24 June 2012

Deconstructing the Squees: Shadow the Hedgehog

Hmm... Maybe I should have planned more carefully... (1)
Clearly I obsess about the blue blur's antihero twin waaaay too much. Shadow is one of the few beloved things of my childhood. It even seems as time goes on, the more and more I enjoy the character. As a bonus I'm having way too much fun applying what I learn in Psychology to this unstable jerk.

Last year I reviewed Shadow the Hedgehog, which one of the most popular posts on my blog. I feel that, because of my overwhelming bias and oversimplification, my review of the game was... inadequate. I took some time to think back on the post with what I wrote, I replayed the game a few times, and I checked other reviews in various places. Now, my opinion has developed a bit more. By this point, I nearly feel embarrassed to have written my review so sloppily. As a first attempt at a video game review, I guess it's understandable, but my mind was too much in music and movie mode.

But let me reestablish one thing. Shadow the Hedgehog disapointingly lacks the challenge that the most conversative Sonic games revel in, but it remains entertaining in the ideas it offers. Despite this, it is still a humungous pile of mixed marbles.

Let me begin by tackling things down by categories.


Some of the most vocal complaints are how slippery the controls are and how it is often you hear "Damn! Not here!" when the ultimate lifeform falls into furry hell. "The guns and vehicles are insulting and pointless" takes the cake. "Shadow controls worse than in Sonic Heroes!"

Based on my personal experience, the controls in Sonic Heroes were just as bad - if not worse. In both of these games there are some stages where you have to grind on rails. How to control your characters on a thin metal pole miles above an endless pit of doom is another story. Heroes is extremely precise and you have to land on the rails 90% correctly in order to grind. When you get to some stages in particular *cRoAuIgLh CcAoNuYgOhN* this gets frustrating, especially when these sections take up nearly three quarters of the stage. Shadow the Hedgehog, however, is far more forgiving. Even in "Iron Jungle" or "Lava Shelter", the game can sense what you're trying to do and will give you a better window.

Even when running fast, more often than not Shadow will stop right at the edge of a bottomless pit so you won't go flying off. But if an enemy attacks you while near the edge or a platform, THEN you will get screwed over. Even though this game is more sensitive and gives you more control, Shadow still moves in a rather slippery fashion.

As for the gimmicks of this game... The WEAPONS - guns, swords, lazers, bazookas, missle launchers - vacuums and other crap I can't name - are really fun. They don't "fit" in Sonic games, I know, but this system is pretty nifty. When you destroy an enemy, he will often drop a weapon that you can pick up and use it for a limited time. Guns often run out of ammo and melee weapons break (which you can get more by running into a similar-looking weapon from other dead enemies.) This system is very simplistic because you don't have to worry about the whole ruitine of finding magazines, reloading, and all those details shooter games dive into (looking at you, Call of Duty!).

The vehicles, besides the walkers and the alien saucers, are really pointless. I'm more disappointed that they aren't fun to control. Nah, I admit the motorcycle in "Lethal Highway" was fun for a while...

There are some levels that are duplicates in design and layout, but the music, enemies, and missions keep things at least a bit interesting. Otherwise there are plenty of really awesome and varied stages. "Cosmic Fall" is cluttered with falling platforms  - duh - that simultaneously spin, flip, or crumble under your feet. "Mad Matrix" is a huge cyberspace with vibrant terminals with their own puzzles. In "The Ark", you are forced to ride on the alien birds to progress. "Central City" and "The Doom" are huge mazes with one not having a trademark goal ring (which pissed off many.) There are tons of other interesting tricks.

My only problem was how easy it is avoid stages. I beat the game and played the Last Story numerous times without ever beating Central City and various other stage missions. I beat this thing in one month, and after taking years of beating some other Sonic games, this depressed me more than anything. I barely felt satisfied in how well I played it because I expected more of a challenge.

However, gameplay-wise, Shadow the Hedgehog shines brightly. It's a lot better here than in both Sonic Unleashed (a review for another year) and that one game with the soundtrack I despise. The latter is completely broken and the former is just mindless and stupid.

The missions you fulfill in each stage will affect which stages you'll reach later.
No, really, this is how the "map" looks. 

Out of all the criticisms for this game, I have a really hard time defending this one. In my early days of playing Shadow the Hedgehog, I was hooked in and loved the story. Now at the beginning the enlightened age of my adulthood, I better understand why people despise this game. This is not on the same level as Elfen Lied, but man, this story is a trainwreck.

The worst part is that there are sooooo many good ideas in the game! I like the idea behind the Black Arms. I love how this game fills in the plotholes from Sonic Adventure 2. I like the Commander's character. I enjoy how Black Doom, Eggman, GUN, Sonic and co. all can influence Shadow's psyche throughout the course of the game. I loved Shadow's resolve in the last story. And I loved the flashbacks!

But nearly everything between the first cutscene and the last story... is NOT canonical. Who the hell knows what really happened between that timeframe? Did Shadow work with the Black Arms at all? How much of his past did he remember? How did he get the Chaos Emeralds? How did he get to the Black Comet? How did Team Chaotix get onto the ARK? Did the Commander ever point a gun a Shadow's head? Did Eggman try to convince Shadow that he was an andoid? In fact, what happened to the Shadow androids shown in Sonic Heroes? And HOW did Shadow survive his fall to his death at the end of Sonic Adventure 2?!

This game taunts you with all sorts of ideas that may not even be true. I personally don't mind creating my own interpretations with open-ended stories, but this is so damn non-linear. Even Higurashi: When They Cry did a far better job at telling a story with the multiple storylines and endings! Hell, even the Silent Hill games that rely on you to chose actions that affect the story in the long-term are better written than this! The first several installments focused heavily on this, but Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was even more so! It's so darn sensitive to that dialogue, behaviors, and appearances all could radically change throughout the course of the game!

Here, you have 22 stages with two or three missions, random boss fights, and 10 endings you must unlock before getting to the last story, with the true ending. You have to play "Westopolis" at least 10 times! That's all the power you have.

But the worst part of this game is how the whole story is executed. Nearly all of the 326 possible story lines make no sense; the transitions from one stage to the next are horrible.

For example: Shadow runs through a city being invaded by aliens, simple, right? Then he arrive at some ruins the aliens left of the planet years ago. Then he somehow teleports to Prison Island (2). Soon after he helps Espio hack into a computer at another unknown location. Suddenly he confronts androids that look like him at Eggman's base. Then he gets to the ARK, where the GUN Commander points a gun at the black blur's head. Finally Shadow calls himself a weapon of mass destruction and walks off screen to kill himself. ... What?!

None of Shadow's monologues or conversations with other characters match up or develop into one cohesive conclusion. It gets really bad when you flip-flop between helping the aliens, Sonic, or Eggman. You just cannot look at this in a linear fashion. I look at everything as isolated ideas, since some reoccur at different points in the game. Some may have tolerance for this, but in most cases, this is pretty sloppy.

This sums up the endings' problems in a nutshell:

Sonic Team had some really good ideas, but had no clue how to pull them off. Pity.


I won't lie, the voice acting is still hilarious for the 4Kids crew. Ignoring the sometimes really awkward and badly worded script, nearly everyone pulls of fairly realistic performances compared to the Sonic X dub. Eggman was extremely entertaining, Espio was no longer of punching-bag quality, Amy was enjoyable, and even Sonic was fun at times! Some were still awful (Vector, Rouge, and Cream) but they barely appear. But most importantly, Shadow did not have extreme whiplash between sounding like a complete asshole to a whiny crybaby. That's why the flashbacks were some of the best scenes in the entire game. Maria's voice was okay, but her character had a lot more screen time, which made her death all the more upsetting.

The Playstation 2 release is the only one that allows you to easily change the voice acting from English to Japanese. Those performances are better in some scenes, but the Japanese cast sounds a lot better in Sonic X. But at least Koji Yusa delivers a far greater performance when Shadow is upset than Jason Griffith.

Otherwise, the tone of the game is pretty dark in a very juvenile way. Certain characters constantly say some variant of "damn". Shadow even once said "You're going straight to hell!" causing an eleven-year-old me to laugh hysterically at the awkward delivery. That's a bad thing. It's one thing to curse in a moment when it's not much of a surprise. There are some scenes where I felt it was appropriate to say "Damn it!" or "Damn you!" But most times the minor curses are overdone and very unnecessary. Plus if you add in the 4Kids cast and their normal bad habits of not speaking like real people, then most of the conversations sound like children trying to be adult and badass.

Though I admit that I put some blame on this game for my potty mouth.

As mentioned before, the storytelling is embarrassing. Maybe not too many games took on the "choices affect the story" gimmick before, but with the stuff that's out now, especially RPGs, Shadow the Hedgehog has no excuse by the time it came out.

The graphics are average. The CGI cutscenes are gorgeous but the in-game graphics are "meh." Everything else is average, not awful.

Next to Its Predecessors and Successors...

Crap. This is not helping my case.

... this game is NOT the worst in the franchise. This game on a bad day plays better than Sonic 06 on a good day, even the soundtrack. The weapon system gimmick is not as broken as the swords with the Wii-mote in Sonic and the Black Knight or the primative boost-and-scream-past-everything gauge in Sonic Unleashed. The game is not as linear as Sonic Heroes. This was released completed and playable.

I have it for both the Playstation 2 and the Gamecube. The PS2 release has long load screens and abysmal frame rate issues, but the GC release runs like a dream. Otherwise Shadow the Hedgehog never crashed, glitched, or did anything to force me to restart. The game runs fine and the gameplay is solid.

This game fell pretty down low in the dark and depressing route that most Sonic fans detest, but it never had the balls to repeatedly force pretentious bullshit down our throats and then slap you after 10 hours of gameplay to say, "Pretend this never happened." This game may have been bad from its conception but Shadow the Hedgehog had a subplot to resolve, and for better or for worse, Sonic Team got this out with no hidden escape plans. How much one can tolerate this may vary, but I appreciate a bad game being released honestly, despite fans' protests, rather than a promising game coming out broken and stabs everyone in the back.


Great gameplay, so-so presentation, and sloppy storytelling all adds up to an "average" game. Your milage may vary, however. I only gave this game a 3 out of 5 the first time I reviewed it because my personal experience with it has been positive. I still really enjoy Shadow the Hedgehog despite its glaring faults. Without my bias it may as well be a 2 or a 2.5, average.

Once again, I will not demand anyone to pick up this game, even at a dirt cheap price. Pick it up if you want to or not. Just, don't make this your first Sonic game. This is so radically different than anything else in the series that this will give a terrible first impression. Even when I bravely bought this game for $50.00 weeks after it came out, I tried to hold back doubts, but my eleven-year-old self panicked at the opening video.

If this was not eloquent enough, this review done by NickonAquaMagna2 else pretty much hits all the criticisms dead on.

~~~~~~~~~~(Additional Notes)~~~~~~~~~~~

* Links are provided with gameplay footage. None of them belong to me, but I just wanted something to show off some parts of the game.

1 - Looks like the moon did NOT get half-destroyed by the Eclipse Cannon in Sonic Adventure 2. "Continuity? What's that?"

2 - It's sudden non-exploded reappearance further proves the above statement. Bravo, Sonic Team.


Maybe I'll make better reviews if I really try hard, right? Haha, maybe not.

16 June 2012


First impression: looks like the live-action cousin of Ergo Proxy.
After seeing the film, my reaction has only confirmed my guess.
Here it is. The supposed "prequel" to the series that traumatized me for years. Thanks to the Alien movies, I never liked the sight or thought of something foreign within one's abdomen. Of course, my dad, being more intelligent than Stephen Hawking, showed me the films when I was SIX, so it's not much of a surprise.

Even way before the film was announced, I had no desire to see this film. Not because of my mental scars, but because everyone hyped the crap out of it. As a result of squealing like children on Christmas Eve, everyone has their underwear tied into knots over how good or bad the film is. The reviews, ranging from "OMFG, it's glorious!" to "WTFH is this pile?", provided endless entertainment from me. After I read the whole plot summary, it got to the point that I already had an opinion of the film without watching it. Yet my dear old man took me to see it so I had a frame of reference when I rant about my opinion here. It's long overdue anyway.

So what did I think?

Objectively, it's not the worst of the year; the film is a visual feast to behold. But there are plenty of places where the film trips over its feet or stumbles down the stairs. Overall, if you take all the good and the horrible, it adds up to be... a bit below average. Subjectively, this movie annoys me more than the target of one of my last reviews. This film... and some of the people who defend it... piss me off to no end. This film drops so much bait for the pseudo-philosophers to binge on and claim the film makes so many deep references to Jesus Christ and Christianity. Believe me, some have written essays on what this film is about.

What is the ship called? Prometheus. What day do the crew members wake up from suspended animation? Christmas Day. When did the Engineers die on their ship? Two thousand years ago.What is the name of the sterile woman who just so happens to become pregnant? Elizabeth. What is that around her neck? A cross. What is her reason to claim that the Engineers created us? "Because that's what I choose to believe." What is that? Faith, which is simply belief without proof. What day is it when the film ends? January 1, in "the year of Our Lord" 2094.

Is this the only point to the film? Does this film have to jam the idea down our throats that this is something we must think about? Must we accept that a scientist with a strong faith in her Lord and Savior is someone we can stand behind as a protagonist? Must we accept that this film refuses to have their scientists - except the geologist - question the legitimacy of a "belief" held by said religious woman, supported by her jerk-ass boyfriend scientist? Should we take this seriously as a film that makes you think of mythological gods that killed themselves - I meant, "sacrificed themselves" - for the sake of the human race to have life?

Hell no.

I expected this film to tell a story, not a lecture. I expected a decent premise, plot progression, character development, and a resolution. The only thing this movie got right was the characterization of David, the android. HE had a legitimate internal conflict and throughout the course of the story he asked questions, interacted with the cast, and served a valuable purpose on the trip, while learning more about life. He was very aware that he was a created intelligence, had great dialogue with Dr. Shaw, and was the most active character in discovering the Engineers. It's interesting that the one created by humans is the one who did his creators' homework in finding their creator.

Oh yes, all the humans - ALL of them - were horrifically stupid. Even if the pretentious themes and intents behind the film were appropriate and well done, the characters were absolutely insulting. They were the black permanent marker stains on an elegant, finely detailed French dress. No one was likable. Everyone fit their generic roles in a horror flick. Dr. Holloway and the captain were the jackasses. The biologist was the blond, being the first to die in the stupidest way possible. Weyland was the selfish old guy. Dr. Shaw was the idiot. Everyone else had no name and was forgettable.

As for the plot... it's generic and bland. Weak premise for a sci-fi film supported by little and poor reasoning. Seriously, how could you conclude that a bunch of aliens are saying "Come to our world, kids! We have candy!" from murals around the world with a set of five dots in a pattern? Which of those five "dots" did they go to and how did they know?

Nitpicking aside, the plot was written very awkwardly. The dialogue wasn't bad, but there were many instances were I wondered if plot details ware missing or if whole scenes had to be rewritten. I'm not the greatest writer on the planet, look at my posts here and point out all the grammatical and structural errors, but I asked myself many times if I would edit the writers' notes to death? This movie feels like there are several minor scenes cut out just so it could be a reasonable two hour presentation.

Wait... do you know what this whole thing is? FAN SERVICE. Not the kind with half-naked women posing around or excessive blood and gore to get the hormones raging. This is fan service to the Alien fans by saying, "Hey! This is how the xenomorphs came to be! Ain't that cool?" This is a film with nothing but two hours of half-assed, horror-movie padding and unexplored controversial debates that have never been resolved ever since logic and faith clashed. All of this happens, and in the end they only show us a minute and a half of a xenomorph popping out of the abdomen of an albino Kratos from God of War. Then the writers have the balls to leave the initial questions in the premise UNANSWERED and drops a few bread crumbs to a potential sequel.

Oh, I forgot about the monsters and the horror aspect of the movie. It did fine. No complaints. I'm jaded by scary films by this point, and Prometheus was nothing special but not bad in that regard. No, the ending did not disgust me.

At the end of the day, it's nice that people can think deeply about this, but that does not make this film excellent. All the pretty visuals and the convoluted explanations cannot undo a film that fails to live up to the standards of basic storytelling. Ridley Scott and his crew worked their asses off to make as many allusions as possible that they forgot that this is a science fiction film with SCIENTISTS who cannot do their jobs even if their lives depended on it. These guys are supposed to be telling a story, not showing off your intelligence. It may say a lot to some when I say that Damon Lindelof was one of the guys behind the TV show Lost, but a sloppy story ending with sequel bait is inexcusable.

The last words in the film speak for themselves. The surviving members of the plot go off to find the Engineers and demand to know why humanity was created. Wasn't this question posed at the beginning of the film? If so, then that means that we have an UNANSWERED QUESTION. To everyone who said that this film has all mysteries resolved or is open-ended and up for interpretation... BULLSHIT. This is a research paper turned in on its due date with no concluding paragraphs. Your teacher/professor would slap you if you demanded that your work deserves an A because it's so many pages long or you tackled a hard topic. Your professor is not going to guess what your conclusion is. Your work is incomplete. You FAILED.

And it's comments like these that annoy me the most.

Person A: "Kind of wondering if [the Amazing Atheist's] entire review is a joke. Distracting us with a bunch of interesting subjects in depth, but ignoring the basics of the movie. Which is essentially what the film was: a lot of potential for depth and powerful themes, but it just amounted to a lukewarm film."

Person B: "No, they just saw it for what it was meant to be, unlike you."

"...many of you criticize the so called plot-holes and "unanswered questions". What baffles me is that no one and I mean no one here wants to think. Don't understand what I mean, do you? Take for example the Force from Star Wars. Why is it so awesome? Because we hardly know anything about it. Where did it come from? How did we find it? How exactly does it work? [...] These are all "unanswered questions" and they make you think and imagine, speculate and investigate. These kind of questions make the movie interesting and intriguing. The same is easily applied to Prometheus, - it gives us a fair amount of answers and clues and keeps us speculating at the same time. And for me - this the real magic of cinema. Prometheus is a solid and thought provoking movie and in general just a wondrous experience. I guess people nowadays are used to the facts that movies just give away all the answers and plot elements on a silver platter (take Avatar for example, - the moral is there but it's so straight and obsessive that it leaves no room for real thought. Awful movie by the way) and that's a real shame. As for my advice go and watch Prometheus with an open mind and be ready to think."

"I feel like I watched an entirely different movie from what you just described. Most of the things you say were holes or issues are clearly explained by the movie if you pay attention or simply put two and two together.  I enjoyed this movie for its meticulous sense of details, how some things don't click in your mind until after seeing it.  I honestly don't understand half your complaints because lots of them seem like you could have only come to that conclusion if you were either really tired or simply not paying attention to some things which either were explained by dialogue or obvious. (and yes somethings straight up aren't explained- Scott did say this was going to be a trilogy)."

"It's an excellent film as long as you do not expect it to a) be science fiction or b) make any sense on the surface level, rather than the symbolic level..."

It's good as long as you pretend it's not a science fiction film?! Don't deny what this film is supposed to be!

Gag me with a spork. I may have been closed-minded about this film, but I sure as hell used my damn brain to nitpick every inch of this pretentiously-wrapped and superficial film. You can accuse me of overheating my brain, but not for one moment did I stop thinking about this colossal disappointment.

1 out of 5

Watch it if you will, but I cannot give this a thumbs up. Do not trust your beloved reviewers because this film is too polarizing. Even Doug, Linkara, Film Brain, Spoony, and Brad Jones from That Guy With the Glasses, a site with some very similar-minded people, had their own separate opinions on it all across the spectrum.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some Mass Effect 2 to play on my new PS3...
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