Eternity in an hour
There is apparently a bit of a disconnect depending on dub. Apparently in Japanese they are stated as being weaker. I've not actually seen that but others in this thread have pointed it out. In the English dub however, it is stated that the illusions are just as powerful as the originals.I'd just like to point out that the term "vitals" is indeed used for computers to indicate their performance in several areas.
Even if this isn't relevant, we know what Chezi meant: Robotnik was likely checking to see if Metal Sonic was even still functional.
Why would he need any information and statistics from the original Metal if he could just conjure up a illusion Metal with what he remembers? Illusions are already stated as being weaker IN Forces, so it's not like knowing exact stats would make a difference.
Eggman is the one who made Metal to begin with. He has the spec info on him because he made the info himself. As such, it's not unreasonable to assume that the monitor wasn't checking for anything, but was instead either merely displaying information he already had as Metal's creator, or was feeding that information into the Ruby somehow. I've already covered this in previous posts. Is it still possible he was checking for something? Sure, but then the question expands to what it is exactly he's doing to check. Does he have a drone that he sent out? Does the computer work via some sort of radar? Did he install a micro-transmitter into Metal at some point?
We don't know that for sure. Mania's manual states it warps space-time, but that doesn't necessarily make it canon. There's a few factors to consider. For example, in lore Sonic and friends experienced the jump from Angel Island to Green Hill without anyone to explain it to them. The manual is merely describing this incident, which from their point of view only makes sense as a jump through warped space-time. Additionally, the illusions tidbit relates to major plot details in Forces, which was released later. They could have opted not to explain the illusions stuff in Mania's manual so as to not spoil how Infinite's powers work before Forces even comes out. As such, the majority of Mania very well could be illusionary. Not all of it, but a lot of it. The intention behind this would have been for you to draw the link yourself by playing both games.On top of this, the Phantom Ruby uses different powers in Forces compared to Mania. In Mania, it can warp space-time. In Forces? It's stated as only being able to create Illusions. Unless all of Mania is an illusion, there's a disperancy here.
The sun being smaller and weaker doesn't break Forces own logic, considering the Metal Sonic illusion you actually fight in Forces is bigger than normal. Eggman didn't want to destroy the world, he just wanted to wipe out the resistance. A suitably sized illusion of the sun to do that makes more sense than making a full on copy of it which would dwarf the entire planet significantly.You COULD state that the Terminal in Forces was simply stating all Robotnik knew.. Robotnik had the gem for longer than he did in Mania (A few months before his conquest, and the 6 months that he ruled the planet). It seems unlikely to me that he wouldn't run into the warping properties by sheer accident, like he did in Mania extremely quickly.
And no, the sun doesn't quite count; if it did, they'd all instantly be dead, as a star would be RIGHT above the planet, and even further, everyone on the planet would die. Unless we throw out all logic.
So, putting all that together... I find it unlikely that the Metal in Mania is an illusion.
The science probably doesn't work out still, they should have likely been instantly roasted in the local area and vast distances in every direction, but that shortcoming exists regardless of the true nature of what the sun is and how it got there. If huge inconsistencies and plot holes were positive signs of quality, Forces would be a masterpiece.
I would argue that Eggman knew what he was doing in Mania, though. He's laughing as he activates it for the first time on screen, which is quite different from the surprise you would expect if what he was doing was accidental. How he knew how to use it is... Unclear, but he definitely doesn't seem like he's discovering it's power for the first time. Perhaps he discovered it already and had it in his possession, but lost it on Angel Island somehow? That would explain why Tails didn't detect it where it was back in Sonic 3. It wasn't there yet.
Overall, I still don't find it unlikely for Metal to be an illusion in Mania. It's one of those things that makes sense from multiple viewpoints, and a lot of the evidences in either direction are wrapped in mystery and speculation and function based on assumptions and opinions. That's the fun part about these kinds of things though.