When you ask, “what is the oldest profession?” to a random passerby on the street, chances are the answer they will give you will be “prostitution.” To that I say, “fair enough.” However, I believe the aforementioned quote by Alan Rickman proves to me that storytelling and authorship has to be in least the top five. It also gives me reason to contemplate my appreciation for the fantastic—particularly superheroes—and my desire to craft my own tales about them. I very much agree with Mr. Rickman that stories fulfill a very human need. Moreover, I agree that stories reveal who we are, which particularly resonates with me because I cannot help but inject a little of myself into my works.
Without revealing too many intimate details of my past, I admit that I was the kind of child whose head was up beyond the clouds and somewhere in the stars. Superheroes where always a part of my daydreams; I used to imitate swinging from building to building like Spider-Man from the 60s animated show (and confused my poor grandmother in the process on trips to the playground.) The makeup of them changed throughout childhood as I found inspiration from other series like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Samurai Pizza Cats, believe it or not. The core fantasy around them remained the same: I was the hero and my friends would fight evil with me and we would save the world on a daily basis.
Very little of that changed over the years. Prodigious began life as a blatant self-insertion fantasy where I was the star of the show with my friends, family, and even psychological hang-ups along for the ride. Flare was my avatar in this universe and represented my own desire to returned to what felt were more carefree times in childhood—complete with amnesia for a blank slate. The story evolved over time as some friends drifted away and disappeared from my life altogether and thus the characters resembled my friends, family, and myself less and less. It was originally just about me and my friends, but the idea for a “superhero school” in a town that makes Eerie, Indiana and South Park appear normal crept in. It became less about my friends and I saving the world and more about whatever skewed thought crossed my mind.
It feels that Prodigious is becoming more about the absurdities I see in world where it appears that the lunatics are running the asylum. Case in point, the (seemingly) willful ignorance that afflicts the denizens of Apex Falls, especially the mayor, Norman Blanche who could see Bigfoot riding a chimera bareback in front of him and find a way to deny that it happened. I see that cognitive dissonance is pervasive throughout society such as those who claim to stand for “social justice,” for example. As I have stated in the past, I am sympathetic to #gamergate. Not because I believe that the movement stands for journalistic ethics (anymore, at least) but because of how their opponents lack any sort of self-awareness. Opponents of #gamergate claim that their opposition to the movement is to stop harassment and/or threats to women and minorities. Yet, as this video reveals, they will harass their opponents with doxxing and swatting; threaten them with violence; and attempt to incite mass murder with impunity in the name of ideology. People like them deserve savage mockery because they have no sense of irony. It is not just “social justice warriors” but humanity as whole, where groups refuse to turn that critical lens at themselves. It ties to what Rickman said about needing stories to tell us about who we are.
Despite how Flare and the world I created around him evolved beyond what I had intended as an indulgent self-insertion story, I was never able to completely separate him from myself. Perhaps it is possible that he is a facet of personality; I was a timid kid who never stood up for myself and instead retreated into fantasy to escape the bullies and taunts. Who is to say there is not an element of truth in that fantasy? After all, Aunt May said in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.
“I believe there’s a hero in all of us. That keeps us honest; gives us strength; makes us noble.”
Everyone wants to believe that they are the heroes of their own story and I like to believe that Flare is my heroic persona. He is able to be strong and brave when I cannot; he is brutally honest; and despite being an impulsive brat, he is still noble and selfless. The only times you comes out is when my fingers touch the keyboard. Men like Joseph Campbell have deconstructed the hero myth, which seems to have transcended the cultural boundaries that otherwise divide the human race. Stories are the one thread that ties us together as a species and it is for that reason that I write. Even when I feel distant and isolated, Flare is my way of bringing everyone else into my world where anything is possible.
I am a Sonic the Hedgehog fan and I am not ashamed of it, despite the fandom’s rather unpleasant reputation it has earned over the past few years. Allow me to make my intentions clear: this post is my opinion, which–for better or for worse–is largely influenced by nostalgia and sentimentality rather than objective analysis. I have no specific area of interest; I read the comic books published by Archie; I play whichever games I find appealing; and I am a fan of the animated series that aired on ABC back in the nineties. However, the original Genesis trilogy (I lump in Sonic & Knuckles with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 because they were intended to be one game) will always hold a special place in my heart. When I look at “Top XX Sega Genesis Games” list online, it usually comes to either Sonic 2 or Sonic 3&K. Both are awesome games in my books with colorful and vivid graphics that were an improvement over the original game (which was no slouch either) as well as memorable music and tight controls. But when it comes down to which game I prefer, I would go with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. While the first two games were iconic, the combine third and fourth games were an experience.
My affinity for Sonic 3 goes back to late January of 1994 when my family went to the Garden Island, otherwise known as Kauai, to escape the bitter Canadian winter. I recall visiting the Sears at Kukui Grove Shopping Center in Lihue (which has since closed, sadly) where I found Sega Genesis on display with Sonic 3 in the cartridge slot, the strange part is that it had a copy of the game running days before its official release date: February 2, Groundhog Day–make that Hedgehog Day. Though my 10-year-old self probably did not care, he just blasted through the Angel Island Zone and Hydrocity. Well, to tell you the truth, I sucked at the game at the time but it left an impression on me. It was part of a larger experience that included fun at the beach, parties with the whole family, and enjoying the verdant beauty of the island, which is part of the reason I asked for a Sega Genesis that Christmas–so I could get a copy of Sonic 3 to remember that trip in some small way. Unfortunately, that did not happen until eighteen months later until Mom bought me a copy of the game from a Kaybee Toys in Washington State though I do not recall the exact location.
Sentimentality aside, there other reasons why I preferred Sonic 3 & Knuckles to Sonic 2. In terms of graphics, the sprites where slightly more detailed with a gradient that made Sonic and Tails stand out better against the background, and speaking of which, the levels–The Angel Island Zone had quite a lot to live up too considering the Green Hill’s iconic status as the tropical wonderland. Personally, I preferred Angel Island slightly more. While I love the checkered landscape of the Green Hill, Angel Island seemed more more lush with its verdant foliage (the reminds me a bit of Kauai) with the mellow beat of the bongos. Emerald Hill, on the other hand, was a rehash of its predecessor whose background music lacked the “get up and go” of Green Hill. Another aspect that I like about Angel Island ties into another part I liked about Sonic 3. Back when I was playing through Sonic 3 in the Sears at Kukui, I (finally) reached the halfway point of Act 1 where the mini-boss descends from the sky. I try to hit him when a whole fleet of mini-bosses firebombs the stage. My thoughts at the time were probably this:
10-Year-Old Me: Holy $#!^!
Mom: Watch your language!
Something I believe many people overlook about Sonic 3 is that it was the first game that was trying to tell a story. The first two games broke the action when you finished a level or beat the boss by showing the title card for the next level and BAM! you are in the next level without the game telling you why. Whereas in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, after you beat the boss for each level, there is a reason why you ended up there and why you needed to be there. For example, after you beat Robotnik in Angel Island, Knuckles blows the bridge and Sonic (with Tails) plunge down a waterfall to Hydrocity. Similarly, in Hydrocity, after Robotnik runs away with his tail between his legs, a large jet of water sends the two flying toward Marble Garden and in the case of Sky Sanctuary, Knuckles takes Sonic and Tails there so they can catch up with and board the Death Egg. Momentum was always an integral part of the Sonic games and the story told in Sonic 3 & Knuckles gives the game a larger sense or momentum and urgency to it. Factor in the addition of the three shields (Fire, Lightning, and Water), the different gameplay mechanics of Tails and Knuckles, and the larger levels with more branching paths, the game feels like a more complete experience than its predecessors.
That is not to say the first two games are not as fun to play, they are every bit as entertaining. As an aspiring writer myself, I like it when the game attempts to frame a story around it without becoming cumbersome, and despite the comparatively primitive technology at the time, Sonic 3 & Knuckles performs admirably well, especially without using dialogue and letting the player’s imagination fill in the gaps. Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 simply do not engage me that way. I enjoy blasting through the Green Hill or Chemical Plant Zones as much as any Sonic fan. I plan to dust off my Genesis and play them again in the future but Sonic 3 will always be my favorite because of the impression it left on me.