Sunday, February 15, 2009

'Eternal Champions' CD: A Bloody Masterpiece

A lot of gamers think that Mortal Kombat, or one of its many sequels, was the bloodiest video game of the early and mid ‘90s. Sega CD owners, however, know better.

Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side, perhaps the most blood-soaked video game ever to grace a Sega console, is a drastic improvement over the original Genesis cart in virtually every way. Solid controls, dark, foreboding visuals, a rockin' soundtrack and yes, gallons of the red stuff makes the sequel to Eternal Champions not only the best fighting game on the Sega CD, but one of the greatest fighting games of the post Street Fighter II era. A large, genuinely interesting cast of characters comes together in one of the most absorbing storylines ever to grace the genre. The gameplay is deep and the player is rewarded for strategy, so button mashers need not apply.

Challenge from the Dark Side is also crammed full of extras, from hidden backgrounds and more than a dozen secret combatants to insane combos and devilishly clever finishing moves that often turn dying into an art form. The ever-present danger of a sudden, flesh-rending death while in mid-battle pumps up the element of danger, and the fear of being torn to shreds by the very background in which you fight is reason enough to win the match or die trying.

This is one of the best, most challenging, and most engrossing titles I've ever played. I loved it when it came out more than a decade ago, and I'm still caught in its mighty, blood-soaked grip to this day. Seriously, how cool is it to lay the smackdown on a futuristic cyborg kick boxer with a film-noir style, trench coat wearing ex-cat burglar from the '20s, then, seconds later, battle a Neanderthal as pterodactyls zoom around behind you? I have to hold back tears of gaming bliss just thinking about it!

Stellar gameplay and a host of other reasons that keep you playing way, WAY past your bedtime make Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side a must own for anyone who has a Sega CD unit. Just do yourself a favor and don't get too attached to the cast.

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