One of the first fighting games in the early 1990s to be developed straight to console (as opposed to ports of arcade fighting games), Eternal Champions has players participating in a mysterious time-traveling martial arts tournament (hosted by the mysterious entity known as the Eternal Champion) as one of nine warriors from different time periods. As each of the warriors were about to have untimely and unjust deaths, the winner would be able to change their fate.
Eternal Champions was digitally re-released for the Wii (via Virtual Console on December 3, 2007) and PC (via Steam on September 13, 2010). The game was also bundled with the Sega Activator peripheral and was one of the few games to use its features.
The game received an enhanced version, titled Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side, for the Sega CD on February 5, 1995. This version added new characters, new tournament-style game modes, video cutscenes, an enhanced soundtrack, and new deadly finishing moves (adding extremely graphic violence). The game also received two action-adventure spinoffs: X-Perts (a Genesis game starring Shadow Yamoto) and Chicago Syndicate (a Game Gear game starring Larcen Tyler).
Eternal Champions control scheme, and gameplay elements largely adopted from other popular fighting franchises. The control scheme (similar to Street Fighter 2) consisted of 3 punch, and 3 kick buttons. The major issue for the consumer being the original genesis controller consisted of 3 buttons, pressuring users to purchase a 6 button controller or joystick. With the 3 button control scheme, the user was required to awkwardly hit the start button to swap between punches and kicks.
Depending on the distance of the opponent, a button press would automatically adjust for location. For example pressing A would result in a kick, but in close quarters the same button press would result in a knee. Each character had a large set of special moves. To prevent constant use of special moves (similar to The Art of Fighting), the game adopted a stamina system called “Inner Strength”. An inner strength orb indicator appeared on screen as a Ying Yang symbol. Each special move would decrease the orb by a certain percentage. If the orb was depleted, the gamer had to fight without special moves until it completely recharged.
The game also adopted stage fatalities of Mortal Kombat called Overkills. If an opponent was knocked down from the appropriate location, into the correct spot a stage specific overkill occurred. For example, in Tridents level the player was required to stand on the left hand side of the mermaid statue, knocking down their opponent facing them from the right. If done correctly the downed opponent would be hauled into the water by vines, losing their remaining life while only blood surfaced.
- Shadow Yamoto (a Japanese ninja assassin from 1993 A.D.)
- Larcen Tyler (a Chicago mob burglar from 1920 A.D.)
- R.A.X. Coswell (a cyborg kickboxer from 2345 A.D.)
- "Slash" (a prehistoric hunter from 50,000 B.C.)
- "Trident" (an Atlantean gladiator from 110 B.C.)
- Mitchell Midleton Knight, "Midknight" (a London vampiric biochemist from 2100 A.D.)
- Xavier Pendragon (a Salem warlock/alchemist from 1692 A.D.)
- Jonathan Blade (a Syrian bounty hunter from 2030 A.D.)
- Jetta Maxx (a Russian circus acrobat from 1899 A.D.)
- Eternal Champion (a mysterious being and the unplayable final boss)