Project Sonic 2017 Officially Titled “Sonic Forces”

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Concept art for Sonic Forces. Courtesy: SEGA/Sonic Team

Four years feels like forever and a day for a new good Sonic game to be released, let alone announced. After Sonic Lost World, I steered clear of the Sonic Boom trilogy upon criticism for having ten times more glitches than Sonic ’06, especially Rise of Lyric, where Sonic and the gang shout out “RINGS! RINGS!” every time they pick up their golden Power Rings, Knuckles jumps higher and higher only to come back down and see his friends frozen in render model form, and the writing sent novelists like Stephen King, Meg Cabot, and Cory Doctorow running to the bathroom to barf. I mean, “An ambush with ice cream?” That’s the stupidest thing Tails ever said. And don’t get me started on Shadow’s drunken attitude.

Like some Sonic fans, I developed a neutral outlook on the future of the franchise–while I love Sonic with all my heart and soul, I was scared that the quality of his games was going to run further downhill. My mind was going through that balancing act until the 25th anniversary party at San Diego Comic Con, where SEGA released the trailer for Project Sonic 2017. I never thought I would see Sonic in his true modern form ever again because of the sports tape-laden Sonic of the aforementioned Boom series, but when Classic Sonic burst onto the scene, I thought, “Oh Lord, this game’s a sequel to Sonic Generations.” Takashi Iizuka, executive producer of Sonic Team succeeding creator Yuji Naka, made it very clear soon after the event that Project Sonic 2017 was not going to be titled Sonic Generations 2, which was a relief.

A couple weeks ago, SEGA announced at SXSW that the title of Project Sonic 2017 has been changed to–if it sounds corny, I apologize–Sonic Forces.

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The official logo for Sonic Forces. Courtesy: IGN

The next morning, I was lucky to catch a sneak peek of the gameplay for the game, and all I can say is, the graphics look delicious!

 

According to Iizuka, Sonic Forces will run on Hedgehog Engine 2, a refined version of the game engine used in Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Generations. They updated the engine just in time, because Sonic sped through the apocalyptic cobblestone town as fluidly as a river.

I know that Sonic Forces won’t be released until sometime around Thanksgiving, but I’m optimistic that the game will turn out to be fantastic, especially since Sonic has gone multi-platform for the first time since Sonic UnleashedForces will be available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. Great things take time, and Sonic Forces is definitely worth the four-year wait. I just hope I get the PlayStation 4 by then.

 

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Dangerous Fandemonium in Sonic Boom’s “The Biggest Fan”

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Sonic’s awkward encounter with Mark the Tapir at Meh Burger in the latest Sonic Boom episode “The Biggest Fan.” Courtesy: Boomerang

In my 13 years of being a Sonic fan, I have always admired Sonic’s way of being–his speed, his charm, his devilishly good looks, and his even his smile. Yes, I was obsessed with Sonic–and his dark, anti-hero counterpart Shadow–but my obsession wasn’t as clinically serious as that of Mark the Tapir in Sonic Boom‘s latest episode, “The Biggest Fan” (a title reference to a long-forgotten boy band film of the same name, starring Dream Street lead Chris Trousdale).

In this episode, Sonic meets a socially awkward tapir named Mark, a self-proclaimed number one fan whom Sonic allows to be his personal assistant. Mark’s gestures to Sonic were admirable at first–picking out his bandana, grilling his hot dogs, painting a portrait of him holding a chili dog, and advising him on the best strategy to defeat one of his enemies. But he soon takes his friendship with Sonic to a dangerous level by getting into a bicycle accident and imprisoning Sonic at his cabin, where the walls of his room are filled with numerous Sonic memorabilia.

“The Biggest Fan” doesn’t preach about the Sonic fanbase as a whole, but rather about the dark side of fanaticism–creative stupidity and overt criticism. For example, there’s good Sonic fan art, but then there’s fan art that makes your eyes want to bleed into permanent blindness. I drew a few pieces of Sonic fan art, but they weren’t as professional as the ones I saw on deviantART, yet I’m still proud of them. I also saw pieces of Sonic fan art that have been amateurishly drawn on MS Paint, involved female characters being unrealistically pregnant, and–even worse–recolored on screenshots from Sonic X. Overt criticism of the Sonic games has been running rampant in the decade after the release of Sonic ’06. SEGA didn’t make Sonic ’06 terrible on purpose. The development team was downsized in half after Yuji Naka’s departure from Sonic Team, and they were rushed to complete the game in time for the release of both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, placing them under insurmountable stress. Elise’s kiss of life was indicative of that, but big whoop! Sonic and the Secret Rings may have made under the same stress despite that it didn’t come out until three months after the Wii’s release. One bad game shouldn’t have to release a chain of negative criticism for successive games like Sonic Generations and Sonic Lost World. Also, please keep in mind that Sonic Boom is a spin-off franchise, not a part of the main canon despite Boom Sonic appearing alongside Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic in the 25th anniversary banners.

I’ll always love Sonic, but the actions of Mark the Tapir don’t represent me in any way, shape or form.

Sybil of Voices: An Ode to Tara Strong

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A caricature of Tara Strong with Timmy Turner, Bubbles, Raven, Twilight Sparkle, Truffles, Plum, Daizy, and Ilana patterned in the background. Courtesy: Unknown Artist

Jewish blonde vixen.
A scintillating woman of a thousand voices–
Male and female,
Young and old–
All ready to play at her command.

Bubbles, age five–
Sweet and innocent by day,
A hardcore superheroine by night.
Friendly to all of Earth’s creatures,
From the biggest elephant to the smallest newt.

Timmy, age ten–
His wishes are always
At his fairies’ command.
But when they go awry,
He reverses them back to normal.

Raven, age sixteen–
Dark by nature,
Psychic by power.
She keeps her emotions in check,
Lest she incur her father’s demonic influence on herself.

Harley, age twenty-seven–
Beautifully collected once upon a time,
Driven to insanity by the Joker.
Yet, she’s madly in love with the clown
And his dirty tricks.

Truffles, age unknown–
Named after the sweetest of all chocolates,
She actually possesses a sour attitude.
Pretty ironic for a fairy,
Married to a non-fairy chef.

Sweet and sour,
Childish and mature,
Calm and insane–
Tara Strong is the master of all these voices.
She and her personalities speak for all of my life.

Sonic Boom Off the Air for One Month

Sonic Boom Off the Air for One Month

I didn’t expect Sonic Boom to not be on the air today. I certainly didn’t expect to hear that the show will be on hiatus for a month one week after the premiere of its second season.

Two years ago, I shied away from Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and Shattered Crystal following their horrendous display of glitches and deafening dialogue on top of a shoddy storyline, but I couldn’t resist watching the TV show on Cartoon Network. I believed that Sonic Boom, along with Adventure Time, Regular Show and Steven Universe, was going to drag Cartoon Network out of its creative hell. Actually, the show would’ve made twice the positive impact on the network’s quality as the other ones mentioned here were not for the 7:30am time slot it was given for Saturday mornings. I used to get of bed that early on the weekends for Sonic X because a decade ago, there weren’t any DVRs to help viewers record programs of their choosing except for TiVO, which I didn’t have at the time. Because 4KidsTV would change the time slot for Sonic X at any time, be it at 8:30am or 10:30am, I got out of bed at 6:30 in the morning to watch the other shows first. Nowadays, kids don’t wake up that early on a Saturday morning anymore because of the high academic and extracurricular demands disrupting their sleep schedules, not to mention their circadian rhythms, making them sleep in until 9:00 or 10:00 on the weekends. Thankfully, their DVRs can record their favorite cartoons if they set it to “Series Recording.”

Then there’s lack of advertising. Cartoon Network promoted Sonic Boom at least a week before it first aired. The second time they advertised the show was in July 2015, when they announced that they would air two weeks worth of new episodes from July 13th to the 24th. They haven’t advertised anything for the current season, which resulted in the 560,000 viewer rating for the season premiere episode “Tommy Thunder: Method Actor.”

I was expecting Sonic Boom to be just as serious as Sonic X, but the humor it took after popular comedy shows like Friends and The Big Bang Theory drew me to the show like a honeybee flying to the most beautiful rose in the park. I hope Cartoon Network places Sonic Boom on to later time slot come December. Until then, I’ll find other comedy shows to release the dopamine I need to survive the rest of the semester.

Sonic the Hedgehog’s 25th Anniversary: Celebrating the Blue Blur’s Past, Present and Future

Sonic the Hedgehog’s 25th Anniversary: Celebrating the Blue Blur’s Past, Present and Future

Writing about my experience with the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise is long overdue. One month overdue, to be precise. On the day of Sonic’s actual birthday, I wanted to post a picture of myself wearing a blue Classic Sonic top and white Celebrity Pink pants, but a kidney stone struck with the most excruciating pain I’ve ever endured since high school. My renal issue is another story that I hope I won’t have to speak about for a long time.

Although a party wasn’t held on June 23rd exactly, Sonic Team was nice enough to host one at the House of Blues in San Diego last night. Everyone and anyone who’s a fan of the blue hedgehog was invited–those who flew in to California for San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), and those who are stuck at home observing everything on social media (either by choice or due to financial constraints preventing them from attending both shindigs). For the latter group, Sonic Team set up a link for the live stream on Twitch, a video game streaming website  I haven’t logged in to since the ill-fated release of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric on Wii U.

It was 8:30/5:30 PST. I jumped out of my shower, my hair tied in a turban towel, and prepared myself some instant ramen noodles much to the dismay of my mother, who told me to finish up the puré my grandmother had cooked for us earlier this week. “Too late, I already opened [my Yakisoba noodles],” I retorted as I sprinkled the dried vegetables to the bottom of the plastic black container, shook it, and poured filtered water all the way up to the indicated fill line in the middle of the container. I was planning on watching the Sonic 25th anniversary party live stream on TV via my Wii U with my new boyfriend, Christoph, but my mom was watching her novelas, Christoph was visiting a friend nearly an hour away from home, and my Wii U required the installation of Adobe Flash in order to watch the stream on Twitch, which might be fiscally painful to do. So, I retreated back upstairs to my room and logged into my Twitch account–I haven’t used it since my second year of college because I have no experience in streaming gameplay nor had the thought of streaming my video games at all–and waited for the live stream to begin. At the stroke of 9:00/6:00 PST, I expected the camera to switch on to the crowd of people dancing in their Sonic cosplays. All I got for the next half-hour was the Sonic 25th anniversary logo tilting itself right and left to its own in-game music and immature Twitch users begging for Sonic Adventure 3 in the comments section. Both the seemingly eternal delay and the users rabidly imploring SEGA to announce Sonic Adventure 3 as new Sonic game (the latter of which placed me in a threshold between scoffing, “Jesus Christ, who the hell cares?” and flat-out screaming in all caps, “‘SONIC HEROES’ IS THE CLOSEST THING TO SONIC ADVENTURE 3 WE HAVE RIGHT NOW! SO SHUT UP, APPRECIATE WHAT WE GOT, AND LET THE PRODUCERS OF SONIC TEAM DO THE TALKING!”) made me test my faith and love in the franchise I’ve grown up playing since I was 9 years old.

At 9:30/6:30 PST, the wait was finally over. The camera opened its lid to the DJ duo Hyper Potions playing remixes of Chao Garden theme songs from the Sonic Adventure saga from their Apple laptop. They were the cutest remixes ever! But the coolest song Hyper Potions ever played was their own “Porta Vista”, featured in last year’s announcement trailer for Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice. Take a listen to these sick beats! (Deadmau5, Calvin Harris and David Guetta, this goes for you, too!)

This song got everyone, even the guy in the Sonic costume, jumping.

The lights slowly dimmed to black as the technicians whisked the turntable off the stage. Then, out of nowhere, the sinister voice of Dr. Eggman (portrayed by none other than Mike Pollock) announced conceitedly and humorously, “It’s finally time! My 25th anniversary party is almost upon us. Look at all these people”–referring to the audience at the House of Blues–“and even more on the live stream! You’re all here to adore the great Dr. Eggman, aren’t you?” As if he was sitting at his computer, Eggman came across a video sent to him by Sonic Team. The video began with the famous SEGA logo flashing across the screen, with the chorus belting out its name with the same 8-bit tone they did during the Genesis era. Sonic, in his Classic form, was lying down on his belly, impatiently tapping his fingers on the floor. Suddenly, a ball of bright light came down on Sonic and transported him to Green Hill Zone. He jumped through the giant, floating, spinning Portal Ring at the end of the famous first level of Sonic 1, and video clips of almost every Sonic game in the past 25 years plays in tribute to the Blue Blur’s greatness.

At the end of the opening tribute video, Dr. Eggman introduced Sonic the Hedgehog PR and social media manager Aaron Webber (a.k.a. RubyEclipse) to the stage. Webber, a blond, slender, and witty guy donning a black T-shirt of Classic Sonic, Tails and Knuckles grouped together in their own frames with the Japanese sign ソニック (Romaji: SONIKKU) popping out, broke the ice by asking the audience if they liked the memes posted on Sonic’s social media accounts–he created them!–and where they came from. After going through the free special collector’s swag in everyone’s goodie bags–including, but not limited to, the Sonic Mega Drive comic book from Archie Comics, and a silver Sonic the Hedgehog 25th Anniversary coin (only 2,000 have been made)–Webber answered the question everyone in the fan base has asked in the past year, “What’s next for Sonic?” by showing this highly unexpected trailer.

Sonic Mania is not a remake of the early Sonic games, nor is it a sequel to Sonic 4. It’s a direct sequel to Sonic & Knuckles that, along with new zones and new features such as the Drop Dash, brings the blue hedgehog to his former glory. “That can’t be the only new Sonic game SEGA’s developing [Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice aside], can it?” I asked myself, confused as to why Sonic Team shrunk Sonic back down to his chubby size and possibly lock the taller, sexier, more modern Sonic away forever.

As far as musical guest appearances go, I was expecting to see some of my favorite mainstream artists and bands like Justin Timberlake, Pink, Fall Out Boy, Britney Spears, Sia, even Panic! at the Disco, to show up and play their own renditions of the best songs from every Sonic game starting with Sonic Adventure. The only band to perform was franchise staple Crush 40–and Lord, did Jun Senoue shred his guitar! Johnny Gioeli joined Senoue after strumming to “Emerald Coast” and “Pyramid Cave.” While Gioeli sang everything from “Open Your Heart” to “Sonic Heroes” to “Knight of the Wind” remarkably well–though not as stellar as the studio-recorded versions–everyone in the Twitch chat room gave him a hard time, telling that he needs to get off the stage because his vocal quality waned with age, which I don’t agree with.

Just like I would a regular party, I left the live stream, shut my laptop down, and went to bed–but not before I scrolled through my Twitter feed and caught this next trailer by surprise.

Project Sonic 2017 is a working title, but it’s glorious. Glorious! But why we have to wait until the 2017 holiday season for this game to be released is beyond my comprehension. What I did understand was, Sonic Team has the tendency to experiment with other video game elements. They executed that fabulously in the 2000s, even going so far as to give Shadow the Hedgehog, the edgiest, hardcore character in the main canon his own game and turn Sonic into a werewolf. It’s only now they decided that experimentation is no longer working, hence they’re going back to the formula used in the early days to make Sonic the greatest video game icon in the history of the industry.

I slept peacefully, knowing that Sonic’s future is looking bright, and that I can trust SEGA and Sonic Team to do it right.

At the Very Beginning with Kingdom Hearts: Unchained χ [chi]

At the Very Beginning with Kingdom Hearts: Unchained χ [chi]

I spent at least two hours trying to free up as much storage space on my phone as possible–deleting songs I don’t seem to care much about anymore, the Facebook app (though I still use the browser version), etc.–and upgrade to a new version of Galaxy S5 in order to accommodate Kingdom Hearts: Unchained χ [chi] last week Thursday. It was painful, but as a Kingdom Hearts fan of nearly a decade, I say it was worth it.

A prequel to the entire Kingdom Hearts series in general, KHUχ features wonderfully drawn 2D character models and a battle system that most claim slightly resembles that of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. Players can also customize their avatars by choosing the hairstyles, their eye and skin colors, and the outfits similar to the ones worn by Disney and Square Enix characters (by “Square Enix characters” I mean Final Fantasy characters).

At the start of the game, young Kairi listens to her grandmother tell the story of the battle between Light and Darkness known as the Keyblade War, which is the focal point that created the present-day structure of the Kingdom Hearts universe. Rewind to the very distant past, and in the Dive to the Heart, five unions are presented to the player character you customized: Angius, Leopardos, Unicornis, Ursus, and Vulpes. Once you commit your loyalty to one of these unions, Darkness moves to envelop you, until you summon a Keyblade to drive it away and are enveloped in Light. Upon arrival in Daybreak Town, your home base you meet a feline figure named Chirithy, who informs you that someone is trying to seek out the Light for themselves, and that your purpose as a Keyblade wielder is to defeat the Darkness that is rapidly covering the worlds it has spread to in the form of Heartless.

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Courtesy: Square Enix-Disney

So far, I have visited the Dwarf Woodlands, Wonderland, and Agrabah to fight off the Heartless and I noticed something peculiar. With the exception of the third world mentioned above–oh look, a pun!–the timelines for Dwarf Woodlands and Wonderland are looped. In other words, the two Disney worlds started off from the beginning scenes of their respective movies. Not to mention, they’re repeating the events of Birth by Sleep–which I didn’t finish because I had to give the PSP back to Jack for technical repair a couple years ago and I haven’t gotten it back since, so I don’t know which character started off at Snow White’s castle–and the first Kingdom Hearts installment. It’s kinda weird that history sort of repeated itself. Then again, each Disney film featured in the Kingdom Hearts series is set in their own time period in accordance to the era in which each original literary work was published or orated, so the Keyblade Wielders are basically time-travelling.

To fight the enemies, you either swipe your finger across the screen to swing the Keyblade at every Heartless at once, or you can use Medals that can cause minimal to maximum damage, depending on the Disney or Square Enix character that’s featured on the Medal, and the attributes that come with them–Speed (green), Magic (blue), and/or Power (red). You start off with using three Medals on your deck during your turn, plus a fourth Medal from a friend in case the Heartless proves too powerful for you to handle yourself. The further you advance in your quests, you’ll be able to unlock the last two slots for any new Medal you have earned, which gives you a sixth friend Medal. One warning: they use up your AP gauge, so use them wisely. I’m close to quest #40, and the last two slots on my Medal deck still haven’t opened up yet.

Tetsuya Nomura said that KHUχ will most certainly lead up to Kingdom Hearts III, whenever that will be released. I guess he might be right–he did create the series.

Kingdom Hearts: Unchained χ now available for Android and iOS devices.

One more thing. Will Kairi’s KHII dress come in red when it appears on my Avatar Board?

GameStop and Autism Speaks: An Unholy Union 2.0

It’s times like this when I wish I didn’t have to go on the Internet on my phone every ten minutes, with or without Wi-Fi, like everybody else.

GameStop has become the second video game company after Activision to form an alliance with Autism Speaks to raise funds for their Light It Up Blue campaign during Autism Awareness Month. At point-of-sale, employees at GameStop and it’s subsidiaries Think Geek, Spring Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and Simply Mac will ask customers if they wish to donate $1 to the organization, most specifically their Family Services iPad Grant program, in which autistic children and adults living in poverty receive iPads. Only 4,000 iPads have been donated throughout the U.S. since 2012. (Really?)

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Courtesy: Gamespot

Upon hearing this news on Twitter yesterday, my anxiety levels shot through the roof. My stomach was in flames, and I felt like my heart and brain were gonna explode on me. I was too pissed off to even write about it.

I’ve been shopping in GameStop for as long as I can remember–playing demos, reading Game Informer, even talking to some employees about the latest games (mostly Sonic the Hedgehog, Kingdom Hearts, and recently Pokémon). Funny enough, I wanted to talk to some of the GameStop employees I know at the mall about this damning partnership, but they were either off or too busy stocking up on the new games that came out this week, so I left them to their devices until next time.

Aside from books, video games have always been a safe haven for me to run away from all the bullying I was subjected to in both elementary and middle school (and at some points in high school). The characters from every game I have played assured me that I can accomplish anything I want regardless of what offensive bullshit other people say to me, even if I take such bullshit to heart. Playing in the worlds of both Sonic and Sora (since Kingdom Hearts II) made me feel loved, accepted, and that I could beat all the odds. GameStop and other retailers, i.e. Walmart, Target and Best Buy, provided all that. Now, to have my favorite video game retailer associate themselves with an organization that dehumanizes the very group of people who call the virtual world a safe haven [without even so much as to conduct research on them and their cruel objective]…

I just want to scream loud enough to rip a hole in the space-time continuum. I’m heartbroken times ten.

Autism Speaks has hit WAAYYY TOO CLOSE to home this time. I won’t have it.