Reborn as a downloadable title, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 joins the ranks of its remixed and rearmed brethren as an old classic for the new age. And the timing couldn't be better: interest in fighting games is red hot, and superheroes are most definitely in. Is there enough to this repackaged milestone to win it a new generation of fans?
Like many downloadable games, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 doesn't have much in the way of options. You can take it old school with a quick run through arcade mode, test your mettle in score attack, or work a computer dummy for a spell in training mode. Not much has changed since the game's first console inception on the Dreamcast, which this version is essentially a rebuilt port of.
And though initial perceptions may paint the game as a remake of sorts, there are a few important things to note. Character move-sets haven't undergone sweeping revisions or balance checks, and the visuals haven't changed much beyond what results from the various software filters you can mess with. What you're seeing and playing is, essentially, the same Marvel vs. Capcom 2 that millions are already familiar with.
What will intrigue hardened vets is the addition of network play, which boasts many of the same features found in other online fighters. You can take things to the extreme in ranked leaderboard matches, or set up small player-run rooms of up to up to six participants online. The netcode, which is identical to what's used in HD Remix, is well-suited for playing fighting games online. But given that Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is inherently faster and more chaotic, you may find yourself altering your play style to compensate for the latency, especially if you're used to playing in the arcade.
At its core, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is a very traditional port, but the presence of online multiplayer gives it a welcome shot of replayability. Netplay doesn't quite keep the pace of competitive offline play, but for most, the speed will feel just right. The game also eliminates the point-hoarding component of its forebears, giving you unhindered access to all the fighters and costume colors from the get-go. There isn't a good deal of variety as far as modes go, but when it comes to jumping straight into a super-powered brawl unimpeded, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is up to the task.
Notorious for its massive cast and fast-paced play, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is definitely a game that prides itself on going big. The basic premise has players scrapping against one another with teams of three in a race to whittle down each other's life bars--mano a mutant.
What differentiates it from games like Street Fighter, however, is its elaborate focus on team play. You can swap out characters to regenerate damage, call upon them to lend an assist attack, or use them in a damaging super move combination. Above all else, the game is about the synergy driving your team and how you take advantage of it. In many cases, the composition of a team will determine the outcome of a match before it even starts.
Crafting teams that specialize in specific strategies, like rush-downs or turtling, is key to high level play, but the game's forgiving system also makes it conducive to carefree, casual bouts. There are definitely a few aces in the roster with the raw power to hover above the rest, but with enough ingenuity, even the oddballs can rise to the top. In a game like this, almost anything can happen.
As a direct port of the Dreamcast iteration of the game, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is as faithful to the original arcade experience as can be. But that fidelity comes with a price; characters like Iron Man can still juggle characters like a clown, and lingering bugs like the infamous Juggernaut glitch can be freely abused. The game misses a bit of an opportunity at balance by not having enjoyed the same level of scrutiny that HD Remix did, but most veteran players who cut their teeth on the original version wouldn't have it any other way. And the game remains just as accessible for up and comers to wreak their own brand of havoc.
When it was new, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 wowed arcade goers with its slick integration of 2D sprites and 3D backdrops. Today, the game's visuals hold up pretty well, aided by customizable sprite filters and a 16:9 display option that allows the background elements to bleed into the corners of your HDTV. For the most part, the illusion works, but during certain moments, it becomes very clear that the game was definitely not made for widescreen play.
Purists will be happy to know that the visuals can also be set to the standard unfiltered 4:3 display.
Musically speaking, the game is revered and reviled alike for its divisive jazz-inspired soundtrack. If you don't wish to be taken for a ride, so to speak, you can also dip into your own tunes through the game's custom soundtrack feature.
Though not as adventurous of a leap as some of its retro-remixed kin, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is definitely a must for any serious fighting game enthusiast. It's wild, intense, and sometimes broken, but within the madness there's an undeniable charm. If you're finding yourself weary of all the Street Fighter in your world, this is a great game to tag out to.
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox Live Arcade.