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 annihilator 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 bottom is reached, continue forward by defeating all the Black Arms in the 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 have 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 rings. When the player reaches the area after the first checkpoint and some GUN Beetles, hop on the moving blocks, Light Dash along the rings, and use the spring to get up to the light in the next section. There are also some differences in certain sections, but if the player takes it slow, they should be able to get to the end.
The stage is much easier than Digital Circuit, because the only thing that has been changed is the way to 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 has to makes their jump manually.
The first noticeable difference is the lack of some rockets. After using the Pulley where the first rocket should be, there is a locked spring. So, the player must defeat the GUN Beetle flying in the air just beyond to use the Spring. The player should have a weapon, to shoot it, and then the Cage 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. But by defeating the Egg Pawn, and a Skull Spring near its location, it will appear. Use that spring to bounce up to the top portion, and grind down the rail. 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, and then 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 have to take a ride on an Air Saucer that will take them to a platform with robots. Once there, the player must time their 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 is 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 is better if they are just skipped using Chaos Control.
The object of Central City is not to find the Goal Ring, but to destroy the five giant bombs found throughout the city. To compensate for this, the stage is made more linear by walling off several areas and paths to make it clearer where the player has to go. Most of the bombs are located in the same places as the Normal Story Mode, except for the second one which has been moved to the end of the stage. There is no time limit in this version of the stage.
In this stage, the player has to rescue all the wounded researches. Despite this, all ten researchers are located in the room where the Goal Ring was in story mode with a Heal Unit right outside the door. Due to this, the stage is not much different than the neutral mission in story mode aside from a few harder enemies.
The player will have to use the Light Dash here a bit more than they used it on the Normal Story Mode. One thing to take note of is that after the long Light Dashing section, the player must hold forward in order to land safely on the solid ground.
One thing that is different in this version of the stage is the color tiles. There are more of them to line up. Besides making the level longer, it should still pose no problem.
Pass through the Dash Ring to bounce off a spring that leads to an incomplete platform. After that, the player should land on one of the tiles, and must change them to the same color to make it rise. When the player reaches the next set of tiles after the third Checkpoint, it also has incomplete tiles. When the player reaches the top, they will need to Jump Dash to the other side.
There are more Color Panels in this version of the stage than in its regular version which the player has to match up their colors in order to activate them. During the last Color Panels that escort the player to the main room, they should stand to the far left or right of the Color Panels in order to avoid being knocked off.
In the story mode after riding the platform up, the player had to triangle jump. But, in this version of the stage, there are two floating blocks. Jump to the first block, and jump Dash to make it to the second block.
The stage is altered a bit. The player can accelerate through the stage by shooting some enemies and filling their Hero Gauge, so that they can use Chaos Control to reach the area with the pole to slide down to reach the final part of the stage faster.
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 possible 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 gets off Black Volt, they must restart the stage at the first chapter as no Black Volt reappears once the player gets off of a one.
This stage calls for making good use of the Chaos Control. And if the player can power their Hero Gauge up so that it is full just before the outside sections of the stage, they can use their Chaos Control to navigate through the rest of the stage.
The first thing that the one will notice is that there are a lot more platforms than before. This is Expert Mode, so the player is not going to be bailed out by rockets and such. If the player hits most of the checkpoints by the end of the stage, they will get extra lives.
The only changed element in this version of the stage is that at the point where the second defense unit was, there are blocks not barriers.
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, they should 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 does not matter who the player defeats. Watch out before the first checkpoint, because there are a number of places to fall. Use the Jump Dash to increase distance and make it a goal to build up the Hero Gauge, so that the it is possible to skip some portions of the stage using Chaos Control. In the final area before the Goal Ring, be sure to defeat the GUN Before jumping across the platforms.
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 they will not be able to pass even the first part of the stage. Try to stay on the top portion, because it is easier. The first couple of volcanic defense systems are active, but the Goal Ring is located where the fifth one was. Make sure not to take the other path, or it is over.
What makes this stage expert is the lack of enemies. Before, one could use the Black Hawks to get from platform to platform, but now the player must use the Jump Dash.
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 the upper platform is reached, grab the blue energy core. Use it right away, and ride the transport outside. As soon as Shadow lets go, use Chaos Control again in order to skip an entire section.
After the Sixth Checkpoint there is no Jump Vehicle and instead, the player will need to use the pulley. Once 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 is especially tough, because the player must jump on a series of moving platforms.
There is no time limit in this version of the stage.
The player should 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
To finish the Expert Mode, defeat as many of the Black Arms as possible, and use Chaos Control to fly through this stage. At the end of this stage, the credits are displayed.
Every character 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 Goal Rings for the stages Westopolis, Digital Circuit, Prison Island, Lost Impact, Lava Shelter, and Cosmic Fall have been relocated in Expert Mode, each one residing in a place which has one or more objectives for the normal story mode.
- The Goal Ring in Westopolis is at the final checkpoint.
- The Goal Ring in Digital Circuit is where the player destroys the core program in the Dark mission.
- The Goal Ring in Prison Island is where the fifth and final top secret disk is collected in the Hero mission.
- The Goal Ring in Lost Impact is in the room on the right in the area with the final checkpoint.
- The Goal Ring in Lava Shelter is in the room where the fifth volcanic defense system is activated in the Dark mission.
- The Goal Ring in Cosmic Fall is in the computer room in the Hero mission.
- 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. Additionally, the switches that open locked doors from the other side are not present.
- 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.