I AM GOD DADADA DADA!
You're a sonic fan! *points* You're a sonic fan! *points at another person* You're a sonic fan!
Welcome to the first entry of my little new side project, How They Should Have Wrote, where I rip off Adam Blampied and go over missed story opportunities and explain how I would do them better, because I'm a smart ass.
Alright, Sonic.exe. Perhaps the worst story of all time. It is terra-bad. An absolute mess of cliches and plot-holes and idiot main characters and weird things out of nowhere that just makes you want to strangle the entire story violently with a piece of dental floss but I digress.
Now, instead of going over the story critic-wise like I would, I'm going to do things a tad bit differently - I'm going to give a general run-down of the story as a whole and divide it into its core parts, then point out how I would've written the story if it were me who came up with the idea.
Alright, the story begins with Tom, the main character, going on about how "I'm a big Sonic fan like all of us because the only people who exist are Sonic fans! Look at my Sonic fanboy-ness! Aren't I a big Sonic Fan?!" when he gets a letter from his best friend who he hasn't seen in two weeks. This best friend, Kyle, sends him a CD labeled 'Sonic.exe' and tells him to destroy it. And what does Tom do? "Oh my best friend told me to destroy this and NOT to play it?! Better play it because I'm a big Sonic fan!" And everything goes down the shitter from there.
Well, he pops it into his computer and WHAT DO YOU KNOW? The game is haunted with glitchy screens, hyper-realistic cliches and tons of POINTLESS, violent fun. It's great, right?! Tom ends up playing 3 different characters - Tails, Knuckles, and Eggman... for some reason... - who all end up breaking the fourth wall and dying because Sonic is possessed without any explanation as to why.
Tom gets off, he has a nightmare about the game, then finishes playing it because our main character is not the brightest cookie in the box. The game knows his name, puts a plush doll on his bed and the story... ends. Just like that. Was... JC trying to be ambiguous despite implying earlier in the story that Kyle was already dead or dying or...?
Alright, let's get started. First thing is first, we're going to avoid cliches as MUCH as possible - that's actually quite difficult to do since this is a haunted video game, but we are going to try. However, we are definitely throwing out the 'hyper-realistic' and '666' things. First, 666 can't work in this story. It's there for shock factor. Nothing more, nothing less. There's not really anything religious in the story unless you count the whole 'I AM GOD BA BABA BABA' thing. Hyper-realistic only creates Art-style dissonance and therefore doesn't do anything creepy - it only makes it harder to imagine and draw in the reader. We are also getting rid of the black eyes - for two reasons.
One, because we're splicing Sonic from Sonic.exe. They are separate characters now. Completely different from each other. And two, because we have to have the characters play the game, and realistically they are not going to continue playing if the game is just that... out there. We have to make things in the game fairly mundane for a little while until we are in the prime position to pull the characters' free will away from them and force them to continue.
Next, we need a factor of unpredictability. Basically, kind of a SAW or NES Godzilla style thing - a win condition or a way out. Something to hook the reader into sticking along for the ride because it's just... well, boring to watch someone play a game that will inevitably kill them and that they are definitely going to lose.
And now we get to Kyle. In the original story, he was just a plot device - just there to get the plot started and expose just how stupid Tom is. Great friendship there, buddy! Because everyone sends their best friends haunted discs, am I right?! We're going to upgrade him into an actual character. This way, we can develop Tom as a character and hopefully feel sympathy for his plight and all the little things he's gotten himself into. We are going to make Kyle a sceptic - he's never had anything to do with the game (except for a small detail we'll get to in a moment), in fact, he's not even a Sonic fan. He doesn't care for it at all and doesn't even watch Tom play it. Keep that in mind because it is important later.
Now, this is where things become difficult. See, the game itself - which we'll get to in a moment - is easy to deal with. There are TONS of ideas and material to work with. How he gets the game is not. Remember, we're trying to avoid cliches but we also have to make things as normal as possible. Garage sales are out. Gamestop and old game shops are out. This is a classic Sonic game so it's not something you're going to randomly find in a Wal-mart $5 bin. So, we do like the original and make use of Kyle.
Now, I get what you're saying. 'Hey, Tot! Why would Kyle - Tom's BEST FRIEND - give him a haunted game?! This will be as bad as the original!" Bear with me - Kyle doesn't know it's haunted. He is a sceptic but he's not the kind of person to go out and get his friend some bootleg copy. No, instead, he hunts down what he believes to be an actual copy of the original Sonic game - meaning no Knuckles in this one - for the Sega Genesis. Because he is Tom's best friend, knows he likes Sonic, doesn't know the game is haunted, and BOOM. What originally was a stupid plot device becomes a gift for a friend that can become fuel for a fire later. And yes, I realize that kind of makes the whole "Sonic.exe" make a little less sense since we are porting it to the console but bear with me.
As for the game itself, the game is the monster. It plays absolutely normal throughout almost all of the story - only dropping subtle hints that something is wrong. As Tom gets a little further in, things start happening in real life. Nothing quite out there like a friend dropping dead or a mysterious plushie - more just contrived coincidences that border that line between paranormal stuff and accidents. No one gets injured or dies - we want to make the game focus solely on Tom (at least for now), making his life a living hell and toying with him until it has had enough. Now, as for our win condition, the only way out is to clear the game. The important part here, though, is subtlety. We don't want Tom being a straight-up MORON, but we do want him to be the only one who knows something is wrong. We want him to know that he has no other option but to play the game and play it through.
We have only one problem remaining - any normal person would destroy the cartridge. Remember, we want to avoid the cliches as much as possible. So, we'll have Tom attempt to destroy the cartridge, and we'll once again use Kyle TO SCREW EVERYTHING UP. Such a great friend he is! Tom destroys the cartridge at some point, but then Kyle ends up finding the cartridge and giving it back to him, good as new. This is... well, a little cliche, but we're going to use it as more fuel to the fire between Kyle and Tom's relationship.
All the core parts are set, so let's move on to the story. Our story begins on Tom's birthday. Our Sonic-loving Lord Voldemort receives a gift from his best friend and college roommate Kyle: A brand-used copy of Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Genesis! Tom loves Sonic and is a huge fanboy, so he, of course, goes off to play it after thanking Kyle. We're going to show it, though, not tell it. His room is decorated with loads and loads of Sonic paraphenelia. T-shirts, plushies, certain games, even a bookshelf with the Archie comics series.
Now because Tom has a life, he doesn't complete the entire game in one day. It's an absolutely normal experience where he plays through a couple of the levels and then heads off to do things with Kyle - things like not playing games Kyle tells him explicitly to destroy. That said, for the next couple of days, Tom plays through a few more levels and starts to notice small little out-of-place details. Maybe, say, a moved platform or slightly - very slightly- off-color backgrounds or something to the effect that kind of clues things in for the reader but can also be chalked up to coincidence. Realistically chalked up to coincidence.
Now, college finals or some other exam start coming up a little into the story. Why? Because now Tom has to study. This story is something best dragged out over the course of days or weeks, maybe even a month or two, so we need something like an exam to slow Tom's rate of playing the game. There are even going to be some days he just doesn't play the game. In addition, it offers a bit of a segway into putting the coincidences into real life. Since the 1991 Sonic the Hedgehog only has 8 zones with 2 acts each if I recall correctly, playing the game too quickly will kill the idea of mundanity.
Naturally, these coincidences start to stack up as he plays the game less and less. And after a while, Actor-with-the-last-name-of-Hanks starts to get blamed for them. We're talking knocking over vases or pictures, making small little messes all over the floor, just inconvenient things. Eventually, Tom starts to notice how these things began to happen when he started playing the game. So, he stops playing altogether and just hopes that it will go away until the game ups the ante - furniture starts getting destroyed, things are getting vandalized, all this different, much more serious stuff.
From this point forward, Magnum PI's mental state begins to deteriorate, as does his relationship with Kyle - at least further than it already has. Remember, Kyle is a sceptic. He sees Tom blaming the game for all of these different things and thinks he has gone a tad bit coo-coo for Coco Puffs. Combine that with the stress of everyday life and things start going nowhere fast.
Eventually, the whole thing boils over and Kyle and Tom from Tom and Jerry have their falling out with Kyle saying "You're always blaming that game that I gave you for everything! Take some responsibility you ingrate bastard! Da-dada-dada!" and Tom saying something like "I'm telling you it wasn't my fault - you have to believe me! This game is haunted! Blah blah blah!" Of course, Kyle doesn't believe him and tries to move out. This is all after Kyle has given him back the cartridge that he attempted to destroy right around the time things started to get serious.
Now, the only days where the real-life stuff doesn't happen are days where Tom actually plays the game, and the longer he waits, the worse these events get. Afraid that someone is going to get hurt, Tom decides to play through the game. When he does, everything is different. Colors are darkened, the music is gone, at best maybe replaced with a slow organ, kinda like you'd hear in church. Eh. Now, the game doesn't start speaking to him, it starts speaking to Sonic. It mentions all of these different worlds that it has visited, all of these things it has destroyed, and even throws in the 'I AM GOD' thing if that's how you prefer it. Now, we've gone full on out there because Tom has realized he has no choice but to clear the game. Now, the game, like any self-respecting paranormal demonic-force thing knows that clearing the game is a bad thing on its end. So of course, it tries its damndest to stop that-actor-from-Mission-Impossible from clearing the game.
It starts adding random and new stages, starts putting enemies and puzzles where there weren't any before, lowers the number of rings Tom can get and basically makes it the most frustrating experience it possibly can.
Finally, the frontman for the Heartbreakers reaches the last stage, and what do you know? It's been replaced by an empty, small room. Large enough to fill the screen, small enough to have little operating room. On the top of the screen is what appears to be an 8-bit version of... guess who? Kyle. Now, finally, we see the game take a form inside of... well, the game. The 'final boss' has arrived and it is a... Cthulhu-esque looking thing. Now, Tom nor Kyle get injured during the boss fight. Nothing happens in real life to Tom if he dies. Tom can die, and he does. Multiple times. As he does, he starts to notice things becoming much, much different. Pounding on the walls, ringing in his ears, as if every time he dies in the game, part of his sanity begins slipping with it. In addition, Tom has a limited time thanks to Kyle having been sucked into the game, since Kyle is still human and can, in fact, DIE while he's in there if Tom takes too long.
Let's make it clear that the game banks on people playing it, not clearing it. It wants you to play it as long as possible so that it can toy around with you and drive you insane. We could add a few more interesting sub-threads here, but the important part is that Tom has to clear the game in order to win.
Eventually, that-guy-who-played-Agent-K-from-Men-in-Black beats the boss, Kyle appears in the next room, a little shaken up but unscathed and the two reconnect their friendship after the game is confirmed to be cleared. The cartridge doesn't disappear, nothing like that, but instead, when it's loaded up: It becomes a normal version of the 1991 Sonic the Hedgehog game. The two finish their exams, they do their things, and the demon thing is basically defeated.
Yeah, we could go into more detail with the demon thing. Perhaps make it something that hops from universe to universe or perhaps some kind of Eldritch Abomination connecting the realms of reality and fantasy. There are numerous possibilities for what the being is, but a weird looking version of Sonic is not one of them. As for the whole title thing, you could say it's Sonic.pak, maybe?
Either way, that is how I would have wrote Sonic.exe. Probably not the best thing, but it's an approach that slides more towards an NES Godzilla style experience which ultimately fits this kind of story a lot better than 'LOOK AT THAT, IT'S EVIL SONIC!' You could probably buff it up a little, maybe raise the stakes some, maybe change up the climax, I don't know. If you want to, go ahead and tell me how you would do it. I'll gladly
never read it ever read through it with a cigarette and some coffee.