Sonic x Shadow Generations is the best of ’00s Sonic with a big splash of nostalgia

It’s the early 00’s. I finally got myself a copy of Sonic Adventure 2 Battle on the GameCube, having previously pulled an all-nighter with friends to finish the first game together in one sitting. I’m wearing my baggy emo jeans. Linkin Park plays in the background.

Except I’m actually sitting down playing Sonic X Shadow Generations in 2024, a re-release of an anniversary celebration that was nostalgic at first, but now doubly so with the inclusion of its own Shadow campaign. Sonic Generations was released in 2011 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sonic’s first Mega Drive game, but this new remaster adds a new, special set of levels for his toughest opponent Shadow.

Within seconds, everything comes flooding back to me. I’m racing through the Space Colony level, apparently inspired by the end of Sonic Adventure 2, running back at enemies, speeding up the grind rails and looking for hidden paths to maintain flow and speed in pursuit of that rank Elusive S. Sonic Adventure is back, kids! “This is sick,” I write quite simply in my notes like a horrified millennial.

After playing the demo, I was able to ask Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka questions. I had to ask: like in his 2005 standalone game, will Shadow carry a gun?

Sonic X Shadow Generations – Summer Games Fest Trailer | PS5 and PS4 Games Watch on YouTube

“When we came up with the concept for the Shadow the Hedgehog game, we really wanted to make an action shooter because they were a popular game genre at the time,” says Iizuka. “Since Shadow is an anti-hero character who would use anything at his disposal to get the job done, we asked him to use a gun so we could incorporate that action-shooter gameplay.”

That’s not the case for Sonic X Shadow Generations, however, with the game fitting the typical Generations template. “Instead, we wanted all levels to take full advantage of Shadow’s iconic move, Chaos Control, to stop time and find new platforms to run around the world or find new ways to attacked bosses,” says Iizuka. “In addition to controlling chaos, Shadow also has new Doom powers that allow him to attack enemies and traverse the world.”

Shadow’s game is an absolute rush

Chaos Control allows Shadow to momentarily stop time, adding an extra layer of gameplay to his levels beyond running and jumping really fast. Time it right and Shadow can duck under floating pylons, line up moving platforms to create new tracks, or – in one particularly weird but extremely funny moment – rocket into oblivion like Chris Redfield against a rock. All the while, electro-rock music plays in the background. This is ’00s fun, and Sonic at his best.

The addition of Chaos Control separates Shadow from his blue counterpart, along with his more staccato homing attack, and the adorable way he skates instead of running, his limbs flapping to keep up with his speed. The Doom Powers Iizuka mentions weren’t part of this demo, but I’m intrigued as to how they’ll affect Shadow’s moveset.

Of course, narratively Shadow is also a foil to Sonic. “Sonic is a true hero character – he will protect others and fight for justice,” says Iizuka. “When we were designing Shadow, I was living in America and dark heroes were very popular at the time, and I thought this would be the perfect contrast to Sonic.”

Beyond Shadow’s moveset, what really impresses is the seamless flow of the level design. This particular preview level has everything from high-speed grinding rails to platforming challenges and set pieces in a well-designed five-minute rush, but it’s aided by a generous (and extremely accurate) attack on home that lets me launch around the area with ease, all without the frustrating camera angles and sudden stops of previous Sonics 3D.

Shadow the black hedgehog floats in space sprouting black wings

Shadow will apparently sprout wings as part of his Doom Powers | Image credit: Sega

I ask Iizuka how Shadow’s abilities affect the typical sonic sense of speed and flow. “For the Shadow Generations level design, the team made sure that the levels were basically designed to be similar to the Generations style level design with lots of high-speed action platforming that also includes additional features that work when using the “Control Chaos,’ he says. generations, but also find new things. it’s about controlling chaos and the powers of punishment.”

Just don’t expect any “Classic Shadow” levels like with Sonic, although Shadow’s perspective will shift back to 2D at times. The levels will also be taken from all of Shadow’s appearances in the games, “featuring many iconic moments from Shadow’s past in the new game,” says Iizuka. “We wanted to tell a new story using a lot of these familiar locations to really introduce Shadow as a character to players who might not have gotten the character’s full backstory, as has been the case in many different titles, and also make sure this title single can properly introduce Shadow as a character and highlight some of the important moments in Shadow’s history.”

Another part of this is the central world for Shadow. In Sonic Generations, level selection is a side scrolling playable area; for Shadow, this is expanded using the Open Zone gameplay from Sonic Frontiers, though it wasn’t part of this preview. Says Iizuka: “We wanted to include a White Space for the Shadow game as well, and the Open Zone game from Sonic Frontiers was so well received that the team decided to use it as inspiration for the Shadow Generations White Space playable hub world. had a deeper level of gameplay depth and exploration than in Sonic Generations, but still familiar and fun to players.”

Shade the black hedgehog on the white background by shooting a light arrow

Shadow’s White Space is inspired by Frontiers | Image credit: Sega

In that sense, Sonic X Shadow Generations is weaving together past and future Sonic. Unfortunately, this preview’s boss battle brought back less favorable elements from the past. The giant lizard fight uses Chaos Control to target weak points, but with awkward camera angles and very fast movement for such a small arena, it’s a struggle compared to the freedom of the main stage. Bosses have long been a weakness of 3D Sonic games, and that won’t change here.

I also got to play through two levels of the Green Hill Zone from the main and enhanced original Sonic Generations campaign. And, well, it’s just as you remember, just a little sharper visually. Old shortcuts from 2011 come rushing back to me and I slide right in, with what seems to be as smooth as you’d expect on the PlayStation 5.

Cute chibi blue Sonic the Hedgehog runs towards the camera with Metal Sonic in pursuit

The old Sonic Generations levels are just as you remember | Image credit: Sega

For most fans, however, it’s the Shadow campaign that provides the main draw here. Generations was well received by players old and new, which has given it lasting appeal, although Iizuka admits that the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog 3 movie provided the impetus for this re-release as part of the Year of the Shadow celebration.

“As you know, we have the third Sonic the Hedgehog movie coming out this December, and there will be a spotlight on Shadow in this movie,” says Iizuka. “We also have the Year of Shadow going on to celebrate and highlight the character, and we needed a game out at the same time to support not only everything that happens with Shadow, but to dive deeper into Shadow as a character. and to introduce players to Shadow’s story and legacy gameplay moments We felt that creating a new game for Shadow and adding it to Sonic Generations would be perfect for a game to market to that audience movies and for fans who love the game Shadow and Generations.

So what is it about Shadow, first introduced in Sonic Adventure 2, that makes him such an enduring character in the Sonic world?

“I think a lot of the appeal of Shadow is because he’s a dark, anti-hero who will do whatever it takes to accomplish his goals,” Iizuka says. “It gives him qualities that really work in contrast to Sonic, which makes him cool and edgy, while also being strong and heroic and a little bit dangerous. It’s harder to say what Shadow is going to do, and it adds to the mystery of the character, and I think that’s what people find really exciting about Shadow.”

I think the fans just want a bad guy.

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