Have you ever encountered a character that made you think “Wow, they could have handled them better!”? Or “They should have taken them in this direction”. Comics, films, anime, video games and really, every kind of media has its fair share of characters like this, characters that simply weren’t handled well. But this begs the question, are they salvageable? If we re-worked them a little could have a good, even great character? I’m here to answer that question. My name is Tayze Jackson Bell, and welcome to character creator.
Sonic the Hedgehog. The long running game series of… mixed opinions between critics and general audiences alike. And the center of a lot of these divisions is 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog, otherwise known as Sonic 06. This game had a lot of… controversy behind it… to put it nicely. And far from anyone’s favorite part of the game was one of the new characters introduced, Princess Elise.
Our damsel here caused plenty of distress through her appearance and role in the game for a lot of fans. Most descriptions you’re going to hear from fans will probably have the words “useless” or “cringy” somewhere in the mix. And not without good reason, but is this character entirely without potential. We’re going to study and deconstruct her character and development, role in the story of 06, and the overall positives and negatives of her character, and when we’re finished we’re going to put her back together, hopefully into something substantially better than what we started with. So, let’s begin.
I figure the most logical starting place would be her character, personality, etc. SO if I were to sum up Elise’s personality in one word, assuming compound words are allowed, I’d say... nonexistent. I figure I’ll just say this outright, Elise’s personality comes down to two basic elements of her character, she is a princess, and she is in love with Sonic, more on that second point later. When the character is first introduced to us we’re not given much insight into her character, she smiles and waves at a bunch of superfluous background characters, has a weird and kind of cryptic vision of Iblis, this games monster of the week, and then lights a big torch, immediately followed by her being rescued by Sonic from Eggman, and you can get used to that “being rescued from Eggman part”. Because other than two… rather infamous, scenes from the end that is LITERALLY ALL SHE DOES!! Okay okay, there are, hints of a character behind her outward appearance of a personality vacuum. There is… supposed to be an arc to her character. At the very least it’s implied there… I think. Best I can tell the idea behind this arc is about Elise being more confident, looking at the first cutscene of the game, when Eggman shows up, Elise’s initial reaction is to pull back and protect the size changing chaos emerald around her neck (while on the topic, why would you ever keep a chaos emerald anywhere near you unless for world saving purposes? That is just asking for a good, old fashion princess kidnapping!). I feel like that, coupled with her hesitant response when first meeting Sonic is supposed to indicate to the audience of her more timid demeanor. I suppose going for a more subtle route to try to get this idea across is commendable, too bad that it’s so subtle I’m not even sure if that’s what they’re going for! IS that the secret here, is Elise just such a subtle character that you have to guess a make things up for her to have a personality… genius… pure genius. Now compare that to a later scene where, after being rescued by Sonic for the four hundredth time, she gives, what I suppose is supposed to be a snippy remark about how they lost their pursuers. *insert scene here*, but again, if that is the intent, it’s such a subtle thing that most people would be hard pressed to notice between the groaning and crying. However if we look at another sce- *insert girl, princess scene*. Oh… her character was about her not being able to be herself because she has responsibilities that we never see her do and stuff. Well alright then.
I’ll be honest I’m running out of stuff to say here because there’s just nothing to talk about until we get to her overall role in the narrative. But, how exactly would we go about fixing this?
Well first of all we need to establish two characters, who she is at the start of the story, and who she is at the end of the story. Once we establish these two foot holds, we can then connect them with the proverbial red thread known simply as… the arc. So first let’s build her character at the start of the story. Now going on the particular line of character development I had brought up earlier, our early game Elise is going to be timid, unsure of herself, pretty much scared of her own shadow. Making her like this will allow us to show a clear progression of her character as we go through the events of the game. Now of course we need something to communicate this to the audience quickly and effectively, without just having another character explain it to us, because that would be dumb. This, of course, brings us to the opening celebration, where Elise is about to be crowned. That’s right, as opposed to the relatively non-descript “Solaris festival” which really has no real baring to any of the characters or events in 06, we’ll instead have this scene be Elises’s coronation, now make sure you’re paying attention to this, because this part is vital, our Elise is not princess, but rather, Queen Elise. This will be important, trust me. Now the scene is going to play out, relatively as normal, but when we see Elise, she’s not waving all smiley and daintily, she’s nervous. She’s clearly barely holding up a smile, maybe waving a little too fast, and is overall clearly uncomfortable with her current surroundings. This will of course play into the Iblis vision, but we’re going to handle that differently as well. While she’s desperately trying to keep her head straight, we will allow the audio to do some work, allowing the sounds of the crowd to slowly build, we’ll start making the jumps between different things, such as the crowds, the priest guy, etc, all become more rapid as Elise starts looking back and forth more frantically, and nervously as she begins to feel more panicked. And now we have the important part of the scene, a very, and I mean VERY brief flash of Iblis’ eyes over her own, the crowds combust into fire, along with the boat, the people on the boat, the priest, everything, until she is surrounded by nothing but flames, this will serve as one, a metaphor for her current state of mind, as well as foreshadowing for things later. Basically everything after that is the same, but with her new personality in tow, she’s snapped out of her trance by an assistant, nervously fumbles over to the spot where she is to be crowned, Eggman attacks, you know. Now with how we handle Eggman’s initial attack is a little different, in the original version we had Sonic save Elise, and then she immediately gets kidnapped again. We’re going to cut out the middle man and simple let her be kidnapped right from the get go, and have the first level of the game Sonic rushing off to go save her… which he does. None of this, level for the sake of a first level, YES I’M TALKING TO YOU WAVE OCEAN! From here Elise is going to be staying WITH Sonic for the majority of his journey. And yes, I realize I just made at least seven of you involuntarily vomit with that last sentence, but bare with me.
Now then, since we’ve gone over her introduction, I won’t be going into nearly as much detail for the rest of the character portion and will just skim over the important moments for her story. Firstly we have her kidnappings, now in the original Elise was kidnapped at least six thousand times, so I think we’re going to cut it down to three, and we will use these as bench marks, or progress markers for her character development. With her initial kidnapping she is frozen in fear, simply cannot do anything out of sheer terror and is taken without a fight, which means Sonic has to save her. With her second kidnapping we can show her fighting back a little, or at least attempting to get out of the situation and run, just something beyond stand there and just kind of... let it happen. Ultimately she’ll be taken by Eggman again and Sonic will have to save her, but it’s clear progress. Finally we have the third kidnapping. Eggman comes in, tries to take, but this time she fights back, maybe even puts up a worthy effort, and when she finally is kidnapped, she doesn’t wait for Sonic, she gets her own damn self out of there! She isn’t saved by Sonic, just rendezvous with him. This shows a clear sign of progression. Of course we need to have all the in between stuff to show how she gets to each of these points, of course we already went over the opening, but after her first rescue we show her, at first nervous around Sonic, and maybe even a little put off by his relaxed and carefree mentality, which would be in direct contrast to the strict, prim and proper lifestyle that she grew up around. Over time however we can show her growing more accustomed of him, and even growing to be rather fond of him. After her second kidnapping we can start showing her having more of an admiration for Sonic, growing to appreciate heroic and relaxed nature, as well as starting to even imitate it a little in her interactions with others. At this point we can also have her start to open up more to her new friend. After her third kidnapping we can show her acting more casual around Sonic, having come into her own more. I also said that the whole queen aspect would be important. Not only being crowned the new queen, but right when a bulbous scientist wants to use you to awaken some ancient death monster, serves as a lot of stress for the character, with her, as the story progresses, opening up to Sonic about, maybe not even wanting to be queen, but really just wanting to be a normal girl with a normal life. This allows us to take the character full circle, starting with her reluctantly taking on the role as queen, maybe even thinking about dumping it on someone else, to the end of her story where she accepts her new responsibility with a sense of pride and dignity, having learned from Sonic, while also coming to her own conclusions about life.
So with all of that out of the way, we’re able to build Elise’s end game character. Our new endgame Elise is smart, confident, adventurous, and more relaxed. All the while she has a better understanding of the people she’ll be ruling, and has a much firmer grasp of her responsibilities. She’s collected and level headed, but not above having a good time. She’s still a little brash and even emotional, but she’s grown more focused. She’s not perfect, but she’s come a long way.
So now we’ve gone over Elise’s personal story, but now we’ve got to talk about her role in the greater narrative. How she fits into the mains plot of the game, as well as how she interacts and affects the other characters within the world she inhabits.
Now Elise inhabits a rather strange spot in 06’s story. Most of her scenes are in Sonic’s story, and by that I mean her story, because other than some stuff in the final story, Sonic doesn’t do ANYTHING with any bearing on the main plot. You see, Elise’s role in the plot is as a romance between her and Sonic, this, and I use this in the loosest possible terms, sub-plot completely takes over Sonic’s story, where everything happens, happens because of her, most of the character interaction is between Sonic and Elise, and overall it’s very Elise centric. This serves as a point of contention for a lot of people, but not so much for the romance, no it more has to do with this actually being one of the single worst written romances ever! We’ve gone over how flat Elise’s character is, but Sonic really isn’t much better in 06, being written as a damn near personality-less “I’m the good guy” kind of character. It has the heroic nature to it, but not the attitude. There are moments of that, but they’re so few and far between that they barely register. What this results in is Elise and Sonic having the chemistry of a piece of wood, and a bowl of pastrami, their interactions are stilted, their dialogue bland and meaningless. I wouldn’t even mind if there was a romantic element, JUST WRITE IT SO I CARE!
That is not, however, her only role in the game, as explained in Silver’s story, she has Iblis, the monster of the week for 06, sealed inside her by her dad… because she was the closest I guess. So there’s this whole thing where Mephiles, the main villain of the game, is trying to kill Sonic so that Elise will cry and release Iblis. On a side note, Elise has known Sonic for like… what? A day, maybe two? Most of that time is spent kidnapped, so let me ask you this, how sheltered must this girl have been for her to cry at the first person we see show her any kindness in the game. Though we never see it, it’s implied she didn’t even cry over her own father’s death, and she was a little girl at the time! What, did he beat her with spiked bats off screen or something? And yet when this guy dies, the water works start. But I digress, on a narrative level, Elise holds about as much importance as the chaos emeralds, a Mc.Guffin, with no other purpose than to keep the story going, as evidenced by her many abductions. She is here so the writing team didn’t have to come up with any kind of interesting reason for the plot to actually get moving… so how do we fix this?
The first thing we’re going to do is scrap the romance outright. I know I said earlier that I didn’t really have a problem with there being a romantic element, but truthfully it’s really unnecessary for our story. Her and Sonic’s relationship is going to be that of a close friendship, which we will watch grow as the story progresses. The kind of friendship we’re going to work with is one based on mutual respect. She respects Sonic as a hero, selflessly sacrificing himself for the good of others, and he respects her as a monarch who, despite her apprehensions, cares about her people and wants the best for them. This allows us to approach their interactions differently than we would with other characters. Where with Tails Sonic treats him like a younger brother, and he and Knuckles have a bit of a friendly rivalry, Elise can serve as someone whom Sonic can perhaps open up to, if only just a little. Let’s go back to that one scene, you know, the one with the flower pedals and the tree, yeah that one. Instead of Elise going on about her getting to be a normal girl while she’s repeatedly kidnapped and dragged around by a giant blue hedgehog, she instead starts talking about her fears of becoming queen of Soleanna, expressing how she’s not sure if she’s ready, and if this whole Eggman debacle will cause people to lose faith in her for not being able to properly deal with it. Sonic, instead of… not really doing anything, tells her about the pressures of being considered a hero by so many, and how, if he had things his way, would just like to keep running or something like that. This allows us to show their friendship through interactions, and give the relationship some actual depth beyond *insert Sonic’s “just smile” scene*. Yeah… that…
Now of course we also need to talk about the other side of her character, her connection with Iblis. Now I think having Iblis apart of her character is rather important, as ties her directly to the main plot and gives her a purpose to be a part of the events of the game beyond just having Princess Peach syndrome. We are however going to expand on the connection between her and Chaos, hot and spicy flavor. So let’s bring this back to the events of fifty years ago when Elise’s father died and Mephiles and Iblis were created. We see in the original scene when Solaris is about to overload, Elise’s father shields his daughter from the explosion with his body, saving her but dying in the process. Well in our version both of them die in the blast just before Silver and Shadow arrive. And in his last moments after you play Silver’s level, Elise’s father seals Iblis in her body in order to save her life (it’s a more logical thing to do than putting the flaming death monster into his living daughters body!) Now, instead of Iblis being sealed within Elise, she is Iblis… kind of. Throughout the game Iblis shows no real signs of intelligence, it’s just a force of destruction, as such it wouldn’t be unreasonable that if forced into the body of a host, it would adopt the personality and memories of said host. This gives her an increased connection to the events of the game, which allows us to do more with Mephiles, the aforementioned main villain. Now, not only does he want to awaken the powers inside of her, but he also needs to get a hold of her to combine and form Solaris. This also allows us to expand on his character, since he’s so obsessed with this women, he’s developed this twisted sense of love towards her, or something like that. Mephiles could serve as the topic for a couple videos, so I think we’ll cut things off there for now. Now back to the whole Iblis thing, let’s flash forward to the final story, Sonic has been killed, which causes an emotional reaction which releases the full power of Iblis and Mephiles fuses with her, creating Solaris who wipes out most of reality. Now instead of Solaris just being a really sporting destroyer of the universe and letting the group of people who have the best chance of stopping him around, along with breathable air, etc. We imply that Elise is still fighting Mephiles, thus getting across all that character development that she’s stronger now, no longer just bending to the will of whoever happens to snatch her up. Another thing, and this is important, Sonic isn’t dead, because really that was bad fan-fic levels of “ugh”. But now we have the super sonic battle, you see with the change of making Elise Iblis, as opposed to just having Iblis be inside of her, it gives this final battle some personal weight, not just for Sonic, but also for the player. We’ve spent time with this character, gotten to know her, see her grow and change. And now we’re fighting against her, desperately trying to save her, while also under the pressure of saving the entirety of reality. And making it clear to the player that they may not be able to do both. Finally the battle comes to a finish, the final blow is struck, and everything goes black. Now for the ending scene, we basically need to change everything, but that would take a while, so I’ll just summarize, Sonic manages to save Elise, but in order to ensure Iblis is never a threat again, she needs to sacrifice herself, which will intern remove Mephiles from the equation as well. Though at first hesitant, she sacrifices herself, willingly being erased from existence, the world reverts back to normal, leaving our heroes victorious, but not quite triumphant. The game ends on a bitter sweet note as Sonic runs by a parade taking place, with Elise on one of the floats, they make eye contact, but she doesn’t seem to remember him. The game ends on a bitter sweet note as Sonic runs off into the horizon, the screen fades to black, and the credits start rolling.
Now then, we’ve covered the bulk of what I was going to talk about, but we’re not quite done yet. Just briefly I’d like to cover how we’d changed Elise as far as application to gameplay. Now I’m sure you all recall that there were a few levels as Sonic where you had to carry Elise with you to the goal ring. Nobody I’ve talked to likes these levels because having Elise with you limits not only your speed, but also certain abilities you’d otherwise be able to perform. She’s a burden, and in general no fun to have around. So instead, we’re going to take a different approach to her. Instead of having Sonic carry her, she’s going to follow him, similar to what Tails would typically do. But just having that would be mostly useless, as such we’re going to give her some tools so that she can actually be of use. Since our Elise is Iblis, she can do things relating to that. We can give her that flame shield she could do in the game, and have it work, more or less the same, but we’re going to add to that. Based on the button pressed she could give a speed boost, some kind of fire based attack, etc. As you progress through the game you can upgrade those abilities, giving the player some added investment in the character, so when you have to play a level without her, for instance one of the three times she’s kidnapped, the player is drawn into the severity of the situation, as not only is she a character we’ve been spending all this time with, but we’ve also lost an asset and we want to get her back. And while we’re on the topic, let’s bring things back to when Iblis is first fused with Elise and Silver needs to take care of her. After the ritual happens she wakes up and Silver needs to get her out of the building, giving her a limited version of her abilities she’d have in Sonic’s story, giving that level a different flavor than Silver’s other levels. This also give an opportunity for that flash back of Silver in the opening scene to make some sense, since in the original game she actually wouldn’t have seen him at any point since she was unconscious while Silver was even there. But I digress.
We can also touch, very briefly on her design, I hate how she looks in the game, but I don’t really have good ideas for how I’d change her design, and I can’t draw anyway, so… spend a couple minutes on Deviantart or something and I’m sure you’ll find something neat.
In conclusion. The changes we’ve made to Elise have ranged from giving her a more distinct personality and arc, a more prominent, and yet less distracting role in the story, and more of a purpose gameplay wise. But this is just how I’d change the character, the direction I’d prefer to take her if I had things my way. So I turn the question to you, what would you do? Is it similar to mine, completely different, do you just think I’m a prick and Elise is your favorite character? Talk about it, let me know. And if you have a request for future episodes comment below and let me know.
With that said, my name is Tayze Jackson Bell, and stay classy my minions.