Out of everyone on the Newshound team, no one loves classic remakes and re-releases more than I do. As a lifelong fan of fighting games, finally getting to play a supposed "lost classic" such as Sonic the Fighters
, should have been a great way to spend an evening. This game is right up my alley as far as my interests go but alas, as with so many other evenings I have planned, this one was a disappointment verging on complete disaster.
I sat with this file open, waiting to be filled with words, for a good 20 minutes before deciding on how I was going to describe Sonic the Fighters
. Bail out now if you have fond memories of this game, because what I played last night was dull, boring, simplistic, ugly and an excuse for easy gamerscore to pad my completion numbers. As with all fighting games, let's begin by discussing the game's plot and then I will walk you through the actual playing of this alleged game.
Dr. Eggman has built a doomsday device and you need to savagely beat up your friends to collect Chaos Gems, fly in a rocket to Dr. Eggman's space station and stop him. That's all there is to it, which is normally enough for a fighting game as all we want to do is smash people in the face with meaty fists, but a design flaw in this re-release means that most of you will never even see Dr. Eggman. Don't worry, we'll get to that later.
So let's say you want to play the arcade mode, which is good, because that is the only way to play against the AI, and you made it to the character select screen. First off, don't panic, I too doubt this game is being presented in HD because those character models are ugly. Secondly, you may only recognize Sonic, Knuckles and Tails which is fine, as some of the others are from Sonic Chaotix
, which was a SEGA 32x title and some of the characters were created specifically for Sonic the Fighters
. Don't worry too much, your choice of character really doesn't mean much once the "fighting" begins.
Fights are played out in fully 3D, walled arenas that look to be lifted straight out of Fighting Vipers
, which makes sense as the entire game is basically a modded version of Fighting Vipers
. Sadly, the camera from Fighting Vipers
did not make the transition, and instead we're left with a camera that gives you a bizarre, 45-degree angle of the fighting. Between the horrible character models, nearly all of whom have Knuckle-sized.....knuckles....and the floaty, schizophrenic camera, keeping track of the action is doable, but tough. I want to point out that in still screenshots, the models look better then they do in motion, as the animations lack fluidity and the oversized aspects of the character design easily obscure the action. On the bright side, fights are over very quickly.
While every character has an alleged "command list" detailing the moves available to them, everyone has very dull attacks. Even Sonic, which is a bit of a disappointment, because no one wants to live in a universe in which Tails is a better fighter. Only three buttons are used for moves, Punch, Kick and Barrier. What is barrier you ask? Great question! Barrier is this game's version of blocking, creating a field in front of your character that renders attacks harmless, unless they break your barrier. Breaking a barrier happens all the damn time, so don't rely on it too much, but if you time it right, it's possible to block one attack then quickly respond with your own combo. This is the only part of the game that takes skill, and you will have it mastered within 30 seconds as the timing window to block an attack is even more forgiving than a Catholic Nun.
I also used the term "combo" very loosely in the precedeing paragraph, as there is no need for the timing of say, Virtua Fighter 2
, and instead you can just mash a button which results in a string of three hits, culminating with a blast across half the arena. I'd like to talk about the special moves, but none of them, even Sonic, have specials that feel.....special. I did enjoy Tails command grab move where he grabs the other fighter, then flies straight up in the air and drops them. Besides the spin dash, that's the most obvious fighting game move from the actual Sonic the Hedgehog
The music you're subjected to while going through 80% of the arcade mode (again, we'll get to that particular problem in just a little bit), is perfect for the arcade setting this game was intended for back in 1996. Mainly because back then, other games in the arcade would drown out the music and you wouldn't have to listen to it. I wound up listening to the BS Report podcast by Bill Simmons while playing this game.
Make sure that if you do put on a podcast or TV show to have on in the background it's a short one. You will not play the game like I did. I played this game for a full two hours last night, which was long enough to beat arcade mode with every character and attempt to play online. Shockingly, there was no one actually playing online when I attempted to use my Knuckle fisting skills over the Internet. You, yes you, the one reading this right now, will only play Sonic the Fighters
for perhaps 10 minutes.
That is not a knock against the game, as it has plenty of other flaws, but the achievement list is one of the easiest lists of all time. You do not even have to finish arcade mode one time. You do not even have to fight Sonic in arcade mode or even see either of the two bosses (Metal Sonic and then Dr. Eggman for those curious). Slap the difficulty down to easy, run through 7 stages getting a perfect and breaking your opponent's barrier in the process, use Honey, whom is a "hidden" character based off of Honey from Fighting Vipers
and then start it up again using Knuckles to get the mirror-match achievement. Done.
The achievements are so easy and with 12 of them totaling 400 GS, a great way to boost your gamercore. Considering the game itself is only 400 MSP, you're practically paying just for that 400 GS and it happens to come with a game. If this game is to be popular at all, it will be because of the simple achievements. The alleged fighting game you get as a free bonus for buying the GS is bad. It can be stated in many other ways, some flowery and poetic, some crass, but essentially Sonic the Fighters
is a bad, bad game.
There is a reason this game was cancelled for the Sega Saturn in North America: SEGA of America believed it was too violent for Sonic's kid-friendly image. I have to agree, as if I had paid $30 or $40 for this back in 1996, I'd be angry and violent too! For only 400 MSP, it's still a horrible deal as the game has no replay value and no incentive to actually finish the arcade mode. Have we reached the point where developers are making easy achievements to drive up sales?
Regardless, this game is trash.
The reviewer played for roughly 2 hours, completing arcade mode with every playable character and attempted to play online against others. Sadly, there was just no market online for his Knuckle fisting.