Classic Game Review: Shadow the Hedgehog

(Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2 and XBox)
by: “Tiger” Oliver

Shadow the Hedgehog, our favorite (and only) emo anthropomorphic hedgehog, debuted in Sonic Adventure 2 for the Sega Dreamcast in 2001 and re-released on the Nintendo GameCube just under one year later. After his success in SA2 and the surprisingly mediocre Sonic Heroes in 2003, it wasn’t too long afterward until he got his own game.

Thus is birthed one of the most screwed up games in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise.

This game goes deeper into the storyline of Shadow the Hedgehog than did the two previous titles. It takes place a whopping 50 years after Shadow was created by Dr. Gerald Robotnik (not to be confused with Dr. Eggman, who was originally named Dr. Ivo Robotnik) aboard the space colony ARK, with Shadow left with amnesia after the events of Sonic Adventure 2. Whilst pondering his exisence, a red cloud of destruction covers the sky and aliens drop out, destroying everything in its path. The aliens are led by a benevolent master by the name of Black Doom, who had struck a deal with Gerald Robotnik to use his DNA to give Shadow life; but, in return, Black Doom requires Shadow to collect the Chaos Emeralds fifty years into the future.

As you pass the first cutscene of the game, there’s a grid map that looks like this:

From the beginning level, the storyline can change dramatically depending on what you do. There are three ways you can progress: Hero, Normal and Dark. Some of these objectives include collecting rings, activating shields, defeating certain enemies, etc. However, my main problem with this is that it takes so God-awfully long! Completing the Hero mission in the first level alone took me well over 15 minutes!

Plus, to unlock the Final Story, you have to complete EVERY level, EVERY path and get ALL of the 10 possible endings.

But, I will say, the overall story is strange, even to Sonic the Hedgehog‘s and my standards. Trust me, I’ve seen some pretty strange things in my time, and this part of Shadow’s story takes the cake. This makes Pink Floyd’s The Wall (both the movie and the album) make sense. Granted, it gets the job done; questions are answered and the background story of Shadow leaves the player satisfied after the end of the Final Story.

However, my biggest complaint about the storyline is the ending scenes. Contrast and compare Dr. Eggman’s exit from Sonic Heroes to Shadow the Hedgehog

My point exactly.

All this is compounded only by the horrible, horrible controls. Now, while I can’t vouch for the GameCube version, the PlayStation 2 version was UNPLAYABLE. SRSLY, after renting it for two weeks after it first came out, I STILL could not make it past the first level. Whenever Shadow gets up to top speed it’s easier to stop a bullet train with only your body than it is to control him. Thus, it’s easier to just go half-speed most of the time, which is still decently fast. The famous homing attack returns, but often times you either: hit a wall and do a wall run, attack the wrong target or careen off into an abyss for a lost life.

Thankfully, the movement aspect of the controls are highly remedied by the XBox controller and further bettered when played on the XBox 360. Heck, I’ve even made it to the last level of Shadow’s Pure Hero storyline after over 9000 deaths per level.

The graphics: universally, the worst of the post-Sonic Adventure games. They seem about as blocky as a Dreamcast game; and, at times, I’m wondering if I’m playing a beefed up PS1 game. To give it some credit, the levels are gorgeous and the actual CGI cutscenes are great. Too bad the gameplay graphics leave a lot to be desired. And the mouth movement during dialogue, Sonic Adventure was better than this. It looks like Sonic Team employed the guys from JibJab.com to animate everyone’s mouths. The graphics are slightly better on the XBox, but the XBox 360, in my opinion, enhances the flaws more than smooths them over.

(AN: If anyone’s played this game on a backward-compatable PS3, please let me know how the graphics compare to the PS2 version.)

The one saving grace of this game is the music. The soundtrack includes the usual Crush 40 fare, but with some exceptions, including: Magna-Fi’s “All Hail Shadow” for the Pure Hero ending, A2’s “Chosen One” for the Hero endings, Powerman 9000’s “Almost Dead” for the Dark endings and Julien-K’s “Waking Up” for the Normal endings. I’ve listened to all of them, but “All Hail Shadow” is way too cheesy for me.

Oh well, anything beats Tails’ theme from Sonic Adventure

The big thing that almost everyone complained about is the darker, more mature atmosphere of this game. Personally, I couldn’t stand seeing this game any other way. C’mon people, it’s Shadow the freakin-Hedgehog for God’s sake! He’s supposed to be the badass of the group!

Albeit, the addition of guns and vehicles are worthless, although in the Lost Impact level, the guns come in handy when annihilating the artificial Chaos. The vehicles, however, I didn’t like. Too hard to control on the PS2. Thus, I’ve never tired them on the XBox version of the game.

And, while some people think it was a disgrace to the Sonic franchise, I still like Shadow cursing. I mean, who hasn’t said “damn” before? It’s not like he’s dropping F-bombs like Tony Montana, David Della Rocco in The Boondock Saints or any character in any Quentin Tarantino film.

However, the strangest of storylines, the addition of weapons and vehicles, some cheesy music and abysmal controls makes this not only one of the worst games X-Play and I have ever played, but one of the worst PlayStation 2 games of all time.

My words of advise: DON’T, I repeat, DON’T play this game! Search for a video playlist entitled “Shadow the Hedgehog the Movie” and watch everything: you’ll be spared countless hours or raging for getting all of the good parts of the game.

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