Format: Dreamcast Genre: Fighting Released: 2000 Developer: Capcom
[It’s a Saturday morning in the year 2000. The scene: Ian and Lewis’s student house in Southampton. Lewis picks his way through the detritus of the living room, which consists mostly of discarded curry and beer cans. After thumbing the Dreamcast ‘on’ switch, he groggily slumps into the hideous paisley settee and waits for the ancient television to warm up. Ian steams into the room with two mugs of tea. They are both in dressing gowns.]
<I’M GONNA TAKE YOU FOR A RI-I-IDE!!>
[The impossibly jaunty, oddly inappropriate pseudo-jazz soundtrack of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 blares from tinny speakers. Lewis and Ian prepare to choose their characters.]
Lewis: Right, no Cable, OK? Or Iron Man or War Machine.
[Choosing Cable is expressly forbidden under House Law. This is because he has a gun – several in fact – and this somewhat contravenes good practice when it comes to one-on-one fighting. Unless you’re Indiana Jones.]
[Lewis, ever the Capcom devotee, picks Jill Valentine, Ryu and Captain Commando. Ian, a Marvel zealot, picks Spider-Man, Venom and Hulk.]
[The first round begins. Ian immediately launches Spider-Man’s web attack, but Lewis has already used Jill’s ‘summon’ move, and the attack collides harmlessly with a shuffling zombie. Lewis quickly follows this up by summoning a crow, which hits Spider-Man in mid-leap.]
Ian: Why do you think this game is so compelling? Could it be something to do with the enormous range of 54 playable characters, sourced from an impressively diverse selection of Capcom games and Marvel comics? Admittedly, some of them are particularly obscure…
Lewis: The obscure ones are some of the best! As you know, my particular favourite is Captain Commando, who originally started out as a fictional cartoon spokesman for Capcom back in the eighties before appearing in his own arcade game in 1991. Ouch!
[Ian has switched to Hulk and quickly begins to gain the upper hand. Jill’s energy bar plummets alarmingly as she’s hit by wave after wave of Hulk’s ferocious attacks, which see him literally rip up the ground and throw it at her head.]
Lewis: Right, now taste the wrath of the Captain!
[Lewis switches to Captain Commando, whose flying kicks and lightning quick fireballs are no match for the sluggish Hulk.]
Ian: C’mon Hulk! Anyway, you have to admit that despite the generally excellent character design throughout, the game falls down heavily in terms of the final boss, Abyss, who’s by far the most poorly imagined and least interesting character in the entire game.
Ian: Yet even so, the lure of unlocking extra characters and costumes is so great that it keeps us coming back to the single-player game again and again, even if it means facing the drudgery of Abyss.
[Ian changes to Venom and the fight starts to even up. The ‘Venom Fang’ special move proves particularly effective against Captain Commando’s flying kick, and the tide of battle slowly begins to turn. Lewis begins running low on energy and taps the shoulder button to bring on Jill for a heal assist. But disaster ensues – Ian pulls both triggers on his joypad to launch a super move. All three of Ian’s characters bound onto the screen to unleash a screen-filling ultimate combo that does for both Captain Commando and the unlucky Jill, who gets caught in the onslaught. Lewis is down to one character – Ryu.]
Lewis: Well played old boy! But I’m afraid you underestimate my skill with this old Street Fighter stalwart!
[Venom is caught in a hurricane kick, followed by a massive blue fireball, which takes him out. Hulk comes back on.]
Lewis: Going back to your original question, I think the secret to this game’s success is its sheer delight in being utterly ludicrous. Everything is just brilliantly over the top, from the enormous sprites, to the outrageous special moves, right down to the funk-jazz theme tune.
Ian: It’s almost as if the designers just thought, “Ah, to hell with it, let’s just put everything in!”
Lewis: Yes! It’s just so refreshing to see a game that doesn’t even attempt to take itself seriously – it’s just all-out fun.
Ian: And with so many characters and unlockables, it’s very hard to get bored. Damn!
[Lewis finishes off Hulk with a dragon punch and it’s down to Spider-Man versus Ryu. Both characters have just over half an energy bar each.]
Ian: This is it my friend, to the death!
[Lewis unleashes repeated fireballs, all of which are either blocked or neutralised by Spidey’s web attacks. Seeing his long-range attacks foiled, Lewis sends Ryu in for the old jump kick-sweep kick combo, a perennial favourite of all Street Fighter veterans, but ends up jumping into Spider-Man’s ‘Web Swing’ special move. Lewis recovers quickly and manages to pin down Ian in the corner with two successive hurricane kicks, but Ryu is running low on energy. Just then, Ian unleashes Spider-Man’s super combo, which sees the Marvel hero dart around the screen, inflicting kick after kick on the hapless Ryu as the background explodes into blue light and the announcer intones ‘SUPER COMBO FINISH!” It’s all over.]
Lewis: Good show sir! Didn’t see that one coming!
[The pair shake hands, then reach for their mugs of tea. Ian takes a sip and turns to Lewis.]
Ian: Best 2D beat ’em up ever?
[Lewis gulps down a mouthful of delicious tea, lets out a satisfied ‘Aaah!’ and reclines luxuriously onto the paisley settee.]
[After a brief pause, Lewis puts down his tea and leans forward expectently…]
Lewis: Fancy another go?
Lewis and Ian
(Screenshots from ign.com)