Due to the overwhelming popularity of its Smash Bros. series, a lot of people give Nintendo credit for pioneering the idea of a fighting game bringing together a company's mascots in the name of face-punching.
Sega fans, though, will know that Smash Bros. was just the latest in a long line of such titles. One that includes the amazing Fighters Megamix.
While Smash Bros. was released in 1999, Fighters Megamix was first released on the Sega Saturn in Japan in 1996. And while they're not quite the same game - SB being a more "open" style of game for multiple players while FM was a more traditional fighter - I'd say given they still fall within the same overall genre and are built largely around the same conceit, it's close enough.
Developed by the company's famous AM2 team (Out Run, Virtua Fighter), it featured a stellar cast of Sega heroes, some obvious inclusions in a fighting game, others...less so.
As it was developed by the Virtua Fighter team, it looks and plays quite similar to the pioneering 3D fighting series. It even, at first glance, appears to be a Virtua Fighter game, as half the game's initial roster is made up of characters from Virtua Fighter 2. The other half hailed from Sega's sadly-forgotten other fighting game series, Fighting Vipers.
Where things get awesome is in the game's massive roster of secret, unlockable characters. To stop it from being simply labelled Virtua Fighter X Fighting Vipers, the game included a dozen "special" characters, unlocked after beating the game's singleplayer modes (and in some cases entering special moves/cheat codes).
While some of these are improved versions of existing characters, others are a little crazy. You've got a couple of characters from a Sonic fighting game (which is such a great story in itself we'll get to another day). There's Janet, from Virtua Cop 2. There's a fighting Mexican bean, complete with sombrero, built especially just to be a secret character in this game.
Best of all, though, are two characters very close to the AM2 team's heart. One is called "Hornet", and is...one of the cars from Daytona USA. Not a transforming humanoid version. Just the car, standing up on its rear wheels, punching and kicking with its tyres. The other is a palm tree, which is the logo of the developer. Punching and kicking with its...palm leaves.
Which all sounds crazy, and it was, but what's important to remember is that this was also a great fighting game. It hit around the time the Virtua Fighter series was probably at its peak, and the fact it included such a bumper roster of fighters only made it all the more awesome.
Sadly, the game isn't available on the Virtual Console (perhaps because of licensing issues?), but it did receive a global release in 1997, so if you want to check it out you can grab copies on eBay for under $50.