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Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side (Sega CD) artwork

Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side (Sega CD) review

"Mortal Kombat made it big by overwhelming us with gratuitous gore and bloody fatalities. The concept of actually killing your opponent in the fight was a little more radical than just beating the snot out of them. Because of this irreverence, it became a controversial hit for all fighting game enthusiasts, playing the game just to see the blood and forgetting about the things that actually made a fighting game good. The sequel to Eternal Champions is an example of a game that follows a similar..."

Mortal Kombat made it big by overwhelming us with gratuitous gore and bloody fatalities. The concept of actually killing your opponent in the fight was a little more radical than just beating the snot out of them. Because of this irreverence, it became a controversial hit for all fighting game enthusiasts, playing the game just to see the blood and forgetting about the things that actually made a fighting game good. The sequel to Eternal Champions is an example of a game that follows a similar style of the Mortal Kombat series but actually does a better job of it. Unfortunately, this game will live under the shadow of Mortal Kombat and I seriously doubt that itíll get any special remakes or re-releases in the near future.

Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side is a true sequel to the Genesis classic. It used the same style that the first game used but added three difficulty settings, a load of new characters and other gameplay enhancing features. If youíve played the first game then youíll know the long and unusually detailed (for a fighting game) story. Basically, the Eternal Champion is a god like martial artist who wants to use nine other fighters, who have recently perished under unfair conditions in a martial arts competition. Whoever wins this contest will be given their life back and will be able to travel back to the instant they died so they can change there and everyone elseís future. In addition, the Dark Champion has appeared and has decided to enter the contest as well, his win could mean the end of the universe.

One thing that you should keep in mind is the fact that game is a lot easier with a six button controller. Most fighting games, on this system are a lot easier to grasp if you use a six button controller instead of the regular 3-button. We are blessed to find that EC uses the standard control pattern of most fighting games (excluding Mortal Kombat.) A is for the weak attack, B for medium and C for strong and the start button can be used to toggle between kicks and punches. With a six-button controller, you can wipe the floor with your enemies by releasing combos easier, kicking one second and punching straight after it, plus having these buttons make it easier to pull off more moves and stronger combos.

Here we have three main modes, contest is your standard arcade style that takes you and your selected fighter through a series of one on one fights., you can pick your difficulty now. We also have a Tournament mode, which has been upgraded immensely, giving you a whopping fifteen types that you can play, all of which have various differences and rules that make each one unique and fresh to play. It ranges from your standard single/double elimination contests to more exotic styles such as Russian Roulette, which puts two teams of fighters together, if you lose then a random team member is eliminated. Another special one is the Death Match, where you actually have to kill your opponent to defeat him. Every mode has a various number of stipulations and rules which make each one unique, so we are basically jam-packed with modes and different rules to play around with.

Eternal Champions has various features and additions that make it unique from other fighters that were released around its time. The major feature that affects play the most would be the yin-yang symbol at the top of the screen., known as the inner-strength orb. When you pull of an attack, your orb increase in size, allowing you to more special moves increases. If you pull off a special then you will notice that orb will shrink, the more basic attacks you do will build it back up. Luckily, if you suck at this you can switch it off at the options screen but it makes matches more interesting and challenging.

If you loved the gore in Mortal Kombat then your jaw will drop when you play E.C. There are four ways to kill your opponent, ranging from an instant kill to an actual FMV sequence of your opponent dying. Vendettas are personal kills which you can execute at any stage during the fight, these include very powerful attacks, for example, the vampire Midknight slams the opponent on the floor and sucks the blood of his opponent. Rames III, the Egyptian Pharaoh, turns into a scarab beetle and devours the foe. Overkills are basically like Mortal Kombat fatalities, they are background related kills , for example the brilliant Overkill on the pirate sends the loser flying overboard, then he gets ripped to bits by the local Great White Shark, the water goes red with blood. One thing youíll find with the Overkills is that they do copy the style from M.K but they actually are a lot more bloody and gut-wrenchingly amusing.

Sudden deaths are the least exciting of the bunch, theyíre pretty self explanatory and are a lot harder than Overkills. These are background related kills which finish the opponent (and the fight) in a quick and brutal way, they are the worst of the bunch and can be a pain in the ass to do. Lastly, we have the cream of the crop, a feature that not even Mortal Kombat dreamed of, the Cinekill. Unlike the other moves they donít occur in the fight, when the combination is entered the fight stops and you see a 3-D cut scene of the opponent getting murdered, thanks to the Dark Champion.

The game takes the original nine fighters are four brand new ones, bringing the normal number of fighters to thirteen. Joining the motley crew of fighters are the slick cowboy, Dawson McShane, the shape-shifting Pharaoh, Rames III, the witchdoctor, Raven and Riptide, a scurvy pirate. If you thought that was impressive then youíll be blown away to discover that the game actually has eleven unlock able characters to play. Unfortunately, this isnít a blessing but a curse, one thing that really knocks the game down. There are two ways to unlock a character, you have to perform a certain in-game task, like playing through all of the modes etc or you can go for the easier option which are passwords which you can enter at the title screen. It may seem like a cheaters way out but some of the in-game tasks are quite hard and if there is password alternative, then the motivation to do the task is gone.

A few secret characters arenít that bad, Blast is a bald headed soldier, who dresses a lot like Guile from Street Fighter, we also have Bruce Lee look-a-like Chin-Wo. It gets worse with two characters who have the same movement and posture as two basic fighters, Senator moves like Larson, the cat burglar. Then we have the ultra-cool character, Thanatos, the god of death who moves like Xavier the warlock, a long scythe replaces his staff of magic. We also have the chance to play as the Eternal Champion or the Dark Champion, provided that youíre a skilled player to actually use them.

After this, it gets worse. One of the biggest surprises I got was when I unlocked Crispy, a character who is a chicken, a little chicken who you can use as a fighter. It seemed a little eccentric and was quite funny at the time, unfortunately, SEGA took the joke too far. In this mediocre menagerie, we have Yappy, a little terrier, Slithers, a snake from the old West and a monkey. The funny thing is that all of these characters have really epic storylines which SEGA worked hard with, itís a shame that when you look at these disgraces it comes clear that if SEGA thought about it, they could have come up with a few really cool characters. Why donít we have a Samurai or a werewolf? Those would be greater Eternal Champions instead of a stupid monkey and a chicken.

Most Mega CD games have one or two FMV sequences while EC has a good handful and they are all 3-D rendered, not 2-D animation. The developers, Open Water decide to be greedy and reserve one for themselves, we see a grainy picture of two marooned people sitting in a dingy. A shark swims up, bites one of the sleeping sailors and weíre treated to an arm sinking to the bottom of the sea. The introduction sequence is quite long and goes over the story of E.C, it also introduces all of the characters briefly. The screen is quite coarse but you can see most things ago but when itís at a dark scene it can be a little distorted. When you consider the fact that most Mega CD sequences were just cartoons and this game gives 3-D images, itís great.

The in-game graphics are similar to the Mega Drive version, some characters have different costumes, like Shadowís long dress instead of her assassin uniform. The blend of bright cartoon graphics seems to have a gritty realistic edge which creates an odd contrast. All of the fighters are brightly detailed and all of them have great animation. Blade clicks his wrist gun, Dawson throws his cowboy hat in the air and gets it on his head while R.A.X, a cyborg kick boxer, rises up from his mental preparation. The in-game backgrounds are also full of bright detail and animation, the Syrian Oil refinery has a large fan in the back, perfect for the odd overkill. The Atlantis level is a brilliant pink and yellow sunset with large green marine statues. Itís a great collection of mixed backgrounds, each from every characterís timeline.

E.Cís sound has been completely revamped, the really cheesy guitar solo from the original has been placed by CD-quality metal music. There are a few techno-beats but the majority are guitar solos which sound absolutely amazing. The opening track n the title screen is something thatíll get in your head for ages, itís fast, quirky and has a martial art theme which could be at the beginning of any fighting film (well, maybe one of those really old, badly dubbed flicks.) Aside from the fully-narrated opening sequence, most of the speech is just taunts and jeers that fighters can shout each at each other, like ďwimpĒ or ďno mercy.Ē All of the characters have one taunt , itís not that extensive but itís quite interesting.

So, if you still have a Mega CD that works well and you enjoy 2-D fighters then this game is the ultimate purchase. It may copy many elements from the Mortal Kombat series but those games are no match for 3-D rendered movies, gorier kills and sudden deaths. The only flaw in the game is the actual character range which couldíve been avoided if SEGA hadnít stretched the joke of sticking monkeys and chickens as fighters. With SEGA going down the pan, it remains a perplexing mystery why Eternal Champions has not been remade. The Saturn release vanished into thin air and SEGA is too busy pissing around with lousy sports games to revitalise this lost classic. This could have been the Mortal Kombat killer but SEGA have left a classic series to rot.

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Community review by goldenvortex (March 14, 2005)

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