With Sonic Forces on the horizon, there is one question on every Sonic fan’s mind: what the heck is going on with Shadow the Hedgehog? After years of being a tortured soul, created specifically as the “Ultimate Life Form” to help humanity find cures to diseases, his narrative has come a long way. But after years of being regulated to spin-off games, we’re seeing him again in on the frontlines.
In Sonic Forces, Shadow will fight against Sonic and his friends, so we assume he is running with the villainous Dr. Eggman. But whether or not he is definitively working with Eggman has yet to be revealed; it could be that Shadow is acting villainously but for his own agenda.
But if he is evil, why is he evil? Other than the fact he appears to be the only character to run onto the battlefield with a very large gun. There are half a dozen fan theories about Shadow’s appearance and what could explain his turn to the dark side.
His “Dark Ending” is Canon
In 2005’s third-person shooter Shadow the Hedgehog, players could get different endings depending on the choice of final levels. Each one included a decision to either complete a boss battle on the “Hero” path or the “Dark” path. Selecting the “Dark” battle on the “Pure Dark” path sees him defeat Sonic in combat, take the Chaos Emeralds for himself, and declare he will destroy the planet. That’s some really heavy stuff.
In this theory, the Shadow we see in Sonic Forces is a direct result of this ending. The “Pure Dark” “Dark Ending” is canon, and he has always been this way. Sure, he’s shown up in spin-off games and caused a bit of mischief in games like Sonic Heroes and Sonic Generations. But maybe now that Eggman has basically destroyed the world, now is Shadow’s chance to really get what he wants: the destruction of the planet.
This seems slightly more plausible, given Dr. Eggman’s gadgetry. Shadow could be under mind control from Eggman, carrying out his wishes and serving as his puppet. But even though this would be an easy explanation of the dark hedgehog’s loyalties for Sonic Forces, it’s not a satisfying one. Nor does it fit with his character.
Shadow is a strong-willed hedgehog and has proven this time and time again. It probably wouldn’t be that easy to mind control him, no?
He’s the Sonic Adventure II Shadow
Shadow was first introduced in Sonic Adventure II as a rival to Sonic. When Dr. Eggman awoke him from stasis, he asked the hedgehog to help him take over the world. Grateful, Shadow agreed, as this was an opportunity for him to take revenge on the world for the untimely death of his (maybe girl)friend Maria Robotnik.
This Shadow was bad to the bone, and his intentions were nothing but evil. Given the Sonic series’ use of time travel to tell some of its stories, some fans think that the one in Sonic Forces is the same one from Sonic Adventure II. The Shadow we first meet has been transported forward in time by Dr. Eggman to assist in the destruction of the world where their goal seems more achievable. This would explain his disdain towards Sonic and his firm stance against him.
It’s a Different Shadow Entirely
Following games like Sonic Generations, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that maybe the Shadow in Sonic Forces is from another dimension or place in time entirely. If it’s plausible the Shadow from Sonic Adventure II has come forward to the present, then it’s possible this one could have come from anywhere.
If you believe he is pure evil this time around, then he could be heralding from any one of the previous Sonic games. His role as an anti-hero is well documented, and his fits of passion and strong conviction make him an ideal candidate to turn allegiances on a dime.
A good candidate for a time-traveling Shadow could be the one from Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. After being labeled a menace to mankind and sealed away in a future timeline, he travels back in time with Sonic to stop the world’s destruction. At the end of the game, the events of that timeline are totally erased, leaving the future open. But maybe he still remembers. Angry that the world would turn on him, maybe he’s not turning on the world.
Infinite is Shadow’s Final Form
In the Sonic universe, bad guys go back and forth in time with relative frequency and ease. Maybe we’re asking ourselves the wrong questions about why Shadow is evil. Maybe we should be asking when.
Shadow has been bounced around between the bad guy groups of Sonic since his debut. But he straddles light and dark, good and evil, with the potential and power to be either. He also hasn’t had a reason to really be around in the games since Sonic 2006. So what could have brought him to Sonic Forces?
How about Sonic Forces’ big bad, Infinite? He does look an awful lot like a hedgehog. Shadow’s presence indicates a possible connection to Infinite — maybe even a signal that they are the same person. Infinite could be his final evil form from the future, where he embraced the power of the Chaos Emeralds and destroyed the world, submit the universe to his will, and dominated everyone as the “Ultimate Life Form.”
This isn’t hard to believe since Shadow absolutely has the potential to go completely off-the-wall evil. Either way, we’ll find out when Sonic Forces launches on November 7.