Marvel VS Capcom 2
I have a love/hate relationship with this game. I adore the premise: two completely different universes coming together for the sole purpose of beating the Hell out of each other. It’s a bold idea, and few fighting games can pull off a crossover as neatly as this title has. On the other hand, few fighting games can be so ridiculously broken and unbalanced as this. While my Inner Marvel/Capcom Fan is grinning with childish delight, my Inner Obsessive Fighting Game Fanatic is tearing its hair out like a deranged monkey. Not to mention that ever-lingering buyer’s remorse (or sheer incredulity) that comes with shelling out an obscene amount of cash for an ancient PS2 game. I don’t feel bad about tracking down a copy of this. Just…underwhelmed. Marvel VS Capcom 2 might be one of the most fast-paced and chaotic brawlers ever conceived, but it’s nowhere near perfect.
The problems start with the roster. 56 playable fighters, many of which have to be unlocked via multiple playthroughs. That’s an impressive amount, one that even rivals the monstrous lineup of the King of Fighters series. All of the usual warriors are present and accounted for; you’ve got Ryu, Ken, and Chun Li leading up the Capcom faction, whereas characters like Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Storm head the Marvel heroes. It’s the inclusion of the more unorthodox characters that make things interesting. People like Jill Valentine, Tron Bonne, and Strider come to mind. Did anyone actually know about Captain Commando before this game? Doubtful. While versatility is a good thing, you’ve got to wonder about some of the selections. Why does Servbot get its own separate character? Or a slightly altered version of Wolverine, for that matter. Couldn’t they have switched them up for fighters like Sagat or Nightcrawler? You know, the ones that fans actually care about?
At least the sheer variety makes up for it. Aside from the usual array of punches, kicks, and throws, each character can use his or her signature moves. Stuff like Hadokens and Sonic Booms come standard, even if there are a few major changes to them. Since when can Guile’s Flash Kick automatically fire an aerial Sonic Boom? How can Ken pull off a Shoryuken while in the middle of his jumping animation? It can be unusual if you’re used to playing a classic character in a particular way. Capcom veterans will get nostalgia pangs when they hold down a button and watch Mega Man start charging up. Or Captain America’s insane shield-throwing skills, for that matter. Each character’s moveset is tailored to his or her capabilities; Doctor Doom can hold his own by dishing out long-range projectiles, while fighters Zangief and Hulk have to deal with slow, close-attacks with boosted defenses. The same go for their supermoves, which range from things like Cyclops’s screen-filling Optic Blast to Colossus’s nigh invincibility. The trick is learning a character’s strengths and weaknesses and using them to the fullest extent.
“While some might take on the challenge of crafting a diverse lineup, it’s far too easy to choose and exploit all of the broken characters”It’s such character design, however, that hinders the game. Since the combat revolves around three-on-three tag team matches, the real strategy involves building the most effective team you possibly can. . Why would you ever choose someone like Rogue, when you’ve got projectile-slinging beasts like Cable or Iron Man to use? Not to mention Sabretooth, who is quite possibly the least useful fighter ever conceived. Whoever came up with the roster apparently didn’t care much for keeping things balanced. Instead, the game focuses more on performing combos by mashing the attack buttons, summoning your teammates for some temporary assistance, or charging up enough of the onscreen energy meter to dish out a supermove. It might be fast, frantic, and easy to pick up, but gamers looking for something deep might be disappointed.
That’s not to say that Marvel VS Capcom 2 is mindless. It might be geared to an audience beyond the legions of obsessive 2D fighting enthusiasts, but there’s still just enough technical stuff to make things interesting. Having your secondary characters as backups can work wonders when it comes to tactical gameplay. Can’t keep your victim still long enough to connect your perfect combo? See if Spidey’s webbing can slow him down. Need to regain some health? Get treated by Amingo or anyone else with a healing assist move. Such teamwork also extends to the supermoves; depending on how much energy you’ve charged up, all three of your characters can dish out their ultimate attacks at the same time. Nothing can come close to the devastation of a three-way barrage of your teams’ strongest moves. The defensive options, on the other hand, are a bit less flashy. Tactical rolling, super jumping, and dashing come straight out of the Street Fighter games. The problem is that these features lack consistency; you might end up dashing backward further you intended, or jumping too high and utterly miss the setup for your intended combo. The same goes with the blocking mechanics, which can inexplicably send your attacker flying backward to the other side of the screen. Maybe this was all intended to keep the fights intense, but it seems awkward when compared with more conventional fighters.
It’s fun, though. Given the sheer amount of opponents and potential team combinations, each run through the Arcade Mode seems different every time. Few fighting games can pull that off. The problem is that there isn’t enough variety in the rest of the game. Oh sure, you’ve got the obligatory Training Mode to practice all of your intricate little strategies. The Versus Mode is perfect for gameplay session with your friends…But that’s it. The Score Attack feature seems kind of tacked on, especially since you can always try to beat your high score in the Arcade. Instead, you’ll probably spend a good portion of your time in the Secret Factor menu, which lets you shop for the game’s various extras. For all the time you spend playing, you’ll collect bonus points which can be used to purchase/unlock new characters, stages, color swaps, and art galleries. It’s a good way to keep you playing, especially sheer amount and price of unlockables there are. The Secret Factor is flawed, however. Not everything is displayed at the same time, nor are identical items priced the same upon multiple visits. That can be really frustrating, especially when you’re after a particular character. Take Cammy, for example. One visit to the shop might display her at two thousand points, whereas she might cost another thousand when you come back. Or two hundred less when you come again. Or maybe she might not be there at all, leaving you with nothing but another color swap or something equally mundane. While purchasing extras might be a great way to boost the game’s longevity, this kind of inconsistency makes the process a tedious venture.
The same can be said for the graphical quality of the game itself. It doesn’t look horrendous – some of the sprites are quite impressive, given their age – but it’s an incredibly mixed bag. Ryu, Ken, and the rest of the Street Fighter crew look like they were yanked right out of the Alpha games, while the animations involved in the projectiles (Cable’s Hyper Viper and IceMan’s Arctic Attack come to mind) are as visually stunning as they are lethal. There are a lot of other little details that only the fans will recognize, like Mega Man’s classic death animation or Captain Commando summoning the rest of the cast from his game. Hearing Jill proudly proclaim, “I’m a member of S.T.A.R.S!“ ought to send Resident Evil veterans reeling from nostalgia. Other characters weren’t so lucky; Roll and Servbot look like pixilated dwarves, and the final boss looks like a giant, poorly-rendered sketch of a red Kool-Aid monster. At least the stages look pretty cool; a factory full of turning cogs, a desert landscape, and a bustling village are among the few backgrounds. It’s a shame that the music doesn’t match up with them, though. I have nothing against cheesy jazz/pop tracks, but there ought to have been more variety. I still can’t get “Gonna take you for a ride!” out of my head.
Marvel VS Capcom 2 has a lot of things going for it. Its cast is huge, and there’s tons of variety when it comes to playing styles. Few fighting games have utilized the tag-team tactical gameplay formula as well as this has. It’s very easy to pick up, and it has just enough technical features to keep fighting game fans interested. The Arcade Mode is actually fun and refreshing to play through, and your efforts are rewarded with tons of unlockables. The sheer amount of fan service is staggering. But despite all of its strengths, the game is dragged down by its flaws. Balance and consistency are thrown out the window; many of the characters are either ridiculously overpowered or utterly useless, and the combat seems frantic and unpolished. That can be unappealing, especially to those who have played far better crafted PS2 fighters. It’s not a perfect game by any means. Overrated, really. But that won’t stop it from being one of the most entertaining fighters out there.