Graveyard: Fighters Megamix

Out back of the Hardcore Gamer office you’ll find our Graveyard, where countless long-dead classics lie. We come here to pay our respects, to reminisce, and to wonder aloud what a passing mad doctor might be able do with all these corpses and some high-definition lightning.

The Saturn was a bittersweet system on the whole, but had a respectable lineup of top-shelf games. Virtua Fighter 2 and Fighting Vipers were two of them, and FM is kind of a mash-up of those games with a whole lot of other bizarre stuff thrown in along with some things that are now standard that certainly weren’t back in the mid-to-late ’90s. The core game is still a one-on-one fighting game, but with some team battle thrown in as an option. Also, instead of having one ladder of enemies to face, there’s a variety to choose from.

The novice course pits you against some of the easier fighters, while the VF and Fighting Vipers ones pit you against the best-known characters in those respective series and allow you to have some great series vs. series crossovers. Fighting Vipers was known for its walled areas while VF had ring outs – the former were retained while the latter was removed entirely. In VF areas, instead of being on platforms, the fights all occur on one level surface. This means that if you’re used to relying on ring outs to win, you now actually have to use skill to beat someone. Fighting with walls around you adds to the challenge quite a bit since a bounce off the wall not only does damage, but leaves you in the air for some air juggling. The best feeling you can get in this game is knocking someone not just into the wall, BUT THROUGH IT. This can lead to some wackiness like characters seemingly falling hundreds of feet to their doom, or just get tossed into the abyss. The Vipers gameplay style also differs from VF due to its use of armor – while it can be worn down, it does absorb a bit of the damage, and removing it feels quite satisfying. Beyond the obligatory super-blocky fanservice of the female characters losing their armor, removing armor by damaging it also meant that the character would sustain far more damage from attacks. This may seem like it caused the Vipers to be overpowered, but it really didn’t – they didn’t have the move variety that the VF cast did, so everything kind of balanced out.

After the VF and FV tiers came the girls ladder where you faced some ladies, including Dural. Beating all of those brought about some of the most fun in the game because in doing so, you’d unlock some bizarre things. At the start, the most bizarre character you’ll have is a bear with limited animation. Still crazy, but not quite as crazy as things could be. In time, you’ll gain access to the super-deformed versions of Akira and Sarah from VF Kids, Janet from Virtua Cop using Aoi’s moves from VF 3, a nixed character from VF 1 named Shiba, Bean and Bark from Sonic the Fighters, a jumping bean,  A SLAB OF MEAT, and THE CAR FROM DAYTONA USA! The goofier roster members helped keep the tone of the game light, while still allowing it to work as a fine entry in the VF series as well.

On the VF side, it plays like VF 2.5 due to its extra level of polish and moveset changes that updated the VF characters’ movesets to better reflect VF 3 whenever possible. As a result, my man Wolf plays like a completely different character due to the inclusion of a collar-and-elbow tie-up opening up more throw opportunities than before, while everyone else just feels more complete because they have so many more moves at their disposal. Even the FV characters have new moves that weren’t in the original game, although they’re largely lifted from VF characters, they fit in pretty well. Everyone plays pretty much the same as they did in FV, but you have to alter how you play with them a bit when playing in VF stages since you can’t rely on the walls for juggling anymore. It definitely adds some strategy to playing as the FV crew, which certainly has more life to it than VF’s due to their silly outfits, but they also kind of reek of ’90s wackiness as well – an issue that doesn’t affect the VF cast.

Visually, Megamix looks old — but not bad. The animation is stellar and has held up incredibly well despite nearly fifteen years passing between its release and now. Pretty much everything in VF outside of the floaty jumping still looks realistic, while FV’s animation is a bit looser and less realistic, it still looks fine. I’m not sure how to classify the animation of the Daytona car – but it’s safe to say that it remains the best-animated playable car in a fighting game ever. Might want to watch out for the wicket front-right tire hook though, it’ll knock you out faster than Tyson in his prime. The shading on the characters is better than one might expect, but the VF models look a bit more plastic-y here than they did in VF 2. They still look good, just not as good as before, and it appears that the game doesn’t run at the same super-high resolution that the Saturn release of VF 2 did. The audio is excellent, with the soundtrack comprised of series music from the games the characters are from and sound effects from VF and FV to make that aspect awesome as well.

While unlocking characters for beating a game was nothing new, there weren’t many games that gave you so many bonuses outside of that. Here, you’ve got background music to listen to, character art, and even wallpapers. Granted, these aren’t exactly the highest-res things in the world, but it amazed me when going back to play it for this piece to see since I’d completely forgotten about it. Now, those kinds of unlockables are pretty much standard, but back then? Absolutely not. You’d get characters and maybe some music if you were lucky. All the bonuses here will have you swearing at the system if its watch battery backup has gone dead…which it did. That wound up being a net gain, though, since it gave me more of a reason to replay the ladders and rediscover how fun the game was.

Fighters Megamix’s gameplay has held up shockingly well thanks to its fast pace and inclusion of both walled and open environments to mix things up. The roster is definitely one of the most memorable you’ll ever encounter in a fighting game and one of the reasons it’s a shame the game hasn’t been re-released later. With VF 2, Fighting Vipers, and Sonic the Fighters all getting recent re-releases on PSN and XBLA in the recent past, we can only hope it’s a precursor to the release of this game online in some form. Since the gameplay has held up so well, it’s likely those who play a trial/demo of it on the download service of their choice will besold on the full game. Going by those games’ prices, $5 would be a steal for this given how much content is included in the base game, and its value would increase quite a bit with full online play as well.