30 Days of Dreamcast – Day 6: Capcom Vs. SNK

Capcom Vs. SNK
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Genre: 2-D Fighting
Release Date: 11/09/2000

Royal Rumble was my first Dreamcast game. Sakura Taisen Complete is my favourite game for the system. Segagaga elicits the most emotion from me. Capcom Vs. SNK however is, for me, the pivotal game for the system. As a long time fighting game fan, this was a dream come true for me. It’s a game people had imagined for years, but never thought was possible. However, with SNK close to bankruptcy and death, the need to survive helped bring this game to fruition. I remember counting the days for the arcade release. I remember going down to Wonderland in Beaverton, OR and not knowing who to make for my team. I eventually settled on Sagat and Yuri and after beating it with them, I moved on to Terry and Ken. I remember playing the crap out of the Dreamcast version and even though SNK Vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium for the Neo*Geo Pocket Colour remains my favourite fighting game mash-up, Capcom Vs. SNK was easily my favorite English language based game for the Dreamcast.

Now, for this 30 Days of Dreamcast feature, I pulled out my Capcom Vs. SNK disc for the first time in five or six years and booted it up. After achieving 91 Groove Points with Terry and Ryu and beating Morrigan and Akuma along the way, I immediately shifted gears to play KoF ’98 Ultimate Match and Street Fighter IV to compare and contrast.

So how does Capcom Vs. SNK hold up in this new era of fighting games? Is it still head and shoulders above the pack, or has age and time taken their toll?

Let’s Review

1. Story/Modes

There’s no real plot to the game save for the dream match-ups. There are two corporations at war. Both have a seamy under belly to them. The heads of both companies? One M. Bison and one Geese Howard. To settle things, both men put aside their differences and hold a martial arts tournament to not only settle their differences through proxies, but to also potential enemies.

Of course none of this really happens in the game. In the game you get very little story save for the last battle when you fight either Geese, Bison or Akuma. Then you get a full on pre and post last battle story, all of which is really neat. I prefer Geese’s as it comes directly from Fatal Fury, but then I’m a sucker for anything Geese related.

The best parts storywise come seconds before each battle when characters interact. If you match up certain characters, you’ll get an exclusive scene between them. This can range from Capcom and SNK characters meeting for the first time like Terry and Ken commenting on their physical similarities to Capcom characters interacting ala Ryu and Ken doing a fist jab before battle or SNK characters wioth a previous history like Ryo and my beloved Yuri.

The modes in the game are impressive, even by today’s standards. Of course you have arcade mode, where you build a team of one to four characters to battle through the game with. Each character is worth one to four points, and you have to make a team of exactly four points. The more points a character is worth, supposedly the higher tier they are for playing with. Akuma for example is four points, boss characters are generally three points, main characters are two points, and the last tier are generally cult favorites that are fast but low damaging. Note I say generally as Dhalsim is a one pointer.

There’s also a Vs. mode for two player fighting, a Replay mode to watch highlights of previous fights, a practice mode and most of all – Secret Mode.

When you unlock something in the game, it will then appear in Secret Mode. Then you must spend Vs. points in order to unlock that item for use in the game. So yes, you have to unlock something twice. Crazy. You can unlock Ex versions of characters, palette swaps, stage backgrounds, hidden characters (if you meet their requirements) and more. Points are pretty hard to come by as even if you do an amazing job in the game and beat it without losing a round, you’ll still only get about 600-800 points a game. Characters are between 2,000 and 7,000 points and so to get everything means you have to invest a lot of time in this game.

There are two other modes hidden in Secret Mode – Pair Match (where every character is worth two points) and ratio mode where you can make say, Blanka worth four points or Orochi Iori worth only one. Fun times.

There are a lot of fun modes in Capcom Vs. SNK and although the majority of your time will be spent in Arcade Mode, each mode will entertain long time fighting fans. I love the little story bits put in when specific characters interact and although the game is quite sparse of plot aside from these things, back in 2000 these little fan service pieces were both huge and highly appreciated. After having played through this, I’m actually kind of impressed how ahead of its time this game was.

Story/Modes Rating: Above Average

2. Graphics

I should point out that this game featured several new sprites for many of the characters. This alone made of lot of fans happy due to how often characters had seen reused sprites for the past decade. Even better, then were new portraits for each character. Two in fact. You had Capcom art work for each character and SNK artwork for each character. My personal preference is with the SNK art, but both were awesome back in the day. However that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some rehashing of old graphics, the most infamous of which is Morrigan from Darkstalkers.

The background stages in this game were amazing nine years ago and the visuals still hold up today. Generally each background has a little bonus before starting and then you get the full on screen view, complete with lush and beautifully coloured designs. Some are tributes to classic stages from both franchises, while others are completely new. I myself was very impressed with the remake of Sagat’s old stage from SF2, although my favorite might be the fight that takes place in a house still being built. Each stage is fun to look at, and even more importantly – fun to play in.

There isn’t a lot of slowdown in this game, which was a huge change from previous Capcom fighting games. This is mainly because Capcom Vs. SNK is what we refer to as “Arcade Perfect.” Now this is not because the port was so well done, but because both the Dreamcast and the Arcade games were built using Sega’s Naomi boards. Which basically meant that the Dreamcast hardware was just a home version of the arcade cabinet, somewhat similar to the AES vs MVS for SNK gaming goodness.

Even though the game’s graphics have aged well and it’s still a visual treat for the eyes, there are several fighting games for the Dreamcast that are better in this category. The Last Blade 2, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 ,and Mark of the Wolves are all games I prefer, at least graphically. Still, CvSNK hold up even compared to today’s next-gen releases, and that’s impressive.

Graphics Rating: Good

3. Sound

The classic voice acting for each character has been left intact. From Ryu’s “Hadouken” to Terry Bogard’s “Are You Okay?” are intact and an aural treat for the ears. Note that this does not mean the characters speak only Japanese – they don’t. Cammy has a British accent and Geese Howard is a gravelly sounding bad ass. You also have two different announcers – one for things like the title screen and for calling out the rounds and then the one for the the character order selection that is a bit robotic (on purpose).

The music in the game is wonderful. Each stage has fast paced frantic tracks that gets the juice flowing and the adrenaline pumping. If you’re looking for rehashes or remixes of classic SF or KoF themes, you won’t find them here. Instead you have an array of awesome techno and synth pop tunes. I really appreciate the new music back when the game first came out and I even preferred it to what Capcom normally puts in their games. Fighting game wise, this is probably the best track set since Night Warriors for a Capcom made game, and it’s still my favorite.

Sound Rating: Classic

4. Control and Gameplay

Alright, let’s cover Controls first. It’s funny. I’ve been using the PS3 and Wii for fighting games for the past few years. Castlevania Judgment and the Virtual Console for things like Eternal Champions and King of Fighters ’94. I’ve been using the PS3 for Street Fighter IV, Mortal Kombat Vs. DCU and SSF2T: HD Remix. However, none of the game were what I would call solid control-wise. There was lag or issues with the controllers. None of our current next-gen systems have joysticks that do fighting games proper justice. Even the Madcatz Street Fighter pads are a bit off compared to what we had for the Genesis, Saturn, and Dreamcast. Currently the best I’ve found is the Neo*Geo controller for the Wii that I had to import, with Madcatz’s sticks and pads coming in second. However, even though those were great for this generation, I was blown away by the almost indescribable leap in control quality when I went back to my Dreamcast with this game. Holy crap, was it night and day. Every move hit perfectly, when I wanted it to, and as often as I needed to. This my friends, is arcade perfect -something I have yet to experience on any of the current gen console and suddenly I feel a bit melancholy that we’ll probably never get controls this freaking tight on the PS3, 360, or Wii.

Gameplay-wise, you probably know the deal. It’s a fighting game, but it’s using SNK’s configuration, so only two buttons for kicking and two for punching instead of Capcom’s usual six. Certain D-Pad/analog stick combos with a button press equals special moves unique to each character. However, what’s unique to this game is something known as the “Grooves.” You have a choice of two grooves, each of which controls how your super gauge fills. The Capcom gauge is based off of Street Fighter Alpha and as such, it will fill with each move you do or each blow your opponent lands on you. The SNK Groove is based off of KoF ’94 to ’98 and it is filled by holding both heavy buttons down. Truthfully, the Capcom groove is far superior, if only because SNK’s groove only allows you access to your level three Super Combos when your health is in the red and the combo is filled. Also, it’s annoying and dangerous to sit there and charge a gauge as you can neither block nor defend while doing it. On the other hand, choosing the SNK groove means you fight Geese. Ah life: checks and balances.

People who haven’t played SNK games before will find the KoF and Fatal Fury characters are a lot harder to use due to the more intricate combinations to access their super combos. Vice’s Negative Gain, for example, will drive Capcom gamers mad. Same with Geese’s Rising Storm. Meanwhile SNK fans might whine that Capcom’s characters all have the same few button motions to access special moves. Still, the overall experience is one of the most unique in the fighting genre and the game still feels refreshing due to the spot-on controls and the Groove system than games like SFIV, which while well done, is just another Street Fighter game.

We should also talk about Groove Points. This was Capcom’s attempt at introducing a real time grading system for your moves, combos, reversals and so on. Each move is rated from S to D, with S being the best. As you get hit, your points drop and even if you win, your points may drop if you just say, spam fireball or do throw based cheese. If your groove points are high enough, you’ll encounter a special mid-boss that differs on what Groove you are using. Score high enough and Akuma will be your last boss. The Groove Point score annoyed several gamers when it first came out, but really, looking back it is obvious it annoyed them more because it evaluated their skills and most gamers are insecure and defensive to this sort of thing.

Capcom Vs. SNK remains one of the most solid titles put out by Capcom, which is far more impressive than you may realize if you’ve only played Capcom titles. Some purists for both franchises will surely find something to quibble about, but honestly, it would have been hard to make a better engine for a crossover than this one.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Classic

5. Replayability

With 31 characters to choose from, over 100 possible combinations of teams in Arcade mode and even more in pair mode and ratio select, and you have a lot to come back for. There are also a lot of things to unlock in Secret Mode, but everything is also quite expensive and will take far more patience than most gamers have.

The replayability really comes from playing against other people, trying to design your perfect team or unlocking everything in the game. Unless you’re a really big fighting game fan, you probably won’t unlock more than few EX characters or some stages. For those that love this genre, you’ll be amply rewarded for your time with the game.

Replayability Rating: Good

6. Balance

The four point character system was designed to really balance out teams. You know so you could have one guy play as Akuma and Rugal and some new kid play as Balrog and Benimaru. For the most part this system works well enough although I think anyone who plays this game will quibble over certain characters and their cost. For example, for me, Yuri probably should be a three point character as she was always my main choice for the KoF games. As Sagat was three points, I’d be able to go into tournaments with a HUGE advantage over other gamers because I was able to use both my preferred characters on a four point team. I was also able to do Ryu, Yuri and Blanka and still maintain that advantage. A lot of people, including myself had issues with how rigid the point system was in the arcade, although it was either because they wanted to cheese with two first tier characters or were being cheesed by someone who lucked out with being able to put their main two on a team.

Of course, this is where the Dreamcast’s Ratio Select and Match pair come into play and it balances things out nicely. I find both modes to be a great option and I remember it helped quell the bitching and moaning of the point system – somewhat.

Now that it is nearly a decade later, I find the system works really well. Far better than I remember. Yes, some characters are more powerful or are easier to use than their points counterparts, but really, has there ever been a truly balanced Capcom title fighting-wise? Oddly enough, this actually comes closest to anything outside of the Darkstalkers series that I can say gives all players a decent footing, regardless of who they choose.

Balance Rating: Good

7. Originality

By the time Capcom Vs. SNK came out, there were already a few other Capcom based mash-ups. Marvel. Vs. Capcom 1 & 2 X-Men Vs. Street Fighter and SNK had of course mixed several of its games into KoF. Although Marvel VS. Capcom 2 is the one most gamers talk about a decade later and is certainly the most popular fighting game from this era, the hype for Capcom Vs. SNK was unheard of in the fighting game community. This was the Ark of the Covenant for the genre and to be honest, the game didn’t disappoint when it first hit. Sure people complained about the attempts to balance the game, but at least there was an attempt, unlike MvC2 and the triad of Iron Man, Akuma, and Cable.

With the Grooves, Grove Point System, first time meetings between the two biggest franchises in fighting game history and the ability to play Capcom characters like they were KoF’ers and vice versa was a nice bit of innovation rather than forcing one franchise to play by the other’s rules.

Although much of what here is passe or par for the course these days, in 2000, a lot of what was here was both revolutionary in thought as it was in implementation. In many ways, I still consider this the standard bearer for inter-company mash-ups, regardless of genre.

Originality Rating: Good

8. Addictiveness

Like any review, this is highly subjective. However, because this was my dream game for so long, had I written this back in 2000, it would have been even more so. To say I played the hell out of this game in the arcade and on the console is almost an understatement. Eventually though, I moved on to other things. I played other games for the Dreamcast. I purchased a Game Cube and moved on to the EO Sequel. Then I moved to England in early 2002 and my Dreamcast remained packed up until around August 2007. Even then Capcom Vs. SNK sat untouched until this feature. I was afraid to sully my memories with this game. Especially after the streak of bad games i played for this feature so far. Then i had a long stressful week at work, we had the unveiling of Soul Silver and HeartGold and some Pokemon fans dared to accuse me of lying about the games when I was allowed to break rank give some things away from the Pokemon Sunday unveiling. Even though you know, god forbid someone that pulls a paycheck from Pokemon would know more than fansites. Anyway, I finally pulled the trigger and put this into my dreamcast. Hours later I was still playing and with a huge smile on my face. If anything, Capcom Vs. SNK has aged amazingly well and I dare say it holds up as one of the best games in the genre. I had more fun with this than any of the recently released fighting games since Neo*Geo Battle Coliseum. If anything, this game single-handedly rekindled WHY I love fighters and I went out and purchased X-Men: Children of the Atom and X-Men Vs. Street Fighter for my Saturn. I’d have purchased some SNK game but…I think I own them all. Heh.

Capcom Vs. SNK is as great as it ever was. It sucks you in and even though we’ve had these pairings available to us for going on ten years, seeing them (and getting to play them) should still thrill any fan of this genre.

Addictiveness Rating: Good

9. Appeal Factor

Honestly, if you’re a fighting game and you can’t enjoy this game, then you really need to take that stick out of your ass. The controls are tight, the engine is solid. It’s pretty to look at. The music is wonderful. The game is everything it needed to and more. The only real valid complaint are “I feel character X should be Y points instead of Z” or “The game is just KoF and SF characters.” The former is of course debatable and the latter is MOSTLY correct (Morrigan is just one example from a character outside those two series) , but even though I would have loved a Garou Terry or someone from SamSho in this, Capcom gave the fans exactly what they wanted, which was specifically Street Fighter Vs. King of Fighters. You want other characters – that’s what the sequel, Card Fighters Clash, SNK Vs. Capcom Chaos and Match of the Millennium are all for. You do have options people.

Although Capcom and SNK have both been making a major push for fighting games here in 2009, the audience is still a fraction of the glory days in the mid 1990’s. With both companies putting out a good chunk of their library for this current gaming generation, maybe we’ll see a re-release of this title so gamers new and old can remember why this made so many of us happy from the time it was announced until long after its release.

Appeal Factor: Above Average

10. Miscellaneous

I should point out that this is NOT the first meeting between Capcom and SNK characters. A year before this release, the Neo*Geo Pocket Colour had SNK Vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium. It’s actually my favourite fighting game of all time due to the roster, the fact that every character gets a story and every COMBINATION of characters gets a story as well. Holy crap. At the time it was the largest portable game ever made and the sheer amount of content, graphics, sound and gameplay still holds up to the DS and PSP (Well, not the graphics). Alas, how many of you out there supported the NGPC instead of the Game Boy? Shame on you all for that too.

Sure it can take a VERY long time to unlock everything and some of the extra modes can only be obtained by people willing to hone their skills, but this was not a game made for people new to the fighting genre. It was a labour of long for long time fans and it shows in every aspect of the game. Capcom Vs. SNK is everything I love about this genre and there is little here to make me complain or criticize. It’s somewhat telling that a game from 2000 and with a Dreamcast controller still holds up better than most modern-day fighters. Truly the Saturn was the golden system for fighting games, but the Dreamcast was a very (and I mean VERY) close second. Come on Capcom and SNK – let’s see you guys team up one last time, or at least re-release seven co-franchises games onto a collection.

Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 may be the most popular of the Dreamcast fighters, but honestly, in terms of balance, music and overall fan service, make mine Capcom Vs. SNK any day.

Miscellaneous: Good

The Scores
Story/Modes: Above Average
Graphics: Good
Sound: Classic
Control and Gameplay: Classic
Replayability: Good
Balance: Good
Originality: Good
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Good
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary
Capcom Vs. SNK was not only one of the best fighting games of its generation, but it was one of the best fighting games ever. Hell, it was one of the best Dreamcast games ever. It’s a shame that this title has almost plunged into obscurity after the sheer amount of hype that surrounded it when it was first announced. The game still holds up quite well today in terms of graphics, sound, roster, gameplay, and most of all fun. Even if you are not a fan of fighting games, you can’t deny this title’s place in gaming history. If you own a Dreamcast, you might just want to hunt down a copy simply to experience a title that no one ever thought would actually be developed, much less published.

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