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When performing the Leaf Swirl, Espio jumps into the air and does a body flip while keeping his hands folded in front of his face. He then creates a tornado effect that forms a cyclonic vortex of air filled with transparent leaves around him. At the same time, Espio combines this with a ninja maneuver which invokes his innate ability to camouflage himself, turning him invisible.
The effect of the Leaf Swirl depends on the type of enemy it is used on. If used on unprotected Egg Pawns, Egg Knights, or opposing playable teams, the Leaf Swirl sucks the opponents off their feet and flings them into the air, before they fall back down to the ground. Upon landing, they will take damage and be potentially stunned for a short time - for someenemies, this can even reveal their weak spots. If used on Egg Pawns or Egg Knights wearing shields, the Leaf Swirl will permanently blow off their shields, thus leaving them with a weaker defense. If used on larger or airborne enemies, the Leaf Swirl will make them disoriented at most, but will deal no damage.
In addition to affecting enemies, the Leaf Swirl makes Espio undetectable by enemies and the environment, which is signified by Espio turning transparent. While invisible, Espio cannot be detected by enemies or Giant Frogs, can pass through laser fields without getting hurt, and still attack enemies with his full moveset (aside from the Rocket Accel). However, Vector and Charmy will not follow him while he is invisible, and the player can still take damage. If the player takes damage, uses the Leaf Swirl once more, changes the leader or activates Chaotix Recital, Espio will become visible again.
Aside from the aforementioned effects, the Leaf Swirl can also be used in conjunction with some of the gimmicks in Sonic Heroes, such as enabling the player to scale Poles or activate propellers. Also, in stages such as Frog Forest and the Egg Fleet, Leaf Swirl lets Espio sneak past enemies and Giant Frogs unnoticed so as not to start the stage(s) all over again in case he is detected.
To perform the Leaf Swirl in gameplay, Team Chaotix must be in Speed Formation with Espio as the leader. The player then has to press // during a jump to use the Leaf Swirl. To use it on targets, Espio must be either near or above them.
In the E3 prototype version of Sonic Heroes, the Leaf Swirl's winds were colored blue.