"So fast, so furious, so out-of-control, so insane…this is the essence of intense. You are the embodiment of speed, the epitome of alacrity. You’re running 720 MPH straight down the Highway to Hell, quaking soldiers at your front and broken bodies at your back. "
I hate Sonic the Hedgehog.
Now, let me clarify a bit. I loved Sonic back in the day, back when he was rocking the Genesis. Blazing action + Vibrant stages + Tough bosses + Killer Soundtrack = All you need to keep my fingers on the pad.
But there was another side to Sonic, one that would come to haunt me every Saturday: His cartoon version. The one that went around scarfing down chilidogs and making bad jokes with his nasal-pitch voice. The one that turned Sonic into a cheap, Bugs Bunny clone. THAT one.
The Sonic I played in Sonic Adventure was a little too much like the lame version, if you ask me. The game was fun enough (the parts that let you play as Sonic, anyway; the rest was shit), but every time Sonic opened his mouth to spit some stupid catchphrase or show the world how much ‘tude’ he had, a little something inside of me died.
Verily, I prayed for salvation to come and revive the Blue Blur’s coolness. Long did I appeal, but my answer did not come from the heavens above; no, from the pit rose my savior: Shadow the Hedgehog.
Shadow was about as badass as you could expect an animorphic antagonist to be; he raced through each level while the military snapped at his heels, taking no allegiances, working in his best interest with all things. People mistook him for Sonic (despite the fact that they really don’t look all that much alike), but did Shadow care? No. He had his own agenda, his own mission, and if Sonic got punked by the military along the way, tough. Not his problem.
So a Shadow the Hedgehog game should be awesome. All Shadow, all the time; fast levels with fast combat and an intriguing character to tie off the package. Good idea, right?
Well, it is a good idea. But then again, so are Hot Pockets, and they give you diarrhea. Whether or not you enjoy Shadow the Hedgehog all depends on how you play.
Play it the traditional way, the normal way, and you’ll have some good times. You’ll race from one end of the stage to another as the world turns into a blur; nothing stands in your way. Barricades? He runs right through them, he’s used to them; they can through all the dirt they want, it’s no use. Shadow’s like a supersonic tank when you play him right; nothing stands in your way.
You run up to an enemy soldier, take him head on, watch as he draws his weapon and takes aim, hoping to knock you flat and send your rings flying. He points the nozzle towards you, squeezes the trigger, fires a bullet…
You’re already gone.
You’re not just moving at the speed of sound, you’re thinking at it, too. When he was taking aim, you’d already moved behind him. When he was pulling the trigger, you’d leaped. And now, as the bullet comes firing out, you activate your homing strike, curl up into a ball of black badassness, and smack him in the back of his head. You take his gun and move onto the next area before his unconscious body even hits the ground.
You’ve got a gun now, so you don’t even need to stop; you’re just shooting them on the move, running and gunning down everything in your way and even a few things that aren’t. The city’s falling apart all around you, buildings crumble, explosions all around.
But you can’t stop. You won’t stop. Even if you could stop, you wouldn’t stop.
So fast, so furious, so out-of-control, so insane…this is the essence of intense. You are the embodiment of speed, the epitome of alacrity. You’re running 720 MPH straight down the Highway to Hell, quaking soldiers at your front and broken bodies at your back.
This is the normal way to play Shadow the Hedgehog, the best way. Unfortunately, it’s not the way it was meant to be played; just going from start to finish all the time means you’ll only go through about seven of the games levels, a rough fourth of the total. It also means to you’ll only get one ending, missing out on the game’s other six. To get the most out of Shadow the Hedgehog, you’ve got to do a little more than the norm: You’ve got to accomplish the special objectives.
And it’s here where Shadow the Hedgehog does what no Sonic game should ever do: It…slows…down.
Each level gives you good and evil objectives to steer towards. Either team up with one of the good guys and help them accomplish their objectives or you team up with the bad guys and go for that whole ‘Destroying all of humanity’ thing. Decent concept on its own, and the choices you make steer you along the story branch, letting you see which ending your going for and making sure you don’t wind up watching the same one twice by accident.
The trouble comes with the objectives themselves. Some time’s you’ll be looking for something, trying to collect a certain number of a certain thing. Other times you’ll be hunting down the enemy, searching every nook and scanning every cranny, trying to kill every last enemy in the stage.
No matter which way you choose, you’re going to have to stop. You’re going to spend some serious time in each level, moving at a slow pace; maybe even…dare I say it…WALKING around. You might even have to go through the level more than once or turn around.
Ten minutes is too damn long to spend in a level.
When Shadow the Hedgehog is being the kind of game you’d expect it to be, things are fun, the kind of fun that puts Sonic games in a different league from all other platformers. But when the game slows down, puts you on fetch quests and bug hunts, things get stuck in the mud, the thrill goes away.
At top speed Shadow the Hedgehog is the fastest, the tightest, maybe even the best game of its kind. But when it hits the breaks it trips, falls head over heels, and lands with its face stuck in the mud.
Staff review by Zack Little (December 23, 2005)
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