Let’s pretend for a second that you work for Sega and need to come up with an idea for a new, awesome, popular Sonic game. They don’t give you a lot to work with, just saying that they want it to be modern and relevant.
So you give Shadow the Hedgehog his own game with guns. And aliens that worship darkness. This is a Sonic game about Shadow that has guns and darkness worshipping aliens. Are you rolling your eyes yet? Looking away in embarrassment? Tearing your hair out and using it to make a fake moustache? If you’re not you will be in the immediate future; the game way okay.
It wasn’t so terribly hard to pick up and play. You can jump, air-dash, punch, and of course murder either humans or aliens in order to procure a gun with which to shoot many more humans or aliens. You can drive all manner of vehicles too, some of which can take you to normally inaccessible areas.
Overall, the gameplay definitely doesn’t feel like a Sonic game. I mean, you have rings for HP, and if you get tagged when you have no rings, you die. You collect Chaos Emeralds in order to further the plot, but it just doesn’t feel the same. I suppose that really doesn’t matter, though. It’s a Shadow game, not a Sonic game, and Shadow can shoot and drive all he wants.
The plot is what sets this one so far apart from the others. Black Doom is an alien overlord that claims to know something about Shadow’s past. He wants Shadow to help his kind, the Black Arm, invade and conquer the planet Earth on a conquest to procure all seven Chaos Emeralds. Dr. Robotnik, the Sonic archetype-antagonist, also wants the Emeralds presumably so he can take over the world. The rest of the good guy crew, Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Rouge, E-103, and more, all just want you to help them save the world from the other two. Oh yes. It’s a Sonic game with morality.
The moral system isn’t particularly difficult to navigate. If you want to be good, you kill the aliens and do things that make Dr. Robotnik and Black Doom dislike you. If you want to be neutral, just get to the end of the level and don’t give a damn. Bad boys follow their evil overlords to the end of days and kill lots of humans in the process. There are a total of eleven different endings, the first ten being accessible through following the various plotlines connected to the moral system. The eleventh only becomes available after completing all others, and leads you to the true ending.
The true ending is a secret, something that has to be earned through a length of gameplay. Actually, that’s an important point to touch on. A lot of the game can get redundant because you need to play through the same level over and over again in order to get each and every one of the ten initial endings. Yes, it’s a cheap way to increase playtime, and yes, they do try to accommodate this by implementing a series of unique weapons. A heal launcher, a chicken gun, a Chao cannon… You get the idea. It’s wacky.
For obvious reasons, this game isn’t for everyone. Some might see it as a farce, or an appeal to the shooter-loving masses, or even a modest yet prominent stint into a new genre. I found that Shadow the Hedgehog’s repetition was made worth it by the content of the conclusions to each chain of events. The endings were all quite unique.