Three to Tango

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MvC2 differs from most fighters in that the only way to play is 3 vs. 3. While this may be irritating to those longing for some 1-on-1 action (ooh err), it does present an element of strategy that gives the game a lot of depth. For example, I play with a regular team of Cable, Ryu (remember him?) and Spiderman. I know their strengths, weaknesses, and when to use them. Cable can dish out very fast long-range attacks, and some superb anti-air moves. Ryu can do the same, but with the finesse only a Street Fighter character can offer. Spiderman is able to trap his foes in a web, leaving them open for damage. With a combination of buttons one can switch between them if things get hairy, making sure they can fight another day, as characters regenerate a small amount of health when they "tag out". And making sure they're healthy is very important, as your teammates can offer assistance during fighting. By using the control options, you can configure the buttons to bring either of your mates, or both, into the fold to offer an extra spark without actually switching to them. Rogue can be summoned to pummel your enemies while you execute a special move, for example, or Amingos can be thrown into the ring to heal your wounded warrior. Even more useful is a triple team attack, where all of your combatants launch themselves into a flurry of rage and rack up some incredible hits. These moves can only be executed after building up your Combo Bar through normal play, as each hit moves it up a notch. And of course, combos make it go even faster. Once you've started smashing the buttons there's really no stopping you; combos are a huge part of the gameplay. Without using the special character linkups, blizzards of damage well into the double figures can be done with relative ease, and the scope for creativity and versatility in these is where MvC2 really shines. You can spend hours in the training mode building up your skills, perfecting that special combo that's been your sole purpose in life since you started, and put it into practice against the CPU, or better yet, against a friend.

Know thine enemy

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There are only a few basic play modes available, Arcade, High Score Challenge, Versus and Training. Arcade allows you to battle through seven stages before meeting the final boss, becoming more and more challenging along the way. The difficulty for the Arcade mode can be chosen before starting, so you can either face a gaggle of limp-wristed pansies, or a squad of sublime superheroes. This mode offers little by way of innovation; it's the standard formula seen in arcades the world over since the 1980s, a little disappointing. High Score Challenge is slightly more interesting. Disregarding the options altogether, you're thrown into another set of fights, but this time the emphasis is not only on winning, it is on winning with style. Each combo, each special move, and each team attack you pull off adds to your score, and this is the mode that has the real pull factor for the game. You can load it up, fight your way through, and be elated to see this session's tally outscoring the last by a few thousand. But, if you're yearning for something a bit more tangible to test your wits against, a second controller is a must, as the Versus mode is king. If you can shell out the 20 quid for a second controller without the risk of starving (even with the risk), do so now, and buy MvC2. It's a gem in two-player. The action is the same as above, but with your friend or foe beside you, the combos and moves you execute become all the more satisfying. What's more, it's possible to carry out trades with your opponent, provided you both have a VMU. "But what could you possibly trade in a fighting game?", I hear you squeal. Quite a lot actually, if the fighting game is MvC2. Each time you successfully win a fight, or try something new in the Training mode, you earn career points which are saved onto your memory card. These points can be exchanged for a whole cavalcade of goodness in the Secret Factor menu. New characters, colour schemes, and even backgrounds for the fights can be chosen to spend your hard-earned points on, and when you've exhausted all of them, there's a couple of surprises in store. As you've probably worked out, the characters can be traded via the VMU, like Pokemon. (Although don't compare Guile to a Pokemon, at least not to his face).

Comic Book Art

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Each character is lovingly created with enough frames of animation to make your head spin, but with the amount of fists, feet and projectiles hurtling around the screen at once, coupled with the glows from the special moves, things can become a bit cluttered. However, I guarantee the first time you play you'll be unable to focus on these as you'll be too busy gawking, wide-eyed, at the beautiful backgrounds. Settings vary from a pirate ship, to a clock tower, to an insane circus (familiar to any comic book fans), but all are united in their grand and polished appearance. Hands wave, bells ring, clouds fly, while the carnage unfolds in front. Some of my fights have been almost poetic: the last stand of the solitary contestants, biding their time as the clock ticks behind them, ready to unlock a special attack when the time is right. Great stuff. However, in a trend seemingly unavoidable these days, the music is something of a letdown. Irritating tunes with undecipherable messages may have been acceptable in the early 90s, but come on folks, this is the 21st century. Perhaps it's retro chic or whatever, I'm powerless to say, but I like my fightin' music thumpin', and my sound effects gory, not annoying and pallid. It's been a while since I heard startlingly excellent music in a game, especially from Capcom who seem to have had the same music staff since the middle ages, but hopefully their next release will buck the trend.

Conclusion

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MvC2 is a great title. The combination of two different character sets and worlds is an inspired choice, the magic of Marvel with the ingenuity of Capcom is a blend of the highest quality. Like a good whiskey, a lot of the ideas behind it have aged well, and like a good cocktail, the new additions are fresh, exciting, and have a zing that the final product couldn't do without. Like fighting? Buy it. Got a second controller? Buy it. Like lame Japanese game music? Buy it.

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