Sonic got a few spin-offs on the GBA outside of Sonic Advance Trilogy; Sonic Battle was developed by Sonic Team and it is a sudo-3D brawler for the platform. The series entered the fight game genre in the past with Sonic The Fighters but with the jump to the GBA, Sonic Team went in a more Smashing direction for Sonic Fighters.
With a story mode, multiplayer support and custom-character movesets, does this game age well and offer fun brawling combat? Lets find out!
The story is of Eggman finding a very old robot named Emerl and wanting to use the robot for his evil plans.
Eggman learns it can take in the Chaos Emeralds and become stronger the more it ‘eats’. He ditches the robot due it not responding back to his commands and Sonic ends up finding it. After showing it his power, it forms a ‘link’ with Sonic and begins following him and his friends around. Everyone wants the robot, with it bonding with the core Sonic cast (Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Shadow, Rouge, Cream, etc) as he joins them on adventures and brawls.
The story has a lot of great character moments. For the Dreamcast Era Sonic games games, this has my favorite Sonic story out of all of them in that era and that is from the character interactions. Emerl takes in personality traits from Sonic and friends over the game and its nice seeing this robot grow into a new character in the series; we see why the cast likes him from various interactions.
We also get insight to the lives of Sonic and friends; Rouge flirts with Sonic and that grosses him out, Amy is like a mother figure to Emerl, & Emerl and Shadow have a special connection for example. It shows character elements that we don’t normally see in the mainline Sonic titles, and for that reason, I found this story to be one of the series best. With an ending that is really sad that closes out well, Sonic Battle has an engaging plot that will invest players.
The Design & Gameplay
The combat mechanics are a lot of fun, as they are simple with two attack buttons (B and R) but you have a ton of hidden depth. Each character has a launcher, three hit combo and slam attack with B button. But the R button has a lot of different moves. You have three types of attacks for R that you can ‘equip’ before fights; melee attacks that can do a lot of damage, distance attacks, or throwing/placing bombs.
But its different for each character. Sonic has a wave attack that has him spin dashing in place and when he revs up, he launches a wave and his air attack has him slamming into the ground ala bounce attack or you could have Sonic do an wave attack in the air and him having a homing dash that is linked to a tossed ring.
Shadow is another example, as you can use Chaos Blast in unique ways (either turning invisible then unleashing the attack or having it be a air attack that auto-slams into the ground) and his bomb can be controlled with the D-Pad. Every character has a ton of depth and it makes fights a lot of fun. You also have guarding (tap L) and healing (holding L) too.
Emerl is really fun here as his entire moveset can be customized. As you play the story mode, he ‘learns’ abilities from everyone and this leads you to having a ton of flexibility for movesets. You can give him Knuckles Glide, Shadow R attacks, Amy’s B attacks and Sonic’s stance and color pallet for example.
You have literally hundreds of combinations to play around with, making him a lot of fun to play as! It takes the ‘create a fighter’ ability most fighters have and does a lot with that idea. Unlocking every single move will take a long time with repeated fights in single player through.
Core mechanics and battle arena work greatly with one another thanks to everyone having a double jump and dash moves, speed of Sonic and friends apparent as you fight. Hidden areas can be used to buy sometime to heal yourself or you can position yourself to have a nice spot to use some distance R attacks. So with all of these elements being good, there should be no issues, right? There are a few sadly. Battle has really long fights in the story mode that can drag and the difficulty of some story mode fights can be really high.
So the difficulty could be better balanced for the story mode. Multiplayer is locked behind link-cable and this results in the unlockable mini games not being supported for single player gamers. This is a shame, as some of the unlockable mini games like a race with Shadow are a lot of fun. Sonic Battle is a strong game with gameplay and design that is held back a bit with a few minor issues.
The presentation for this game is really impressive honestly due to taking the strong sprite work from Sonic Advance series and gives it more animations, detail and adds 3D movement into the mix. Sonic and friends have a great style here too, with more ‘tough’ looks to reflect the fighting push this game has and the strong style of the Dreamcast Era shines through.
The soundtrack is classic Sonic and it makes the GBA sing with rocking instrumentation and high quality sound work.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Sonic Battle is a sold fighter that does a good amount right. Offering fun combat mechanics, tight controls and a strong presentation, you have a game that is a great playing experience for the GBA. While the difficulty in story mode is a bit too high and some issues with pacing can drag down the expereince, the overall package for Sonic Battle is a strong effort in bringing this speed-focused series into the realm of the fighting game genre. If you have a soft spot for games like Smash Brothers, I can see you easily enjoying this brawling good time.