Sega's latest GBA Sonic game is quite a departure from two previous Advance games, ditching the side-scrolling platform action in favor of an overhead-view 3D fighting engine. The gameplay is reminiscent of Capcom's Power Stone games for the old Dreamcast (God rest its soul), minus the environmental interaction and flashy special effects. You'd think a game like this wouldn't fare so well on a tiny handheld, but surprisingly, Sonic Battle holds up quite nicely. Four-player fights are especially fun, and since each character has multiple ways of setting up attacks (aerial, ground, and defense), the action manages to stay fresh. And if you get tired of the main cast, you can always build your own custom robot fighter in the singleplayer story mode. My biggest beef with Battle is that the environments are too plain. Granted, it's nice to have 3D stages, but the fights would've been much more exciting if you could break walls, pick stuff up and throw it, fight in multilevel arenas, and so on. As it stands now, it's a bit too cut and dried, but it's a solid first effort nonetheless.
From a purely technical standpoint, Sonic Battle astounds. 3D graphics have never looked this sharp on GBA before-- these detailed (and smooth-moving) environments offer hope for future stabs at PS1-quality visuals. Shame about the gameplay, though. Combat ranges from dull (any time you have to fight as dimwitted robotic newcomer Emerl) to freakishly unbalanced (Amy Rose is a god character with her unstoppable mallet spin), and it all gets old very quickly. Multiplayer battles and unlockable minigames help the cause some, but you're better off passing.
Too many speeding tickets have landed Sonic and pals in something worse than traffic school--a second-rate, nothrills brawler. What a shame, because Battle was potentially a portable, story-driven Super Smash Bros. Melee (GC). Each character has a unique moves set, and equipping your robot with the most effective skills injects a small strategy element. Still, you can achieve most victories through mind-numbing button mashing, and, except for KO counts, bouts vary little.
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