Retro Arcade Review: Marvel Vs Capcom (1998)

There is a type of comfort that you settle into, scrolling through the infinite list of MAME titles, just holding “down” on the control stick as years and years of arcade glory flashes past you. Side scrolling beat-em-up? I know how those work. Contra-clone? Got it. Street Fighter wannabe? I am with you.

And then there’s something that messes you up a little bit. Janks you out of your super smooth car ride you thought you were on, and throws you into a car, travelling in the opposite direction, driven by my old room mate arron, whowas nearly always pretty hammered.

Marvel Vs Capcom is like that. I’ve played Tekken, Soul Calibur, Street Fighter, all of the classics. I’m no expert, but I can throw fireballs, got past the “smashing X and O as Eddie Gordo” phase, and even have a couple of fatalities I can use in a pinch.

But none of that did me any favours with Marvel Vs Capcom, which is from the “Way too many buttons” phase of arcade beat-em-ups. Yes, there are two characters on screen, and yes, they are beating the comic sans out of each other, through best two out of three rounds, but the way moves and combos are launched, edited, and thrown feels initially like everyone is both moving too quickly, and on tranquilisers. It’s a lot like your first Comic Convention.

It’s a tag team fighter, which I strongly believe no-one ever wants. There was a rush of these a few years ago, and at the time, most people put up with them, and the steeper difficulty curve of having to learn two characters moves and timings. But no more, they are a travesty, and it makes no more sense for a one on one fighting game to actually be a two on two fighter, any more than it makes sense for it to be 30 on 30 fight (it only makes sense when you get to 1,000 vs 1,000, which is basically StarCraft).

So, as a tag team fighter, there’s a whole load of switches to learn, along with allies, combo attacks, and a whole range of other trick bits. There’s also two modes for every fight, “Auto” and “Turbo”. You might notice those don’t explain what they do. That’s tough boobs for you.

So yes, there are annoyances with the game, but then, you load it up, get into your first fight and sweet mama jama. Look at those sprites. Look at those colours. Jesus mary and joseph the screen is MELTING under this stuff.

If you search the internet for “Sprite porn” Captain America appears behind you and haymakers the horny right out of you.

Everything is moving. Everything is super smooth and happening in full colours. Its huffing on it’s haunches and pacing and rolling and boiling like mad. How much paint did the game huff to look like this? More. The answer is simply more.

And after your eyes have been reconstructed, you can start taking in a few more power bars, animated icons, and flashing cues. It’s like looking at my mums smart phone.

You may notice that all of this is not how the game plays. Yes it’s complicated for a game based on the concept of “Would Venom be stronger than Megaman?” but does it feel good to play? Does victory feel earned, and is it satisfying enough to inspire the kind of gloating that leads to broken friendships? Because that’ what we want goddamn it.

The answer to this question is just sex noises. The game play is lightning fast, once you give up trying to understand the number of buttons, and just accept, the game starts to feel smooth, sensible and controlled. The characters feel different from one another, and the special moves feel like the minor achievements they are. They feel like the strategically placed traps and bait that power any good beat-em-up.

It is one of the best fighters on MAME, and, more importantly to me, it makes a perfect case for why we need another fighter after we already hit the apex with Street Fighter 2. It’s different, it’s bananas, and it’s rock hard, but if you can get past the many barriers the game seems to think it’s important to put in your way, you’re going to have a really good time.

MArvel Vs Capcom, 4/5.

Play it on MAME, or rent our gear!

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