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Lost in Obscurity: Sonic Battle

Many great games have been released over the years, most of which were part of a very well known franchise, where as others were very much a sleeper hit that grew into its own thing. But every once and a while, a fun, well made game will get its fifteen minutes of fame and then fade into obscurity forever, unless of course it develops a cult following a decade or two later. The game I'm going to cover is one that I've had an unusually high amount of fun with when I was in high school, and that title is Sonic Battle for the Game Boy Advance.

Released in the US on January 5, 2004, Sonic Battle was Sega's second attempt at making a fighting game starring Sonic the Hedgehog and other characters from that series. Although, unlike its predecessor Sonic the Fighters, this game has a much larger freedom of movement, big, open arenas for up to 4 fighters, and a simple control scheme that just about anyone can pick up at fairly quick pace. A is jump, B is normal attack, R is special attack, and L is guard. Now while this may not sound very exciting at first glance, but the combat is fairly more complex than you would probably give it credit for.

Each character has several additional attacks that can be performed by pressing the attack button in combination with the D-Pad, and holding the guard button down will slowly recover health and charge your Ichikoro gauge. When that gauge is completely charged, the next special attack you use will be a one hit knock-out should it connect. The characters' special moves are what make this fighting game unique though. Each character has three special attacks: Power, which is a strong, close range strike that is meant to knock your target away from you; Shot, which attacks your foes from a fair distance away; and Trap, which places a mine or bomb on the ground to hopefully snare an inattentive opponent. Each of these moves are also set to one of three relatively self-explanatory actions which are Ground, Air, and Defend. This adds a level of customization not normally found in fighting games.

In addition to the normal fighting portion of the game is a story mode featuring a character exclusive to Sonic Battle, Emerl, an ancient automaton called a "gizoid" found by Dr. Eggman and abandoned on the beach where it was then recovered by Sonic. The story plays out in chapters, with each chapter starring a different character and their personal interactions with Emerl, but the main focus of the story isn't solely character development, but rather collecting custom chips that can be used to modify the initially weak Emerl's moveset. Emerl is the player-made character of this game and he can be customized to have moves from several different characters and even some special super powerful skills that can be unlocked with a bit of luck and patience. Finishing specific chapters will also unlock minigames that help give the game more variety, and finishing any chapter a second time will allow you to read a section of Gerald Robotnik's journal regarding his initial discovery of the gizoid known as Emerl. These journal entries help to further explain Emerl's backstory and is a nice little bonus for those that enjoy the game enough to play through it more than once.

I have a soft spot for this game. Not because it's a Sonic title, but because of how unusually engrossing it was for a fighting game. It was fairly well balanced considering it was the first (and probably only) game of its kind and its lengthy story and addictive minigames kept me busy for hours on end. If you want to get this game for yourself, you can likely get a pre-owned copy of it for fairly cheap on eBay or Amazon. If you lack the money, then an emulator could also work, but I don't really condone that unless you have absolutely no other options. But until then, I'll be seeing you.



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