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Y'ever fall down a bit of a YouTube hole? Course you do. We all do. I did, just the other day, and I found myself watching footage of some guys playing Eternal Champions, more specifically Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side, and I could not look away.
Eternal Champions released for the SEGA Mega Drive - uh, ok, and the Genesis - in late 1993 and early 1994. It was one of the first games I got for the Mega Drive that came in the new-styled blue boxes (the Genesis ones were red, for the US). The one-on-one fighter was pitched as a rival to the all-conquering Street Fighter II, which had landed on SEGA's 16-bit machine some time after it'd become a smash on the Super Nintendo; and as an alternative to the recently released Mortal Kombat.
Indeed, SEGA's game was especially hungry for fans of Mortal Kombat to make the switch from Midway's title. Eternal Champions made a big deal of its fatalities, which were a lot gorier than those of Mortal Kombat.
Oh, so you can burn your staggered opponent to death? Pull out their spine, or their heart? Pffft. In SEGA's Mega Drive game, your rivals could burn at the stake until their flesh was stripped away and their skull fell off. They could be eaten by a Tyrannosaur, who then barfed up a chunk or two; or electrocuted on a neon rooftop sign until they, and the sign, exploded. You can watch them for yourself in the video below (YouTube).
Eternal Champions was no match for how Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat played, always very stiff in comparison; and its characters - while often pretty interesting on their own terms, with vampires and cyborgs, warlocks and acrobats - were never as memorable as Ryu, Chun-Li, Sub-Zero, Scorpion et al. But its fatalities were next-level gross-outs that made Mortal Kombat look like the complete opposite of a supposed video game nasty, ready to be dragged before the US Senate. And then, Challenge from the Darkside was something else.
Seeing this Mega/SEGA CD version of/sequel to Eternal Champions being played by a bunch of YouTubers, who were entirely losing themselves, wholly freaking out, over the extreme nature of the fatalities, took me right back to my teenage bedroom and my own efforts to record how each finishing move could be triggered.
This game came out in 1995, at a time when the SEGA Saturn and Sony PlayStation were happening - truly a weird time for games and the consoles we played them on, with SEGA trying (and failing) to effectively support too many platforms at the same time, spanning 8- to 32-bit systems and doing right by none of them.
Nevertheless, Challenge from the Dark Side emerged, the definitive Eternal Champions experience if you will, with more blood and guts ready to splash all over your screen than the entire trilogy of 16-bit Mortal Kombats. I spent ages with my copy of the game, trying to find the sweet spots on each stage to trigger all manner of shocking content conclusions. What the Mega Drive game delivered was already striking; Dark Side turned that violence and viscera up to 11, and then set the amplifier on fire.
And find them I did - I still have the handwritten notes, describing how to achieve them, in my copy of the game. The stars of the show, as billed, were the 'cinekills', full-motion video death sequences where the game's ringmaster of sorts, the Shang Tsung of the affair, the Eternal Champion oversees their grisly demise. (The 'best' one: a fighter from Atlantis, Trident, gets turned into a fish and then stomped.) But in hindsight, these are a lot less extreme than a number of fatalities that stuck, instead, to blood-streaked pixels, such as the very OTT 'overkills'.
Standout examples: evil spirits emerge from an Ancient Egyptian setting and tear the unfortunate fighter to pieces; the loser is tossed into a giant cooking pot, and flails around hopelessly as the mixture inside strips their flesh away; and an underground railroad trip comes to an abrupt end as a huge stake impales the loser, revealing intestines, organs, the works. And the clown car? In case you were unsure that some of these are played for (depraved) laughs: the clown car.
One of my favourites then, and today, is where a kiosk worker at an old Chicago movie theatre breaks through the glass of her little office with a pistol, cocks a shotgun, and blows the fallen fighter's head clean off, spilling their innards all over the road. It is so disgustingly excessive that it can only be kind of funny - or at least, it was to 15-year-old me.
Watching all of these fatalities - just the overkills, and others known as sudden deaths - will eat up eight minutes of your day and, frankly, if the OTT bloodbaths of modern Mortal Kombat are your thing, this is essential viewing (YouTube).
So it's worth remembering, the next time you're watching a compilation of disgusting Mortal Kombat fatalities (and our stats show a lot of you like that kind of thing), which game really pushed the envelope for this stuff. Because while the Eternal Champions franchise - if we can even call it that - is absolutely best left in the past, its achievements in the field of throw-up-your-lunch finishers should never be forgotten.
Eternal Champions, the Mega Drive/Genesis version, is playable on the Mega Drive Mini, if you want to give it a go. Otherwise it's on Steam, too, for a whopping 79p. A European Mega CD version of Challenge from the Dark Side will set you back between £40 and £60 on eBay, and no you can't have my copy.
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