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What do you think of dark themes in Sonic when they're done right?

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Games like Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic 06 have been widely criticized for their use of dark themes. Not because of how they supposedly do not belong in Sonic period, but because of how they're poorly handled. Resulting in some laughable moments.

On the other hand, Sonic SatAM and the Archie comics are widely revered across the fandom. This is due to them using their dark tone to make their storytelling and character development more interesting rather than the sake of being edgy. Not to mention they are a LOT darker than the games I mentioned above. Hell, even the Adventure games have more genuinely dark content than they do.

Personally, I love it best when it's a balance between lighthearted and dark content. Sonic Lost World for example goes into the lighthearted route WAY too far and it just ends up falling on its face.

So what do you think of dark themes in Sonic when they're used effectively?

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I love dark themes. What we need is a game where Sonic stops running mid-level, unexpectedly wresting control away from the player, and curls up on the ground. He begins quietly sobbing to himself as the camera slowly zooms in and the upbeat music begins to fade. As we get closer we can hear him muttering under his breath, "Why... why do I keep running... why, oh god why...". He closes his eyes. "All the lives that have been lost because of our little 'games'... the lives lost when Eggman shattered the moon that time... or when Eggman broke apart the crust, who knows how many were killed as they plummeted into the mantle... my god, Eggman almost nuked a city... oh god, why...". He begins to shake. "I think that's why I run... I'm not running in search of new adventures... what I'm really doing is running... from my guilt... from myself. I.... I can't do this anymore. I CAN'T LIVE LIKE THIS ANYMORE!"  

After a few tense moments, Sonic then stands up, collecting himself. He sniffs. "Alright, time to scramble some Eggman." The music resumes, and control is returned to the player. This entire moment has absolutely no bearing on the plot and is never brought up again.

 

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They almost inevitably feel out of place because they aren't built naturally from the main elements and themes of the series.

Gamma works because his story was an exploration of the "badniks" that have been part of the series from the start. It's an opportunity to see the series' usual conflict from a different angle and to explore how the whole animals-in-robots idea works.

the ARK incident doesn't work because genetically engineered bioweapons and military coverups are ideas that come completely out of nowhere and don't relate to anything in the series. The parts of it that could've been fitting, like the doppelganger-type rivalry between Sonic and Shadow or the influence that Gerald had on Eggman, are largely pushed to the side in favor of backstory and drama that really only relate to Shadow and are very unlike anything the series had done before.

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9 minutes ago, Diogenes said:

the ARK incident doesn't work because genetically engineered bioweapons and military coverups are ideas that come completely out of nowhere and don't relate to anything in the series. The parts of it that could've been fitting, like the doppelganger-type rivalry between Sonic and Shadow or the influence that Gerald had on Eggman, are largely pushed to the side in favor of backstory and drama that really only relate to Shadow and are very unlike anything the series had done before.

I don't feel like the backstory is really the focus of SA2 though. It's there certainly, but they're in the background for the most part; outside of Shadow's couple of flashbacks and Last Story. Hero Story has almost no reference to that material and Dark Story is limited just to the aforementioned Shadow flashbacks. The story is about Eggman trying to take over the world and Sonic and friends trying to stop him, for like at least 85% of it. And outside of the story you have a bulk of gameplay being devoted to the Chao Gardens, which are as far in the opposite direction as you can get. To balance the heavier aspects of the plot to make the game overall have wider appeal. Personally, I don't see how the ARK cover up is that tonally different from say the echidna massacre in SA1 or to go with a classic example, the concept and execution of the Bad Futures in Sonic CD. What makes the SA2 example really stand out is the use of humans rather than anthros, but I've never been keen on the argument that humans feel out of place in Sonic so.

1 hour ago, lulzers said:

On the other hand, Sonic SatAM and the Archie comics are widely revered across the fandom. This is due to them using their dark tone to make their storytelling and character development more interesting rather than the sake of being edgy. Not to mention they are a LOT darker than the games I mentioned above. Hell, even the Adventure games have more genuinely dark content than they do.

Much as I like SatAM and the Archie series, their use of more serious content is not universally appealing in the fandom. In SatAM's case especially it's a major point of contention with certain fans. ShtH I agree uses it's serious material on a purely superficial level (the use of profanity and firearms alone should make that open and shut), but 06's heavier elements are used with clear purpose and I don't find them to be unappealing. It's the overall morose and depressing atmosphere of the game that makes it feel out of place among Sonic's other stories. There are attempts at optimism and levity, but their brevity makes it feel unbalanced and ultimately un-Sonic like. While I feel SatAM and Archie do reach that balance, others don't.

At this point it's clear I think the elements in question can work in the Sonic series, but not when isolated from the more colorful aspects of the series.

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4 minutes ago, Scape said:

My rule of thumb is: if it's too risky for Ace Attorney, it's too risky for Sonic

well if forces is any indication then yes it should be left for non canon or to better writers.

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3 minutes ago, GentlemanX said:

I don't feel like the backstory is really the focus of SA2 though. It's there certainly, but they're in the background for the most part; outside of Shadow's couple of flashbacks and Last Story. Hero Story has almost no reference to that material and Dark Story is limited just to the aforementioned Shadow flashbacks. The story is about Eggman trying to take over the world and Sonic and friends trying to stop him, for like at least 85% of it.

It's not that the ARK backstory dominates all of SA2, but that when it does come up it's almost exclusively tied up in its own business. We never get any explanation or even hints for why Sonic and Shadow are so similar, we hardly hear Eggman talking about what Gerald meant to him, the heroes don't care about GUN being corrupt beyond how they're inconveniencing them at the moment, it's just this separate knot of issues connecting Shadow, Maria, Gerald, and GUN. The ARK incident itself is less a "Sonic" story and more a story that some Sonic characters shared an elevator with once.

3 minutes ago, GentlemanX said:

And outside of the story you have a bulk of gameplay being devoted to the Chao Gardens, which are as far in the opposite direction as you can get.

Tonally, yes, but it falls into the same trap of not really having anything to do with the rest of the series. Opposing tones don't necessarily even each other out, anyway; having a scene of Shadow promising revenge for the murder of his best friend be followed minutes later by him feeding and cuddling babies is kinda whiplash-y.

3 minutes ago, GentlemanX said:

Personally, I don't see how the ARK cover up is that tonally different from say the echidna massacre in SA1 or to go with a classic example, the concept and execution of the Bad Futures in Sonic CD.

The ARK incident operates on a much more personal level. We never see anyone actually hurt in CD's Bad Futures, and the whole thing is just possible futures that you canonically avert. And a bunch of mostly-nameless dudes getting wiped out by an angry water serpent (and one named character becoming a ghost) thousands of years ago is pretty abstract for both the player and the characters. Compare that to an individual person that we get to know (if only to a limited extent) getting shot, and one of the game's main characters having been her best friend, having been there when she was shot, and it still being an open wound that drives basically everything he does in the game.

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3 hours ago, Scape said:

My rule of thumb is: if it's too risky for Ace Attorney, it's too risky for Sonic

How about: if it’s too risky for Disney (or Dreamworks, etc.) it’s too risky for Sonic? Much more diverse and flexible for people to grasp.

As far as dark themes, it really depends on how you approach and style them. First things first: Blood and Gore, swearing, and elements you’d find in an M rated game are a no-no. Beyond that, everything’s fair game, although caution should still be exercised.

This really isn’t a matter of tone than it is a matter of quality crafting. For instance, the Paper Mario games after the first entry throws in millenia old demons and a secret society of scientists on the moon, which aren’t exactly something you’d associate a Mario game with; the third essentially throws in dimension hopping with a slew of new worlds, characters, and threats of multiversal annihilation that you really don’t see as anything Mario-like. 

Meanwhile, Forces actually sticks to a lot of things Sonic to that point while going darker and edgier. The only new things are the Phantom Ruby (which was technically in Mania) and Infinite, but aside from those it basically takes the usual plot of Eggman scheming to take over the world and (blandly) has him succeed. No gods or monsters, no conspiracies or realism, just you basic plot that was established since Sonic 1 taken to its logical extreme. You see giant Death Egg robots wrecking cities, and Eggman’s robots swarming the world, but ironically it actually does a poor job at being darker and edgier compared to the likes of SA2 or Unleashed which does things differently. I mean, there’s a reason why Chaos wiping out a whole city doesn’t bat an eye, yet the Black Arms invading caused a stir.

At the end of the day, Sonic is flexible enough to incorporate at lot of things into it, despite what some will claim. But it’s not a matter of just throwing Sonic with whatever random idea you have, mixing it in a blender, and expecting good results from it—if you want to throw in conspiracies, war, or genocide, you have to mold it to suit the style of the franchise. For instance, compare the realistic guns in ShTH to the cartoony, yet still destructive Wispons in Forces that could get the same job done as a ranged weapon, and that’s the contrast to be aware of.

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How are we defining "dark"?

Because I wouldn't consider most of the things cited in this thread as dark in any capacity, or not frequently enough to warrant defining them by this tone. If your definition of dark is "serious but censored and approximated for a child", I think there're bigger things worth discussing than whether or not Sonic should follow that suit.

This is a serious question, by the way. This is a topic and subject that's kind of near and dear to my heart, and I (generally, but not exclusively) vastly prefer darker stories over lighter ones, but I frequently feel like fandom doesn't really understand what they're talking about...usually because they don't have a lot of exposure to different varieties of art and stories. If you're citing Nickelodeon or children's cartoons as your immediate frame of reference for dark themes, maybe you're not really wanting darkness. You're asking for heavier concepts...but filtered and censored for a child, even though theoretically you're an adult (or, I suppose, a teenager bare minimum). That's somewhat troubling.

So, yeah. How are we defining "dark"?

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This is always framed as a tonal issue when that's not really the problem. There are Disney movies that cover themes of betrayal and revenge. A concept or theme isn't inherently associated with a certain tone or age range. There are comedies about murder and race relations and there's at least one serious mystery thriller about a high-schooler drawing dicks on a car. There's an OK-KO episode about Gun control. 

I'm not even sure why people consider the basic rebellion setup of SatAM "dark" when Star Wars is one of the biggest kids properties in the world and features the galaxy perpetually in a dystopian state. Are people equating themes and things happening with being "dark"? Is that why this discussion is so confusing every time it happens? If so that's kind of concerning.

Sonic Lost World isn't a bad story because it's "lighthearted". It's bad because it's not really executed well. It ends up falling flat in trying to say the few things it's even trying to say with it's story and it has almost nothing going in outside of it. The idea to put in jokes didn't do that. The attempt at lighthearted visuals didn't do that. All the mistakes are on the technical and execution side and not the conceptual side. I really wish we could move away from this whole "light or dark" thing. Tonal shifts happen within series or even within one story all the time. They're seriously not that big of a deal outside of hardcore sects of fandom.
 

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"When they done right". By very definition of this topic they work. Even if I though SA2 was bad, it would imply it wasn't 'done right'.

The way it's phrased it's kinda "patting yourself on the back" topic.

Also, I'm reluctant to use 'dark themes' world to describe what I want, or I'll get Eggman talking about eating Zeti heart next to jokes about mustache.

I would use terms like "treating characters with respect", "story with structure and arc", "sensation of intrigue, wonder, action, adventure".

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3 hours ago, Wraith said:

Consume more media.

This always feels like the most critical issue to me, as condescending and elitist I'm sure it comes across.

There's some (childish) logic to wanting your childhood love to have some element of heavier storytelling or themes (the validation that you were right all along in what you gravitated to, that even as a younger child you were a discerning mind), but it's mystifying to me that the desire for something heavier manifests in "God I wish my childhood favorite would grow up" and not just...seeking other things. Then again, I was a morbid kid, morbid teen, and morbid adult: my idea of seeking out heavier material was less wondering if my kiddie shows were capable of it and more just plucking a Marquis de Sade anthology and diving in. And if Justine isn't pitch black, I don't know what is.

I feel the biggest element of this conversation people feel the need to have over and over again is just the reluctance to move beyond their safety blanket. Which, if that's the case, how much do you really want or need darker material anyway?

That being said, there're a couple comments in this thread that're nagging at me, and I'd like to explore them in more depth.

10 hours ago, lulzers said:

This is due to them using their dark tone to make their storytelling and character development more interesting rather than the sake of being edgy

So, here's a thought: what's...exactly wrong with wanting to be edgy? The show referenced in my sig, Jam, is a sketch comedy written largely to be provocative and surreal mostly for its own sake. Intentionally tapping into a surreal, dream-like id to simulate a specific experience and to experiment with tonal dissonance in order to seek the real boundaries of comedy. It has no real thematic aspirations beyond really picking apart what its audience may or may not find funny.  I also think it's one of the greatest shows ever made.

Or, hell, what about the exploitation films of the 1970's? Faces of Death, Mondo Cane, Goodbye Uncle Tom...a lot of these films required edginess as its ultimate goal because the entire point was to relish in the harsh realities of the real world to shock and horrify a more pampered audience. The edginess WAS the end that justified the means: sometimes a work of art can exist purely to serve as a wake up call to its audience. I happen to think the original Faces of Death and Goodbye Uncle Tom are masterful, brutal pieces of art. I don't think they would've been improved with tact, restraint, or a need to not be edgy. Sometimes, edginess can be vital: particularly in times of social unrest or change, and you need something visceral and overt to push some aspect of reality or your point into the public view. 

10 hours ago, MadmanRB said:

No objections here, being the SatAM defender and all.

Plenty of good series with a dark theme but have good humor.

Voltron legendary defender and Avatar the last airbender come to mind

These shows aren't dark. Voltron: Legendary Defender is an introduction to war for children. Avatar: The Last Airbender approximates its themes for children.

Have you seen a real war film? Like a real, genuine war film? Something like Grave of the Fireflies or All Quiet on the Western Front? Voltron and Avatar are nothing compared to those. And someone will inevitably say, "But Sling, they aren't designed to be like that." And, yes, that's basically my point.

It just raises a question for me: if you're such a big SatAM fan, and you like the idea of darker material in your series...what is it about darkness that appeals to you where you seem to really enjoy it in the context of a show for children? Why do you like darker subjects being censored for you so it can be handled by a child?

I'm not trying to insult you. I'm legitimately curious.

8 hours ago, GentlemanX said:

ShtH I agree uses it's serious material on a purely superficial level (the use of profanity and firearms alone should make that open and shut)

But...that's just not true. At least, not the way you say it. What about profanity is inherently superficial? What about firearms is inherently superficial? You just present this as if it's an agreed upon fact, but it isn't. Profanity is a valuable, and powerful, tool of expression. There is an intensity to swear words that is not available in a lot of their synonyms: "damn" hits harder than "darn", and there's a reason "fuck" is the single most versatile word in the English language. The fact that profanity exists does not, in of itself, signal immaturity. 

I'd actually argue avoiding them is at least some sign of immaturity: a lot of their equivalents are designed, and here's that rub again, with children in mind; and most of the time, you try to avoid those words because you want to shelter children. I get that there's been this narrative in all ages kidvid fandom that artfully avoiding profanity or artfully dancing around needing to be visceral makes you more sophisticated: but some stories need that visceral element. 

To use a kid's show example, since that will probably be more familiar to the thread: Gargoyles absolutely benefited from the fact it was allowed to use real, actual guns rather than those "pesky laser guns" (to borrow Frank Paur's words) that other 80's and 90's cartoons had to deal with. GI Joe by contrast, a series about warfare and about soldiers, had absolutely no business being as sanitized as it was. Gargoyles committed to being a riff on cop shows, and while it obviously did not necessarily succeed as being an animated, urban fantasy Hill Street Blues, did absolutely feel like a better show simply due to the presence of firearms.

(It also doesn't really dictate tone either way: goddamn Brave and the Bold had realistic firearms, and frequently in its more comedic episodes. They don't dictate tone in any conceivable way.)

Which leads into my wider point. If you are doing a game about Shadow the Hedgehog's morality, there is no real reason not to have him bust a cap in a motherfucker. Sonic's entire character is about being pure id and wandering from place to place purely for the sense and thrill of adventure. If you want to do a game that tells a story about Shadow, who is theoretically a darker foil to Sonic, it does make sense that the content of his story would get a bit gnarlier. As much as I joked about it in another thread...yeah, sure, what exactly is wrong with a game about Shadow that happens to use real life firearms and profanity? Why do these, or rather, "the use of them alone" indicate a lack of maturity? 

I would rather elements closer to reality be integrated in a story that is meant to be about paying closer attention to repercussions. Shadow the Hedgehog didn't do it very well. At all. But I don't really find them conceptually wrong, and I certainly don't see these two things as inherent signs of immaturity.

Though Shadow the Hedgehog is such a hilarious b-movie of a game that hating it almost feels like someone just has a stick lodged as far up their ass as humanly possible. It is just fun in how goddamn serious it wants to be. I'll gladly take more cheesy dark. Give me that shit. Though that being said, I have no real interest in Sonic "growing up with me" or becoming "darker" in any conceivable way: if it were up to me, it'd basically be the Boom cartoon, but all the time. But I like the Pontac and Graff era stories more than most people.

Sometimes superficially "dark" shit can be fun. It's possible to enjoy, say, a slasher movie that has no aim other than to have a couple teenagers die like idiots in the woods for nothing other than the amusing nature of it. Something being superficially brutal and vulgar is not inherently bad, nor does rejecting this make you any more sophisticated. 

And as for meaning...well, pleasantly surprising when it comes up on the rare occasions it does, it's not really what I go to Sonic for. As I told SatAM fans on Bumbleking back in the far off, prehistoric hellscape of 2015 or so: If you want a dark story about animals and a political uprising, just read Animal Farm. There's even a cartoon!

4 hours ago, Wraith said:

Are people equating themes and things happening with being "dark"? Is that why this discussion is so confusing every time it happens? If so that's kind of concerning.

Very much so.

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I'm a firm believer that any story can work, or at the very least be interesting if given to the right writer.

For as much flack as they get, I love the stories of the Adventure games, Unleashed and the Storybook games. They're not perfect, but Merlina in particular is a great twist that's legitimately surprising your first time through. So yeah, if we got more of that, I'd be happy.

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1 hour ago, Singapore Sling said:

These shows aren't dark. Voltron: Legendary Defender is an introduction to war for children. Avatar: The Last Airbender approximates its themes for children.

Have you seen a real war film? Like a real, genuine war film? Something like Grave of the Fireflies or All Quiet on the Western Front? Voltron and Avatar are nothing compared to those. And someone will inevitably say, "But Sling, they aren't designed to be like that." And, yes, that's basically my point.

It just raises a question for me: if you're such a big SatAM fan, and you like the idea of darker material in your series...what is it about darkness that appeals to you where you seem to really enjoy it in the context of a show for children? Why do you like darker subjects being censored for you so it can be handled by a child?

I'm not trying to insult you. I'm legitimately curious.

Actually both Avatar and Voltron are very dark if you look at them thematically.

Both feature war, death, slavery, environmental devastation and even genocide.

Plus both have very deep storytelling such as dealing with family loss, political themes, character development via conflict and other such things.

When most people think of dark they think grimdark or the dark age of comic books.

I mean Shadow the hedgehog (game) is more on the side of the dark age of comic books, dark for the sake of being dark.

When I refer to as dark are things more like The Empire strikes back or The Dark Knight, both are great examples of Dark in terms of thematic storytelling.

Dark doesn't always just mean blood, guts, death, destruction, murder, rape and other such things.

Sure those things happen in such as stories like Watchmen, Game of Thrones and other such things but when you misread things and interpret as dark only just being just death and destruction then you get stories where debates heat up about them such as The Last Jedi or Batman V Superman dawn of justice (and controversy time I actually liked both those movies even though they have flaws).  Or even worse such as the dark age of comic books or movies like the Saw sequels.

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10 hours ago, Singapore Sling said:

This always feels like the most critical issue to me, as condescending and elitist I'm sure it comes across.

There's some (childish) logic to wanting your childhood love to have some element of heavier storytelling or themes (the validation that you were right all along in what you gravitated to, that even as a younger child you were a discerning mind), but it's mystifying to me that the desire for something heavier manifests in "God I wish my childhood favorite would grow up" and not just...seeking other things. Then again, I was a morbid kid, morbid teen, and morbid adult: my idea of seeking out heavier material was less wondering if my kiddie shows were capable of it and more just plucking a Marquis de Sade anthology and diving in. And if Justine isn't pitch black, I don't know what is.

I feel the biggest element of this conversation people feel the need to have over and over again is just the reluctance to move beyond their safety blanket. Which, if that's the case, how much do you really want or need darker material anyway?

I actually cut that part of the post because I felt it was too pretentious and too far removed from the main point of the topic.

I definitely think there's a problem with fandoms placing the unfair expectation their thing to "grow" with them as time goes on, but that's different than what the OP is actually talking about imo. He's really not asking for a whole lot if he's holding up SatAM, the later archie comis and SA1 as the direction he wants the series to move in. That's basic action series fare that Sonic was on for most of it's run. 

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You know. I anticipated this exact response.

This exact one. Almost to the letter. That's how predictable this issue is.

Alright, let's break this down. But before I do, I should preface this post: there is obviously nothing wrong with enjoying media for children, regardless of what it is. I am a cartoon addicted gooberchild, and I also feel like current cartoons are written in a way that make them wonderful introductions to certain concepts for their target audience. Children are spoiled with thoughtful entertainment.

 That's not what this is. My specific beef is trying to parade your childhood loves like they're actually adult and deep all along, which is always full of utter garbage.

This is also not, necessarily, an exact response to OP's post either. I think OP's off base thinking ANY aspect of Sonic could really come off as having a "dark tone", but y'know, credit where credit's due, OP's mostly asking about personal taste. They're not really insisting on some intellectual high ground.

11 hours ago, MadmanRB said:

Actually both Avatar and Voltron are very dark if you look at them thematically.

Both feature war, death, slavery, environmental devastation and even genocide.

Plus both have very deep storytelling such as dealing with family loss, political themes, character development via conflict and other such things.

Yeah, dude, I guess I have to be the one to break it to you: these aren't dark shows. And yes, I have seen (and liked!) them. That's why I referenced war films when bringing them up; I was asking, as you praised these war stories for children, if you'd seen war stories like Grave of the Fireflies or All Quiet on the Western Front. Because I knew that Avatar and Voltron were, more or less, war or at least war adjacent stories. But we see how well that went.

I have a lot to say about how you swerved around those two works, but I'll get to that later.  It also says a lot to me that one of your "deep storytelling" techniques is just "Character development via conflict", as if this is somehow not the most bare bones, basic thing a story can do.

Nothing you cite here is inherently darker than anything else because of one big thing: they are censored and approximated with children in mind. This is all done in a context where the child audience is directed to both acknowledge the presence of these things but to then be cushioned from its harshness with colorful characters, wacky asides, and goofy comedy. This is not made for "tonal balance", like you seem to think: this is specifically done because these concepts are being introduced to a child audience, and the conventional wisdom is that children require humor or general brightly tinted optimism to be able to cope with learning about harsher ideas.

That is the purpose of this "good humor." It doesn't exist to create some kind of human element or some more "balanced" tone; it certainly can do that, but that's not the case here: these exist to make these concepts cushioned and censored for children. 

You know dark works that feature all the stuff you say Avatar and Voltron have, but are actually made for adults? Grave of the Fireflies. All Quiet on the Western Front. Men Behind the Sun. Philosophy of a Knife. Salo, or 120 Days of Sodom. Saving Private Ryan, which leans way more into inspiration porn territory (cuz, well, Spielberg) but still qualifies. Or novels like The Good Earth, The Grapes of Wrath. Stuff that wasn't designed to cushion its audience and instead presented the harsh realities of its subject with, well,  a very harsh and visceral honesty that things like this deserve. As an adult, or, hell, even as a teenager or young adult, there is no good reason to insist you be coddled and cushioned in the same way an eight year old would be. 

I can't tell how interested you actually are in the subject matter of these shows, or if you're just thrilled that you can still watch shows made for children and found a way to make yourself feel more intelligent while doing so.

11 hours ago, MadmanRB said:

When most people think of dark they think grimdark or the dark age of comic books.

I mean Shadow the hedgehog (game) is more on the side of the dark age of comic books, dark for the sake of being dark.

I strongly disagree with this. Because when you say "most people", you're just thinking of other cartoon and comics nerds. I know when I, and plenty of other people, think of "dark" I think...well, stuff like David Cronenberg, Lars von Trier, Todd Solondz, and any murderer's row of creators like that. There's way more stuff out there than just your genre fiction, and not everyone has the same frame of reference you do when it comes to tone and its purpose.

And y'know, you mention the dark age of comic books...but y'know, that stuff isn't really entirely bad. It is entirely possible to just have fun with things like that. I unironically enjoy the HBO Spawn cartoon and one of my favorite things it ever does is just adapt the Overtkill character, who is literally named Overtkill. Overtkill is a 90's action figure robot man the mob hires to kill Spawn. And his brief appearance in that show is one of the most amusing things I have ever seen. Sure, that sort of visceral, surface level fun is blazingly and unabashedly adolescent...but still loving kid's cartoons somehow isn't?

It really sounds like, after all these years of fandom, the people who cling to their kid's cartoons as being genuine meaningful, dark explorations of the human condition are just really humorless. But that can't be right.

11 hours ago, MadmanRB said:

When I refer to as dark are things more like The Empire strikes back or The Dark Knight, both are great examples of Dark in terms of thematic storytelling.

Both of these films were designed to sell toylines aimed at a children. The Dark Knight, I would agree, is a very good movie and one of my favorite superhero movies in particular...but its entire superheroic thing really does round about to it being way more bittersweet, if anything, than most of the crime films it's taking inspiration from. It's still very much a superhero/pulp approximation of crime stories, making adjustments accordingly to somewhat soften the reality of its premise in favor of the fantastical.

Likewise, The Empire Strikes Back is not only nothing a child can't handle...its renowned cliffhanger ending is the bare bones, basic ending that the old pulp serials Star Wars took inspiration from (after all, Star Wars began as an idea to adapt Flash Gordon). And those cliffhangers, that will-the-hero-get-out-of-this-one gumption were written for...

...wait for it.

You see where this is going?

Children.

I mean, goodness, this is the cliffhanger that got immediately softened by a more wily Luke Skywalker and a surviving Han Solo because "Kids won't want Dead Han toys." That sort of pulp serial storytelling, with the heroes in perilous danger with seemingly no way out, is a massive, iconic staple of children's entertainment. Empire has a great cliffhanger, and is a great movie, but...I'd never call it dark. Never. Because it's not. It's a children's adventure story, with the classic ending that ensures you'll see the heroes again in their next story.

You really sound like you just want basic drama, not actual darkness.

12 hours ago, MadmanRB said:

Dark doesn't always just mean blood, guts, death, destruction, murder, rape and other such things.

Sure those things happen in such as stories like Watchmen, Game of Thrones and other such things but when you misread things and interpret as dark only just being just death and destruction then you get stories where debates heat up about them such as The Last Jedi or Batman V Superman dawn of justice (and controversy time I actually liked both those movies even though they have flaws).  Or even worse such as the dark age of comic books or movies like the Saw sequels.

It says a lot to me that you didn't address the actual war stories I'd presented to you and dove immediately into more genre fiction. I could get the Game of Thrones comparison at least, but your outright refusal to acknowledge anything outside of your genre bubble is the most telling to me.

And yeah, The Last Jedi isn't "dark." I've seen it. I'd call it boring more than anything else, but I legitimately don't get how people think that movie is dark. I mean, there's a loud, obnoxious comedy beat like every seven or so minutes. It is a viciously jokey movie constantly undermining every single emotional concept it has. I can't speak for Batman V Superman, as I have not watched it, but...it's still a movie with Superman and Batman in it made for a mass audience with a merchandise base aimed at children. I would not be surprised if it was largely "child's approximation of dark", which, for whatever reason is the only kind of dark you seem to praise. The one that cushions and coddles you.

And for the record, since you reference Saw, there're "torture porn" films that're thematically dense or meaningful that require that brutality. Martyrs (French version only) is a brutal, haunting story putting humanity to task for its obsession with the afterlife. The first American Guinea Pig film is an incredibly violent film with next to no "character development" but is a tonal art piece about the nature of religious redemption and how we rationalize how hatred for others in a way to maintain our moral integrity. Hell, there's a short film just called Elephant that is just a series of non-sequitor scenes of people being coldly shot in their day to day life that, with time, has only become frighteningly more and more relevant. All of these require blood, guts, and all those things you and other nerds like you seem to think are lesser or below you. Sometimes, it is absolutely necessary to do those things in stories, lest you risk losing the punch and power of your subject matter.

So again, I ask. It's just a simple question: why do you want to be talked to like you're an adult, but censored as if you were a child, and why do you not think these two things are contradictory?

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Okay fine Avatar and Voltron are no Saving Private Ryan and its clear to me what you define as dark is more along the lines of War movies.

But even as kids media both do a great job at showing one can have dark themes in shows aimed for children.

You seem to define dark as something only for adults, with bringing up Salo kind of points to me that you really think that without rape, torture , death, blood, guts, people eating feces or whatever it cannot be dark.

Nonsense.

One can be dark without entering human centipede territory

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I mean there is a fucking MULAN which portrays things like WAR and GENOCIDE in the most gritty and depressing way you can hope for a children's movie - why there is so much annoying bitching about such themes presented in Sonic games from some old, boring as math class teachers, elitist classicuck boomers? Oh, hey, I've just accidentally answered my own question!

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3 hours ago, MadmanRB said:

 

You seem to define dark as something only for adults, with bringing up Salo kind of points to me that you really think that without rape, torture , death, blood, guts, people eating feces or whatever it cannot be dark.

No, my point is that what you are defining and praising as having deep, dark themes are shows that explore their concepts with the intent of introducing their most surface level aspects to children.

It's like the difference between Beast Machines and Caprica. Both shows are, effectively, about the same thing (cold, religious epic novels serialized across multiple episodes dealing with the trauma of immortality and reincarnation as two warring sides attempt to build a new afterlife). I happen to love both. But I would not, say, recommend Beast Machines with "Hey, you'd love this show, man, it's really dark." Because to an adult, it isn't. It explores its themes, concepts, and characters in a way that are streamlined, cleaned up, and approximated for a child. I happen to think it does so very well and is a well written show, but I would not push it as a particularly dark show in conversation with an adult because it is, by design, a softened, introductory version of its concepts.

And the reason I bring up rape, torture, death, etc. as being vital in this context is because you are bringing up war stories. Voltron and Avatar are stories set during or against the backdrop of war. And you wanna know what happens during war? Rape, torture, death, blood, guts, people eating feces and whatever else. I was only bringing concepts to the table that your examples opened up. Because, no, as an adult, I wouldn't think to praise a wartime story for its darkness if it avoided the grand majority of visceral effects of war and made a point to have dorky, wide eyed and loud cartoon characters as its leads to soften the blow of its harsher elements. I would think that it could be praised for saying these things in a way a child can wrap their head around, but you don't seem to be doing that.

And again, I adore Avatar. I happen to think Last Airbender and Legend of Korra are some of the best cartoons in recent years. I love both passionately. But Avatar: TLA is not a dark show. It takes certain concepts and, with a lot of sophistication and craft, streamlines and softens them so they can be an introduction to children about those concepts. So I don't really get the logic when you decide to say "No, see, Voltron and Avatar, are very dark, they deal with genocide!" But then you back pedal the moment works that actually, viscerally deal with the concept get brought up.

It would be one thing if this was just "I think these are well written shows that introduce these concepts to children in a way they can handle." But your first instinct when questioned was to dig into how deep, how dark, how sophisticated they actually are. You were praising war stories for not being needlessly violent.

War stories.

Do you see the fallacy here? Your praising of dark children's material feels less like sophistication and more like there's something more prudish going on, here. Trying to talk to someone else like these shows actually have very deep, involving themes for adults is a misnomer: it is possible to enjoy children's media (as I do without reservation), and anyone should love what they love. 

You praised Voltron and Avatar for depicting genocide and then, in the exact same post, lamented the fact people associate darkness with violence. Do you see where an outside observer may find your priorities to be a little skewed, here?

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23 minutes ago, G.U.N. Commander Radinov said:

why there is so much annoying bitching about such themes presented in Sonic games

I think its more on the lines of packaging and presentation, Forces, Sonic 06 and Shadow the hedgehog (game) failed spectacularly at being good dark stories all thanks to improper execution and terrible storytelling.

Especially Forces, sheesh it had so much potential in terms of its plot only let down by the piss poor execution.

As for you Singapore Sling what i am trying to say that just because something is for kids doesnt mean it cannot be sophisticated.

I consider Avatar incredibly sophisticated, a work that goes being just being for kids thanks to its complex mythology, good storytelling and character development.

As an adult i can appreciate those themes even more as the show becomes more than just a kid fighting off some evil fire powered baddies to a show with deep rich themes that an adult can enjoy as well as kids.

As for how it relates to Sonic I will have to point out there are a lot of Sonic fans who like Sonic for its more kid friendly nature and cartoonish approach to things and there are people who are alienated when Sonic attempts to do something darker both good and bad.

For some people the Sonic Mania adventures are the best Sonic cartoons as they are pure silly and in tone with what they think Sonic should be while there are other like me who long for the SatAM days where one can use dark themes in a world of colorful cartoon animals.

Then stuff like Shadow the hedgehog (game) or forces happens and you get a big heaping mess of conflicting opinions on how Sonic should be as a franchise.

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What ever the case may be, I think what really needs to be established is this: Sonic fans asking for more teeth or edge to the stories aren’t asking for Sonic to turn into something like Grave of the Fireflies, Warhammer 40k, or Call of Duty...for the most part at least—can’t deny that there are folks out there who would love to see that. They’re not necessarily asking for Sonic to become this visceral, grimdark franchise that betrays how he’s seen than they are asking for Sonic to become the equivalent of say, Megaman X to Classic Megaman upon itself if that makes sense.

Sure, they might look at things outside the typical threshold of what he has done, but they want the franchise to do so without sacrificing the style that makes him Sonic. Kinda like how Unleashed has real world inspired locations, yet it still stylistically matches Sonic.

It’s understandable that the definition of what is considered “dark” might differ, but at the very least when they make comparisons of Sonic handling these things in the same manner as Voltron or Avatar that people understand that discrepancy.

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Dark themes work when they are self contained for characters built to have dark mature context as characters. Folks like Shadow and Omega work in their own stories while rouge plays both light and dark sides for example.

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Conquering Storm’s Servant Exactly, when I say I want Sonic to go to more SatAM territory I mean I would appreciate more dark and complex themes rather than just "good guy blue hedgehog vs Evil egg shaped mad scientist" and while SatAM is flawed its as close the franchise ever got to stories seen in Avatar or Voltron.

Because when its done in the main series the results are mixed, even in Sonic adventure 2 where most mainstream fans point at as the height of Segasonics storytelling but it still falls short of some of the deeper episodes of SatAM, heck Sonic X in its third season came very close here but its up to you if you want to call it canon or not.

For me its clear i dont care about what is canon or not, especially when the main canon is so fundamentally broken.

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