29 July 2011

'Shadow the Hedgehog'

Looks like I'll review anything... inconsistent me...

(CREDIT: due to SEGA and Sonic Team...)
RANK: 3 out of 5 <-- Underwhelming, Easy, but Entertaining

Alongside the various other franchises and series I invest in, Sonic the Hedgehog is definitely one of them... kinda. I confess that I only have played four games thanks to the Nintendo Wii and have watched Sonic X. Yeah... I'm watching it in Japanese right now instead of the English dub... my cool points are severely plummeting... Besides that, I barely dived into half of what the franchise has offered. Well, there's watching people play the games on Youtube for that...

This was the last Sonic game in the main series I played, and it's unfortunate that my experience ended as it did. It's not just because every other game was for the latest generation of game systems; this game was just a really awesomely designed bag full of mixed candy with a flimsy string to tie it shut. Shadow the Hedgehog looks good, but the quality of its content is all over the map and the final package is not very satisfying.

First, the visuals are generally good, depending on what you're looking at. As someone who generally likes darker art styles, Shadow the Hedgehog has a beautifully set tone of dark reds and blues with black. Yet the game is as colorful as every other game in the series, except Shadow held Sonic Team at gunpoint and demanded a darker color scheme to suit his game better.

Another praise goes to the six or seven, highly detailed cutscenes. Sadly, most of the cutscenes in Sonic games tend to be in-game graphics, and everything is generally shiny and simple. But at random times, some really great,-barely-realistic animation will play in a mini-movie, mostly for the "wow!" factor. And it's really beyond "wow." These cutscenes are the times when the character design is absolutely amazing, especially the humans, who generally look awful in-game. It's unfortunate that better care was not done to the design of the human characters. Poor Maria... in that one cutscene I was almost convinced that her design would be better than that in Sonic Adventure 2...

Gameplay is simply a "meh" in my book. Unlike most people, I had no issue with the guns and the vehicles (for the whiners about the motorcycle, it only appears in ONE STAGE) and I found them quite useful most times. The multiple paths and endings aspect of the game was a very interesting add-in, and I enjoyed it very much since I would not get bored too quickly. The only flaw in this is that some paths don't tell a decent story. In a way, it could have been better if the game was more like Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, where the player's focus on certain aspects can change cutscenes, character behavior, and endings. With that approach, Shadow the Hedgehog's plot could have been a deeper analysis of Shadow rediscovering his identity and lost memories as the Black Arms, Dr. Eggman, the military, or Sonic affect his mindset. But maybe I've been into far too many psychological stories to expect much from a game series about hedgehogs running fast and obtaining power to destroy the bad guy.

As for the music... catchy, fun, dark, badass. Fangirl likes the hard and industrial rock. Voice acting? Only two things must be said:
    1. 4Kids
    2. no, the VAs don't suck as bad as in Sonic X. They're... tolerable... unless Shadow is laughing manically.
And, the cursing? Shadow saying "damn" and "hell" is so conservative and lame; Sonic says "shit" all the time in Sonic X!

The biggest problem I had with this game was how EASY it was. As a really amateur gamer, it took me a year to beat Sonic Adventure and my friend and I spent over five to beat Sonic Adventure 2. Heck, I still haven't beaten Sonic Heroes (that's a mixed bag of turd for another day...) If a really slow, skittish gamer like myself beat this is less than a month and in the morning before I headed off to school, that shows your game is too easy. The biggest drawback from the multi-path option is not the potential inconsistent behavior Shadow will show, but how easy it is to avoid the hard levels. Yeah, I beat the game without even touching the Central City level, unlike previous games when you had to slave for hours to regather lives so you have over twenty chances to beat the level.

Might I also add that the ring system is laughable? Remember the days when you get hit once and you lose everything? In this, you get hit and lose TEN RINGS. At the end of playing, I would have all these lives to kill because it's impossible to die!

To be honest, when I look back on the game now, I see that it had more potential than the previous games. From my limited experience, Shadow was the character with an ongoing story, overlapping on each game in the main series since his debut in Adventure 2. This game could have been the chance to put more of an emphasis on telling a story and making the character very complex and developed as he has to find the answer to many questions fans had since the beginning. If it went on that route, this game might had to have been a spinoff, but I wouldn't care. Sadly, my favorite character got a more Sonic-ly generic gameplay with guns, cursing, and easy levels. Sadness...

This review is long enough, so I'll swiftly rate 3 out of 5 for a fun game with some underwhelming content. Play this for entertainment only; this would not be the first Sonic game to try out. But at least this isn't Sonic Free Riders or Sonic Unleashed... or '06. Their horrible reputations are worse...

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