Crossovers. Everyone loves them, and the fifth-generation was pretty much all about them. This was the generation that would spawn King of Fighters, Marvel vs Capcom and Super Smash Bros - all of which continue to be popular to this day. Unfortunately, time has forgotten one of these masters of mix-ups.
Fighters Megamix was a 1996 entry into the Sega Saturn's fighter library. Intended as an introduction to Virtua Fighter 3, it saw a cast of 32+ fighters evenly split between the Virtua Fighter fighting style, and the style used in Sega's now obscure Fighting Vipers franchise.
The gameplay is much like Virtua Fighter, except faster and a bit more beginner-friendly. In fact, I'd say it has more in common with Fighting Vipers than Virtua Fighter. In keeping with it's 'introduction' to VF3, this game features a Dodge button - adding a new layer of strategy to those with quick fingers.
The biggest difference I noticed between the Virtua Fighter and Fighting Vipers faction involved throws and launch attacks. Mainly, the VF characters tended to have throws that would deal direct damage, but many lacked attacks that would launch opponents skyward. Meanwhile, FV characters had throws that would usually push people away or into walls (so, proximity to a wall was critical) and almost all had attack that would have enemies thrown high in the air, allowing for juggles.
FV characters also had armor that, with heavy damage, would become destroyed and leave them exposed to more damage - however, most matches tend to end with the armor intact regardless of winning or losing, making it more a gimmick than anything. In fact, the only time I saw a lot of armoring being shed was during Survival Mode, where you'd be fighting in excess of 10 people - not normal circumstances for duels.
Aside from Versus Mode (which should be where the bulk of your time will be going), there is the aforementioned Survival Mode and the Arcade Mode. Arcade Mode is fairly easy, even for those who have never really seriously played a Sega fighter. Personally, I only had about 15 minutes of difficulty before I started consistently winning against the computer. Arcade Mode is also where you'll unlock the bulk of the secret characters.
While you start the game with the entire casts of Virtua Fighter 2 and Fighting Vipers unlocked, that's only half the fun. This game is more fondly remembered for it's odd-ball cast of hidden fighters. The unlockable cast is actually quite diverse - you have the obscure-but-reasonable characters like Siba, an Arabic fighter originally planned for Virtua Fighter but cut at the last minute (which is kinda cool to me - getting to play as a character most thought would never see the light of day) and Janet, the female hero of Virtua Cop. Then you have the weirder ones, like the Virtua Fighter Kids versions of Akira and Sarah, as well a Bean & Bark from Sonic The Fighters. Finally you have characters that just make you scratch your head, like the Hornet from Daytona USA and a fighter made entirely out of meat products named, appropriately, Mr. Meat. As hilarious as it is to use the Hornet to run over your opponent, it does make you wonder who came up with the idea...
The graphics of this game are pretty good for the time. They don't rival Tekken 3, but they aren't unbearably bad like many early polygonal fighters either. The animation is actually really smooth - I didn't have a single problem in this area. While it could certainly use some cleaning up, I think most could get used to the look of this game.
The controls are also good - I only had problems with pulling off a few combos that required very precise timing. In fact, I'd say that my main problem with the controls was just something that is kinda a staple in many 3D Fighters - that pretty much, the game will play catch up with your inputs. I'm used to 2D Fighters, and how if I pressed a punch button three times fast, but my character only performed one in that time, my character would only perform one - whereas here, if I press the punch button three times, if I finish pressing it after my character throws one punch, they'll still throw the other two punches. Just something I had to get used to.
The only real problems I had with this game were relatively minor, and mostly dealt with the hidden characters. For example, Bean and Bark both lack throws. Why? They had them in Sonic the Fighters! More over, why would you pick Bean and Bark when you could have used... Sonic and Tails? Or Sonic and Knuckles? Also, the Hornet... as hilarious as he is, he has an EXTREMELY limited moveset. In fact, you only gain access to his full moveset once his armor is completely destroyed, and I'm pretty sure by that point it's far too late. Still, one useless character out of the 32+ available is no big deal.
As one who has always been interested in Virtua Fighter, yet scared off by the sheer depth and amount of practice it would take to get decent, I found Fighters Megamix to be a very good ice-breaker. It's helped introduce me to many of the Virtua Fighter characters, their moves, and the gameplay elements, while also being fairly easy to learn. This is a great game for those who want to learn Virtua Fighter, or those who would like to have a VF experience with friends and not scare them off.
Those looking to pick up this game - you'll have to get it for the Sega Saturn. It has unfortunately not appeared on any other system, not even appearing in the arcades (which could explain its obscurity). A used copy of the disc alone should set you back around $10 - those looking for a complete copy may have to pay around twice that. Personally, I have the Japanese version, which is identical aside from having a cheesy Sentai track for Rent-A-Hero and a 'hot' (depending on your imagination) pic of Honey/Candy which I will supply at the bottom of the page... thus, nixing the need to worry about the Japanese version.
RetroGrade: A. It's got all the mechanics and legacy characters the experts want, yet it's got the user-friendly campaign and colorful, quirky character for new blood (like myself) that want in. It's a great game for everyone, and a must-have for Saturn owners - regardless of your view of 3D Fighters.