Shadow the Hedgehog

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Shadow the Hedgehog
First seen: Sonic Adventure 2 (2001)
Species: Hedgehog / Black Arms
Gender: Male
Age: Chronologically 50, Physically 15
Height: 100cm (3'3")[1]
Weight: 35kg (77lbs)[1]
Likes: Nothing[1][2]
Dislikes: Humanity[1]
Created by: Takashi Iizuka
For the eponymous game, see Shadow the Hedgehog (game).

Shadow the Hedgehog (シャドウ・ザ・ヘッジホッグ), also known as "The Ultimate Lifeform," is a recurring character in the Sonic the Hedgehog series of games and related media. First introduced in Sonic Adventure 2 as a villain, he soon took on the role of anti-hero, becoming yet another rival of Sonic. Because of his nature, he has also become a fan favorite, especially among those who discovered the series after SEGA ceased production of the Dreamcast.

Character conception

After the success of Sonic Adventure, it was only natural to assume that a sequel would be produced. Hoping that the game would be what Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was for the Mega Drive, a portion of the team responsible for the first Adventure title was sent off to work at SEGA of America. Dubbed "Sonic Team USA," it was led by Director Takashi Iizuka, while Yuji Naka remained back in Japan to work on other properties, including Phantasy Star Online. With the team in place, brainstorming soon began on what form Sonic Adventure 2 would take.

Early on, it was decided that one of the main themes of the game would be the dichotomy between good and evil, and to help explore that the creators came up with new characters that would both assist Dr. Eggman and challenge the established cast of heroes. Though Yuji Uekawa was tasked drawing the final design of the character, it was Iizuka who came up with the idea to use a dark, anti-hero figure who was similar to Sonic in shape but not in personality. When being designed, his original name was Terios, which translates to "reflection of," more than likely to play off the hero/villain dynamic within the game.

Once Sonic Adventure 2 was announced, the identity and nature of Shadow was a heavily guarded secret, his existence teased at the end of the first trailer for the game.[1] Indeed, the push to build hype for the new character put other characters on the backburner, Tails not even being announced for the game until a few months later. The marketing push for the character was so great that, when players reached the end of Adventure 2 and saw the "death" of Shadow, there were many who doubted this was the last time Shadow would appear. As it were, Iizuka would later admit that he always had future plans for the character, hoping to have him star in his own game. This eventually happened with the release of Shadow the Hedgehog for the three main systems of the era.

In video games

Origin of Shadow

Concept art for the Space Colony ARK, as depicted in Shadow the Hedgehog.
Source: Sonic Adventure 2 - The Truth of 50 Years Ago...

Fifty years before the events of Sonic Adventure 2, a top-secret project known as "Project Shadow" had begun on the Space Colony ARK. Led by Professor Gerald Robotnik, it was a government-sanctioned initiative to create "The Ultimate Lifeform," an immortal being that could be used for the benefit of the nation, likely in a militaristic fashion. While Gerald had initial misgivings to the purpose of the research he was assigned to, he realized that his results might be able to save his granddaughter, Maria. Suffering from the incurable disease Neuro Immunodeficiency Syndrome, Maria only had a short time left to live, and Gerald was willing to do whatever it took to save her life. Going against his worries of stepping into territory man had no business playing with, the professor immediately began work, hoping that he could apply any newly-gained knowledge to find a cure to N.I.D.S.

Even with the resources at his disposal, Professor Gerald was unable to make significant progress. Without alerting anyone, Gerald decided to plea to the stars for help, contacting the Black Arms race. An alien civilization that lived upon the Black Comet, a celestial object that passed near the planet every fifty years, its leader Black Doom offered to assist Gerald in his quest. He offered his blood - which ended up being the key to perfect the ultimate lifeform - in exchange for the seven Chaos Emeralds, which he would collect the next time he passed through. Knowing that the Black Arms' intentions were less than desirable, Gerald made the deal regardless, and was able to successfully create Shadow the Hedgehog.

Shadow looking out to Earth, with Maria at his side. From Sonic X.

Once brought to life, Shadow immediately befriended Maria, and they became close during their short time together. Gerald, meanwhile, made precautions for the return of the alien race, ensuring that the Eclipse Cannon - an extremely powerful laser built into the ARK - was compatible with the seven Chaos Emeralds, so that when they did return humanity would be able to defend itself instead of bowing to their whims.

However, Gerald's progress was ruined when it was leaked to G.U.N. how he was able to create the successful prototype. During the meeting between Gerald and the Black Arms, one of the other children aboard the ARK had accidentally seen what transpired, and reported back to those in charge. As ties between the ARK and the United Federation had already been strained, hearing the news of the dealings with an alien race scared those in charge. Afraid of the implications, it was decided to launch an invasion and put a stop to the work being done there.

What happened next was nothing short of madness, as G.U.N. troops descended onto the ARK, causing chaos and confusion wherever they went. Immediately they went after the Biolizard, which they thought was the successful "Project Shadow" prototype, and in the process of putting the creature into stasis lost quite a few soldiers. From there they went about doing damage control, shutting down everything, getting everyone off the ARK, and killing those who resisted if need be. Knowing that the G.U.N. forces would be there at any moment, Maria convinced Shadow to enter an escape pod, her final wish to him that he give the people on the planet a chance to be happy. Wishing him goodbye, Shadow could do nothing as he watched the G.U.N. soldiers storm into the lab, firing a shot which would forever change the artificial hedgehog.

Learning of his granddaughter's death, Professor Gerald soon went mad, swearing vengeance on humanity for taking away the only thing that ever meant anything to him. Though just what exactly transpired is cloudy, what is known is that both Gerald and the escape pod that held Shadow were gathered by G.U.N., Shadow being placed in cryogenic storage within Prison Island, and Gerald being incarcerated and charged with the crimes that happened aboard the ARK.

With the entire incident classified, the remnants of Gerald's legacy were left dormant for fifty years. It's possible they would have been forgotten entirely if not for the intervention of Dr. Eggman, Gerald's grandson. Coming across his grandfather's journals, Eggman became aware of Project Shadow, and broke into Prison Island to recover what the mysterious weapon could be. Once he reached the center of the complex, he was startled to see a hedgehog, immediately thinking it must be Sonic. Quickly, though, he realized his fears were for naught, and that some grand twist of fate caused Gerald's greatest invention to resemble his arch-nemesis. When awoken, Shadow offers Eggman his help, asking for the Chaos Emeralds in return.

Though he teamed up with Eggman, Shadow's true intentions are clouded. Indeed, not even Shadow is sure of what he is meant to do, having only vague memories of what happened to him aboard the ARK. Remembering Maria's senseless death, Shadow seeks out the remaining Chaos Emeralds, not relying on just the Doctor. The second emerald collected is also at the hand of Shadow, stolen from a facility that immediately gained the attention of G.U.N. Watching security footage, the organization believed the criminal to be Sonic the Hedgehog, a case of mistaken identity that runs through the rest of Sonic Adventure 2. When the two meet after the events of City Escape, a fierce rivalry begins, each subsequent encounter the two share ending in a fight.

Shadow confronting Biolizard. From Sonic Adventure 2.

With Sonic being chased by G.U.N. at every opportunity, he is unable to stop Dr. Eggman from collecting six of the seven Chaos Emeralds, and with Shadow's help Eggman learned how to access the Eclipse Cannon aboard the Space Colony ARK. Even though all seven are needed to power the weapon to its full potential, Eggman makes an announcement to the world, giving a taste of the cannon's power by attacking the moon. Seeing the stakes raised, the rest of the cast make it up to the ARK, knowing the fate of the world hangs in the balance. With the seventh emerald up for grabs, Dr. Eggman is able to secure it under the guise that he is defeated. As the heroes celebrate, thinking that have once again saved the world, Eggman made his way to the cannon, putting the final emerald in the dock. Immediately, a videotaped message of Gerald Robotnik began, declaring his hatred of humanity in his final days, hoping that the Chaos Emeralds would be gathered on the ARK and that the cannon would be turned on those who took everything away from him. As Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Rouge the Bat and even Dr. Eggman set about to stop the destruction of Earth, Shadow refused to do anything, believing he was carrying out Maria's final wish. However, a conversation with Amy Rose triggered one of Shadow’s lost memories, which allowed Shadow to finally recall her true final words. Realizing his folly, Shadow decided to join the fight, helping Sonic to stop Biolizard, a creature which was Shadow's immediate prototype.

Forced to take the battle to the stars, Sonic and Shadow unite, transforming into their Super forms and taking down Biolizard's final form, Finalhazard. Using Chaos Control, they are able transport the space colony back into its original orbit, saving the planet at the presumed cost of Shadow's life.

Time passes, and when Sonic Heroes begins, Rouge the Bat is investigating rumors of a secret treasure that Dr. Eggman has been hiding in one of his many fortresses. She is surprised to find a stasis tube holding what looks to be Shadow the Hedgehog, guarded by the final of Eggman's original line of E-series robots, E-123 Omega. With her quick thinking, she is able to convince both of them to join her to try and figure out what Eggman may be planning next. Through the game, it is made clear that Shadow remembers nothing of what happened in the past, though certain events trigger the briefest of recollections. The ambiguity of the Shadow found by Rouge is only further complicated when, when the trio make it to the Egg Fleet, they stumble across an entire fleet of Shadow-themed robots. Because of this sudden revelation, Rouge comes to the conclusion that the Shadow they have been working with might be nothing more than a robotic clone, and not the friend she lost at the end of Sonic Adventure 2.

After Metal Sonic's defeat, Shadow chooses not to remain with "Team Dark," but instead tries and find the answers of his existence on his own, wandering alone for the next two weeks. His journey takes a dramatic turn when, just outside the city of Westopolis, the Black Arms race decides to attack the planet. He is immediately contacted by the force's leader, Black Doom, who tells Shadow that humanity betrayed him and that he belongs with the invading force. As an incentive, he promises to restore Shadow's memories if he collects the seven Chaos Emeralds. Not sure what to believe, Shadow goes through the invasion as best he can, sometimes assisting the alien forces, other times helping out Sonic the Hedgehog and his friends, and on certain occasions accomplishing his own objections which serve neither side. In the end, Shadow is able to collect the emeralds, and decides to give them to Black Doom, hoping he will finally find the answers he seeks. In doing so, Shadow is finally able to realize the truth of his creation.

Every memory that Shadow once had returns, discovering the pact that Gerald had made with the Black Arms race, and the hope the professor originally had, that Shadow would stop the invading force once the time came. Renouncing the hatred of humanity that Black Doom had tried to force on him during the game, Shadow sets off to stop the invading force from using Chaos Control to transport all their forces onto Earth at once. As Shadow and Black Doom face off in one final confrontation, Dr. Eggman reveals to Shadow that he is not a clone or a robot or anything of the sort, but indeed the same Shadow from Sonic Adventure 2, and that he had used a robot to save him as he fell to earth after those events. With everything cleared up, Shadow is able to defeat Black Doom, and throws the Black Comet into the path of the Eclipse Cannon, fulfilling the hope that both Gerald and Maria had for him.

In the aftermath, Shadow decides to join G.U.N. as an agent in a similar fashion as Rouge the Bat, looking to the future instead of being forever trapped in his past as he had allowed himself to be since his introduction in the series.

Personality and traits

The infamous promo art, from Shadow the Hedgehog.

Shadow the Hedgehog is a black and red hedgehog, and though his physical appearance points to him being the same age as Sonic, he is actually much older due to his time spent in hibernation under the care of G.U.N. Though his physical appearance is purely hedgehog, his DNA is a combination of hedgehog and that of the Black Arms alien race, and it is because of this combination that allows his ease of using the energy of the Chaos Emeralds for his own purposes.

Designed to be "The Ultimate Lifeform," it has been said that Shadow is nothing short of immortal, though this claim has been untested. It has been shown that Shadow is incredibly resilient, if his fall from space is anything to go by. His power over the Chaos Emeralds only adds to his title, his trademark ability being that of "Chaos Control." Needing only the power from one Chaos Emerald, Shadow is able to bend space and time around him at his will, allowing him to traverse great distances in only a short amount of time. However, he can only maintain this state for a limited amount.

Shadow also has the ability to manifest Chaos energy as a physical force, and use it to attack his enemies. Chaos Spear, his most often used form, is the formation of energy into a lightning bolt, Shadow throwing it to deliver damage. A cruder form of this, Chaos Blast, is a generic explosion which is designed to damage anything around him. Along with Chaos Boost, Chaos Snap, and Chaos Attack, Shadow has developed a wide variety of attacks which utilize a Chaos Emerald. With one of those magical gems, Shadow is a nearly unstoppable force.

Even without an emerald, Shadow is still a being to be reckoned with, as he has many of the same abilities that Sonic the Hedgehog possess. Just like Sonic, he can curl up into a spin attack and attack enemies. He also can build up speed with the classic spin dash, and aim at combatants with the homing attack. However, Shadow does not possess the same blistering speed that Sonic has. To make up for this shortcoming, Shadow wears a pair of Air Shoes, which give Shadow's running an extra boost, allowing him to keep up with Sonic most of the time. It also gives Shadow the ability to hover over the ground for short periods, though he doesn't often exercise this.

While Shadow's physical abilities are nothing to be trifled with, Shadow is not against the idea of using weaponry if need be. Guns, missiles, bazookas, or any other armaments that the military force G.U.N. has at their disposal are fair game for the artificial hedgehog to use. Even vehicles like tanks are not off-limits to Shadow, many of the preceding weapons serving him in numerous situations in his self-titled game.

Though he is often compared to Sonic, Shadow's personality is quite the opposite. Instead of being a joyful, carefree spirit, Shadow the Hedgehog is often a moody, discontented soul. Born through a more artificial means, he began questioning his true purpose while on the ARK, long before the moments that would scar his life. The only thing he has ever truly cared about, the only person he ever considered a friend, was Maria Robotnik, and when he watched her murdered in front of his eyes, everything changed. Most of his life has been spent thinking of her, and wishing to honor her memory, even when he wasn't sure what it was she would have wanted. Because of this, he has never been trusting of humans, something which manifested during the events of Shadow the Hedgehog. Even though he now remembers his past and has fulfilled Maria's promise thrice over, he still has a great dislike for humanity, something he tries to work through now that he works directly for them.[2] Indeed, his trust for humans has shown to increase slightly, balking at Mephilis' prediction that humanity would turn against him and blame him for the destruction Solaris would cause in the future. However, as those events took place in Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, the entire plot was retconned, though it can be assumed that Shadow's attempt at accepting humanity is still occurring. He also been shown to at least accept from others, including Rouge the Bat who also has ties to the G.U.N. organization.

Also, like many other characters in the games, Shadow is able to use the power of the seven Chaos Emeralds to transform into Super Shadow, though he is still bound by the same ring-consumption limitation that the other characters in the series have.

In other media

Just as the case has been for Sonic the Hedgehog, Shadow the Hedgehog has been adapted to fit in other media.

Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie comics)

Shadow, featured on the cover of Sonic the Hedgehog Issue 171.

Introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog Issue 98, Shadow the Hedgehog's origins are played out in a similar way to the game. His captivity in Prison Island, his emergence by Dr. Eggman's hand, his creation by Professor Gerald Robotnik, and his relationship with Maria aboard the Space Colony ARK are all present. Seeking out the Chaos Emeralds, Shadow even reproduces the case of mistaken identity, causing the forces of Station Square to go after Sonic. However, unlike the games, the comics make it clear that Gerald was able to get a hold of Shadow after the tragic events aboard the ARK, and was responsible for his fuzzy memories of what Maria wanted.

After defeating Finalhazard, it was not Eggman who rescued the falling Shadow but the alien race known as the Bem, a peaceful species who felt that Shadow needed to be saved for the upcoming Xorda invasion. Once he awoke, the Bem made Shadow transform into his super state, setting him against the Xorda ship entering Mobius space. Though he fought valiantly, he was unable to stop them, crashing back onto the surface where he was subsequently discovered by the residents of Knothole. Forming a temporary alliance with them, he joined Sonic and the gang to fight off the Xorda invasion, who wanted to wipe out intelligent life on the planet to pay for crimes that had been committed millennia ago by human beings to a Xorda ambassador.

After the Xorda's defeat, Shadow was left to drift alone, deciding to eventually confront Dr. Eggman. It was there that he met Hope Kintobor, Eggman's cousin who looked extremely similar to Maria. Becoming protective of her, Shadow would become angered if she was placed in danger, his feelings for Maria influencing any action involving Hope. It was because of Eggman's relation to Maria that made Shadow join forces with him for a time, although he only stayed a part of his force until he could get a hold of Gerald's diaries (Hope having already found refuge in Knothole and, later on, Station Square). Asking for help from the Freedom Fighters, Shadow was able to talk to holographic versions of Gerald and Maria, learning about his Black Arms heritage and how they would eventually be coming, ready to attack the planet.

With this knowledge, Shadow went off to Station Square, where he joined up with G.U.N., working alongside Rouge the Bat once again. Eventually recruiting E-123 Omega and forming "Team Dark," Shadow is once again able to keep an eye on Hope, all the while trying to keep peace on Mobius, waiting for the day where he may be called to fight against the oncoming forces of Black Doom.

Sonic X

Sonic the Hedgehog and Shadow, from Sonic X.

Once again, Shadow the Hedgehog's introduction in Sonic X is quite similar to that of Sonic Adventure 2. Revealed in episode 33, "The Puzzle of Project Shadow," he is awoken by Dr. Eggman in yet another attempt at global domination. Many of the same events occur as they do in the games, as the arc Shadow is used in is a direct adaptation. Driven by his promise to Maria, the anime makes one notable difference as it is Chris Thorndyke, not Amy Rose, which triggers the return of Shadow's memory and his true promise to Maria. Realizing his folly, he joins Sonic to battle Finalhazard, the result being his assumed death.

It is discovered in the second series that Shadow did not perish, but was instead rescued by Dr. Eggman, who put him in stasis. His fate is discovered in episode 60, "The Return of Shadow," and when he is awoken he remembers nothing of his past, save for a vague image of Maria. He once again takes on the role of anti-hero, helping to fight off the Metarex while at the same time not getting along with Sonic and the gang. There is one episode in which Shadow befriends Molly, a teenage girl that reminds him of Maria. However, he is unable to prevent fate from happening again, Molly sacrificing herself to save others during a Metarex attack. At the end of the series, Shadow once again becomes instrumental in stopping the villain, doing it not only for Maria but for Molly.

In the Sonic X comic book series, Shadow only appears once, though it is the Shadow from the main Archie series. Sent there during a battle with Metal Sonic, Shadow encounters the Sonic X cast some point after his doppelganger was presumed dead.

Sonic Boom

Shadow and Dr. Eggman in Sonic Boom.

Shadow also appears within the Sonic Boom universe, looking mostly the same as his main series counterpart, except for a few physical and clothing differences, mainly his longer, slimmer build, cowlick spikes from his quills and long red cuffs on his gloves. His first appearace is in the video game Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, where Shadow silently watched Dr. Eggman and Metal Sonic from a distance at Lyric's tomb. Later on, he confronts Sonic and Tails at the Abandoned Research Facility where he prevents the two from going to the past and taunting Sonic for being weak due to his loyalty to his friends, thus he engages the two heroes in a battle across time. Upon his defeat, he is kicked into a portal that transports him to the near future, and is not seen again until the end of the game where he gives Sonic and his team his approval for beating Lyric. In Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal, Lyric implants a mind control device on Shadow and was used to attack the heroes. Upon his defeat, the device broke, and the now-liberated Shadow goes off to get his revenge on Lyric. He shows up again in the finale to save Sonic and co. from being destroyed by Lyric.

Shadow then made an appearance in the Season 1 finale of the TV series, "It Takes a Village to Defeat a Hedgehog", where he was invited by Eggman and various other villains to join their circle of villainy so they can defeat Sonic together. However, Shadow quickly grew tired of the group due to how much they waste their time on silly games, and would rather take out Sonic by himself while the hedgehog and his friends were trying to assemble Amy's bookcase. While the other villains were busy causing trouble in the village, Shadow beats down Sonic in a one-on-one duel, but ultimately loses when Eggman accidentally blinds him with a camera flash while taking a "victory selfie" which allows Sonic to strike back. Shadow then tells Eggman that he is unable to properly defeat Sonic when he's around, and swears to fight the blue hedgehog again on his own terms.


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  • Though the design of Shadow the Hedgehog was meant to be a secret until such time SEGA decided to reveal it in all its glory, details of the character were leaked when ReSaurus announced they were making figures of Shadow and Rouge, much as they had for the first Adventure title. Ironically, the company went out of business before they could release these figures to the masses.
  • During the promotion of his spin-off game, Shadow was used as a guest announcer and performer for the Japanese wrestling league Pancrase, jumping and posing in the ring. The night ended in Shadow giving the winner of that night's matches ten SEGA games.[3]
  • The fact Shadow uses guns in Shadow the Hedgehog was based on suggestions mailed to Sonic Team, where kids were asking for a game where Sonic could use a gun. Feeling it out of his character, they decided to give the ability to Shadow, hoping to both fulfill these requests and broaden their playing audience. The look and feel of the game was also based on such movie franchises as Underworld, Constantine, and The Terminator.[4]
  • Though Shadow has been voted one of the most popular Sonic the Hedgehog characters, he is also one of the most controversial. Having become synonymous with the downturn of the Sonic franchise, there are those who argue that he is the embodiment of what has gone wrong with the series, showcasing how far it has strayed from its Mega Drive roots. Other fans argue that while the series may have strayed, Shadow has also allowed the games to evolve, and broaden Sonic's universe and appeal. Regardless of which way one looks at the argument, it cannot be denied the importance of the character in regards to the history of the Sonic franchise, be it good or bad.
  • For years, the elements of Shadow's backstory have been the subject of much fan debate. Even with the translation of story elements from Japanese guidebooks and the subsequent release of Shadow the Hedgehog, the many plotholes and inconsistencies in Shadow's story still inspire argument after argument over the black and red hedgehog, making any sort of explanation of the character a difficult endeavor.


Video Games

Television Series and Film

Comic Books

Theme songs

Voice actors


Characters in the Sonic the Hedgehog game series
Recurring characters
Heroes Sonic (Super, Hyper, Darkspine, the Werehog, Excalibur) | Tails (Super) | Knuckles (Super, Hyper) | Amy Rose | Cream | Big | Blaze (Burning) | Silver (Super) | Sticks
Anti-heroes/Neutrals Shadow (Super) | Rouge | Espio | Charmy | Vector | Mighty (Super) | Ray (Super) | E-102 Gamma | E-123 Omega | Jet | Wave | Storm
Villains Dr. Eggman | Metal Sonic (Rocket, Neo, 3.0) | Fang | Chaos (Perfect) | E-Series | ZERO | Eggman Nega | Orbot | Cubot | Deadly Six (Zavok, Zazz, Zomom, Master Zik, Zeena, Zor)
Teams Sonic/Heroes | Rose | Dark | Chaotix | Babylon
Other Animals (Flicky) | Froggy | Chao (Hero, Dark) | Tikal | Pachacamac | Omochao | Gerald & Maria Robotnik | President | Cheese | Chocola | Vanilla | G.U.N. Commander | Wisps
One-off characters
Heroes Emerl | Marine | Lumina Flowlight | Chip | Shahra | Knights of the Round Table | Caliburn | Yacker | Avatar
Anti-heroes/Neutrals Bean | Bark | Shade | Merlina
Villains Witchcart | Battle Kukku Army (15th, 16th, Dr. Fukurokov) | Tails Doll | Metal Knuckles | E-101 Beta | Void | Biolizard | G-merl | Black Doom | Shugo-hei | Iblis | Mephiles | Solaris | Erazor Djinn | Captain Whisker | Johnny | Master Core: ABIS | Ix (Super) | Dark Gaia | King Arthur | Hard Boiled Heavies | Infinite
Other Illumina | Elise | Duke of Soleanna | Coconut Crew | Vikings | Professor Pickle | Wentos | Don Fachio | Dodon Pa | Heavy and Bomb | Tiara Boobowski | Honey