SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos
2D fighting games are dead, right? At least that was the general consensus a few years ago, before Capcom, SNK and Sammy unleashed a veritable flood of sprite-based beat-em-ups on the market. Obviously, that was a premature assessment, because 2D brawlers are not only not dead, but happily flourishing alongside their more “advanced” 3D cousins. Enter SNK’s take on the whole Capcom vs. SNK issue — the aptly titled, SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos (SNK gets top billing – take that Capcom!). Originally seen in the arcades a few years back, SVC Chaos is a highly playable SNK-style brawler that will certainly appease fans of the genre, even despite some dated visuals, an overall weak soundtrack and a few other niggles.
Fighting game buffs, especially those familiar with SNK’s previous efforts, will be instantly at home with the gameplay elements found in SVC Chaos. In traditional SNK style, attacks are mapped to four buttons and each character has several Special attacks, Super Specials and one mega-powerful Exceed move. Similar to the C-Groove in Capcom vs. SNK 2, SVC features a three-tiered Power Meter which gradually builds up as you attack your opponent and block incoming blows. When the Power Meter tops off at level three, you are able to unleash unlimited Super Specials for a brief period of time. Also, when your life gauge reaches 50 percent or less, you are allowed to pull off your highly destructive Exceed attack – a one time shot that can take off half of your opponent’s health.
The system works very well (then again, C was always my favorite Groove from Capcom vs. SNK…) because it’s fairly easy to learn for beginners, yet takes quite some time to master for 2D fighting veterans. There are even some more advanced techniques, like Guard Cancel Attacks (counterattacks), Big Jump Front Steps (mini hops that throw off your opponent’s timing) and Fallbreakers (quick recoveries) that help give SVC Chaos additional depth. Capcom loyalists may find the timing and priorities looser than they are used to, but these differences don’t make the game bad, just different.
SVC’s lineup consists of 34 characters from both Capcom and SNK (split evenly at 17 from each) and features most of the usual suspects like Ken, Ryu, Terry, Iori, Bison, Mai, Chun-Li and Ryo. The game even includes some characters, like Mega Man Zero, Mars People (from Metal Slug), Demetri (Darkstalkers), Shiki (Samurai Spirits) and Tessa (Red Earth, betcha haven’t heard of that one), that are either brand new to the fighting genre or have been resurrected from fairly old games. The balance between the game’s characters is acceptable, but not as finely tuned as what we saw with Capcom vs. SNK 2. Pugilists like Mr. Karate and Demetri are much too strong when compared to the rest of the cast, and Mega Man Zero has some cheesy infinite combos that can be abused by those skilled enough to pull them off.
The number of game modes in SVC is a bit paltry when compared to other fighting games out there, but all the basics are adequately covered. Arcade, Versus, Practice and Survival modes are all featured, as well as a decent gallery mode to view artwork unlocked via Survival. There is even a Color Edit option just like in Capcom vs. SNK 2 that allows you to create slick, personalized versions of each of the characters in the game. The most notable mode in SVC is the Xbox Live multiplayer, which allows you to play online with thousands of hardcore gamers across the globe. One small nitpick with the Xbox Live functionality, though, is the inability to rematch your opponent after each contest. You have to go back into a lobby and send another invitation after every match – a highly annoying and needlessly time-consuming affair. The good news is the lag is kept to a minimum, with only a slight, split second delay affecting your online battles.
The arcade version of SVC Chaos was run on SNK’s older King of Fighters arcade board, so this Xbox port is decidedly lacking in the visual department. Animations look a bit choppy, shading is simplistic and colors lack the vibrancy we’ve come to expect from more recent 2D fighters. The characters are displayed at a slightly higher resolution than they were in the arcade version (though you can downgrade the visuals to make them arcade perfect in the options menu), but they still look very dated, especially when compared to Guilty Gear X2. Backgrounds are hand drawn, which is a quaint touch, but the small amount of animation they feature is generally irregular and unappealing. Overall, the game doesn’t look like much, though it’s certainly bearable, and the solid gameplay largely makes up for the lack of visual flair.
SVC’s audio presentation is a mixed bag. Nondescript, artificial-sounding rock tunes make up the entirety of the game’s soundtrack and each of the songs actually sounds like it could have been ripped from a SNES title. The characters’ voices are cleanly delivered, though, and the smacks and thuds of fists and feet striking flesh sound like they were taken from the movie Fight Club (which is to say, they sound painfully realistic). The announcer has been changed from the arcade version of the game, which is a shame because many of his more humorously pronounced lines have been removed, but that’s just personal preference.
If you are a 2D fighting game connoisseur, SVC Chaos will be right up your alley. Behind the poor soundtrack, outdated visuals and general lack of presentation is a beat-em-up with rock-solid gameplay mechanics and ample multiplayer appeal. It’s not Guilty Gear X2, Capcom vs. SNK 2 or Street Fighter III, but, then again, those are some of the best 2D fighters currently on the market. True fans of the genre, especially fans of SNK’s past fighting efforts, will likely find enough here to warrant a purchase, but those who still aren’t sold on the whole 2D fighting thing will still be left wondering what all the fuss is about.