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Video Game / Eternal Champions

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Eternal Champions was Sega's first-party home entry to the fighting game craze in 1993, and their answer to Mortal Kombat's category of stylish, violent gameplay and extensive lore. A Sega Genesis exclusive, it was a fighting game rarity at the time in that it was made specifically for a 16-bit home system by a first-party publisher and developer, as opposed to being an arcade port.

In regards to the story and roster, nine people across history, ranging from a caveman to a future cop, cause a disturbance in the balance of the universe due to untimely, tragic deaths. The Eternal Champion, a supernatural being who oversees this balance, temporarily rescues them from their imminent deaths. Any of the nine can restore balance through the ripple effects of what their full lives would accomplish, but he only has the power to revive one of them. He pits them against each other in a battle to the death: the winner will be restored to life with the foreknowledge and power to prevent their fate at the moment of their original demise.

The game was notable for some innovations beyond being a first-party home exclusive: it delved deep into backstory, including a menu section specifically for character biographies and a primer into their preferred martial arts. There was also an extensive training mode that was not yet commonplace in fighting games at the time; players could set up drones or programmed AI to spar against in a "danger room" setting, complete with a laundry list of togglable hazards like buzzsaws and stun bolts. The final bout against the Eternal Champion had mid-match, in-game cinematics when it would change to a different fighting style (and eventually when defeated), a forebearer to dramatic, multi-stage fighting game bosses. Finally, the game upped Mortal Kombat's stage fatalities by including them in every level, activated not by a player input, but when a final blow landed their victim in a specific spot on the stage to trigger it.

Eternal Champions was commercially successful, and saw a psuedo-sequel in Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side for the Sega CD. It doubled the roster with new traditional characters and other joke characters, addressed some of the criticisms of the original's gameplay, and added a wide number of new gorier stage kills and finishers, including CG "Cinekills" performed by the Dark Champion himself. It was one of the best-selling games on Sega's ill-fated CD system, but the series would come to an end due to the infamous in-fighting between Sega's American and Japanese branches, with the decision being made to support just one flagship fighting series in the company, which ended up being Virtua Fighter.

Eternal Champions and its sequel contain examples of the following tropes:

  • All There in the Manual: Thankfully, the "manual" is included in-game, but some things only make sense if you read the supplemental info, like why Midknight's stage is an impoverished Vietnamese village in the original game (even then, the connection was tenuous enough that the sequel changed the stage to Midknight's laboratory and gave his old stage to Vietnam War-era soldier "Blast").
  • 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).
    • In Challenge from the Dark Side, Jetta's stage, the Blue Dragon Circus, features a Sudden Death where a clown car is launched from a cannon and squashes the loser into a bloody pulp. The stage is set in 1899 China. The clown car routine didn't come about until the 1950s in the USA.
    • Slash's stage features dinosaurs in the Great Rift Valley, circa 50,000 BC.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – History: Ramses III’s bio makes mention of an Alexander the Great and his Roman Legions; apparently conflating Alexander (who is Macedonian) with Ptolemy (his general who took over the Egyptian territories after Alexander’s death and founded the Ptolemaic dynasty) and Octavian (Julius Caesar’s successor who ended the Ptolemaic dynasty and brought Egypt under Roman dominion.).
  • 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 badass 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. Of course, the gamebooks imply that all the champions ultimately returned to their proper times, so at least one continuity made it slightly sunnier.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Challenge from the Dark Side ramps up the carnage exponentially over the Genesis original. There's not as high a volume of red stuff flying around as there is in the classic Mortal Kombat (1992), but the violence is significantly nastier by way of being less stylized and far more anatomically correct. When a character explodes here, for example, you don't get twelve femurs and three ribcages; you get shredded flesh, shattered bones, and piles of bloody viscera.
  • 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 Swap Thanatos 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.
  • Cerebus Retcon: Part of how Challenge goes Darker and Edgier.
  • Charged Attack: Every character uses charge motions for their moves, unless, of course, you buy a Sega Activator.
  • Circus Brat: Jetta Maxx
  • Clarke's Third Law: Xavier Pendragon's abilities are described in the manual as being based in science, yet perceived as magical.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: When controlled by the computer or Player Two, the characters are all coloured differently from Player One versions.
  • 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.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: In the original Genesis game, it doesn't need any inner strength to use its special attacks.
  • 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 (ironically rated T by ESRB) and Duke Nukem 3D — ever used it.
  • Cool Shades:
    • Blade.
    • Parodied with Hooter, who dons a pair of novelty sunglasses whenever he wins a match.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: It's not enough the original game gave a lot of the characters backstories ending on this and their respective Overkill finisher attacks, Challenge from the Dark Side also adds Sudden Deaths and Cinekills to the mix, the former where the loser dies in a variety of gruesome (and if they're unlucky, humiliating) ways from the stage itself, the latter an out-and-out execution courtesy of the Dark Champion, teleporting the loser away and utilizing their greatest fears to kill them. Ouch.
  • 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.
  • Deadly Game: A variant, as the fighters here are fighting for the right to avert their original deaths. Justified, as the Eternal Champion is only capable of reviving one of them, but that doesn't stop the deaths in the tournament itself from being extremely gruesome.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Only one of them will get the chance to avert their original death and be sent back to their time with the knowledge at hand to ensure a brighter future for not just them, but the entire world.
  • Elemental Powers: The Dark Champion utilizes "natural disasters" as part of his fighting style (tornadoes, earthquakes, etc.)
  • Eye Scream: Watch closely when a victim is knocked into the fire in Xavier's level, their eyeballs explode before they're totally consumed by the flames.
  • 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.
  • Fish People: Trident.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: Ramses' ending.
  • 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.
  • The Gambler: Dawson McShane.
  • Gangland Drive-By: The overkill for Larcen's stage.
  • Golden Ending: Xavier and/or Raven's in Challenge.
  • Good Versus Good: The original game. Challenge from the Dark Side adds in a force of evil, however.
  • Gorn: While the first game doesn't really count, Challenge from the Dark Side takes this trope and sprints with it. It's actually quite disturbing at times, and a fine demonstration of why Mortal Kombat's gore is usually as over-the-top as possible.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: Slash's ending.
  • Hollywood Cyborg: R.A.X.
  • Hulk Speak: Slash (in the comic adaptation).
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Champions from the Dark Side's contest mode lists Neophite, Warrior and Champion. The Duel mode lists the player and CPU levels using a number instead.
  • 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/or 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.
    • Ramses III’s backstory states that his death would have resulted in Egypt being taken over by outside invaders, who would transform Egypt into an oppressive global superpower. Ramses’ survival averts this... only for Egypt to be conquered later on by Alexander the Great and the Romans, who would have been repelled by the regime of the previous invaders.
  • 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. Although Hooter has some plot relevance, as he 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.
  • 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.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: You'll always know when you've triggered a finishing move in the Sega CD version because the action and sound will come to a complete stop for a few seconds as it spools up the animation. There's considerable loading between matches, as well.
  • Logo Joke: The Genesis version boots up with one of the fighters destroying the SEGA logo.
  • The Mafia: Larcen was a high-ranking member of Chicago's mob scene.
  • Marathon Level: The battle against the Eternal Champion requires you to defeat him five times to complete a round. Every time he goes down, he revives by channeling another form and continuing the fight. And then you need to win two rounds! This also applies to the Dark Eternal Champion in Challenge from the Dark Side.
  • 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."
  • Mighty Glacier: Blade.
  • Ninja: Shadow.
  • 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.
  • Pirate Girl: Sophia "Riptide" de Medici.
  • Prehistoria: Slash.
  • Randomized Title Screen: Upon loading up the game, a random combatant is shown attacking and destroying the SEGA logo.
  • Replay Mode: The game has an option to replay the previous round either in full, in slow-motion, or just play the highlights of the battle.
  • Reverse Polarity: Raven Gindar, a voodoo priestess who was killed by a Black Magic-using voodoo priest who turned her own White Magic healing spell against her. Interestingly, her Finishing Move does exactly this to the opposing player.
  • 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.
  • Screw Destiny: The ultimate goal of each of the fighters.
  • Secret Character: Challenge from the Dark Side has nine of them.
  • 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..
    • Shadow's ending in CD has her recruited by a team called the X-Perts. That one did get made.
  • 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.
  • Smoke Out: Shadow can do this (and Teleport Spam with it).
  • 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.
  • Strawman Political: The Senator is the corrupt politician's corrupt politician, neck deep in any and every scandal. He's also a strawman of anti-gaming politicians such as Joe Lieberman.
  • 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 more modest (but still sexy) green qipao with black vinyl gloves and boots. Jetta even more so as her outfit in artworks is nothing but a bikini with strips of cloth cross-crossing her limbs and fights barefoot.
    • Downplayed with Jetta's actual in-game depiction, where her bikini top is replaced with a tank top and her bikini bottom is only noticeable from the front, combining with the strips of cloth on her legs to look like actual pants from behind.
  • Stripped to the Bone: The sequel has extremely shocking fatalities which can get pretty "messy" sometimes. However, the following fatality is already frightening enough without the bloody part at the end and plays a more intense version of this trope. In Midknight's stage, the sudden death involves the losing player being sent to a microwave machine. The machine quickly strips the victim layer by layer by melting off their skin first, after a few seconds, the machine eventually melts off the muscles, reducing them to a skeleton. The trope is played even further when microwave burns the bones away themselves, leaving the losing victim into a framework of their nerves and internal organs which eventually explode and shatter the window. This shocking fatality does have a comedic attribute, upon the bones being burnt off, the nerves and internal organs make a cartoonish rattling noise.
  • Super Title 64 Advance: You have to squint to see it, but Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side.
  • Surprisingly Creepy Moment: The "overkill" on Xavier's level. Surprise! Your character flies into the fire and is instantly burned down to the bones.
    • Arguably every Overkill, Sudden Death, and Vendetta move in the sequel. The game could have easily gotten away with a T-rating at worst had the finishing moves been removed.
  • Take That!:
  • There Can Only Be One: In which the fighters in question have already died, only to be given one last chance at life by the titular Eternal Champion.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Literally, considering that's how the most frequent finishers are called. And they can get pretty damn over-the-top, too. An especially striking example is the trapdoor Overkill in Midknight's Challenge from the Dark Side stage, where the loser falls through three sets of blades which progressively make mincemeat of them until they are reduced to a skull, which breaks to pieces when it finally hits the ground.
    James Rolfe: (regarding the aforementioned Overkill) The Pit from Mortal Kombat is pussy shit now. That's a fucking pit!
  • They Call Him "Sword": Trident, named for his trident that replaces his arm.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Larcen Tyler to a tee. This is also MidKnight's principle, which gets him killed by a vampire hunter. He abandons it upon his return to life.
  • Threatening Shark: Sent flying on the last hit of the far left of Riptide's ship? This triggers the Sudden Death. The losing fighter falls off the ship and into the ocean. Just then a hungry Great White swims up and pulls them underwater before coming back up and gorily devours them before diving back under, the loser permanently lost at sea.
  • Trash Talk: Insulting your opponent lowers their Chi meter, which affects how often they can use their special attacks. Using it against the CPU is a waste of your time.
  • 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.