Long time business enemies Capcom Entertainment and SNK have shared one heck of a decade. With the birth of Fatal Fury and Street Fighter II in 1991 these two Japanese companies have been fighting for arcade, and eventually home console, supremacy. But ten years later things would be different, the industry changed, and arcade games declining in popularity.
Ten years ago if you told me Capcom and SNK would team up for not one, but several games I would never have believed you. It was as inconceivable as Mortal Kombat vs. Street Fighter. But given the course of the industry, and the climate of the arcade market, a game like Capcom vs. SNK 2: Millionaire Fighting 2001 makes complete sense to me ... now.
Capcom was at one time was the undisputed champ of 2-D hand drawn fighting. Be it Street Fighter II, Dark Stalkers, or the X-Men, Capcom's style bled through with every frame of animation. Though they will always be remembered for their reluctance to move on to Street Fighter III, no company quite made games like Capcom.
If Capcom was the champ, then SNK was the undisputed winner of most prolific publisher of 2-D fighting games. What with Fatal Fury, Samurai Shodown, Art of Fighting, World Heroes, Last Blade, and even the King of Fighters series, SNK not only housed a lot of franchises, but followed them all up with plentiful sequels.
Now that Capcom and SNK are gearing up to fight, each company has put forth their best characters for battle. As you can imagine, Capcom vs. SNK 2 ends up being a battle between the companies' two biggest franchises, Street Fighter II and King of Fighters. All 12 original World Warriors are represented, and most of the original Fatal Fury cast is back, too.
The two companies have thrown in some interesting choices, as well, including Morrigan from Dark Stalkers, Kyosuke Kagami from Rival Schools United By Fate, Haohmaru from Samurai Shodown, and Maki from Final Fight 2 (the poorly received Super NES game, of all things). In all there are 44 characters, and two hidden playable bosses, not a paltry number by any means.
But a game like this isn't only about the characters, you see the original failed to live up to its expectations due in large part to its slapped together feel. Thankfully Capcom has gone back to the drawing board. This time players aren't forced to use the lame ratio system, but rather can choose between 1 on 1 (Street Fighter 2 style), 3 on 3 (King of Fighters Style), or a slightly revised ratio set up. No matter what you pick, though, Capcom vs. SNK 2 throws forth a challenge each and every time.
The scoring set up is also completely revised. Now your score is more connected to your actual performance. You're score goes up as you perform attacks, special moves, and combos ... but falls if you get hit or waste too much time. The score also connects to who you will fight and the quality of your eventual ending, awarding you for learning how to play (and not just smashing buttons).
The grooves are all new too. Unlike the original, Capcom vs. SNK 2 features not two, but six different grooves (C, A, P, S, N, and K, respectably) each different from the last. The C-Groove plays more like Super Street Fighter II, while the K-Groove is strictly Samurai Shodown 2. Regardless of which groove you pick, there is plenty of depth and advantages for each, and will likely have you playing for months just to master each.
And if that wasn't enough, Capcom has added customizable grooves so you can make your own. While that might not seem like much compared to the rest of this impressive game, I ended up spending way more time customizing than I'd care to admit. For real SNK and Capcom aficionados this option allows you to make the game play like any 2-D fighter of the last ten years ... a mighty impressive feat.
Graphically Capcom vs. SNK 2 is Capcom at the top of its game. Though there are some characters that look a bit pixel-laden (Morrigan leaps to mind), on a whole the graphics and animation are superb. I especially like the little reinvented details, like Blanka's shock attack, and Haohmaru menacing hurricane. They may be the same moves, but they have NEVER looked better!
If there is a downside to Capcom vs. SNK 2 it's its lack of extras. Granted the game features two hidden characters and several extra options, it just lacks the substance we've come to expect from Capcom. There are also only 11 levels to fight almost fifty characters in, something I was extremely disappointed with.
But what let me down the most was the lack of character diversification. I like the Street Fighter II characters, but Capcom's list of classic characters reaches far beyond what is represented here. The same goes with SNK, who only gives us the most basic line up of characters. It's a shame more Samurai Shodown or Rival School characters didn't make the list, but with a line up of 46 playable fighters, it's awfully hard to complain for long.
In this day of quality 3-D fighters it's somewhat strange to recommend a game like Capcom vs. SNK 2. In many ways you have played this game before, but never quite as well put together as it is here. There's a lot of nostalgia involved in a game like this, but given the chance you'll see why this sequel is one of the best playing, looking, and deepest 2-D fighting games of the last decade ... and easily makes for a great standard to be beat in the next ten years. Good show.