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In the wake of the success of fighting games such as Street Fighter II, Fatal Fury, and Mortal Kombat, Sega released Eternal Champions, a 2D Fighting Game, for the Sega Genesis late during the system's life cycle.Nine different people in time periods ranging from the time of cavemen to the far future suffer unjust deaths; these deaths each cause disorder in the balance of the universe. The Eternal Champion, a supernatural entity that oversees this balance, uses his power to temporarily remove all nine from the timeline. The Champion knows any one of the nine can restore balance through the ripple effects of what their full lives will accomplish — which works out well, since The Champion only has the power to revive one of them. The Champion decides to give the warriors a sporting chance to win their life back: he pits them against each other in a martial arts tournament where the winner will be returned to the timeline, moments prior to their death, with the knowledge of their fate and the power to prevent it. The other eight warriors will also return to their timeline...to suffer their original fates.Sega eventually released a sequel — Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side — for the Sega CD. Dark Side doubled the first game's playable roster and explained their presence by introducing the Dark Champion: he hid those fighters from the Eternal Champion in an attempt to keep the tournament going on a neverending Stable Time Loop and prevent the restoration of balance in the universe. Challenge from the Dark Side plays better than its predecessor thanks to more responsive controls and a (slightly) easier difficulty curve — and it also features gorier stage kills in addition to special CGI "Cinekills".Sega had a third and final game — Eternal Champions: The Final Chapter — in pre-production for the Sega Saturn after Challenge from the Dark Side became...well, as much of a hit on the Sega CD as anything really could. Final Chapter would have featured a faction-oriented storyline, with characters supporting either the Eternal Champion or the Dark Champion in an effort to allow good or evil to balance the universe in its favor. Character levels were intended to represent the character's time periods, and victory would lock the opposing faction out of influencing a specific time period forever. Sega cancelled the game, however, when the company feared it would draw too much attention away from Virtua Fighter.
Eternal Champions and its sequel contain examples of the following tropes:
Anachronism Stew: A lot of fighters use styles of martial arts that weren't invented until well after their time, or which they could not have been exposed to. Ramses knowing kung fu is a decent example, but Trident's the big winner; he uses Capoiera, which was created at least seventeen hundred years after his death. The game itself handwaves this by saying that The Eternal Champion trained several of the fighters himself before the tournament (or something to that effect).
Animal Motifs: The Eternal Champion uses dragon, tiger, hawk, and shark styles, and temporarily gains the limbs of those creatures when he uses their attacks.
Challenge from the Dark Side gave the Champion four more forms (among them unicorn and elephant); despite the fact that each form had its own life bar, it was still an easier fight than the original.
Atlantis: Trident and many other merfolk live here. Had he not been killed during a bout against the Roman empire, his people would not have been banished to the sea.
Badass Longcoat: MidKnight, Dawson, and Larcen all sport the look, although MidKnight's is heavily tattered. Being a Head Swap of Larcen, the Senator does too, though his Bad Ass credentials are...questionable.
Bitter Sweet Ending: In all but at least Raven and Xavier's endings, the character you played as will be saved while all the others are returned to their deaths. Even though this fact was made clear to the contestants and player beforehand, it's made all the more bitter when the game plays the death cinematics for every other non-hidden playable character one after another once you've seen the blurb detailing how your character improved the world.
Well, right before the death cinematics are played, the Dark Champion gloats that the battle will never end. He might just be showing these sequences because he's a dick, plain and simple.
Burn the Witch!: Xavier Pendragon was to be condemned as a warlock for his discovery of a new type of energy, which many in his era mistook for magic. If he wins the tournament, he would still be burned at the stake, but he would have the foresight to ask for his device to be burned with him. The result is an explosion that sends him and his owl familiar into a time-warp while producing enough special effects to convince the crowd that they've destroyed the very last warlock, which ends the witch hunts.
In Challenge, Xavier's Palette SwapThanatos was also burned in 1692 Salem; if he survives, he becomes the new Kronos.
Canon Foreigner: The comic adaptation has The Overlord (only mentioned by name) and Nakano. Meanwhile, the gamebooks have tons of them. Among those worthy of mention are The Overlord (whose role is much more involved, as opposed to the comics), the six Lords of Death, and the Tenth Champion.
Clarke's Third Law: Xavier Pendragon's abilities are described in the manual as being based in science, yet perceived as magical.
Comic Book Adaptation: In Sonic the Comic. It was one of the most popular non-Sonic Sega strips, producing several storylines and even a summer special. It included a Stable Time Loop plot: the Champions try to prevent the discovery of bio-key technology in the past, but it's one of their pursuers dropping a bio-keyed gun that leads to it being reverse-engineered in the first place.
This applies only to the original Genesis game. It got fixed in the sequel. Despite that however, the AI's difficulty is still off the charts.
Content Warnings: Challenge from the Dark Side received the ESRB's "M" rating (as well it should have). It also received a special Sega-specific classification known as "Deep Water", which was supposed to denote games with undeniably adult content. Only two other games — X-Perts and Duke Nukem 3D — ever used it.
Parodied with Hooter, who dons a pair of novelty sunglasses whenever he wins a match.
Dance Battler: Trident uses Capoeira as part of his fighting style.
Darker and Edgier: Challenge from the Dark Side features far more gore than any other game at the time (and more than in a lot of modern games, as well). The story also more or less strips any hope from the proceedings, turning the whole thing into an endless Stable Time Loop and rewriting some of the endings (most notably Trident's) to make them more morally ambiguous.
Elemental Powers: The Dark Champion utilizes "natural disasters" as part of his fighting style (tornadoes, earthquakes, etc.)
Finishing Move: And how! The first game featured stage fatalities triggered by landing the killing blow at a specific part of the stage. Challenge from the Dark Side retains these and makes them gorier — then adds a second finisher to each stage and traditional fatalities for each character. Topping things off are the Cinekills: if you beat your opponent to a bloody enough pulp, you'll be treated to a CGI death scene where the Dark Champion kills the poor soul in a blatantly ironic fashion.
Fragile Speedster: Jetta is quick in general, but also has a move that temporarily boosts her speed to extreme levels.
Friendly Enemy: The fighters generally don't take the tournament personally, even though it's a life-or-death matter for all of them. Particularly apparent in Slash's ending, since it states that Xavier and the the other fighters taught him quite a bit of the science of their time.
It's a Wonderful Failure: Fail to beat the Eternal Champion in the original game and you're returned to the moment of your death, but not before being treated to a depressing monologue from the Eternal himself over how disappointed he is in you and how the future is in doubt because of your failure.
Fail to beat the Eternal Champion and the Dark Champion in the sequel, and you're treated to a cinematic of your character's death (unless you're playing a hidden character, in which case you'll just get returned to the title screen).
In Spite of a Nail: In Challenge from the Dark Side, the characters' success often changes the future drastically, yet everyone else still meets their fate in the ending montage. For example, Trident still dies in a battle for the future of Atlantis, even when Slash's ending would ensure that Atlantis and Rome would never have arisen as separate nations.
Interspecies Romance: Raven and the Eternal Champion are heavily implied to be a couple in Thanatos's ending.
Joke Character: The animal characters from Challenge from the Dark Side, and arguably The Senator.
Subverted with Hooter, who actually becomes Xavier's familiar if you beat the game with the former or the latter.
Karma Houdini: If The Senator wins, he is never imprisoned for any of his crimes due to turning state's evidence against his enemies; after doing so, he makes millions with tell-all books and speaking deals.
Presumably, his tell-all averts the apocalypse by bringing down some of the people and corporations that would have developed the technology which causes it. That seems to be a good enough deed, if entirely by accident.
Kung-Fu Wizard: Xavier qualifies if you replace "Kung Fu" with "Hapkido Cane Fighting".
Large Ham: He never speaks, but the Dark Champion is clearly enjoying himself in the Cinekills. Even the ones where he doesn't laugh.
The Mafia: Larcen was a high-ranking member of Chicago's mob scene.
Motor Mouth: Xavier in the gamebooks (and the comics as well to an extent).
"They all wish you luck in their different ways. Xavier launches into a long speech and has to be shut up."
Nintendo Hard: This game differs significantly from most Fighting Games in its unusual tournament setup. Losses result in not only having to repeat the fight you lost, but the previous fight as well (unless you managed to kill your opponent). Every fighter is quite difficult, and the Eternal Champion himself is extremely difficult. Each time you defeat one of his forms, he renews his health bar, while you get only a fraction of yours back — and if you lose to him, it's Game Over on the spot. It's very challenging to finish the game, even if you've mastered a character.
Ominous Owl: Lampshaded in Hooter's backstory when one of the religious zealots realized that the owl had been present at every witch burning. It didn't end well for Hooter.
Our Vampires Are Different: MidKnight, who refuses to kill anyone despite his bloodlust. Subverted if you beat the game with him, as his ending sees him drain the blood of the vampire hunter who would have had killed him.
Palette Swap: Thanatos and The Senator are head-swaps of Xavier and Larcen, respectively.
Science Hero: Xavier, particularly in the original, is the best example, but many characters (e.g. Trident, Midknight and Slash) also qualify. Slash is a particularly interesting example, since he not only is a Science Hero in his own right, but he also brings back knowledge from the future characters to his own time. This allows him to invent fire, agriculture, and even kung fu (amongst other things) and advance humanity's progress by several millennia.
Sequel Hook: Raven's ending in Challenge from the Dark Side has her not only avoiding her death, but also teaming up with the Eternal Champion to find a way to break the time loop.
It's also implied that Xavier, Thanatos, and Hooter would have teamed up with the Eternal Champion and Raven, via their endings — Thanatos by becoming the new Kronos, Xavier and Hooter by becoming a time-traveling duo.
There is also a direct sequel hook, earned by completing the game on the hardest difficulty. Additionally, on that difficulty, you actually get to play -as- the Eternal Champion for the final boss fight, regardless of who you had selected..
Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The goal of every single character in the game, as well as the Eternal Champion, even if he DOES demand a brutal fight to see if they deserve it.
Ship Tease: The comic adaptation has R.A.X. and Shadow, with the former having a crush on the latter (who is secretly flattered by the attention). Meanwhile, the gamebooks have Larcen and Jetta, who "admire each other quite often".
Shout-Out: One of Yappy's victory animations bears a striking resemblance to the dance of a certain Beagle.
One of Slash's victory animations in the first game almost perfectly mimics Rancid's victory animation from Time Killers. Whether this was intentional or not has yet to be confirmed.
Larcen's theme includes the famous Dragnet jingle.
Shown Their Work: Despite a few inconsistencies — like an Atlantean knowing Capoeira — it's not often you see videogames actually explaining the background of martial arts. Not even Street Fighter does that.
Spin-Off: Shadow and Larcen both had spin-off games that assume one of them won the tournament. Shadow's game (X-Perts, for the Genesis) was poorly received; Larcen's (Chicago Syndicate, for the Game Gear) was treated kindly by the critics but went largely unnoticed since it came out on the Game Gear.
Stripperiffic: Shadow's original outfit, which has her in a busty corset, open jacket, nylons and tall black boots. The sequel and X-Perts both give her a green qipao with black vinyl gloves and boots.
Vegetarian Vampire: Harshly averted for Midknight. His body is wasting away because only fresh human blood can nourish him, and he refuses to kill people just to keep himself alive.
What Could Have Been: According to this interview with former Sega of America employee Scott Berfield, Eternal Champions was originally going to be much more humorous and over the top. Characters would have been affectionate parodies of various hero archetypes, while the training mode would have consisted of minigames where you could beat the crap out of knife-wielding dwarves. Berfield left SoA sometime after the project was greenlit; it was passed down to Michael Latham, who decided to restart the project and turn it into the Eternal Champions we have today.
Shadow Yamoto was a character design from the game's original concept that was kept for the final product.