Sonic the Fighters(sonic Championship in the North American arcade release) was an arcade fighting game that saw very limited release in America. SEGA of America thought that the games portrayal of the characters was too violent(although Sonic Battle was released a few years alter on the Gameboy Advance). A Saturn port was planned, but canceled. the game finally saw a home console release via Sonic Gems Collection on the Gamecube, alongside some other lesser known Sonic titles. The game runs on the same engine as Fighting Vipers, and as such, plays almost exactly the same. In fact, the game came into being because Masahiro Sugiyama put Sonic and Tails in a beta version of Fighting Vipers. Yu Suzuki thought it was interesting, and so proposed the idea to Yuji Naka, who loved it.
The story is somewhat simple, and honestly, a bit laughable. Dr.Robotnic (misspelled Dr.Robotonic in this game) has launched the Death Egg II. Tails creates a rocket ship to counter this, but there is a problem - only one person can fit inside. As such, the characters hold a fighting tournament, and the winner gets to take out Metal Sonic and Dr.Robotnic. I told you it was ridiculous.
Visually, the game has definitely not aged well, but it certainly looks good for its time. Characetrs are very polygonal, and a bit rough. The game does have nice looking stages and the cartoonish effects fit the game to a tee. Fists grow when swung, heads flatten when bashed, and characters "bleed" rings when damaged, just like Sonic does in his main games. This comes complete with the ring sound effect, and I couldn't help but smile when I first saw it.
StF has a very catchy sound track. Each stages music fits almost perfectly, and a few of them may get stuck in your head. the sound track is completely original, however, and none of the songs from other sonic games appear. As cool as it would be to have a smash Bros. like sound track, compiled from the series history, I have to say it was a bold move to create entirely new songs for the game.
The character roster is far from disappointing. Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy (Rosy the Rascal) all made the cut, of course. Some of the more obscure characters such a Espio the Chameleon and Fang the Sniper made it in as well, and this is the only game that the characters Bean the Dynamite and Bark the Polar Bear has ever appeared in. There was originally a third original character slated to appear named Honey the Cat, but she was scrapped, though her character model still exists in the game's coding. Metal Sonic and Dr.Robotnic also make appearances as the game's boss characters. There are not playable, however. while it would have been neat to see some other obscure characters like Vector, it's easy to understand that due to limited technology, they had to be quite selective.
The controls are simple, and easy to understand. There is a punch button, a kick button, a guard button, and a guard break button. The joystick in combination with the attack buttons create combos and specials. The guard and guard break buttons should be self explanatory. You only have five shields, so if all five are broken, you can no longer block. Some characters use weapons, such as Bean's bombs, Amy's hammer and even Espio's tongue! If you are fighting one of these characters, a certain button combo will allow you to steal their weapon, and use it against them momentarily. On the Gamecube version, a skill list is available. I am unsure if this was available in arcades, but I highly doubt it.
Sonic the Fighters, or Sonic Championship if you prefer, is a simple yet fun fighter. It can provide hours of fun if you have people to play with, but playing alone it has limited appeal. The only way to own this game outside of owning an arcade cabinet is to buy Sonic Gems Collection. If you like Sonic, fighting games, or both of those things, you should at least try it. It is interesting to note that many of Sonic's attacks from Super Smash Bros. Brawl came from this game. It has aged rather poorly, so if you need everything to be new and shiny and perfect, then you should just stay away. It has developed a cult fanbase, and many have clamored for a sequel. It appears that isn't going to happen, but ti would be a welcome addition if it ever decides to show up.