Very rarely do old series grow up with their audience. Mario is still a happy-go-lucky guy, despite killing thousands of turtles. Link has sliced open hordes of monsters (and sometimes other people) but is yet to see a spot of blood. Well, now the Sonic the Hedgehog series is growing up, and to mark this rite of passage, Shadow takes the lead. Now, the series is no longer tied to simple aggressive jumping and curling up into a ball…this mysterious, spiky rodent is packing heat…Dante-style.
Shadow was first introduced in Sonic Adventure 2, where he stole the Chaos Emeralds and framed Sonic for it. Other than that and a few facts revealed in the Sonic X anime, nothing is really known about Sonic’s foil. Shadow the Hedgehog shows him in a different light. After Sonic 2, Shadow awakens on an alien planet, where there is an all-out war between Dr. Eggman and the GUN Army. Throughout the game, Shadow struggles with his amnesia-ridden past and struggles with the knowledge that he was created by ambitious world-conquerors, (Dr. Robotnik and his brother, Gerald) however his few remaining memories are of a young girl named Maria, who he vowed to protect. Because of this, our ever-so-depressed anti-hero is constantly stricken with existential angst, and debates whether his true purpose lies in protecting, or conquering humanity. Shadow the Hedgehog, allows the gamer make Shadow’s decision for him…with an open-ended story, the player chooses who Shadow sides with, humans or aliens, by KOTOR-esque good-or-evil decision making. This is also brought into the gameplay. For every evil alien you strike down, Shadow’s “Hero Meter” goes up, and for every innocent police officer you shoot down, Shadow’s “Shadow Meter” goes up. When either meter is filled, Shadow can use a special Shadow or Hero attack, which devastates surrounding enemies.
Gameplay features a unique combination of old-school Sonic speed and Devil May Cry type high-flying gun-slinging. Like previous Sonics, Shadow the Hedgehog goes on a level-by-level basis, with over twenty levels and fifty missions, which include the beloved corkscrews, loops, pipes, grinding and the various other details which define the Sonic series. However, instead of relying solely on his running and jumping, Shadow decided to make things easier by bringing a gun to his fight. The gameplay fuses the high speed action in the previous Sonics, and with some new Shadow-exclusive moves. The biggest addition to Shadow the Hedgehog is the emphasis on using weapons. To pull this off, Sega includes a decent arsenal, with over thirty weapons, including pistols, M16-A2-style assault rifles, lasers, rocket launchers and melee weapons. Also, screenshots show Shadow using his weird shoes as hover boots, which would allow for lots of nifty hang-time shooting. Shadow also has vehicles at his disposal. Flying is available via an alien spacecraft. An SUV is available to haul up to seven people…kind of. Most importantly, Shadow also has a motorcycle available, quadrupling his level of coolness. How these will be implemented into this game is still unknown, however.
At present, Sega plans to release Shadow the Hedgehog later this year on Xbox, PS2 and GCN. Expect a Mygamer review after its launch.