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Eternal Champions

Genre: Fighting Developer: Sega Interactive Designs Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1-2 Released: 1993

The Eternal Champion – a near omnipotent being with power to manipulate space and time – has pulled a group of fighters (all of whom died before they were able to effect great change to history) from their respective untimely demises, and decides to pit them against each other in a battle of the fittest to determine which ONE of them will be teleported back in time, saved from their unfortunate end, and allowed to go on to effect whatever change they were originally supposed to in their own time.

An intriguing twist from the usual “gigantic competition to see who’s the hardest” fighting tournament, but ultimately no more compelling. It’s a fighting game after all…the plot is secondary to the action.

Eternal Champions is what I would call a “technical fighter”, in that there is FAR more depth than you may at first appreciate. There is, for example, a full training suite wherein you can pick death traps and obstacles from a large list, and drop them in to make the level more…interesting.

Similarly there is a feature called “Inner Strength” which is an energy bar that starts on FULL, and drains with each special move you use. It has NOTHING to do with your health – that’s a separate bar. The inner strength bar is depicted as a yin-yang symbol, and whilst it recharges over time, once it has been depleted you cannot use special moves until it replenishes. This can add an obviously awkward yet surprisingly tactical element to combat.

Taking into account the graphical capabilities of the Mega Drive/Genesis console, the game’s developers have done a REALLY good job with this cart. The characters are large and well-animated, with LOADS of special moves for a 2d 1-on-1 beat-’em-up. The characters have such detailed animation that even their regular idle pose is well-animated.

The special moves themselves are all of a high and varied standard, and it is quite obvious when you play the game that a LOT of effort and time has been put into making sure the game’s graphics cut the mustard.

The MD/Genesis’ colour limitations are ever-apparent, but in practice it serves to give the game a grittier feel rather than to detract from your enjoyment of it.

Good job all round graphically.

Whilst sounds have NEVER been the MD/Genesis’ strongest point, there are plenty of diverse and memorable sounds in this game, some of the BEST being the characters’ individual taunts.

I laughed out loud the first time Xavier pointed at Rax and put him down by calling him a simpleton, but some of the other insults are just as compelling. “Freak”, “Weakling”, “Pig” … they’re all quite … mean really

The game’s music ranges from techno through to eerily haunting, and is very reasonable throughout. The developers have done a great deal with the limited capabilities of the platform.

Given that this is was one of the first fighters to utilize the revolutionary SIX-button controller (previously you would have been playing it with a THREE-button controller and using the start button or similar to switch the three buttons from punches to kicks and back), there is a period of adjustment. Fortunately, because of the way the game was designed, it feels almost natural playing this way, so before long you’ll be whipping off combos and special moves like a pro.

The gameplay in Eternal Champions is rich and varied. The developers have put HUGE amounts of effort into ensuring that the game is jam-packed full of options to tweak, and gazillions of different ways of fighting. As I briefly mentioned at the start of this review, there is a training room you can fight in where you can choose to put up to a given amount of traps, those traps being picked from a huge long list. Laser blasters, spinning blades, grenades, you name it – they’re all in there … and this is in ADDITION to having to fight your opponent.

One of the messages that the game keeps hammering home is that it IS tough, even on the easiest difficulty setting, so you should know your character inside-out before you venture into the story mode. This is a great concept, but most people look to 1-on-1 beat-em ‘up’s for the INSTANT fun-factor and slap-around they can have …NOT for looking to bond with your fighter for a few hours prior to starting to kick butt. This lets the game down slightly. You will find that if you just jump right in you’ll get PASTED after a few matches … and it’s the little things that niggle you. For example, in story mode you don’t seem to be able to turn off the inner strength bar, which instantly makes the game tougher.

Furthermore, if you lose a match in story mode, you’re bumped two places back down the ladder …so you have to fight the guy you just beat AND the guy before him. It’s a real pain in the butt !!

THEN of course there’s the Eternal Champion – he’s a VERY tough opponent. He changes his fighting style from a set of Kung Fu styles he has on offer, and this is sure to keep you on your toes.

Don’t get me wrong, nobody likes a walkthrough – you have to have an element of difficulty and danger or there’s no enjoyment in playing the game at all … but in THIS title sometimes it’s a little TOO complex.

However, there are some truly AWESOME additions. For example, EVERY stage (with the exception of the Eternal Champion’s Chamber) has a finishing move associated with it. They are complex to pull off, as you must ensure that your opponent is standing in a given spot and then execute any move that kills them from that spot (if that makes sense), but some of them (like Xavier’s stage where you are burnt at the stake) are so COOL that they are truly worth the effort.

Given the HUGE amount of options stuffed into this game, the variety and uniqueness of some of the characters, the insane number of special moves each one of them has, the complexity of the game and the overkills ? (The stage-related deaths), the replay value of this game is high. It will take you AGES before you can truly say you have mastered it, and for that reason alone you’ll keep coming back to it.

Want another opinion on this game? Read our Double Take article!

SCORE: 8 out of 10

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2 Comments

  1. vacuumnoise says:

    Personally I’d say this game does a wonderful job with its colour variety!(it makes SF:SCE look like an NES title in colour comparison…) It is a bit dark and cyberpunkish but also bright and vibrant. Cartoony yet realistic (kinda like a mid 90s comic book style IMO.
    Sega did wonders with this game, and I got it in case with book for $7. I had read that it came out too late and wasn’t marketed too aggressively… which is a real shame because this game is soo fun and having the ability to make it really slow (almost dreamy) to really fast (like SF turbo hyper etc.) is a lot of fun in VS. mode especially: and then there’s that goofy “control room” which makes me think of X-MEN’s “danger room” … A lot of fun, luckily with the help of the internet people are finding out about games like this, a hidden gem which really shouldn’t be hidden.

  2. 108 Stars says:

    A very interesting beat ´em up, this eternal Champions.
    It mixes the brutality of Mortal Kombat with the cartoonish characters of Street Fighter II, all in a dark and gritty mood.
    Gameplay is actually very deep and takes a long time to master. The difficulty level is very high, and the fact that you are thrown back to the last opponent after losing a match in arcade mode makes it no walk in the park.

    While it is very good anc challenging, the controls are a little inferior to the likes of Street Fighter II or Fatal Fury 2; not a lot, but in this genre even slight advantages can make a difference.
    Anyway, the game remains one that stands out and belongs in every MD-collection.

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