2D fighting games were all the rage during the 90’s. Kings of the arcade Capcom brought us Street Fighter II in 1991 and it was not long until every man and his dog was releasing a clone of this iconic title. Some built on its brilliance while others were down right awful but one developer went toe to toe with Capcom. SNK had also seen great success in the arcades and their powerful Neo Geo hardware had brought arcade gaming to the home for the first time. The flagship titles of Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting were more than Street Fighter II clones and there was a great rivalry between both fans.
As the decade moved on both Capcom and SNK juggled several 2D fighting franchises. Capcom had Street Fighter, Darkstalkers and Marvel while SNK had Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting and Samurai Spirits. All these fighting strands were popular and had communities built around them but the talk of the arcade was always who would win in a fight between Ryu and Kyo, Ken and Terry? It seemed ludicrous to ever think we would see match ups between Capcom and SNK characters but the appetite for it was definitely there.
With the release of Marvel vs. Capcom and King of Fighters both developers had brought all their franchises under one roof. It was not long before the rumour started and the possibility of one huge fighting game to rule them all being made. Both companies signed a deal to work collaboratively and the first effort was a card collecting game on the Neo Geo Pocket. SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighter’s Clash was a Magic the Gathering style card battle game but it was long before news of an actual fighting game broke. Released in arcades in 2000 then quickly to Sega’s powerful Dreamcast, Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000 gave all fighting fans exactly what they wanted.
At last fans of either developer could finally put to bed who was the greatest fighter. Crowds gathered to watch Ryu vs. Kyo and Sagat vs. Geese. The game was developed on the NAOMI board that has incredible 2D capabilities. The sprites of the fighters are huge and detailed with many being redrawn for this game. A whole host of new stages appear that compliment the art style and mini cut scenes play out before the fight. The presentation is rounded out with hyped up menus and garish colours that just force you to look in wonder at what is unfolding.
The game uses Capcom’s signature six button fighting style. Hard, medium and light punches and kicks that will be familiar to Street Fighter players but not difficult for SNK players to learn. The controls are responsive and even inexperienced fighting game players will be able to pull off the array of specials. Each character has all their moves in tact from the previous outings with many new ones being added. Most have a couple of powerful super moves that can be used once you fill up your super meter. You choose between two different meters, one similar to Street Fighter Alpha’s A-groove and the other Similar to King of Fighters charge meter.
The game has a team function that allows you to pick more than one fighter. Each character has a point allocated to them ranging from one to four. You can pick four level one characters or go all out and have one level four. This allows you to experience a greater depth of characters with each playthrough and encourages you to experiment with different teams. You win each match by destroying all the characters in a team. So if you pick one level four character you may have to use that one life bar to take out four level ones in a single match. After several matches you come against one of two bosses depending on how well you have fought.
This is a slick fighting game that encourages you to get better. To unlock the game’s secret characters you must learn how to counter and perform super moves. Every move and attack is scored during matches and given a rating with S being the best and D being the worst. Score mostly D’s and you will not unlock any of the games secrets. You will need to perfect your technique and regularly score A’s and S’s if you want to see the whole game. The Dreamcast version has lots to unlock besides a few other fighters. Original mixes of the game soundtrack open up some original Street Fighter and Fatal Fury tracks. Other unlockables are infinite super meters and different roll moves.
If you are a 2D fighting game fan this title represent the pinnacle of match ups. Being able to face your friend using the mash up of franchises is excellent. Two player matches are just as good as they have always been but with the two different styles on offer it allows for even deeper tactics and skills. Even though the one player arcade game is great nothing compares to smashing your friend and taking them down. There is also a survival mode on offer that sees you try to beat all the game characters with one life bar. Although content may seem light in this game it is all about improving your scores and ruling in two player. You do not need a lot of modes when the gameplay is this good.
This game will please fighting game fans looking for a pure play experience. Those that are not as keen may find this one overwhelming, there is a lot going on with many characters to learn. It can be confusing trying to unlock the games secrets and only those with the patience to learn the system will succeed. But if you just want high-octane two player contests then it does not come much better than Capcom vs. SNK. The presentation is amazing and this represents what the arcade fans wanted in the late 90’s, a mighty contest between two great rivals. Now the banter can stop and the real fighting begin!