Friday, March 9, 2012

The fighting dream match carries on in Capcom vs. SNK 2, an arcade port of the sequel to last year's fighting game that did the unthinkable--it brought together many of the most popular characters from Capcom's and SNK's fighting games. For fans of one company's games or the other's, this was about as outrageous as if Coke and Pepsi were to join forces to make a brand-new cola, or if Sega were to start developing games for Nintendo. Wait, scratch that one. About a year after the release of Capcom vs. SNK, the sense of shock may be gone, but it's still a solid 2D fighting game. The sequel--currently available only in Japan for the Dreamcast, although a PlayStation 2 version is on its way to these shores--is similar. Like most of Capcom's fighting games, it's an incremental enhancement of its predecessor that introduces some welcome new features but just barely enough of them.

Capcom vs. SNK 2 adds some new characters, moves, game mechanics, backgrounds, and music. There's a lot of the same graphics, sounds, and gameplay. The changes in the game will have a more significant impact depending on how serious you are about your 2D fighters. The new additions make the game technically superior to the first, but not necessarily better enough to merit purchase if you already have the first one--let alone the half-baked Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000 Pro, an intermediate rerelease of the first game with a couple of throwaway characters added and all the hidden characters already unlocked.

Depending on how you count, Capcom vs. SNK 2 adds about half a dozen new characters to the original. There are close to 40 different characters available in the game, though of course not all of them are completely unique. Some of the most exciting new additions to the roster include Eagle, the British stick fighter who dates all the way back to the original Street Fighter game, and Haohmaru, the cocky sword-wielding samurai from SNK's Samurai Shodown series, whose katana would presumably give him an unfair advantage. Fortunately, other characters have no problem deflecting Haohmaru's long, slow slashes with their forearms. Others notable additions include the kung-fu fighter Yun, from Street Fighter III, and Rock Howard, the bastard son of Geese Howard who first appeared in SNK's Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves. Some of the other new characters, such as the over-the-hill martial artist Ryuhaku Todo, from SNK's Art of Fighting, and Maki, a rip-off of SNK's Mai Shiranui who appeared in the sequel to Final Fight, are surprising additions to the lineup, but not necessarily good ones. Capcom and SNK fans alike will probably find that they can think of a few equally rare characters who they would have rather seen in the game.

The original Capcom vs. SNK let you unlock an additional version of each character who sported a different arsenal of special moves. Capcom vs. SNK 2 basically merges these "EX" characters with their standard counterparts, making for characters who for the most part have more moves and more options and are therefore generally more interesting to play. Capcom vs. SNK 2 also shows that its designers are being rather wishy-washy in deciding just how many attack buttons players want to be able to use. The Street Fighter series famously used the six-button layout of three punches and three kicks; on the other hand, Neo Geo games always used just four buttons, and the original Capcom vs. SNK took this streamlined approach. But the sequel opts for Capcom's old style, all of a sudden forcing you to use more buttons on your controller. This may be a welcome change if you prefer the six-button style of the Street Fighter series, but it's also a serious pain if you're stuck using a standard Dreamcast pad, with its four face buttons and flaky shoulder buttons. There's no option to use the previous game's four-button layout, so in any event, you'll just have to get used to using six buttons again.

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