does that mean that Sonic will be tempted by Darkness, as Shadow was at this time? We’ll just have to wait and see…
One more thing we haven’t directly discussed. Where did Shadow disappear to!? Well, I can confirm that he isn’t dead. But you could have figured that out for yourself, seeing as he appears in the future Crisis of Chaos arc. I’m afraid that I can’t spoil anything else at this point, seeing as Shadow’s whereabouts are the entire driving force of this arc.
Oh, and before I leave, I almost forgot. Those sharp red projectiles that Black Cloak throws, there’s a good reason that you haven’t gotten a good look at them yet, it’s not just because they’re generic shapes or something. Their existence is inspired by the Batarang, a key weapon of Batman.
– So until next time, remember to live and learn every day!
Sorry for the excessively long delay, but the newest arc of The Chaos Project has finally come out! Read it right here!
Shadow the Hedgehog is missing. The only clue to his location lies in Westopolis, a city transformed by the Black Arms invasion. G.U.N. desperately wants their best operative back, but Sonic doesn’t seem too interested in cooperating. And when he finally starts searching for Shadow on his own, he meets with an even greater mystery. Who is the Black Cloak?
On the next episode of The Chaos Project, a hero will rise. On the streets of Westopolis, a city changed forever by the Black Arms invasion, legend speaks of a shadowy figure who protects the people from harm. Now, that legend has returned.
In a dim alleyway between two tall buildings, a woman walks, carrying a small purse. “Excuse me, miss?” She turns around to see a very large man addressing her.
“Wh-what do you want?”
“Oh, nothing much. You, see, it’s just that The Boss decided that he needs a little bit more out of you. You understand, I’m sure?”
“B-but I already payed my dues this month. Why does he want more?”
“Ooh, I’d be careful if I were you. It’s not a very good idea to question The Boss. The Boss gets what The Boss wants. So, are you going to hand it over?” He pounds a fist into an open hand. “Or am I going to have to take it from you?”
“P-please, I can’t afford another payment, not yet!”
“I’m sorry you feel that way.” He begins to take several steps closer to her.
She cries out, “Somebody, help me!” Suddenly, a small, red projectile sticks into the floor between them, thrown from high above.
A deep, rumbling, artificially disguised voice shouts “Hold it right there!” Both of the humans look up, surprised, to the source of the voice. High on the top of the building, a silhouetted figure stands, with a tattered cloak billowing in the wind. The figure leaps from the roof, dives through the air, and lands gracefully on the ground behind the man.
The man turns to face his own assailant. The figure has the height of an animoid, but is covered head-to-toe in a skin-tight black suit. Outside of the suit is a dirty, tattered cloak worn around the shoulders, its hood up and shadowing the eyes. He also wears a pair of dark red gloves. The man starts to panic, “Hey, hold up, this all just one big–”
“Don’t play games with me.” The figure looks back to the woman. “Get out of here. Go on, go. This man won’t be bothering you ever again.”
“Who…who are you?”
“I’m no one. Now get out of here.” She obeys, and runs off. He turns back to the man. “Is this how you get your kicks? Stealing from innocent people? Disgusting.”
The man starts to back away in fear. “No, it’s not that, it’s…The Boss, he–”
“Just can it already. You and I both know that King didn’t ask you for anything. You just wanted to get him a little more than he was expecting. To save your own behind from some other slip-up, I assume?”
“You, you don’t understand, he, he, he has my family, if I don’t please him then he’ll, he’ll–”
“I know all about you and your family. Now I’m only going to ask this once. Where is King?”
“I-I don’t know where–”
He grabs the man by the shirt collar. “Answer the question!”
“I swear, I don’t know! I’ve never seen him face-to-face. But there is…a messenger. It’s the same man every time. I don’t know his name.”
“Do you know where I can find him?”
“I’m supposed to meet him at this time in a week. The corner of 25th street and Emerald Way. I don’t know anything else, I swear!”
“I believe you. Now get out of here.”
“The Bo-…King…. My family, he’ll–”
“He won’t get the chance. I’ll make sure of it. Now go. Take your family, and get as far away from Westopolis as you possibly can.”
“He’ll find us. He always finds them…”
“Not if I have anything to say about it.”
“…Thank you…stranger. Please, tell me who you are. Who, do I tell my children, saved us?”
“I don’t have a name. But some call me…the Black Cloak.”
Since I’m taking a longer break between episodes than usual, I decided to spread out my in-between content a bit more, so I’m publishing this today, and will publish the preview for next episode next week.
Well, I predicted 10,000 words for this episode in the last review I wrote, and I went just over 8,000. Still enough to make this episode the longest I have ever written, and probably ever will write. In fact, I believe this single chapter is longer than a majority of entire Sonic fanfictions that there are, considering that most of those are mini-stories or one-shots. So…sorry? I assume it’s a bit of a hassle to read such a long chapter, but I wanted to make sure that nothing was left unsaid.
So, where to begin? I feel a bit like Silver here, as if there’s so much to be said but none of it seems worth saying. So let’s start with Silver, then. I tried my best to make sure that everything I did with him wasn’t outside the range of his original character, but Sonic 06 made his original character a little bit hard to objectify and understand. So I took a lot of liberties. I feel that none of it was forced in and of itself, but I don’t know if that changes compared to the outside. As for Blaze, I had actually completely forgotten that she had ever been outright mentioned until I started writing his vision scene. But I realized that bringing her back in would not only be a very interesting conclusion to his character arc, but would also be better justification for him giving the locket to Sonic, which I had already planned. There was something said about her, however, that will eventually become very important. Only in post-apocalyptic futures, the existence of Blaze was a constant. Why, you might ask? The answer to come around the end of Season 3. Sorry for the wait, but I think it will be worth it.
I don’t think there’s anything important to be said specifically of Sonic’s or Zero’s scene, so I guess I’ll move on to the general. The Lords of Chaos are something that I’ve been throwing around for a while now in the story, and I’m glad to finally have them explained, in addition to a lot of the Flow, Balance, Network, Chaos mumbo-jumbo that I’ve been discussing. It’s probable that the Crisis of Chaos arc will make a little more sense now that you know all of this, but if you intend to re-read it I would advise waiting until I re-introduce Chaos and Blacklight as characters. Despite the sheer overload of information that the Lords of Chaos gave in this episode, there is almost none of it that isn’t important. For example, the mention of why gemstones are so important in relation to them directly pertains to Chaos the Hedgehog. But he’s not the only one. In fact, I intend to use this one little fact to tie a lot of the entire Sonic the Hedgehog series together. Sonic 06. Sonic Unleashed. Sonic Rush. It all ties back to the realm in which the Lords of Chaos exist.
Let’s see, anything else? I suppose I can mention that writing for the final boss fight was painful. It’s hard and boring enough to write about Super Forms smacking into the enemy over and over again when I’m just describing something that already happened, like what I did for the Finalhazard fight in Cast by the Light. But this time, I had to do it all from scratch, figuring out what the abilities of the enemy are, how to describe their weakness, and how each of the fighters uses their abilities in different ways, all without sounding stupidly repetitive. In the end, I feel like the Chronos fight was probably more interesting than the Janice fight. But hey, it’s supposed to be more fun to play, not to read about. Also…I’d like to mention that it was a complete accident/coincidence that the arc’s opening and climax were both in the cold and snow, coming full circle, so to speak. I decided on the setting in each for completely different reasons, and they just so happened to line up perfectly. By the way, the setting for the climax was chosen as a good place for each of the characters to put their abilities to the test, in addition to added drama of freezing in the blizzard. I thought it worked out pretty well. And I suppose that’s all for now.
Next time: when Shadow the Hedgehog goes missing in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Sonic must harden up and face one of his most deadly threats yet in order to find his friend. But who is the mysterious Black Cloak?
– And until next time, remember to live and learn every day!