First off, "Mugen" is a word of Japanese origin, meaning dream, fantasy, or infinite... M.U.G.E.N is a freeware 2D fighting game engine designed by Elecbyte, released on July 17th, 1999. The program was written in C with the Allegro library. Beta versions  were made for DOS, Linux and Windows, and was distributed through their website. "M.U.G.E.N" is actually an unknown acronym. The creators, Elecbyte, never told what it was. In fact, they admittedly stated that they forgot what it stood for.


Basically, M.U.G.E.N allows users to create their own 2D fighting game, using the core game engine provided. From the characters, to the stages, to the background music, to the life bars & power bars, text font, and even in-game character stories... you can create pretty much anything you want once you learn the programming, and it's not incredibly hard either. If you ever had a dream of creating your own fighting game, M.U.G.E.N is a good "practice run," to say the least.


Creating an actual character yourself is a time-consuming process, as "contributors" or "creators for M.U.G.E.N" actually take the time to rip the sprites, and code it from scratch. Some use the original characters and sprites themselves, others use existing characters/sprites to create other various recognizable characters (AKA palette swap). Then there are the die-hards that actually create their own 2D sprites and animations from scratch!


Some Capcom and SNK characters, coded by the creators, play nearly exactly the way they should from their original games! But characters for M.U.G.E.N aren't limited to Capcom, SNK, or Sammy characters as you can see from the pics. As long as it's a 2D sprite, you can put it into M.U.G.E.N... and there's no limit to how many characters you can put on the game, well, it really depends on the size of the selection screen, which users can also create from scratch.

Unfortunately, many user created characters end up missing moves, missing frames of animation, or generally appear or play glitchy. These below average creations have undoubtedly given M.U.G.E.N a bad name over the years. However, there are a handful of skilled creators that have made characters which are incredibly well done, and actually rival, if not surpass that of real 2D fighting game character designs. Masters of the M.U.G.E.N. program have also created some very impressive alternate versions of characters, as well as some insanely spectacular super moves... check out some clips of actual gameplay footage below.

M.U.G.E.N provides a solid, traditional, and somewhat open ended 2D fighting game engine, very similar to classic 2D fighting games we all know and love. You can actually re-create any classic 2D fighting game any way you want it, putting in characters new and old, or even having many different versions of the same character in the same game. The possibilities are pretty much endless. While the engine is set up primarily for fighting game development, several other game types have actually been created using M.U.G.E.N, including platformers and even shooters.


You can use any image for a background, or an already existing fighting game background. Want to put in one of your favorite fighting game tunes for background music? How about any song ever created... M.U.G.E.N supports MP3, ADX, OGG and MIDI as background music during gameplay, the introduction screen, or the selection screen!


The gameplay engine uses 7 buttons along with the directional keys consisting of the classic layout (three punches, three kicks & taunt). However, characters made for M.U.G.E.N do not necessarily have to use all seven buttons. Specials, super moves, and priority moves included, but don't expect all of their old combos to work... you'll most likely have to create new combos that work for this game engine. M.U.G.E.N characters are also notorious for being over-powered and having infinite combos (infinite jab combos against the wall anyone?)... After seeing some forms of M.U.G.E.N in action, it almost makes Marvel VS Capcom 2 seem like a balanced game.

M.U.G.E.N offers a variety of staple modes. There's Arcade, VS Mode, Team Arcade, Team VS, Team Co-op and even Survival Mode. You can select between 1 on 1 fights, or simultaneous 2 vs 2 fights, which are always action packed. If you're playing alone in 2 vs 2 mode, your ally is controlled by the computer. Both teammates share the same super meter and of course can use super moves at any time during the fight... talk about some crazy combo possibilities!


Kung Fu Man (pictured below) is the first, and only, character created for the engine by its creators, Elecbyte.

Yeah, he's one generic looking dude. As the game engine's development progressed, so did Kung Fu Man, gaining the occasional new move, implementing newly created engine features, and at one point sporting an improved look. His story was never actually fleshed out by Elecbyte themselves, but he has become an icon of sorts for M.U.G.E.N itself.


Legality of M.U.G.E.N

A member of the "M.U.G.E.N Community" contacted me and informed me that the M.U.G.E.N community asked both SNK and Capcom for approval of using their characters in M.U.G.E.N. SNK actually gave permission for their work to be used in M.U.G.E.N specifically, while Capcom gave their generic email response saying it was ok if their work wasn't used for profit. (Thanks to Lee Tuttle for the information)

The previous license agreements for usage of MUGEN from Elecbyte have expired, and it appears that a new license agreement will never be granted. Therefore, any current distribution of MUGEN has not been authorized by Elecbyte and is illegal, although Elecbyte has never taken any legal action; it has simply disappeared without explanation. Many people choose to continue using MUGEN despite the lack of a new license.


Creations such as characters and stages for use with MUGEN are not a part of Elecbyte's license, but only the software itself is. So it is up to each individual to decide whether or not to violate Elecbyte's license by using MUGEN. Elecbyte itself has not made a public statement since 2003 when they stated that the project had "hit a snag". That it was, in the truth, an excuse to have disappeared, leaving the users and creators without any alternative. ~Source: Wikipedia
 Frank's take on M.U.G.E.N

It was around 2002-2003 when I first heard of M.U.G.E.N. and started messing around with the program. At the time, there was a very limited selection of websites with downloadable content for M.U.G.E.N. Backgrounds from many different classic 2D fighting games were usually downloadable in packs, while characters were usually downloaded separately. I always tested out the characters to see if they were "good enough" to be in my game (weren't missing any important moves or animations). To my surprise, some of them had very accurate movelists and played like they should! However, in those days, there were no Street Fighter III or Marvel VS Capcom 2 sprites in existence (on the internet), so my options were limited.

I searched high and low for new user-created characters, most of which were Capcom, SNK and Marvel characters. If they weren't, they were either ugly user created sprites with bad animation, Dragonball Z characters, 8-bit Nintendo characters, or joke characters... all of which I wasn't interested in for my project. The game I ultimately wanted to create was "Capcom VS SNK VS Marvel"... and I had fun making it. I had upwards of 90-100 characters in my game. Every character had their own background and theme music (most of which was authentic from their original games).

I still remember fighting against Dan in my game... his background was his stage from SFA3, with his theme music intact (mp3 quality)!  Sometimes, I had to choose between different versions of stages & BGM's for a single character in my game, for example I could've used Dan's SFA2 stage with his SFA2 theme music instead. My awesome collection of BGM's from Capcom & SNK games really came in handy (thanks Napster!)  Along with all the mp3s, backgrounds, and M.U.G.E.N compatible characters I had collected; I eventually DELETED my entire M.U.G.E.N folder (but I did save the data)... I'd estimate it was sometime in 2004. 

I had to conserve some space on my hard drive at the time and on top of that, I simply got bored with it. It was fun playing the 2 vs 2 team mode all by myself and all, and my B.B. Hood / MOTW Terry Bogard team was nearly unstoppable, but there came a point where I had to ask myself... "What the hell am I doing? Why am I putting so much time into a game that won't matter at all if I'm good at it? Shouldn't I be practicing my combos in a REAL fighting game?"

The characters that people were making just started to get ridiculous... I felt like M.U.G.E.N had almost become an "insult" to fighting games. I often wondered (wonder) if the original Capcom / SNK artists may have been offended by someone ripping off their original ideas and artworks, and associating them with something such as this:


See what I mean? Just the fact that M.U.G.E.N sprites come in ALL shapes and sizes, and all have the potential to be thrown into the same game, somewhat turns me off of the whole thing. There are, however, some more "serious" themed M.U.G.E.N games out there, and I have to give the creators credit for their efforts and their contribution to the continued hype and love for 2D fighting games. The fact that this sort of "tool" exists in the first place is pretty cool.... Don't get me wrong.

Okay, so it's pretty funny, I guess.... Bad animation and all. 

In closing, if you haven't checked out M.U.G.E.N and tried your hand at creating your own 2D fighter from the ground up, then give it a go. You'll have a blast once you learn how to use it and it's fairly easy! Or if you're too lazy, you can always download someone else's creation and try it out. If you started your own M.U.G.E.N now, you'll surely have many more characters at your disposal than I did at the time... but a word of advice, "the road" to creating your fighting game may very well be much more enjoyable than actually playing it.

 These days, M.U.G.E.N is something that you can whip out in front of some oblivious friends for some decent laughs, and possibly some oohs & aahs if you have an impressive character selection screen. The fact is, most games that come out of M.U.G.E.N just don't have that "quality feel" that you'll get from a pro fighting game engine. There is potential for the game engine to be developed further, and it has... but I suppose that M.U.G.E.N is a different version than the one I've been referring to.

At the end of the day, of course, M.U.G.E.N shouldn't be taken very seriously.... M.U.G.E.N is sort of like The Matrix... M.U.G.E.N looks like a fighting game... M.U.G.E.N feels like a fighting game... but it's not actually a fighting game engine, contrary to what any obsessed M.U.G.E.N fan may tell you. It's a user created, code based, figment of our wild imaginations... kinda like The Matrix. ~TFG Webmaster