Sonic the Fighters/Development
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While likely not intentional, Sonic the Fighters started its development during the creation of Fighting Vipers. During his spare time, an unknown AM2 developer added crude, but playable versions of Sonic and Tails to the Fighting Vipers codebase. Neither were finished and cannot be selected during normal play, but it was enough to attract AM2 head Yu Suzuki, who delivered the Sonic the Fighters concept to Hiroshi Kataoka.
At first, Kataoka was worried that Sonic characters beating each other up wouldn't be approved by Yuji Naka, however Naka was actually very receptive to the concept. A decision was then made to continue working with the Fighting Vipers engine, modifying it to better represent the world of Sonic, and simplifying the gameplay. Sonic the Fighters remains very close to Fighting Vipers in terms of style, with one of several unused characters even resembling Honey from the aforementioned game.
Sonic the Fighters was the first game to render Sonic the Hedgehog as a 3D polygonal model in real time. Many teams at Sega struggled at the time to convert what was then a predominantly 2D character into the third dimension, and AM2 were initially no exception, however Sonic is unique for having been partially designed in 3D from the outset. A physical 3D model of Sonic, used by the artists of the original Sonic the Hedgehog to better understand how the character should animate, was reportedly given by Naka to the team for reference.
Sonic the Fighters stems from Sega AM2's previous arcade fighting game, Fighting Vipers. Simple models for Sonic and Tails can be found within in Fighting Vipers but are unplayable through normal means. When Sonic the Fighters was first announced, they finally had a time to shine.
The background is basic, the floor of South Island is a curious checkerboard of blue and yellow, and the characters lack shadows. Sonic and Tails are noticeably off-model and have fewer polygons than the final game.
A different build was used to demonstrate Sonic and Tails fighting each other. All of these screenshots are believed to have come straight from Sega, and depict a different South Island with a textured floor and barriers similar to Flying Carpet (with palm trees as the corners).
Next to be shown off was Amy Rose, and the Flying Carpet stage.
A build of Sonic the Fighters was playable at AOU Show 1996 in February 1996. It is not entirely clear how much of the game was accessible at this point, though screenshots suggest most characters were playable and an AOU "Thank you for your playing" screen hidden within the final game's data reveals the game was approximately 50% complete. Aurora Icefield, Mushroom Hill and Death Egg's Eye make an appearance.
AM2 chose to make less of a fuss about the remaining four playable characters. Fang and Espio were announced first, followed by Bean and Bark. All were thought to be playable, though Bark is noticeably incomplete.
It looks as if a single player mode was also available. Knuckles takes on Sonic in stage 8, but it's South Island instead of Giant Wing. The stage has a smaller checkerboard floor with orange/yellow highlights instead of light green.
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