Genre: Beat-’Em-Up Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega Players: 1 Released: 1995
Eternal Champions was one of the most successful franchises on the Genesis, meriting a pack-in with the Activator accessory, a comic book series, a sequel Eternal Champions: Challenge From the Dark Side, another sequel planned for Sega Saturn, a planned cartoon, in-game music being sampled by Gangsta Rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and two spin-off games.
Unfortunately, the spin-off games weren’t designed by any of the team of either Eternal Champions or its Sega CD sequel. The Genesis spin-off game X-Perts featuring Shadow Yamato is known for being a notoriously bad game, to the point of being pretty much unplayable. And Sega’s portable Game Gear console was graced (or should I say disgraced) with the game known as Chicago Syndicate.
Chicago Syndicate stars Larcen in an alternate universe of 1920s Chicago where Larcen has won the Eternal Champions tournament and has gone back in time to prevent his sudden death and gain revenge on his old boss, Mr. Tagilani, as well as working with the police and gaining the rewards on the other crime heads. There’s a time limit though, you only have one year game time though to take all of them out, or else you’ll be thrown in jail yourself! On paper, this sounds like a really great follow-up to Larcen’s storyline, and the general basis of going to different levels to capture the crime bosses is a very nice concept in an arcade-style beat-’em-up.
Unfortunately, the game is too complicated for it’s own good.
Gameplay-wise, the programmers tried to incorporate literally all of Larcen’s moves from Eternal Champions into the game while trying to make it as an arcade-style beat-’em-up. Between the general simplicity needed in a beat-’em-up game, plus the two-button control of the Game Gear, this idea just becomes a mess. You simply cannot put a move set made for a six-button controller into a two-button controller! It doesn’t work at all.
Larcen also moves sluggish at best, and he has to stop for each move, which takes up multiple frames of animation, making the gameplay really, really, slow. And the moves are delayed to boot! So while you’re throwing one punch, your opponents are pouncing on you faster than a cougar on a deer on the African plains. Not to mention that the hit detection is nothing short of awful. Enemies jerk back when you hit them, which takes up even more time. And this game is no walk in the park either. When they say you have to fight gangs, you have to fight a lot of people. When one guy goes down, another one takes his place right there and then, so you’re fighting in the same spot for what seems like forever.
But the biggest “crime” in this game is that you literally CANNOT turn around. Larcen can only move right, so any enemies that come up from behind you can only hit with a weak backhand punch, which eventually leads to your doom once more than one enemy comes up from behind you. This huge flaw literally makes the game almost unplayable. I’m not sure of who thought of the idea of not letting Larcen turn around, but it’s really bad design. Oh, and to top it all off, you only have one life. So once you die, that’s it. There are no continues, no extra lives to be had. So between the slow movement and battles, and high challenge, this game becomes extremely difficult. Ironically, to beat one gang it takes months in the game, which eat away at your in-game time limit of one year. What a way to be realistic!
The graphics look mediocre at best. While Larcen looks rather faithful to his Genesis counterpart, most of the character sprites are miniscule with little-to-no facial detail, and there is an overabundance of animation sprites. The graphics also look somewhat blurred, and expect to see a lot of the color brown. They’re not absolutely horrible, but considering what was done in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Chicago Syndicate definitely could’ve been on par with that at least. And that game didn’t run with a hint of slowdown.
The music is ear-bleedingly awful. Composer Matt Simmonds for some reason decided to include every effect and instrument that he could in the game’s soundtrack. Even a rendition of the Eternal Champions theme is included in the game, and there is a strange organ instrument that almost ruins the entire song. It’s so bad, it sounds like someone filled the organ with water right before they started playing it, and the pipes are clogged. And the rest of the soundtrack sounds just as bad, if not worse. As for sound effects, the game has all of about one or two, whenever you attack you have this strange “woosh” noise, like the wind blowing. If you’re daring enough to play this game, you might just want to put it on mute first.
Overall, Chicago Syndicate had a really GREAT concept that was just very poorly executed. If done right, this game could’ve been a hit. However, the choice to put it on Game Gear and not Genesis, plus the sluggish controls, extremely high difficulty, terrible music, and the fact that you can’t turn around makes this game one to avoid for sure.