Retro games getting a new lick of paint and being ported to newer consoles is typically normal these days, giving new life to the old classics that helped make gaming the entity that it is today allowing us to relive the golden days and at the same time allowing the youth of today to experience the fantastic wonders of yesteryear. Does it work for all retro games? No, not always. So when SEGA released it’s nice shiny HD port of the classic arcade beat-em up, Sonic the Fighters, there was bound to be a little bit of uncertainty as to it success.
Can it stand up to the rigours of today’s gaming? Is this a classic that deserves to be recognized Well, as I’ve never played this game up until now, lets take a completely fresh look at this franchise themed fighter, this Sonic themed Virtua Fighter, this SEGA Smash Brothers of the early 90’s!
Authors Note: The following review is conducted from the Xbox Live Arcade Version.
Right from loading you can see that SEGA has put some work into cleaning the menus for modern consoles with a nice, clean, simple, futuristic interface with all your options. While the main menu and the game itself are in the old standard 4:6 aspect ratio, and like the Sonic Adventure DX port to XBL is framed by a blue background, don’t let it fool you. The options do allow you to play this game in full-screen. This causes some slight stretching, but beyond the slightly skewed game HUD, you’ll never notice. A good start.
As a beat-em up there’s very few options, but you have your standard Arcade mode which you can play through from beginning to end as you would in the arcade, minus the spending of your pocket-money. Here you can select weather to play the game on its usual settings or adjust the difficulty, round length, number of rounds, etc. On top of this is the most exciting feature to be added, online multiplayer. Yes, this game allows you the option to head online and challenge other players around the world.
You get two modes here. Ranked allows you to play online against other players and compete for points to earn your place on the world ranking board. Quick Match allows you to play online for a casual match. There’s some problems when it comes to match ups here however.
Quite often if, not most of the time, you’ll not be able to find anyone for a quick match, but Ranked Matches tend to be easier to find. However, there seems to be no skill system and you’ll often find yourself matched up with a very experienced player. Online is a promising feature, but it needs work.
Sadly, despite adding all these online features and allowing you options to adjust the Arcade mode, there is no option of a practice mode, something this game desperately needs, and something I will touch upon later.
The game is dated and old, admittedly, but the visual quality is impressive. Although characters are very low polygonal models, and it shows, the HD resolution helps them to shine and look so new. Textures have had a nice clean up to sharpen them for the higher resolution, but they could use more work. Despite little flaws like that though the bright vibrant colours and sharp crisp edges make this game look great with a whole new lease of life.
The only disappointment here is the in-game HUD. The life bars and countdown graphics still look old and dated, not to mention low res, appearing to have had no work done to them at all. The same goes for the artwork on loading screens, showing up old and pixelated. With so much work gone into all the textures one would assume a clean up of the HUD and loading screens would have been done also.
Talking about how it looks, what features it has, etc. Is all fine and dandy, but how does it play? Well, prepare for a mixed bag.
The game plays well. You have a variety of characters, including the biggest addition for the first time (officially anyway) Honey the Cat, who you can access via pressing START on Amy. The characters move well and fluently and although I should have mentioned it earlier, the frame rate is wonderful and smooth.
The game is fast paced and can be fun, unfortunately the games AI’s can be overly aggressive. Facing up against Knuckles and then Amy, things seem very easy. Move onto Bark and it becomes a bit more of a challenge, but one I appreciate. Then things get drastically bad. Tails will kick your ass all over the floor, forever picking you up and dropping you over and over again, Espio is relentless, Bean just spams bombs at you, and then Nack. Nack is one of the worst. You cannot move, throw a punch or anything without him popping out his gun and firing a load of shots at you. But then oddly enough you’ll face your doppelgänger and find him a complete pushover!
But that’s nothing compared to what lies ahead. Metal Sonic!
I warn you now, if you have very little patience and/or suffer from stress, DO NOT PLAY THIS MATCH! This is by far the most annoying, hair ripping match throughout the entire game. Metal Sonic will pound you into the ground, spam special, high damage, attacks, beat you to a pulp, and kick you while your down, time and time and time and time and time again. This is by far the lengthy-ist, most annoying, most frustrating part of the game. I can understand games are meant to be challenging, but on a normal setting, this is just ridiculously hard.
The same goes for online multiplayer. Often you’ll be matched against highly experienced players who will kick your around and mop the floor with you.
Non of this is helped by the controls. Other than a Combo List on the MENU, there is no instruction what so ever for this game, and that is made painful by the awful controls. You have your usual Punch, Kick, Block, Directions, and you can check the Combo List all you want to find out how to do attacks. But unfortunately you can look all you want, and it won’t help. No matter what you do you always seem to just kick and punch with the occasional spindash. Most of the time you’ll be staring at your control pad and swapping for a spare thinking your buttons are broken because pressing them seems to do nothing. This makes game play extremely frustrating playing Metal Sonic or going online.
It’s here where the game really disappoints. With such unresponsive controls and lack of instructions the game desperately needs a practice mode for players to try out combos and special moves. You could argue that to get around this you can start a two player local match and leave the second player uncontrolled, but your still stuck with the a round time limit which can be distracting and a nuisance when your trying to figure a move out.
All in all this game is looking good for its age with bright, crisp, colourful visuals, and brilliant frame rate. The game play can be fun and addictive at times, but also frustrating and stressful in certain situations, leaving you feeling like your wasting your time. Online multiplayer is an added bonus which increases its lifespan, and you get to play as Honey without hacking, best bonus in my books.
It’s a mixed bag, but still worth a play through, even if it’s just for a super easy 400 G.
Presentation – 4/5: The HD clean-up is good, though the game still creaks graphically. Lack of true widescreen cuts through.
Features – 3.5/5 : Arcade with added options, online is a bonus. Really requires a practice mode.
Graphics – 3.5/5: Nice new lease of life, bright and colourful. HUD could have benefited from an updating.
Gameplay – 2.5/5: Fun to play – at times. Lack of control and response can cause frustration.