Marvel vs. Capcom 2
Back in the summer of 2000, when the Sega Dreamcast was still alive and kicking, the game that I played more than any other was Marvel vs. Capcom 2. More than two years later, MvC2 still stands as my favorite 2-D fighting game and now Playstation 2 owners get a chance to experience one of the fastest, most chaotic, and downright fun fighting games out on the market.
Even though there is some unwritten rule that says remakes and ports should receive a lower score than the original, I'm still going to honor Marvel vs. Capcom 2 with a trophy. The PS2's installed base is about ten times greater than that of the Dreamcast, so there are millions and millions of gamers who missed out on MvC2 before that will be enjoying the game for the first time. If you already have MvC2 on the DC, then the PS2 version doesn't have anything new to offer you. But, if you are one of the millions of people who ignored the Dreamcast in favor of Sony's black box, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is definitely worth checking out.
Fans of the recently released Capcom vs. SNK 2 should enter Marvel vs. Capcom 2 with an open mind. CvS2 is a pure 2-D fighter without too many bells and whistles while MvC2 is notorious for 100+ hit combos, huge special effects, and an overall high level of on-screen craziness. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 pits characters from the Marvel universe against characters from all things Capcom plus a handful of original characters. The fights themselves are 3 vs. 3 and you are allowed to switch characters at any time and even call your teammates in to help you for double and even triple team attacks.
The thing that really sets MvC2 apart from all of the other fighters is the hyper combos. Each character has several different hyper combos that can deal out combos that can easily reach 100+ hits. On the bottom of the screen there is a Hyper Combo Gauge for each team that fills up whenever a move is performed. If you are patient, you can fill up your gauge to level five and unleash several hyper combos at once. Level one allows one character to do a hyper combo. Level two allows two characters to perform their hyper combos at the same time. Level three allows all three characters to perform their hyper combo simultaneously. You can also perform delayed hyper combos where each member of your team performs their hyper combo one after the other to rack up even greater hit counts.
During a match, you can also call your teammates to help you. When you first pick your characters, you can determine what type of assist each one will offer you. There are projectile attacks, anti-air, dash, throw, and many others. Some characters can also run in and heal your character. Ryu throws fireballs, Wolverine slashes with his claws, Spiderman ties up the opponent with webbing, and Jill from RE comes in and heals your character with a green herb.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 has deceptively simple controls, but don't assume this game is merely a button masher. Novice players will find the game extremely easy to pick up and play because mashing buttons does usually end up with a spectacular result. In the hands of an experience player, however, MvC2 is a work of art. Capcom did away with the traditional six-button control setup in favor of a simpler four. Heavy and light punches and kicks are all that you have at your disposal now. The shoulder buttons call in your partners to perform their assist. The controls sound simple, but pit a button masher against an experienced player and the results will always favor the experienced player. It is easy to bust out huge moves with any of the characters, but those willing to invest the time to really learn the intricacies of the fighting engine will be handsomely rewarded.
Now onto the real draw of Marvel vs. Capcom 2: the characters. There are 56 different characters in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and all of them look great. Marvel favorites like Spiderman, Captain America, most of the X-Men, and others are available. Classic Capcom franchises are also well represented by Mega Man, Jill from Resident Evil, Tron Bonne, and several characters from the Street Fighter universe.
One complaint I have is that the characters aren't very balanced. Characters such as Omega Red, Spiral, and Venom can only be considered cheap. The AI takes advantage of these characters' extra long reach or ability to grab and throw you pretty much at will every chance it gets. Other characters, especially Roll, are at a distinct disadvantage due to their size. On top of all of that, some characters simply pack a bigger punch than others and can turn a match around with just a couple of fireballs or laser blasts. This seems like a minor complaint, but it really whittles the 56 characters down to a smaller group of 45 or so that are fun to fight with or against.
When you first start playing MvsC2, only 24 characters are unlocked. The way you unlock the other 32 is by playing the single player modes and earning points that you use to buy new characters, levels, character artwork and new character colors. It takes a long time to unlock everything so this game can, and probably will, keep you entertained for quite a while. One thing I noticed is that each time you enter the Secret Factor area from the main menu, there will be different items available at different prices each time. If you are going to purchase Cammy, for example, it is possible to enter and exit the Secret Factor mode several times until you find a lower price. I bought my first six or seven characters before I realized this and wasted a ton of points that could have been spent elsewhere. Oh well, the game is fun enough to keep me coming back until I unlock everything.
The graphics are simply amazing. The game uses 3-D backgrounds behind the traditional 2-D sprite based characters. The result is beautiful and is a refreshing change from what 2-D fighters typically offer. The animation of the characters is also spectacular. Movement has never looked so smooth and seamless, and special moves are impressive to watch. The graphics haven't been improved at all from the Dreamcast version, but the game already looked pretty darn good back then and still holds up very well today.
The sound in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 has been the subject of much debate over the last two years. The sound effects and voice samples when a character performs a special move all sound great, but the music isn't quite what you'd expect from a fighting game. Of course, that is what everyone else says. Personally, I love the jazzy, lounge lizard, upbeat music. Where is it written that all fighting games have to feature guitar heavy techno beats? I applaud Capcom for choosing to be different instead of following the same path that they themselves had forged. Of course, the music could have been better if they had included some themes from classic Capcom games, but they probably left that out because it would make the game seem biased against Marvel since there aren't any easily recognizable Marvel theme songs-aside from Spiderman. Overall, the sound in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is great. Some people will still be puzzled by the music, but after a while you get used to it and wouldn't want it any other way.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 isn't like any other fighting game on the planet. Because of its fast and chaotic gameplay and easy to learn controls, it will probably appeal to the mainstream gamer much more than other 2-D fighters. I'm not saying that Capcom vs. SNK 2 isn't a great game, because it is, but Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is flat out more fun to play and manages to appeal to just about everyone. MvsC2 offers a surprising amount of strategy when you consider that you can tag in and out at any time, call for an assist at any time, and bust out hyper combos almost at will. Despite it's goofy appearance and button masher first impressions, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 offers a lot of depth and stands as one of the best 2-D fighting games available.
With the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on PS2 and Xbox, I am finally ready to let go of the Dreamcast. The only big name titles that haven't been ported yet are the Power Stone series and Seaman, but every other A+ title has already either been ported or a sequel has been released on either the Xbox, PS2, or GC. With Soul Calibur 2 looming on the horizon, the Dreamcast can finally rest in peace. You were underrated and under appreciated, but there were a few million of us around the world who loved you. So long, old friend.
Eric Qualls (12/22/2002)