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

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12 minutes ago, MadmanRB said:

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.

But SatAM doesn't really have "dark and complex themes". At all. It literally is just "good guy blue hedgehog vs. evil egg shaped mad scientist" except in a generic dystopian setting. It's like the most basic rebels vs. evil empire story, watered down even further to tie in to a mascot platformer franchise for nine year olds.

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21 minutes ago, Ivo the Coldsteel said:

But SatAM doesn't really have "complex themes". At all. It literally is just "good guy blue hedgehog vs. evil egg shaped mad scientist" except in a generic dystopian setting. It's like the most basic rebels vs. evil empire story.

There are a few episodes though that were very deep.

Ultra Sonic

Sonics nightmare

Warp Sonic

Sonic Conversion

The Blast to the past two parter

The Void

Spyhog

Cry of the wolf

and Doomsday project

 

Some really well written (for the time) episodes

 

Especially Ultra Sonic, the feels man

 

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5 hours ago, MadmanRB said:

There are a few episodes though that were very deep.

Ultra Sonic

Sonics nightmare

Warp Sonic

Sonic Conversion

The Blast to the past two parter

The Void

Spyhog

Cry of the wolf

and Doomsday project

 

Some really well written (for the time) episodes

 

Especially Ultra Sonic, the feels man

None of that stuff is any more "deep" than what you'd find in a typical 80s action cartoon.  Bad guy goes after mcguffin, good guys stop him.  Some good guys get captured, the others (well usually Sonic) save them.  Doomsday Project is no more special than a "Technodrome gets sent to another place" episode from the 87 TMNT.

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Dude in Ultra Sonic we had Sonic try to save his uncle from slavery only to fail

In Sonics Nightmare we learn that Sonic can have fears to overcome

Warp Sonic and Cry of the wolf did show the effects of how Robotniks tyranny are effecting things beyond the Robotroplis and Knothole

Sonic Conversion has a very subtle theme of man vs machine

Blast to the past shows that no matter how we may want to change the past we cannot

The Void depicts a bloody hellworld

Spyhog comes dangerously close to Uncle Chuck falling back under the control of Robotnik

Not to mention the near end of the world in Doomsday.

 

You have some good themes here, sure they are not too complex but still are quite more than they seem.

Especially roboticization, my gosh talk about dark.

 

I actually say the roboticizer is what really makes things really bad, its a fate worse than death.

Uncle Chuck really relies into the story that when you are roboticized you really have no control over yourself.

You are trapped within your body watching yourself slave away without any way to fight it, you are just a tool and nothing more.

Not to mention the process itself is rather horrific, having your body be reshaped into metal and circuits and then when everything is done you have no free will of your own.

That right there is nightmare fuel and is far worse than anything seen in most typical saturday morning cartoons.

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At first, I though it was "dank themes", so I was pretty confused.

 

Personally, my opinion is that darker theme in an overall light toned franchise adapted to children are a good things. There are ton of franchise that do that : Ace Attorney (games are often pretty wacky and fun when they need to be, but the inherent concept of the franchise make it deal with darker theme), the latest few Fire Emblem (even Awakening, that is often seen as one of the least dark FE game, had pretty serious themes), the Legend of Zelda, Paper Mario, etc. So, for me, many series that aim for children are able to deal with "darker", more serious theme. I could also talk about cartoons, stuff like that (Avatar : the last Airbender have already been mentioned). The fact that they are adapted for children doesn't make the thematics less serious or less interesting, and I think that having thoses kind of themes are also important in children stories (especially as these thematics often exist in the real world and the real life of the children, so it helps their construction to reflect them in the culture they'll have access to). Therefore, I think that having darker theme in Sonic can be great, no problem for me with that.

And to be frank, sometime the "but it's just a blue hedgehog that runs pretty fast" annoy me. I mean, in Paper Mario we always have a Plumber with jumping as a trademark ability… in paper. The reasoning of something not being able to tell some kind of story just because the first appearance is "cartoony" or "not serious" really seems to me… pretty shallow, tbh.

 

But I don't feel that they are *always* necessary too. Dealing with them is great, but i think that for this franchise, story-wise the most important is the overall writing of the characters. A great part of this fandom is built around the characters, and I feel that not writing them well is really a disservice for the franchise, and it's even more important than the tone of the story, or its complexity. One exemple I have is Lost World. Honestly, the story isn't less complex than Heroes', Rush or the Advance one. There are many stories in Sonic that are straightforward, without having a really "dark" tone. The biggest difference is that there is more humor, but mostly how the character react. What I've seen the most in Lost World criticism is how Sonic seems to dismiss Tails' feeling, how Tails reactions to that seems exaggerated, how the D6 doesn't have real personalities. Another exemple, even if here the opinion is more mitigated (I'm really not sure of how this word is written lol), many people seems to really like the IDW comic-book even if the story is really simplistic. Most often, they praise the character writing.

Of course, I'm not talking for everybody : I know that they are people that want Sonic-only, that prefer darker-tone stories, etc. I'm just talking about most of the reaction I see when I search stuff on several networks.

 

But, my point is : Dark themes can be useful for Sonic's stories, but I feel that they are just an element of the story, as it's a franchise built mostly around characters.

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On ‎9‎/‎25‎/‎2018 at 1:33 AM, Diogenes said:

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.

I sort of agree, since you mentioned the ARK case, yeah that introduced a bunch of elements that don't fit Sonic. Although I'll defend Shadow, not his backstory, because he is supposed to be Sonic's opposite, the other face of the medal, so in that he is perfectly fine.

In general? Not really, Sonic can have dark themes that fit well if the tone is balanced, like cartoony monsters in Unleashed, and humans who are possessed when the night comes, the Werehog was also a nice idea that had bad gameplay and execution. But I liked the themes of Unleashed, night and day. Adventure 1 also had a nice tone. It's just the Shadow baggage that felt forced, and all the Sonic '06 mess.

It's case by case. Lost World tried to have more meat but failed, and it was still fairly light hearted. The Storybooks were great, nothing to say about that, even then they were quite dark. Forces is about war... but it's not so gloomy, the tone isn't, maybe a bit too serious but I wouldn't say dark.

So yeah, SA1, Unleashed and the Storybooks had better themes, tone and storyline for me, they are the best in the series. In response to the thread: I think Sonic can have dark themes just fine, even death could fit, because it's just a natural part of life, also being dark, why not? We already have dark characters.

Then if you want to take reboot Archie or IDW comics, those are the best media, because... well, they are competently written.

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11 hours ago, andrewtuell1991 said:

None of that stuff is any more "deep" than what you'd find in a typical 80s action cartoon.  Bad guy goes after mcguffin, good guys stop him.  Some good guys get captured, the others (well usually Sonic) save them.  Doomsday Project is no more special than a "Technodrome gets sent to another place" episode from the 87 TMNT.

While I think some episodes did okay touching the base of some emotional plot lines, I think my bigger issue with SatAm was not so much the premise but the fact it sometimes felt like it was trying to insinuate far more depth and grittiness than it really had. Robotnik did not look competent enough to keep control over the planet for over the decade, Uncle Chuck did not look like someone who has been stuck in a state of living death as his lackey in all that time, barely anyone but Sonic and Sally was important to the plot despite this ongoing theme of unity between the hero band, the comic relief, like in many of the darker games, was extremely juvenile and caused mood whiplash, and the characters somehow knew not to really care much about the 'red shirts' that got robotised.

 

Concerning the games, I think it's not only this air of pretentiousness and EVEN WORSE writing, but also that they don't even rely much on the franchise's themes as a base, as already stated. In many games Sonic and co almost feel like aliens because the creative team have deemed better to completely retool the universe into some sort of gritty anime world or sci fi horror, so much that Sonic X's premise borderline makes fun of it. SA1 was more forgivable because it was obvious the anime backdrop was more a cosmetic and the bulk of the story actually revolved around the mythos of the original games, while for the SA2/ShTH and Next Gen arc it's the other way round, with Sonic's cast almost visitors in a completely different world. Basically the Storybook series and Sonic X, but it's not an explained part of the plot, they just had to alter the entire universe to make the story tone work.

Some other interpretations suffer the same issue like STC and the earlier Archie series, you could tell the writers had less intent on bringing Sonic to life and more making their own completely different world which happened to have some of the games stuff here and there.

 

I think a problem with the theme of 'darkness' is that some writers too often connect it with the approach of being morbid and grim in storytelling approach, killing off characters graphically, constant angst and breakdowns, robbing the whole universe of anything remotely cute or happy. That in itself can end up a corny cliche after a while, especially when written badly. Dark can be far more subtle in terms of narration. 

For example there is almost never a Winnie the Pooh story that doesn't keep the same extremely light hearted and whimsical approach to family audiences and kids, but some works like Pooh's Grand Adventure and The Tigger Movie and the recent Christopher Robin are considered valid attempts at being 'darker' works, largely for being more serious character studies that put the cast in more graver but still cartoony situations that don't betray the original aesthetics too much. In other words still developing on the original light hearted material but giving it more emotional weight.

I feel like even Lost Worlds, in spite of it's more cartoony atmosphere and villains, could have acted as such (at least relatively to works such as Colours and Generations) since it seemed to be trying a more thorough character study than the stories recently before and toying with the idea of Sonic and the others being more flawed and on the losing end, the main problem was that the whole thing was written and executed in a very slapdash manner. Forces tried it a little less awkwardly, but lacked nearly any depth and emotional weight.

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4 hours ago, E-122-Psi said:

Concerning the games, I think it's not only this air of pretentiousness and EVEN WORSE writing, but also that they don't even rely much on the franchise's themes as a base, as already stated. In many games Sonic and co almost feel like aliens because the creative team have deemed better to completely retool the universe into some sort of gritty anime world or sci fi horror, so much that Sonic X's premise borderline makes fun of it. SA1 was more forgivable because it was obvious the anime backdrop was more a cosmetic and the bulk of the story actually revolved around the mythos of the original games, while for the SA2/ShTH and Next Gen arc it's the other way round, with Sonic's cast almost visitors in a completely different world. Basically the Storybook series and Sonic X, but it's not an explained part of the plot, they just had to alter the entire universe to make the story tone work.

I think the greatest problem with the games' writing lies in the writers not putting a lot of faith in what should be the central theme (Sonic vs Eggman) and instead piling on other stories and sidelining the main plot to the point where it feels like Sonic and Eggman are strangers in the games' stories along for the ride.  Ancient echidna civilizations and government conspiracies are nice and all but what does any of that add to the ongoing conflict of a blue cartoon hedgehog fighting a silly mad scientist and his army of Happy Meal Toys?  That's not to say other characters and plot threads outside of Sonic and Eggman but they and their conflict shouldn't feel a sideshow, it should be treated as the main event.

 

How many characters and/or their backstories were fleshed in their premiere game and/or follow up game?  Knuckles, Shadow, Blaze, Silver.  Now compare that to the main duo where Sonic's backstory is still one big question mark, we have only vague snippets of Eggman's history via his relationship with Gerald, and even the Chaos Emeralds still don't have a definitive origin story.  Hell, if Sega insists on dragging us back to Green Hill Zone over and over again at least tell us who built those totem poles!  I'm not saying Sonic and Eggman have to have super-detailed origins or even reveal how the whole conflict began but if Sega keeps the central core on par with your typical Saturday morning cartoon (and there is nothing wrong with that option, it's my preferred option, I'm just saying...)  than the rest of the mythos has to follow suite or the core will look boring and undercooked by comparison.

 

What I'm trying to say is Sega needs to decide if they want to be your typical action cartoon where character's motives are Looney Tunes level, backstories exist only in the broadest of strokes, and stakes don't matter too much because everything resets next week anyways.  Or if they want to dig deeper into the characters and mythos not unlike what a lot of cartoons do nowadays.  Both are equally valid options so long as they're well written, but there needs to be uniformity.  If I'm expected to treat Sonic, Eggman, and their conflict as typical cartoon-y shtick, then why should I give a genuine shit about Knuckles' dead ancestors from 4000 years ago (how does he exist again?), the ARK incident, Silver's infinite dystopias, or Sally's daddy's kingdom being tricked by a guy so blatantly evil-looking he'd need horns, tails, hooves, and a pitchfork to be more obvious?

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People keep saying Paper Mario got dark and I legit have no idea what they're talking about.

Granted I only played the first two.

Did I miss something or is this just another "I interpret the vaguest sense of drama and bittersweetness as darkness" thing, cuz I remember Thousand Year Door even brought the fucking computer back to life.

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Dark themes not only in Sonic but other franchises are totally fine when they are well written with the right tone. What I don't like is the immature sense of "dark" and "serious" that some people at Sega have. Games like Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic 06 try so hard to be dark, epic and complex that end being accidental comedies. Shadow saying "Damn" everytime he dies is not mature, Sonic Team. Just childish.

Even Sonic Forces, a title that balances dark and light themes well (IMO), suffered this. Infinite's reaction to Shadow calling him "weak" literally made me burst into laughter. Yes, this character that was hyped as the ultimate threat to Sonic cries like a little girl because someone called him weak. How tragic. If this moment was supposed to highlight his backstory with the Jackal Squad and flaws as a character, it was horribly done.

 

 

 

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On 9/26/2018 at 2:11 PM, Singapore Sling said:

People keep saying Paper Mario got dark and I legit have no idea what they're talking about.

Granted I only played the first two.

Did I miss something or is this just another "I interpret the vaguest sense of drama and bittersweetness as darkness" thing, cuz I remember Thousand Year Door even brought the fucking computer back to life.

Probably hinging on the overall aesthetic of Thousand Year Door. Honestly that's an issue with discussing dark themes in general; I think. Surface level dark motifs can get in the way of moments that are flat out darker. On a surface level the Storybooks aren't nearly as dark as Shadow or '06 appear, but they end up tackling personal themes in a mature way. Well, I suppose in Secret Rings it's mostly subtext but still.

You don't view Thousand Year Door as dark, and I don't view Shadow as dark. It has a dark aesthetic but is mostly immature with it.

Similarly I think SatAM is often praised for the wrong reasons.

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I'm glad you asked because I was actually in the middle of giving my own takes on your episode choices.

 

On 9/25/2018 at 3:09 PM, MadmanRB said:

There are a few episodes though that were very deep.

Ultra Sonic

Sonics nightmare

Warp Sonic

Sonic Conversion

The Blast to the past two parter

The Void

Spyhog

Cry of the wolf

and Doomsday project

On 9/25/2018 at 9:06 PM, andrewtuell1991 said:

None of that stuff is any more "deep" than what you'd find in a typical 80s action cartoon.  Bad guy goes after mcguffin, good guys stop him.  Some good guys get captured, the others (well usually Sonic) save them.  Doomsday Project is no more special than a "Technodrome gets sent to another place" episode from the 87 TMNT.

 

I hope you don't mind but I'm going to go ahead and defend some these episodes with what I hope is a little more resilience.

Ultra Sonic is about spending one last good day with a loved one. I can see that theme having real world applications in say dealing with elderly family with deteriorating health. You know if you squint or have a thing for symbolism. Sonic does not cry often in most of his characterizations, but he bawls at losing Chuck again.

Warp Sonic, I've touched already in the anniversary topic, but Griff is not a black and white Saturday morning bad guy out to steal a mcguffin, he's jaded and just looking out for himself and his own people, and that causes him to double-cross our heroes. He reminds me of Knuckles honestly. Despite that Sonic (who doesn't owe this guy a thing after what he did) hears him out and lets him off the hook. Probably one of my favorite decisions SatAM!Sonic ever made.

Blast to the Past (part one) Opens by sending a bunch of red shirts to their death (or robotization details, details). The whole catalysis for this time traveling adventure is Sally's guilt because of that. Now I have to agree these red shirts are the flimsiest of plot devices, (unlike Cat was in Sonic Boom who had more build up), but Sally's takes their loss hard none the less and we feel for her.

Those are the important themes to me.

(Understand I'm a SatAM fan too!) ;)

Nightmare I'm less than appreciative of and think it's prime example of the show biting off more than it can chew. Sonic becomes paralyzed with fear and the resolution is... everyone yelling at him to just snap out of it? They don't address the root of his fear. Maybe this could of worked better in a modern series where this could of been a setup that they pay off in a later episode but that's what we got.

and this isn't really a 'dark' theme but I like that Sonic has more of a paternal dynamic with Tails than his usual older brother role.

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43 minutes ago, Cuz said:

Nightmare I'm less than appreciative of and think it's prime example of the show biting off more than it can chew. Sonic becomes paralyzed with fear and the resolution is... everyone yelling at him to just snap out of it? They don't address the root of his fear.

Perhaps but Sonic having a moment of fear is still at least something, Sonic in most media is fearless and rarely shows emotion so seeing Sonic afraid is very refreshing

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Eh, I feel the show rung ample emotion out of Sonic, with better execution, in other places like Uncle Chuck and Cat as stated. I like what they were trying to do I just think they failed the landing.

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Even for those they had some foul ups. Unlike the red shirts in Blast to the Past, Sally isn't remotely bothered about him, even more glaring when she still had time to rescue him, and the fact he got captured SACRIFICING HIMSELF for her. I get they were meant to showcase her desire to find her father but I think that would have been an ideal moral dilemma for her, choosing over a long cold but existing glimmer of hope for reuniting with him or to be a proper leader and go back for one of her team. The fact she isn't even that desperate about THAT and the gang wastes so much time making one liners and banter is even worsening. It's like they know not to work themselves up for Cat since he's a one shot and even Sonic laughs it off in the end.

It's a shame as that could have been a truly poignant and tense episode, with the team frantically juggling trying to regroup and save a lost one and looking into a potential link to getting the king back....but failing at both (I think this 'dark' tone is something I question about SatAm since so much was wasted on Sonic and Sally's cheesy snark and Antoine's buffoonery).

Uncle Chuck also worked as a plot device for Sonic, but as a character himself he felt lacking. His background was just him being an idiot ball holder that let Robotnik get the means to doom the world, and the ridiculously nonchalant way he explains his state of living death for over a decade just looks laughable.

I think failure to amount to emotional weight they wanted to insinuate has been an ever lurking problem with the 'darker' Sonic stories throughout all medias. They have all these dark undertones and plot twists, but they have them within a cast that fail to care or show enough emotion besides making cheesy lines.

The only one that maybe successfully carried it fully was Cosmo's death in the original edit of Sonic X but even then only for Tails (it kinda shows why it's not always best to try reach such a level either, since it crosses the line from emotionally poignant to downright uncomfortably distressing). It's annoying because I don't buy into the idea that only dark gritty narrative can bring out emotion and poignancy and trying to a more subtle approach would possibly mean a more successful execution.

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4 hours ago, E-122-Psi said:

Unlike the red shirts in Blast to the Past, Sally isn't remotely bothered about him, even more glaring when she still had time to rescue him, and the fact he got captured SACRIFICING HIMSELF for her. I get they were meant to showcase her desire to find her father but I think that would have been an ideal moral dilemma for her, choosing over a long cold but existing glimmer of hope for reuniting with him or to be a proper leader and go back for one of her team.

True Sally was too absorbed in finding her father, but Sonic being visibly concerned and making attempts to save him was enough of a through line for me.

4 hours ago, E-122-Psi said:

Uncle Chuck also worked as a plot device for Sonic, but as a character himself he felt lacking. His background was just him being an idiot ball holder that let Robotnik get the means to doom the world, and the ridiculously nonchalant way he explains his state of living death for over a decade just looks laughable.

I think that's putting undue weight on Blast to the Past while ignoring much of what he did to make up for it in the future. He doesn't just get fired from his job and neglect to purge his accounts, he becomes a covert spy and constantly showcases a selfless nature by jumping right into missions at the cost of his own freedom. They could of spent Ultra Sonic working out how to make his freewill permanent, but he won't stop for it. When he does have permanent freewill he still doesn't stop. It's as if he's working himself to death to make up for it.

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Sonic laughing it off at the end of the episode felt off to me though. I get they maybe wanted to end on a higher note, but that just felt like him shrugging off the loss after a brief moment of being sad (which is sadly more than Sally and Antoine give).

And I think it's more the way Chuck and King Max left dangerous artillery out willy nilly for anyone to take in the first place that feels more like plot device stupidity.

And again, Chuck laughing about how he's been stuck sentient but unable to do anything for ten whole years just looked dumb. They could have easily just left it at brainwashing and it would have felt more believable, but no they wanted to make for grimmer implications in a stupidly bland way.

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Big Old Ivo is the least interesting he has ever been in SatAM short of Sonic Forces. He's obviously meant to be seen as a terrifying force of darkness corrupting the world ala Sauron, but he's not really an effective villain in the present day as opposed to the past and doesn't have AoSTH Ivo's excuse that he's supposed to be a joke. He doesn't have the nuances to his character that were intoduced in the later comics or even in Underground. He's more or less a Captain Planet Villain, befitting the 90s.

I haven't seen anybody praising SatAM ever address how ineffectual and uninteresting the lead villain is.

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I think some of the Classic games can be dark tonally. I find Titanic Monarch pretty menacing due to it's dark art design and music. I feel the same about elements of Sonic 1 and CD. Sonic 3 sometimes too, with the Lava Reef 3 boss as the prime example.

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17 hours ago, E-122-Psi said:

And again, Chuck laughing about how he's been stuck sentient but unable to do anything for ten whole years just looked dumb. They could have easily just left it at brainwashing and it would have felt more believable, but no they wanted to make for grimmer implications in a stupidly bland way.

I actually think its quite horrific personally.

Not being in control of yourself, not having any will of your own sounds terrible.

Brainwashing is a too common trope, this actually feels worse.

Even the cybermen have it better because they can act on their own without a cyber leader or controller (sometimes) but take a borg away from the collective and it doesnt know what to do with itself.

Even in the case of Hugh the borg really dont think for themselves, and as for 7 of 9 she was a special case due the borg using her as their mouthpiece

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17 minutes ago, MadmanRB said:

I actually think its quite horrific personally.

Not being in control of yourself, not having any will of your own sounds terrible.

Brainwashing is a too common trope, this actually feels worse.

Even the cybermen have it better because they can act on their own without a cyber leader or controller (sometimes) but take a borg away from the collective and it doesnt know what to do with itself.

Even in the case of Hugh the borg really dont think for themselves, and as for 7 of 9 she was a special case due the borg using her as their mouthpiece

Yeah, but Chuck did not remotely look victim to something so horrific. Same for anyone derobotocized in the comics, since it was supposed to an enforced happy ending.

It's wanting to do something nightmarish but with none of the emotional weight and development that is meant to be put into it. It's no different from English Sonic Forces shoe horning in claims of Sonic being tortured and Tails having a nervous breakdown just to look darker but the story still having no signs of such things occurring.

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