Throwing the First Punch
The game itself is ripped straight out of the arcade, and it certainly recreates the feeling of playing a classic arcade style beat 'em up, fortunately without draining a constant stream of pound coins out of your wallet. In fact as soon as you load up the game, there is a distinct arcade look and feel to the menus which is both good and bad, but more on that later… Sadly I think Capcom have skimped a little with this title, and they have leant far more heavily on the Marvel side. As a result many of the 20 characters available in the game are the Marvel superheroes, and there are only a few of the classic Street Fighter's left. Old favourites like Ryu, Chun Li and M. Bison are in the game, but other than that it's a rather poor turnout for the Street Fighter crew. While this is a shame, it does make way for the more well known superheroes and quite a few which I had never heard of. Classic characters like SpiderMan, Venom, The Hulk, War Machine and Wolverine make up some of the more well known characters while Captain Commando, Jin and Morri make up some of the more unknown champions of peace. One thing that the game does bring to the mould is a tag team style of play. Instead of selecting just one character, you get to pick two. This brings with it some merits but it can make the game a little more tactical (and possibly more difficult) to play. While it can be a little confusing knowing who to pair with who in order to create an unstoppable duo, it is certainly a great deal of fun pairing some of the guys together. For example who would have thought of SpiderMan fighting with his arch nemesis Venom as his partner? Of course there is no limit (well almost no limit) to the combinations and putting the diminutive Mega Man with the dominating Hulk does tend to yield some interesting confrontations! Switching between the two characters is fairly easy, and can be done at any time during a fight. It's probably not too surprising to know that changing characters mid match can actually help you get the win, which is probably why the computer does it every now and again. Admittedly it does turn the game into a bit of a WWF fest, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. While there are 20 main characters to pick, there are a whole heap of other which take the form of 'support characters'. After you've picked your fighters the computer will randomly choose your 'celebrity' support. Once again these are drawn from another pool of superheroes, most of which are b-list Marvel stars. There are a few notable support characters like Cyclops and Iceman, and it is a shame that two such awesome fighters have been relegated to a support role. Oh well… The game has a few play options, ranging from the classic arcade style to the must have 'versus' mode, where you get to actually play against your mates - should you have any that want to play against you! One worthwhile inclusion is the training mode. This allows you to check out all of the players against any other computer controlled duo. There is no time limit to this and there is no real health restriction as after any damage is sustained the health bars of both the player and computer are restored to full. You can also change characters mid fight, which allows you to experiment with which characters do better against the others. On the graphical front I felt more than a little let down by Marvel Vs. Capcom. I said earlier that the menu's had a very arcade feel. Unfortunately they look rather dated and would certainly not look uncommon on a SNES cart. Also the whole game looks distinctly low res and certainly isn't pushing the DreamCast to its limits. It is a shame, as in the face of the new breed of 3d style beat 'em ups Marvel Vs. Capcom looks extremely old due to its graphics. While it is very colourful it is a little grainy and some of the textures could have done with a little more work. On the sound front you can expect a cacophony of arcade style audio. With some classic samples of the characters such as Ryu's 'hado-yu-ken' adding a nice touch to the game. The rest of the samples are also very good, and as always can add a much needed bit of comic relief - especially when a character explodes into one of their awesome special moves. Music wise you can expect to be drowned in a sea of electronic music that harks of classic Japanese arcade classics, and after a while the 'tunes' can get extremely annoying, but that is hardly a rare occurrence with console games.
Ultimately Marvel Vs. Capcom is eminently playable and thoroughly good fun. I often find myself playing it if I'm going out and just want something to occupy me for a short while before I go. It's also good against your mates, and in that respect it owes a lot to its ancestors which always managed to make playing against your friends extremely entertaining. I have criticised the game, and I will stand by those criticisms. It is fun, it is good but with a poor turnout from the Street Fighter gang and graphics that no-one would call cutting edge it has its flaws. After all is said and done Marvel Vs. Capcom will undeniably find many fans amongst both hard core fight-fans and console beat 'em up newbies.
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