Before you fangirls and fanboys get your panties all up in a bunch, I do not hate Shadow, and I'm not here to bash on him. This is me expressing my opinion on Shadow as a character over the years.
So I was having a discussion with a friend about Sonic characters and story, and how they've changed over the years. We talked about Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2, which in my opinion aside from horrid dialog and some painfully flat characters, had the some of the strongest and compelling stories in the entire franchise. As much as I use to love Shadow... I think Shadow sucks. But he didn't always suck. When he was introduced, no one was really sure what to make of him. But if you think of Shadow now, what is he like? People say dark, angst, emo, or arguably bad-ass... He is the darker, edgier version of Sonic... but that's not what he WAS. In fact, in Sonic Adventure 2... he was probably THE best character in the game. Why? Because he was the most developed. He had a motive, a reasonable hatred for mankind, but he did not angst over his past. It was easy to understand him. He lost the only thing her really cared about, Maria, and he made a promise to avenge her... but theirs more to that.
Think of it this way. In Sonic Adventure 2, Shadow had an angel on one shoulder, and a devil on the other. The devil tempts him to do bad; to destroy the world to avenge a loved one. Think of that devil as Dr. Gerald Robotnik, and think of that angel as Maria. What are Shadows attentions? Actually... I don't think he really cares. He doesn't seem to care what happens, and he obviously doesn't care if the world is destroyed... Of course he is hurt and angry at the loss of family and deep down he wants justice... but his motives are not his own. Gerald is the one who wanted the world destroyed for the loss of the only family he really had, and he wanted revenge for being betrayed by GUN. He wanted the world to see eye for an eye, his loss... and at the time it was easy for Shadow to feel the same. Overcome with anger, all he really wanted is revenge. But looking back, does he actually seem angry at the world? He seems set on just doing what Gerald wants. It was Dr. Gerald's plan in the first place, and Shadow was merely following orders. Shadow could care less what happens in the end, but he made a promise to Maria... to give the world a chance. To be happy... but he says towards the beginning that he promised revenge? Well... Gerald was the one who wanted revenge, not Shadow... which makes me believe that the promise for revenge was for his creator, who felt the same loss as him. Which begs the question, which promise is he keeping?
This makes Shadow very interesting. On one side, he is so blinded by the loss of a loved one that vowed to carry out revenge not just for himself, but for Gerald. Gerald was the one who devised a plan to destroy the world, it wasn't Shadow. And on the other side, he made a promise to give the world a chance and to be happy... in other words, to forgive. So in the end, Shadow is torn between the choices he must make. Fulfill the promise he made to Robotnik, or fulfill the opposing promise he made to Maria? In the end, he chose Maria.
But now... why does Shadow suck now? Welp. His entire image was destroyed in 2 games. Sonic Heroes and his self-titled game, Shadow the Hedgehog. Love it or hate it, Sonic Heroes was the beginning of Sonic's downhill slope... As weak was his transition to 3d was, this was really his 2 two steps back. Stories and characters started to become even more lame, pointless and annoying, games were either broken or unfinished, and they started those crappy video game gimmicks. This is also where Shadow started to suck. Everything previously known about him, thrown out the window to make room for more angst, more emo, and more "bad-ass". Shadow dies at the end of SA2 and brought back in Sonic Heroes with amnesia... should have just kept him dead then. While Sonic Heroes was forgivable, Shadow's game completely destroyed him. We were back to square one with Shadow, meaning all character development for Shadow beforehand has been rendered irrelevant.
Some will argue that STH's story was good... but c'mon. To each their own, but if you compare the old shadow to the new, which one was a more compelling and interesting? The one with the inner-struggle to find the ability to forgive, who lost it all but still chose to do the right thing and keep his loved one's promise? Or the angst and edgy character who cant remember anything except that he hates humans and swears a lot? To its credit, STH did focus on choice, but you still end up with the same result. Narrow it down, you got a character who is painfully cliched and done to death in other medias and in overwhelming ocean of Sonic FC's.
I wouldn't mind as much (and actually I don't really care that much) if Shadow started off cliched and emo... but what bothers me is that they took away what made Shadow a genuinely cool character. He is cool now for his dark edgy image, for blowing up stuff and shooting guns... but he was cool to me, being very passionate about character development, because he was... human. He was relatable, convincing, developed and dare I say deep (compare to Sonic norm of course).
So... yeah. I think Shadow kinda sucks compared to how he used to be... And I really hope his addition to Sonic Boom with do him justice and drop the angst. We'll see. Thanks for reading and you are more than welcome to share your thoughts!