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by THQ

For those of you still upset that Sonic and Tails arenít secret characters in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Sonic Battle may be just what the doctor ordered. It isnít as interesting as pitting Mario against Sonic would have been, but Sonic Battle captures the same fast fighting action as Smash Bros and lets you do battle with your favorite characters from the Sonic Adventure series. The cast isnít nearly as appealing as the lineup in Smash Bros, however, and the fighting is pretty simple, but Sonic Battle is a fun little brawler that provides some of the best multiplayer action on the Game Boy Advance.

Sonic Battle offers all of the modes you would expect from a fighting game, but it also has a rather lengthy story mode. In the story mode, you discover a robot named Emerl who tags along with you as you try to uncover Dr. Eggmanís latest scheme. You get to use a different character from the Sonic universe in each of the eight chapters in story mode, but the real star of the show is Emerl. He learns new moves when you use them in battle, and with eight characters and several moves from each character to choose from, you can create an entirely unique move list for Emerl and have him fight however you want. Pitting your custom character against your friendsí versions of Emerl is going to be a major selling point in Sonic Battle and, thankfully, it is very well done.

The actual fighting in Sonic Battle takes place on large 3-D fields and there can be as many as four characters fighting at once. The fighting engine is pretty simple and that might turn some people off of the game, but each character has several special moves and the game is put together in such a way that there is quite a bit of variety in each match. You are able to designate special moves before each match as being airborne, ground, or guard based and the moves have very different effects depending on how they are assigned. This makes for an interesting experience because each match will play a little bit differently depending on how you set up your character. You donít have a huge number of moves available to you, but it is fun to be able to pull off recognizable moves with your favorite Sonic characters.

Some minor annoyances in the gameplay come from the way the battlefield is set up. You are in a 3-D world but the level layout doesnít really make any difference on how the fights play out. When fighting more than one opponent at a time, the controls make it tricky to actually attack the character you want to attack so it is difficult to focus on one opponent. Another setback to the gameplay is that the camera struggles to keep up with the action. The camera canít pan out to get a wider shot of the battlefield, so if characters are far apart they will just disappear off the side of the screen and there arenít any little arrows to let you know where they went.

The multiplayer aspect of Sonic Battle is definitely worth checking out if you can. It isnít always easy to get four people with four GBAs and four copies of the same game together, but if you can swing it this is the best way to play Sonic Battle. The action is fast and furious and a lot of fun when you can play with your friends. Pitting your custom designed Emerls against each other is also a very interesting experience. Graphically, Sonic Battle looks very good. The characters are all easy to recognize on the GBA screen and use all of the moves that you would expect them to. The animation is also very well done. The environments are simple rectangular arenas with some 3-D elements, but they look nice overall. Sonic Battle is a great looking game.

Just as impressive as the graphics is the sound. The sounds of fighting are well done and the rest of the sound effects just reek of ďSonic-nessĒ. The music is a bit hit or miss, but there isnít anything too horrible. The best part about the sound in Sonic Battle is that voice samples from the Sonic Adventure games have been used to give the characters a little extra shot of personality. Overall, Sonic Battle is a fun game, but your mileage will definitely vary depending on how big of a Sonic fan you are. The fighting is pretty simple, and the camera could have been a lot better, but the gameplay is fast and rather fun. It is nice to be able to create a customized character, and playing with Emerl is arguably one of the best parts of the game. But, like I said, you have to really love Sonic to truly appreciate this game. If the only character you know from the Sonic universe is Sonic himself, then Iím not sure if I can recommend this game for a purchase. If you are a big Sonic fan already, youíll love this game. It offers an interesting story mode along with the ability to do battle with all of your favorite characters. Try it before you buy it if you possibly can, but Sonic fans can buy Sonic Battle without too many worries.


 

Eric Qualls   (04.21.04)

Snapshot

Ups: Nice graphics and presentation; fun multiplayer; creating a custom character through the Story Mode.

Downs: Simple fighting engine; camera struggles to keep up with the action.

Platform: GBA