Thereâ€™s no doubt that Mario and Sonic are the most popular videogame characters ever created. Nintendo and Segaâ€™s lovable platform characters have starred in tons of games combined, and even though the demise of Segaâ€™s Dreamcast led to Mario being the more popular of the two, they both still frequently star in games. So it was pretty surprising when Sega announced a Sonic title that takes a jump away from the franchiseâ€™s typical conventions. Enter Shadow the Hedgehogâ€”a Sonic game, but with guns. Yet the resulting game ends up being a poor attempt to create a more grown-up Sonic game that, unfortunately, isnâ€™t as big a success it could have been.
Shadow the Hedgehog starts off with an incredibly beautiful cinematic showing Shadow standing in a meadow, confused about who he is and what happened. The only thing he can remember is running from some guards in what looks like a military base, only to arrive at a dead end and witness a terrible death. This is when a mysterious crimson mist forms above the city of Westopolis and black and red colored monsters come down from the sky to start wreaking havoc in the city. A ghostly appearance emerges and orders Shadow to go find the seven Chaos Emeralds to combat the threat.
Players will take control of Shadow in his quest to fight the monsters, and will run into Sonic himself after some running. Sonic suggests taking out the Black Arms, but soon enough the leader of the Black Arms, appropriately named â€˜Black Doom,â€™ reveals himself through a black eye with tentacles, equally originally named â€˜The Eye,â€™ and orders his G.U.N. soldiers to take Shadow out. This is where players must choose whether to be a hero or a villain. An option in the Pause menu lets players choose to take out the Black Arms or the G.U.N. soldiers. The storyline will be affected by the choice of stance, ultimately leading to different endings.
The â€˜badâ€™ missions vary from taking out all soldiers in a specific level to activating temple crystals, while the â€˜goodâ€™ missions vary from destroying the Black Arms to chasing down a specific Black Alien. The variation is interesting, but the path that players must walk stays the same. The choice has to be made while playing through the level, although choosing your stance in the Pause menu doesnâ€™t do much else than displaying different kill-counters on screen. When players choose to be good and start taking out the Black Arms, the auto aim feature of the game will still target friendly soldiers, which can be frustrating if players want to walk the true good path. Soldiers and Black Arms will also both fire at the player, no matter what stance they choose, which is somewhat justified through the hate towards Shadow on behalf of the military, but seems a bit unfair to players.
The levels in Shadow the Hedgehog vary from the streets of Westopolis where the Black Arms first show themselves to ruins in the sky where the player gets sent after incurring the wrath of Black Doom. The level design is very reminiscent of Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast, as is the entire gameplay engine, which seems to be an upgrade to the fast-paced action of the Dreamcast titleâ€™s basic framework. Yet this was a poor choice for Shadow the Hedgehog, since players wouldnâ€™t want to rush through when trying to eliminate all the Black Arms or G.U.N. soldiers.
Players can opt to fly through the levels to get the emeralds as fast as possible, which is even more simplified through a super power where Shadow literally flies through the level, skipping a huge part of the level and destroying most of the objects in his path. The other super power Shadow possesses is an astonishingly powerful blast, destroying everything in the immediate vicinity. These abilities are accessible when the player fills up a blue or red bar, displayed at the top of the screen. The blue bar is filled by destroying Black Arms and doing good things, while the red bar is filled by destroying G.U.N. soldiers and being bad.
Shadow can pick up the weapons of fallen Black Arms or G.U.N. soldiers, making for an impressive arsenal. Without a weapon, shadow can use his speed to â€˜bumpâ€™ enemies, killing them in the process much like Sonic could do in the Sonic Adventure games. Shadow can also punch and kick while walking, but this is poorly implemented as players will more than often find themselves walking into enemies while trying to approach them, thus getting hit and losing those precious rings. â€˜Homing,â€™ or jumping and locking on to an enemy to smash into, is certainly enjoyable but comes at a price. Levels have a lot of bottomless pits in them, and homing can result into unwanted falling into these pits. Itâ€™s also hard to judge distances, which is mainly because of the annoying camera, which seems to have its own life.
As players progress through the game, they gradually find out more and more about Shadowâ€™s origins, although this isnâ€™t presented in a very intriguing way. 3D platform games like this should be interesting because of the level designs, responsive controls and puzzlesâ€”all things that Shadow the Hedgehog is somewhat mediocre in. And while some players will want to unlock the different endings, the bigger part will just play through the gameâ€™s different paths for the additional levels and not the storyline changes.
Shadow the Hedgehog looks like it was built for the Dreamcast, and while graphically itâ€™s not very impressive, it does what itâ€™s supposed to do. The special effects are nice enough for a game of this genre and the levels are designed with enough variation to not be tedious. The starting animation certainly is a noteworthy one and is done in great detail, making the rest of the cut-scenes done in real-time look disappointing. The music and sound effects are mediocre as well, which seems to be an overall theme to the game. Some generic rock music played during levels and non-impressive gun shot effects and explosions make for an ordinary sounding game.
Shadow the Hedgehog had the potential to be a good 3D Sonic game, but failed to be mind-blowing. The choice of speed and rehashed gameplay are what drag the game down. Shadow the Hedgehog is still a fun game for Sonic fans, but is too average to be really interesting to casual gamers.