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Sonic X Shadow Generations’ new levels are surprisingly cinematic

Shadow riding on rails in Shadow Generations.
Summer Gaming Marathon Feature Image
This story is part of our Summer Gaming Marathon series.

Back in 2011, Sonic Generations came up with a unique idea: combining Sonic’s classic 2D side-scrolling self with his modern 3D self. That made for a fun mix of two distinct kinds of Sonic levels. A lot has changed since then. With 2022’s Sonic Frontiers, the series finally took the next step to transition to an open world, for instance.

Now, Sonic Generations is making a big comeback with a remaster for modern consoles. However, the main star is the brooding Shadow the Hedgehog, who now joins Sonic in the newly packed Sonic X Shadow Generations. Here, Shadow Generations acts as a completely standalone adventure and it once again shakes up the Sonic formula — this time within a remaster.

Digital Trends got to spend about 40 minutes with Sonic X Shadow Generations at Summer Game Fest. From what we’ve been able to play, Shadow Generations is a solid add-on to the original game with some surprisingly cinematic moments. And it even seems to borrow the best aspects of Sonic Frontiers, including its combat and presentation. That makes for a worthy (and long-overdue) successor to Shadow the Hedgehog’s standalone 2005 adventure.

The Space Race

I started with Space Colony Ark Act 1. Its setting is outer space, which already makes it stand out in the remaster. The level is primarily in 3D, much like modern Sonic games, and it comes complete with the typical boost panels and rail sliding you’d expect from the series.

Sonic Generations introduced the Boost mechanic, where Sonic could build up a meter by attacking enemies and collecting rings before unleashing a destructive burst of speed that could destroy anything its way. Shadow Generations brings the mechanic back for Shadow to use, as well as a new one called Chaos Control. By building a separate meter, Shadow can freeze time for about five seconds and drench the screen in a ghostly green hue in order to use incoming objects, such as missiles, as platforms. Shadow also leaves behind a blue phantasm every time he does his homing attack. Both of these aspects show just how much cooler he is than his blue counterpart.

Doom's Eye in Shadow Generations.

As I progressed through Space Colony Ark Act 1, the level eventually became distorted. Reality warped as buildings flipped upside down. It made for a trippy effect that’s a blast to run through. It feels like something out of the Mirror Dimension from the Dr. Strange movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

At the end of the level, I was greeted by Doom’s Eye, one of Shadow’s biggest foes. In a mini-boss fight, I was able to use Shadow’s homing attacks to knock back the eye’s robot henchman into its shield, eventually causing it to retreat. Space Colony Ark Act 1 is an exciting opening level and gave me a small taste of what we could expect from the level design in Shadow Generations. The game supposedly also has an open-world hub too, similar to Frontiers, but it wasn’t in the demo.

An old foe returns

The second Shadow level I played was a boss fight against Biolizard, a giant reptile with wires coming out of its back from Sonic Adventures 2. One small detail that caught my attention here was Shadow Generation’s loading screens. They have a stylized red and black flavor to them, making it look exactly like something out of Persona. It’s incredibly fitting here considering Shadow’s more edgy and rebellious personality.

The boss fight was structured like one from Sonic Frontiers. The first stage was simple, where all Shadow had to do was avoid getting hit until he found an opening to attack Biolizard’s central core. The second stage was a bit harder, as Biolizard grew two large appendages and struck the ground, unleashing continuous shockwaves. Here, Shadow has to wait until Biolizard gets stuck and then attack the appendages.

Biolizard returns from Sonic Adventure 2.

It’s a surprisingly cinematic clash. Biolizard grasps onto the side of the arena and shoots down a ton of energy balls. By mashing the Y button on the Xbox controller, Shadow can conjure up his Chaos Spears to shoot down the balls, building his Chaos Control gauge. At some point, Biolizard creates a giant energy ball to crush Shadow. By using Chaos Control, Shadow can stop the attack and throw it back at Biolizard.

With that final attack, Shadow overcomes Biolizard with blaring electric guitars in the background. One of the highlights of Sonic Frontiers was its soundtrack, and I’m glad that Shadow Generations is back with some great tunes to listen to.

The Shadow levels of Generations are shaping up to be a fun return for the black hedgehog — even if it doesn’t seem to play off of the weird tone of his 2005 adventure. That cult classic is a strange stab at a “mature” tone, complete with guns and swear words. Those elements are absent here so far, but I’m secretly hoping they make a return. Let Shadow say “damn” again!

Sonic X Shadow Generations launches on October 25 for PC, PlayStation 4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

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George Yang
George Yang is a freelance games writer for Digital Trends. He has written for places such as IGN, GameSpot, The Washington…
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