Sonic Battle rages ever on
15 years of confusing, nonsensical fighting
Not one single person among us has failed to find themselves with a burning urge to punch Miles "Tails" Prower full in the face. Normally right after failing a Special Stage in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on account of his being a useless, stupid, uncoordinated waste of time, space and energy. At last, in 2003, Sega gave us the opportunity to do so. Alongside many other aggressively redundant franchise characters, Tails is finally your punching bag in the GBA oddity known as Sonic Battle.
The 3D battlefields are both extremely unusual and vastly to the detriment of the gameplay. The characters are all standard 2D sprites and interacting in the space can be finicky - many times you'll find yourself flailing just above or just below your opponents. There's a lengthy single-player mode, which has you taking on the roles of many, many characters' individual campaigns (ala the Dreamcast's Sonic Adventure), but it's padded egregiously, with the vast majority of the battles being "first to ten KOs"; often, upon winning, you're thrown into the same exact battle again.
In terms of the actual mechanics of the game, it's far too difficult, overly frustrating and flawed in every aspect of its execution. That said, it is memorable if persevered with. The storyline is surprisingly involved and harrowing; it's not going to win any new fans, but the dialogue is distinctive and engaging in a way the series usually has no interest in. It's also refreshingly serious, with threatening villains and a denouement that's - honest - a tiny little bit moving.
There's a grinding collect-em-up aspect with the plot-relevant new character Emerl, a robot that crosses paths with the entire cast and can copy all their fighting moves. This lets you build your own character with all your favourite punches and kicks, so you can abuse Tails with ever-increasingly efficient brutality.
Oh, and most importantly, in the Japanese version (which includes a full English translation), Rouge the Bat calls Dr Eggman a "dirty bastard". Which is hilarious and justifies the existence of the entire game.