Mobius VII – Book 1: Escape From The City – Chapter 3


Chapter 3: The Childhood Friend

Tails

The distinct scent of the air after a storm mixed with the pungent odour of pollution.

The sounds of footsteps, large and small, treading on cobbled streets blended with the loud whistle of a train engine.

The feeling of the warm, worn soles in leather boots and the individual fibres mingling with the callused pads on the bottom of his feet.

These were just some of the tens of hundreds of sensations that were bombarding the two-tailed fox’s heightened senses. He was sitting in an unfamiliar place, his sword by his side and both hands in a vice-like against the sides of his head. Scents, sounds, shapes, textures and colours, all were overwhelming the fox and he slowly began to lose his sense of self. What he remembered before entering this strange, new setting was lost to him; all that he could remember now was his name: “Tails.”

In the midst of his suffering, he heard a voice speak out from his right in soft, dulcet tones. “Surrender yourself,” it said. “Give yourself up and sleep and dream…”The voice was comforting, yet saccharine. 

Though Tails felt the urge to do as the voice beckoned, he also found himself to be strangely skeptical and wary of it. He gritted his teeth as the environment around him continued to batter his overstimulated mind and he began pounding the back of his head on the wall he was seated against in an attempt to redirect the pain.

Soon, a second, youthful voice called to him from what seemed like his left ear. “Hey! Stay with me!” the new voice demanded forcefully. “Fight it! Don’t let it consume you!”

The fox pushed off of the wall and went to his knees. He bent forward and brought his head to the ground and began thrashing about, hissing as a blindingly sharp pain erupted from the centre of his skull. 

Sleep… Sleep and dream…”

“Fight it! Don’t give in! You gotta stay awake!!”

As the voices battled on either side of him, Tails started hearing a high-pitched, buzzing sound in his ears. He lay face down on the grimy, cobblestoned ground and shook violently. The multitude of stimuli that his brain desperately tried to process soon began tiring him out. The voice on his right and its demands for him to sleep became stronger, as did the urge to sleep. Tails’ eyes started to close as the promise of slumber became too great for him to ignore.

It was at that moment that the buzzing in his head intensified.

He no longer heard the trains, no longer smelt the pollution around, nor did he even feel the stonework beneath his knees. All he could feel now was constant pain erupting from his mind. All he could hear now was the high-pitched whine coursing through his eardrums. Tails felt as though his skull was being split into two pieces.

The soothing voice from his right became overpowered by the constant ringing coupled with the second voice on his left yelling the same thing to him over and over:

FIGHT IT! FIGHT IT! WAKE UP!!!

And then, as though struck by lightning, Tails’ body seized up. He rose from the ground onto his knees, his head was thrown back, his eyes went wide and his mouth opened in a scream he could hear in his head, though no sound came out. 

He felt himself collapse to the ground seconds later, hard, laborious breaths coming out of his dry mouth. The assault on his senses had finally ceased and when he opened his eyes, all he could see around him was white.

C’mon little buddy!” It was the second voice, the one he heard on his left. It spoke in a cheerful tone. “I’m proud of you for not going to sleep, but you still gotta get a hold of yourself! You’re not out of the woods yet!

Tails’ breathing slowed as he calmed down. He could still hear the ringing, but it was not as loud as before. 

Now, you gotta concentrate for me, OK?” The voice continued. Tails felt that he heard it somewhere before, but he couldn’t quite make out where. “Try to focus and rein in your senses, starting with touch. Close your eyes and breathe in and out.”

Something about its tone made the fox want to trust in what it was saying. He shut his eyes and concentrated as instructed. Breathing deeply and rhythmically, he tried to feel the ground beneath him as a whole instead of the individual sensations. When he felt confident that he could no longer feel the textured fibres on his clothes, the worn soles of his boots and the individual strands of fur on his body, he then moved onto his hearing. He screwed his eyes tightly and constrained his enhanced auditory senses to hear his immediate surroundings only. Conversations in the far distance soon faded away and all he could hear was the steady pulses of air coming in through his nose and out through his mouth.

Good, good,” the voice chimed in, clearly pleased with the results. “Just keep taking it slowly.

The fox then moved on to his sense of smell. He exhaled a breath through his mouth and then inhaled, forcing himself to take in the scents directly around him. Instead of detecting the blended smells of sweat, pollution and rainwater, he could detect a pungent odour nearby that caused his nose to wrinkle. ‘The hell is that smell?’ he wondered. 

Eyes still closed, Tails got onto his hands and knees and crawled blindly until he hit a wall. Pushing himself into a sitting position, he opened his eyes slowly to see the source of the offending smell in front of him: a rusted, gray dumpster overflowing with trash. Keeping his eyes on that sight alone, he began training himself to ignore the minute details around his peripheral vision until all he could see was the bin in its entirety. Satisfied, he opened his eyes fully and began to take in his surroundings.

He was in what appeared to be an alleyway between two run-down buildings. ‘Definitely not in the wilderness anymore, I’m certain of that,’ Tails deduced, as he craned his neck around. To his left, at the mouth of the alleyway, he could see people mulling about their own business.

Well now,” the voice in his head commented flippantly, interrupting him. “I suppose you’ve calmed down enough. Now let’s start from the top: do you know who you are?

Tails’ head bobbed up and down as he mulled over the question. His mind, now unburdened, was blank and full of fog. His head wobbled in the same fashion for a few moments until an answer came to him. “Tails,” he replied in a whisper, his voice hoarse. 

Tails?” the entity spoke in his mind, amusedly. “Odd name, how did you get it?

The fox’s head continued moving up and down as he searched for an answer. He saw a word form through the static in his mind. “Nickname…” he replied softly. “It’s a nickname.”

I see,” the voice said. “So what’s your real name then?

Tails put the back of his head against the cool wall behind him as he thought deeply. Try as he might, he couldn’t seem to remember something so basic. He was drawing a blank. “…Forget?” he questioned, his brow furrowing in confusion. He thought he could hear a sigh from the intangible presence in his mind.

OK then, new tactic,” it grumbled, clearly annoyed. “Do you at least know where you are?

Tails brought his head back to look upwards. He saw no sky above him, only a high ceiling made of metal. Pipes, plates and cables crisscrossed with the steel beams. Looking back to his left and through the alleyway he was in, he could see a pair of large, twenty-five-foot tall bay doors in the distance. A security checkpoint, with guards either milling about or watching the citizens going about their own business, was situated in front of the doors. He could hear the sounds of a large engine from his right – a train, he surmised.  

Processing the information in his mind, the fox’s lips parted as he finally recognized where he was, at last. “Megapolis,” he answered quietly.

Alright! Well done!” it said encouragingly. The fox could practically hear the smile in its voice. “Now, can you tell me how you got here?

Tails closed his eyes and rested his head again on his chest whilst racking his brain to figure out the reason why he was in the great city. With his senses now under his control, he found that he was able to think clearly. At once, the fog lifted and memories of the past began filling in. He started to remember that he left his hometown – Knothole – and came to Megapolis to become a SOLDIER… 

Just like his hero.

Nazo.‘ Tails’ jaw tightened at the thought of that name. He clenched his fists and felt a burning sensation in the pit of his stomach as the image of the war hero came to him. 

Nazo was a hedgehog with pure silver fur and long spines on the back of his head that pointed upwards as opposed to sloping down. At over six feet tall – a height that towered over most Mobians – he was best described as a force of nature itself; an unstoppable being of near-godlike ability. His very presence radiated an otherworldly power unlike anything ever seen on the planet. 

In his memories, Tails could see that he donned an unopened black overcoat overtop his muscular frame with ivory pauldrons adorning the shoulders. A pair of black leather pants, gloves and combat boots completed the outfit. Tails remembered the cruel smile adorning the almost-silver coloured muzzle and the slitted eyes which glowed pale green. In his hand was the blade that made him legendary – a six-foot-long katana. Masamune, the fox recalled its fearsome name. 

Anger started to course through the fox’s body as the reminders of a particular night came to him in vivid detail. He recalled that his first mission as a First Class SOLDIER was the joyous return to his hometown to investigate reports of Mutates coming down Mount Mobius. It was here that Nazo went insane and declared war on the world; his first act being the utter destruction of Knothole. He could feel the flames from that moment sear his arms and legs and his heart tightened in despair and hatred.

He chased Nazo up to the Energen Reactor at the top of the mountain and he faced off against him. But the memories after that moment became very hazy. Tails opened his eyes and stared down at his gloved palms. ‘I survived though, didn’t I?‘ he thought, a slight smile on his face. ‘Somehow and in some way, I’ve survived destruction at the hands of a god… but why am I back in Megapolis?‘ 

He rested his head against the brick wall he was leaning against and his piercing eyes peered skyward. A loud klaxon went off without warning, causing the fox to wince from the sound. The alarm ceased and was then followed by the grinding noise of metal dragging against the flattened, packed earth. ‘Something’s opening up… Must be those bay doors,’ Tails noted idly as he scanned the underside of the plate, now testing the limits of his enhanced vision.

His eyes stopped at a bright red label on a large pipe that travelled transversely across the plate from left to right. Tails squinted to read the white lettering on the decal. It read: ‘Merc Pipes – a Subsidiary of Kintobor Inc.’

The fox tilted his head to the side as he reread the words. Something about them seemed familiar. As he glanced at ‘Merc’ for the fourth time, he saw something form in the depths of his mind. The image of a word floating in a sea of fog.

…Mercenary…

“A mercenary?” he mumbled out loud, angling his head back down to the dumpster. His eyes widened suddenly as a revelation dawned on him.  ‘That’s right!‘ he thought, his body trembling with anticipation. ‘After I somehow survived that fight, I decided I had enough with Kintobor and Nazo. I would go back to the city and start a new life as a mercenary for hire. Big jobs, little jobs, anything for the right price!

There ya go, little buddy!” he heard the cheerful voice exclaim jubilantly, startling Tails. The fox had forgotten about it while retreading his old memories. “Now that we’ve sorted that out; where do you go from here?

Tails’ look of elation quickly turned into a brooding frown. “Hm… Haven’t thought of that,” he muttered darkly.

Tell you what: why not take it easy for a bit?” the entity responded. Tails wasn’t sure where this voice was coming from – or if it was coming from himself. But, he realized, it was speaking the truth. He could use some rest.

The fox reclined back against the wall. For the first time since he entered the city, he felt satisfied, despite the terrible smell coming out of the large grey metal bin in front of him. Looking to the ground on his left, he spied his sword – the Buster Sword – lying close enough to reach with a hand. Lips curling slightly upwards, Tails leaned over and grasped the broad blade’s leather-bound hilt and held onto it tightly. Settling himself against the wall once more, he closed his eyes while keeping the rest of his senses on alert. 

He could still feel the entity’s mysterious presence, though it was diminished. “One last question,” it said to the resting fox, its voice sounding far away. “What’s your name?” 

“…My name is Miles ‘Tails’ Prower,” he answered in a low, but powerful voice as he drifted off to sleep. “Former SOLDIER… First Class.”


“I have you now, sugar!” 

Tails’ eyes snapped open as he heard someone cackling from his right. Ignoring the stiffness in his joints, he pushed himself off the wall and craned his head to see two individuals standing in the alleyway.

At the mouth of the alley was a raccoon. Though the lighting from above was dim, Tails could make out his dirty grey and brown fur, his rumpled blue T-shirt and brown slacks that were a size too large for him. They weren’t large enough, however, to hide the distinct bulge on his front. His pointed teeth were gleaming through a wide, lecherous grin on his muzzle and he licked his lips as though he was going to enjoy a tasty snack. “Make this easy on yourself and don’t struggle, I promise I won’t hurt you,” he said gleefully as he inched forward slowly towards the second figure in front, whose back was facing the fox.

From what Tails could discern, the figure was a svelte, female rabbit with cream-coloured fur. She had chocolate brown patches on the tips of her long ears. Her long ivory hair cascaded down to the small of her back and was tied off at the very bottom with a black elastic band. 

She wore a black, form-fitting overcoat that went down to her knees and exposed a pair of toned calves. On her hands were a pair of thick leather gloves and her feet were covered in sturdy, brown leather ankle boots. She was holding a large, heavy-looking brown paper bag filled with sundries.

As the raccoon approached, the woman set the grocery bag down beside her, with her back still facing her assailant. Tails watched as she collected herself and slowed her breathing. Her brows lowered into a scowl and her eyes hardened like steel. Tensing up her muscles, she waited. 

The lustful raccoon growled and lunged forward, his arms outstretched and hoping to catch the rabbit off guard.

Instead, the rabbit quickly lifted her left knee and pivoted on her right foot, twisting her body at the same time. Using the momentum from the twist, she extended her left leg outward and executed a devastating reverse side kick. Her foot collided severely with the raccoon’s muzzle, breaking several of his teeth and his nose and sending him flying back to the alleyway entrance. The rabbit then faced her would-be assaulter, her hands up and feet placed in a traditional fighter’s stance.

The raccoon scrambled up to his feet and looked fearfully at the vicious being in front of him before fleeing from the alleyway, his pain-induced whimperings echoing through the narrow passage.  

Seeing that the pervert didn’t bring along any friends, the fighter relaxed and her arms dropped back to her sides. Looking down, she saw that the buttons of her tight jacket popped off, most likely during the spin. “Oh gosh, Jessie’s going to kill me,” she mumbled in a sweet tone that Tails recognized, sighing in frustration. “This was her favourite jacket-” 

Suddenly, she whirled around, her fists raised and her eyes scouring the area where Tails rested. It was as though she felt like she was being watched. “Who’s there?!” She called out, eyes narrowed and flicking to and fro. “Show yourself!”

Tails locked eyes with the rabbit as she edged forwards cautiously until she stood just in front of him. She had a petite nose, lush, full lips and an oval-shaped face that was flawless. Chocolate brown patches – the same shade as the tips of her ears – framed her soft almond-shaped amber-hazel eyes.  Underneath the jacket, she wore a white, form-fitting tank-top that was cropped at her midriff. Going from her waist to just above her knees was a protective leather skirt, held up by black suspenders. What caught his eye was the long, thin white scar on her exposed, toned abdomen that crossed right to left diagonally from the bottom of her rib cage to just above her hip.

The sight triggered his memories and soon, the holes within them were filled with the image of the gorgeous rabbit standing in front of him. A rabbit that he finally recognized…

“Cream Rabbelocke, we meet again,” he said to her softly.

The rabbit’s jaw dropped. Hastily fishing her hand down a pocket on the jacket she wore, she produced a small penlight. Clicking it on and shining it down on the figure in front, her lips broke out into an enormous grin. “Oh my Goddess, Miles Prower, is that really you!?” she cried out, half-shocked, half-jubilated. 

“Yep, it’s me alright,” he replied softly, smiling, his eyes squinting from the bright light.

Kneeling, she placed the flashlight on the ground and looked him over, concerned eyes roving over his body. “How long has it been since we last saw each other?” she asked in wonder.

Tails suddenly felt a sharp, stabbing pain on the side of his head. He placed a hand on his head, massaging it. “Well, it’s been…  five years since we last met,” he said.

The fighter’s grin disappeared and her lips parted slightly. “Uh, y-yeah… five years, right? Wow… Time flies,” she replied, chuckling half-heartedly. “Um, so… W-what have you been up to since then?”

“Well, a lot has happened,” Tails answered, not noticing the hesitation in her voice. “After Nazo went crazy during the mission at Knothole, I decided that I was done with Kintobor. So I left, travelled the world and now, I’m back in the city as a mercenary for hire. Any job for the right price.”

Cream said nothing for a few moments, as she processed what he had told her. “Miles,” she spoke all of a sudden. “Do you have a place to stay?”

The fox jumped slightly, caught off guard. “N-no, I just got into the city. Why d’ya ask?” he questioned. 

“Well, I got my own place down here in Sector 7,” she said, a hand unconsciously stroking one of her long ears. “It’s a bar, I own it. If you want to, you can stay there for as long as you like.”

Tails grinned widely at this stroke of luck. “Really?” he said in awe. “You’d do that?”

“Yeah, of course,” she answered back, a tight smile crossing her lips. She suddenly looked away from him and Tails got the feeling that she was wrestling with something. “I-I can even get you a job too, y’know? There’s this group living in my bar right now that could use a mercenary like you.” 

“…Alright, let’s hear it,” the fox replied. Cream checked to see that no one else was around before drawing in close and speaking in hushed tones. She backed away a few moments later, her fingers fidgeting and her eyes focusing on anything except the warrior resting on the wall. 

“Hmm, TORNADO huh?” Tails questioned, keeping his voice low after Cream finished explaining. He slowly began rising from his spot using the wall and his sword for support. “An anti-Kintobor organization… Sounds right up my alley. Sign me up for it.” He wrapped his tails around his waist tightly before placing the massive blade on the large magnetic disc on his back.

Cream cast a suspicious look at the weapon. To Tails, it was as though it had offended her in some way. Turning away, she collected the penlight, clicked it off and stood up. “Well then, come on Miles, follow me,” she said, going back to the bag she placed on the ground.

“Tails.”

“W-What?” the rabbit exclaimed, doing an about-face back to the swordsman.

“I go by ‘Tails’ these days,” the fox repeated, smirking. “Call me that from now on.”

Cream blinked. “Oh, OK then,” she replied, turning back and picking up the brown bag. She stood still for a few moments, her head bowed forward as though she was suddenly lost in thought.

Tails took a few tentative steps towards her. He was still not in the best of shape, but at least he could stand and walk. A few more days of rest and a decent meal or two would help. He could feel the knots in his empty stomach demand some form of sustenance. He stopped next to his friend. “Hey Cream, are we goin’ or not?” he asked.

Cream jumped, snapping back to reality. “Y-yeah!” she spluttered, a blush creeping up on her cheeks. “S-sorry, I just… I can’t believe you’re here…” Adjusting the bag in her arm, she quickly walked back to the main street. “Let’s go M-…  T-Tails,” she called back to him.

The two-tailed fox smirked softly to himself. ‘She’s changed,‘ he reflected, watching the brawling beauty in front of him. ‘But so have I, for that matter. We’re not who we used to be as kids after all…” Putting that thought aside, he followed her out of the alleyway, his movements sluggish, but steadily improving.

“Finally, things are looking up,” he whispered to himself, his lips curling upward as he followed his friend deeper into the slums.


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

Chapter 1: The Price of Freedom



The SOLDIER

A storm was coming.

It was an event that happened rarely in the wastelands surrounding the massive industrial city of Megapolis. Dark clouds intermingled with the ashen, grey-yellow smog emitted from the metropolis’ eight towering reactors and the haze quickly blocked out the sun. 

Whatever organisms that eked a living on the barren lands started to burrow underground or find cover around the large rock formations in anticipation of the tempest to come. Even the larger Mutates – those creatures mutated by the radioactive runoff discharged from the city’s reactors – were forced to seek shelter once the first few claps of thunder erupted, shaking the earth itself. Despite their primitive intelligence, their basic, bestial instincts sensed that something was amiss.

This storm was unlike any before it.

The threatening air did not stop the blue, anthropomorphic hedgehog from slowly trudging towards Megapolis. He had long, sharp quills coming out of the back of his round head which swept down his back. He wore a dark blue vest and long, baggy wool trousers, held up with thick, brown suspenders. A steel plate covered in worn, black leather was fastened to the top of the trousers to protect the abdominal area. On his left shoulder was a black, battle-scarred leather pauldron and his left hand was covered with a well-worn white glove, soiled and cracked from prolonged use. His right shoulder was covered with a single steel studded pauldron and his upper arm was covered in tarnished, plate armour. An ornate steel gauntlet with a gold band and a red gemstone adorned his forearm.  He wore deep red sneakers with a broad, white stripe crossing the top. Each stripe ended with a gold buckle on the outer side of each shoe. 

The suspenders were bound together on his back by a flat, circular metal disk. Attached to the disk was an enormous, gun-metal grey broadsword, five feet long, with a single, ten-inch wide edge. The riveted handguard was adorned by swirling, golden designs. The base of the blade by the handguard had straight, angular etchings on either side. The sword had two holes bored into it, near the handguard. Inserted into each hole were two, brilliant green gems, with a linkage connecting them.

His clothes were riddled with holes and tears while the rest of his exposed body was covered in a litany of wounds and bruises that were slowly healing. The bottoms and the sides of his shoes were caked in a thin layer of dirt and blood. Wearisome as he was, he still pressed forward.

A sudden, cool breeze flowed through his quills and he stopped in place. His eyes closed as he relished the feeling of the wind behind him. He then felt a frenzied, restless urge coursing through his body and down to his legs. It was as if the wind gently pushing on his back was telling him to stop holding back and to let go of all inhibitions.

It was telling him to run.

Before he could act on this impulse though, he heard the crackling sound of thunder above him, followed by a weak moan coming from his left. His unnaturally glowing jade-green eyes turned away from the city looming in the distance and towards his companion, who he had wrapped his left arm around.

Supported by the hedgehog was a 21-year-old orange-furred fox. He stumbled about on weakened legs and was unable to support his own weight. He was clothed in a replica of his protector’s uniform, with slight differences. The zipper on the vest was down slightly, revealing tufts of white fur underneath. He wore a steel studded pauldron on his left shoulder, which was identical to the one the hedgehog wore. On his wrists were brown and grey gloves and on his left arm, from wrist to three quarters up his forearm, was a studded armlet to use as a guard. He wore brown, standard-issue combat leather boots. On the base of his left ear was a piercing; a single, silver hoop. 

His body was thin and his pointed, white muzzle was gaunt and sunken. His ears lay flat and his nose was dry as he staggered forward, his friend coaxing him onward. His irises were coloured an unnatural, electric blue, similarly to the green that the blue warrior sported. Dragging on the lifeless earth behind him as he ambled were two, large, bushy tails. Despite his general weakness, the fox was otherwise uninjured. He had no means to defend himself and was relying solely on the good graces of his friend to keep him safe.

Drool was slowly dripping out of his hung mouth and his eyes were staring unfocused on hard dirt beneath him. He let out another quiet moan as the second crack of thunder erupted from the sky. 

The hedgehog bent his head down to look at his friend, concern flooded his features. “You OK little buddy?” he asked softly, wiping the drool off of his lips with the back of his gauntleted hand. 

The fox only mewled in response and his grip on the hedgehog’s arm tightened.

The hedgehog didn’t know what to make of the answer. He shrugged and said cheerfully to the fox, attempting to change the subject, “Look over there! We’re almost at Megapolis! In another few miles, you and I will be safe and sound!” He chuckled to himself lightly. “Heh, heh… Miles. Get it? Cuz your name?”

The fox moaned again.

The warrior shook his head. “OK, I get it, it was a lame joke,” he chuckled. When he heard no further response from his companion, he let out a sigh. “Man, this trip did a number on you…” he mumbled under his breath.

As he trudged on with the fox in tow, the hedgehog barely repressed the frustrated and restless feeling he had inside him. If there was one thing he hated most of all, it was moving slowly. He desperately wanted to feel the wind rushing by him as he ran, but he knew that his usual, blistering pace would be too much for the two-tailed fox to handle. The warrior cursed at his annoyance. ‘I can’t be selfish,’ he thought as he half walked, half dragged his barely conscious companion through the darkening wastelands. ‘He needs my help to get better… After all, I dragged him into this mess in the first place.‘ 

His train of thought was broken as the rain started to fall in small, light droplets onto the duo. The hedgehog stopped to look upwards and frowned at the sky. “Well, this won’t do,” he muttered, looking around for shelter. 

He spotted a cave at the bottom of one of the ridges overlooking the city, straight and to the left of him slightly. “OK Tails,” he addressed the fox by name. “We’re gonna go to that cave over there and camp out til the rain stops,” he said, pointing towards the direction of the cave.

Tails said nothing at first but then nodded imperceptibly in agreement. 

The hedgehog smiled as he led him to the cavern. “Don’t worry little buddy,” he said as he guided him. “You’ll be alright. We’ll get to the city, find a doctor to help you get better.” He paused, grunting as he started going up an incline on the way. “And then after that, we’ll be on our way to fame and fortune! All you have to do is,” he continued as the rain started to pour harder, ” Just hang on for a couple more hours… OK?” 

His pace started to slow as the ground beneath him became muddy and slippery, making it harder for the invalid Tails to gain any traction. The spiny swordsman gritted his teeth and summoned up more strength to continue onward, his sneakers starting to make squelching sounds in the mud with every step. 


Tails started to slip further, causing the hedgehog to stumble himself and nearly lose his footing in the process. Against the now pounding rain, he looked ahead to see that the cave was less than a hundred feet away from where he was. The rain started coming down in sheets now. Lightning arced and flashed across the sky wickedly. Thunder boomed loudly in the hedgehog’s hyper-sensitive ears, causing him to flinch at the sound. 

After a herculean effort, the pair made it to the cave. As they entered its mouth for shelter, the swordsman suddenly heard something besides the falling rain and thunder. Kneeling down and honing his senses, he soon picked out the hum of hover engines and the heavy boots of Humans and Mobians tromping on the wet ground over the din of the storm. He picked out the hoarse voices of officers directing soldiers and the squelching sound of tank treads rolling and bipedal mechanoids stepping on the ever-saturating soil. His ears shot up like arrows and his eyes widened, realizing what this all meant.

“Damnit, they found us…” he whispered to himself. He hoisted up Tails, using as much of his remaining strength he could muster to drag the catatonic Mobian deeper into the cave. He concealed him behind a boulder, propped him up into a seated position and then kneeled down to his level to speak.

“Listen Tails,” he said to the fox, a sad smile crossing his muzzle. “Kintobor’s army has found us and it doesn’t look like they’ll be taking us alive either.” An exasperated scoff escaped his lips and his eyebrows lowered into a scowl. “If I were a bettin’ hog, I’d say that that crazy bat-crab bastard at Kintobor had something to do with this.” He pinched the bridge between his eyes and then drew out the enormous sword from his back. As he placed it on the ground beside him to inspect the weapon, he continued talking. “I want you to stay here and be safe. I’ll draw them away from here and hopefully catch ‘em by surprise at the same time.” He paused and then turned his head to the catatonic fox, whose eyes were misted over with confusion. 

The warrior placed a hand on the fox’s shoulder and the corners of his mouth turned upwards once more. “Hey, I made a promise to you, Miles ‘Tails’ Prower,” he said in a warm, caring tone. “I promised that I would get you to the city and help find a way to fix whatever the hell they did to you. Before we get there though, I gotta go take care of these losers first.” His smile grew into a grin as he stood up, placed the blade on the disk on his back and turned towards the mouth of the cave. “Hope they’re fast enough to catch me!” the warrior said cheerfully as he stretched and warmed up.  “Honestly, I could use a bit of a challenge right now.”

The bravado he portrayed belied the uncertain feeling he had in the pit of his stomach. As the storm began to lighten slightly, the sounds of the machines and of boots trampling the ground became more pronounced. The hedgehog ceased his stretching. ‘Oh, boy…’ the swordsman mused, his ears flattening as he listened on. ‘That’s a LOT of soldiers and mechs out there… and they’re all out for little ole’ us.’ He twisted his body back to the fox slumped on the ground, his head bowed to his chest. A sickening thought then crossed his mind: 

He could leave him there and run off. 

What made him feel worse was that he was considering it.

The warrior shook his head violently and pushed that thought away as far as he could. He would not abandon his friend, not after all he had done to keep him safe. ‘No more running,‘ he thought. ‘It’s time to end this, once and for all.” 

Waving farewell to the twin-tailed fox, the hedgehog turned back and strode out of the cave to face the crowds of soldiers, vehicles and mechs that awaited him. Outside, he bent down into a runner’s starting position, tensed up and then shot off like a bullet, a flash of steel and blue fur tearing through the rocky outcroppings. 

He soon zipped up to the top of a tall spire that overlooked the area. Keeping low to the ground so that he wouldn’t be detected, he scanned the horizon. From a few hundred feet away, he saw soldiers by the droves marching towards the ridge where Tails hid, each sporting coloured uniforms to denote their rank and status. Blue uniforms for grunts, green for platoon leaders, grey for sergeants and red for the higher-ups. They were flanked by tanks and ‘Sweepers’: bipedal machines with large spikes for feet, high-calibre machine guns for arms and small anti-personnel missiles hidden inside the elongated, rectangular body that was parallel to the ground. Attached to the back of the machines was a large motor that exuded greyish-yellow exhaust fumes. The ‘face’ of these machines consisted of a large intake grille with vertical slats of metal that opened and closed to make a frightening visage. The hedgehog squinted his eyes and saw – with his remarkably enhanced vision – a model number etched into the burnished metal on the robot’s side: E-25. 

He angled his head to the dark grey skies and saw several egg-shaped transporters above the soldiers, each held aloft with hover engines on either side of its body. On the undersides of each transporter were a pair of large, six-barrel rotary machine guns along with a searchlight that roved the ground below, the drizzling rainfall disclosing their location in the air. 

“Huh, they must be desperate if they’re bringing Sweepers and SkyTrans carriers into the fray,” the hedgehog muttered to himself, frowning at the sight.

He scanned the area between them and located a spot of flat, open earth on another ridge that overlooked the city. It was close to where he hid Tails but far enough that the army wouldn’t circle back and look for him. ‘Looks large enough that I can go to town on anyone who approaches, but small enough that I wouldn’t be completely overwhelmed,’ he thought to himself as he scrutinized the plain. ‘Looking at this closely, if I play my cards right, I might stand a chance here?’ 

Deep in the pit of his stomach, however, he didn’t believe that thought for a second.

The hedgehog stood up, drew his sword and held it with the gauntlet-covered arm. He took several deep breaths to ready himself. Then he flung himself off of the spire, slid down to the surface and then, with a sonic boom, dashed off to the top of the ridge. The shockwave ensured that he left a trail distinct enough for the army to notice. Without fail, the searchlights on the SkyTranses above picked the speeding hedgehog out and the soldiers and mechs began to give chase. 

The warrior soon reached the ridge and halted right at its edge, followed closely behind by the army. Soldiers lined up, cocked their machine guns and took aim. The Sweepers, tanks and SkyTranses followed suit and pointed weaponry of all sorts at the lone figure.

“You are surrounded!” the hedgehog heard a grunt shout out. “Turn yourself and the other subject over, or face destruction at the hands of the Kintobor Army!”

“Boy, oh boy,” the warrior said to himself as he smiled and shook his head. “The price of freedom is steep.” He closed his eyes and tightened his grip on the sword, just as the storm above began to gain strength once more. Lightning shot through the sky, illuminating everything for brief moments while thunder erupted, making it sound like the Goddess above was demanding that the bloodbath be started. The sky opened up and the heavy raindrops began splattering loudly on the helmets and metal bodies that surrounded him. 

Live with no regrets. Believe in yourself. And chase after the impossible,’ the hedgehog mentally recited to himself, a habit he picked up over the years. He then scoffed at the thought of the imposing army in front of him. ‘Yeah, this is definitely an impossible situation… But things like this never stopped me before. And ‘sides… I got something to fight for…

And then the warrior opened his eyes, which shone with an unholy light. A golden aura started to radiate from his body and tiny silver bolts of electricity crackled around him, mimicking the tempest above. His quills rose upward and he felt as though his entire body was supercharged for battle.

“Hey, assholes!” he yelled out for all to hear over the sounds of the strengthening tempest above. “I made a promise to somebody very important to me! And you guys should know that a SOLDIER’s word is his bond!”

And, as the last word was spoken, the self-declared SOLDIER threw his sword into the air and curled up into a ball, as any hedgehog would do in the face of danger.

The grunts were bewildered at the move, dropping their guard involuntarily. The general in one of the SkyTrans vehicles above who ordered his surrender actually smiled, thinking that he decided to give up. His face fell when he saw the curled-up rodent rapidly spinning in place on the ground. The hedgehog became nothing more than a gold-tinted blue, blurring ball with tiny, silver bolts of lightning arcing around him. The sword, thrown into the air, lazily reached the apex of its arc and started falling, gravity bringing the mass of metal hurtling to the land.

Just when the sword was about twenty feet from the ground, the hedgehog launched himself, the momentum of his spinning dash throwing him forward. He pushed off of the surface and launched himself into the air like a rubber ball hitting the floor, right into the path of his weapon. He then untucked his right arm and grabbed the sword at the hilt, while maintaining his supersonic rotation. This had the effect of turning the warrior into a spinning buzz saw of death as he flew forwards into the soldiers that were gawking at the sight. 

He struck at the same moment a lightning bolt crackled across the sky. The spinning attack mowed down an entire unit and sent body parts flying in all directions. He uncurled and jumped straight into the next horde, swinging the massive sword, cutting soldiers and mechs indiscriminately and pushing his battle-scarred body to its limits. The aura surrounding him ceased to disappear and instead glowed more intensely as he launched more spinning attacks, one after another. 

Flesh, bone, sinew and machinery flew as the hedgehog fought on. The relentless assault from the opposing army, however, dwindled his strength – slowly, but surely. Pushing himself beyond his limits was a gamble, but he had already admitted to himself back at the spire that he was in a losing fight. 

Amidst the orders being shouted out loudly, the hedgehog’s focus was on the battle at hand, with his prime objective being to take out anything and everything within his reach and to keep fighting on and on until either they gave up and left or he fell. 

Soon enough, he was barely able to hold the sword upright, but he willed himself to keep fighting. He hacked as bullets entered his body. He slashed even as explosions tore holes in his legs. He couldn’t stop. He wouldn’t stop.

He was going to protect that two-tailed fox who was like a little brother to him.

Even if it killed him.


Tails

Tails awoke alone in an unknown place with a severe throbbing sensation stabbing his head. 

Groaning and rubbing his eyes in the darkness, he groped around his surroundings. His hands eventually patted against the rock he was leaning against and he deduced he was in some sort of rocky cospe. He could not for the life of him remember how he ended up in that small nook with his back against a boulder in Goddess-knew where. However, he did recall a voice speaking to him, telling him to stay here while they dealt with something.

His headache suddenly intensified at the thought. Flashes of memories, from happy to grisly and everything in between, swept through his mind at a speed too fast to process. He turned his head and rested his cheek against the cool rock, his teeth gritted in pain as he was being bombarded with various mental images. He felt like a computer being booted up after a long time being shut down. The pain subsided after a few minutes, to his great relief. 

His face still against the rock, Tails opened an eye and caught a glimpse of light coming from the mouth of the cave. Startled, he tried standing up, only to stumble and fall flat on his face. Cursing softly underneath his breath, he forced himself onto his hands and knees and crawled out of the cavern and into the open badlands.

The first thing he noticed was the light rain that was drizzling down to the wet and muddied surface. Above him, faint rays of sunlight started to peer through storm clouds that began to clear up. Blinking from the contrast between darkness and light, he placed a hand on the muddied ground and leaned against the cave opening as he waited for his eyesight to adjust. 

And then suddenly, it sharpened. Everything around him started to come into greater detail. He could pick out the minute cracks in a rock formation several thousand feet away. He could see the tiny organisms crawling around a moss-filled boulder across from him through his peripheral vision. Colours and shapes, both known and unknown, were vividly pouring into his eyes and his mind was nearly overloaded while attempting to process all the information.

When he found himself able to manage his vision, the two-tailed fox was then bombarded with the smell of the clearing rain and the putrid breaths of Mutates lurking in their hideaways, followed by the scent of gunpowder and the strong, coppery odour of blood. This particular stench was greatest at the top of a nearby ridge. Tails turned his head towards it and perked his ears up in reflex.

As soon as he did this, he was able to hear creatures emerge from their burrows yards away from his current position. He could hear various animalistic and ambient sounds with extreme clarity. He then picked up the sound of feather-light breathing and a barely heard moan. Focusing on that particular noise only, the fox gritted his teeth and went to his hands and knees, crawling up the ridge.

As he reached the summit, Tails felt his muscles grow stronger, little by little as he moved closer to the scent. He now stood upright and stumbled slowly to the top where the smell of blood was overwhelming.

The outcropping of rock was stained red and dotted with blobs of shimmering gold and silver liquid. Tanks, hover transports and pieces of bipedal mechaniloids were scattered along the ridge, deep gashes and black-charred marks riddled all over their lifeless husks. Tails then saw the desiccated bodies of soldiers – both Mobian and Human –  lying on the wet earth with bronze bullet casings draped over their whole or dismembered bodies like garlands of flowers. The remains of a hover transport – a SkyTrans, Tails suddenly recalled – was teetering on the edge of the cliff. 

Tails shivered at the sight of the macabre scene. His eyes roved around before landing on the only body barely left breathing; a mangled blue hedgehog whose life force was streaming endlessly through a large hole blown into his chest, a hand clutched in a bone-breaking grip around the hilt of an impossibly massive sword. The fox recognized the uniform he wore as a standard-issue SOLDIER outfit. His shimmering jade-green eyes were starting to fade. 

The fox’s eyes widened at the sight and raced over to the body. In his haste, he stumbled over a dead body and slid on the bloody mud until he came to a stop. He crawled the rest of the way to the hedgehog’s side, his left cheek and face slathered with reddish-brown mud and gasping for breath. He searched the SOLDIER’s body in an effort to save him, but he realized it was a fool’s errand. 

He was too far gone.

The hedgehog chuckled upon seeing the fox before coughing up blood. He took several shallow breaths and then finally spoke. “For the… both of us…”

The fox blinked, processing what he heard. “The both of us?” he murmured, puzzled.

“Yep… that’s right,” the hedgehog replied, wheezing. Struggling, he raised his arm and placed it behind Tails’ head. “You gotta… You gotta…” 

“Live.”

The warrior embraced the fox at the last word, his hand dropping back into the mud a moment later. Tails rose, the hedgehog’s blood mixed in with the mud caked on his face and nodded in acknowledgement. 

Satisfied, the SOLDIER then raised the hilt of the sword, his right arm shaking with effort. “Take… the Buster Sword…” he said, offering it to the two-tailed fox. “Keep going… Keep flying high… For my sake and… for yours as well…”

“Believe in yourself… Cuz I’ve always believed in you… Little buddy…”

Tails took the sword at the end of the hilt with both hands. It was still warm. To his surprise, he found the weapon to be lighter than he thought it would be, despite its size. He looked down at it and then at its owner. Suddenly, like water bursting through a dam, the memories of the SOLDIER washed over him in a flash. He saw the battles, the laughter, the tears and the hardships that bonded them together. The fox felt a vice-like grip squeezing his heart as he finally remembered who the blue hedgehog was.

“I will… Sonic,” he said thickly through gritted teeth, addressing the SOLDIER by name for the first time as he gripped the hilt of the Buster Sword tightly in his hands.

Satisfied, Sonic then took his right hand off the hilt and it too joined his left on the wet ground. His breathing started to slow as his mouth opened once more to say a final thing that Tails almost didn’t hear:

“Take… care…”

He smiled one last time, his eyes glazing over as he passed away.

Tails watched on as the SOLDIER died. On seeing the glassy look in the hedgehog’s eyes, he felt the flames of rage and anger roil around in the pit of his stomach. He was angered that this SOLDIER died for him. And enraged at the faceless enemy who was responsible for the act.  

Kintobor Inc. 

He suddenly tilted his head back and screamed, loud and long as the rain continued to fall on his face. His screams tapered off as his throat became raw and his breathing ragged. Choking back sobs, Tails looked again at the dead hedgehog and though his face was frozen in a smile, he could still hear his voice in his mind…

“Tails, don’t stand still and waste time waiting for something to happen. If you want something really badly, you gotta move forward and chase after it, even if it’s impossible. It’s the only way to live without regret.”

The fox let the words wash over him as he looked towards the city on the horizon. He soon made up his mind: he would move forward and finish the journey that the both of them had started. He got up, using the Buster Sword as support and looked back to Sonic for what would be the final time.

“Thank you,” he softly said to his still body. “I won’t forget. Adios, Sonic the Hedgehog.”

He walked away from his deceased friend, never looking back as he did so.


Daily Inkling – March 22 – “Mario Kart in Real Life”

Good morning and welcome to another edition of Games with Coffee!

Ah yes, spring has finally arrived where I live and with it comes potholes of epic proportions to face on both morning and evening commutes. And that leads me to today’s subject: a Daily Inkling from my good friends at Normal Happenings, who so kindly tagged me for this writing prompt! Thanks Matt and Nikki for keeping me in mind!

Today’s prompt is: “In your experience, what city or place has the craziest drivers?”

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to weave together a story using that prompt above. So, start your engines and Let’s-a-go!


OK, a city or place that has the craziest of drivers… Well, that’s an easy answer: my hometown.

It’s a small city about 30 minutes north of Toronto called Brampton. Known as the City of Flowers, this 150+ year old city is also known for having some of the highest insurance rates in the country thanks in part to the crazy drivers.

I mean, it wasn’t that bad growing up, but the huge population growth over the twenty-plus years I’ve lived there may have had a hand in getting that insurance rate so high. And the funny thing is, the people here don’t realize how bad or how dangerous their driving is at times!

Some drivers are older folk who drive slowly in an effort to be super careful. There’s nothing wrong with being careful. Their actions, however, enrage the impatient folks behind them. In their infinite wisdom, these drivers decide to swerve around the elderly ones quickly, not realizing that they themselves could be causing an even more dangerous scenario to unfold, like sideswiping another vehicle for instance.

Some drivers are these hot-shot youngsters who race down the road with expensive luxury cars like they’re spamming the Golden Mushroom item, all while flaunting how awesome mom and dad were for buying the car for them. I shake my head at the ridiculousness of it all; not only are they showing off their wealth, they’re doing it in such a dangerous way as well. My advice? Save it for the track.

Some are just freaking tractor trailer drivers who are so entitled to think that the whole road belongs to them. Yes, I’m talking to you, person driving an eighteen wheeler on the passing/fast lane! Stay in the right lanes unless you need to make a left! And for the love of the Coffee Gods people, give these semis and other large trucks their space! They do not stop on a dime like regular cars and they can’t see you!

Some are newbies or drivers who don’t drive very often. Some are totally distracted by their cellphones or other things in their car. And there are some pretty good drivers, but they are fair and few in between.

And don’t get me started on winter driving. Just a mere inch or two of the white stuff on the ground is enough to add on an additional hour of driving time, thanks to the slippery and messy conditions. Add in ice and freezing rain with the current bad crop of drivers in and around the city and you have a recipe for commuting disaster. Winter driving is so bad around here, that insurance companies give an incentive to people who choose to install winter tires in the form of lower rates!

I’m not perfect myself, but I try to be as good of a driver as I can be. After all, I got my driving education by learning in the only other city whose drivers are worse than those in my hometown: Toronto.

Between the potholes, the cyclists, the pedestrians and the streetcars, not to mention narrow and winding streets, driving in the downtown core is both an exercise of patience and a test of reflexes. Fortunately, I’ve been well prepared for this thanks to all my years spent playing games like Mario Kart.

And my uncle with whom I worked with for about a year and a half as a driver/labourer for his contracting company after he got a DUI, by which I only got this opportunity thanks to my then-girlfriend’s dad who also had a hand in starting my career as an engineer in the construction industry and eventually became my father in law after six years of dating his eldest daughter, in which three of those were done in secret, behind his back, which also led me to fear for my life a few times during that period of time.*

But… that’s another story for another day.


And that’s that folks! Hope you enjoyed it! If you’re stuck in a writing rut and looking for something to spark that writing interest, do check out the Daily Inklings: they’re filled with interesting prompts!

Full disclosure: I’ve collaborated with Matt and the gang on a little collaboration called “The Games That Define Us!” (TGTDU!)** Check out my contribution here! It’s about Final Fantasy VII, Cloud and how he changed my life for the better.

Oh, and be sure to check out the Tracking Shells Mario Kart collab on NH! It’s brilliant!

So, that’s it for this edition. Stay tuned here though as I got a special little miniseries lined up in celebration of this blog’s two year anniversary! It’s currently in development and may take a while for its release, but it’s gonna be exciting! I can’t wait to share this with you all!

So, this has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, breaking through my writer’s block, stretching out my grey matter and, as always, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

*I’m submitting this sentence as part of the March 23 Daily Inkling. Might qualify, might not. Eh.

**I came up with this acronym. TGTDU 4 LYFE!

“The Quest:” Practicing Writing Through Fanfiction and Using NaNoWriMo as Motivation to Write!

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” How is everyone today?

As you may or may not know, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): the annual event where writers from all over write a minimum 50,000 word novel in one month. It’s a pretty big deal, since it motivates people to get off of their butts and start writing, instead of thinking about writing something, but not doing anything about it.

Why am I mentioning this? Well, one of my goals in my Quest to be a better person this year was to improve my writing with the determination to fulfill one of my biggest life goals; to write and publish my own original story. While I’ve made a lot of progress on it this year by building a world, a loose timeline of events, some character development and a plot structure, I’m probably a year or two away from starting to put it all together. A lot of my progress was possible thanks to all the practice I’ve done writing fanfiction, which (as I may have mentioned this once or twice in previous posts) I’ve been doing ever since I was a kid. The biggest problem I have, however, is the fact that I’ve been unable to properly finish a story that I’ve started, whether it was an original story or fanfiction. Most times, I’d start, only to give up after the first few sentences and scrap the story. Other times though, I got pretty far into it, but my endings were terrible. However, there’s one story right now that I’m determined on finishing: a fanfic that crosses the universes of Final Fantasy VII and Sonic the Hedgehog, which I’m using mostly as a practice board for the real thing when I get to it.

Now, the operative thought you may have here may be; “A crossover fanfic!? What in hell’s name are you talking about?!” But seriously, here me out for a second; it may not be as far-fetched as you think!


Ten years ago, I got bored with studying advanced mechanical dynamics for my engineering degree, so I started writing character comparisons between the personalities of Sonic the Hedgehog and Zack Fair and Miles “Tails” Prower and Cloud Strife (from the Sonic the Hedgehog and Final Fantasy VII games respectively) after noticing similarities between them. As I delved deeper, I noticed a lot of things in both games/series somewhat coincided with one another. Examples include:

  • FF VII’s ‘Materia’ system consists of the five common types of Materia (Green, Red, Blue, Purple and Yellow), along with the rare White and Black Materia, which makes seven. Know seven other multicolored gems that fit that profile? Chaos Emeralds.
  • Robotnik’s (Eggman’s) desire for world conquest is analogous to Shinra’s naked ambition for world domination. Both achieve this through scientific means; genetic, robotic or otherwise.
  • In the Sonic comic series published by Archie Comics, several issues speak of a gold-silver substance called “The Source of All,” which is a form of spirit energy used to create life in the Sonic universe and which also has a link to the Chaos Emeralds and Power Rings in that canon. A similar link exists between the Lifestream, Mako and Materia in FF VII.
  • Finally, in the Sonic Archie Comic canon, prior to the start of the war between the Freedom Fighters and Robotnik, the Power Rings, created by an object called a “Ring Forge,” allowed the Mobian race to rapidly move from a primitive, medieval age to a hyper-advanced golden age. The same can be said about the Shinra Company’s discovery of Mako and the subsequent construction of Midgar leading to an age of advancement and prosperity thanks to cheap energy.

Using what I’ve found, I expanded on the initial comparison and eventually created an alternate Sonic universe, combining the story elements from the games and the Archie Sonic comic book universe canon with Final Fantasy VII’s plot as its backbone. I published portions of the first installment (out of six or seven!) on the Fanfiction.net website (My pen name’s Zonic Warrior-STH) – one of the largest sources of online fanfiction.

Six years later, I started rewriting the story, partially due to some harsh, yet constructive criticism, partially due to paying attention to how other author’s structure their stories and mostly because I hated how the original sounded. I mean, I read it out loud once and I cringed at how terrible it sounded…

So, for the rewrite, I decided to change my approach to writing. I started taking notes on what to write in terms of narrative and character dialogue relative to the backbone of the plot. I did even more research into FF VII’s plot and the world encompassing both the Sonic games and comics and continued to note things that sort of matched between the two and things that would need to be modified to fit the narrative that I wanted to portray. I studied both action and dramatic scenes in movies, TV shows and other games and wrote what it would look like in a book. And finally, using those same mediums, I tried to interpret how the dialogue and narrative would play out in scenes and how to describe in detail the present setting and character’s body language to better form an image in a reader’s mind. These strategies proved valuable both for developing the fanfic and eventually my original writing; in fact, just this June, I finished all the rough notes for the fanfic, which would make finishing this thing much easier, while I use note-taking apps like Google Keep, on a day-to-day basis to jot down and organize my plot, dialogue and action scenes for my own personal work.


I’m determined to finish this thing, more as a way to prove to myself that I can actually and properly finish a story. That’s why I’m using NaNoWriMo as motivation to finishing it. By scheduling time every day in November to write a few hundred, even a thousand words, I’ll be much more closer to finishing this thing than any other point before.

So far, as of writing… I haven’t gotten too much done, sadly; I barely hit 20% of the goal. But there’s still just under half a month left – I got time and resources (Thanks Google Docs!) on my side! And even if I don’t make 50,000, I would have done more now than I have in the past, which is something I can be proud of.

If you want to take a peek at my writing style or get a better idea of what the story’s about, check it out here. Bear in mind that I’ll be revising the hell out whatever you’ll be reading when I finish writing the whole thing, but still, let me know what you think. I’m always open to constructive criticism.

Stay tuned for the next edition, because I’m not done with November just yet! This month will mark twenty years that I first played Final Fantasy VII, the game that made a HUGE influence in my life. That will likely show up at the end of the month. Also coming up soon, I’m going to talk about some hardware I picked up a while ago, how to use a gaming mouse for work purposes and two more Espresso Shot Reviews!

This has been Ryan from Games with Coffee, getting back to work on writing this beast of a story and always reminding you, dear reader, to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing!

Espresso Shot Review: Golden Axe

Good morning, and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee.” It’s Espresso Shot Review time! Today, I’m looking at Golden Axe for the Sega Genesis – a game I’ve never even played before, surprisingly enough. I was introduced to it from a guest review on The Well-Red Mage’s blog and I decided to look into it myself. How did it fare in my eyes? Read on and find out!


Introduction

Golden Axe (W) (REV 00) [!]_004.jpg

Golden Axe is a side-scrolling, beat-em-up/ hack-and-slash action game. First introduced in 1989 in arcades, it was ported to the Sega Genesis (or Megadrive) and Master System of that same year. It’s been a part of several compilation titles, such as the SEGA Smash Pack and Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection and is presently part of the SEGA Forever collection of free, mobile titles available on iOS and Android.

Story

Taking place in the Conan the Barbarian-inspired land of Yuria, Golden Axe tells the story of three warriors who are tasked to save the King of the realm, his daughter and the titular Golden Axe from the Death Adder – A powerful warlord who threatens to kill the royal family and break the axe unless the people in the kingdom acknowledge him as their ruler. Each warrior however has their own motivations for defeating the Death Adder beyond saving the king and his daughter; Ax-Battler, the barbarian who wields a sword and Earth magic, seeks vengeance for his mother’s death. Gilius Thunderhead, an axe-wielding dwarf from the mines who uses Thunder magic wants the Adder’s head after his twin brother was killed by his henchmen. Finally, Tyris Flare, an Amazon warrior who specializes in longswords and Fire magic, will stop at nothing to pay back the Death Adder for the death of her parents.

It’s a pretty simple story that’s common for this era of gaming, but its nice to see that the characters also have their own reasons for fighting; it makes them look less one-dimensional and allows the player to empathize to their situation.

One complaint I have is that the in-game story doesn’t exactly match what’s listed in the instruction manual. In game, each character mentions that their friend, Alex, died in battle and that they will avenge him while saving the land. I would much rather have the game narrative to stick to the “avenging the death of loved ones,” plot instead of avenging some random dude named Alex.

Golden Axe (W) (REV 00) [!]_008.jpg

Who is this “Alex” you speak of, Battler? Aren’t you supposed to be avenging your mother?

Gameplay

Controls are simple in Golden Axe. The directional buttons move the character, the A button activates magic, the B button makes the character attack and the C button is the jump button. In addition, there are several moves that can be useful as you traverse the game. You can hit an enemy multiple times by mashing the B button, but it leaves you open from behind. If you’re in close while rapidly tapping B, you’ll pick up and throw the enemy, good for giving you some space when you’re surrounded. Double tapping left or right makes the character break into a run; hitting B while running initiates a dash attack, useful for getting the drop on an enemy. You can also use aerial attacks by jumping and hitting B while in midair. Doing a jump attack while running yields a more powerful attack that can one-shot or severely damage enemies, but it’s a bit tricky to pull off. Finally, you can use a powerful reversal attack by hitting B and C together, but it’s  hard to connect and leaves you open if you don’t.

In terms of gameplay, Ax-Battler is the most balanced in terms of strength, movement and magic, Gilius has great strength and speed but lacks in magic and Tyris’ strength lies in her magic, but lacks in physical strength and reach compared to the other two.

Each character’s magic meter has a different maximum level. Gilius maxes out at three, Ax-Battler maxes at four and Tyris maxes at six. Each level corresponds to the strength of the magic used, so, while it’s easy to max out Gilius’ magic, his strongest spell is much weaker compared to Tyris’ strongest spell. an awesome fire-breathing dragon used when her magic meter is at level six. To use magic, you’ll need to collect blue pots, which are only dropped by bag-carrying Thieves. You’ll have to smack them a few times to get the pots. You’ll sometimes run into these guys as you progress through each level, but at the end of each level you’ll enter a bonus round where you battle with at least one Blue Thief and sometimes a Green Thief who drops meat, which restores one bar of your character’s health.

Golden Axe (W) (REV 00) [!]_012

Hey! Give those back!

There are seven types of enemies, including boss characters, to be wary of, from henchmen who use maces and clubs to axe-wielding Amazonian women, skeletons who use swords and shields, giants wielding hammers and powerful, armoured knights. You can easily tell the difference in how strong they are based on their colour pallet.

They might not seem like much at first glance, but it’s advised to avoid being surrounded, because even the weakest of enemies can overpower you when they’re coming in from both sides, which happened to me quite often and resulted in me losing a lot of life. I would have liked the reversal attack to be easier to connect so I could get out of those jams without being overwhelmed. I also found that the enemies were a bit bland at times and I would have liked to see some more variety. I compare this to the TMNT 2: the Arcade Game port for the NES, where there were a TON of different flavours of enemies to fight against. I do like how the giants wielding hammers laugh at you when you’re knocked down.

Golden Axe (W) (REV 00) [!]_002

Quit laughing at me, you bastard…

Boss fights either pit you against a gauntlet of enemies, or you fight against the Death Adder himself at the very end. What’s interesting is that for the home console version of the game, they added two extra levels and a new final boss – the Death Bringer, mentor to the Death Adder.

Another feature that made the game interesting is the use of creatures as steeds. Enemies usually ride these, but they can be easily knocked off with a well-placed kick. There are two types of rideable creatures – a Chicken Legs who attacks by swiping its tail or a Dragon who can either spit fireballs or breathe a jet of fire that incinerates your foes. The creatures are really fun to use, but if you are dismounted more than three times, it runs away. A minor annoyance, but it’s fair; the creatures would have made it all to easy to beat the game.

Speaking of which, the difficulty is not too bad compared to other beat-em-ups, which is a good thing because it allows for anyone to pick up and play it without becoming too frustrated. It’s also pretty short, at about eight levels, meaning it won’t take more than a few hours to fully complete it.

Visuals

While the graphics are dated, for a game that’s almost 30 years old, they aren’t that bad looking. The playable character sprites have a fair amount of detail in them and their animations are pretty fluid.

I do like the environments, they really elicit a medieval-fantasy like feel.  I also like how there’s a day to night transition right before a boss fight, it makes the game feel more alive and the stakes more dire.

Golden Axe (W) (REV 00) [!]_005.jpg

Sunset Showdown!

In stage 4, your battles take place on the back of a giant eagle, which I though was pretty cool! Though, I had to wonder, “How does a pathway exist on an eagle?” Also, “Why are there skeletons burrowed in this poor eagle’s back?”  It somewhat didn’t make sense, but hey, who am I to complain?

Golden Axe (W) (REV 00) [!]_006

That must take some serious pruning to maintain…

I didn’t like how some of the enemies looked; again, they looked a bit bland, but from the animation standpoint, at least they didn’t move as blocky as they looked.

Sound

I found the music and sound effects to be a bit on the tinny side, but still enjoyable nonetheless. Stage 1’s music really set the tone for the game – it gave off an “I’m storming your stronghold and taking you down, if it’s the last thing I do!” kind of feel, which was pretty rad.

The death screams were somewhat hilarious, but they started to grate on me a little bit, especially after hearing my character die again and again (Beat-em ups aren’t my specialty). It didn’t stop me from enjoying the game though!

Replayability

With three characters to play as and each differing in magic, reach and speed, there are some opportunities to replay the game. The story doesn’t change for each character however – it’s still the same.

On top of the arcade mode, which you can play with two people, there is a Beginner mode, consisting of the first three stages with easier enemies, perfect for those who are either new to the series or need a refresher on how to play. Also, there is The Duel mode, where each round pits you against different types of enemies and the goal is to survive for twelve rounds. Each duel is also timed – if you don’t win in the allotted time, you lose one bar of energy.

It’s quite challenging, considering the fact that you can’t use magic at all in this mode; you’ll have to focus on weapon skills if you are to succeed. If you’re playing with two players in The Duel mode, you fight against each other instead.

Conclusion

Golden Axe’s cast of characters, use of powerful magic and rideable creatures help make the game stand out over many others in the genre. But the low variety in opponents and their blandness, coupled with the fact that it’s easy to become surrounded and a lack of a proper reversal technique hurt it in the long run. Nevertheless, it’s still a fun game to pick up and play, especially for two people!

3.5 out of 5

3.5 out of 5

Espresso Shot Review: Sonic Mania

Good morning and welcome to another edition of “Games with Coffee!” Today, I’m introducing a brand-new segment I call “Espresso Shot Reviews.” Put simply, I’ll be reviewing games both old and new and will give my personal opinions on them, as well as a rating out of five. Each review will be short (less than 1000 words), but packed with intensity and detail. It’s like an espresso shot, hence the name.

Today’s review will be on Sonic Mania, released on August 15, 2017 for PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch and August 29, 2017 for PC. I’ll be going over the story, gameplay, graphics, music and replayability (or replay value).


Developed by Christian “Taxman” Whitehead in partnership with PagodaWest Games and Headcannon and published by SEGA, Sonic Mania is a 2-D sprite art, physics-based platformer. It’s a tribute to the old-school, 16-bit Sonic the Hedgehog games of yore and was released in celebration of Sonic’s 25th anniversary.

Sonic Mania - Title

Story

Hot off the heels from Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Dr. Eggman and five of his Egg-Robo’s have returned to Angel Island and extracted a strange gem called the Phantom Ruby. When Sonic and Tails catch up to the mad doctor, the gem’s dimension-warping effect sends both heroes, along with Knuckles, to Green Hill Zone. The gem also had an effect on the Egg-Robo’s; transforming them into the much tougher Hard-Boiled Heavies. The heroes must now travel through twelve zones spanning multiple dimensions, retrieve both the Phantom Ruby and the Chaos Emeralds and defeat Eggman and the Heavies before they conquer the world.

Gameplay

Gameplay-wise, Sonic Mania plays exactly like the originals. Each level (Zone) is divided into two huge Acts chock-full of quarter pipes, loops, ramps, springs and other things to help Sonic and company get around. Obstacles abound; from Badniks to spikes and traps, to bottomless pits and crushing objects, there are plenty of things to be wary of.

The twelve zones consist of eight popular zones from the first four Classic Sonic (Sonic 1-3 & Sonic CD) games and four new zones introduced to the series. The first Act of each classic zone is a combination of that zone’s original first and second Acts, while the second Act remixes elements from the original zone with features from other classic levels and adds new elements to spice things up.

The four new zones are inspired by some of the series’s most iconic levels. They also presents a theme derived from SEGA’s history as a publisher. Examples include the Streets of Rage aesthetic combined with Casino/Carnival Night Zone elements in Studiopolis Zone and the Shinobi-inspired second act of Press Garden, which also brings forward elements from Ice Cap and Mushroom Hill Zones.

Each act contains multiple paths to traverse through, encouraging the player to either find the fastest path through each level or explore to find Large Rings – entrances to a special stage where a Chaos Emerald can be earned.

Large Ring

While I enjoyed the selection of classic zones, I would’ve liked to see more new zones added to balance things between old and new.

Bosses are encountered at the end of each act and require different strategies to win. Most fights were fun but I felt a few bosses, such as the ones in Hydrocity Acts 1 and 2 and Studiopolis’ Act 1 boss, were a bit tedious, while Mirage Saloon’s Act 1 boss was just too easy. My favourite boss fight was Metallic Madness’ Act 2 boss – the miniature theme was extremely creative.

Metallic Madness Act 2 - Boss

In addition to the basic moveset (run, spin attack, spin dash and jump), the three characters also have their own special moves and properties. New to Sonic’s arsenal is the Drop Dash – used in midair to drop down into a spin dash. It’s useful for gaining momentum after a jump, or to strike a Badnik that can’t be jumped on without losing your momentum. Tails’ flying ability makes a comeback, with Sonic able to command Tails to fly him up to new areas and Knuckles keeps his gliding, climbing and wall breaking abilities. He doesn’t jump as high as the other two, however.

Rings are essential for survival – you lose a life if you’re not holding any in your possession. Collecting 100 rings nets an extra life. Power ups include the elemental shields from Sonic 3 and the Hyper Ring from the obscure Knuckles’ Chaotix game, along with staple items, like the Power Sneakers and Invincibility.

Graphics and Art

What I enjoyed the most about Sonic Mania is how animated everything looks, thanks to the game running at 60fps. From how fluid each of the player characters moved, to the little details in the environments and the colours in each zone, the game’s high-quality pixel art exudes plenty of charm. I noticed no slowdowns or lag when I was playing it on the Switch.

I especially loved the art direction for the new zones. Studiopolis and Press Garden stand out the most for me, because of how breathtaking the visuals look between Acts 1 and 2.

Music

Music has always been a strong point for the Sonic series. The music was done by Tee Lopes, who I think did a really good job remixing the classic zone tunes. The audio for the new zones are catchy and upbeat until you hit the last zone, which threw me off a bit due to its brooding and serious tone.

Chemical Plant Act 2, Press Garden Act 2, Studiopolis Act 1, Stardust Speedway Act 1 and Mirage Saloon Act 1 as Knuckles are my favourites to listen to:

The boss tunes are also great earworms; the boss theme for the Hard-Boiled Heavies, along with the Eggman Boss theme (Ruby Delusions), are some of the best boss themes in the series.

Replayability

There are lots of replay options available after beating the game. You can try your hand at Time Attack mode, or settle differences with friends through Competition mode.

In-game, hitting star posts with more than 25 rings in possession opens a portal to the Blue Spheres minigame from Sonic 3. Beating the stage earns a medal, which unlocks a variety of new playing modes, including the use of Sonic’s old Insta-shield, Debug Mode or the &Knuckles mode, which adds the echidna as a partner character.

2017092006123300-1628E0CE3F839127054B0EE36E28E52A

For a special surprise, finish the game as Knuckles & Knuckles. It’s hilarious!

2017092121364200-1628E0CE3F839127054B0EE36E28E52A


While there could have been more original zones and less tedious/more challenging boss fights, Sonic Mania nevertheless celebrates the best of the character to great effect. It’s a perfect example of how enduring Sonic is after 25 years and how he’s still going strong.

4.5 out of 5.png

4.5/5


How’d I do? Let me know in the comments below! Coming up on “Games with Coffee,” I’m back in Wraeclast with more Path of Exile, and I’ll be sharing my favourite remixes from OverClocked Remix! Stay tuned!

With that, this has been Ryan, reminding you to Keep Gaming and Keep Brewing! See ya!