Okay, even I wasn’t sure of what would happen on the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines when I wrote my initial preview of the game. If you’re a PC user, you could look over some fixes and patches a dedicated community is looking into. A real unfortunate turn out for a game that’s been in development for over six years. Either way, it’s a
Monday Tuesday which we put off for a week, but word is still mum in the world of video games, which will change shortly. Until then, here are a few things that are worth your attention.
- User reassembler has ported Yu Suzuki’s classic arcade title Outrun to C++ under the name… [Cannonball]
- User Hezman introduces a new camera system in Sonic Classic 2. [Youtube]
- Nicalis has picked up The 90’s Arcade Racer to publish on Wii U. [Computer & Video Games]
- GeneHF mixes a Transformed/Sonic R mash-up of Back in Time. [Jammin’]
- David also continues to take you Back in Time…or forward in time to Mobius 25 Years Later with part 16! [Ken Penders]
Colonial Marines & SEGA News
- A user on Reddit claims to be a tester for the game and gives a lowdown on some of the shadier things to happen during the game’s development. Though at this time, take it with a grain of salt. [VG247]
- Colonial Marines pays homage to a popular Sega franchise [Youtube]
- We did tell you the PC version of Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed is out now, right? [Steam]
- Well there are a few things broke with it, and Steve Lycett needs your help testing the new fixes. [Steam]
- Also the Outrun Bay track with Metal Sonic will be available for PC users tomorrow for purchase […oh yeah, Steam]
- We also told you that the 3DS version of Transformed is out too? [SEGA Blog]
- SEGA of Japan produces a line of laptops featuring designs based on their console hardware [Joystiq]
When Ken first wrote the ending to Princess Sally’s Crusade, it’s doubtful that he thought beyond that simple page of a happy ending. A moment where Sonic and Sally were able to find peace, years after their battle with the evil Dr. Robotnik had come to a close. Back when the Saturday morning cartoon still reigned supreme, before Sonic Adventure and the Japanese continuity became commonplace, even before most Americans realized there was another comic book being published in the U.K. that tried to be closer to the games, albeit the Kintobor storyline that no longer is considered canon by anyone who works in the halls of SEGA. It was a just a moment where Ken thought he’d be clever, coming up with an interesting spin on the origins of NICOLE, something the TV show never got the chance to cover.
By the time Sonic the Hedgehog #131 hit newsstands, no longer was the comic book storyline the simple tales of good versus evil. The main story had taken on numerous twists and turns, incorporating elements from other shows, other games, a hodgepodge of Sonic the Hedgehog that didn’t always gel correctly. If Ken were to make a comprehensive future of every single character, of every single possibility, he may have gone mad. Indeed, sometimes it felt like his own mental state was in danger, with all the rumblings of internal strife happening in the halls of Archie Comics. Sometimes, it was a miracle the book was published at all, regardless of the quality.
As stated before, when Ken’s final installment of Mobius: 25 Years Later saw print in Sonic #144, that was never the intended ending. Ken had not gone through all that effort to leave the future as a perpetual cliffhanger. There were plans for more, though they never saw fruition. The happy endings for Sonic, Sally, Knuckles, Lara-Su and the rest instead remained only in Ken’s mind, until Ian ushered his own interpretation of the future.
When Ian Flynn took over Sonic the Hedgehog as main writer back in 2006, his first task was to wrap up everything the comic had been doing for years. Strung out plotlines with little resolution had become the norm, and had definitely run its course. Sonic #160 through Sonic #174‘s primary purpose was to bring everything back together and reign it in so #175 could be an easy jumping off point, not just for the reader but for Ian to write his own stories involving the sprawling cast of the comic. Part of that spring cleaning was the initial resolution to Mobius: 25 Years Later, even if it had been two years since the storyline had been an ongoing feature in the book.
Though it is possible that revisiting the future would have been on Ian’s mind eventually, the two-part conclusion was not something he decided to write, but was instead editorially dictated by Mike Pellerito. Wanting to also wrap things up to make things easier for oncoming readers, he instructed Ian to find a way to end Ken’s futuristic epic in 22 pages, spread out across two issues. Not content with just having Ian come up with his own ideas, he demanded the young professional incorporate an element in the narrative that could be seen as coming from out of left field: the arrival of King Shadow.
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Sometimes, long-running serials can become stale. If you’ve been hired to write for a comic book month after month for years, you can reach a point where you just can’t be as good as you used to be. Ideas get regurgitated. Fast paced action is slowed down. All the creativity of those first few years can dwindle, even if the property is yours. There’s a reason creatives are always looking for new valleys to explore – focusing on just one idea, one story, can drive someone mad. It can compromise the overall arc. It can feel like the story should have ended years beforehand, instead of half-heatedly lurching forward into the abyss.
American comic book companies are aware of this to a degree, oftentimes changing the creatives on a book in order not just to improve sales, but to prevent the material from becoming flat. The hope being that if new minds are always bringing in fresh ideas, the 70+ years of Batman adventures won’t continue to repeat themselves. Very rarely in the modern industry do you get someone on a title for more than a handful of years. Extremely rare is the tenure that Ken Penders enjoyed, writing on Sonic the Hedgehog and its related series for nearly 13.
When Ken was unceremoniously dropped from the title back in 2006, he was replaced by newcomer Ian Flynn, his first story seeing print in Sonic the Hedgehog #160. Though relatively unknown, there was a faction who was excited to see what he would bring to the table, him having been a fan himself, writing his own fanfiction about Sonic in the years previous. Even if sales of the title had gotten better when Ken took over from Karl Bollers as head writer, there was a certain stagnant feeling to the stories being provided. If you’d had gone on record saying that, in your mind, the battle between Sonic and Eggman was over and you were solely invested in the future tales of Mobius, what else would one expect?
With Ian at the helm, it didn’t take long for the new writer to revisit one of the longest running, incomplete tales that had taken hold of the comic since its early days. Dictated by management to wrap it up once and for all, Ian set off to finally finish Mobius: 25 Years Later.
While it has been mentioned before in these reviews, one of the biggest problems Ken seems to deal with is pacing his work for a mass audience. Filled to the brim with ideas, it isn’t hard for someone to get buried under them and lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish. Normally, a good editor should be there to hold you under the reigns, but if there’s one thing Ken Penders didn’t get through most of his time at Archie, it was a good editor. Justin Gabrie may have started with good intentions, but it became clear that at some point, he didn’t understand the material he was working with. He let a lot of mind-boggling plot points, awkward writing, and terrible art make it to the printing press without fear. He also seemed perfectly ok with the knowledge that Karl Bollers and Ken Penders were writing stories that sometimes contradicted each other, his desire for consistency being overshadowed by just wanting the comic to be released on schedule, quality be damned.
That doesn’t excuse Ken completely. I’ve also mentioned how most people point to Sonic the Hedgehog #36–#50 as some of Ken’s best writing in the series. Part of why that period may have been so strong is because of the self-imposed deadline. No one knew if the series would survive a few months beyond the cancellation of the Saturday morning cartoon, let alone make it to Issue #50. A lot of ideas and interesting concepts were thrown at the reader all at once, supported by mini-series and specials that built up to Endgame. There was a limit, and Ken was forced to work with it, leaving room for the other freelance authors to do their own thing as well.
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When Ken Penders first started outlining what would evolve into Mobius: 25 Years Later, he took the title of the story seriously. While most comic book authors dealing with modern legends they neither created or owned liked to toy with the future, they knew in the back of their minds that the future was fleeting. Their ideas of how the fate of each character would play out could easily be changed, be it another writer down the line or even the whim of an editor. Ken, on the other hand, never thought he was writing an imaginary story or a possible future. To him, he was detailing the true and final fate of these characters within the Sonic Archie Universe.
As the series began to see print, the opinion on whether or not the story was canon or merely a possible future was suddenly called into question, much to Ken’s chagrin. An internal strife behind the scenes began, one that did leak onto the Internet in various fan forums and even some semi-official ones. Though it would be some time (and a change in editor) before Ken would be forced off the series, they were the first cracks in the wall to show that Ken’s position in the echelon of Archie scribes was not as strong as he would have liked to think.
Here in America, it’s Martin Luther King Jr’s Day. It’s also Inauguration Day for President Obama. If you’re a Fox Newscaster, today is probably the worst day of your life. But for everyone else, t’s an action packed day to let you guys know the up and up on whats been going on in today’s Monday Links. Oh man, whats that?
- The Sonic Hacking Contest for 2013 is underway! Deadline for submission is July 31st 2013. [Sonic Hacking Contest]
- The Sonic 2 Beta Pirate Carts have been obtained by forum user egel [Sonic 2 Pirate Carts Found]
- Sonic Fan Remix creator has been working on The 90’s Arcade Racer which is reminiscent of Daytona USA and has a Kickstarter [The 90’s Arcade Racer]
- The Sonic inspired game Freedom Planet also has it’s own Kickstarter page. You can download the demo to play it if you haven’t already. [Freedom Planet]
- David continues his trek through Mobius – 25 Years Later. [Ken Penders]
Sonic & SEGA News
- Sonic fan site Shadow of a Hedgehog is no longer which was popular for Sonic downloads. Pour one out for them, won’t you? [Goodbye to SoaH City]
- Project X Zone, the Sega/Capcom/Namco crossover game is slated for release in North America and Europe [Project X Zone]
- NiGHTS into Dreams, Jet Set Radio and House of the Dead OVERKILL: Extended Cut on sale for Sony’s 13 for ’13 Promotion [PSN’s 13 for ’13]
- Ikaruga now available for Android devices. [Google Play]
- The Cave from Ron Gilbert is out this week. [Double Fiiiiine]
- Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is out on 3DS this Feburary [Late Finish]
- It also has exclusive characters for the PC version. [Shoguns, Football Managers and Team Fortress]
When the team at Archie began their long line of 48-page Sonic specials, the original intent was to make each one, well, special. Something so big, that it couldn’t be held in the main series. A bone-fide event, not to mention a way to increase sales. Sonic: In Your Face! was the first, focusing on Princess Sally and completing a story begun in the main line. Others followed, such as Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Triple Trouble, and Sonic & Knuckles: Mecha Madness. Each one tried to up the ante, adapting games or doing storylines that the readership just had to get, not wanting to miss out on something that could be awesome.
When the 48-page specials were turned into their own quarterly series, there was an attempt to continue making each issue some big extravaganza. The oft-mentioned Brave New World. Return of the King, where the crystallized King Acorn was finally restored to his former glory. Even the Sonic Kids specials tried to examine facets of the mythology that the writers otherwise couldn’t. Sure, not every issue delivered, but those that did delivered in spades. That’s why there was so much hype about Knuckles: 20 Years Later. With how passionate Ken Penders sounded while talking about it to fans, the readers felt they were in for a treat. That’s why there was so much disappointment when it was postponed indefinitely after the cancellation of the Super Specials.
Before the announcement of Mobius: 25 Years Later, however, there was a brief tease of that future in Ken’s strip: the first appearance of Lara-Su, Knuckles’ daughter of the future. Thrown across time and space, the fans were finally able to see the character in action, to tide them over in anticipation of a storyline they still hoped for. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “Reunification.”
Everyone loves a good disaster movie. A group of people living their normal lives, suddenly forced to deal with natural forces beyond their control. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, you name it. Some people watch them just so they can see famous landmarks explode. Others because they like to imagine themselves in a similar situation, wondering if they could get out of it alive. A classic form of the human struggle, people banding together against incredible odds.
Most of these stories don’t have a crazed antagonist behind them. There might be some selfish person who looks to capitalize on what is going on for their own personal gain, but rarely are they the one behind it. Not to say there aren’t movies where a crazy scientist has figured out how to make earthquakes and terrorizes the world for money. You just don’t find that in most fiction of this sort. That slips into science-fiction territory, which has entirely different goals in mind.
When you’re dealing with the type of disasters like the one presented in Mobius: 25 Years Later, however, you can’t just leave it be as something out of the character’s hands. If you are building the final chapter to a sweeping epic, you need an antagonist worthy of what is happening around the characters. Crisis On Infinite Earths, the DC maxi-series I cited earlier and a clear inspiration to the “crazy weather” plot, knew this. The weather was a precursor to the end of existence, but as the story unfolded, it was discovered that it was all part of a design by a character known as the Anti-Monitor. A being so evil that he wanted to destroy the universe, leaving only that which he controlled. There was something the heroes could actually fight against. A final chapter that stayed true to everything that had come before it. Not panel after panel of scientists trying to find a solution.
A lot can be said for having a character study in a strip that is otherwise full of action and adventure. While it’s fun to watch the hero punch the bad guy and save the day, you can only do so much. Without engaging characters at the center of the story, there’s no reason to keep on watching. Having one-dimensional hijinks from two-dimensional characters can only keep people intrigued for so long. Video games don’t have to be as great in the characterization department as a major motion picture, yes, but a person playing a game is expecting different things than the person sitting down and, say, reading an issue of Sonic the Hedgehog. I don’t need to know every detail of Eggman‘s motives as I run through the Green Hill Zone. In a comic, I need texture. Having 22 pages of Sonic running and jumping and saying nothing is not how you keep a comic book going for two decades.
At the same time, you can’t have a comic book about Sonic be just a bunch of talking heads. You need a careful balance of exposition and explosions. Having the occasional issue where the characters are able to sit back and talk is important. Being able to examine everyone’s motives, explore their hopes and fears, and even having them grow in some fashion can keep people interested. Then you can go back to Sonic popping badniks and throwing out one-liners.
Ken was acutely aware of this as he tried to shift the comic towards the Saturday morning mindset, having extended plotlines showcasing the heroes with both victories and failures, not to mention the occasional introspective moment. But whatever balance he had in those early days seemed to disappear long before he got to writing Mobius: 25 Years Later. Having a hundred pages of flimsy character study with nothing else does not inspire your audience to read on.