Game of the Month: November 2016
Marvel Vs. Capcom 2: Multi Format
There are some videogames that instantly let you know that they will one day be regarded as a classic. From the moment you first open up the box and take out the tape or cartridge, Floppy or Disc something just feels right. In some ways and at certain times it can almost replicate that feeling you probably had as a child on Christmas morning right before you ripped the paper off of the present. A sense of ’something wonderful is about to happen’ then realised mere moments later when that one thing you asked for and wished for and ultimately hoped for was now yours.
With a feeling that strong it will probably always feel special to you but here’s the thing, there’s also games that are ever so slightly even more special than that. For the month of November in the year 2016 it’s time for RGG to turn the spotlight onto a videogame that was always going to be great from the moment you first heard about it. A game so immense that it covered not just multiple universes but also brands, formats and media. It’s time for Marvel Vs. Capcom 2: New Age Of Heroes to stand up and take a bow!
Now to begin with, the first thing to note is that whilst the game has the number two in it’s title it is in fact the fourth instalment in the series, a series that now stands at seven games in total. The first game was of course the Arcade, Playstation and Sega Saturn title called ‘X-Men vs Street Fighter’, released first in the arcades in 1996. One year later Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter was released on 3 formats then a year after that the first game carrying the Marvel vs. Capcom logo sub titled ‘Clash Of Super Heroes’ was unleashed into the world.
After a near two year break the series came back in magnificent style in the form of the game you can see in the screenshots and video around these words.
Initially an Arcade game it was another in the now long line of fighting games from a company completely mastering the genre, Capcom. Once again a fusion of fighters drawn from numerous Capcom games and the long list of spectacular Marvel Comic Book franchise world. In true evolution of a genre style though this was not just a copy and paste of what came before, sure on the surface it looked similar, the reality though was Capcom’s tinkering and overhauling of something that was already brilliant into something really rather special.
With 2D sprites for the main characters and backgrounds and visual effects rendered in 3D this became Capcom’s very first 2.5D fighting game from the traditional standpoint of a one on one game. The graphics detail level was incredibly high giving the entire product a real comic book vibe. With stunning animation and lightning speed this truly felt like a next generation fighter, which of course it was. As the 32-Bit and 64-Bit home consoles were now on their way out it made sense for this to be taken onto the newest kid on the hardware block, the Sega Dreamcast. A short time after that and with two other 128-bit consoles out and doing well it was also ported over to the Playstation 2 and the original Microsoft Xbox.
An enormous roster of 56 characters were available to fight as, however not all at the start, some would need to be unlocked. In the arcade version this was achieved via the ‘experience system’ which unlocks hidden characters after a certain number of experience points are earned during fights. For the home consoles these hidden characters were locked away behind a ‘Secret Factor’ menu where you earned the points to obtain these new fighters through general all modes play.
In real terms what this meant was that in the arcade halls you had to wait until tons of people had played the game and pumped in loads of money whilst at home you just had to spend time playing the game. Another huge difference between the arcade original and the home console ports was that in Japan the Sega Dreamcast owners could fight online, albeit it in a limited manner. When the Xbox version was in development Capcom promised Microsoft that this would be made available for Xbox Live, however upon release this feature was absent leading to much disappointment. In all honesty it would take until the PS3 and Xbox 360 digital re-release for folks to see the magic of the game in an online manner.
Now clearly the main selling point of this game was it’s impressive roster of playable fighters, From the Capcom side of things many of the coolest Street Fighter characters such as M. Bison, Ryu, Chun-Li & Guile were present among others. The Darkstalkers crew were also very well represented with B.B. Hood, Felicia and the always awesome Morrigan Aensland in attendance. Strider, Mega Man and Tron Bonne and Servbot were available and of course no game would be complete without Captain Commando. The Marvel team were not missing many heavyweights either with household names such as Spider-man, Hulk, Iron Man, war Machine and Thanos on the selection screen alongside famous X-Men characters such as Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Colossus and their arch nemesis Magneto! With 56 fighters it was impossible to not find someone you loved.
Gameplay consisted of selecting 3 fighters to form your ‘team’ these would then go head to head with either your opponent’s selections of those made by the arcade or consoles A.I. The object of the round was to use your picks of 3 characters to remove the health from all 3 members of the opposing party or at least more than they took from you by the time the countdown timer hit 0. With the implementation of a much more user friendly to use and at the same time more complex in it’s design tagging system, you could freely bring in any of your group at the press of a button. To begin with this could all feel a little bit overwhelming, especially for new people coming to the genre but a bit of practice ultimately led to amazingly fluid multiple character hit combos. By executing special moves and then tagging in another fighter you could, after time, bounce your opponents all over the place.
With unique special moves for every single character, selecting a well balanced team was essential in order to be able to execute devastating attacks whilst absorbing damage through a naturally strong fighter. As well as standard and special moves each fighter could also be setup to provide assistance when called upon including supporting with health regeneration or projectile attacks. The three fighter tagging system also meant that in all possibility, if done correctly the screen could have 6 fighters, each doing something on screen at once. Awesome! Whilst engaging in combat a super meter would also build which could lead to several ways of executing either your own super move, a support super move or better still… a 3 person super combo special attack.
Of course no game is ever truly perfect and Marvel Vs Capcom 2 does have a few stumbling blocks. It’s musical score is very Jazz inspired and was universally met with scorn with many of the leading publications of the time tearing it apart for feeling completely out of sync with a game of this genre. The lack of online modes absolutely helped to conspire against the Xbox version although the game itself is exceptional. A lack of character specific endings was also another reason cited as being a missed opportunity, this of course meant that no matter who you finish with you will only ever see one ending sequence.
Whilst important and genuine reasons to mark against it, it’s the gameplay that’s the most important and in this respect MVC 2 nailed it! It’s tight control system, it’s gigantic roster of fighters, it’s presentation, it’s speed and the fact you can lose yourself in so many famous characters is what made it so special back in 2000 and why it’s only ever getting better with age.
From a home console point of view the Dreamcast version was a huge step up in graphical and gameplay terms against every other system around it and became an essential game to own for the format. Whilst other games of the genre exist on the same format, MVC 2 just feels cooler to play. Unfortunately after it’s release Capcom lost the Marvel license so it took 8 years from the second home console launch on PS2 and Xbox before the next game in the series was released but that’s another game for another time.
Looking back on this fighting game from the perspective of what it was like to play on its initial release is to see clearly how great Capcom were at making fighting games. Whilst it’s true to say that graphics and sound and online play have come on leaps and bounds since 2000 the key factor of gameplay was always spot on with this one. In all truth it now feels even more impressive in 2016 than it did back at the start of the millennium.
That’s how you know this is one of the special games, age hasn’t dulled it, it’s reinforced how much ahead of the competition it was. Several games had done crossovers, several games had done tagging systems and several games have looked this good… but not all at once and not with 56 of the coolest fighters on the nicest background levels of not just that era but of any era. You may not think that Spider-man and Mega Man could work together in a videogame, but trust us they can, they have… Your looking at it!
Do yourself a favour and let Capcom ‘take you for a ride’ today