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MIA - Eternal Champions

Sega's console fighting series had a good thing going.

The calendar says it's Friday and you know what that means. That’s right; it’s time for another fantastic installment of Missing in Action!

This week we have a special guest taking the MIA reins in the form of PixlBit staff writer Esteban Cuevas!

For all of you newcomers, let me explain how MIA works. MIA is a bi-weekly column where we pick out a game or franchise of old, dust it off and present it for a possible current generation entry.

To qualify for the MIA treatment the game or franchise cannot have appeared on any of the current generation platform, nor can a new title be currently in development, though unconfirmed rumors, speculation and hearsay are certainly permissible. Also the title or franchise must be well served by a current generation entry.

This week Esteban presents to you for your consideration – Eternal Champions!

By the summer of 1993 the fighting game genre had taken the video game industry by storm. Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat and Samurai Shodown were big hits in both the arcades and home consoles. Sega Interactive Development Division jumped on the bandwagon in August of 1993 with Eternal Champions for the Sega Genesis. Unlike most titles in the genre, it was a console exclusive; never making its way to arcades.

Eternal Champions attempted to set itself apart from the crowd by putting more emphasis on story. It told the tale of nine individuals throughout history that prematurely lost their lives. Characters varied from Shadow, a Japanese corporate  assassin from 1993; to Blade, a former cop-turned-bounty hunter from 2030; to Larcen, a cat burglar from the 1920s. These are among the few chosen by the Eternal Champion to compete for a second chance in life so the natural balance between good and evil can be restored.

Gameplay in Eternal Champions was much more methodical than in other fighters of the times. In Street Fighter II, you could just use the hard punch and hard kick attacks and you’d get by just fine. Eternal Champions modeled each fighter’s attacks after real fighting styles so you’d find yourself having to use all six attack buttons due to each attack being considerably different and having various attributes, such as speed, strength, range, and more.

Eternal Champions did share some more mainstream features such as special moves and stage fatalities but they’re restricted so players wouldn’t rely on them in lieu of skill. Special moves deplete an Inner Strength meter that when used up prevented players from doing special moves until it recharged. Also, projectiles were deflectable by using the appropriate basic attacks, preventing endless barrages of fireballs.

Unlike Mortal Kombat’s stage fatalities which gave you a specific time to do a button command anywhere on the stage to knock them off a bridge, Overkills were done by dealing the final blow that would knock your opponent back into the appropriate position. If you defeated your opponent and they were right next to a bonfire, they’d get thrown in and you’d be treated to a particularly gruesome animation as they’re scorched to the bone.

Eternal Champions sold well when it was released and gained enough popularity to warrant a sequel. Eternal Champions: Challenge From the Dark Side was released for the Sega CD in February of 1995. The story was updated to include an evil Eternal Champion who hopes to sabotage the contest from succeeding. The game also featured four new main combatants: Ramses III, Dawson, Raven and Riptide, as well as other characters available to be unlocked, bringing the roster to a total of 25 characters -- a vast improvement compared to  the original’s nine.

The gameplay was tweaked to become more appealing to a wider audience and implemented more features from titles like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. Combos and juggling were introduced and although the special move meter was still in the game, less energy was used with each move. With special moves given more leeway in the second game, the introduction of combos made sure that close combat and methodical gameplay stayed the focus, maintaining the original’s charm.

The game also became much more violent, as new finishing moves were added and their animations were made more graphic. The Overkills from the original returned with more gore and new Sudden Death moves allowed a different set of Overkills. Fatality-like Vendettas could be done while your opponent was dizzy and Cinekills whisked your opponent away in the middle of the match and treated you to an FMV showing your opponent being killed by the villain, Dark Champion.

By the time the second game was released however, the Sega CD was already late in its short lifespan and although the better of the two main titles, Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side didn’t sell as well as the original. A third title called Eternal Champions: The Final Chapter was planned for the Sega Saturn but was cancelled so that Sega could focus on their Virtua Fighter series.

Before the series was completely deserted, two spinoff titles were released. X-Perts was a side scrolling beat-em-up released in 1996 for the Genesis that showcased an alternate reality in which Shadow, one of the combatants from the main series, survives and assembles a group of assassins to take down her former employers. The other spinoff, Chicago Syndicate, features a similar concept revolving around Larcen and was released in 1995 for the Sega Game Gear. Both titles are hard to find, in part because of X-Perts’ weak reception by critics. A Tiger Electronic handheld version of the original also exists.

Now that the fighting genre has seen a revival in recent years, Eternal Champions’ methodical approach to the gameplay and character driven narrative would be a welcome addition. Eternal Champions has always taken cues from Mortal Kombat and it would be fitting for that to continue. A simple yet engaging combo system would well suit the series. Enhancing the combo system introduced in the second game would give combat the update it needs to stand toe-to-toe with current fighters and the system used in the latest Mortal Kombat actually bears resemblance to the second game’s mechanics anyway.

A focus on fighting styles would also add to the close combat focus of the series. The franchise prior always made a point to explain the type of style your combatant practiced. Why not make that an important component of the gameplay? Each character could have two or three disciplines from which players can switch from and blend together in combos. There could even be a feature where, after defeating another character in the main one player mode, the character you played as can now use the other’s fighting style. You could then equip the disciplines and try out different combinations.

Although I feel the various finishing moves should be whittled down, I think they should still be gory yet creative. What about having Midnight, a vampire, suck the blood out of his opponent? The camera would pan in and show the blood being sucked out until there’s nothing left. He then lets go of the body and it collapses into a lifeless heap, not bleeding or anything despite the big gaping hole in their neck.

The introduction of a story mode would be a great addition, but unlike other story modes, it would focus on the individuals and not so much the overarching plot. Rumors have indicated that the third game’s story line would have an emphasis on Shadow and Larcen. Also a group aspect, such as the combatants forming groups (perhaps led by Shadow and Larcen) was implied in the ending of the second game.

For a title that’s plot driven, it’s curious that the main story is little more than the framework for the individuals involved in this predicament. Interactions between Midnight, a Vietnam era scientist, and Xavier, who realized the disproven field of Alchemy, would be great character development and an interesting encounter.

The vast character list is already 25 strong but new characters would be welcome, especially from time periods and cultures not yet explored. How about a Colonial villager or an Iraqi rebel? Perhaps a Civil War era slave or a Greek philosopher could be added? There are so many possibilities and the subject matter allows for many interesting personalities. Also it should be needless to say that with a possible group mentality story line along with big roster of characters, a group fighting mode in the vein of the King of Fighters should be a given.

Eternal Champions has always set itself apart by being the more methodical fighting game and that is an itch not currently being scratched by recent titles. Furthermore, a more character driven story would be an interesting take on the fighting game genre. If Sega is still too busy with Virtua Fighter for the series, perhaps they should hand it over to another developer. Send us your ideas for a new Eternal Champions game in the comments below!




02/04/2012 at 12:06 AM

aww man, Eternal Champions. That was my jam....

I'd main RAX, the cybernetic kickboxer (Jet Knee FTW), and Xavier, the alchemist wizard.

I remember the print ad tagline: "To prepare for Eternal Champions, use Street Fighter II as your training wheels." Ouch.

Sega could have easily phoned this in, but they took special care of this baby. I'd say its similiar to how Samurai Shodown did its own thing with weapons based combat, but was still a quality fighting game.

As far as bringing it back, this would be another title on the list of Sega ressurections. Panzer Dragoon, Toe Jam and Earl, Streets of Rage, and of course, one more Shenmue.

In a sea of me-too, shameless rip-offs of that era, Sega and Nintendo with their Killer Instinct titles were surprisingly good. You could say they were c-c-c-c-ombor breakers!

Julian Titus Senior Editor

02/04/2012 at 09:49 PM

Wow, you called Eternal Champions methodical. That's...interesting.

My favorite part of Eternal Champions was the marketing campaign. As part of the red-hot console wars the ads were hyperbolic and actually tried to position the game as a serious contender to Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. It was a nice effort, but it was more on par with Weaponlord and Doomsday Warrior.


08/15/2012 at 12:00 AM

I am praying I win the lottery so I can Make the a new Eternal Champions and give MK competition again !


12/05/2012 at 03:41 PM

man this was a good game its so hard to find though

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