|One of SEGA's many oddities|
Sonic the Fighters is one of those little hidden oddities which make you scratch your head when knowing there was a fighting game title based on a series known for being a plat-former more than anything. Then again, we got Super Smash Bros. which has the same feeling towards such, but has been highly successful. I personally have never been able to play such game on Arcade, emulation, or otherwise therefore I cannot make a true review on how it handles overall, therefore this is just a blog on my views on it as a spectator.
Released in 1996 for Arcades, the game itself takes after other SEGA fighting game series like Virtua Fighter with a similar way of fighting gameplay, as well as being done in a 3D environment within a fighting arena for watch stage. You can either smack your opponent against the walls within the arena or even launched them outside it for an out of ring victory. The story goes that Eggman has constructed yet another Death Egg and is bent on conquering the planet, as he had always allured to. In order to stop him, Tails has created a spaceship which uses Chaos Emeralds to power it in order to reach him and do battle to stop his plans. The problem is that it only fits one character at the cockpit and he has but only one Chaos Emerald out of the 8 that he needs to launch it. The sensible solution then is to seek others who have their own Emeralds and duke it out with them in order to get said gems. However Tails is not the only one who wants a piece of the action as Sonic and the rest also want his own Gem and the chance to fly said rocket to fight Eggman.
The premise itself is quite silly, being that as long as Sonic and Tails have been tagging along they could not possibly just fight each other to get a chance to stop Eggman. The same could be said about other characters like Knuckles and Amy Rose who are also within the roster of characters. However the likes of Knack the Weasel, Bean the Dynamite, and Bark the Polar Bear serve as antagonists to fight for their own gems and step on finishing the game. Espio also appears on this game, but his appearance would be more of a wild card to see which side he would really be on.
Overall there are 8 characters the player must go through in order to get all the gems and fly inside the rocket to fight Eggman in his Death Egg. Just like in the likes of Virtua Fighter, you will always fight characters in a stated order rather than at a random choice like other fighting games. Knuckles being the hapless first and easy opponent and Sonic being the last and overly overpowered difficult contender. Halfway through you will also fight an evil grey cloned double Eggman creates to fill in the fighting character order. After beating all 8 character you will confront a much harder opponent in the form of Metal Sonic from Sonic CD before you get a chance to fight Eggman in a 15 second match before the Death Egg explodes. Should you fail to defeat him you will not be able to complete the game.
Like I stated, I have yet to fight the game to describe its gameplay in a clearer fashion, but as far as I had seen, the controls seem quite simple, having a punch, kick, and block mechanism as with VA games. The fighting itself is quite humorous and slapstick, having rings knocked out of you whenever you get hit and cartoony expressions being shown when taking damage. Other silly funny moves include stomping on your opponent's foot and flattening them up with a powerful attack, such as Amy using her hammer for instance. You can also force weapons away from your opponent and use them as against them, such as Amy's hammer and Fang/Knack's pop gun. You have a limited number of insta-shields that help reduce damage taken as well. Clearly this game has been developed for a younger audience than hardcore fighting aficionados, but seems quite fun to play as well.
The music is quite nice on this game and some argue is the best part of it overall. I have found Amy's stage track the most addictive of them all to be honest. Other sounds are as cartoonish as the character expressions, with splats and bonk everywhere, along with the familiar ring sound from titular Sonic games. No one ever speaks here, not even when receiving damage. Eggman simply mutters gibberish in fact.
If you manage to beat the game, the familiar credit scene follows the Death Egg's explosion, showing replays of all opponents defeated and the high score ranking input if you managed to earn it. Eggman and Metal Sonic then scold you in a funny manner before flying back to the planet.
While Sonic the Fighters was not that widely spread during its release in Arcades, it has been planned to be ported to the Sega Saturn months after the Arcade release, but ultimately scrapped. It has been ported to compilations like Sonic Gems Collection for GameCube and released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on their online virtual game marketplaces.
Besides showcasing known characters within its own universe, Sonic the Fighters also displayed characters designed for that entry alone, such as Bean the Dynamite which was inspired by the characters shown on Dynamite Dux, a SEGA arcade game in the 80s and Bark the Polar Bear which is by far the sole original character created for said game. Honey the Cat, which is an animal version of Honey from Fighting Vipers is also included as a finished character within the game's code and you can unlock her via cheat code/hacking in the character select screen. Super Sonic is another character that can be accessed by a cheat code input. Bean and Bark have been featured in another SEGA fighting game, Fighters Megamix.
If anything I might be able to play this game on emulation if it works properly, otherwise is a title that will just go on flying under my radar but still visible, if not unreachable.
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