Sixteen years after it first beat-up Japanese arcades, Sonic the Fighters finally gets a proper North American release. Although it features some of Sega's most beloved characters, this 1996 fighter is so rare that its recent release caught some Sonic fans by surprise. Years before Super Smash Bros., Sega started the mascot fighting genre with this rock'em-sock'em arcade game. You punch, kick and block your way through a number of one-on-one scenarios, ultimately leading up to the battle with the big Eggman in the sky.
Some of the characters make sense (Sonic the Hedgehog, Knuckles the Echidna, Dr. Robotnik), others feel like padding (Metal Sonic, Honey the Cat, Espio the Chameleon), and some are downright weird (Fang the Sniper, Bean the Dynamite, Bark the Polar Bear). It's a motley crew that helps to accentuate the lack of interesting characters in the Sonic the Hedgehog universe.
The fighting mechanics are closer to Fighting Vipers than Virtua Fighter 2. The action is fast and players are forced to pay close attention to their shield meter. This isn't as deep or involving as other Sega fighters, instead rewarding players for button mashing and just having a good time. Each of the cage matches are held in locations that come straight from the popular Genesis franchise. The moves are also appropriate for each character, allowing Sonic to spin dash and Tails to fly away.
Sega's most know-it-all fans will be quick to remind me that this is not Sonic the Fighters' first U.S. release. This 1996 rarity was packaged alongside Vectorman, Streets of Rage and Tails Adventures in Sonic Gems Collection for the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube. But don't think you've proven me wrong just yet. Instead of sticking with the proper Japanese title, Sega opted to change the cabinet art to read "Sonic Championship." Perhaps we can take this fight over semantics into the Sonic the Fighters arena.
Much like Virtua Fighter 2 and Fighting Vipers, Sonic the Fighters is a bare bones release. Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation 3 owners will get the original arcade mode and a stripped-down online mode. That's it. Thankfully you can select from different versions of the game and change the settings, but don't go in expecting updated graphics, bonus objectives and a robust multiplayer mode. On the other hand, this is one of Sonic's rarest games for a mere five dollars. It may not be Sega's best fighting game, but Sonic the Fighters is worth a few plays.
Sonic the Fighters finally gets a proper U.S. release. This Model 2 rarity may not make for the deepest fighting game, but it's overflowing with charm. The graphics are colorful and the stages are straight out of the classic 2D franchise. Best of all, this is one fighting game you probably haven't played before!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!