Marvel vs. Capcom 2
Release Date: July 29, 2009 (Xbox Live Arcade); August 13, 2009 (Playstation Network)
ESRB Rating: Teen for Blood, Suggestive Themes, Violence
Available On: Xbox 360 (version reviewed), PS3; other versions available on PS2, Xbox, Dreamcast, Arcade
Genre: Fighting
Number of Players: 1-2 (local competitive), 1-6 (online competitive)
Retail Price: $15 (1200MSP or $15 on PSN)
Strong Points: Excellent and addictive fighting engine; huge cast of truly usable characters; great for competitive play; fantastic online play; Wolverine vs. Ryu, enough said.
Weak Points: Plays so unlike other games that some unlearning will be necessary for fans of other fighting games; though not awfully lopsided, top-skilled players can dominate over new players; not much variety in game modes.
Moral Warnings: Crazy over-the-top violence is the name of the game, featuring fisticuffs and weapons; some supernatural characters, including a vampire and demon; some characters have revealing attire.

It\'s been many years since Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was unleashed on the American public in arcades. Pitting a grand total of 56 characters from the realm of Marvel Comics and a host of characters from Capcom\'s franchises into a single tag-team fighting game was more than enough at the time to gather attention from fans of both brands.

But Capcom is a master of its craft, and the deep fighting mechanics, expansive character roster, and "did you just see that!?" factor that the company put into the game have all contributed to the game\'s amazing staying power. Sure, the game\'s appeal to fans of the brands involved has not diminished over the years, but even more important for the game\'s longevity is its favor among tournament players.

The game previously saw many ports from the arcade version to home consoles. Unfortunately, the PS2 and Xbox ports were not suitable for tournament play and even when these ports can be found, they fetch high dollars on eBay. The Dreamcast port has long been a favorite for fans due to its accuracy to the arcade original, but with Dreamcast systems rapidly dying out, the accessibility of home ports of the game were in rapid decline.

Fortunately, as proven previously with an HD Remix rerelease of Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Capcom is great about listening to its fans. Fans have been demanding an arcade-accurate port of Marvel with good online support on the 360 and PS3 for a while now, and that\'s exactly what Capcom has given us.

Backbone Entertainment (responsible for the aforementioned HD Remix) was given responsibility for making the port of Marvel happen, and they proved themselves more than up to the task by giving us a fantastic game. The game code is based on the Dreamcast version, so arcade-accuracy is in. The game itself plays exactly like it did all those years ago, and given the game\'s design and intricate balances (and imbalances), it\'s actually for the best that the play hasn\'t changed.

I won\'t try to detail every bit of the game mechanics here since they\'re too many and too elaborate to cover in a review, but there is a Marvel thread in the forum where I will be further detailing mechanics and play strategies. But in case if you\'re starting at ground zero in your Marvel understanding, I\'ll explain the flow a little bit here.

The game is broken up into single-round matches. Before each match begins, players choose a three-character team to fight with. Once both players have picked their teams, the battle begins. Coming from the 2D fighting game tradition, fighters duke it out using a variety of punches, kicks, throws, and special attacks.

Marvel can be a blindingly fast game, and the key to success is linking strings of attacks into each other to keep opponents from having a chance to attack back. And if crazy combos are the keys to success, then Marvel\'s assists system and tagteam dynamics are the keychain that makes it possible to keep your keys in order.

At just about any point in a given match, you can tag out to one of your teammates. This is good since it allows you to change up your offensive game, and it is also good because characters on the sidelines can regenerate a little bit of health over time. When moving from casual, newcomer territory into a more serious game, the even more important use of teams is in partner assists. With the simple press of a button, your chosen teammate jumps out and uses a special attack then returns to the sidelines. These attacks can be used for defensive purposes, but they are often very important to long, highly effective combos.

But game mechanics only get a fighting game so far if there isn\'t a character roster of high caliber to match. Fortunately, with 56 characters spread all across the Marvel and Capcom universes, there is bound to be at least a few characters for everyone to like. Just as important as personality differences are play style variety, and the roster is very diverse in this matter, too. Sure, you have your typical up-close fighters, brute force fighters, long range fighters, and so on, but there are lots of variations and combinations of all of these. It would take ages to master all 56 characters, and even longer to learn to use them in different team configurations.

Also of importance for a fighting game is its ability to find a balance between accessibility and rewarding depth. If a game is too complex, only the most dedicated newcomers will stick around long enough to get good. If a game is too simple, then it loses its viability as a competitive fighting game. Marvel definitely rewards skilled playing and practice, and a top tier player will probably obliterate a true newcomer. However, the mechanics are not so complex that it takes forever to learn them. Beyond that, newcomers can have a great time with other newcomers and even moderately skilled players. Most importantly, the raw appeal and fun nature of the game make it a game the people are more likely to want to learn than many of its ilk even after facing a beatdown from a pro.

The game modes are fairly limited in this version of Marvel. Basic arcade and training modes are present; the latter has some adjustable options to make it a great place to work on skills by yourself. A score attack mode is included, but it\'s mostly just a variant of arcade mode. By far, the biggest draw of Marvel is its multiplayer aspects. Local multiplayer is just like you would expect standing at an arcade machine to be like.

Thanks to being able to directly see and interact with people, along with never having to worry about technical issues like lag, local multiplayer will always be better than online multiplayer for fighting games, but that doesn\'t mean that the online component is any less stellar. Ranked and unranked/player matches are available. Ranked matches pit you against one opponent for one match and records the results for online leaderboard purposes. Player matches are more interesting, though. They set up virtual lobbies for up to six people to sit in. Two people play at a time, and the winner takes on the next person in line. It\'s not quite an arcade, but it\'s about as close as online will get. Even more important is the great netcode. Nothing can kill an online fighting game faster than unresponsive controls due to lag issues. Marvel rarely suffers from this (when dealing with honest players, anyhow). For instance, I am on the American west coast, and was playing in a room with someone on the east coast as well as someone in the UK. The connection wasn\'t perfect when playing against my UK friend, but it was completely playable without any frustration. Generally speaking, online has been pretty flawless for me.

Unfortunately, the gaming world is not the same as it was when Marvel first released, and the game will not meet all of the expectations placed on today\'s games. For instance, stories are expected of games today. Instead of adding a superficial story to a game that has no use for one, Marvel serves up the action as action plain and simple. In an age of high definition graphics, the fact that Marvel maintains all of its original sprites and backgrounds may be a turnoff to some.

Granted, reworking the sprites would be a huge task given the size of the roster, and (if my memory serves me correctly) there were legal issues with the licensing of the Marvel characters. Between these two issues, it would have been very time-consuming, costly, and perhaps even impossible to give the game an HD Remix treatment. All the same, Backbone did include a graphical filter to make the sprites look cleaner. Despite their age, the sprites are still beautifully hand drawn and full of character, so that\'s hard to complain about.

However, the game is designed to run in a 4:3 "fullscreen" aspect ratio. Those of us playing on widescreen TVs will have the entire screen taken up, but the outside edges are inaccessible to characters as usable space due to the game design. Fortunately, this issue will hardly ever be noticed in practice; it\'s just another detail that can be nitpicked.

The last issue with the design to take note of is hardly one that the developer can be blamed for. The game was designed for an arcade stick. Playing on a game pad (the 360 pad even more so than the PS3 pad) is not always easy. It\'s plenty doable (I win more often than not online, and I use the 360 pad), but it\'s not optimal. Getting an arcade stick or a gamepad designed for fighting games is highly recommended.

The only other thing that really needs any attention is the moral content of the game. Obviously enough, the game revolves around violence. Much of it is hand to hand, some characters use guns firing solid rounds and energy beams, other characters use claws and swords to do damage. In all cases, you fight for the knockout instead of death. Despite the ESRB warning of "blood," I don\'t recall any obvious blood in the game. Perhaps some characters spit blood after significant hits as they do in other games, or perhaps it refers to some detail on a zombie that one of the characters can summon.

Beyond the violence itself is the supernatural content. Most characters have some kind of supernatural attack, and most of these characters have no clear source of power. The game itself never gives explicit sources of power, but notable characters include Blackheart (a devil of Marvel\'s universe) and Morrigan (a vampire from Capcom\'s Darkstalkers). Even here, the presentation of their powers does not come across as particularly evil or dark. Also of note is the fact that one of Jill\'s (from Resident Evil) special attacks summons forth a burning zombie.

For those concerned about the game\'s sexual content, many of the female characters wear revealing clothing. Of particular note, Morrigan wears little to cover her upper body, but more disturbing is Felicia, a cat-like humanoid. Strictly speaking, she is naked. Practically speaking, her cat-like fur covers all of her private regions. A couple of guys are down to underwear, too. Large wrestler Zangief wears nothing more than wrestling briefs and another character\'s (Jin) special move sends his clothes flying, leaving him down to his boxers. While not particularly sexual, one of Rogue\'s special moves drains an opponent\'s power by kissing him (staying true to the X-Men source), and the move is used on male/female characters alike.

But when all is said and done, there are a few questions to ask yourself. Do you like fighting games? Do you like competitive gaming in general? Do you like Capcom\'s franchises? Do you like the Marvel universe? If you\'ve answered yes to any of these questions, even if you answered no to some of the others, the game is worth giving a shot. It may very well surprise you as it has countless other people since it first released long ago. The game is not without some shortcomings, but the overall package definitely overcomes them. If the moral issues are not too off-putting for you, then give the game a shot. If you like it, you will certainly get more than your money\'s worth.

-Kenny Yeager (

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Game Score - 44/50
Morality Score - 41/50

Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls 5/5

Violence - 6/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10


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