Review by Monheim

Reviewed: 02/20/04

Can Street Fighter II find out why kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch?

Some things remain constant, and in this wild, volatile, unpredictable age, routine is a good thing. One of these is that no game can top Street Fighter II in influence. The game revolutionized fighting games as we know them, what with the blocking and special moves and the little, cute characters. (Yes you're so cute! Who's the cute little fighting game character? You are! Yes you are Guile, yes you are!) It's safe to say that fighting games would not be of the caliber and popularity they are at the moment without it.

Alternatively, Mortal Kombat is credited with influencing shock value and novelty in video games. I still remember when I was seven and my mother went completely ape over Mortal Kombat, barring me from playing it, and everyday, after school, I'd go to my friend's house and we'd play it. No matter how the game was (although, admittedly, the 2D Mortal Kombat games were pretty good), it stood alone on the novelty of Fatalities and blood. Oooh, red!

However, here's a geeky connect-the-dots for you: the Street Fighter II series is responsible for the concept of novelty value in video games, not Mortal Kombat. Ah-ha! Didn't see that one coming, did you? Well, let's explore this theory: Street Fighter II, for better or for worse, went through countless little reissues with neat extras like new characters, multiple characters and new levels rather than, you know, making a new game. As a result, below all our new little extras and ditties, it was the same game. Whereas this yielded some positive results-- Cammy, Akuma-- this ultimately proved to be too much and, goddammit, we want a new game! And eventually, Street Fighter III (and, not to mention, Street Fighter Alpha) followed and both the games each got two do-overs-- the end results of both being notorious for-- as a layman would say it-- kicking ass.

Then, as luck would have it, the Street Fighter series passed its prime. There would be no Street Fighter IV. Instead, Street Fighter (and other Capcom fighting game characters) got to appear opposite Marvel's pro-and-antagonists for high-speed orgies of bright lights, tornadoes of energy and all the overexaggeration you could handle. These games, while not as intricately detailed as the Street Fighter IIs, IIIs and Alphas, and where there were some issues as they were shallowly built, these minor problems could be forgiven by Marvel Vs. Capcom's thumb-breaking, seizure-inducing, ear-splitting, intense fun. Again, it was shallow, but it was fun, so I let it pass; I indulged in it at an arcade machine as much as the next fighting gamer.

Then came the high-and-low for fighting game fans: SNK, probably the other biggest name in the fighting game genre, joined up with Capcom! Finally, we can pit Kyo against Ryu and see who is the stronger of the heroes! Let's take M. Bison and pit him against Geese (what a stupid name for someone who should be intimidating, I mean, seriously, Geese?) and see who evil has blessed the most!

I don't think I have to explain how it turned out: Capcom Vs. SNK Pro was an anti-climactic disappointment of epic proportions. The novelty value of this game couldn't mask the fact that, underneath, this game had no power and no rhythm and, overall, it just wasn't fun. The gameplay was mediocre and there was just no storyline there: the storyline committed itself to frivolity. Never one to quit, Capcom released another compilation between themselves and SNK.

No improvements here in terms of storyline: everyone has gotten together to fight at an anonymous (yet large) tournament for no reason that's ever bothered to be explained. Simplistic and absurd, sure, but chances are you aren't playing this game for the plot, and that's one of the reasons why the game fails.

See, with the Marvel Vs. Capcom series, there was little else to focus on but factors like fun and gameplay, both of which delivered in spades. Capcom Vs. SNK 2 lacks this, with a slow, sluggish pace that isn't as energetic as Capcom's fighters but not as laid-back and refined as King of Fighters'. The result is a bad pace that yields very few worthwhile battles, and although those battles are indeed great, they're so few and far in between and you can get occurrences equally as orgasmic in Marvel Vs. Capcom 2.

The game itself is lax in terms of variety: you can fight people in three-person teams or just alone, and you have the ratio mode which I don't bother to use (and odds are you won't either). The Color Edit Mode and Groove Edit Mode are nice, but are too time-consuming and complex to master and so I doubt anyone's going to really deposit time into it. In the case of the Groove Edit Mode, this is hardly a tragedy, but the Color Edit Mode was a great thing because it allows you to correct the graphical mistakes given to us.

It's a sad thing, really, that SNK's characters are animated so well, the backgrounds are so great, the projectiles are so attractive and the Capcom characters are reduced to disgusting shadows of their potential aesthetic selves; although this is a very minor thing, you'd be surprised on how it gets in the way and just how distracting it is. The sound is average, with mediocre background music and extremely annoying announcer who shouts the most obvious, agitating things; odds are, you'll get sick of him quickly.

Beyond the aesthetic and aural qualities of the game, Capcom Vs. SNK 2 features six grooves and a variety of characters, but it's not that thrilling, and unless you're really dedicated, you won't stick around long enough to try out every single groove. After that, there's barely anything to unlock in this, so there's no huge payoff for any investment of time you make.

That said, my review isn't going to convince any 2D fighting game fans, as they probably already have this game and are vehemently writing down where I'm supposedly wrong in my review. If you're a 2D fighting game fanatic, then you'll probably just adore this game, but Capcom Vs. SNK 2 is not a game for casual gamers. It's a game that 2D fighting game fans will sit and try so, so hard to love and, most likely, will succeed in doing. If you're a casual fighting gamer like myself, you're not going to be easily impressed by the novelty of having Capcom against SNK again and you'll most likely just get bored with this game, and give up on permeating it's slow, dull pace. The gimmick wraps the game up in a nice neat package with an attractive bow on top, but once you unwrap it all, there's just a standard game there. 2D fighting gamers will love it; everyone else would be better off with something more concise.

So, in the spirit of connecting the dots: Street Fighter II's constant repackaging of the same game with a couple of extras is responsible for the creation of novelty in video games. Once you got past the attractive gimmick (the extras), it was the same game there. Capcom Vs. SNK 2 has novelty, in this case being that Capcom and SNK are together in a video game, but the gimmick isn't strong enough to stand on it's own. This is because beneath the gimmick, it's just the same game as Capcom Vs. SNK Pro which, as we discussed, was a big disappointment. Therefore, as a result, this game is similarly lax. This won't stop 2D fighter fanatics from playing it-- which, if you're a 2D fighting game fan, you should do because you'll like it (but odds are you don't need my permission). However, if you're a casual fighting game fan like myself, you won't be impressed and would be better off looking elsewhere.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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