Marvel vs. Capcom 2: A Modern Masterpiece from Capcom

Spidey giving Wolverine the toss

Marvel vs. Capcom 2 for the Xbox, despite its mixed reviews at launch, has managed to become a mainstay at video game tournaments around the world and remains one of the most elusive and expensive titles of the last hardware generation.

I can understand why the game got mixed reviews: So little had changed from the previous iterations and so many fighters were on the market at that time, it’s no surprise gave it a four out of ten. But there is something about the formula Capcom had been tinkering with since Street Fighter II that has really taken hold with this game.

There are more than fifty different characters to choose from, though not all are available at the start of the game. (You have to unlock those later.) Most of the characters are recognizable if you’re a geek on any level. Everyone’s here from Ryu and Zangief to Cyclops and Cable.

Before you can actually get to a match, though, you’re going to have to choose three fighters and their fighting styles. The fighting styles affect your move sets and can alter your super moves, but more on that in a bit.

Your three fighters are interchangeable with the push of A + X or B + Y. You’ll want to pick a well balanced team or you’ll get torn apart by one little character that gets through a common fault in your fighters’ defenses.

Although the control scheme is comfortably similar to the original layout – and highly responsive – the sheer number of options you have at your disposal at any one moment in a fight dwarfs anything Defender could ever throw at you.

Many characters have air grabs, for example. All of those air grapples can be countered by the right timing of a button press, but even if one’s fighter is thrown to the ground you can roll out of the fall, increasing your recovery time dramatically and evading follow-up attacks. All fighters also have a ground attack that’s capable of knocking their opponent off-screen and forcing one of their teammates to replace them.

One of the most awesome, and sometimes ridiculous, aspects of MvC2 are the animations for the super moves. While some battlers, such as Cable, will pull out a mundane attack like a big laser gun blast, others, like Mega Man, transform into a screen-filling mecha and unleash robot-grade napalm death on his enemies. Still others crash haunted ghost ships into their enemies’ ribs or trample them with tiny robot stampedes.

Ryu and Jill face off against the Hulk

That’s the game you’re going to get if you just play with the arcade and versus modes. There’s also a training mode where you can try to perfect your combos on highly controlled computer bots, and there’s pretty detailed high-score information that the game stores to the Xbox hard drive. To unlock characters and alternate costume colors, you’ll need to earn points in the training and arcade modes to use in the secret factor menu. New characters typically cost over 1,000 points. That’s not too bad since you get 2,000 for running through the game one time.

The last menu is the options menu. It doesn’t really require that much explanation. You control game and match variables from here.

This game is addictive fun when playing against a friend. The Capcom special moves have remained nearly unchanged in form over the years and this title is no exception. Almost anyone can pick it up and make their fighter do something cool looking, and quite possibly kick a little ass along the way.

Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is still one of the biggest draws I see when I go to video game tournaments. The high dexterity level of the game and the intuitive simplicity of its gameplay make it easy to see why this is still a popular game among die-hards and casual players alike.

If you’re trying to get your hands on MvC2, remember that it won’t come cheap and it is not compatible with the Xbox 360. The easiest place to find it is on Ebay, where you could pay more than $80 for the game all told. But if you have a little patience, take a look at this article on how to find a used copy at retail for $60 or less.