There are so many games that deserve sequels that just don't have them. One of them is a game that never really had a release to begin with. I'm talking about the insanely fun fighting game "Sonic The Fighters." Originally released to arcades in 1996, there were plans for a home release on the Sega Saturn at one point, but that never came to fruition. And while it was fairly popular in arcades, and even had a port on the Sonic Gems Collection, it's still relatively unknown to all but the most hardcore Sonic enthusiasts.
As said earlier, the only official home release was on the Sonic Gems Collection for the PS2 and Gamecube, and was most likely outshined by the port of Sonic CD. Well, once again, Sega released the obscure title on PSN and Xbox Live Arcade. But unlike the Gems version, there are a lot of bonuses in this version, mainly the HD graphics, resolution upscaling, online play, and the addition of Honey the Cat, Robotnik, and Metal Sonic.
After setting your options, there are a handful of different modes to play, including Arcade, two-player, and Online. In Arcade, you select from one of nine fighters and advance your way to the final battle with Metal Sonic and Robotnik by defeating eight opponents. These opponents have Chaos Emeralds that are needed to power your Rocket to get to the Death Egg. You'll face familiar friends like Sonic, Amy, Tails, Espio, and Knuckles along the way, and some more obscure faces like Fang the Sniper, Bark the Polar Bear, and Bean the Dynamite Duck, each with their own abilities and stats.
The presentation of this game is excellent. You can tell it's dated by the primitive 3D models in which you can clearly see the polygon, but it still looks good, even by today's standards (I have an HDTV running on component 720p, and it looks awesome). The colors are bright and vibrant, as you'd expect from a Sonic game, the characters interact in a very comedic cartoon fashion (Amy smashing you with a hammer produces a "bonk" sound and makes you look like you've been squashed), and the music is very energetic. It definitely feels like the perfect balance between a Sonic game and a fighting game because of this.
In terms of gameplay, Sonic The Fighters is by no means complex. While it plays like a traditional fighting game (it's based on Virtua Fighter), it's easy to pick up and play. And while practicing is going to be necessary to have a perfect game, the combos are not that hard to pull off, so it's perfect for people like me that are terrible at fighting games. Sadly, there's no practice mode, so battling a friend online or locally or doing multiple Arcade run-throughs will be necessary.
In online mode, you have the option to find a quick online match, host a match, or create a matchup online. In this mode, you can use the secret characters Metal Sonic and Dr. Robotnik, though I don't advise doing so since they're both incredibly cheap. I feel this could be the strongest feature of the game, IF there were more players. I can't speak for the Xbox 360 version, but there were NO advertisements for this game in the PSN Store, and only 140 players registered on the leaderboards. Even so, if you have friends far away like I do, the online mode is pretty much flawless. I have a 3MBPS DSL connection, and there was no lag whatsoever against the friend I played.
The game isn't without obvious (and sometimes humorous) flaws. The gameplay mechanics are pretty broken, as are the characters themselves. Sonic's spin dash is a guaranteed stun, Bark's punches seem to deplete half of his opponents life bar, and Metal Sonic is too fast AND too strong. But there are some funny glitches, like how the characters' eyes seem to always follow the camera, and their pupils will sometimes disappear as a result. Also, spelling errors like "Dr. Robotonick" and "PolerBear" are guaranteed to cause some chuckling.
I think this game should have been bigger than it is. Though fighting purists will scoff at this game for the broken character roster and overly simplistic gameplay, the mainstream fans would love it because you get to fight as Sonic and his friends with an easy-to-play control scheme. If it had a proper home release, maybe on the Dreamcast, I think it would have spawned a franchise of its own. But alas, that's what lack of support can do to great games. If you're a Sonic fan looking for some good, simple action, do yourself a favor and download this. It's only $5 on PSN and 400 MS Points on XBLA. And please, spread the word; though it may be far from perfect, it's a game I think any Sonic fan would enjoy, and one that doesn't deserve to go by the wayside.
Who knows, maybe a Sonic the Fighters 2 with some more recent characters could come out of it.