Eternal Champions is a 1993 2D fighting game originally conceived by Scott Berfield and produced by Mike Latham for Sega of America. Developed by the Sega Interactive Development Division. The game was released in 1993.
Released shortly after Dark Edge, Holosseum and Burning Rival, and both during a wave of success of the fighting game, bolstered by the recent successes of Street Fighter II (1991), Fatal Fury (1991) and Mortal Kombat (1992), Sega developed Eternal Champions for their Mega Drive/Genesis. The game included unique features such as stage death moves officially called "Overkills", heavier emphasis on story, reflective projectiles, force fields, training rooms filled with elaborate traps, and a novel method of executing moves.
Two years later, the sequel Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side (sometimes known as Eternal Champions CD or Eternal Champions 2) was released for the Mega-CD/Sega CD. Eternal Champions was later added for download to the Wii Virtual Console on December 3, 2007. There were also two spin-off games.
Nine of the greatest fighters throughout history have met untimely and unjust deaths. They now compete against each other for a chance to face the Eternal Champion and reclaim their souls. The victor will return to Earth with the chance to change their fate and restore balance to the universe.
To choose the game's original characters, Sega held a fortnightly 'focus group' made up of all ages, where a list of archetype characters (pirate, ninja etc.) were voted on, after the number was whittled down to 50 characters, loose sketches were drawn, which were then reviewed by 'kid testers' and finally reduced to 10 resulting in the nine characters of the game, including the Eternal Champion.
- Shadow Yamoto, female ninja assassin from Japan in 1993. Her fighting style was a system of unarmed combat similar to Jujutsu mixed with the Ninjutsu art of invisibility. As a member of the Black Orchid Corp, she rose through the ranks, and became a top-notch killer. After successfully carrying out many missions, she questioned her superiors about the consequences of failure. The answer given to her is that she herself would be assassinated. Feeling vulnerable and endangered, she then decided to escape, and reveal the organization to the public authorities. However, the superiors arranged her death, and had her pushed off the 101st floor of the Corp building, before she could blow the whistle.
- R.A.X. Coswell, a professional kickboxer from the year 2345 (R.A.X. stands for Robotic Artificial Exoskeleton). He was born in a time where the popularity of martial arts started to fade. Martial artists started to combine with machines, and began an era known as "cyber fighting". With a strong desire to stay relevant, he underwent painful surgery to be injected with cybernetic implants, therefore becoming a half human/half machine; a cyborg. He soon began winning many fights, and achieving fame. On one fateful day he was betrayed by his manager, and was "shut down" in a tournament before he could land the final blow. His death was due to a virus implanted in his cybernetics which caused his systems to shut down.
- Jonathan Blade, a former police officer from the year 2030 who was dismissed, due to a very short temper. He is a master in Kenpo Karate. He then became a bounty hunter back in his home country Syria, and was in deep pursuit of a mad scientist, who threatened to destroy the human race with a lethal virus. Although he came close to killing the scientist on several occasions, he was only ordered to capture, and bring the scientist to justice. Finally trapping the scientist in an alley, he attempted to retrieve the virus. They were suddenly hit with a stream of lasers, causing the scientist to drop the vial, containing the virus. Blade's last memory involved shards of broken glass. It is clear that he was set up and killed by his own government.
- Jetta Maxx, a young Russian woman from the year 1899, who abandoned her originally aristocratic lifestyle to become a circus acrobat and travel the world. She was also a master of Savate/Pencak Silat. Targeted by a Chinese Boxer revolutionary, she died after her sabotaged tightrope and safety net snapped, causing her to fall to her death. The manual mentions her as being a cousin of Czar Nicholas II.
- Slash, a caveman from the Prehistoric Great Rift Valley in the year 50,000 BC. He did not train in any specific martial art, and instead fought in any way which could cause as much pain as possible. Being a hunter of superior intelligence, he would often search for ideas and methods to provide ways of better living for his tribe. However, as time went on, he drew much resentment and animosity from his tribe's elders for his way of thinking. It was at a meeting that he was cornered, and stoned to death for speaking out against the elders in public.
- Trident, a gladiator named after the trident that replaced his hand, he was a hero to his race from Atlantis in the year 110 BC. As a master of Capoeira, he represented his race of people in a battle against the Romans. Should he have won, then his people would receive share of land alongside the Romans. However, due to a Roman gladiator's treachery, he was crushed underneath a falling stone pillar. As a result his people were forever banished to the waters.
- Xavier Pendragon, a former blacksmith from Salem in the year 1692, at the height of the Salem Witch Trials. He is a master of Hapkido and Cane Fighting. After failing as a blacksmith, he tried his hand at alchemy. He eventually discovered a clean, unlimited source of energy, and decided to show the source to the townspeople. Unfortunately, he was misunderstood by his townsmen, and was burned at the stake after being labeled a warlock.
- Mitchell Midleton Knight (also known as Midknight), a London-born biochemical scientist and master of Jeet Kune Do who worked for the CIA. He was assigned to make a biological weapon which was intended to be poured into the water supply of North Vietnam during the war. However in a freak accident, he himself was exposed to the virus and was turned into a vampire-like creature in 1967. Despite the fact that he hungered for blood; he refused to harm and kill others. He spent many regretful years trying to invent a cure; but to no avail, and was killed in the year 2100 by a vampire hunter, who drove a magnesium stake into his heart.
- Larcen Tyler, was an ex-cat burglar from 1920s Chicago, who worked for a Chicago mob. As a master of Praying Mantis Kung Fu, he carried out many jobs for his boss, Mr Taglalini, though he refused to kill. One day, he received a mission, to plant false evidence in the hospital room of a rival crime boss. However, upon arriving Larcen found not a rival crime lord, but the Chief of Police. Realizing the package was a bomb, he attempted to throw it out the window but was not fast enough. The blast killed Larcen, the Police Chief, and most of the people in the hospital.
- Eternal Champion, a protector of the balance of good, practices Dragon, Tiger, Hawk and Shark styles. He is the final boss of the game, and an unplayable character by normal means.
The games followed the typical 8-way directional pad/stick with 6-button layout common to most fighting games at the time(more commonly in this case Street Fighter II), forcing users of the standard 3-button Mega Drive/Genesis controller to purchase a more elaborate, 6-button controller or else use an inconvenient method of switching between punches and kicks by pressing start, as this game was especially developed to be played with the Sega Activator. The joystick or d-pad are used to move away, towards, jump and crouch. There were three punches and three kicks that vary based upon speed and power. The weakest punches and kicks are fast but do minimal damage, medium attacks are a good mix of recovery speed and damage, and strong attacks are the most powerful but recover the slowest. Attacks can be blocked by pressing away (for high attacks) or down and away (for low attacks). Grapples are executed by standing close to an opponent and pressing toward or away and either medium or the strong punch button. These attacks cannot be blocked or escaped.
Each character has their own unique special attacks that are performed differently from those of other characters. If a character is hit several times in a row they become "dizzy" and their opponent can land a free attack. In Eternal Champions, all special move commands are performed by either A) pressing multiple buttons together, or B) holding back or down to charge, then pressing towards or up together with a button. There are no rolling motions in this game, and a given special move may only be performed with a specific button.
As seen in Art of Fighting released the previous year, Eternal Champions has a "special attack meter", which decreases each time a character performed a special move such as a projectile; different special attacks decreased the meter by different amounts and the characters each have a taunt move that decreases their opponent's special attack meter as well. This feature gave Eternal Champions an added element of strategy that made it unique among similar titles of its genre at the time, though it was not without its critics: while its intention was to keep the action fast-paced by preventing fighters from trading endless projectiles from opposite ends of the screen and barring a players from cheap wins due to repeated hits on opponents trapped at the edge of the screen, players found they could exploit the game's controls to achieve wins by retreating into a defensive shell to constantly recharge their meter or by circumventing special moves altogether and blitzing their opponent with a flurry of simple button presses. Characters that had more dynamic normal attacks tended to dominate. A problem with the special attack meter on the Sega Mega Drive original game is that when in tournament mode, the computer opponent operates independently of its special attack power availability. In other words, the computer can repeatedly do special moves even after its meter has reached zero.
The game introduces stage-specific finishing moves called Overkills. These are performed by defeating an opponent such that they fall upon a certain area of ground. If they land in the right spot, the life bars disappear and some element of the background kills them. The Overkills include being pulled underwater and mauled to death by carnivorous plants in Trident's level, knocked into the flaming stake in Xavier's level, electrocuted and vaporized by the neon sign in Shadow's level, eaten whole, then having an item of clothing or weapon spat out by a Tyrannosaurus rex in Slash's level, killed in a drive-by shooting in Larcen's level, getting frozen, disintegrated, and swept up by robots in R.A.X's level, being swallowed up by an earthquake in Jetta's level, having a napalm bomb dropped on the loser's body in Midknight's level, and getting knocked into a large exhaust fan in Blade's level.
Promotion and merchandise
A Slurpee flavor entitled "Sega Eternal Champions Cherry" was once available in 7-11 stores throughout the United States. It came in cups with pictures of the characters on them, and the bottom of the cup contained a temporary tattoo.
Two gamebooks based on the game, "The Cyber Warriors" and "Citadel of Chaos" were released by Puffin Books. In them, the reader controls the newest Champion and travels through time helping the game characters battle a megalomaniacal artificial intelligence called the Overlord, who is bent on replacing them with duplicates so that they can not change the course of history for the better. It was also given a Sticker Album in 1993 by Panini.
Eternal Champions was adapted by the UK Sega Magazine Sonic the Comic in a stand-alone magazine Eternal Champions Special, which introduced the main characters and served as an adaptation to the game. The characters also appeared in two stories in the main Sonic the Comic series, first in Eternal Champions (issues 19-24) and then Larcen's Revenge (issues 37-40) which dealt with Larcen Tyler returning to 1920s Chicago and working with Shadow Yamoto to take down the crime boss who killed him. Eternal Champions was the only non-Sonic-related Sega property to receive a special issue of Sonic the Comic.
The rap act Bone Thugs-N-Harmony have sampled music from this game for the instrumentals of several of their songs. The songs "Eternal" and "Crossroad" (not to be confused with their song, "Tha Crossroads") are the most notable cases of using Eternal Champions for their beats. However, Bone does not mention Sega in the album credits for using their copyrighted music. The cartoon show "Courage the Cowardly Dog" also employed some of the same audio loops (probably included with the same software) as bases for creepy background music.
Electronic Gaming Monthly sponsored Eternal Champions tournaments in different cities throughout the United States as part of a roaming video game show. The game, however, was not yet completed so the participants were only given the choice of four characters to play as: Shadow, R.A.X, Larcen and Slash. The winner of the finals would receive a copy of the game (when it was finished), a leather lettermans jacket with an embroidered Eternal Champions logo on it, and a resin plaque with the Bushido symbol (used in the game's logo) on it.
Eternal Champions (cartridge) was the second "packaged game" to be included with the Sega Activator, an elaborate infrared ring controller that players stood in and punched and kicked in order to make the characters perform different combat movements. It was one of only a few games that actually recognized the activator and took advantage of most of the features of the unit.
Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side
Eternal Champions: Challenge From the Dark Side kept the controversial special attack meter but made most special attacks use less of the meter than in the previous game. The characters also gained a multitude of special attacks that did not deplete the special attack meter as well. These two innovations kept the flow of rounds much more consistent. Eternal Champions CD actually had an ebb and flow similar to the heralded and popular Street Fighter II series, but with less emphasis on special attacks. Three new types of finishing moves were added in Challenge from the Dark Side: a second Overkill in each stage called Sudden Death, that could actually be activated when the victim still had a little life left, Vendetta, and Cinekill. Combo attacks were also introduced and jumping attacks could be linked to ground attacks and most normal attacks could be linked into other normal attacks.
Cancelled third game
A third and a final title Eternal Champions: The Final Chapter was advertised for the Sega Saturn, but the game was cancelled shortly after beginning production, in order to push the Virtua Fighter series in the US. In an interview by Michael Latham, this decision was made by Sega of Japan, believing that one fighting game franchise was only needed in America.
|“||Sega of Japan felt that Eternal Champions was keeping Virtua Fighter from being more successful in the US and that it would be better if the company focused on only one franchise.. ..and as Sega is a Japanese company, the Japan side won. It was a crushing blow, and was the only time in working nearly a decade at Sega I considered quitting. I mainly stayed with the hope to change that decision, but sadly never could. Even when we did the NetFighter project for Heat.net, we weren't able to use the Eternal characters as a hidden bonus. From Japan's view the game never existed, in spite of its stellar sales and even offers to do comic books and a cartoon around it.||”|
There are two video games which are spin-offs of the main series, and are considered as alternate universes. They are storylines, based on two protagonists coming back from death after fighting in the Eternal Champions tournament.
The first game is Chicago Syndicate, which was released for the Sega Game Gear in 1995. The plot was based on the alternate reality that Larcen Tyler did not die in 1920 and now he seeks revenge on the mafia for the attempt on his life.
The second game is X-Perts, which was released for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis in 1996. Similarly to Chicage Syndicate, its plot was based on the alternate possibility that Shadow Yamoto did not die in 1993. According to background files on Shadow in X-Perts, she formed an anti-corruption group meant to take down The Black Orchid Group in revenge for their attempt on Shadow's life. Shadow retains her appearance from Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side.
- Eternal Champions - Moby Games
- Eternal Champions - Game Faqs
- Eternal Champions on the official Virtual Console website