Sonic Mega Collection Plus Retrospective – Sonic Chaos

Sonic Chaos holds a special place in my heart as a long time Sonic the Hedgehog fan. However, it would be remiss of me to mention that this game is on the bottom end of my list of favourite Sonic games, especially when it’s stacked against some of the best the series has to offer. It doesn’t mean I think of this game any less, not by any means. In fact, Sonic Chaos marks the first time I had ever 100% completed a Sonic game.

The game itself is known as Sonic Chaos only here in the West. In Japan, it was released as Sonic and Tails. It’s notable for being the first original Sonic title for the Game Gear system and was released on November 23, 1993. In this game, Dr. Robotnik has found one of the six Chaos Emeralds and takes it with the hope of finding the other five. However, his actions cause the Emeralds to become unbalanced and they scatter all over South Island. Without the Emeralds, South Island begins to sink into the sea and so Sonic and Tails have to retrieve the missing five Emeralds and recover the final one from Robotnik at his new fortress.

Sonic Chaos was developed by Aspect, the same company that handled the development of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Game Gear. With the success of the 8-Bit Sonic 2 game, SEGA handed Aspect more responsibility for the Sonic brand for the Game Gear and Master System. All in all, they would release several more well-received Sonic titles; not bad for a small and relatively unknown company at the time! 

Taking what they’ve learned from developing the Sonic 2 title, Aspect made many improvements. For one thing, they cleaned up the display to give more viewing room for players to see. Next, they implemented Sonic’s Spin Dash and Super Peel-Out moves – both seen in the Genesis version of Sonic 2, Sonic 3 and Knuckles and in Sonic CD. Aspect even added in some exclusive moves that could only be found in the Game Gear titles, like the Rocket Shoes which allowed Sonic to zoom through the skies! And last but definitely not least, they even managed to work Tails into the game as a playable character who also could fly! All in all, Sonic Chaos was packed with lots of new features in a fun-sized cartridge.

I remember getting this game on my birthday in July of 1995. While I loved it, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Game Gear was frustrating me to no end as I couldn’t find the fifth Chaos Emerald to unlock the final zone! I had gotten pretty good at the game too; I could get through that dreaded first boss fight without too much trouble and Green Hill Zone 3 was a mere nuisance at that point. However, I got bored. I only had one other game for the Game Gear and that was World Series Baseball. So, my birthday rolled around and in one of the presents, I got both a Sonic the Hedgehog comic (by Archie Comics) and a brand new copy of Sonic Chaos.

First chance I got, I slapped the cartridge into my Game Gear and went right to town. I remember being wowed by the visuals – they were so much sharper and vibrant than Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was! When I raced through Turquoise Hill Zone and I first hit the monitor containing the Rocket Shoes, I don’t remember if I was able to contain my excitement at the time! I was flying through the air, collecting tens and tens of rings until suddenly, I was transported away to a Special Stage after I picked up my hundredth. In this new level, I had to use the Rocket Shoes to zoom across an endless sky filled with giant Rings while a timer ran down. In my excitement, I didn’t see the Chaos Emerald at the end of the stage as the time expired and I was sent to the next Act of the level.

It was here I started to realize that I could actually beat this one – I didn’t have to find the Chaos Emeralds within the levels, I could just enter the Special Stages and find them there instead. I never fully beat Sonic 2 for the Game Gear, and I hadn’t beaten Sonic 2 for the Genesis on my own either (my older cousin would do it for me). But Sonic Chaos was a game that I could finally beat on my own! And eventually, I did! I felt pretty proud of myself, overall.

In retrospect, Sonic Chaos was a much easier game than Sonic 2 was. It was also much more bland, with the level design being more simple than the previous game. What did set it apart was its music selection. Gigapolis Zone remains one of my favourite tracks from Sonic Chaos and there were a lot of familiar tunes that were repurposed from Sonic 2, like Metal Green Hills Zone for instance. The variety of items was also a big plus, with the Rocket Shoes being the coolest item ever featured in a Sonic game.

A vivid memory I had with this game was around mid summer 1995, shortly after my birthday. My grandmother was visiting from the States and she was keeping an eye on my brother and I while my parents worked. I remember that I was curled up on an old armchair in the corner of my small living room in the morning. The Game Gear was in my hand and I was playing Sonic Chaos while my grandmother was watching “The Price is Right.” It was simpler back then, when the only worries I had were “What was gonna be my next adventure?” and “Who am I gonna play with later today?” 

Sonic Chaos reminds me of those times. And though it doesn’t crack my list of top ten Sonic games, it’s still a title that I remember fondly. 

This post is part of a collaborative Sonic retrospective based around the games on Sonic Mega Collection Plus. To read more, please head over to the central post!

Sonic Central Recap!

Hey! It’s Ryan for another round of Games with Coffee. You rarely see posts on Thursdays, but today is a special occasion: the Sonic Central broadcast! And though it was way past fast, were the announcements way past cool? Without much preamble, let’s dive in and talk about the direct in detail!


Symphony Orchestra!

Right off the bat, the broadcast starts off with an announcement of a Symphony Orchestra performance, happening on Sonic’s Birthday for free! Guest stars include Crush 40 and Tomoya Ohtani, the latter of which has produced some of the series’ best music in the last 15 years! It’s gonna be so epic to listen to this! I will honestly cry if there is a symphonic rendition of Windmill Isle Day, just saying.

Sonic In Tokyo 2020?!

Or just the ability to dress like him, at least. Tokyo 2020 really is leaning hard into custom avatars, so including the ability to dress like Sonic for these events is almost a no-brainer at this point.

The hilarious part about this is that it’s an adult-sized mascot costume and I can already hear the memes being created because of this haha.

Sonic in Two Point Hospital!

Speaking of memes, this photo of a Sonic-dressed character sitting behind a desk and consulting patients is on-point. I can feel the memes being generated as we speak…

“Good news! You’re perfectly – ah wait, wrong chart, sorry!”

Like with Tokyo 2020, Sega is putting it’s mascot in another popular series, Two Point Hospital. The new add-ons include costumes that your staff can wear as well as new decorations. I’ve never played Two Point Hospital – reminds me a lot of Roller Coaster Tycoon, but instead running a healthcare facility instead of a theme park.

Kinda wish my hospital had an arcade in it…

…I kinda want to try it out though, haha.

Sonic the Fighters Makes A Return! …Sorta?

It seems that games within games is becoming a huge thing nowadays, as in Lost Judgement – from the makers of Yakuza – there will be an arcade machine featuring a fully playable copy of Sonic the Fighters!

Fighters is a way past cool fighting game that I streamed recently through the Sonic Gems Collection.

To end this section, it seems that there will be more collaborations happening in the future, including what looks like.. Minecraft?!

What the?

Sonic Colours Ultimate!!!

Now for the (second) biggest news of the day – a remastered Sonic Colours! Colours is one of the few Sonic games that I haven’t played and so hearing that this was going to be officially released was welcome (if not expected) news. It’s nice to see that we finally get official confirmation of stuff being released, as opposed to relying on leaks and rumors about Sonic news… 

Anyways, Sonic Colours Ultimate is a revised version of the Wii exclusive game that apparently includes some new stuff, like a Jade Ghost Wisp, a rival race against Metal Sonic and other things.

Not only that, but Roger Craig Smith (the previously-former-but-now-current VA for Sonic – it’s confusing, alright?) took the time to speak about a brand new short animation based on Sonic Colours called Sonic Colours: Rise of the Wisps.

Honestly, the animation looks like it’s on point! The fact that it’s fully voiced by the Sonic VA cast is icing on the cake. Definitely looking forward to watching this in Summer.

And yes, I’ll be pre-ordering Sonic Colours Ultimate. I mean, c’mon, I was expecting a game to be released this year, so I prepared in advance! 

New Sonic Collection for Modern Consoles!

Can I say “called it?” Sorta?

A new Sonic Collection called Sonic Origins, featuring Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic 3 and Knuckles and Sonic CD, is coming out! Apparently, it’s supposed to include some added content and features.

And while there are a few (MANY) omissions, at least the classic Sonic experience continues onward! I wonder if these additions and features will have something to do with the Christian Whitehead editions of the Sonic Mobile ports, which contained some new and improved content for both Sonic 1 and 2? We’ll have to see later next year on what that entails…

Though I’m a bit disappointed that they still neglected Knuckles’ Chaotix. It’s also a missed opportunity to release some classic portable titles as well. And yes, it’s confirmed that Sonic 3 and Knuckles will support widescreen format.

Forces, Mania and Team Sonic Racing on Other Streaming Platforms

Sonic Forces, Sonic Mania and Team Sonic Racing are slated to be released on Amazon’s Luna and Sony’s PlaystationNow streaming services. You can pick up Sonic Mania and Team Sonic Racing right now if you have the Luna service, while the three pack will be released for PlaystationNow in June. Sounds way past cool for those who have either of those services!

Events in the Sonic Mobile World!

Now, I don’t play much mobile games, but I do like Sonic Dash. This month, players can unlock Pirate themed costumes for Sonic and Shadow (Of which instantly memeable content has been brought forward haha), plus some other birthday stuff.

“Oh, do what you want, cuz a pirate is free! YOU ARE A PIRATE!”

On top of that, Super Sonic is coming to Sonic Forces (the mobile game). Funny how Super Sonic makes an appearance, considering that he apparently never made one in the console version of Forces… Plus too, a Party Mode is going to be added, where you can race against your friends, which seems pretty exciting! I’ve played this mobile game before and it’s pretty fun. I might get back into it just to get Super Sonic haha.

Later this year for Halloween, Werehog Sonic makes a return to the fore! He’ll be playable in Sonic Forces and in Sonic Dash and it’s nice to see that the controversial transformation hasn’t been totally neglected (though it’s been mocked constantly).

*Jazz music intensifies*

Finally, for Sonic Racing on the Apple Arcade service, Classic Sonic will be playable, along with three new tracks situated in Green Hill Zone.

News about Sonic Prime

Next, we heard from Joe Kelly from Man of Action, one of the show runners for the newly announced Sonic Prime Netflix series. Now, Man of Action has been responsible for quite a few animated series, like Ben10, so hopefully that means Sonic’s in good hands?  

Kelly has touted that this is a series unlike anything seen by Sonic fans and that it takes place within a realm known as the Shatterverse (Shadowverse?)… What that means is anyone’s guess, but it sounds like this 24 episode series will be set in some form of a multiverse (alternate Sonics!?). Also, that new Eggman logo looks pretty dope. 

MERCH!

OH MY GOD I WANT IT ALL!

Ahem, sorry about that. But seriously, this stuff looks awesome! A playset recreating the final battle of Sonic 2, my all-time favourite Sonic game?! Oh man, I already don’t have any space to begin with, where the heck am I gonna put that!?

“Yes this will definitely be purchased for my kid and not for me. Seriously. You gotta believe me.”

I’m not that into hip-hop culture… but I still want one of those Sonic necklaces from King Ice. I was hoping for a ring, but I’ll take the necklace nonetheless.

DOPE A F.

I’ve already pre-ordered the deluxe version of the Encyclo-Speed-ia haha. Thanks to everyone on Twitter who pointed that out to me, by the way!

There’s also a commemorative 30th Anniversary Coin that looks pretty sweet.

Shiny!

And there seems to be an official 30th Anniversary site with more information about merch and other stuff, though it’s not available to access as of yet… I’m sure that’ll change within the day or so.

One Last Thing

Finally, they saved the best (?) for last: the biggest news of the day – A New Sonic Title.

Oooh pixel-ly!

We see Sonic running in a forest. Before long, his body emits what looks like some sorta strange energy before going into a Sonic Boost. He then circles around a grove of trees and the scene changes to a stone background with ancient writing. A thick, bright blue line traces some symbols on the stone and they look to be the letters Z, A and P…

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN????

Could the upcoming title be known as Sonic ZAP? I doubt it… but let the speculation commence, I suppose!? The new title is slated to be released in 2022. 

As for my take, I can’t say too much about it because of how little the tiny teaser reveals… but I hope though that we’re seeing a resurgence of Sonic Adventure-esque storytelling. However, my biggest concerns are as follows:

What’s changed gameplay-wise?

What’s stayed the same?

What’s improved?

What are we gonna see in terms of the story?

Finally, has the last five years since Forces was released been enough for Sonic Team to really and truly nail the speed-based gameplay that fans desired?

Maybe we’ll see more at E3, which is happening in just a couple of weeks time, but this snippet isn’t enough to go by right now. In short, WE NEED ANSWERS, DAMNIT!


And that’s it for Sonic Central wrap-up! They did say within the broadcast that more of these will be coming, which is welcome news after the radio silence we’ve endured since the beginning of March 2020.

So, did you see the broadcast this afternoon? What are your thoughts on this? Was this a Sonic Boom? Or a total bust? Let me know in the comments below!

This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Believe in Yourself, Live with No Regrets and Chase the Impossible! See you next time!

Sonic’s 30th Anniversary Is Coming!

Happy Saturday! It’s Ryan here, for another round of Games with Coffee. Hope everyone had a way past cool week! I know I did – got my jab, the writing’s going well, streaming is way past awesome and work is ramping up with new challenges in front of me, which I’m pretty excited about taking on. 

Speaking of exciting, this Sunday marks one more month until the 30th Anniversary of the Sonic the Hedgehog series! I know, I aired my grievances on my last post to SEGA and Sonic Team on their lack of merchandise up here in Canada, but I’m still hoping that the 30th Anniversary celebration merch will make up for that. 

Not only that, with SEGA announcing that they’ll be in attendance at several trade shows this summer, coupled with hints about how bright Sonic’s future appears to be, I’m sure we’ll hear some game announcements for the series.

To that end, I want to share what I think we’ll see ahead of the 30th Anniversary celebrations and put together a wishlist of items I definitely want. And we start off with the obvious:


Game Announcements

What’s a celebration of a world-famous hedgehog without info on new games, eh? I do hope that SEGA does announce something, rather than just tease us and say “Hey, we’re doing something, can’t tell you what tho!”

I’ll tell you this – I really and truly hope we see something ground-breaking for the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, and I’m talking “Breath of the Wild” level ground-breaking here. Modern Sonic games have been hit or miss (with more misses than hits, really) and it would be good to see a good Modern Sonic game for a change, like Sonic Generations for example. It would be interesting to see an open-world Sonic, but I can’t imagine how that would look or how it would work? It’s just too foreign in my mind right now. However, I hope they bring back and improve on the parkour mechanics from Sonic Lost World. While the idea was solid, the execution needed some polish and I think a new title has potential to showcase a fluidly moving Sonic to the masses.

With Classic Sonic, I think the right direction here would be to keep him and Modern completely separate. Apparently, putting him in Sonic Forces ended up being a bad move in terms of optics. I understand that SEGA really wanted to force Classic Sonic in for the 25th anniversary, but maybe putting him in Forces wasn’t the best move. Mind you, I haven’t played Forces (A surprise, huh!?), so I can’t say too much on that. As I was saying though, making a Classic Sonic game separate from Modern Sonic would be a great way to both celebrate the classic series and diversify the franchise portfolio at the same time. Maybe we’ll see a Sonic Mania 2 announcement? Or something else altogether?

As far as remakes go though, I doubt we’ll see any mention of Sonic Adventure. However, if the rumors are true, then we may see a remaster of Sonic Colours, which would be way past cool! A rerelease of the Sonic Advance series of games or even other classic portable Sonic games would also be welcome.

Oh, bump that! An Anniversary Collection! Every single classic Sonic title, including portable and obscure adventures, available in one, convenient package! That would mean a re-release of Sonic 3 and Knuckles, as well as Knuckles’ Chaotix! That would be a sweet deal in my eyes!

Merchandise!

Going into merchandise, I want, want, WANT the Anniversary Collection threads available on the SEGA Europe shop! Honestly, the stuff looks so dope! The blue T-Shirt featuring all the different iterations of Sonic’s design over the years has to be my favourite of the bunch. 

I also want this 30th Anniversary Mug, the design is so great!

SEGA of America, get this stuff over here so I can order it for myself!!! Please, for the love of all that is holy in this world, that’s all I wish for, y’know?

I pre-ordered the deluxe edition of the Sonic Encyclo-Speed-ia (of course haha). Just recently, I got this incredibly corny children’s story book about Sonic for my son. I’ve read it twice now to him and he LOVES it. Plus, the stickers on the back look so great! I want to see more Sonic reading material though, so that I can keep reading it to my kid.

Though Volume 1 of the IDW comic series is coming out very soon (which I’m also getting), I want to hear news about any additional volumes so I can catch up with the series! It sounds really good and I can’t wait to start reading it for myself. Will elements from the IDW comics be seen in future Mobius VII works? Maybe? I’ll need to read the comics and see.

I’m looking for a new Sonic hat for streaming. No, the old Sonic hat will not be retired, don’t worry about that, but a new hat to commemorate the milestone is definitely on my wish list. Again, SEGA Europe has a pretty nice looking one.

Speaking of wishlists, I entered a contest about 10 years ago at The Sonic Stadium, where winners were chosen for suggesting the most interesting toy ideas. My suggestion was a transformable Tornado, based on the design from Sonic Adventure. My heart would soar (and my wallet would be threadbare) if something like that were announced, just saying.

Finally, I think enough time has passed from the Sonic Movie’s release for Puma and SEGA to team up again and release a shoe based off of the one in the movies. I know that one model was made, but it wasn’t available to the public. In short – give us shoes like Sonic’s damnit! I have a mighty need for it!

Give us these shoes!!!!!

So, there you have it; the things I expect in terms of game announcements and the things I want for myself to celebrate! What about you guys? Any predictions of what to expect for games? What merch are you looking forward to getting for yourself? And what would be on your wishlist? Let me know in the comments!

With that, and obsessively refreshing my feeds for any breaking Sonic news, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Believe in Yourself, Live with No Regrets and Chase After the Impossible! See you again soon!

An Open Letter to Sonic Team and SEGA, By a Disgruntled, Canadian Sonic Fan

Hey guys, it’s Ryan from Games with Coffee.

If you can’t tell from the title, today, I’m addressing this post to the people responsible for all things Sonic the Hedgehog. I’m also cc’ing Sonic’s social media team (@sonic_hedgehog) and whatever merchandising team from SEGA is in charge. I doubt any of them will read this, but after the last year or so, especially the last few months, I have words for these guys and it’s not about the games, or the lack of announcements regarding them. While I understand that they probably have no control over when a new game will be released, if even announced, I do believe they have some control over one specific thing:

Merchandise.

I hope SEGA reads this. I hope that they come back with some answers. I doubt it on both accounts, but hey, can’t hurt to try, right?


To the folks at SEGA, Sonic Team, Sonic’s Social Media Team and SEGA’s Merchandising Department,

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I’m writing to you all because I want to bring to your attention the glaring merchandise inequities that exists between American and Canadian Sonic fans.

If you dive through social media, or even do a search for Sonic merchandise, you’ll find that those in the United States have greater opportunities to purchase licensed Sonic the Hedgehog merchandise than those in Canada, where I live. And even if one such as myself wanted to purchase some sweet Sonic loot for themselves, they face many barriers in order to do so. The first of several examples being the official Sonic store on the Sega Store website.

Now, I know your store holds a lot of great Sonic merchandise; much of which I would love to get my hands on. My only problem is that, after incorporating shipping costs AND converting it all into USD, getting a hold of said stuff as a Canadian means I would have to probably sell an arm, a leg and possibly my left kidney in order to afford it. I understand that there’s exchange rates, tariffs and shipping logistics that all have to be accounted for, but still, it’s very prohibitive for me to buy these things.

Not only is it difficult to procure your stuff from the official site, it’s also extremely difficult to find any sort of Sonic merchandise in stores here in Canada! Granted, we are in the middle of a pandemic, so, there’s that to consider. Even still, I never see places like Wal-Mart or any other big box stores here in Canada have anything Sonic related in store or online(other than the games). Meanwhile, Target (a big-box store operating within the United States) has these giant Sonic Head plushies on sale. To add insult to injury, even the EB Games store – headed by parent company, GameStop – barely has any Sonic related items for sale, making it that much harder for a fan to celebrate all things Sonic. The sad thing is, if you look up anything Legend of Zelda-related on the EB Games website, you’ll find a plethora of Zelda-related items to purchase. 

At the same time, I’ve been pestering my local hobby shop to ask if they have received any new Sonic merch. The owner (who’s also a big Sonic fan himself) has repeatedly informed me that no, no new merch has arrived yet and I feel terrible for bothering him so much about it. However, whenever I’m able to visit his store (despite pandemic restrictions), his place has tons of Zelda stuff! It’s crazy, y’know?

As a huge Sonic fan living up in the Great North, it really hurts that I can’t find anything to show off my adoration for the Blue Blur. It also hurts that it’s easier to be a Zelda fan than it is to be a Sonic fan. (Full disclosure, I am a pretty big Zelda and Final Fantasy fan, but Sonic’s my #1).

So, what would make things better? I’m not sure, but honestly, I’d like to see more merchandising opportunities up here. Make it easier for Canadian retailers to stock up on merch, perhaps?  The fact that stores are stocking up on the anniversary books, like the Encyclo-Speedia and the IDW Comics Collection Vol.1, is a huge plus for me, but I’d like opportunities to see more clothing merch be available as well. You guys had a great campaign with Old Navy back in 2019/2020, and though I only bought one shirt (since I lost my job around that time), it’s a great shirt. I love that shirt. I stream wearing that shirt on my Sonic Sunday streams. I know that you have some t-shirts available at Hot Topic, but purchasing it online is tough because, again, purchasing is only available in USD. Beyond that, there’s nowhere else that sells official Sonic merch to my knowledge (and readers of this letter can point me in the right direction, if they so please!)

I barely see any Sonic toys available as well! My son is starting to become a fan of the series (his favourite game so far is Sonic CD) and so I want to buy stuff for him to play with, but alas… nothing. No action figures, no plush toys, nothing at all. If toy stores worked with Jakks-Pacific to distribute more product up north, maybe that would be less of a problem… but I can’t control how these stores stock up on merchandise unfortunately. I can only highlight the problem.

Other than that, maybe expand partnerships with local hobby shops or something? Or make it easier for suppliers to push product onto these local stores? I’m not sure, but I know for a fact that there are a lot of Canadian Sonic Fans, both young and old. We, as Canadian Sonic fans, all want Sonic to thrive and be the best he can be. We, as Canadian Sonic Fans, all want to show the rest of the country and the world why we’re such huge fans. And we, as Canadian Sonic Fans, deserve the same opportunities to obtain merchandise as those in the United States. Even though the United States has approximately 10 times the population as us – and thus approximately 10 times as many Sonic fans – doesn’t mean we’re no less important.

I’m not looking for compensation or attention on this, I just want to see some change happen so we as Canadian Sonic Fans can let our fan flags fly happily. Heck, I would love to open a Sonic store catered to the Canadian crowd and be the sole provider of all things Sonic the Hedgehog for the whole country. Problem is, I have no idea where to start and I have doubts that there’d even be demand for it. But hey, it’s a fever dream, right?

(BTW, if you guys want to help me start up a storefront for the sole purpose of supplying Sonic merch for Canadian fans, I am willing to sit down and talk about this in detail.)

Anyways, I hope you read this, consider my propositions (or lack of) and provide equal merchandising opportunities for Canadians to celebrate all things Sonic the Hedgehog. I will conclude this letter this with the words I always say, day in and day out: Live with No Regrets, Believe in Yourself and Chase After the Impossible. I look forward to a reply.

Best regards, Sonic’s #1 Canadian Fan, Ryan.


The Legend of Zelda – What The Series Means to Me After 35 Years

Hey, welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee! I hope everyone had a great week! 

It’s been a pretty productive time for me, post-Mobius VII Book 1. The worldbuilding for Book 2 has commenced, writing for the podcast series – Mobius VII Story Notes – is progressing fairly well and streaming has never been more fun than it has today. Today, however, I’ll be putting aside all talks about Sonic and Final Fantasy and I’ll be putting a spotlight on a third series that has had an enormous impact on my life.

That series is The Legend of Zelda, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.


In The Beginning…

My journey with Link started off with the old 1989 Zelda cartoon that would air on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. I was in kindergarten during that time and I remember (albeit, vaguely) coming home at lunchtime to watch this show and it was there that I first watched that Zelda cartoon. It was set in the magical land of Hyrule and starred an irascible, rascally hero, a sassy princess, a mischievous fairy and a villainous pig monster/wizard who tried to steal the Triforce of Wisdom in order to rule the land. The moment I saw that show intro, I was HOOKED.

I remember at one point back in kindergarten that I pretended to be Link and had magical adventures with friends… but I could be misremembering things? Memory works in strange ways, sometimes.

In fact, looking back now, I credit the Legend of Zelda cartoon as the first instance where I was exposed to High Fantasy, my favourite genre of fiction. I was always swept up in the fantastical worlds that existed within these stories, with their crafty characters, deep and introspective lores and zany, over-the-top adventures and I have to thank the series for introducing that into my life. 

Anyway, we fast forward to around the summer of ‘94, when a neighbourhood friend introduced me to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. This was my first foray into the Zelda gaming universe and, in my eyes, it did not disappoint. Despite its status as the black sheep of the series, Zelda II was an incredible stroke of genius. With its focus on action and exploration instead of puzzle solving, the game has Link traversing the entirety of North Hyrule to place crystals in six palaces and unlock the Great Palace, said to hold the Triforce of Courage, the third piece of the Triforce. Before playing this title (and Dragon Warrior, which I played right after this one), I found that at a young age, games weren’t very immersive. They were simple affairs, like getting from one end of a level to the goal or beating a boss at the very end. With Zelda II, there was a story to be had, even though it was simple. Playing it made me feel as though I was a part of the adventure and my actions had an effect on whether or not Link succeeded in his quest to revive Princess Zelda from her eternal sleep. 

Also, as I’ve mentioned several times before, Zelda II was also a test of patience. It’s not enough to just hack and slash at everything in sight, there’s strategy involved in this game. Ironkuckles can easily be defeated by aggressively advancing forward, jumping and stabbing at them. Daria’s (Axe-wielding monsters) can be defeated in several ways – orange ones are eliminated by crouch-stabbing while advancing forward while the red ones can be defeated by timing their axe throws and slashing at their heads when an opening presents itself.

By far, my favourite enemies to fight are the Lizalfos and they’re simple to beat once you nail the strategy. While advancing forward, jump up, hold down (as though you’re initiating the downstab) and then immediately stab forward. If done right, Link will look like he’s crouching in mid-air and almost 80% of the time, it catches the Lizalfos off guard, making for an easy kill. It also means easy experience, considering the orange ones give off 150 xp per kill.

If I haven’t mentioned it before (and if it wasn’t obvious from the above), Zelda II is by far my favourite game of the series. There was a point in time where I thought all Zelda games were like Zelda II, but I was sorely mistaken once I started delving deeper into the series.

From Side-Scrolling to Traditional

Christmas of 1998 was a special time for me, as it was the year that I picked up my very first Game Boy – a Game Boy Pocket in Electric Green. I’m actually kicking myself for selling that unit all those years ago as it was just a wonderful little thing, but alas, hindsight’s 20/20, right? Still, the first game that I got with the system was The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX, released in that same year to coincide with the release of the Game Boy Colour.

Compared to Zelda II, Link’s Awakening was a completely different beast. It was more puzzle based than the side-scrolling action adventure title. I struggled to wrap my mind around the mechanics around the different items. I remember on my first playthrough being stuck in the Mysterious Woods with the raccoon blocking my path forward. It took some time, but I realized that I needed to use the Magic Powder to proceed further. At the time, I thought the only source of the powder was through the Crane Game mechanic and I remember spending hours chopping grass over and over again in order to get the necessary Rupees needed to play the game and get the powder. I only realized years later that I could have gotten the Toadstool within the woods, hand it over to the Witch by the graveyard area and receive a free sack of powder instead!

I also remember getting stuck on the last three dungeons for the longest time. As a kid of 11 or 12, I found those to be particularly difficult. The final boss was also a nightmare (pun intended) to deal with, but eventually I persevered. Link’s Awakening would be the first Zelda game that I would finish – I hadn’t beaten Zelda II until I was in my mid-teens and that was with save states and cheats and such! The message within the game, in that the whole island and its inhabitants are nought but illusions, flew over my head at the time, but I started to understand what it meant as I got older. The fact that your existence may be nothing more than a conjuring within someone’s dream and that it can be erased as soon as that individual awakens… that’s pretty terrifying to realize haha.

Transitioning to 3D

At around the same time I was struggling through Link’s Awakening, I also got to play the next evolution of the Zelda series with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, thanks to an older cousin of mine who had an Nintendo 64. He and I would journey through the vast lands of Hyrule together, fighting off monsters, solving problems for folks and trying to stop a madman from conquering the kingdom. The time travel twist was so awesome to behold and I remember sitting with my cousin and my brother watching all our efforts go to waste once we picked up the Master Sword and thinking, “Wow, we just got played.”

The dungeon difficulty went up several notches at that point, as each of the Temples had tons of tricky sections that really threw me for a loop. The most infamous of them all was the Water Temple, and I remember that we were stuck in that particular area for a good couple of weeks!

Such a pain to deal with…

Ultimately, this was a game that we didn’t get to finish together as a group. School and life got in the way and my cousin ended up finishing the game without me. He had also picked up Majora’s Mask – the sequel to Ocarina of Time and we spent a fair deal of time playing that one until his system and games got stolen during one of his baseball practices… Meanwhile, I didn’t get a proper chance to finish OoT until I picked up the Collector’s Edition for the GameCube for Christmas of 2003. I admit, I used walkthroughs to get through the rest of the game, particularly for the bloody Water Temple, which I still detest to this day haha. 

The final battle between Link and Ganondorf – transformed into the demon Ganon – was one of the most iconic and memorable fights that I experienced within gaming. The music, the atmosphere and the backdrop of the ultimate fight between good and evil, it was something that could only come from an epic High Fantasy tale. In this case, it was better because I could control the action, I could feel the tension between these two forces. I remember my hands gripping the controller tightly as I felt each blow of Ganon’s twin, forked swords. I remember gritting my teeth as I sought a way to hit the Demon King’s weak point on his tail. And I remember the jubilation I felt when I landed the final blow to his head and his subsequent sealing into the Sacred Realm. That moment solidified The Legend of Zelda’s place as one of my favourite gaming series of all time, ranking up there with both Sonic the Hedgehog and Final Fantasy.

After Ocarina of Time though, things just got better and better. Majora’s Mask – while not within my top ten Zelda games – was still an awesome and dark entry to the series. Wind Waker’s cel-shaded graphics didn’t deter me from experiencing a fantastic and compelling story set in a waterlogged Hyrule. Twilight Princess was, at one point, my favourite 3D Zelda game, because it combined everything that made Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker great into one complete and dense package. My only complaint was that it started off a bit slow, but once the first scenes were passed, the enormous world of Hyrule really opened up and it was what I’ve always imagined it to be. A land full of fantasy and mystery and wonder.

The Rest of the Series

I played the original Legend of Zelda game for the first time around the same moment that I got the Collector’s Edition. Seeing where it all started from gave me both a better appreciation for the games that came after it and a sense of gratitude that the series even existed and improved so much over the years. I followed that up with A Link to the Past – arguably the most talked about Zelda title prior to Ocarina of Time – and I understood why it was so highly regarded.

Oracles of Ages and Seasons, a pair of GBC Zelda games, marked the first games in which the events of one game would affect those in the second. My brother and I owned both copies of this game (Ages was his, while Seasons was mine) and the two of us would work together to figure out each game’s puzzles, unlock the mysteries of Holodrum and Labrynna and ultimately defeat Ganon once more.

The Minish Cap was styled in the same way as Wind Waker and featured a fantastic shrinking mechanic that allowed players to explore Hyrule in completely new ways. Speaking of Wind Waker, I’ve also played the two DS sequels to the game: Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. I adored Spirit Tracks’ iteration of Zelda – she is my second favourite version in the series thus far. Plus, you can’t go wrong with trains!

There are some titles I haven’t touched yet, notably Skyward Sword, which is coming out this year, and Link Between Worlds for the 3DS. There’s also the Four Swords series, both for the GameCube and the GBA, as well as the Triforce Heroes games. I dare not mention the CDi games though haha. I don’t know if I’ll ever play those…

What I appreciated about the Zelda series was that it never stopped trying to improve itself in every way. Each and every game built up from the previous ones, while introducing new and innovative mechanics to keep things from going stale. And while the timeline ended up being a confusing mess, all the events eventually coalesced into one, singular stream and transported players 10,000 years into the future…

Breath of the Wild and the Future of Zelda

From the moment Breath of the Wild and the Nintendo Switch were announced, I knew I had to get both. Due to shortages in both supply and in cash, I wasn’t able to get a system on launch, but I did end up getting a Switch and a copy of Breath of the Wild around my birthday. Nothing could have prepared me for the experience that I was about to undertake the moment I inserted the cartridge and turned on the system.

The stories of previous games had faded into near obscurity and the current game takes place after Ganon, now known as Calamity Ganon – more a force of nature than an individual – was unleashed and devastated the world. Link, the final hope of the land, had awoken 100 years after its release and now must free the Divine Beasts from Ganon’s control and defeat the monster with Zelda’s help. Zelda herself was trapped in Hyrule Castle, holding the beast at bay using the Triforce. As he was now, Link wouldn’t stand a chance, but by going to shrines, offering Spirit Orbs to the Goddess in exchange for power  and exploring the land for new weapons, armour and techniques, he’d be more than ready to stand toe-to-toe with the creature of Malice.

I mentioned before how Twilight Princess had an enormous version of Hyrule to explore. Breath of the Wild makes Twilight Princess’ version look like a speck in comparison. The moment Link awoke from the Spring of Resurrection and walked out towards that grand, sweeping vista overlooking Hyrule Castle, I knew for a fact that this was the Hyrule I’ve always dreamed of. A world filled with mystery and magic and even some ancient technology thrown in to deepen the intrigue.

The introduction of the Champions, coupled with a deeper focus on Zelda and her conflicts between her responsibilities as the Princess of Destiny and her desires to be a scholar, really made this game memorable. The only other game that made me feel so invested in the story in the series was Twilight Princess

The release of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity years later filled in many gaps within Breath of the Wild, while also providing a satisfying twist to the story and opening the series up to new interpretations. The Dynasty Warriors-styled gameplay was a perfect match to showcase what the war against Ganon was like before everything went south. Here, you got a sense of how truly powerful Link was before his defeat at Fort Hateno. I also enjoyed how the story focused on Zelda herself and how she had to battle back her doubts and low self-esteem in order to be the leader everyone knew she could be. 

Now, with the sequel to Breath of the Wild in development (and hopefully we can hear more about it in the summer!), I’m excited to see what the future lies within the Legend of Zelda series. There is so much to talk about, from its characters, to its settings and its lore that I could just go on and on if I wanted to! Alas, I’ve drawn out this post long enough, I suppose haha.


With that, we’ll call this edition here. What’s your favourite Zelda game? What is it about the series that makes it so special to you? Let me know in the comments below?

Also, I’ve been working my way through numerous Zelda games on my Twitch channel. I’m currently on a playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. If your Tuesday nights are open, drop by and say hi! I start up every Tuesdays at 9:30pm EST.

Until next week, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, reminding you to Live with No Regrets, Believe in Yourself and Chase the Impossible. See you next time!


How I Set Up My Elgato Capture Card – A Step-by-Step Breakdown

Welcome everyone to another edition of Games with Coffee! It’s the end of yet another productive week! For us up here, we’re in the midst of yet another lockdown as cases surge. I hope that wherever you are, you’re staying safe, following the rules and keeping healthy.

Today is an extension of the previous post: I’ll demonstrate how I set up my capture card. This will include how I adjusted my audio/visual settings to compliment my card and the testing methods I employed to ensure I get a near-perfect synchronization between game audio, microphone audio and camera. Let’s get to it.


So, You Picked Up A Capture Card…

Congratulations first of all! You now have a doohicky that can capture your gameplay from your gaming console and transmit it to your computer. As far as the instructions go, it’s simple. First, insert the HDMI cable from your console to the input side of the card. Second, connect the output to your TV. Finally, connect the data cable (typically a USB 2.0 or 3.0) from the card to your PC.

Once that’s in place, you can begin streaming! There are several ways that you can do so:

Use The Capture Card’s Software

If you have an Elgato Capture Card, you can download the Game Capture software from their website. Once installed and opened, you’ll see this interface:

From here, you can modify the settings of your card depending on what you’re playing, including your microphone settings, game audio and titles. You can also link your streaming account to the software so that you can stream directly from it and record your gameplay. Now, to be perfectly frank, I’ve only used this software a few times. What I usually do is:

Use The Capture Card Through OBS

More specifically in my case, Streamlabs OBS, however, base OBS works just as well.

OBS integrates fairly well with most capture cards, especially with Elgato cards. While they work right out of the box, in order to utilize the card to the fullest extent within your stream, you’ll have to do a few modifications to your setup.

Setting Up For Success

In order to get the most out of your capture card, it’s important to understand one main thing: external cards have a slight delay on them, due to their reliance on wired connections. That means that if you’re playing live, the card will be capturing a few seconds behind you. Chances are, your microphone and webcam are set to pick up audio/visual in real-time. What that means is that you could be broadcasting your reactions about gameplay events a few seconds ahead of your capture, which is what your audience will see. If that doesn’t bother you too much, then that’s perfectly OK! You have to stream the way you want to, after all.

If it does bother you though, you have a few options. The first is to replace the external card with an internal card that can be mounted into a PCI slot. Because it’s internally mounted, you wouldn’t suffer from latency issues and would be able to capture and broadcast content in real-time without making any adjustments to your camera and microphone. The two main drawbacks here are that these cards are first and foremost expensive to purchase, sometimes ranging over $200. Secondly, their use is limited to PCs only – laptops can only use external capture cards (to my knowledge – if you know otherwise, please share!).

The second option – which is what I’ve used and will discuss in detail – is to modify the delay on both your microphone and webcam to match the in-built delay on the capture card.

Initial Settings

First off, connect your capture card to your console of choice and to your PC/laptop and then boot up OBS. I’ll be using Streamlabs OBS for demonstration purposes, but these methods will also work on base OBS.

Next, we’re going to play around with some delay settings on your microphone and webcam to sync it up to the captured gameplay. By doing this, you’ll be giving off the illusion that you’re playing and commenting on the game in real-time, despite being a couple of seconds ahead of your audience. That’s the main goal here!

Now, looking at this delay issue up on Elgato’s help site, it states that you’ll want to set your microphone and webcam delay to 650ms as the default. We’ll start with setting the delay to the microphone.

On the Audio Mixer panel, click on the gear icon on the top right-hand side of the panel. This will open the master mixing settings for all your audio inputs/outputs.

Go to where your microphone input is and under Sync Offset, set the value to 650. What this does is delay your microphone output to your audience by 650 milliseconds.

Next, under your sources, go to your webcam, right-click and select Filters.

In the Filters window, hit the + button and select ASync Delay. Then, set the delay to 650ms.

Once applied, you can visually notice a delay on your webcam broadcast, which is what your audience will see as well.

Optimizing The Settings

With these in effect, your mic and webcam should be roughly close to your captured gameplay. One way to test out if your mic and webcam have synched to your gameplay is to put on a platformer and record yourself saying “Jump” every time you press the jump button. Then, view the recording and see if your character (Mario, Sonic, whomever) jumps when you say “Jump” out loud.

If you’re using the base values above, chances are that synchronization is close but not quite there yet. Not to worry, as we can optimize the delay values to achieve total (or near-total) sync!

Now, adjusting the delay values depends on several factors. The first and foremost is the port that your capture card is connected to your laptop/PC. In my case, I have it hooked up to a USB expansion adaptor located at the front of my PC. The next factor is the cable that you’re using to connect the capture card to the PC. My Elgato is an older model and so, it utilizes USB 2.0 tech. That means that it’s quite slow compared to the newer models that use USB 3.0. The final factor is the HDMI cables that you’re using to connect between your TV, your console and your capture card. You don’t need the best of the best, just make sure you have a decent, undamaged cable.

Once you’ve got that confirmed, next comes the fun part: doing multiple audio and video tests and iterating your delay times after each test! Generally speaking, your audio and webcam delays should match one another, so after each recording, go to the mixer and filter settings respectively and adjust.

When it comes to narrowing down the best offset numbers, I found that the optimal way to do so is by trying to match the delay to the game’s audio. What I mean is, I muted my PC audio, hit record and then hummed or whistled along to the game audio from my TV, making sure my microphone captures my humming or whistling. Then, I reviewed the recording, adjusted the delays and re-recorded until my humming and the game’s audio matched perfectly! It’ll take about half an hour or so to narrow down the delay to a single millisecond, but the results are totally worth it! In my case, my current offset values are at 515ms. What’s great about this method is that it doesn’t require you to be musically inclined – all one has to do is make sure the humming (however off-key it sounds) syncs up to the game’s audio. If you’re having trouble with it, enlist a friend or a family member to help out!


And there you have it! A (hopefully) easy-to-understand guide on setting up an Elgato Capture Card. Note, I haven’t tried other cards, however, I’m pretty sure that the above steps would work with them just as well! 

Do you own a capture card for streaming? Got it to work to your specifications? Let me know in the comments below!
Well, that’s it for this post. With that, this has been Ryan, reminding you to Live with No Regrets, Believe in Yourself and Chase the Impossible! See ya next time!

What I’ve Learned From Streaming – A Year-Long Journey

Welcome everyone to another edition of Games with Coffee! I hope everyone’s had a great week and is looking forward to the weekend!

As promised in my last post, today I’ll be talking about my streaming experience over the past year and share a few lessons I learned during that time.


Having A Proper Set Up Matters

Honestly, this can make or break a stream. When I first got into streaming back in 2018 or so, I had a budget-friendly refurbished laptop (that I later had to repair because the hard drive failed spectacularly…), a lapel microphone, some basic headphones and an Elgato HD60 Capture Card. I did one, maybe two streams using this setup before setting it aside for a year or so because I felt so intimidated by the whole process.

I revisited this back in 2019 and looked up specifics on what one needs to stream and this is what I found to work: A computer with mid-range specs on power and graphics, a monitor, a microphone and a pair of headphones. One could also get a webcam, but that’s really an optional piece of equipment – there are plenty of successful streamers who stream without ever showing their faces. 

As for what software to use for streaming, there are several options. The most popular of them is OBS, which literally means “Open-source Broadcasting Software.” OBS is a robust and fairly simple software to use and there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube to help with the learning process. On top of that, there are several flavours of OBS. The one I use specifically is Streamlabs OBS. It has a clean UI and links your live stream site account (Twitch, YouTube, etc.) with your Streamlabs account. From there, you can add things like animated images for alerts, banners, track donations and follows and a whole bunch of other things.

I used GIMP to develop my overlays and logos. I designed my overlays using sprite backgrounds that you can find all through the internet that I tweaked to suit my preferences. My current overlay for my Sunday stream is based on the large level screen display thingy in Knuckles’ Chaotix, while my Tuesday stream uses classic text boxes from RPGs to emulate a menu screen.

An example of my current Sonic Sunday overlay. Elements not included :P.

In terms of my equipment, I have a fairly powerful PC with an AMD processor and an older model Nvidia graphics card. I mentioned that this was given to me by my cousin Lee, who is freakin’ awesome by the way! I’ll never stop saying that haha. I use two monitors: an ASUS one which is my main and an old 22” Samsung LCD TV as my secondary monitor. The TV is what I use to connect my older consoles on since it has dedicated A/V, composite and HDMI inputs as well as a separate headphone jack.

I still retained the Elgato HD60 capture card, however, I didn’t use it when I started out; I was still too intimidated by it. I only started using it fully this year to great success and I’ll present a tutorial on how I configured mine in a future post.

Plan On What You Want To Stream

Having a good setup is nothing without having something to play! I honestly found this to be the fun part of streaming – planning what to play during your streams. When 2020 was around the corner, I knew immediately that the first games I wanted to stream were Sonic games, since I officially dubbed it the “Year of Sonic the Hedgehog,” due to my involvement with the “Characters That Define Us” collaboration. So, during the winter break, I compiled a list of Sonic games I planned on playing between February and June and I stuck with it (with deviations from time to time). After I got my list, I then picked a day that worked with my schedule. During a typical week in 2020, I had split my time between writing Mobius VII and spending time with my family. Saturdays were extremely busy but Sundays were not, so I chose Sunday nights to stream. Later in the year, I added a Tuesday stream where I played mainly retro action-adventure titles, like Alundra, Mega Man, Castlevania and Zelda, to name a few.

This habit of planning out what to play helped me be consistent with my streams while also giving me something to look forward to on the days I was streaming.

Run Plenty Of Tests

Retro Game Brews, a good, good friend of mine and fellow streamer, shared this extremely valuable piece of wisdom with me when I first started: Dealing with sound and video issues is a rite of passage within Twitch. Just as it’s important to have a good setup for streaming, it’s also important to test out your stream and adjust settings to suit your audience. With OBS and Streamlabs OBS, you have the option of recording yourself, which is vital for testing your setup. What I did was record myself playing and talking for about 30 seconds to a minute each time and then watching and listening afterwards to see both how the game and I sound. I also took the time to review my visual assets, like layouts and alerts and make sure they were coming out crisp and clear.

I then got into the habit of running tests and checking my stream settings prior to my broadcast. I did this because every game is different; the sound of some games comes out loud while other games are quiet. Sometimes my voice overpowers the game audio while sometimes I’m too quiet for my audience to hear. Bottom line is, it’s worth it to continue testing your setup prior to streaming.

Play What You Want To Play

The title speaks for itself. Don’t be so worried about consistently playing the most popular games around unless you’re really gunning for that Partner status. If you enjoy playing what you want to play, your enthusiasm will show and your audience will recognize that. In my case, playing Sonic games on Sundays helped me grow my audience base since those were the games I loved playing. Things would probably be different if I played a game that I wasn’t wholly interested in, despite its popularity.

Sometimes What’s Popular Isn’t Quite Popular 

On the other hand, even playing the most popular games might not garner enough attention from your audience. I did a stint of playing Final Fantasy VII Remake over the summer of 2020 and I noticed that my viewership dropped. It could be that the Remake just wasn’t interesting enough for my core audience, or it could be due to me using my PS4 as an alternate stream setup to play it, but I wasn’t drawing in people like I used to. Though it wasn’t a bad thing because I was able to make a great friend during the FFVII Remake journey and now he’s one of my favourite regulars!

As I mentioned above, I used my PS4 to stream my Remake game session. Looking back, I think I would have had better success if I utilized my capture card. This leads to my next lesson:

Capture Cards are a Godsend (Once Configured Properly)

Now, for most people, capture cards are quite intimidating. On the surface, they’re easy to operate – connect your console to the input side, connect your display to the output side, insert the data cable to your computer and voila! The capture card is connected and Ret-2-Go! (Sorry, I’ve been on a Shantae fix lately…)

Except that’s only half the battle. While the plug-and-play setup lets one instantly stream console games, I found that the Elgato capture card has an in-built latency delay due to the USB cable. That means that if I make a jump in real-time, my viewers will see that same jump about a couple seconds later. If you combine that with a webcam and mic set up that’s configured to pick up streamer audio/visual in real-time, viewers will see a synchronization delay which doesn’t look super professional. I figured out how to solve this sync problem (not without some issues) and so, I’ll be sharing a detailed post in the following week on how I synched up the audio/visual stuff to the capture card. I know this would be a big help for any up-and-coming streamers who are able to secure such a card!

So, the rig is ready, the mic and webcam are ready, the games are ready and the capture devices are ready. Now comes one of the biggest lessons I learned:

Consistency Is Key!

After figuring out the above, this lesson here is the most important – not only for streaming but also for anything in life.

Having a consistent and predictable schedule will help grow your audience. Period. Plan for it and let people know however you can. Share your schedule on social media, put it on your group chats, wave banners, shout it out from the rooftops if possible; it doesn’t matter, just get the word out! I found for myself that initially letting family and friends know that I’m streaming on x day at x hour ensured that I’d get at least a few viewers on my channel. Those views and interactions really helped when I started out!

Sometimes, life does get in the way of your consistent schedule, but that’s OK! If you can fit in a make-up day, go for it! If not, then delay until the following week. Don’t work for the stream, make the stream work for you.

Finally, there will be days where you’ll get a TON of viewers in your stream and there will be days when maybe one or two people show up. It doesn’t matter – just keep at it! Take every stream like you’re expecting a crowd to show up. Little by little, growth will happen!

Speaking of streaming growth, there are plenty of ways to do just that and my personal favourite is:

Networking!

Seriously, never underestimate the power of a good network. 

It does require a bit of legwork, perseverance and goodwill, but it pays off in dividends once it gets going. Networking with others can be as simple as visiting another streamer’s channel and just having conversations with them. Don’t be rude though and be like “Yo, go check out my stream, bruh!” Be genuine and be patient. If the streamer does ask if you stream yourself, then it’s fair game! Share what you play, what you’re about and what days and times you stream and go from there. Sometimes, viewers of that very stream may end up following you, giving you more opportunities to draw an audience.

Two of the many ways I’ve networked were from my work as a games writer/blogger and through participating in streaming competitions. As you know, I’ve worked on a fair deal of collaboration projects with various writing groups. Along with reading some way past cool stuff, I also made a ton of great friends, some of which visit me on stream from time to time to partake in my adventures! To those great people who do so, thank you so much by the way!

I was also fortunate to participate in a few streaming competitions hosted by none other than Retro Game Brews. The first contest I was in was a Sonic 2 speed race within Emerald Hill Zone and it was a riot! Though I didn’t make it to the next rounds, I still had a blast and cheered on the other competitors who were all great sports! I’ve since played other great games such as Kung Fu (NES), Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Outrun (Genesis) and Super Punch-Out (SNES). My run on that last game was beyond epic because I finally beat the crud out of Super Macho Man, my nemesis from the original Punch-Out. Beyond finishing him off, I almost beat the game too! It was exciting!

Super Punch-Out ended up being my most memorable competition as it was the push I needed to reach Affiliate status. As I mentioned before in my last post, it was the best birthday gift I’ve ever received!

However, the best competition I had a blast with was the RGB High Score Castlevania Speed Run contest that occurred last year during Halloween. Though I love Castlevania, I was always intimidated with the first game – I’ve never finished it before and I was nervous about it. As I practiced and shared my progress with the competitors though (who all gave great speedrunning advice by the way!), I felt my confidence build up until I could beat it for the first time. And then I beat it in half an hour, which is pretty impressive when I think about it.

And my overlay was all kinds of hilarious and awesome 😀

When it came to the actual run, I was gunning for sub 25 minutes as my overall goal. In the end, my best time ended up at just over 16 minutes! Here were my splits for that night:

During that time, I gained followers, earned bits from wonderful streamers and made some great, great friends who stop by either for a chat or initiate a raid from time to time. Bottom line is, networking works! Engage with your fellows in the community and you’ll see results. But networking is only half of the battle.

It Takes A Lot Of Work To Succeed

I may be waxing on about how easy streaming is, but I’ll be honest, it does take a lot of work. I built a lot of my own assets on my own, such as logos, overlays and BRB/Commercial screens. You also always have to be promoting your stream. Even though I’m doing this for fun, for some streamers, this is a way of life for them and so they’re grinding every day to get people to tune into their feed. That grind is something that I respect.

One of the most challenging things I feel that I need to work on more is to be more engaging. Streams live or die by how engaging the streamer is with the audience. I started off by sharing my wealth of Sonic trivia during my Sonic Sunday shows. I then did commentary explaining how I went through certain sections of the game I was playing, starting with Alundra on my Tuesday streams. There were times where I was distracted by the game that I couldn’t respond properly to chat or get my facts out straight without going with long pauses. It’s something I’m working on though.

Be Genuine

The biggest piece of advice I can give to make this work is to be genuine with others. It’s difficult to engage with your audience if you can’t muster up some authenticity within yourself. People are perceptive and they tune out if they can’t connect with you. So, talk with your audience! Laugh, cry, celebrate their victories, empathize with their anguish. Connect with them. The way I see it, every stream should feel like a couch session with your good friends and you all talk about everything under the sun while enjoying some good quality games. At least, that’s the impression I try to present whenever I stream.

Have Fun!

The last lesson here is to, well, have fun! Enjoy what you play, ignore worrying about what’s popular or not and above all, have a good time with it. I guarantee that people will come to check you out and stay if you’re engaging, relaxed and having a good time with the games you’re playing.

Continuing on the subject, don’t be afraid to be silly on stream! This isn’t some overly professional setting like work (unless you treat it as such), so go nuts! Myself, I wear certain hats during my streams: Sundays I wear my Sonic hat and Tuesdays I wear a Legend of Zelda hat, in celebration of the series’ 35th anniversary.


And those are some of the things I learned during my first year of streaming. I hope this helps you out, whether you’re just starting or if you’ve been in the game for quite some time! Next week, I’ll share how I configured my capture card.

Are you streaming? What have you been playing? Do you have any further tips or lessons to share? If so, drop ‘em in the comments below!

If you want to see me live, be sure to tune in on Sundays and Tuesdays at 9:30pm EST!

That’s it for this post. With that, this has been Ryan, reminding you to Live with no Regrets, Believe in Yourself and Chase the Impossible! See ya next time!

Games with Coffee: Recapping 2020

(It’s been a while since we had a normal post, huh?)

Welcome everyone to the return of Games with Coffee! Mobius VII is done for now, but if you read the previous acknowledgements post, you’ll see that we’re not done yet! We’ve only just started on our journey through this fantastic world! AND I’ve even begun writing notes for the next edition! It’s more worldbuilding than anything else, but it’s a start.

So, while we’re now in 2021 and way past the four year anniversary of the site, I wanted to take some time to recap a few things that happened in that dreaded 2020. Honestly… It’s been readers like you that have been keeping me going through that tough phase, so again, thank you all so much for your support. It means a lot to me that you’re willing to take time out of your busy schedules to come down and check out my content. Much love to all of you!

Anyways, let’s not delay further, shall we?


The Real Pandemic Blues

2020. What a year it has been… And it was honestly one that didn’t start off on the right foot for me especially.

Three days into the new year, I was unceremoniously let go from my field inspection job. After two and a quarter years, the company I worked for at the time decided it was time to downsize the inspection department, which led to my job’s elimination. Luckily though, I bounced right back onto my feet and landed a job at my current place of employment. Here, I’m doing sales of all things, and strangely enough, I’m doing fairly well in it.

Who knew, right?

Anyway, I don’t want to bore you with too much work stuff, except for the fact that 2020 was the first and only year where I’ve worked inside of an office for a grand total of 14 days. The rest of the year was spent home – either searching for jobs during the first two months of the year and then working from home for the remainder. In fact, I’m still working from home now, but it hasn’t been to my detriment, thankfully.

Working from home has brought its own challenges, though. Balancing work with personal stuff was hard. Add in a toddler to the mix and you get a perfect storm of busyness. In a way, I appreciated that – that storm prevented me from getting too bored and lethargic and… well, it kept me sane.

All this time spent at home has helped me tremendously in finishing Book 1 of Mobius VII. By the time you read this, all 42 chapters will have been posted to the blog. It’s been a heck of a ride and I hope you all have enjoyed it as much as I have. As of this time, we’ll get back to a normal-ish schedule of things with new posts releasing every Friday. I found a system that works (relatively speaking), so we won’t see blackouts as we did through all of 2019 haha.

What this year has taught me, overall, is that reflection is good for the soul. No matter what job you have or what situation you’re in, if you don’t give yourself time to process how you feel about things, it can be hard to move on. A good example from gaming I can think of is Shadow from Sonic Adventure 2. Shadow initially wanted revenge on humanity for killing his best friend, Maria. However, after a conversation with Amy on Space Station ARK, Shadow reflected on it and finally remembered Maria’s wish – for him to help save humanity. Which he did at the end of the Final Story at the apparent cost of his life.

In my case, before I started my new job, I wrote a letter to myself to reflect on my feelings during the ten years since I started my career. I poured all the inadequacies, failures and disappointments I felt into words and then sealed it and all the objects and things that reminded me of how much I hated the last decade of my career into a box that I promised I wouldn’t open again for ten more years. I don’t exactly recall what I wrote in that letter now, but I know that I made a declaration on that piece of paper to never let those failures and disappointments affect me again.

Meanwhile, work wasn’t the only thing keeping me busy this year.


Becoming a Streamer

2020 was the year that I decided to start streaming. Back at the end of 2019, my cousin Lee gifted me a wonderful PC rig to use for streaming and gaming. This thing was much more powerful and robust than anything I’ve ever owned. With this in hand, coupled with my contribution to “The Characters That Define Us” collaboration by Normal Happenings, I decided to celebrate my love for Sonic the Hedgehog by streaming a whole bunch of Sonic games every Sunday starting in February. I took all of December and January to tweak my setup, get my equipment in order and create my layouts and heck, it paid off in spades! My consistency with my streams, coupled with participating in a few tournaments and networking with a bunch of great streamers allowed me to reach Affiliate status by July 13th – my birthday! Honestly, that was one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever received!

Now, streaming has become one of my favourite things to do besides writing and I’ve learned so much from the practice. The next post after this one will go into details about those lessons.


Collaborations

As I mentioned in the last section, I participated in a little collab called “The Characters that Define Us.” And by little, I mean over 50 amazing writers baring their souls about the characters that have helped them through thick and thin. Sometimes, these characters helped in small, minute ways. Others have impacted a writer’s life so much that they couldn’t imagine where they would be without them. My piece was about Sonic, of course. Writing about him helped me realize just how wonderful this life really is, even if I complain here and there about certain little things.

I was also a part of the Super Mario Multiverse collaboration set up by The Well-Red Mage in commemoration of Mario’s 35th anniversary. You can find my entry here.

I also participated in a charity stream for Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C), run by Andy AKA ProducerBTW. It was a great charity for a great cause. I learned a lot about fundraising and I’m hoping to do more charitable streaming this year. SU2C will be one of those that I’ll be working with for sure!


Patreon-ages

I bit the bullet and became a Patron for Story Mode: The Video Game Podcast. Starring my three good friends: Red (The Well-Red Mage), Blue (Wrytersview) and Ryebread (Retro Game Brews/Beer Ryan), they discuss the gaming news of the week and provide some colourful takes on various topics. They bring up some really interesting stuff and I highly encourage you to listen when you get a chance. The three hosts are hilarious and informative and they may hold differing opinions about certain things, but at the end of the day, they always Agree to Disagree. They are hosted on Buzzsprout, but you can also find them anywhere you find podcasts.


Some Personal Stuff

In spite of the pandemic, 2020 was not a bed of roses around the internet and within the gaming sphere. Toxicity within gaming had reached an all-time high and with people being completely burnt out from all the lockdowns, elections and uncertainty, I saw plenty of falling outs happen among good friends.

Speaking of which, despite being a homebody, I found this past year to be difficult in terms of talking with friends and family. I mean, I’ve been taking this thing seriously. I followed the rules and I’m trying to keep my family safe, but still, I see so many people not taking this seriously and it makes me wonder, are we even doing the right thing here? I dunno. People flaunting the rules, getting together, risking their lives and the lives they impact around them… man, it bothers me a little bit. I get the feeling though that things’ll get better soon. And they better – my mental health needs a bit of relief haha.

Also, right as this pandemic started, Mrs. Coffee had to go to surgery for gallbladder removal. Prior to that, she hadn’t eaten a solid meal in weeks and I was super worried about her… Thankfully, the issue has been fixed and she’s all better now!

If all that wasn’t enough, the calibre of games that were released this year were… mediocre at best? Well, save for a few good and unexpected ones, that is! 


Games, Games, Games

Final Fantasy VII Remake released in March and of course, I had to get it! I didn’t start playing it until the summer though after I completed Book 1. The game started out really strong for me, but the plot direction at the end really threw me off. I’m thinking about giving the game another chance, perhaps when I get a PS5 for the Intergrade upgrade, but I’m flip-flopping about it. I’ll admit, there were a LOT of great things that happened in Remake. The combat system was just flippin’ fantastic and the voice acting was pretty good. While I mained Cloud in most battles, I really enjoyed playing as Tifa. Her techniques are so fluid and powerful and she moves so gracefully! 

Oh my gosh, she’s so gorgeous!

On the flip side, there were a lot of things wrong with it too. The Whispers being my biggest complaint. They were so in-your-face about the fact that “OOOOO you’re ch—-anging the fu——–ture! That’s not allo—-wed!” Honestly, it was really annoying. There were also several awkward moments that, while funny, didn’t really jive well with me. I mean, a dance number? Seriously, I know Cloud is pretty good at most things, but getting up on stage and Bollywood dancing with Andres was not one of those things I was expecting! Especially after the incredibly awkward high-five moment. Despite the alterations, I’m happy that they kept the cross-dressing sequence.

That’s despite the changes they made to the sequence itself…

The moment I was looking forward to the most was the Shinra Tower infiltration… and it was so-so? I liked some of the newer elements, like the detailed break room, but getting through The Drum on the 68th was just weird. Plus, the whole prison break sequence was completely removed and I was a bit disappointed with that. Sneaking around the blood-soaked corridors of the upper floors after being mysteriously released in the original was both terrifying and exciting the first time around. Speaking of blood, the absence of it from JENOVA’s release threw me way off. The purple goop made things interesting, but the blood would have been better.

Icky.

Besides Remake, I played the Sega Ages version of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, released the same week as the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, and it was awesome! I wrote a review on both the game and the movie. At this current moment, the game review is unavailable, but give it a few months and you’ll see it up again soon.

On top of that, I played Sonic Lost World for the very first time and I honestly don’t get why it’s so disliked? Sure, the writing was a bit subpar and there were some questionable level design decisions, but the introduction of parkour mechanics felt like a natural evolution on how Sonic is supposed to move. I’m currently writing a review on that game which will be released in a couple of month’s time (due to restructuring on the site that I write for).

So much fun!

In fact, since I dedicated 2020 to be the “Year of Sonic,” I’ve been playing several other Sonic games that I’ve never played before! Some examples include Sonic and Sega All-Star Racing, All-Star Racing Transformed and Tails Adventure.

I also played Final Fantasy XII – The Zodiac Age and Dragon Quest XI – two RPG’s that were phenomenal! I never finished the original FFXII (which I still own for PS2), but the quality of life changes within the TZA edition made it much easier to complete. As for Dragon Quest XI… I love that game! It’s so dense and epic and it pretty much rivals my love for DQ VIII – my all-time favourite entry of the series. I still haven’t finished all of XI just yet – I need to do some grinding and prepare my characters for the ultimate final battle against Calasmos.

In the tail end of the year, I picked up Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. I only recently started playing them, but oh man, are they a ROMP! Both games have hilarious dialogue and tight gameplay. Half-Genie Hero has tons of alternate game modes to play after the main story, and even includes increased difficulty modes.

One game that I really wanted to play after hearing about it so much was Ghosts of Tsushima. The game itself looks breathtaking – you can visit locales and compose haiku, take photos of beautiful environments, do battle honourably as a samurai or even use less-than-honourable methods to take out the invading Mongol forces. It looks like a treat to play and I definitely need to make it a priority to get this one.

Despite the rest of 2020’s offerings being controversial (The Last of Us 2, Cyberpunk 2077) or just OK (Final Fantasy VII Remake), the standout game for this year, in my opinion, was Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. The story takes place a hundred years before the events of Breath of the Wild and honestly, this era was perfect for a Dynasty Warriors-style game. I’ve only started playing it and I’m having so much fun revisiting the characters and environments that it honestly makes me want to go back and explore the corners of Hyrule once more. What’s more, the combat is exhilarating and mindless! Mowing down hundreds of Bokoblins never felt so good!


So, What’s Next?

2021 is turning out to be a huge year so far. There are so many gaming milestones being celebrated this year alone. Among those include Pokemon, Super Mario 64, Crash Bandicoot and Resident Evil, which celebrate their 25th anniversaries. Street Fighter II and Battletoads celebrate their 30th. Finally, Metroid and Dragon Quest celebrate their 35th!

But there are two anniversaries that are the most important to me. They are The Legend of Zelda, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary and Sonic the Hedgehog, which turns the big 30 this June! To commemorate those milestones, I’ve been playing a plethora of Sonic and Zelda games on my Sunday and Tuesday streams respectively.

Writing-wise, I’ve done at least one collaboration for The Legend of Zelda – I wrote a piece about Zelda II, my favourite in the series. I’ll also be collaborating with a bunch of other writers about the Sonic series and those entries will be coming later this year, post-Sonic’s birthday. 

I’m going to update the site a bit to include links to all my collaborations. I was supposed to do that from time, but I just never got around to it.

Meanwhile, I’m in the planning stages for the next installment of Mobius VII. I’ve started worldbuilding and layout of the plot with the hope that I can start writing the first chapters by around the end of summer. Continuing on the subject of Mobius VII, I’m producing a podcast series on how I wrote the first book. This will be an in-depth discussion on how I framed the plot of FFVII around the Sonic the Hedgehog universe and will include references to various Sonic media and other things. The plan is to have the first ten episodes ready by summer, look forward to more news and progress in the coming months!

There’s also another story here that I need to finish and that is The Legend of Zelda: Black and White – a fanfiction I started on a whim three years ago. It’s a shorter series, with ten or twelve chapters total, so it shouldn’t take too long to finish that one. The layout for it is done, all that’s left is to write the rest of the story out.

As for ongoing posts, I’ll be putting out content every Friday or so. Fridays seem to be the most popular and easiest of days to post, so that’ll be the schedule from now on. Next up will be what I’ve learned from streaming, as I mentioned above.

Finally, in personal news, I’ve been more physically active lately. I felt like my health has been sliding as of late, so I got back into a workout routine and eating right and it’s been a big help so far! I feel a big difference two months in compared to how I started 2021. I’ve also been analyzing and taking notes on several books I’ve read so far this year in hopes to improve my writing. I may be decent right now, but I want to be a better writer for the future! Currently, I’m reading Atomic Habits in the hopes that I can find a way to make writing practise a daily habit. Spur of the moment things are great, but I need to put out stuff consistently while keeping up with other projects.

And with that, we come to the end of this very long update! I promise these posts’ll be shorter haha. How has 2020 treated you? Have you become stronger in spite of the challenges faced over the past year? Let me know in the comments below.

With that, this has been Ryan reminding you not only to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing, but to Live With No Regrets, Believe In Yourself and Chase After The Impossible! See you all next time!


Mobius VII – Book I – Afterword and Acknowledgements

Holy crap, it’s done.

After almost 15 years, Book I of Mobius VII has been completed and published to the world. As I’m writing this from my loyal and dedicated streaming rig in my basement/home office, I still can’t believe that this has happened. That’s actually the first thing I want to thank: the machines that have carried me so far in my journey.

I started writing this story on a chunky HP laptop running a Pentium 4 processor. That hefty machine helped me write the first original 18 or so chapters until I upgraded to a slimmer and more powerful laptop. I wrote the next five on that one before I scrapped the original draft and started the rewrite. When that laptop crapped out on me, I switched to a ultra-portable 2-in-1 hybrid laptop. It was severely underpowered, but was light enough to carry around and write with. It’s the computer that I built Games with Coffee on.

A year or two after that, the laptop’s keyboard became unresponsive and I had to purchase workarounds to keep up with writing. I eventually bought a refurbished laptop who’s screen broke about two years ago. That’s when my cousin, Lee, came in and offered his assistance. He recently upgraded his PC and offered to build a rig of my own using the old spare parts that he would have thrown away otherwise. I graciously accepted his offer and so I have to thank him and my beloved rig. Without his help and without this powerhouse of a computer, I would probably still be working on this first book at this very moment.

I also want to extend thanks to my younger brother, Shane. He was my original beta reader from day one. He listened to my crazy ideas and understood my passion towards this project. Though he oftentimes mentioned that I drove him nuts, he nevertheless was my sounding board and confidant during the early years of the story. Eventually, he stopped being my beta, because he told me (in his own words), “This thing is too damn long.”

Thanks also goes to my other two beta readers: The Mail Order Ninja aka Daniel Flatt and Winst0lf aka Bizzaro aka Craig Rathbone. Those two guys were both instrumental in making sure that Book I looked and sounded its best and my biggest hype men for spreading the word about it. You guys are amazing and I cannot thank you both enough for all your efforts, both big and small.

I also want to thank Moses Norton and Chris Durston, authors of “The Last Stitch Goes Through The Nose” and “Each Little Universe” and personal friends in the games writing sphere. You both really inspired me to get this thing finished once and for all.

Thanks goes to Alfonso aka Infernal on Discord, who has told me that this was his very first fanfiction and that he greatly enjoyed it. Thank you for putting in such a great word about the story man, it really boosted my confidence. Thanks also to Jeffery aka Virtua Neptune, a fellow writer and a fun guy to hang out with. I always appreciate our talks.

To my dear, recurrent readers, thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m so glad that I was able to deliver a story that kept you coming back for more. More than that, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

I want to send a special shout out to DirtySciFiBuddah aka Kent Wayne, who has never failed to like each chapter of the story. Much love to you, my man. I have to check out your work sometime as well.

To my family members who have read this story, thank you for doing so. Yes, this was ambitious and maybe a little out there for some of you guys, but I still appreciate the support!

Also, thank you mom and dad. Dad for teaching me the love of reading at a young age, and mom for always pushing me, even if we argued constantly because of it.

Thank you to the creators of Sonic the Hedgehog and Final Fantasy VII. Without those two, I’d never be who I am today.

There are two other very important people that I need to thank and those are my wife, Usha and my son, Arjun. Ush is my planner babe and quite possibly the biggest reason I write. She inspires and pushes me creatively and though I doubt I can ever reach the heights she’s rapidly ascending to, at least she’s pulling me up alongside her for the ride.

As for Arjun… Son, I did it. Though you may be reading this years and years from now (Hopefully the site stays up for that long!), know that you’ve been a big part as to why I got this first book finished. Here, I’ve proven that I can finish what I start, even if it took way longer than it should have. I hope I made you proud, boy.


So, what’s next?

Well, good news is, Book II is definitely happening. I’ve started something that I can’t just abandon now. As the saying goes, there ain’t no gettin’ offa this train. So, Book II will be coming. I have a base layout of what this next installment will span. Know that as of Chapter 42, things will progress similarly to the original game, but differently at the same time. There will be familiar events as well as new scenarios that bring to light some of the events that unfolded prior to the beginning of the story. These include the war on Mobotropolis, for instance.

The plan is to start the layout fairly soon; say around summer or so. From there, I’m hoping to start the first draft in the winter and have the whole thing ready to edit and beta by the end of 2022. So, there’s gonna be a bit of a wait, unfortunately. However, I’m not leaving you all hanging! In between now and then, I want to share with you the process, the inspirations and some of the secrets within the story through a podcast! I’m laying out the groundwork as I speak, but I’m so excited to share with all of you how this whole thing came to existence!

On top of that, I’ll be porting the story to other fanfiction sites, such as Fanfiction.net, Wattpad and AO3. Call this moment the expiration of the “timed exclusivity” period. The original will still reside on Games with Coffee, along with all the extras, such as Character Bios and the World Archives. Those will be updated more frequently from this point on.

It’s late now as I finish writing this up and I feel a mixture of pride and sadness. Pride because it’s done. Sadness also because it’s done. But though every journey has an end, the beginnings of the next one are just around the corner. Here’s hoping that all of you will join me when it begins. For now, I’ll sign off by saying three simple things:

Live with no regrets.

Believe in yourself.

And Chase the Impossible.

See ya next time.

~Ryan

Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 42

Chapter 42: On Our Way



Tails

“…So, how do we get down from here, genius?”

A chorus of groans and scoffs erupted from the other four Mobians as they were bathed in the golden orange morning sunlight. Tails pinched the bridge between his nose and shook his head in exasperation. “Way to kill the moment, Bark,” he muttered. 

Cream wore a wan smile on her face as she turned towards Tails. “But, he’s right, Tails,” she said. “How’re we getting down from here?”

Tails looked around and stroked his chin in thought. His head stopped at a nearby crane. Looking over the boom, he saw that it was long enough to extend past the city walls and into the outskirts below. ‘Perfect.’  “… We’ll use that to get down,” he said, pointing to the crane.

Bark looked at him, an eyebrow cocked upwards. “Uh… Have you ever used a crane before, foxy?” he asked skeptically.

Tails swept a hand over his hair and smirked. “Bark,” he said in a sardonic tone. “I’ve hacked my way through building security systems, analyzed mechanical robots for weaknesses AND had once taken a clunker of a truck apart for a client in the Sector 7 Slums and put it back together again with it running sweeter than when it was first built.” He paused and grinned at the polar bear. “Operating a crane? It’s like taking a nap for me.”

“… I should’ve never asked then,” Bark deadpanned.

The group chuckled, but Tails moved to silence them. “Well, we can’t dawdle around for too long,” he said, catching everyone’s attention as he headed over to the shoulder closest to the crane. “I’ll lower the crane’s chain onto the highway. Once you guys grab hold, I’ll move you to the outskirts and lower you down to ground level.” Drawing his sword, the fox leapt off of the shoulder and spun his tails, taking flight towards the crane.


Bark

Bark watched as Tails flew off. He let out a sigh as a thought suddenly occurred to him. ‘I just realized… If I’m goin’ on this journey, I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to Hope…

He felt his heart constrict tightly at the thought of the little Human girl. ‘I wonder if she’s even OK? I mean, she’s a tough kid, but she’s only four…’ The polar bear let out another frustrated breath as his frown deepened. ‘I wish I could hear her again… I didn’t even ask Cosmo’s mom if she had a number I could call to reach her –’ His head perked up. “Oh shit, that’s right!” he mumbled as he turned towards the flower girl.

“Hey Cosmo?” he started, watching as the Seedrian tilted her head to the side. “Does your mom… I dunno… have a phone or somethin’?”

Cosmo regarded him curiously for a moment. Understanding soon dawned on her and she smiled at him. “Yeah, she does,” she said. “When we find a phone, I’ll give it to you.”

“On that note,” Elias chimed in. “Where are we going anyway?”

The polar bear folded his arms and wrinkled his brow in thought. “Only one place we can go,” he said after a moment. “Mercia, to the north. It’s the closest city to Megapolis.” Bark looked out towards the mountains in the horizon. “… I got a contact there that could help us out. If he’s still there, that is…”

The sudden sounds of creaking metal startled the group. Bark brought his Gun-Arm up instinctively and flicked off the safety, before realizing that he had no bullets left. “Shit…” he cursed, his teeth gritted as he watched for incoming enemies.

“Up there!” Cosmo shouted, her finger pointing towards something in the sky. 

The bear and the others craned their heads upward to see the boom arm of the crane Tails flew to swing towards them. It stopped in their vicinity with a jolt. The reel brake from the crane released with a loud clunk and the four watched as a thick, steel wire slowly dropped towards them.

“Alright everyone, here’s our ride!” Bark shouted, waving his arm to call the other three over. He grabbed a section of the wire. “Let’s get the hell outta here!”


Elias

As the four slowly made their way down the hundred or so meters down to the ground level, Elias found himself thinking about many things. 

He was normal again, something that he thought would never happen after Nagus’ experiments caused his crystalizing skin condition to undergo a monstrous transformation only a day or two ago. Then again, his capture and study of the odd, gem-like lesions that covered his arms would have never occurred had he been discovered by those scientists. 

His mind then went to the Planet observatory on the outskirts of the ruined city of Mobotropolis – his home. ‘Well, not really,’ he corrected himself as they crossed the halfway point towards the ground. ‘It’s more of a temporary residence at the moment. Suffice it to say… It will be good to return and to see everyone again.

Reminiscing about home brought forth another thought: the fox who had rescued him. Ever since their initial meeting in the Kintobor Building, he felt a strange and unsettling feeling about the former SOLDIER. ‘…I don’t understand it… but I get this feeling that he looks familiar…’ he thought as he approached the ground. ‘I can’t place where, but it’s as though he was a younger version of-

And then it hit him.

Elias felt his pulse quicken and the hands he had on the steel wire tightened into a vice-like grip as he recalled an old memory from 15 years ago, back when Mobotropolis and Megapolis were at war with one another. ‘Yes that’s it…’ his mind raced, the pieces starting to link together. Though the face may look younger and he doesn’t have the scars or the eyepatch… that Tails individual could be a dead ringer for the man who cost me my whole livelihood! That’s why I felt so unnerved around him!’ 

His feet suddenly touched the rocky, lifeless floor of the Megapolis outskirts and he quickly let go of the crane wire. He felt his hands tremble – whether it was from holding on for dear life or the realization he just made, he wasn’t certain. ‘One thing’s for sure… I need to know more about Tails and about who he really is. For if he is of direct relation to Amadeus, the one who made it possible for Kintobor to conquer Mobotropolis and the one who stole my family away-

“Gre- I mean, Elias,” he heard Cream call next to him, snapping him out of his thoughts. He turned to face the rabbit, who looked at him with concern. “Are you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost?”

“Ah, yes, milady,” he replied breathlessly, moving out of the way as Cosmo and Bark dropped behind him. “I am fine… In fact,” he suddenly smiled as the beginning of a plan started to form in his mind. “I’ve never felt better in all of my life.”


Cream

Nonplussed at Elias’ odd behaviour, Cream turned her attention towards Bark and Cosmo. She approached both of them and smiled as they dusted themselves off. “You two alright?” she asked.

Bark flashed her a grin and a thumbs-up while Cosmo nodded, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “Yep!” she chirped.

“Great,” Cream replied, letting out a soft exhale. She then folded her arms and looked skyward. “Now, all we have to do is wait for Tails…”

The four stood around casually as they waited for the ex-SOLDIER to show up. While they waited, Bark pulled out a set of military-issued MRE bars from his pocket and shared them out with the group. “Found these near our stuff. I figured we’d need something for the road,” he said as he sat cross-legged upon the ground and tore open the wrapper. He bit into the brownish bar and his face contorted in a mix of disgust and wonder “Erm,” he grumbled as he chewed. “It… kinda has a strange taste to it?”

Cream raised an eyebrow as she opened the wrapper of her own ration and took a bite. The bar tasted revolting and she forced herself not to spit out the contents. Screwing up her face, she swallowed and then gagged. “Eugh, it tastes like one of my mother’s carrot pies, but really stale and dry!” she exclaimed. “Are you sure these are safe to eat, Bark?”

The bear shrugged in response as he kept eating.

Rolling her eyes, Cream turned to Cosmo to ask what she thought of the disgusting rations when she stopped. Her friend was staring into the distance, her expression crestfallen. “What’s up, Cos?” the fighter said softly, approaching and placing a hand on the flower girl’s shoulder.

Cosmo angled her head, her lips curled into a tight-lipped smile. “Oh, nothing in particular,” she said in a quiet voice. “Just… wondering about the upcoming journey, that’s all…”

Cream frowned. ‘That’s not like her,’ she mused, her nose wrinkled. ‘She seems… anxious? I wonder what I could say to cheer her up…’ Her eyes widened as she remembered something. “…Hey Cosmo?” she asked, a sly grin suddenly crossing her lips.

“…Yeah?”

“I’m sorry… but we got bogey’s tailing us at six o’clock?

She laughed as the flower girl’s face went as red as a tomato. “H-hey!” she cried. “I saw that on a TC show once with my mom! I thought it sounded cool!” She then burst into laughter alongside Cream. 

“Oh-oh yeah!” the rabbit gasped, tears streaming from her eyes as her sides ached. “D-do you still have that camera?!”

Cosmo took a deep breath to steady herself and then placed a hand into her pocket. Withdrawing it, she revealed the disposable camera. “Still got it!” she cheered and then smiled tenderly at it. “Thank the Goddess that they didn’t take this away from me when they caught me…” The flower girl then blew a strand of stray hair from her forehead. “It’s too bad about my satchel though…”

“… Tell you what,” Cream found herself saying, taking Cosmo’s hands into hers. “When we get into town, you and I will go on a shopping spree. We’ll get you a new satchel, and maybe some new clothes while we’re at it!”

And we’ll have Tails be our pack-Chao!” Cosmo added, grinning ear to ear. “That’ll be perfect!”

“Hey!” Bark hollered suddenly, catching both women’s attention. “Look who finally decided to show up!”

Speak of the devil…’ Cream mused as Tails hovered down from above. He fanned out his bushy, twin tails and glided down to their position, landing softly with a flourish.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said as he wrapped his tails around his waist and sheathed his weapon. “I was hiding the motorcycle I procured from Kintobor. It was damaged during the fight.” He then sighed at the flat looks Cream and the others gave him. “Look, it’s a really cool bike! If we somehow make it through this whole thing alive, I want to recover it, take it apart, fix it up and add a few modifications to really make that puppy fly.” He grinned and Cream noticed that something was off about it.

He looks less cocky… and more like his old self… like he was before he left Knothole,’ the rabbit observed, narrowing her eyes. ‘Something about this duality, combined with those fits he’s had over the last few days, is making me more than a little skeptical about him. I’m gonna be keeping a close eye on you, Miles “Tails” Prower…

Because I don’t know if you are who you say you are…


Tails

“How’re you holdin’ up Bark?” the fox asked.

Bark stood up and stretched. “I’m fine,” he said half-heartedly. He then looked down, his eyes downcast. “…Y’know how we told Cosmo’s mom to get out of the city?”

Tails nodded. “Yeah,” he said, patting the massive polar bear’s right shoulder. “Hope’ll be fine. She’ll be safe with Rose.”

Bark’s expression softened. “Thanks man,” he said.

Tails quirked his lips upwards. His eyebrow then rose at the sight of the MRE bar in the bear’s hand. “Are those… What I think they are?”

“Yup, they’re rations,” Bark said. “I found ‘em by our stuff when we were captured.” He held one up to Tails. “Want one? They’re actually not that bad?”

“… I’ll pass,” the fox said, wrinkling his nose. “I’d rather starve than eat another one of those, to be honest.”

Bark shrugged. “Suit yourself, then,” he said, tearing open the fox’s share and wolfing it down.

Elias approached from Bark’s left. “I’ll be travelling with you all as far as my hometown, across the Central Ocean,” he said, a hardness in his voice. “After that, well… we’ll see.” He turned away and stared out into the distance, a frown setting onto his face.

Bark and Tails looked at one another. ‘What was that all about?’ the warrior wondered, quirking an eyebrow up at the enigmatic chipmunk. Deciding not to worry about that for now, he moved away from the two men and approached Cream and Cosmo. 

“…I guess this is the start of our journey,” Cream said plaintively when he stood next to her.

“It’s gonna be dangerous,” Tails replied, folding his arms. “You’ll need to be prepared for anything.”

Cream nodded and then turned to him, a small, hesitant smile on her face. “…True,” she said. “But you know, it’ll be alright, so long as you keep your promise?”

The fox chuckled and then moved over to Cosmo. “How are you doing?” he asked.

“OK, I guess?” came her response. She then let out a long exhale. “You know, I think this is the first time I’ve ever left Megapolis…”

“Really? You worried?”

The flower girl shook her head. “A little…” She then brought a hand up to her lips and giggled. “OK, maybe a lot. But I have you and the others with me, right?” Her brows suddenly raised upwards. “Oh! You know what we should do?!” she suddenly exclaimed, taking out a camera from her pocket. “We should take a photo!”

Tails gave her a flat look. “This isn’t gonna be fun and games here, Cosmo,” he said sourly. “We’re chasing after a madman who wants to take over the world.”

“I know,” she said, shrugging. “But, this is more for me than anything else.” She stepped forward, a hand clutching the pendant on her neck. “…I want to capture these moments and… have something to look back on when it’s all done, you know?”

Tails looked at her blankly and then suddenly smirked. “I get it,” he said understandingly. “Sure, then. Let’s do it.”


Cosmo

“Hey! Gather around everyone!” Cosmo shouted, waving her arms. “It’s picture time!”

Cream grinned and joined alongside her, followed by Bark and Elias, who loped slowly towards the group.

“OK, squeeze in-”

“-Don’t push!”

“-Budge over a bit, please?”

“Here,” Tails cut in, taking the camera from Cosmo’s hands. “I’ll take the shot.”

The five Mobians crowded in together as Tails held the camera lens-first towards them. Cosmo’s lips split into a wide grin. “To new journeys and adventures!” she exclaimed.

“To new journeys and adventures!” the other four chimed out simultaneously.

Tails pressed the button and there was a loud click that sounded out. As the group dispersed, Tails handed the camera back to the flower girl. “…What else is on there?” he asked suddenly.

Cosmo’s body suddenly felt hot. ‘Don’t tell him about the dress!’ “Uh… nothing in particular?” she said, an uneasy smile on her face. Nearby, Cream started to snicker. “Look, don’t worry too much about it, alright?”

“…Sure,” Tails said, rolling his eyes. He then turned to the rest of the group. “Alright, then. Let’s get goin’.”

“We’re gonna need a group leader for our journey,” Bark said suddenly. “I’d vote for myself… but really, I think you should be that leader, Tails.”

“Me?”

“It’s the best choice,” the bear responded, his arms crossed and a pointed expression on his muzzle. “I mean, let’s face it: you’re a natural at this stuff. Sides, I’m old enough to know better than to force myself into a leadership role at this point. So, it’s your show, foxy. Don’t screw it up.”

“I agree!” Cosmo piped in. “It would have to be Tails.”

Bark nodded. “Then it’s settled,” he said. “I told these guys before, Tails, but our first priority should be getting over to Mercia; a city northeast from here. If we take the ring road and circle around Megapolis to the west, we should hit a service station that we can use to get some food or even get a ride to town, if we’re lucky. From there, we’ll hit the Inn and I’ll get in contact with a friend of mine.” He paused, a smile growing on his face. “The inn apparently has some really great food. We honestly deserve a decent meal after all the craziness over the last few days.”

“Hear, hear,” Cream said, a hand on her stomach. “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse.”

“Then, let’s not waste any time,” Tails said, a smile crossing his lips as he strode towards the dusty road ahead. “Let’s mosey, everyone.” The other four Mobians followed suit. 


They were several hours out on their journey and the afternoon sun beat down on top of them as they trudged through the wastelands. They passed quickly around the Sector 7 ruins, still smouldering from the recent Platefall.

As they moved farther and farther away from the city, Cosmo could feel something within her strengthening. ‘Is this… the Planet itself?’ she wondered as she felt her connection with Mobius grow minutely stronger with each step she took away from the city. Along with this strength, however, came a growing sense of dread. She could feel… that something was very, very wrong with the Planet itself. Something that was greater and more terrifying than what Kintobor was doing to the world. 

The five crested a ridge overlooking the city, cutting across a pack of Mutates that congregated on the main road below. At the top of the ridge, Cosmo stopped and took one last look at the place she called home her entire life. 

Suddenly, the sky around her turned a deep, bloody shade of red. Her heart racing at the sudden change, she then felt the wind pick up violently around her, scattering dust and debris hither and fro. Dark, crimson clouds formed above her head and lightning flashed around her, illuminating the city with fierce and jagged bolts of light. 

A moment later, the clouds parted above. It was as though a pair of giant hands stuck through and pulled them apart to form a giant, Megapolis-sized circle above the city. What she saw next caused her to drop to her knees in fright…

A giant, red-streaked meteor descended rapidly upon Megapolis. The bottom half was blown apart, revealing a long, needle-like nose and a pair of three triangular rock formations jutting out from the sides of the half-circle. She once again heard her mother’s voice as the meteor began crashing into the city, the screams of millions of people and Mobians echoing out as it tore through the planet’s surface.

“Remember, Cosmo… You are our world’s greatest hope.”

THE END OF BOOK I