Expert Mode is an unlockable gameplay mode in Shadow the Hedgehog where the player has to play through all of the game's stages in order to complete it. Expert Mode can only be unlocked in the game by attaining an A-rank on every single stage in the game.
Plot-wise, it is a form of training that Shadow apparently goes through shortly after the events of the game and is to be a true test of Shadow's skills.
In Expert Mode, the player plays through all 23 stages (including The Last Way) available in Shadow the Hedgehog in order, starting from the top of the level select chart down. Unlike the main game, progress will be lost if the player loses all lives. Many of the first stages are nearly the same, just a few extra platforms and some more rings to use Light Speed Dash. No characters are allied alongside the player and there is no given Rank after completing a stage. The objective of most stages is to reach the goal ring except for Central City (clear aninhiliator bombs), The Doom (rescue wounded researchers) and Mad Matrix (reach all four data-bases). The beginning of every stage has a Hint Ring marker containing a message from a different character wishing Shadow good luck and telling the player how Expert Mode works.
During the first drop, avoid the helicopters on the way down, When the player reach the bottom, continue forward defeating all the Black Arms in the player's way. By the time the player reaches the area with a lot of red roots, the player will have a full hero gauge. Be careful, because there are more GUN Soldiers and Black Arms. Laser blasts are also more frequent, So watch out as well. If the player did not has a full hero gauge by the area mentioned above, the player will need to Triangle jump along the way and then light Dash at the rings
The first thing that the player will notice is that there are more firewalls in the light Dash Circuit. Avoid them at all costs to keep from losing your rings. When the player reaches the area after the first checkpoint and some GUN Beetles. Hop on the moving blocks, and light dash along the rings. Use the spring to get up to the light in the next section. There are some differences in certain sections, but if the player takes it slow, the player will be able to get to the end.
The stage is much easier than Digital Circuit, because the only thing that changes is the way you get across some gaps. There are a few more platforms and Light Dash opportunities. In the area where the wind automatically takes the player up, there is no wind, meaning that the player have to makes the jump manually.
The first noticeable difference is the lack of some rockets. After using the Pulley where the first rocket should be is a locked spring. the player must defeat the GUN Beetles flying in the air just beyond. The player should have a weapon, so shoot it, and the box will open. Afterward the player needs to jump out to the rings, and Light Dash the rest of the way. the player's hardest jump will be to that of a pulley over nothing. Try to jump toward it and then Jump Dash for extra distance.
The player may notice that the first balloon is gone. Defeat the Egg Pawn, and a Skull Spring will appear. Use that spring to bounce up to the top portion, and grind down the rail. After grinding, the player notices that the player has no flame. Find the flame by destroying the tree to the left or right. After the fifth checkpoint, get on the moving platforms, bounce off of the Black Hawk and then use the Light Dash to make it across to the other side.
In the area where the original Goal Ring was, defeat the Black Arms and then bounce up. From there, use the Wide Spring to bounce high, use the homing attack on the GUN beetle and then Light Dash across the newly formed rings. Later on in the stage, the player will ride an Air Saucer that will take the player to a platform with a robot. Time your jump and bounce off the two GUN Beetles to get to the other Air Saucer.
Besides the increase in enemies, there are more of those tiny moving platforms. It is important that the player is very careful when jumping to them. Take this stage slow, and remember It's not about time but completion. The most difficult part is after the rope grinding section. the player must jump over to the small moving platforms, and do some hoop tricks after that. The rings in mid-air serve as a guide to where to jump to, but it's better if the player can just skip this altogether using Chaos Control if the player can find enough enemies to defeat to raise the player Hero Gauge.
The object of Central City is not to find the Goal Ring, but to destroy the five giant bombs found throughout the city. The bombs are located in the same places as the Normal Story Mode. There is really not that much of a difference in this stage, except for the fact Central City won't have as much freedom of where the player can and cannot go. Consider this stage a freebie.
In this stage, the player has to rescue all the wounded researches. For this stage, the player will want to use all the shortcuts the player used to reach the Goal Ring in story Mode, because all the researchers are in that room.
This is another easy Expert Mode Stage. Not much has changed, except for the fact that the player will be using the Light Dash a bit more than usual. One thing to take note of is that after the long Light Dashing section, hold forward so that the player land safely on solid ground.
The player will be taking on a harder version of Espio's mission for this one. Omega says that he is the strongest, so go out and prove him wrong by accessing the four databases. One thing that the player might find different are the color tiles. There are more of them to line up. Besides make the level longer, it should still pose no problem.
Pass through the speed circle, and the player will bounce off a spring. Watch out, because the player will land on an incomplete platform. Land on one of the tiles, and change them to the same color to make it rise. When the player reach the next set of tiles after the third Checkpoint, it also has incomplete tiles. When the player reach the top, the player will needs to Jump Dash to the other side.
In the green tower after the fourth Checkpoint, the player will rides a very large platform. After matching up the colors, make sure you are standing to the far left or right to avoid being knocked off.
The red Tower on expert mode is not more difficult but different. In the story mode after riding the platform up, the player had to triangle jump. This time there is to floating blocks. Jump to the first block, and jump Dash to make it to the second block.
Normally there would be some sort of tip, but this stage was easy. Just follow the same path that the player would to get an A ranking. The stage is altered a but it's easier. one thing that the player do want to shoot for is to fill the Hero Gauge when the player reach the area with the pole with that the player slide down to reach the final part of the stage.
This is just like the normal Mission, except for the fact that the player cannot destroy defense cores to remove the barriers. Just stay on the Black Volt, and fly as fast as the player can through the stage to reach the goal ring. Luckily the player can refill the Black volt's health two time during the stage. If the player is is having trouble, just get off at various platforms. Once the player gets off Black Volt, the player must restart the stage at the first chapter. No Black Volt reappears once the player gets off.
This stage calls for making good use of the Chaos Control. If the player can, power it up so that it is full just before the outside sections of the stage. the player will need to go through one of them. Neither of them are that difficult, the player just needs to be a little more careful when jumping. If the player got this far, the player is plenty good at the game already.
The first thing that the player will notice is that there are a lot more platforms than before. This is Expert Mode, so the player isn't going to be bailed out by rockets and such. the player should hit most of the checkpoints, so by the end, the player will be getting extra lives.
This stage will take the player on the top route. If the player was able to beat Sonic in a race, the player should finish this stage easy as well. one difference is that at the point where the second defense unit it was, there are blocks not barriers. It is also easier to get to the Key as well. If you did not get it.
The most noticeable change is the lack of some GUN Lifts. When the player reaches the first part where a GUN Lift used to be, go through the door, and a platform with a rocket will be there. Use the rocket to reach another platform, and use the Dash panel to go forward. After using the Dash panel, the player needs to use a series of Homing Attacks to reach the other door. The Goal Ring is in the area with the Final Checkpoint.
The first part is standard, except it doesn't matter who the player defeats. Watch out before the first checkpoint, because there are a number of places to fall. The player must jump across each of the small sections. Use the Jump Dash to increase the player distance. Make it the player's goal to build up the player's Hero Gauge, so that the player can skip some portions of the stage. In the final area before the Goal Ring, be sure to defeat the GUN Before jumping across the platforms.
Just focus on getting either of the Gauges filled up. The Hero Gauge is important as always, because the player will be able to skip massive parts of the stage. This stage has nothing more than an increase in enemies.
This is Expert Mode, so the player will need to have mastered the Triangle Jump, or the player won't be able to pass even the first part of the stage. Try to stay on the top portion, because it's easier. The first couple of volcanic defense systems are active, but the Goal Ring is located where the fifth one was. Make sure you don't take the other path, or the player will has to start over.
What makes this stage expert is the lack of enemies. Before the player could use the Black Hawks to get from platform to platform, but now the player must use the Jump Dash. The good thing is that the player is not timed.
A trick to skip an entire section starts in the inside corridor after the second checkpoint. In the room with the Artificial Chaos, Jump down to grab a Pulley, and when the player reaches the upper platform, grab the blue energy core. Use it right away, and ride the transport outside. As soon as Shadow lets go, Use Chaos Control again, and you will skip an entire section. The spinning platform section is where most people will go crazy. The only tip is to quit, and practice staying on the top area in select mode. This jumping section leads to where key is.
After the Sixth Checkpoint there is no Jump Vehicle instead, you need to use the pulley. Once the player is at the top of the pulley, wait for the platform to float by, and jump on to it. This is not much harder, but there is more chance for error. The next Section us especially tough, because the player must jump on a series of moving platforms. This is the most difficult stage so far.
Final Haunt is pretty simple compared to Cosmic Fall. Just focus on filling up the Hero Gauge and use Chaos Control. There are no defense cores to activate, so the player will need to get through the stage using the pure hero path. The Goal Ring is where Black Doom is.
The Last Way
The player did not come this far just to lose now, so just blast as many of the Black Arms as the player can, and use Chaos Control to fly through the stage. At the end, the player gets to see the credits, but more importantly, the player can say that he is a Shadow the Hedgehog expert. The only thing left is to beat the game going through all 326 Possibilities.
Every characters from the game including Cream the Rabbit, Cheese, Gerald Robotnik, the Commander, and even the President and his Secretary will start a conversation when touching the hint markers at the beginning of each stage. While only featuring one character per stage at first to give basic hints, more characters will talk in later stages, with the conversations becoming more absurd the further you get.
- Westopolis - Dr. Eggman: "Shadow, can you hear me? This is going to be the ultimate test of your abilities! Now, go! Head for the Goal Ring!"
- Digital Circuit - Sonic the Hedgehog: "Hey, Shadow, how're you feeling? You're training's just getting started! It might be a little tough, but I know you can handle it. Now, we've got to get to the Goal Ring. Let's move it!"
- Glyphic Canyon - Miles "Tails" Prower: "Shadow, can you hear me? This is going to be a true test of your abilities! Good luck! Oh, by the way. If you run out of lives, you won't be able to continue. If you want to abort, go to the Pause Menu and select "Quit"."
- Lethal Highway - Knuckles the Echidna: "Hey, Shadow! Don't tell me you're getting tired already? Don't waste your lives, okay? Now, go and find the Goal Ring! Good hunting!"
- Cryptic Castle - Rouge the Bat: "Well, how's it going? You look a little beat. You probably know this already, but if the game ends during all this...you have to start all over! Now, be careful! Go and find that Goal Ring!"
- Prison Island - Vector the Crocodile: "Hey, Shadow! You hanging in there? I know it's tough, but training is training, after all! Now, be careful and go find that Goal Ring."
- Circus Park - Amy Rose: "Hey, Shadow! I heard you were doing some sort of training. They say you need to make it to the Goal Ring, right? Good luck!"
- Central City - Espio the Chameleon: "Shadow, good job with your training, here! Every day brings new challenges, remember that! Your task here is to destroy the city annihilator bombs. Good luck!"
- The Doom - Maria Robotnik: "Shadow, how is your training going? I'll be cheering you on! Here, you have to rescue all of the wounded researchers. Good luck."
- Sky Troops - Charmy Bee: "Yahoo! It's me, Charmy! How's it going? Huh? Huh? Me? I'm actually in the middle of running some errands. See you later!"
- Mad Matrix - E-123 Omega: "Shadow, I hear you're engaged in some training. You know you'll never be stronger than me! If you think so...then I challenge you to find and access all four of the world's databases."
- Death Ruins - Black Doom: "Shadow, I understand that you're training to be the ultimate. As to be expected of my bloodline...Now, go! Head for the Goal Ring!"
- The ARK - Cream the Rabbit: "Good day, Shadow! Thank you so, so much for rescuing me the other day! Cheese and I will be cheering you on during your training! Good luck!"
- Air Fleet - President: "Shadow? It's me. Word has reached the top brass that you're doing well with your training." Secretary: "Mr. President, you're late for your tee time with the Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan." President: "Ah, yes, I almost forgot. Shadow, I'll talk to you later."
- Iron Jungle - Dr. Eggman: "Shadow, it's me again! Are you upset with me for something? Agh, very well! You're about halfway through your training! Keep at it, and head to the next Goal Ring!"
- Space Gadget - Commander: "Shadow, do you read me? First, I want to... apologize, for the other day...Actually, I just became a grandfather last week, and I was thinking of maybe having you over. I know that training is tough...But try and do your best."
- Lost Impact - Gerald Robotnik: "Shadow? It is I. I hear that my research experiments have escaped and are running loose...The positive and negative electrode connectors must have been reversed I guess. I must be getting old...At any rate, would you drop by my room? I'll be waiting for you."
- GUN Fortress - Sonic the Hedgehog: "Hey, Shadow! You've only got six stages left in your training! Have you got enough lives left to do it? Remember, once the game is over, it's all the way back to the way back to the start. Be extra, extra careful! Anyhow, keep going!"
- Black Comet - President: "Shadow? It's me again. Sorry about last time. I've been busy planning the reconstructions." Secretary: "Mr. President, it's time for your karaoke party with the Minister of Finance." President: "Ah, yes, I almost forgot. Shadow, I'll talk to you later."
- Lava Shelter - Rouge the Bat: "So, Shadow, how are you holding up? You're doing great! Only four stages left!" E-123 Omega: "This is Eggman's secret base. I will defeat him, and prove that I am the strongest!" Rouge the Bat: "Omega, cut it out! Don't you have anything better to do?" E-123 Omega: "Ohh..."
- Cosmic Fall - Cheese: "Chao, chaoo! Chaocha, chaochao, chaochaocha, chaochaa! Chaaaaoh, chachachao, chaoohcha, chaochao, chachachaocha, chaaao!" Cream the Rabbit: "Cheese says: "Good luck, Shadow!""
- Final Haunt - Vector the Crocodile: "Hey, Shadow. How's it going?" Espio the Chameleon: "You starting to feel the pressure yet?" Charmy Bee: "Training! Training!" Vector the Crocodile: "Charmy, I thought I told you to sit down and be quiet!" Charmy Bee: "Ohh, come on, leave me alone! Besides, you ate my pudding didn't you Vector?!" Vector the Crocodile: "Ahh...busted!" Charmy Bee: "Now you owe me for that, and don't forget it!!" Vector the Crocodile: "All right, all right! Fine! Do whatever the heck you want!" Espio the Chameleon: "Ahem...sorry about that, Shadow."
- The Last Way - Dr. Eggman: "This is the final stage!" Sonic the Hedgehog: "Great job making it this far, Shadow!" Miles "Tails" Prower: "Give it your best shot and make your way to the last Goal Ring!" Knuckles the Echidna: "You can do it!" Rouge the Bat: "Good luck, Shadow!" Amy Rose: "Good luck, Shadow!" Vector the Crocodile: "Give it all you got!" Charmy Bee: "Fight!" Espio the Chameleon: "You're gonna do fine!" Cream the Rabbit: "Good luck!" Cheese: "Chaaoo!" E-123 Omega: "Good luck." Black Doom: "Now, go! Head for the Goal Ring!" President: "We're all counting on you, Shadow." Secretary: "Best of luck!" Commander: "Good luck!" Gerald Robotnik: "Good luck." Maria Robotnik: "Shadow, I believe in you..."
- The Expert Mode version of The Doom is the same as the Hero mission, except that the researchers are all next to a Heal Unit spawn in one room at the end.
- Important and sometimes interesting information is often revealed by the hints at the start of each level in Expert Mode. Aside from the objective of each level, personal information from the speaker is sometimes revealed such as the Commander's new grandchild, the reason for the hostile actions of the Artificial Chaos, and the President's meetings.
- In Mad Matrix, Omega claims that he is stronger than Shadow and challenges him. He wants to challenge Shadow again in Lava Shelter, but Rouge stops him.
- In Iron Jungle, Dr. Eggman asks if Shadow is angry with him, which may refer to Shadow Androids.
- The President tries to talk with Shadow in Air Fleet and Black Comet but in both cases his Secretary reminds him of his meetings and he has to stop talking with Shadow.
- At the beginning of Final Haunt, Charmy and Vector fight with each other about minor matters and Espio apologizes to Shadow about it.
- Gerald Robotnik says in Lost Impact that the reason the Artificial Chaos became hostile was because Gerald accidentally reversed the positive and negative electrode connectors within them. This created a problem in their programming and resulted in their hostility.