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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Classic Review

Fighters Megamix (Sega for Saturn)
What do you get when you combine the cast of Virtua Fighter with the warriors from Fighting Vipers? Sega AM2ís Saturn Classic 3D fighting title, Fighter's Megamix. In case you havenít heard of this under-rated fighter, it mixed brawlers from both Virtua Fighter and Fighting Vipers. So, how does the game stack up to itís own saturation marketing campaign? Glad you asked. To begin with, FMM features more than 22 characters from the aforementioned games plus 10 hidden fighters. This made for a huge cast. Along with the then state-of-the-art Saturn engine, it was definitely impressive for it's time from a technical standpoint. How did the fighters interact with each other, you may ask, knowing that VF and FV have radically different styles of play? And how does the game hold up today from a historical standpoint? Read on and find out.


Note: This review originally appeared in MMCC fanzine #1 - Spring 1997. We haven't changed the original review, but our current take can be found at the end of this article.

How you respond to the melding of characters and styles really depends on your mood. This now mostly forgotten crossover title lets players select the more traditional virtua Fighter style of play or the more violent and intense Fighting Vipers style. Fighting Vipers style has more punches and kicks, but they do less damage. The ability to try the different characters from each game and see how they adapt to the othersí style adds a lot to the game, though in general, playing the Fighting Vipers in the VF style is more fun than the reverse. While the ability to mix and match the two gamesí characters is great, whatís most exciting is that this isnít even the biggest change that Fighters Megamix brings to the games. In Segaís seemingly unstoppable quest to squeeze every ounce of excitement and value from the title, there have been two major improvements that immediately add much realism to the games. The biggest comes as a surprise: all the fighters can now dodge or escape via a single button. This move has been taken directly from Segaís brand new Virtua Fighter 3 arcade game, giving players a tantalizing glimpse into what is hoped will be a spectacular conversion of that title. While this doesnít sound like much to players of Tekken or Soul Blade, it adds a completely new dimension to the game. Itís a wash as to whether it makes the game easier or harder. While itís easier to dodge attacks, it makes opponents harder to hit. This technique does add a new layer of countermoves to the game and is thus a welcome addition. 

The other significant change between the title and itís forebears is the complete elimination of the ring out in all games. While Fighting Vipersí solution of putting the characters into cages or enclosed areas has been implemented on those stages from that game, the Virtua Fighter stages now take place in completely open, unrestricted areas. This too, seems minor at first, but it definitely becomes important to those players who used the ring out system to their advantage. Now, without this crutch, players will have to win based solely on their ability. This is a most welcome change and makes the bouts in FMM much more satisfying and intense. Itís also keen to note that many of the hidden and secret characters donít fit either style, making for a game which can have some bizarre combinations and completely lopsided duels. The graphics in the game are excellent, theyíre sharper than those found in Fighting Vipers but a shade below that of Virtua Fighter 2 in terms of detail and animation, but superior in the gameís excellent light sourced graphics. The arenas from both games look about the same, with the exception of the missing rings from the ground in the VF stages. Speaking of the arenas, there are about ten brand new ones, and the non-exclusivity of them means many fighters will be seen on more then 20 new arenas, adding a lot more visual variety to the game. The soundtrack is slightly disappointing as most of the music in the game comes from existing ones found in the VF and FV games with no noticeable differences. 

With all the effort put into the game, you have to wonder why Sega decided to skimp on this important element of the game. Here again, the saving grace is the mixing of the music and that there are many new soundtracks to go with the gameís expanded cast of characters. Now, that the basic features of the game have been described itís time to go into how Fighters Megamix actually plays. You may have heard that the game features 10 hidden characters. This is true to some extent, but the way that players access the characters isnít really that hidden. Players can access 8 of the hidden characters by beating a course of 7 or so fighters, with the last being the Ďhiddení character. Once that character has been beaten, a short CGI movie plays and when the player goes to start again, theyíll find that fighter accessible from the main menu. When all the fighters have been unlocked, thatís where the fun of the game kicks in. With all 30 characters, the game takes on epic proportions. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of different combinations that players can battle in. This is what adds such a tremendous value to the game. The hidden characters are a mixed bag. Some of them, like the enhanced stronger version of Bahn or the hidden character Siba (an unused character from the VF series) genuinely add a new fighter to the game, while others, such as a giant stuffed bear (no this isnít a joke!) or the car from Daytona USA (SeriouslyÖ) seem to exist purely for novelty value and humor. As such they are fun and show a rare sense of whimsy in the ultra-serious world of ultra-violent fighting games. Itís sad to say, but the majority of the hidden characters are JOKE characters, which after the humor wears off, is very annoying. 

Still, you canít fault Sega for trying. Luckily, the rocks that supported other AM2 classics underlie FIGHTERS MEGAMIX as well. Itís not entirely surprising that AM2ís solid gameplay, dead-on controls and outstanding graphics are present in FMM. What makes this game special is not merely these elements, it the flair in which it has been carried out. Instead of resting on their laurels, AM2 has wisely surveyed the cut-throat world of 3D fighters and decided something truly extraordinary was called for given the difficult to near impossible position that the Saturn now finds itself in the video game marketplace. While the game may have a few flaws, itís depth, variety and yes, real innovation make Fighters Megamix stand almost alone in terms of itsí depth and strategy. While it initially seems, on the surface to be merely a marketing ploy designed to repackage older Sega games and sell them to gamers again itís just not true. Look at all the options that Sega has added and the gameplay structure, which has been improved and tweaked relentlessly creating a game that is more like a sequel to both Virtua Fighter AND Fighting Vipers packaged together on one disc. This is proven by massive playing on my part and an in depth examination of FMMís innovative attributes as compared to the games it Ďrecycles.í 

This gamer is happy to reveal that Fighters Megamix is one game with unprecedented depth and breadth. AM2 legendary status as the single best reason to own a Saturn remains completely intact. FMM isnít just the best Saturn game to come out this year, itís the best game to come out for the system since last yearís amazing NiGHTS and itís the best 3D fighting game since Virtua Fighter 2 came out over a year ago. What makes it so special isnít itís parts. The genius of this game is that the various fighters and styles fit together so naturally that Fighterís Megamix becomes much, much more than the sum of itís parts.

Maybe I was a bit optimistic, but nearly a decade later, the game remains interesting, though not as revolutionary as it seemed at that point. The Saturn's limitations are evident these days but while the graphics may seem blocky and unimpressive to today's eye, it stands up nicely from a gameplay standpoint. Fighters Megamix still offers unprecedented depth and breadth. While its been exceeded over the past decade, this is still a cool title. While Fighting Vipers may have vanished as a franchise, Virtua Figher is still going stong and this title is an interesting curiosity from that stanpoint alone. AM2's legendary status as the single best reason to own a Saturn remains completely intact. It feels a bit dated these days,
but its still an enjoyable game and an interesting historical diversion. 

-Michael Palisano

 

> More Saturn Classics

Robo Pit 
Atlus for Sega Saturn

This game starts out with a strange idea have you ever wanted to play a game with cute fighting robots you create? The fight scenes are more reminiscent of a combination of Cyber Sled and Jumping Flash than Tekken. There isn't much technique to the fighting, though you can do special moves when your power meter is powered up. This isn't a bad thing however, giving Robo-Pit a strange, yet oddly fun feel all its' own. Each time you win a fight, you get the opponent's weapons which you can use to enhance your robot. There are 100 different robots to fight in order to beat this game, so it has a lot of replay value. The graphics are very good for the Saturn system, though a little unimaginative. A more bizarre concept with equally bizarre soundtrack has rarely been seen in electronic gaming. Aside from this, ROBO-PIT is a good game, though adventurous types will enjoy it more.

Alone in The Dark: One Eyed Jack's Revenge
THQ for Saturn

Similar in feel to Flashback and Out of this world, this conversion of the semi-popular PC hit hits the Saturn not with a bang but with a thud. You control a private eye on a mission inside a mysterious hauned house in order to unlock it's mysteries. The graphics aer quite good, featuring outstanding character polygon animation and detailed scenery. The plot involving zombies and ghosts wandering around a haunted house is very promising, but is killed by the title's terrrible execution. The sounds are definitely below average and lead to the overall impression of a quickie port. While the game is engaging with a lot of plot, it is one of those point-and-click type PC games that don't require much thought on the part of the player. Those familiar with this type of game know that it requires a great deal of patience. You will definitely have yours taxed during the long load times and frequent viewings of the same cut scenes in the title. Alone in the Dark does not start out as the most engaging Saturn title, then you try to control the character. This has a really terrible user interface that instead of adding complexity as intended, just makes the game incredibly frustrating. You have to navigate through a confusing menu system while selecting which device to use, while the action is still taking place, out of your view. The buttons seem out of place on the controller and worst of all the reaction time and control is terribly frustrating. You cannot help but to think that Alone in the Dark seems to take place in slow motion. There is a much better title called "Resident Evil" which does everything Alone in the Dark does and does it much better. Steer clear of this frustrating headache.

Ascii Saturn Stick
Ascii Entertainment

Those of you who love your Saturn fighters will love this well-built joystick from the good people at Ascii. The well-built joystick is a solid peripheral. The first thing players will notice is the sleek, black design, which compliments the Saturn nicely. Itís constructed out of metal and plastic and feels substantial when held in your hand. You donít think for a second that this is a shoddy controller - quite the opposite. The design of the joystick is elegantly simple and makes a classy impression. The Ascii Saturn Stick is unique because it uses an arcade-style joystick. Instead of a ball on top of the handle, the Ascii Stick joystick uses he traditional Ďbatí style joystick to better recreate the true feeling of arcade fighters. This type of stick makes It much easier to perform tricky special moves in most fighting games. Itís very comfortable and goves the players hands a better grip on the action. The buttons on the base of the console are big and feel nice when pressed. The button configuration is excellent, with the buttons arranged in a way that makes fighting much easier. The Saturnís left and right shift keys are buttons that are the same size and proportion as the others. Theyíre placed at either side of the standard ABC and XYZ buttons for ease of use and maximum comfort. Unfortunately, the joystick lacks auto-fire and rapid fire functions. Itís no big loss as the feature is useless in most fighting games. Itís only when other games are played that this missing feature becomes apparent. As stated earlier in this review, the main use of the stick is for fighting games. This is the genre the stick was designed for and where it shines. 

A quick rundown finds performance and enjoyment increased dramatically when playing Virtua Fighter 2, Fighting Vipers, Fighters Megamix and especially Capcomís Street Fighter Alpha 2. All the above games benefited from the stickís outstanding performance. Street Fighter Alpha 2 is improved dramatically by the joystickís design. Capcom uses this type of joystick in the arcade game, and usuing the Ascii Saturn Stick in conjunction with the above perfectly recreates the feel of the arcade game. Making the special moves easier to perform. While many gamers find these sticks to be frivolous, testing the Ascii Stick with the above selection of games proves that the stick more than makes up for itís cost by providing the player with an added layer of control, far superior to using even the best control pad. In addition, by virtue of the Ascii Stickís solid features, it greatly improves the enjoyment and general playability of most fighting games. Making this controller even sweeter is the joystickís intuitive button placement. While the bat joystick may be a bit awkward at first, once players grow accustomed to traditional ball style controllers will find that this controller excels by offering precise control unmatched by many other controllers, even some models with a equivalent price tags. This high-performance joystick will not let you down, itís solid construction means that it will withstand the toughest matches and take a lot of punishment. If you are looking for a solid performer, the Ascii Saturn Stick is definitely the one to look into first.

- Michael Palisano