Digital Circuit. Not only is the Cyberspace concept a very unique one among Sonic levels, but the sections where you race along internet circuits are really fun, and the platforming is quite well-done in the level. Technically there are puzzles, but they require something less than the brainpower of a slug to solve. Mad Matrix is another Cyberspace level in the same vein, and is just as good (unless you don't like the mission where you must destroy several bombs).
Lethal Highway. Of all the levels in the game, it's the closest in terms of design to the well-received Sonic Adventure 2, meaning that you can just skate along the highway at full speed, and near the end, it homages Speed Highway. It also has motorbikes.
The Dark mission in Air Fleet — chasing and shooting down the president's escape pod — is a wonderful mix of fast-paced Sonic gameplay combined with third-person shooting. It's one of three missions with that mechanic, one of the other two being Lethal Highway above.
Circus Park is a bright colourful amusement park with lots of great level gimmicks, Eggman being really exciteable about it due to him creating it, and good uses of the gunplay, such as in shooting gallery sections.
GUN Fortress. Unusually melancholy music, wide open spaces, lots of space to run around, a sense of progression that many levels in this game don't have, and a Dark mission where you can cause massive carnage.
Sky Troops, which has a great sense of speed and platforming, set high up in the sky with great music and pretty good missions. It was popular enough to be included in fan mods of Sonic Generations.
Base-Breaking Character: The base was already pretty broken over if Shadow's return in Heroes was a good thing or not, and this game did nothing but add fuel to that fire. In fact, this game cemented Shadow as the most divisive character in the series bar none. To this day, fans are split on whether he is still a good character who's just been the victim of overexposure and bad writing, or a glorified Spotlight-Stealing Squad who should have died after his debut and does not fit with the whimsical nature of the series.
In the ending, Eggman demands for the Chaos Emeralds while sneaking away with Knuckles chasing after him as Sonic and the others start laughing.
Because of how many combinations of level sequences there are (326!), this happens sooner or later.
At the end of the neutral mission in Cryptic Castle, a skeletal monster chases Shadow. All that's known about it is that it's underneath one of Eggman's bases, and even Eggman has never seen it before.
The Egg Breaker in Iron Jungle (and Iron Jungle only, Mad Matrix and Cryptic Castle have harder fights) is ridiculously easy if you go behind the start and spam the turret. You can beat Eggman in 7 seconds this way.
The boss fight against Heavy Dog at The Doom. It's fairly annoying, but not difficult, especially considering how horrendous The Doom can get in all three of its missions.
The Egg Dealer, which appears as the final boss of four of the ten endings, is also not particularly difficult or annoying compared to Black Doom or Sonic and Diablon, who both fall right into Goddamned Boss territory.
Breather Level: Any level where you just have to get to the end, especially if you were doing Hero or Dark missions before. Getting to the end is easier than finding stuff. However, The Ark's Normal mission stands out — all you do is just fly on a Black Arms bat thing for the entire level, only you were required to do the Dark missions of either Central City or The Doom to get here, both of which are That One Level and detailed on this page.
Catharsis Factor: When you max out either your hero or dark meters, you're given complete invincibility and infinite ammo for whatever gun you're carrying until the meter runs out. You can see where this is going...
Creator's Pet: What half the Sonic fandom sees Shadow as. Considering it has actually been confirmed that Shadow (and Sonic) are Takashi Iizuka's favorite characters, and Iizuka being Shadow's creator, it's not hard to see why.
He Really Can Act: Well, He Really Can Change His Voice more like; say what you will about the game in general, but an unambiguous positive is that Jason Griffithimproved immensely on his Shadow voice compared to this.
"Where's that damn fourth Chaos Emerald?" Many Sonic Mania players agree that the Chaos Emerald Special Stages start getting significantly harder around the fourth Special Stage. In other words, many players are struggling with that damn fourth Chaos Emerald.
This game isn't the only game to include lots of swearing of a typical kid friendly game series while also having guns with an E10+ rating. In fact Sonic's very own rival did the same thing and got good reviews.
Ho Yay: One of the pathways to get to the pure hero ending is "Under The Name Of Love". In that pathway, it goes like this: Neutral Westopolis, Hero Glyphic Canyon, Neutral Circus Park, Neutral Mad Matrix, Hero Space Gadget and Hero Final Haunt. You help Knuckles in Glyphic Canyon, but go back to being neutral for a while, and it isn't until Sonic comes into the picture to give the final push to being pure hero. It's almost like Sonic's love redeemed Shadow. Ok, Knux helped a little, but still, you could go either way. With Sonic, it could also dip into Foe Yay territory.
"Where's that damn fourth Chaos Emerald?" Explanation A line uttered by Shadow at the beginning of Circus Park, which has caught on with the fans simply because it's just so hilariously forced in an attempt to Avoid the Dreaded "E" for Everyone Rating.
"Find the Computer Room!", which both the fanbase and SEGA launched on top of to create the sneakiest injoke of Summer of Sonic '09 — in particular, putting up confusing signs to the computer room. Of course, it's also in the placeholder for Sonic City, and even became the name of a website.
"You know what they say: The more, the merrier!"Explanation Eggman just seems to have a habit of coming up with repetitive yet insanely quotable dialogue during his fights. This particular quote is said during one of his attacks (specifically, the attack where Eggman stands in place and spawns six bombs that fire out in a hexagonal pattern) in the Egg Breaker fight after Mad Matrix. It's very possible to get Eggman deadlocked into using the attack over and over again, which naturally leads into him repeating the line ad nauseam.
"Mr. Yuji Naka is alright!"
Ow, the Edge.◊ Explanation Similar to the "EXPAND DONG" meme, fans have taken to chopping up various pieces of screenshots and the game's logo to spell out this phrase in response to the incredibly in-your-face Darker and Edgier aesthetic of the game, which has also gone on to extend to other utterly over-the-top "edgy" characters, stories, or series.
"THIS IS WHO I AM!"Explanation (Spoilers!) Just about every single ending ends with Shadow making this declaration after musing on the path he's taken beforehand. Given how it always caps off each ending (when Shadow isn't busy cracking Eggman open in certain endings, that is), it really caught on with the fans.
"Looks like these black creatures really mean business!" and various other lines in the game to that effect are popular to bring up, making fun of the fact that everyone constantly mentions what color the aliens are in a way that makes them sound like psychotic racists.
Shadow puts his current total of five Chaos Emeralds into the Eclipse Cannon and uses it to completely destroy a capital city. But then, this trope is averted thanks to No Endor Holocaust.
On a different path, Shadow deliberately tries to kill the fleeing president, who is previously shown to be almost comically upstanding (and to have a great deal of respect for both Shadow and Sonic). Shadow fails to accomplish this as well.
His final chance to cross it for certain paths can count as a success. In three of the endings, he decides to kill everyone's favorite eggheaded scientist.
Narm Charm: Of course, if you're a fan of the game, you probably get off on this kind of game, and even people who don't like it have admitted that its hilariously toothless attempt at a Darker and EdgierSonic game makes it memorable even today.
Play the Game, Skip the Story: Some of the more charitable opinions of the game tend towards this. While the story is a mess of random events with barely any cohesion, the gameplay at least plays mostly like Heroes and the Adventure games, just with guns added. At the very least, it doesn't have the Gameplay Roulette that many dislike about several 3D Sonic games.
It's very difficult to find anyone who likes Black Doom as a villain. Between having a very uninteresting "alien overlord" design, being shoehorned into Shadow's established backstory, having no whimsical characteristics (unlike Eggman), interesting backstory (unlike Chaos), nor even being a genuinely intimidating and entertaining Magnificent Bastard (unlike Mephiles), it's not hard to see why.
The G.U.N. Commander has his fair share of people spiting his existence as well. A younger brother figure to Maria, he's so heartbroken by her death fifty years ago that he blames Shadow for everything that happened aboard the ARK — despite rising to take leadership of the very same faction that caused it, with nothing remotely insisting that he did so to reform it or such. When he witnesses The Reveal as a child, some have taken it to loosely imply he could've been the reason why G.U.N. found out, meaning he was indirectly responsible for Maria's death and Shadow's entire plotline of angst and trauma. And all he gets is a My God, What Have I Done? when he realizes Shadow wasn't truly at fault.
The weapons actually work better than you probably expect, but the vehicles are not so polished — especially the motorcycle that shows up in the intro movie. The walkers work pretty well, though.
The effectiveness of the weapons depends on what version you're playing. Works pretty well on the Gamecube version, but is utterly useless on the PS2 version. Also, the targeting system seems to have issues when it comes to short-ranged weapons, yet works really well once you start getting medium to long-ranged weapons.
Additionally, no matter which path you take in a level, all the enemies will attack you, which forces you to kill them and have your assist character chew you out for it. Notable in Cryptic Castle, where Eggman is the Dark assist character, but whether you choose to go with him or Amy, both of them will chew you out when you destroy Eggman's robots. This is especially bad when you need to defeat enemies to proceed, even if doing so will raise the gauge opposite of the mission you're going for, lowering your score.
The "hunting" missions of every kind are terribly designed, which really hurt as they comprise about 60% of the whole game. You have no radar, and there are rarely "extra" enemies/stuff to find if you miss a few, and the only way to backtrack is to keep moving forward until you find another checkpoint. And all of these problems wouldn't be too bad, but the linear stage design just makes them unbearable, and it doesn't help that the monotone colors makes it really hard to find things. Team Chaotix had something like this in Sonic Heroes (itself not well-liked either), only there you were only required to find half the things most of the time, rather than all of them, and there were more colours in that game so things stood out more.
Snark Bait: It's really hard to find anyone who has positive or even neutral opinions about the game's Darker and Edgier nature, mainly because it comes off as very forced in a game featuring Funny Animals.
Cosmic Fall is a major pain in the ass because of the numerous tricky jumps over rotating platforms, and you'll have to fight with the awkward camera throughout the entire level; good luck beating this level on hard mode! The main saving graces are that both of its missions are to get to the end of the level (one is just further away), and parts of the mission are very fast.
The Doom is easy to get lost in even with the use of the maps, which are as confusing as they are helpful, and the carrying of the Heal Units slows Shadow right down. Its (slightly) saving graces are that if you see a Heal Unit, you know a scientist is close-by, and how easy it is to use Chaos Blast over and over again thanks to the amount of destructible scenery.
Even with The Doom slowing things down whichever way you play it, Lost Impact is the hardest, most tedious level in the game. It's slower due to the slow-moving GUN Lifts, with more Artificial Chaos to hunt — not to mention they are a powerful enemy. And on top of everything else, they are just about the only enemy that gives Hero points, so you won't even charge Chaos Control to speed your way in the Neutral mission.
Central City. Take the bland visuals of Westopolis, add the maze-like elements of The Doom and Lost Impact with the same issue of repetitive confusing visuals, no goal ring (so no Neutral mission to speed through), and an 8-minute time limit.
Black Comet. Visually bland, repetitive level design, ridiculous length, and lots of liquid that acts as bottomless pits. It gets worse, though — several sections require you to use the air saucers to maneuver across masses of liquid, only aliens and military soldiers alike are shooting the hell out of you, and if the saucer runs out of health, down you go.
The entire premise of Shadow deciding whether to be a hero or a villain was simplified down to: "Maybe this guy knows about my past... no maybe this other guy." There's no involvement of actual character morals whatsoever, and the Random Events Plot nature of whatever route you take blocks out any Character Development we might see from Shadow. Also, the Good/Neutral/Evil routes barely have an impact on the story, despite potential for compelling storytelling drama over whoever sees Shadow as an enemy or an ally.
Shadow's implied Robotic Reveal towards the end of Heroes would have made things even more interesting... But it's only even really mentioned in the last two of the neutral-route levels, and thus the two endings where Shadow accepts this as fact are two of the absolute least canon, even when taking the game's story before the Omega Ending as Broad Strokes. Instead, we just have to accept that Shadow had an Unexplained Recovery after Adventure 2. At least they do cover that Shadow was rescued by Eggman as he fell, so at least it isn't left hanging, but only if you wait 9 minutes into the final boss, as it's never in any actual cutscenes.
The fact that there is no way to end up truly siding with Eggman. The game gives you the option of siding with the boring alien-out-of-nowhere, Black Doom, or with G.U.N., Sonic, and his friends. But there is no ending where Shadow declares his loyalty to Eggman; the ending of Lava Shelter where, by your own choice, you decide to follow Eggman turns out to be a big fat lie as Shadow suddenly turns around and proclaims that he's going to use the Chaos Emeralds to destroy him. It's a massive disappointment for those Rooting for the Empire.
The lack of a path where Shadow really sides with Eggman is more iffy when you consider that since he's Dr. Gerald Robotnik's grandson and Maria's cousin. With his relationship to them, you'd think he'd be an obvious option for Shadow to go to for answers and Eggman giving them if Shadow helps him. Instead, the game has the Shadow Android subplot that turns out to be based on a lie.
True Art Is Angsty: Possibly the reason the game was created, and a common reason for it to be enjoyed.
Unexpected Character: Downplayed. While Maria's presence in the game is to be expected due to her importance to Shadow's character and backstory, the fact she's a gameplay partner in two levels isn't. This also makes her among the few human playable characters in the entire series, since most partners can be controlled with a second controller.
Wangst: This is the game that inadvertently set Shadow's characterization among the fanbase as this. Ironically, it's also the one where he actually gets over it.
We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: Some see the game's Darker and Edgier turn as Sonic Team doing this. While the game did sell relatively well, the backlash and eventual reception to Sonic '06 along with issues concerning other aspects foiled their attempt to play this trope straight, leading to Yuji Naka backing out of Sega, Dimps being assigned onto the series alongside Sonic Team, and the Broken Base problem becoming worse.
The premise of the story is built on the fact that Shadow never asked any of his friends about his past, or never even told them that he was trying to search for clues to his past. Even if they never knew about the Black Arms' involvement, what they knew of his past would have saved Shadow a lot of time.
Eggman's Egg Dealer is a slot machine mech that, among other things, has the ability to power up Shadow. This serves no function other than to hinder Eggman.