Shadow is a playable character in Final Fantasy VI. He is an Assassin who can throw weapons for tremendous damage and can have his dog Interceptor block and counter attacks. He has excellent evasion stats, but to have him in the party in the first segment of the game, the player must recruit him with money and he may randomly leave at various points. Resting in inns with Shadow in the party sometimes triggers dreams that let the player glimpse into his past.
Shadow joins the party equipped with a Kunai and Ninja Gear. His weapons draw is limited to daggers and ninja daggers, but he can use almost all of them. His armor is lightweight, consisting of universal shields, hats, and light armor. His ultimate weapon is the Oborozuki.
Several of Shadow's weapons have a chance to inflict Instant Death, which makes him effective in normal battles, but puts him at a disadvantage when facing undead enemies as any undead enemy struck by an Instant Death attack will always trigger it and it will heal them to full HP. When facing such enemies, Shadow must have a back-up weapon or rely on his Throw ability to deal damage. He also gets some extra utility from the Thief's Knife, which has a chance to trigger Mug when attacking. This lets Shadow act as a secondary thief in tandem with Locke.
Shadow's equipment draw is particularly notable in the World of Balance for the high Evasion and Magic Evasion he can achieve. When equipped with a Thief Knife, a Priest's Miter, and two Zephyr Cloaks, he has 68 Evasion and 49% Magic Evasion, the highest values achievable in the World of Balance. This gives Shadow a very good chance to evade attacks when possible.
Shadow's high Evasion and Magic Evasion continue to grow in the World of Ruin with access to better equipment. A Tortoise Shield offers pitiful defenses unless Shadow is under Imp status, but will continue to offer high Magic Defense with +30 Evasion and Magic Evasion. A Tortoise Shield combined with two Zephyr Cloaks gives Shadow total +50 Evasion and Magic Evasion, even before bonuses from his other equipment are taken into account. Unusually, given his preference for light armor, Shadow is able to equip Genji Armor, which has high defenses and good stat boosts. With the proper build, Shadow can be an extremely durable character in both defensive and evasive stats.
Shadow's unique ability is Throw, which lets him throw an equippable weapon or a specialized throwing weapon at opponents. The thrown item is spent and removed from the player's inventory. Several specialized items exist solely to be thrown: the Shuriken, Fuma Shuriken, and Pinwheel deal physical damage to a single target, and the Flame Scroll, Water Scroll, and Lightning Scroll deal magical fire, water, and lightning-elemental damage to all enemies, respectively. Two scrolls are supportive: the Invisibility Scroll grants the user Invisible status and the Shadow Scroll grants them Blink.
Shadow can also throw other weapons: daggers, swords (except the Ultima Weapon), spears, ninja daggers, katanas, rods (except for the Flame Rod, Ice Rod, and Thunder Rod), throwing weapons, and gambler's items (except for the Dice and Fixed Dice).
In the World of Balance, Throw makes Shadow a powerful attacker. Shurikens are cheap and easily bought in bulk, and Throw ignores defense and can deal heavy damage. Shadow's elemental scrolls are almost as powerful as tier-three magic spells and cannot be blocked by Runic or Reflect. The Water Scroll is one of the few ways to deal water-elemental damage in the Super NES release; in the Game Boy Advance version, the additions of the Flood spell and the Leviathan summon lessens this importance.
In the World of Ruin, Fuma Shurikens are powerful enough to have utility for the rest of the game, but Shadow has the potential to deal far more damage if the player has the money to invest in him. Seven of the game's eight elements are covered by weapons sold in the World of Ruin: Flametongue (fire), Icebrand (ice), Thunder Blade (lightning), Trident (water), Gravity Rod (earth), Poison Rod (poison), and Holy Rod (holy). There is also the Sakura for wind, though it must be purchased in bulk in the World of Balance. When throwing these weapons at an enemy weak to those elements, Shadow can easily hit the damage cap.
The downside is that buying such weapons in even small quantities is extremely expensive, and can run well into hundreds of thousands of gil. If the player has the money to spare, or buys a few weapons at a time for upcoming dungeons, they can be extremely useful to Shadow. A much cheaper but more time-consuming way to boost Shadow's damage is by visiting Dragon's Neck Coliseum, where Fuma Shurikens can repeatedly be bet to win Pinwheels that have higher power. If this is not an appealing option either, Shadow can still deal fine damage with Fuma Shurikens with training to his Strength.
Shadow possesses a permanent, invisible status where, when he is attacked by a physical blow that could be evaded, Interceptor will block it and nullify the damage. There is then a chance Interceptor will counterattack with either Wild Fang or Takedown, both of which deal non-elemental magic damage to one opponent, but will miss if they are under Float status. Interceptor will not aid Shadow on the Floating Continent, and if the player does not wait for Shadow at the end of the Floating Continent, Relm will have Interceptor status instead in the World of Ruin.
Because Interceptor is considered a status effect, it is vulnerable to the Rippler bug, which allows the player to transfer the Interceptor status to another party member or an enemy. If the enemy is then KO'd, Interceptor is lost forever.
Shadow makes a good character to use in Dragon's Neck Coliseum, as he will never use Throw and it is easy to avoid teaching him any magic. His weaponry to inflict Instant Death give him a chance to win many fights instantly, and he has the Kagenui that randomly casts Stop. Defensively, his high evasion stats combined with Interceptor allow him to avoid many attacks.
The first opportunity to recruit Shadow is in Sabin's segment of the Three Scenarios. He appears at Gau's father's house and can be accepted into the party or ignored. Once the Imperial Camp is completed, Shadow has a 1/16 chance of leaving at the end of every battle won by the player. This is suspended while aboard the Phantom Train, and he will also not leave if he is the only party member not under KO'd, Petrify, or Zombie status. He will leave automatically when the party arrives at the Baren Falls.
The next chance to have Shadow join is in Kohlingen. If the party has an empty slot, Shadow will offer his services for 3,000 gil. He is liable to leave at any time after winning a battle with the same conditions as before, so recruiting him is a risky prospect, as the party could be left short a member in Zozo, one of the most dangerous areas of the game up to that point. After meeting Ramuh in Zozo, Shadow will automatically leave the party. It is possible to ignore Shadow until Zozo is completed and then return to Kohlingen and recruit him then. However, once the party begins the Opera House segment, Shadow will leave during the first act. Additionally, Shadow will leave if the party returns to Narshe at any point during this portion of the game.
Aboard the Floating Continent, Shadow will appear near the save point on the western tip of the island. A collapsed path nearby deeper into the area will not open until Shadow is spoken to and accepted into the party. He will remain until the Ultima Weapon is defeated, or if the party chooses to leave the Floating Continent and return to the Blackjack, at which point he will leave. On revisits to the Floating Continent after leaving, Shadow will still be by the save point and will join the party if spoken to, but the collapsed path will open without him and he can be ignored.
In the World of Ruin, presuming the party waited for Shadow when escaping the Floating Continent, he can be found inside the Cave on the Veldt. When the party approaches him, they will fight the Behemoth King, and then take Shadow back to Thamasa. At this point, the party can go to Dragon's Neck Coliseum and bet the Ichigeki (found in the Cave on the Veldt) to face Shadow as a boss. When he is defeated, he will join the party permanently.
Shadow must be defeated as a boss in Dragon's Neck Coliseum to recruit him in the World of Ruin. The battle is easy, as Shadow only has the Attack command, but the random factor of the Coliseum might make the player's character waste turns on useless spells or abilities. Defeating Shadow recruits him into the party, this time permanently.
If the player avoided talking to Shadow prior to one of the occasions where he will join the party—Gau's father's house, Kohlingen, and Albrook—then a scene introducing him and allowing the player to name him will trigger at that time. If the player avoided speaking to Shadow before beginning Sabin's scenario and reaches the Imperial Camp without him, there will be an alternate line where Sabin is surprised at the presence of the Empire, as Shadow had not warned him of the camp. Because of how this dialogue is coded (it is dependent on the player having met and named Shadow), it is possible to meet Shadow in South Figaro and then avoid him in Sabin's scenario, and the alternate line will not trigger.
If Shadow was not spoken to in South Figaro and the player travels to the Imperial Camp and recruits Cyan with only Sabin, they can return to Gau's father's house to witness a small graphic oversight: when the scene of Shadow's introduction plays, if Cyan is the party leader, he will not disappear when the rest of the screen fades out.
When meeting Ramuh in Zozo, Shadow has an optional line of dialogue in reaction to Ramuh's sacrifice if he is in the party. This is the only instance in the game of Shadow having alternate dialogue during a cutscene.
When escaping the Floating Continent, the party has a time limit to reach the eastern edge of the continent and leap onto the Blackjack. If they leap without waiting for Shadow to escape with them, he is left behind to perish and is not available for re-recruitment. If the party waits, Shadow will arrive when the timer hits 00:05 and will escape with the party. The requirements for his arrival are that the party reaches the edge of the island and triggers the dialogue box asking them to jump or wait with more than 00:05 on the timer, and then remain in that general area of the island. Even if the dialogue box is triggered with only 00:06 on the timer, Shadow will instantly appear when the "wait" option is selected and the dialogue box closes, as long as the timer is not yet at zero. Triggering the dialogue box multiple times is not necessary, nor does the party have to remain in the exact spot it triggers, as long as they are close to the edge when the timer hits 00:05.
If the party stays at any inn while Shadow is a party member, there is a 50% chance to view a dream. This does not work in Thamasa, Figaro Castle, Gau's father's house, Narshe's weapon shop and Mobliz's relic shop.
There are four dreams, which, when viewed in sequence, tell the story of Shadow's past. The player can stay at an inn over and over again until all dreams have been viewed. Each dream plays once. A fifth dream is shown while rescuing Shadow in the Cave on the Veldt in the World of Ruin, and a sixth dream belonging to Relm is only viewable if the player allows Shadow to perish on the Floating Continent. All four dreams can be viewed in either the World of Balance or the World of Ruin.
In the mobile/PC version, viewing the four dreams by resting at an inn with him in the party earns the Road to Carnage achievement.
Because of the means by which Shadow leaves the party in the World of Balance, it is possible to trigger the KO'd party bug and empty party glitch with him. The former causes a Game Over, the latter will freeze the game.