SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium
Posted at 09:35 on 16th August 2009 - permalink

This article is part of the NeoGeo Pocket Color: 10th Anniversary retrospective.

SNK vs Capcom SNK vs Capcom

With SNK’s pedigree, you’d expect that the NGPC’s library would bountifully stocked with fighting games, and it doesn’t disappoint. SNK released no fewer than eight portable fighting titles, covering all of their main franchises at the time (King of Fighters, Fatal Fury, Samurai Shodown, The Last Blade), but the jewel in the crown was SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of The Millennium.

It’s clear from the outset that SvC:MOTM was intended to be the flagship title for the machine. It boasts a roster of 26 characters (plucked from the titles mentioned previously for the SNK side, and from the Street Fighter II, Alpha and Darkstalkers series for Capcom) each with a move set close to their arcade counterparts.

SNK avoided the mistake of trying to scale down their existing artwork to fit the NGPC’s screen. Instead, cute “super-deformed” character sprites are used, drawn at the system’s native resolution. This (presumably very labour-intensive) solution had the upside of providing space for thousands of animation frames, which are put to good use with lots of elaborate round introductions, taunts and special moves.

SNK vs Capcom SNK vs Capcom

Aside from the graphics, the other limiting factor was the control scheme. The NGPC only has two buttons, which might seem like a showstopper for a genre like 2D fighters. SNK’s solution to this was to ‘double up’ each button by distinguishing between a short tap (for weak kick/punch) and a longer press (for fierce). It works surprisingly well.

Both of these compromises are only skin-deep – the underlying game retains the fluidity and complexity of the full-scale arcade games from whence its cast was plucked.

SNK vs Capcom SNK vs Capcom

Beyond the straightforward arcade campaign mode, the game contains a plethora of life-extending extras. As well as special moves and hidden characters to unlock, there are nine mini-games to master (including four non-fighting ones, each of which would make a good iPhone game in its own right), records to beat and countless completely superfluous secrets to find. Even the mini-games have secrets. Hell, even the menu screens have secrets.

At this point I’m peeking through my fingers and hoping that I’ve not misused any fighting game terminology too egregiously. I may not know much about the genre, but I know what I like. I would put SNK vs. Capcom in the same bracket as Soul Calibur and Street Fighter IV, in so far as it’s accessible enough to reward Johnny Casual’s (i.e. my) ham-fisted attempts to master it, but deep enough for hardcore fans to dive into more deeply.

Score: 8/10

Developer/Publisher: SNK

Supercede-o-factor: At the time of release, cramming so much content and mechanical depth into a handheld game was a technical marvel. Today, the PSP offers a robust selection of arcade-perfect 2D and 3D fighting games that render SvC:MOTM technically obsolete. That said, fighters tend to age gracefully (as Capcom’s endless ports of Street Fighter II attest), and time hasn’t diminished the feel of the controls or the obvious love for the subject matter that the game radiates.

Next: SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash

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