Remember the early to mid 90’s when fighting games where the kings/queens of the block? After each major game would come out a series of imitator would come out? After Mortal Kombat hit the town, it was all about adding a level of blood and violence to your game to make it sell. It was in this vain that Sega released Eternal Champions for the Genesis/Mega Drive in 1993. A six button (3 punches, 3 kicks) 2D fighter that used a specials meter (which drained as you used special moves), multi hit combo attacks and special end fight fatalities called Overkills which depends not on a series of button and joystick combination but where on the stage you finished your opponent. For example, on stage you could knock your opponent into a giant fan and make yourself some minced ninja. While the game was a fair to average fighter it garnered a sequel: Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side (EC:CftDS) and this my friends was an awesome little package of bloody goodness.
EC:CftDS had something that most fighting game never care about, a plot. Each of the fighters was from a different time period in history, plucked from the moment before their death to fight for a chance to live again. Not a very deep plot, but hey, at least they were trying. This allow for dynamic cast of character such as a bar room brawling cowboy, to a genetically made fish man from Atlantis, to club wielding caveman. While some of the character were things we have seen before (oh a female ninja, how original), many were odd and fun new roles. A preying mantis kung fu using cat burglar from the 1920s? Sure! How about an honest to goodness Egyptian Pharaoh? You got it! The game even had animal fighters such as a snake and an owl. Ever wanted to know who would win a battle between a US Senator and a Egg slinging chicken? Thanks to EC:CgtDS you will want no more!
Remember those Overkills I talked about. Well EC:CftDS upped the blood, gore and ante. Now you had four types of fatalities. Overkills like before, Sudden Deaths (like Overkills, stage based but can happen while one fighter still had life), Vendettas (traditional button/joystick input fatalities) and the creme de la creme, Cinekills which were full motion video death of characters (only the main cast, not the unlockable characters). Some of these where funny (Godzilla stepping on a person) but most where super violent (impaled by a giant log, eaten by a shark, head blown off with a shotgun). I challenge anyone to watch Xavier’s stage Overkill where the opponent is burning alive at the stake and not feel the least big queasy. Oh the screams! Oh the eyeball popping!
More characters and more gore where not the only improvement from the first game. The special meter was vastly improved, allowing for more special moves and a better balance and flow to the fighting. Once you spend some time with the game, you would learn combo system and the ins and outs of the fighting mechanics, especially the super combos which gave you unlimited special meter for a short while and were vital in performing the Cinekills. In addition the game had a danger room style area where you could have all manner of traps and match stipulations (such as endurance matches and the like).
Is EC:CftDS one of the greatest fighters of all time? No. Is it a well polished often overlooking gem of a game? You bet. It is one of my must haves for any fighting fan or owner of a functional Sega CD. Anyone into retro gaming who never got a chance to give this little finger burner a try, should. You will not be disappointed. And anyone who has played it, well you need to head over to my house. We’ll fire up the Sega CD, bust out the 6 button joysticks and spend a nice evening of attempting to knock one another in a lion’s cage.
Trivia: There were two spin offs to the Eternal Champion’s franchise. A Game Gear game called Chicago Syndicate and a Genesis game called X-Perts. No, neither were true fighting games and neither were really any good.
Hint about Next Review: A young man of destiny and his helmet wearing hamster!