SummaryTwo games and an half for the price of one
The GoodTwo of the key selling points to the game are simple: a huge cast and unlockables. A lot of them. Some of them will just take a few minutes of play, for others you'll need a lot of dedication. Starting with the obvious, the fighters. From the initial pool of 22 fighters, which is the whole cast of VF2 and Fighting Vipers, including bosses, 10 more are added by completing the 1Player mode courses. These include one of the most bizarre characters ever seen in a fighter - the Hornet from Daytona USA, and others from varied Sega games: Janet from Virtua Cop 2, Rent-A-Hero from the same-titled (and sadly, never translated) RPG of the same name, Bean and Bark from Sonic The Fighters and even the resurrection of Siba, a little-known character who was replaced by Akira at the finishing stages of development of Virtua Fighter. While unlocking the whole cast shouldn't take more than a few hours of play, hidden options are an whole different deal, and for them you must complete courses, finish training, and well, generally play a lot.
Which isn't a problem at all. Either playing on VF or FV fighting modes (yes, you can choose both), the game is a superb fighter in all aspects. All characters have more than 60/70 moves (VF characters also got a "sampler kit" from VF3) to be learned in the training mode, and the additional "escape" move really adds what was missing to 3D fighters - a real "third" dimension. If the 1-on-1 and the 1P courses get tiresome, there are two more game modes: Survival and team battle. Survival can be resumed to beating as many opponents as possible in 3, 7 or 15 minutes and team battle is a battle between two teams of eight fighters, where the goal is to eliminate one by one the opponents until the eight falls down.
Gameplay works like a charm, with the three down buttons used to block, punch and kick, the uppers for combinations (P+D, K+D, P+K+D) and the shoulder buttons to escape. Of course, this can be selected to fit players' tastes, but the default form is perhaps the best. The movements should be no surprise for Sega players, with combos done by quickly repeating action buttons (PPPK or Back Front PK, for instance), and are as fluid as ever. With the exception of the most esoteric combos (such as the Super Washington Treaty), all of them are perfectly accessible to everyone, from newbies to veterans. Improving from VF2, the camera now sways smoothly around the rink when required instead of changing abruptly.
Finally, it takes a measly 24 memory blocks compared to the 180 in VF2. Of course it lacks the extended book keeping, but let's put it this way: you won't need the memory cartridge to play Fighters Megamix without remorse for the other games deleted from the internal memory.
The BadGraphics are a mixed bag. While the lighting engine adds more volume to the fighters, it does that at the expense of polygons being more visible than in VF2. In the closed arenas some of the sections partially outside the viewing range will occasionally "clip out", leading to a bit distracting environment, bit nothing serious. Finally, because of the size and format disparity between characters (from the giant Kumachan to "Chibi" Akira and Sarah), some of the animations don't work as well as they should.
Perhaps where the game took a stronger hit were voices. They all seem a bit muffled, and a lot of times imperceptible, which is strange, as the clonks, thuds and crashes are all in crystal-clear quality.
There's also some issues to the balance between Vipers and Virtuas. While with some characters (mostly from VF) the player must work to get a victory, with others like Mahler/B.M. from FV it's just a matter of push the opponent into the walls and punch until he/she drops out cold. As FV is mostly a game for beginners, combos are quick and too easy to pull when compared to the slower, one-hitting characters from VF. And to add to injury, most of their hardest hitting moves have their priority higher.
The Bottom LineThis is the must-have fighting game for the Saturn. Intended as an introduction to the never-released VF3, Fighters Megamix can well be considered a worthy replacement. Even when compared to more modern titles, FM still shines thanks to the varied selection of fighters and smooth gameplay, and perhaps if it had been released a few months before, the luck of the Saturn could have been better.
Personally, the game that would make me think (for real) on a new console would be Fighters Megamix 2, with added characters from Last Bronx (the third big fighter released by Sega for the system) and all those Dreamcast titles (Shenmue, Crazy Taxi, JSR, etc) and other classics (Why did they missed Axel Stone?), all packed in current-gen graphics. A man can dream, can't he ?