Why Shadow is so important for outcast kids.


(This page may be edited in the future, maybe to make everything more focused, to fix typos, etc)

Let me set the scene, you're not like the other kids, you're DIFFERENT, then you see the new Sonic game, it's RATED T. And it has GUNS and THE COOLEST SONIC CHARACTER EVER SHADOW THE HEDGEHOG!

You connect with him a lot, you aren't entirely sure why but maybe it's just because you're both loners, you think this game is the coolest thing ever, and yet when you go online to see others' opinions, everyone seems to hate it, just calling it overly edgy. Not like everyone else yet again.

The outsider non-Sonic fan perseption of Shadow compared to the internal fandom one is a fascinating one to me. A lot of people outside of it all they really see is this very try-hardy attempt to be edgy by SEGA while in fandom Shadow is easily one of if not the most popular character with the only real complaints coming from SEGA's mishandling of his character.
I feel like Shadow, like Tails, is an extremely important character for young people, despite a lot of people just kinda shrugging him off as edgy, but in order to make my point, I'm gonna have to lore dump a lot.

Project Shadow

Doctor Gerald Robotnik was an excellent scientist with a good heart, putting all of his work towards curing his niece, Maria's, chronic disease. Being eventually approached by the United Federation to find a cure to death itself, originally hesitent, he agrees, as it could easily lead to a cure for Maria. Gerald always had a strong interest in ancient civilization, it's never directly stated as far as I remember but it's extremely obvious when looking at stages that take place on the ARK you can start seeing it.

With the fake Chaos robots and the shrine at the end. And thus Gerald modelled the first Ultimate Lifeform after the ancient eldrich water creature Perfect Chaos, creating the Biolizard. However the Biolizard was a very major failure. It couldn't move properly, it had constant tubes attached to it to keep it alive, it was quite terrifying, so he had to try again.
Something I don't see a lot of people talk about is the theory on WHY Shadow looks like Sonic, the big main one that I personally believe was very intentional is the speculation that Shadow's appearance was specifically based on this rune seen in Sonic the Hedgehog 3:

Doesn't really connect back to anything I want to talk about and I already mentioned it in my SA2 page, I just think it's neat.

But regardless, Gerald's 2nd try managed to be a success, making a being that's truly immortal. Creating Shadow the Ultimate Lifeform. But Gerald knew deep down that the United Federation was planning to use Shadow as a weapon, so as a failsafe he crafted Shadow's soul to be modelled after his niece's. To him Maria was the most pure and caring person to ever exist, so he was confident that would prevent Shadow from becoming a weapon.

Because of that, Shadow and Maria grew an extremely strong bond, despite being entirely differect species they were practically brother and sister. Shadow, left wondering why he was created gained comfort from Maria. And Maria, yearning to be on earth and be free from her illness gained comfort from Shadow. They made a promise that they would made it to earth, together.

Unfortunately, word about Project Shadow got to United Federations military G.U.N.
Expressing fear of the danger and the financial cost, along with the fear of these experiments being known by the public and an implied want to take Shadow and use him for themselves. They need to erase every chance of it leaking to the public, all of it.

G.U.N. troops flooded the halls of the ARK, with the mission to kill everyone on the ARK except Gerald and Shadow, all with the plan to frame it as a massive tragety and blame it all on Gerald.

Shadow acted quickly to protect Maria, but of course, we all know what happens.
Maria sacrifices her own life to get Shadow to escape.

One way or another G.U.N. eventually catches up and seals Shadow, and in one way or another, Gerald while in capitivity is able to get to Shadow. Gerald has since read the list of the victims, and sees Maria's name. He is filled with burning rage, and now he must override Shadow's nature for one goal, revenge.

Shadow has one of, if not the darkest backstory in the franchise, basically existing as a living weapon with everything he loved forcibly taken away from him purely because he exists, and proceeding to have his own mind forcibly altered by the very person who gave him life.

When playing his introduction game SA2 it's not hard to see why he's so popular.

Though he's not the first tragic character in the franchise, Tikal was introduced in just the game before, he is still deeply tragic.
Shadow had every right to become a villain, even without Gerald's tampering of his memory making him think that this is what Maria wanted.

What adds to Shadow's tragedy, at least in my opinion is the fact that as far as Sega knew, this was the final Sonic game, Shadow's death representing the death of the franchise, but of course that's not how it ended, and is neither the end of the story.

Guns and Swearing

Look, as much as I wanna talk about how cool and awesome Team Dark's story is in Sonic Heroes and how I honestly think they carry the game's story in a lot of ways, I think I gotta talk about the semi-automatic in the room.

I'm gonna start right out the gate, I'm a strong Shadow The Hedgehog defender, which I will just refer to as SHTH this point forward to not mix up the game and the character, I agree that most of the villain storylines feel wildly out of character for who we've known Shadow to be up to this point, but I feel like there's still a lot of aspects to praise here.
But, to get it out of the way, let's start with the bad.

I feel like it's pretty obvious from the get-go that this game is meant to capture what Sonic did when he was originally introduced into the public eye just with modern twist. Bring back the rebellious vibe to the franchise.
But the question is; did they try too hard to be edgy in this game?

Eh, yeah kinda. But I feel like some parts actually work, again, we'll get to that later.

Hearing any character other than Shadow say "damn" is admittedly really funny (play "where's that DAMN 4th chaos emerald" here), I don't think guns inherently feel wrong in the franchise but the Heroes era model style Shadow holding a gun does look super goofy, though I feel like it looks pretty natural in the pre-rendered cutscenes.

Story wise I feel like most of this game's problems are found in the evil endings, mostly because Shadow's behavior feels comically out of character. Shadow is a ominous monologuer not a maniacal laugher.
Shout out to the ending where you go 100% good until the last minute and Shadow's justification is legit just "Sonic I am tired of your shit" and Sonic is straight up like "lol yeah that's fair"
Also the ending where Shadow, having an identity crisis, is aproached by Omega and he goes "hey buddy wanna go kill my Dad" and they DO.

But I feel like there's a lot of good that people don't talk about, and a lot that I think people should think about.

I Am The Chosen One.

One of the big problems people have with SHTH is the fact that the game immediately contradicts something Shadow claims at the end of Heroes. The fact that he does not have any concern about his past or whether or not he's the true Shadow. But then once we SHTH we immediately start with Shadow being bothered by all of this.

This seems like a contradiction on the surface, and admittedly, it probably is and is a writing fuck up, but I think it's perfectly reasonable for this claim to still make sense.

Let's put ourselves in Shadow's shoes for a moment

Would you really be completely fine with the haunting thoughts that would be plaguing his mind by the end of Heroes? These flashes of trauma, the lack of understanding if the fragmented memories are even yours in the first place. Tell me the truth. Would you be ok with that?

I don't think it's an entirely crazy thought to think that Shadow could be lying in the end of Heroes, the guy has never been above doing that, including anytime that would include emotional vulnerability, hell he would be 100% meaning it in the moment but as time goes on it just begins to bother him more and more.

Shadow's story is about trauma, and I think it's very important to recognize that with the healing process it's extremely common for those suffering from trauma to relapse when they believe they've fully gotten over their past. It's even more hard to move on when your memory is blotchy, you know something terrible happened to you, but it's impossible to get the full picture, it makes you very vulnerable to manipulation.

And Black Doom knows this.

I do admittedly enjoy the idea from the Archie comics that Black Doom was partcially mind-controlling Shadow as it makes the comically out of character evil routes make a little bit more sense, I feel like Black Doom simply manipulating Shadow still can make sense.

Despite this, my favorite scene regarding the memory distortion relating to trauma(or falling from earth while already having memory problems) is when the Commander confronts Shadow.

As far as the Commander knows, Shadow is probably this weird creature created by this satanic alien, and he never saw HOW Maria died, he just knows Shadow was with her. And as much as I don't really like the Commander, I can see where he's coming from.

This man is deeply traumatized.

And so is Shadow.

Like he said with Black Doom at the beginning of the game, he has no reason to NOT believe Cthe Commander, that he was created for evil. Hell, what Black Doom has been telling him aligns with that as well.
Why wouldn't he believe them? That he is the cause of everyones' suffering, that he caused Maria's death, that HE'S the villain.

And this leads to what in my opinion is the most depressing ending in the game.

As goofy as it is that they chose Vector to be the guy to comfort Shadow (but not really out of character tbf) this ending is just, sad. Hell it feels like there's a light implication that Shadow attempts suicide by the end of this, though obviously that might be a bit of a stretch.

This leads me to the dark equivilant to this ending, which is probably my favorite ending in the game outside of the true ending.

Shadow decides to become the protector of the ARK, completely isolating himself, almost literally trapping himself in his past. It's also a really sad ending but it admittedly feels a lot more satisfying, you can't blame Shadow for his choice. Completely isolating himself, no one to help him, no one to hurt him, just, alone.

I'll Never Turn Back Again.

Once you get all the possible endings you unlock the true canon ending of the game, just ignore the questions on what in the game is canon we're talking about the positives today.

At this point Shadow learns Black Doom's true intentions, he's here to kill all humans, claiming he's saving them by killing all of them. But of course he also plans to use their lives as a power source. But it's too late, Shadow already gave him all the chaos emeralds.

Shadow was used, again. And it turns out, Black Doom was Gerald's right hand man all along. Black Doom's DNA used to create Shadow in the first place. Gerald basically making a deal with the devil in order to create the Ultimate Lifeform. It makes sense really, Gerald ended up wanting to genocide the human race anyways, I can't help but wonder if Black Doom implanted that idea into his mind once Maria died.

Shadow's friends are frozen in place and slowly start getting eaten to death by Black Doom's spawn (wow that's a lot more fucked up placing into words.) But in this moment. Shadow stands up.
(5:35 if embed breaks)

Through all the terror he has been through, he hears Maria, he promised her to live. Shadow the Hedgehog will now live, live for himself.

He is more than his trauma, he is more than just Gerald, he is more than Black Doom, he's even more than just Maria.

He is all.

Why Shadow Specifically?

I think more children and teens need to feel seen, know that they're not alone in their suffering, people love to just turn away and pretend that it's not a problem, but there are several children and teens suffering from depression and PTSD. 1 in 5 teens reporting suffering from symptoms of depression or anxiety and it's extremely common for people to just, not get diagnosed with PTSD and never know they have it, hell you don't need to have PTSD to be traumatized.

Even in our currant age where mental health is slowly being taken more and more seriously, there's still an extremely major stigma. So many children are forced into silence either because they aren't being taken seriously or to keep a supposed status quo

I think we as a society have a problem with mocking abnormal children, those children typically suffering from mental illness. Mocking them for being oh so 'cringey' and I wanna really stop to think about that.

Why are so many people so bothered by children doing abnormal things to cope with their problems? Why are we so obsessed with labelling everything to be for attention? And even then, why does no one think about the implications of a child doing extreme stuff for attention in the first place?

As much as I can speculate, I don't know the true answer, but I feel like people should really reflect on this instinctive reaction.

Hell that doesn't even get into the can of worms of how rarely men with mood-based mental illness are taken seriously or treated, or even try to go into treatment in the first place because they've been brainwashed into thinking it'll make them weak, or that being mentally ill or struggling is weak in the first place.

The refusal of help and straight up mockery of those suffering of any gender or background causes the suffering to continue. 'Toughing up' doesn't do shit, it never has. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, Bipolar disorder, all of them, they effect the very wiring of your brain. Simply just not being sad doesn't do shit.

We need characters like Shadow that show that trauma and mental illness doesn't make you weak, that those trying to gaslight you about your past are lying to you, that you were traumatized, that you were hurt, and that's ok. But along side that showing that your trauma and hurt don't define the person you have to be, you are you, not the person who hurt you, but the person you lost, not the people who try to force you into a box on who you are.

You are you, and that's beautiful.

"Now and then"
"My head starts to spin"
"But I'll never turn back again"

"From this moment on"
"I am moving on"
"And I'll never turn back again"

Did you know?
PTSD heavily modifies the functions of someones' brain. Stress results in acute and chronic changes in neurochemical systems and specific brain regions, which result in longterm changes in brain “circuits,” involved in the stress response. Remember that mental disorders PHYSICALLY affect the brain.