Eternal Champions – Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?

Welcome to this week’s, “Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?” Each week we’re going to look at a dormant franchise that was once pretty popular, but for some reason has disappeared into the sands of time. Diehard GameFAN staffers will have four options for what they want to have happen to the series and you can see them in the title of this piece. For a little more detailed description see below:

Sequel – A direct sequel to the franchise. This means if it used sprites and was in 2-D, that’s how you want the next game to be as well. This might involve putting the game on a handheld system instead of a console, but it keeps the nostalgia and classic feel alive.

Spin Off – This is where you take the characters or a specific character is a totally different direction from the established franchise. Examples include Luigi’s Mansion, Hey You, Pikachu!, Shadow Hearts (From Koudelka), and so on.

Start Over – This is a reimagining of the series from the ground up. Perhaps it’s time to bring the series into 3-D. Perhaps you want a totally different control scheme or to throw away the old continuity. In a nutshell, this is taking the brand name from the old series and that’s about it. Everything else is new and re-envisioned.

Stay Dead – This is pretty obvious. This is a toxic franchise that you don’t want to see return in any way shape or form. Let the dead rest.

This week, we’re going back to one of the most popular and respected fighting game franchises of all time. Or, at least it was during the 16-Bit era. It hasn’t been seen since due to internal politics within SEGA. You had a game with superior gore to Mortal Kombat, harder bosses than SNK titles, better gameplay that Street Fighter 2 and easily the most interesting characters and storyline since Darkstalkers. But as it’s been 15 years since an ETERNAL CHAMPIONS has seen the light of day, one has to wonder if today’s gamer even remembers it. As such, the Diehard GameFAN staff discusses amongst themselves what they’d like to see happen to this franchise.

Eternal Champions

Alexander Lucard – Sequel

The truth is that Eternal Champions is probably my third favorite fighting game series, right after Darkstalkers and Fatal Fury. I played the Genesis and its Sega-CD sequels so often I could beat the Eternal Champion with Trident and Slash on a regular basis. In fact there’s only one reason why Eternal Champions still isn’t around and that’s because of Sega stupidity. The first game is considered a classic and the Sega CD version is considered one of the best fighting games ever made across the board. However when it came time for third installment on the Sega Saturn, there was concern that due to the series popularity, it could hurt this new Sega property called Virtua Fighter. So, Sega of Japan declared that even though EC was considered a better game engine wise that Virtua Fighter, it sold better, and was more popular, that they would kill the franchise simply because they didn’t want an American made series to do better than a Japanese one.

So basically, racism and/or ethnocentricism killed one of Sega’s most successful titles. It was just the first nail in the coffin of the original Sega ending with its purchase by Sammy, where nearly all of their franchises have been ruined or at the very least, dragged through the mud. At the same time, Capcom and SNK have proven people will still buy a solid, well-made 2-D fighter if they are made. Look how well Marvel Vs. Capcom 2‘s remake sold. Factor in the stage fatalities, the unique storyline that pushes the Eternal Champions franchise, the original characters and solid gameplay and you have an incredible series just waiting to find a new audience. Imagine the fatalities with today’s modern graphics. Hell, they could even bring back the FMV cinekills from Challenge of the Dark Side for nostalgia’s sake. They’re still pretty awesome by today’s standards.

I can’t think of a fighting game as original as the two EC titles. Each character had a pretty intense backstory. The specific endings for each character were quite detailed as well. Then there’s the music. Wow. The opening title track still sticks in my head to this day and each stage is awesome. I also enjoyed the characters. Midnight, the vampire created by biological warefare. The Atlantean Trident. The awesome 1920’s Untouchable Larcen Tyler. The list goes on. Eternal Champions was what every fighting game would want to be in the 16-Bit era and it’s a shame the franchise wasn’t allowed to continue.

We’ve seen Shadow and Larcen get spin off’s with X-Perts and Chicago Syndicate for the Genesis and Game Gear respectively. I was NOT a fan of X-Perts, but I actually really liked Chicago Syndicate. However, I’d much rather see the characters come back with updated graphics, the same crazy hard Eternal Champion, and even some new characters. Hell, the original Diehard GameFAN gave the Sega CD game 1994’s “Fighting Game of the Year” award. Wouldn’t it be nice to see the new DHGF be able to do the same third for a much deserved THIRD Eternal Champions

Dave Olvera – Sequel

Sega’s Eternal Champions had many things going for it despite beingreleased during the golden age of 2-D fighters. Featuring a bit more story than your average fighter and an odd cast (cyborg kickboxer, noir catburgler, that one guy with the flattop and a fish guy with a trident named Trident).

Even though the game’s premise was interesting (People who weren’t supposed to die being given a chance to return to life to set wrongs right) the most memorable feature of Eternal Champions was the fact that both games (Genesis and Sega CD) were very difficult… and the boss fight at the end nigh impossible. I spent more hours trying to beat the Eternal Champion with Larsen than I did on my international advocacy final paper (I did pretty well on that paper) and still only beat it because of pure luck.

All reminiscing aside, Eternal Champions is a game that could be brought back to capitalize on the renewed interest in 2D games; 2D fighting games especially. Balance issues and boss difficulty would need to be addressed but considering what Sega has done to some of its other series would a revived Eternal Champions be so bad?

I’ll be honest, most of me just wants an updated EC to play but I believe, in an era where downloadable games are beginning to emerge, a downloadable Eternal Champions game could be a fun proposition.
Playing people across the internet and feeding a niche need would be much better than releasing Shining Series desecration number 187 or “Phantasy Star is over get used to it here’s an online game number 4 or 5”.

And, really, Larsen looks cool, so that alone is worth seeing a new EC.

Ashe Collins – Stay Dead
I do like fighting games, but they’ve had a big problem over the past decade or so, not really knowing where to go or what to be. You’ve got the lackluster KOF XII, the dying Mortal Kombat franchise, Tekken, and the one that killed Eternal Champions in the first place, Virtua Fighter.

Really what we’ll end up with is either a 2-D fighter that everyone will ho-hum the graphics because it’s not 3-D and sparkly, or we’ll get a 3-D fighter that everyone complains plays terrible and wishes they’d stuck with 2-D. You can’t please everyone with these anymore, and unfortunately I think most people have moved on. Let it stay dead and keep some dignity.

Chris Bowen – Stay Dead
I do not say “stay dead” because I disliked Eternal Champions. In fact, I loved it. It’s one of my favourite games from my youth, and is maybe the most underappreciated fighting game from the 16-bit era.

However, I see little value in bringing it back as anything other than on a compilation. Fighting games are a more flooded market than they were in 1993. While there are less 2-D fighters to worry about, there are also games like Tekken, Soul Calibur, Virtua Fighter, etc. While there’s less 3-D fighters, the “hardcore” fighting fan – those that don’t particularly care for SFIV – is already, for the most part, spoken for by Aksys with Guilty Gear and BlazBlue.

Add in the fact that we’d be relying on Sega Sammy Holdings Inc. to make a good game instead of just crapping out their old stuff, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Eternal Champions, if it were to be successful, would have to be successful on its own merits. The name is meaningless to anyone but a select few, and it’s been proven that those select few just don’t buy the game in large enough numbers to justify the money spent on development. It COULD be a good fighting game, but so could a completely new intellectual property. I find the odds of a new venture being successful both on the streets and commercially – the latter, especially – to be slim.

Aaron Sirois – Start Over
This is me being selfish, but my time with Eternal Champions was a couple of hours playing at a friend’s house when I was a kid. In particular, I really liked the characters of Larcen and Trident. More to the point, I really dug the concept. Warriors from various times in history coming together for glorious combat? Sign me up.

A bit part of why I want EC to come back also has to deal with how much I miss that kind of fighter these days. Most fighters I see these days are pure brawlers, anime spinoffs, or games like Guilty Gear which I really don’t get into. I’d love for a game like Eternal Champions and/or Killer Instinct to come back and put in a good word for fighters with unique characters and abilities.

It will probably never happen, but a guy can hope, right?

D.J. Tatsujin – Start Over

I could really almost say spin-off here, but does anyone remember X-Perts? Really, outside of those that were around for the SEGA Genesis (and even this portion might not really recall Eternal Champions or have played the game for longer than 10 minutes), what stock does the name hold? In current day stock, this would be next to nothing. I’d have to say I share the same sentiments as most of our staff – there was nothing inherently wrong with the title, moreso with the considerably beefed-up SEGA CD version. However, the SEGA Genesis version did have a number of knacks that quickly drove most players away from the title. Any neat idea the series introduced has been long since reproduced and done better, so to make any waves, the series would definitely have to reinvent itself.

The greatest thing that I remember about the series was how visceral its combat was. Even though some of the violence was done humorously, it was simple, believable and damn effective. This could be a huge selling point in today’s world where a fighting game’s idea of a fatality is nothing but tearing off body parts while spilling obscene amounts of blood. Dawson’s cavern spike ripped opponents’ bodies wide open, slinging their entrails everywhere, Xavier’s witch trial fire caused the opponent to writhe in pain until their skin charred and they fell to ash and Slash’s stage had a T. rex happily chomp on the opponent and swallow them with a big gulp. There was nothing flashy, but I found every Overkill to be interesting and this is by far the one thing players remember about the series.

For the time, Eternal Champions had a pretty crazy amount of moves available to the characters and the spirit gauge dictated special move usage so players couldn’t spam fireballs the whole fight, creating more strategy than players were used to at the time. Combos were actually pretty fluid and the dizzying and cinekills in the CD version made them extremely satisfying. The Genesis was a tad iffy on the controls and gameplay to be honest, but a lot was tightened up for the SEGA CD release, which tucked a huge amount of hidden content away. If the series’ depth and content was present years ago, there’s no reason a competent development team could take fighters forward from the current rehashing in which you never see a fighting game released without the number four or higher tacked on after it.

On paper, really, Eternal Champions has it all. Pulling in fighters from the annals of history is a fantastic hook and banking on the chance to avert their death if they win the tournament gives the concept a rich possibility for storytelling and character development. Whether the game is in 2-D or 3-D, as long as the overkills, vendettas, cinekills and sudden deaths remain visceral, the game will have a great hook that has long been abandoned in favor of ridiculous over-the-top fatalities. The gameplay would be sound as long as it could be balanced to maintain the strategic use of special moves and combo flexibility. Eternal Champions had all the makings of a champ, and it did hit a good chunk of this potential out of the park, but the series was given up on after a nice CD installment that probably sold just as well as the SEGA CD itself. There is no reason the series couldn’t be a hit or remain relevant today as it would fill in the realistically mature niche and has a ton of features that separates it from the pack. The foundation is there and if a development team went back to square one with the series, the name alone would resonate with Genesis fans while providing a unique fighting concept to the fresh gaming crowd.

Mark B. – Start Over

So, okay, I don’t normally discuss this opinion because it’s not an especially popular one, but here it goes: Eternal Champions is not a very good fighting game. The characters are neat, the gimmicks are interesting, and the whole “lots and lots of stage fatalities” concept that essentially drove the series was a pretty good one, but the games were stiff as hell, the CPU opponent was belligerent at the best of times and the Eternal and Dark Champions were both SNK Hard before SNK Hard was even a concept people knew about. I own both games, don’t get me wrong, and I have beaten the Eternal Champion, so I’m not a complete scrub at the game, but the fact of the matter is that I simply didn’t enjoy my time with the games, and as such, I don’t know if I’d want to play them over again.

That said, the characters were generally pretty cool, and there were plenty of interesting gimmicks in the games, so given the right development team and the right amount of effort, along with a new direction, Eternal Champions could make a comeback and be viable again. In an ideal world, a faster-paced fighting engine and a clean, high-resolution 2-D visual style would be perfect for the game, but as a 3-D game, something along the lines of a less annoying Street Fighter 4 would be perfectly fine as well. Making the stage fatalities a little less frustrating to perform would also be a good thing to do, if only because hey, we’re all blood-thirsty savages, y’know? I think that the SPIRIT of Eternal Champions needs to be retained, but the actual mechanics could stand an overhaul, and starting fresh is the best way I can think of to do so.

End Result:
Start Over -3
Sequel – 2
Stay Dead – 2
Spin Off – 0

Well, this was our closest week yet. By a very slim lead, we voted to see Eternal Champions to get a complete overhaul while staying true to the spirit and violence of the original. Next week we’ll be looking at another Sega franchise, but this time it’s a classic button masher. See you then!



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2 responses to “Eternal Champions – Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?”

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  2. […] be it new titles like Castlevania: Judgment or VC releases like The King of Fighters ‘94 or Eternal Champions thanks to my Neo Geo Stick 2 and/or my Hori made Wii fighting stick, so I know a fighting game can […]

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