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Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium 2001 (PlayStation 2) artwork

Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium 2001 (PlayStation 2) review

"Fighting games often come and go, either striking a chord with players or whizzing down the road of mediocrity, finally pulling into a nice parking space into the Lot of Obscurity. - There are plenty of Handicapped spaces available in this, the final resting place of many a terrible brawling-type, as warranted by the mass of martial-arts touting fools that often find themselves the subject of such games. Sometimes good games find themselves taking the wrong turn on the turnpike, simply because n..."

Fighting games often come and go, either striking a chord with players or whizzing down the road of mediocrity, finally pulling into a nice parking space into the Lot of Obscurity. - There are plenty of Handicapped spaces available in this, the final resting place of many a terrible brawling-type, as warranted by the mass of martial-arts touting fools that often find themselves the subject of such games. Sometimes good games find themselves taking the wrong turn on the turnpike, simply because not enough players out there were willing to stop and take a look at the strange vehicle with the higher pricetag and unusual features(Weaponlord); sometimes the game was blazing towards this Lot so hastily that one couldn't argue that the game was anything but a waste of space (Ka Ge Ki). Whether your want a reliable sedan that has good gas mileage and will last for years (Tekken Tag), or the smaller and sportier model that will be fun for a while but traded in next year for the newer release (Street Fighter 3) is your own discretion. Fighting fans can afford to be picky; there's a bevy of games out there. Finding the car that suits everyones' needs is quite a feat, and so it's not too akin to happening.

Enter Capcom, with another compilation of competitive characters, challenging their compatriots to more continual carnage and combat. Following up on the mix-reviews received by Capcom vs. SNK 1, they decided to make some improvements to the genre. The previous vehicle had a decent cast from both companies, although certain characters were left out of the design and odd picks ended up included in the fold. It supported a basic gameplay style (''Capcom'' and ''SNK'') that reflected one of each company's gameplay styles, holding certain advantages and disadvantages for each cast member that donned it. In theory, it was a balanced game - people from each side were ranked by Ratios (1-4), as to determine how powerful they were (giving them more damage per hit), and the 2 different styles allowed for different fighting methods to arise. You had 4 points to spend, which means you could have 4 Ratio-1 characters, or a Two 1's and a 2, etc.

...unfortunately, it was too broken for its own good. Several Ratio 1 characters were shown to be more powerful than Ratio 2, 3, and even 4 characters, which meant you could have a team of 4 Ratio-1 characters and stand a VERY good chance of demolishing higher-ratio characters. Since the teams would ultimately be four-on-one, this meant that picking anything above a Ratio 3 was feasibly impossible if you wished to win a fight. The game was too stacked in favor of the lower characters, so King, Dhalsim, and Sakura owned people that they shouldn't even fare well against. Furthermore, not everyone could be effective in either Style (Capcom of SNK), which meant that your team would end up having to be specific to one style or else it would falter greatly; thus, you would not only see the same teams, but 'Capcom' usage abounded quite greatly. Finally, one of the biggest killers for this game was the limitations forced upon the characters: SNK combatants traditionally only had 4 buttons to attack with, which Capcom had 6. This meant that Capcom had to be limited, or SNK had to gain new offensive measures. Capcom opted to limit their own characters, forcing a lot of players to reinvent their strategies. Bad news for casual gamers trying to pick up a new game, and the broken Ratio aspect made for boring matches among the more competitive of gamers.

So in constructing Capcom vs. SNK 2, our fighting game creators - the Ford and Honda of the gaming industry - decided to correct these errors to garner more interest in the game. Aside from adding more characters to the roster, sating the publics' complaints about certain logical choices being shafted, they decided to spend a good deal more time on the Gameplay of the game. Honestly, I can't think of a better idea for a game - take a fighting roster that is wide enough to gain previous interest, while introducing new characters (and bringing back older ones) to gain the ''indie'' vote and win over new audiences. Once you have the cast set in stone, you then take everything right with the previous game, keep that, and fix everything that didn't work out. And I gotta tell ya...I think Capcom pulled it off.

First off - the aforementioned 4-button layout was thrown away, restoring Capcom characters to their 6-button glory and increasing the SNK fighters' capabilities with the inclusion of 2 more attacks to their arsenal(s). Now people can pick their favored names of the past (Ryu, Kyo, Ken, Iori, etc) without worries of strange changes to how they play and feel, which is a definite plus. Newer characters from both sides of the board - including ancient one-shot characters Eagle (from SF1) and Todo (from Art of Fighting) - have been redrawn and revamped with new moves, accentuating the newer style of graphics and the new feel of gameplay.

The ratio system was tweaked so as to avoid any further character mishaps in balancing, allowing you to pick anywhere from 1 to 3 characters to put on your team and 4 points to distribute between them. You can have a single Ratio-4 character (lots of life and hits harder), two Ratio-2 characters or a 3 and a 1, or two Ratio 1's and a Ratio 2. You HAVE to make someone a Ratio 2, giving a little more strategy as to who you put on your team and who you decide to beef up. You may be more likely to see tournament play featuring teams of 3 (the maximum allowed per team roster), but having the option of playing Sagat as a level 1 player (formerly a Ratio-3) and instead beefing up Sakura up to Level 1 (previously a Ratio-1) is a nice change of pace, and gives more options towards how you handle your characters. The greatest change to the game system, however, was the inclusion of the ''Groove'' system. In CvS1, you picked between ''Capcom'' and ''SNK'' as your style of fighting; now, you pick between 6 different styles for your character/team to work around, based off of 3 popular styles from each company's various games. This completely rearranges the strategy element, as characters can completely differ in style and tactics when thrown from one Groove to another.

All this makes the game incredibly broad in scope, what with the huge character roster and the ability to tweak your group through ratio changes and groove choices. Strictly from a statistical and logical point of view, this means that play-testing would have to be phenomenally large just to ensure that there were no facets of the game that would end up ''broken''; that is to say, there isn't some sort of glitch or unforeseen battle strategy that (ab)uses the fighting system to give certain characters a commanding lead over their brethren. I have to be honest with you, this game is remarkably balanced, so much so that you can pretty well take anyone in the game and - provided you put them in the right groove and ratio (should the ratio be necessary) - make them into a winning competitor.

There has been a certain level of controversy as to the found ability in the game known as ''roll-canceling'', whereas you take the roll ability from the game (a short step forward where your character is invincible to everything, save throws) and cancel it into a special move, making the move itself invincible. The controversy extends to its ethical use in the game, its strategic use, and whether or not it should even be considered a glitch or if it was a carefully laid trick that the programmers wanted to eventually have discovered. I'll not go into the programming schematics, instead covering the ethics. Let's face it, it is a singular trick that - when applied correctly - can severely debilitate the game, truly being ''broken''. Granted, it can be difficult to pull off with certain special moves (in fact, some moves might as well be considered impossible), but that should not be considered a fact when pressure games and mind-traps can now be rendered obsolete because one character (say, Blanka) can now blitz through dozens of attacks due to one simple maneuver. Is it broken? I would say no, not if both characters are aware of the ability and are using it to their advantage (where applicable); however, if someone is RC'ing Iori through everything his rival is throwing out, it can break some otherwise perfectly good matches.

Graphically, the game is rather hit-and-miss. The backgrounds are random locations with strange mixes of 3D and 2D animations, taking you across the world and pitting you in some rather bizarre locales for no apparent reason. You find yourself battling on top of an Osakan rooftop, then the next stage finds you in the Arctic Tundra, then in the middle of an off-road tournament (with roadsters leaping over your combatants periodically). It's nice to see appearances from other fighting game characters in the background, but the rest of the stages end up rather boring. I guess that makes for more focus on the foreground action, eh? The characters themselves were almost completely lifted from CvS1's animations, with minor upgrades here and there; however, character animations first appearing in Street Fighter Alpha STILL continue to permeate Capcoms' games, which I find a little frustrating. Heck, Capcom is STILL using Morrigan's sprite from Darkstalkers, an early 90's fighting game that REALLY shows its age here (a thick black line surrounds all of Morrigans' sprites).

Soundwise, the game features a lot of the same vocalwork from previous games, the screamed ''Shoryuken'' that you have come to expect from Ryu and Ken ringing just as clearly and loudly as before. Some voices have changed, some for the good (Sagat) and some for the worse (Cammy, now sounding like a little girl). The music ranges from nondescript (Osaka) to the repetitively boring (England) to the oddly catchy (Shanghai); thankfully, not even the more annoying of tracks take away from the action taking place.

I realize by now I've droned on quite a bit about the more boring aspects of the game, but am a competitive gamer. I look for the nooks and crannies that set this car apart from the cheaper, more accessible and more affordable cars out there. This game has a wonderfully deep game engine, although it has a rather glaring flaw in what may (or may not) have been an included glitch. Graphics and sound only matter if they are so glaringly good or bad that they gain my attention, or end up disrupting the gameplay through their own designs. The gameplay is focal, and this game - with its diverse game mechanics and spot-on control scheme - accentuates the styles and range that your characters can take on. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll end my tangents and bid you a fond adieu (fondue?) while I go back to competing with my Yamazaki/Iori(2)/Sagat C-Groove team.

Oh, right, I should probably finish with the analogy I started with: So sit tight, racing fans, 'cause this game has the handling of a Mini-Cooper, the look of a 2001 PT Cruiser, and enough features to rival a James Bond vehicle. Sure, it may not have the speed of a tricked-out GTO Twinturbo (gaming equivalent = MvC2), but it has enough to get leave a lasting impression. It is NOT easy to pick up...but if you're willing to put in the effort, the game should provide lots of enjoyment for gamers with more than a casual mindset.

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Community review by reverend (September 12, 2004)

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