I excitedly bought my Sega Genesis Mini on the day it came out, planning to play its really good selection of games for hours on end. That didn’t happen, I mostly just played a bit of Mega Man: The Wily Wars and then got distracted with other stuff. But today I thought, hey, Random Game Wednesdays is a great excuse to play it again. There’s so many good games included, there’s no way I’d end up with a bad one, right?
Eternal Champions is a fighting game from way back when those games were a dime a dozen, back when we still called them “tournament fighters”. Like most games of that genre that came out back then, it’s really clear that things like accessibility and balance simply weren’t in mind for the developers. It was just a desire to capture the audience that Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat had such a stranglehold on. So, as you can probably imagine, Eternal Champions is not very good, but it’s not all bad though.
If you let the game idle on the title screen for a little bit, you get a little scene where a character calling himself the Eternal Champion explains the story. He claims the future is all messed up and that there were several people throughout history who could have prevented this, but all died before they could. Now he’s brought all these dead people together to fight in a tournament to see who can become the next Eternal Champion and save the future. It’s not much, but it’s nice that it’s here. Also, there’s an option in the menus to see full backstories for all the characters in the game. And this isn’t like a one sentence description. I only read about half of one of them, but it was paragraph after paragraph. Is this actually good? I’m not sure, but I certainly applaud the effort.
Aside from the standard single player tournament that basically all fighting games have, Eternal Champions also includes a number of training experiences. It’s a kind of a cool idea, but in practice, I found that they were more silly minigames that used fighting game mechanics and less about actually learning how to play. One of them featured a ball bouncing around the screen and you had to hit it before it hit you. Another had you fighting weird hologram versions of the games characters. Once again, is this actually good? And again, I don’t know, but considering most fighting games at this time just had a single player tournament, multiplayer, and a basic training room, it’s a really nice touch.
There’s also an option called Battle Room, which has you and an opponent fighting while also dodging all sorts of environmental obstacles, which can be selected from a list. This is a really cool idea, but it seemed like my opponent’s AI didn’t understand that it’s supposed to avoid the obstacles, as it constantly got nailed by a saw blade that was going back and forth across the arena. I bet this could be pretty fun with an actual human opponent, at least if it was in a better playing game.
Which is a pretty good lead-in to how bad this game plays. Movement is extremely stiff and a little unresponsive. It was surprisingly hard to just get my character to do the basic stuff. Want to jump and kick your opponent? I mean, you can certainly try, but getting the momentum of the movement down never felt natural or snappy. It isn’t helped by the fact that I only have the three button controller that came with the Genesis Mini, so I had to press the start button to toggle between punches and kicks, a solution Capcom used in Street Fighter Champion Edition as well. There’s also no in game way to look up moves, so I had to resort to good old Gamefaqs, but unfortunately, even with a move list in front of me at all times, I was never able to pull anything off. Maybe I just suck? But I feel like it’s the game this time.
The early to late 90’s were filled with generic fighting games trying to get a piece of that Street Fighter money, and Eternal Champions definitely is one of those. It has some cool ideas, but the most important part of a fighting game is how it plays, and unfortunately, this game just doesn’t measure up. Maybe I’ll have to play something else on the Genesis Mini just to remind myself of how much better a lot of its library is.
Note: Due to lack of capture equipment, all screenshots are taken from ShiryuGL’s video on YouTube, which can be found by clicking here.