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Sonic Generations’ new Shadow levels are a joyous shot of noughties nostalgia

A worthy remaster made all the worthier by the addition of brand new content? You spoil us, SEGA

Image credit: SEGA

Remasters of games that are a generation or two old are ten-a-penny now, but some go a little further than others. Such is the case for Sonic X Shadow Generations, Sega’s do-over of 2011’s Sonic Generations, a game originally designed to be a wide-ranging celebration of the speedy hedgehog for his 20th birthday. Sonic’s now 33; the game itself is, in a video game sense, a relic.

That isn’t said or meant in a pejorative sense, however. Generations is old, but it remains one of the best modern Sonic efforts outside of the unassailable Sonic Mania. It’s still very good - and its mish-mash of levels from the first twenty years of Sonic adventures split between two distinct gameplay styles still charms.

But if you want to feel really old, check this: Shadow the Hedgehog is now as old as Sonic was when Generations first released. To me, a human being marginally older than Sonic, Shadow is still one of the ‘new’ characters, sitting in a segregated tier from the truly ‘classic’ crew. But to a whole generation of kids and adults he’s now always been there, just like Sonic - and so it only seems right that this new release celebrates him, too.

Sonic X Shadow Generations has a surprising amount of fresh content.Watch on YouTube

Sonic X Shadow Generations is structured in a siloed way; at a summer preview for the game, I’m straight up presented with a title menu that has two options: Sonic Generations (essentially the old game with a few tweaks and additions) and Shadow Generations (all-new content starring Shadow). The stories are meant to intertwine - just as Sonic’s Generations narrative has the ‘classic’ and ‘modern’ versions of the character tumbling through highlights from his own history, Shadow’s story is the same, beginning with his debut in Sonic Adventure 2.

Honestly, as someone who was twelve years old when SA2 first came out - this stuff is pretty great. There’s only one linear level on offer - Act 1 of this game’s recreation of Space Colony ARK from that game. This is a memorable stage which features Shadow speeding from platform-to-platform out in space, hitting grind rails to zip between meteors and stars. It’s cool in that sort of effortless way the Dreamcast-era Sonic games were. The same is true for the demo’s boss offering, a recreation of SA2’s penultimate battle against the Biolizard, an evil genetically-engineered reptile. The battle has been souped up, but is also familiar enough that the basic rhythms of the fight tallied with my ancient, crumbling memory of the battle.

Iconic enemy design...appears in other screenshots | Image credit: SEGA

Remixed versions of tunes that I feel have now been rendered as classics by the grinding passage of time have me tapping my foot as I play. Somehow, as I encounter each new one I find myself actually feeling a sense of nostalgia for the relatively bland war-robot badnik designs of SA2. I am transported back to the 2000s, and I think: this is peak. We are so back. That’s what the kids say now, right? I guess back in those days, I would’ve said it was “sweet”. And yeah - it’s pretty sweet.

The thing is, while I still feel that Generations is probably one of the ‘best’ of the modern Sonic experiences, it’s totally true that Sonic Team has gotten better at making Sonic games in the decade since this title was first released. You can feel that in the Shadow gameplay, which still has some of the ropey tics of 3D Sonic but is nevertheless quite smooth and exciting. Playing it, I began to feel myself yearn for a Sonic Adventure 1 & 2 remake - something which I previously thought was only the desire of the crazy.

Metal Sonic and Classic Sonic in Sonic X Shadow Generations
All your favourite Sonics are here baby. Metal. Classic. Other. | Image credit: SEGA

Beyond the limited demo contents, this new release will include a full remaster of the original Sonic Generations content - though perhaps the game’s only misstep is limiting it to the levels from the console version of Sonic Generations, as the 3DS version included a slate of exclusive levels that could’ve been gloriously remastered for this ‘definitive’ edition - Sega has sadly decided against that.

That fact makes the Shadow story the game’s main selling point beyond nostalgia - and honestly, despite my disappointment, I’m here for that. Shadow’s story will surely stretch through all of his major appearances - including Shadow’s own slightly ill-judged 2005 game, where the anti-hero ends up toting a gun and killing cops. I’m intrigued to see how Sonic Team handles remaking that - but I’m sufficiently impressed by just one stage that I’ll be there day one regardless.

Sonic X Shadow Generations releases for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch 25th October.

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