Eternal Champions beat em' up? Yes please! This is another idea I wanted to try myself but never got to. I even coded Shadow as an Easter egg character in earlier project. In short, I have a soft spot for the source material and was eager to try this game out.
Sadly, the results are a mixed bag. I can't deny the incredible amount of work and ambition the creator poured in. Just about every genre is covered here. There’s the tried-and-true pseudo 3D beat em’ up, 2D platforming, motorcycle racing, third person driving, and more. I'm just not able to overlook a lot of mechanical issues and questionable design choices.
First, the controls. I hope you can play piano, because the game requires metacarpal gymnastics for just about every basic action. There are way too many buttons compared to the number of moves you have access to, and they aren't even consistent with themselves. Load screens list the new control layouts for each section, but these do little to ameliorate the confusion. It also really hurts that Shadow is missing many of her trademark moves. Condensing the controls to a three-button scheme and following established patterns for each mode would vastly improve playability.
Once you figure out the controls, you’ll still have some frustrations. Collision accuracy is the biggest problem. I lost count of how many times Shadow’s attacks passed right through an enemy or vice versa, especially in 2D platforming mode. This problem is made worse by Shadow’s move set, as even basic attacks tend to slide her across the screen.
Visuals are also mixed. Some areas are gorgeous with tons of scrolling layers and well used assets. Others are a grainy, blocky mess that look like they were thrown together last second. Animations suffer the same issue. Shadow is fine for the most part, but the quality of her enemies is all over the place. There are also tons of cutscenes and original artwork that while fine by themselves, are all drawn with a highly minimalist style that clashes severely with the heavy dithered assets taken from Sega.
The last issue is story and lack of multiplayer. I understand it was a design choice, but even so this type of game really needs a co-op option. Just a bit of reworking of the HUD and alternate modes would make a second player viable. As for the story, I agree with another reviewer. It’s interesting, but not convincing. Why is Shadow going around killing other champions? Why did they turn? Some more exposition is needed here.
All in all, I feel bad giving an average score. The effort is incredible. I just think way too much time was spent reinventing the wheel instead of getting the fundamentals right.