Marvel vs. Capcom 2 Review
It's been almost ten years since Capcom released Marvel vs. Capcom 2, one of its most ambitious fighting games, and in those years it's become clear that no game before or since was quite like it. With a sprawling roster of 56 characters and a focus on silliness and fun over any serious attempt to make the game remotely balanced, MvC2 could have easily been a failure but its pure charm and depth have kept it going this long. This week, Capcom is releasing a downloadable version of it on the 360 and PS3, and if you're fine with some old-school 2D graphics and have fifteen bucks to spare, then this is a must-have.
MvC2 is technically the fourth in Capcom's series of crossover fighting games that started with X-Men vs. Street Fighter and eventually branched into a huge number of games and comics with this fourth title. Everything from the classics like Ryu, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Guile, and more are here, with strange, new characters like Son-Son and Roll. There's a little bit from several classic franchises and just enough crazy stuff to keep gamers guessing when it comes to the character selection screen.
Actually, that's probably one of my first gripes: this is an enhanced port of the Dreamcast version of MvC2, and while the in-game action isn't bad - the 3D backgrounds are drawn in sharp 720p detail and the widescreen support works just fine without fiddling with game balance - just looking at all those characters on the select screen is a little rough. There are so many of them, and the definition in the game's interface is so low, it's hard to tell which fighter is which. And yeah, some of the annoyances from the original are all here - the select screen's looping "Take you for a ride" song is back - it'll have you giggling and singing along with it if you listen to it for too long. (Sounds like a good thing at first, but eventually you'd be taken away in a straightjacket.) Also, those horrible-looking loading screens and character portraits are all here in their original low-def style. The plus side to all this is that Capcom put in the effort where it's needed most, and that really isn't in the interface - it's in the online play and in the game's many arenas.
Once you get into a fight, the presentation and the fruit of Capcom's efforts with this port are shown off much better. The mid-fight interface has been redone and while the characters don't look anything even remotely like 720p quality, Capcom did include some filter features to smooth it out if you like. But I recommend against using them, as I felt it just pulled away from the old-school fighting experience. And once you get in the ring with your favorite characters, you'll forget all about widescreens, 720p, and what console you're playing it on. This is pure fun, beamed straight into your face direct from Capcom's heyday.
Your team is made up of three characters, and you can swap between them at almost anytime or even call in one of your teammates to take a potshot at your opponent. Super-high jumps keep people guessing and a simple combo system (to start - it gets way more complicated at higher levels of play) allows you to put together fun little strings of attacks that don't do huge damage but still wind up being a blast. And yes, there are some hugely overpowered characters here that can string together supermoves and put together mind-melting combos that were never intended by the developers, but pulling them off is extremely difficult.
And that's probably what saves MvC2, because while it's a clearly broken game from the balance perspective, most people won't even get near its limit. At a mid-range level where you've learned how to put together great combos and use tag-team hits and super attacks with skill, that's where this game shines, and from what I've played online, that seems to be where most people are sitting now. Admittedly, it is kind of fun to just get totally stomped by some expert that's been practicing on his Dreamcast for the last five years, but I found these players to be few and far between so far. And yes, MvC2 includes the same online fighting engine seen in Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, so you can fully expect to get a solid online experience with very little in the way of noticeable lag. The very top-end players can obviously see a big difference, but for the rest of us, it's perfectly fine.
The single player mode in MvC2 is pretty basic: you put together your team of three fighters and then fight opposing teams through seven fights, then take on the three-stage boss named Abyss. That's pretty much it - there's a practice mode, time trial through the single player, and a bit more, but don't expect much. Of course, versus and online play is where this game's at, and that's where the depth is. It's not just in the "quarter mode" from SSF2T HD Remix that brings back the old arcade days, and it's not necessarily the online rankings and matchmaking that do a pretty damn good job of finding a player of decent skill for you to fight - it's in the multitude of attacks, the strange character combos, the huge number of ways to surprise your opponent and be unpredictable. Fighting game fans have been going at this for quite a while now, and they still love it. You will too.
While recent fighting game releases promise unparalleled HD graphics (both the 2D and 3D ones) and supremely balanced or deep attack and combo systems, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 throws dozens of characters and tons of action at you in an over-the-top way that no one has really been able to outdo. It'd be a silly waste of your time, but the depth here can take you months and even years to dig into, and you'll be having a great time all the way. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is a true classic in the realm of fighting games, and Capcom has put together a faithful, fun port at a reasonable $15 price point, and has included just enough modern features to make you feel satisfied - even if you already own an older copy.