When most gamers think about fighting games, they think of Capcom.
Capcom has the genre down pat — they may even have it patented — and nowhere is this more evident than in their latest, a fantastic fighter for Dreamcast called Marvel vs. Capcom 2.
MvC2 is an arcade port, and perhaps only the Dreamcast's muscle could do it justice. It features Capcom's most famous fighters, many from the legendary Street Fighter series, like Ryu and Zangief, and some, like Jill, from other games (she's from Resident Evil, if you didn't know).
They are pitted against a host of superheroes from the pages of Marvel comic books, such as Spiderman, Wolverine and Captain America, and there are some characters that come only from the mind of Capcom's programmers. Amingo, for example, looks like a giant cactus. There are more than 50 characters in all, with two dozen available immediately. The rest become available as you meet a variety of conditions in combat.
Part of what's new to this game can be credited to the Capcom controller; with only four buttons, life is easier than in the six-button past. And this time around, you have three characters on each side, with a new one popping up when the previous character dies. The backup characters can also be summoned, tag-team style, either to attack the enemy or heal their teammate.
Your whole team can even perform Super Combos at once, lighting up the screen like the best Fourth of July fireworks show you've ever seen.
The one-player game is great, and most of us will be using that one the most. It replicates the arcade experience beautifully, right in your own living room. But the best of this game is stashed away in the Versus mode. With a friend at your side and a second controller plugged in, you can pummel each other to paste all afternoon, with the only pain being felt by the characters flashing and blazing across your TV screen.
Those characters may look a tad flat, since they are 2-D fighters in a 3-D world. The backgrounds give a 3-D feeling, but the characters simply face each other head on — or front to back if you can perfect a leap over your opponent and then blast him in the back. That move is not found in Marquess of Queensberry rules, by the way, but it sure works if you need a few points.
There's also a handy training mode, so you can perfect your moves and get those button pushes down pat before the game is on the line.
Graphics get an A. They are crisp, clean, amazingly detailed and wonderfully drawn and colored. The backgrounds are also excellent and provide a variety of eye candy to amuse you — if you can take your eyes off the battle for an instant. The explosions are more and more spectacular as you master harder and harder moves.
Sound is a B; the background music is pretty blah and repetitious, but the effects are dynamite. Explosions alone, of course, do not a video game make. Better tunes to go with the combat racket, please.
Control is another A. The combos are a lot easier to learn than in previous Capcom fighters, and each attack responds to the call instantly. When you want Cable to let go with the scimitar, hit the right buttons and there it is, right in Guile's face.
Overall, a B+.
What's the key to success in business? Yes, yes, charge a lot more than it cost to make. But even more important, know your customer. Capcom knows the folks who love and buy their fighting games, and they almost never fail to provide top value for your hand-to-hand combat buck. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is the perfect 2-D fighter for Dreamcast. If that's your bag, here's your game.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is rated T for ages 13 and up.