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How the MUGEN community built the ultimate fighting game crossover

Enlarge / Admit it, you’ve always wondered if Goku could beat Ronald McDonald in a fight. (credit: Elecbyte)

The question, “Who would win in a fight?” is the root of many fierce debates throughout the history of pop culture. The notion of pitting characters from different properties and different media against one another is exciting to discuss. And when it comes to letting fans live out these arguments, few are better outlets than fighting games.

Even within a genre known for character-merging crossovers, there’s one two-decade-old game that reigns supreme when it comes to pitting a wide variety of characters against one another. That program is MUGEN, derived from the Japanese word for “infinite,” which is an appropriate name for a program that provides near limitless potential for players to create new fighting games and characters.

MUGEN began life just before the turn of the century as a PC-based side-scrolling shoot-’em-up title, created by a small company called Elecbyte. The team was originally experimenting with creating an engine to handle the rigors of so-called shmup games but found that it just wasn’t living up to what they had hoped to create. Taking inspiration from a PC Korean Street Fighter 2 hack known as SFIBM, Elecbyte decided to change course from a shooter to a 2D fighting game engine.

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