Full Review: Get into the groove, for you've got to prove, your love to me...with apologies to Madonna.
Between Capcom and SNK, the fighting game giants have released hundreds of 2D fighting masterpieces. SNK has its Fatal Fury, Samurai Shodown, and King of Fighters series of brawlers, and Capcom has, of course, the legendary Street Fighter series, along with a handful of other niche titles like JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. In 2000 the two giants collaborated their vast library of fighters together for Capcom vs. SNK on the Sega Dreamcast. The game was excellent of course, but there was plenty of room for improvement. And with C vs. SNK 2, the latest 2D powerhouse for the PlayStation 2, most of those improvements have arrived, making the game simply the deepest, most varied fighting game for the system, be it 2D or 3D.
In a word, CVSNK 2 is deep. In more words, the game requires an ungodly amount of skills and memorization, because mindless button mashing will get you nowhere against a finely tuned expert. The meat of the gameplay is split into 6 ?grooves? (which is why I sacrificed whatever journalistic integrity I may have to quote a Madonna song in a video game review), the C, A, P, S, N, and K grooves. For those who are now staring into the monitor like a deer in headlights, the C, A, and P grooves are the Capcom specific fighting grooves, using the power meter that Street Fighter Alpha uses to execute big super moves. The S, N and K grooves are the SNK fighting grooves, with a slowly building up meter that can also unleash a super move. However they do go much deeper than that, and each one changes the gameplay style quite drastically. You'll either have to spend hours with one groove and master it, or spend time on each groove seeing what fits you best.
Also, once you beat the game you'll open up an EX groove. What this does is let you edit grooves to your own liking, creating a groove to fit your style of play. This adds even more deep gameplay possibilities, and helps you master this game that much easier. However, this is a special thing for those who have the patience to tweak and customize the groove to perfection.
Also fitting into the deepness of this game is the huge amount of characters, from all the universes of the Capcom and SNK worlds. There's around 45 characters to pick from, like the famous Ryu, Ken, Guile, and Sakura from the Street Figther world, Morrigan from Darkstalkers, and even a few from Rival Schools/Project Justice. On the SNK end, there's Rugal, Geese Howard, and many more (shows what I know about SNK fighters). There is a lot more Capcom fighters it seems, but since they developed the game, it's not quite a surprise. What's cool is you can edit the fighters in the game, by changing their name and colors. So you can rename Ryu to Mortimer or even Bob, and give him a pink ninja outfit, if that's your kind of thing. Nobody is intimidated by pink ninjas though. Except Blanka, but he's weird.
The basic arcade mode is split into three different gameplay types ? basic one on one, a three on three challenge, and the Ratio match. The first 2 are self-explanatory, but the Ratio match is a little different. Basically it lets you flip the order your characters fight, if you feel that a certain character is a better fighter against an opponent. It's not much more than a variation of the 3 on 3 matches, just with the ability to change the order of your team.
Unlike most fighting games that at least give you an incredibly pointless or downright bizarre story, CVSNK 2 doesn't even bother to have a story. The ?story? is basically all about your team's journey to the finals of the Mark of the Millennium tournament in Osaka, Japan. And that's about it. I'd suppose that's a good thing, because who plays fighting games for stories anyway? You play fighting games to kick some ass, and this game gives it to you, no bones about it.
Capcom vs. SNK is all about skill. 2D fighters have mostly always avoided the button mashing that the 3D fighters are known for, and this game is no different. The controls do adapt well to the PS2 controller, with either the analog or digital pad. I prefer the digital pad for this game personally ? the analog isn't really necessary in a 2D world. Each character has a buttload of moves to memorize, be it projectile (vomiting) moves like the famous Ken/Ryu fireball, or the up close moves such as the Dragon Punch. Most can be chained into devastating combos and ended off with powerful super moves. The super moves can be pulled off once your meters fill up, and depending on your groove, it will have varying strength, as well as varying moves.
It's almost best in a game like this to spend time with one character to learn the nuances and moves, and then use them in multiplayer to have a well-rounded gameplay style. However, you may also want to beat the game with every character to just figure out which works best in particular situations. As I said, this game is exceptionally deep ? so deep that your own gameplay style will affect how the game is played.
The only thing I really find wrong with the gameplay is how short the 1-player mode is ? sure the 2-player mode has infinite replay, but the single player is just a blink and you'll miss it affair. All you need to do is win about 5 matches and you're in the finals. Why not have a good 15 plus fights before the finals? Considering this is a world tournament and everything, you'd expect a lot more fights before breezing to the championship. Even with that in mind, Capcom vs. SNK 2 is an amazingly deep, yet still fun and satisfying to boot. The mark of a great fighting game for sure.
Visually this game is a mixed bag. The backgrounds, done in full 3D are very, very nice to look at and are loaded with interactivity. If you fight in London, you'll see a double-decker bus roam the streets of town, and people sitting in the background cheering you on. My favorite though is a rooftop in New York City ? not only are you on a rooftop, behind you is a giant one-armed moving billboard guy with a beer stein in his one hand with a tank top that says ?I love beer.? Oh, and a cowboy hat on too. It's just one of those details that strikes me as both funny and creative, and a real testament to how much work was put into the game.
Then, there are the fighters themselves. Ugh. Some of the characters look at least decent, but many of them are a pixilated mess. It seems that they ?stretched? out the Capcom fighter's sprites to make them as tall as the larger SNK ones, and it shows. Morrigan shows this possibly the worst ? even her hair is a pixilated mess. With all the work into the backgrounds, they missed a chance to make a visually perfect fighter with lazy fighter art. And it's not because of the PS2 console ? Guilty Gear X had no problem with both the 3D backgrounds and the character sprites. At the very least, the characters look ?okay.?
When it comes to the sounds, it's a take it or leave it affair. I say, take it. The techno music simply does not fit a fighting game. Where are the hard rock themes that Dead or Alive 3 have? Fighting games shouldn't have what's basically dance music. The only stage with passable music is the NYC stage. The rest is downright terrible, and well out of place.
Most of the voices are okay ? the fighters sound fine grunting, yelling, and the like. But the actual ?play by play? announcer is terrible. The little quips the guy spits out are laughable at best, annoying at worst. C'mon Capcom, it was kinda funny in SFA3, but now it's just lame. And find someone who can pronounce properly ? nothing is as funny as hearing the guy say, ?inscrible your glorious name? when you get a high score. I mean, what's up with that (another lame-ass comment by this announcer fool)?
Visual and sound flaws aside, Capcom vs. SNK 2 adds up to be easily the deepest fighting game for the PlayStation 2. It's not for those with little patience, only because it takes time to get into. SF or SNK veterans will be right at home, however. The price is only 40 bucks new, compared to most games being 50, so that's a plus right there too. If you're an old-school 2D fighter looking for a fix, this game has it. Those who think 2D sucks? Give this game a try, and tell me 2D sucks. Considering the drought of fighters on PS2 for the moment, CVSNK 2 is a must-buy.