Let’s Talk About: Episode Shadow

Let’s Talk About: Episode Shadow

by September 21, 2017 36 comments

They did it. They finally did it. Shadow The Hedgehog is playable in Sonic Forces. Let’s talk about it.

First of all, this is big news because no one other than Sonic has been playable in a mainline Sonic game in over a decade (wow, has it really been that long?). I’ve seen so many fans asking for multiple playable characters for years now…and rightfully so! So many of us have fond memories of games like S3&K, where we loved using different characters and trying out their unique abilities and play styles. Shadow, who at one time was voted the most popular Sonic character other than Sonic himself, is certainly a fan-favorite (though I have my own opinions on his rise and fall in quality). While the jaded journalists of games media were busy making “lol guns and edginess” jokes, this announcement was making a lot of people very happy.

Second of all, it’s completely free. In a world plagued with microtransactions, Sonic Forces comes with Episode Shadow out of the gate (though it does play into Pre-Order culture, which can be also be gross). I feel like Sega could’ve easily charged for this, especially with Shadow’s name on it.

But perhaps there’s a reason it’s free. Let’s talk about the negatives for a second. The level design shown is the trailer is blocky and bland. It looks like it was cheap and easy to make, like it was thrown together quickly with leftover layouts from Sonic Colors’ “Sonic Simulator” levels. I mean, it makes sense; this a free add-on with no premium price that could justify premium development. You get what you pay for, so we can’t complain that much.

But even if Episode Shadow’s three new stages are throwaway, let’s not forget that you can play as Shadow in any of Modern Sonic’s levels. This was going to happen via modding anyway (probably a week after release), so it’s cool to see an official way of doing it on day one.

Thirdly, I’m most excited about the promise of additional narrative content. We currently don’t know what this entails (additional cutscenes? new voice clips? a cobbled block of scrolling text?), but Sega told us that Episode Shadow would focus on the “mysterious backstory” between Shadow and Infinite. Considering we had a whole discussion about Shadow’s motivations in Forces’ narrative, it’s pretty clear that fans care about why Shadow has sided with Infinite (yes, narrative does matter).

It would have been easier for Sonic Team to slap in a playable Shadow with no context. If this had been Mania, new playable character DLC would probably have been thrown in “Knuckles in Sonic 2” style, where the new character is just plopped into the game without context and exists for gameplay purposes only. And that’s fine. As long as it’s sold as such, there’s nothing wrong with just giving us a new character to play with, devoid of any in-game world building, as fun little bonus. And so many people would have been fine with that.

 But we’re getting extra backstory. That’s awesome. I can’t stress that enough.

I have to say, this announcement took me by surprise. It’s been ten years since we’ve played as Shadow (or anyone other than an alternate form Sonic, for that matter). I, for one, view this a good sign of things to come. I just hope and pray that Forces doesn’t get a 20 on Metacritic, because then we’ll have to wait another ten years befor Sonic Team tries something like this again.

 


Noah Copeland is a somewhat interesting human. He makes music/games/films, and stands at exactly average height. You can follow him on Twitter @NoahCopeland

36 Comments so far

  1. ChaoticFox
    #1 ChaoticFox 21 September, 2017, 16:23

    It’s been ten years since we’ve played as Shadow (or anyone other than an alternate form Sonic, for that matter)

    Narrative additions aside, it’s not as if Shadow plays any differently than Sonic.

    Reply this comment
    • Hifihedgehog
      Hifihedgehog 21 September, 2017, 21:37

      Hopefully, we get either some Chaos Spear or Chaos Control. Not that I am betting on it and that is very unlikely given this is free, after all. But some Shadow-specific moves would be the icing on the cake.

      Reply this comment
      • Axx
        Axx 24 September, 2017, 21:36

        I don’t think it being released for free means that it’s going to be completely terrible, guys. And yes I was also thinking that shadow is technically another alternative form of sonic. But, at least he is someone who is actually a different character. And also he does have a unique ability as far as I’m aware anyways. That light – attack thing.

        Reply this comment
  2. Evan
    #2 Evan 21 September, 2017, 17:19

    “While the jaded journalists of games media were busy making “lol guns and edginess” jokes, this announcement was making a lot of people very happy.”
    While I’m definitely ecstatic about Shadow returning, I agree about the journalists.
    Maybe I’m just completely numb to a lot of this type of humor, but can we stop the whole “Lol ow the edge, look guys something is dark or isn’t always super happy, better point out it’s edgy” stuff? Yeah, so something is dark or “edgy”, and water is wet. Your point?
    I know this sounds like senseless complaining, but it sucks that you can’t say “I like the darker, more cinematic side of the Sonic franchise” without immediately getting labeled as edgy. It shows that you have nothing else to add to the conversation.

    Reply this comment
  3. Axis
    #3 Axis 21 September, 2017, 18:30

    I’m very excited as well, while I don’t like the 2D sections in the Boost style I highly appreciate the fact that he is playable to begin with, and in all of Sonic stages plus 3 new ones nonetheless.

    And I’m very excited about the story too, I love a good Sonic story and the Shadow gameplay vid at youtube promises it will explain more of Infinite’s origin, Shadow’s allegiance to him and the fate of Team Dark so that’s a lot to cover.

    Now I’m just hoping there is a good enough reason for him to join Infinite other than the usual brainwash or any sort of blackmail, but in any case I remain very hyped and will welcome this game’s story with an open mind.

    Reply this comment
  4. Blinx
    #4 Blinx 21 September, 2017, 18:57

    The way I see the narrative playing out, as to why Shadow joins the villains is probably just Infinite/Eggman threatening to harm Rouge and Omega because they’re pretty much the only people that he counts as friends. That or they go with the simple “Gathering intel for G.U.N” type of story. I’m just hoping we see more of the stages cause my god that level design.

    Reply this comment
  5. Dom Greer
    #5 Dom Greer 21 September, 2017, 19:12

    This is great news… a return to character based story telling!

    I don’t care if he plays the same as Sonic… things don’t have to be different to FEEL different!

    Sonic Adventure 2 is a good example… the Hero and Dark stories were two sides of the same coin and each character played the same on both sides, but in terms of the story itself, it felt different playing as the villains instead of the heroes and vice versa!

    Reply this comment
    • Axis
      Axis 21 September, 2017, 19:32

      Amen brother!

      Reply this comment
    • Sjmaster
      Sjmaster 26 September, 2017, 06:46

      Thing is Shadow has access to chaos powers. Imo it’s always felt lame he’s been a Sonic clone in the main games when he has abilities that can easily set him apart from Sonic.

      Reply this comment
  6. Keeper of Swag
    #6 Keeper of Swag 21 September, 2017, 21:23

    Can I hazard a guess that Infinite almost killed Rouge and Omega (but we haven’t seen omega yet), so maybe Infinite killed Omega and was going to kill Rouge, but Shadow decided to join alliance with Infinite in exchange for Rouge’s life. Idk though

    Reply this comment
    • Axis
      Axis 21 September, 2017, 22:58

      Yeah, I could see that since Shadow has a strong sense of honor so if he gives his word to Infinite he would surely carry on his promise.

      Another possibility I thought was that maybe Infinite has the power to resurrect Maria or to change the past to prevent her from getting killed on the Ark, in exchange for that Shadow agrees to help him, that and/or Shadow may share some points of view with Infinite about how to handle and preserve the world.

      Reply this comment
      • Noah Copeland
        Noah Copeland Author 21 September, 2017, 23:45

        @AXIS and @KEEPR OF SWAG
        I like these theories. The one about Maria especially. Good stuff!

        Reply this comment
        • Axis
          Axis 22 September, 2017, 08:28

          @NOAH COPELAND

          Thanks man!

      • Novarek
        Novarek 22 September, 2017, 15:22

        @AXIS Maria resurected by Infinite would have been the most solid reason for Shadow to join Infinite, sadly “cleverness” and “consistency” (with the past canon) are long forgotten words in the Sonic Team.

        Reply this comment
        • Axis
          Axis 23 September, 2017, 12:45

          @NOVAREK

          Thanks, at the same time I feel like it could be a step in the wrong direction for Shadow since he supposedly got over his past after SA2 and the Shadow the hedgehog game, but it would be really interesting nonetheless!

    • Dom Greer
      Dom Greer 22 September, 2017, 10:38

      …. Or the Resistance somehow accidentally kills Omega causing Shadow in a fit of rage for killing his friend, but Rouge refuses to go along with Shadow because she knows Omega was against the Eggman Empire!

      Infinite promises a heartbroken Shadow “never ending life” for his friends, so in a sense Shadow is fighting and urging the Resistance to surrender so the violence can stop!

      Reply this comment
  7. DTH1971
    #7 DTH1971 21 September, 2017, 22:02

    Now let’s get Sally Acorn in Sonic Forces and future Sonic games!

    Reply this comment
    • SSJSonicXX14
      SSJSonicXX14 21 September, 2017, 23:10

      You’re more repetitive than the guy who used to post fake news about a new SEGA console coming out in every single comment section. You could at least have some fun with this and just post your fanfics about you and Sally

      Reply this comment
    • Noah Copeland
      Noah Copeland Author 21 September, 2017, 23:49

      @DTH1971

      With Archie Sonic cancelled, I feel like we’ve seen the last of Sally. She was always a western character (I don’t recall her ever appearing anything developed in Japan). Sega seems to have been trying make more things fit a singular Japanese “canon” ever since they started calling Robotnik “Eggman” in Sonic Adventure. Archie was her last place of survival all these years, but that’s gone now too. Unfortunate for you, I’m sure, as you’re clearly a fan of her character:(

      Reply this comment
      • DTH1971
        DTH1971 22 September, 2017, 00:50

        But I am still want her in the 2018 IDW Sonic the Hedgehog comic book relaunch!

        Reply this comment
        • ack...
          ack... 23 September, 2017, 00:49

          I want all or at least most of the post-reboot characters (FFs, AoSTH/SATam and the post-reboot comic characters) in the IDW comic. It doesn’t have to be the exact same setup (the FFs can be a separate group Sonic works with once in a while) as before but all of them must be in. There’s zero reason to not use a bunch of available existing characters for exclusively sonic game cast + fanfiction the idws.

          I want a compromise idw or your comic is worthless to me. I’m not going to continue being a happy sonic fan after dealing with the middle fingers known as sonic lost world, sonic boom, sonic forces and the cancelled archie sonic.

      • DTH1971
        DTH1971 22 September, 2017, 00:58

        And can we let IDW play by ear when they announce its Sonic comic book plans on October 8, 2017?

        Reply this comment
    • AManFromDeclan
      AManFromDeclan 23 September, 2017, 22:10

      What is your afixiation with Sally and the freedom fighters?

      This isn’t their canon.

      Reply this comment
      • DTH1971
        DTH1971 24 September, 2017, 00:13

        I don;t know why…but I have been in love with Sally Acorn since the first Archie Sonic the Hedgehog comic (#0 miniseries) in 1992-1993 (Although I didn’t mind Sally being roboticized as Mecha Sally from 2011-2013 before she got a new outfit look after deroboticing)..

        I know this isn;t canon for now until IDW gives us 2018 Sonic comic relaunch plans…

        Reply this comment
        • Axx
          Axx 24 September, 2017, 22:38

          To be fair there is a little animal from the original games named Ricky who was renamed Sally Acorn in the Western version. In Sonic X, they cameo the 4 Flickies from 3D Blast and show some of the other little animals. When they show the squirrel, they give it blue eyes. I would just like to point out that it has black eyes in the original games, but Sally has blue eyes in the cartoon and comics. I believe the squirrel was the only one to be given an eye color in the cameo. Later when they go back to sonics world, they show a city that looks similar to Mobotropolis from SatAM before it was conquered, and one of the animals running around this area is that squirrel.

          It is my believe that this is just a really subtle reference that is meant to not be so in your face. Aside from the fact that showing a little animals at all was a reference.

  8. SSJSonicXX14
    #8 SSJSonicXX14 21 September, 2017, 23:07

    If you think the narrative content won’t amount to under a minute with barely animation boy are you in a for a shock I wouldn’t be surprised if they just use storyboards instead of cutscenes for it. The level look like a lazy throwaway just like all the other levels shown so far as the spectre of Lost World hangs over this game

    Reply this comment
    • Noah Copeland
      Noah Copeland Author 21 September, 2017, 23:51

      Even if the story stuff is small/short/lazy in presentation, I’m happy they are even trying. Because it’s been way to long since they put effort into a Sonic narrative. Here’s to hoping this a small baby stepstowards more.

      Reply this comment
    • Axx
      Axx 24 September, 2017, 22:40

      Are you like a minion of the devil or something? What is with this guy?

      Reply this comment
  9. DK Fan
    #9 DK Fan 21 September, 2017, 23:59

    It probably won’t happen, but it would awesome if some more DLC packs like this one. You know, like one where you control Metal Sonic, and another where you control Silver.

    Reply this comment
  10. Hifihedgehog
    #10 Hifihedgehog 22 September, 2017, 03:38

    There is always the remote possibility that Episode Shadow is yet another case of SEGA testing the waters, akin to some theories that attempt to explain why they named Sonic Runners Adventure what they did. If they note a positive reaction, they may express a subtle “hmm”, stroke their chin, and add that to the accumulation of observations favoring the development of a Sonic Adventure/Sonic Adventure-style game. There is also the possibility that the most recent, notorious Polygon interview with Iizuka was, in fact, a sly strategic move to further increase fans’ desire to want a Sonic Adventure game by purposely trying to smash their dreams, the classic “steal the lollipop from the child and watch them cry and want it even more” routine. I am not saying get your hopes up, but I find it rather odd SEGA, who has gone to such great lengths to publish positive pieces with Polygon before, would then allow an interview so clearly polarizing unless there were an ulterior motive behind it all. Expect the unexpected. Since last year, I have strongly been of the opinion that Sonic has been an upward trajectory to reclaim much of his former glory, in part due to the major leadership changes and paradigm shifts within the company, and I feel this pattern will continue with favorable conditions and increasing momentum for the next five years.

    Reply this comment
    • Axis
      Axis 22 September, 2017, 08:39

      It could be, that possibility has only grown stronger recently.

      But at the very least this could mean Sega is testing the waters to see if they should include more playable characters in future games, they’re probably measuring the fan reception of Episode Shadow and it was surely included as free DLC instead of part of the original game just to avoid the backlash from some gaming sites *cough* ign *cough*.

      Reply this comment
  11. guesswho
    #11 guesswho 23 September, 2017, 12:50

    Ten years later and what do we get?

    A recoloured version of Sonic that plays just like him.

    This just smacks of pure laziness from Sonic team.

    Reply this comment
    • Noah Copeland
      Noah Copeland Author 10 October, 2017, 09:30

      @GUESSWHO

      That’s a rather reductive way of looking at it. I don’t think its laziness, because no game developer gets into game industry so that they can slack off.

      I think it’s a mixture of time, budget, and priority. Year after year, games media has criticized Sonic games for having “too many crappy friends” which has more or less forced Sonic Team into having only Sonic playable for a long time.

      Despite that, there’s a chunk of the fanbase that want more playable characters (myself included). But with such a stigma attached to it, and a shaky brand image plagued with less-than-stellar review scores, it’s become hard for Sonic Team to justify putting their development time and resources towards multiple characters.

      With this free Shadow DLC, I think they are throwing us a bone. Yeah, it’s clearly cheap and quickly made (for reasons I stated above), but it’s finally another playable character; a testing of the waters to see if it goes over well, and therefore, will lead to more. If you just turn your nose up to it and say, “I don’t want this. This is laziness,” it’ll likely be another ten years before they ever try this again.

      It’s free DLC. Of course it’s not going to be life-changing. Take it for what it is.

      Reply this comment
  12. Kabam!
    #12 Kabam! 3 October, 2017, 02:40

    Noah, I would like to hear your opinion on Shadow’s rise and fall in quality.

    Reply this comment
    • Noah Copeland
      Noah Copeland Author 10 October, 2017, 09:15

      I’ll likely do an article on it one day, but the too-long-didn’t-read version is: Shadow, in SA2, was a great character with such a complete character arch that it ended in his literal death.
      He was then brought immediately back in Heroes, not because they had more stories to tell with him, but simply because he was “popular.” They’ve had almost no clue what to do with him since then. He kinda just shows up in games randomly with no purpose just because fans like him.

      Reply this comment

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