In Depth Review: Marvel vs. Capcom 2 [DC]
Quite well, in fact. While not necessarily the deepest fighting game in terms of sheer mastery of techniques, MvC 2 is one of the most fun romps to be found on any platform, and will have your adrenaline running on full blast.
The most awe-inspiring feature of MvC 2, I feel, is the massive character count. Although the game starts off with around half of the final 56, that's still a lot of fighters to play around with. Taking characters from all of the previous Capcom vs. fighting games, you can assemble your team of three characters with a mix of Street Fighters, Darkstalkers, and Marvel Super Heroes. After every play, either in single-player mode or versus mode, you are given a certain amount of points. You then buy new characters and stages, with the cooler characters coming at a higher cost.
Although the character roster basically just rips off of every other Vs. game out there (with some new additions), just having all of them at your disposal is impressive in and of itself. The more intriguing aspect of this is the mother lode of opportunities that is opened up for you. In Marvel vs. Capcom you basically had teams of two from a roster 15 characters, good for 105 different possibilities (not counting helpers). Now, with teams of three from a (full) roster of 56, the possibilities are endless. Ok, not endless, but if you do the math, that's 27,720 possibilities (that's the nCr function on yer graphing calculators, folks). That opens the door to new team strategies to master.
But wait, the Vs. Series is just a button masher, right? Where's the strategy besides linking combos and managing your super bar? Ah, young glasshopper. As button mash-happy as it may be, several changes have taken place in the gameplay - not just the roster. MvC 2 has gotten rid of the helper characters that you chose at random (or with a button combination) in MvC. Instead, as was the case in Marvel vs. Street Fighter or Xmen vs. Street Fighter, your teammates are your helpers. Another addition is having three different helper actions, per character, to choose from. (A little more math - this means each character is essentially 3 characters, in terms of what strategies to use: so with 168 "characters," this gives 776,216 possibilities!) This selection cannot be changed until the end of a game (or in Versus mode, the end of a match), so you have to know which helper action for what character works best with what combination of three. Perhaps Guile's anti-air helper attack (Flash Kick) is his best support move, but it also makes his triple-super contribution (more on those later) different than expected. So many choices.
The core gameplay consists of weak-to-strong chain combos from the past Vs. games, with your usual Aerial Raves (air combos) and single-motion-double-button super moves. Capcom has taken away the medium attacks (strong and forward), so all you're left with is jab, fierce, short and roundhouse. Chain combos work fine - if it involves a strong or forward attack, you just press the corresponding weak button again (a full six-hitter would be jab, short, jab short, fierce, roundhouse). You can switch in either character, and by the same token, use either as helpers. Additions include the Snapback, the Triple Super, and Super Linking. A snapback forces your opponent's current character out of play so that the next character in line comes in, useful if you've chipped a character down to a one-hit kill but s/he was switched out successfully. The Triple Super is basically like the Double from MvC, calling in all of your characters to unleash hell. Exactly which super is performed is determined by the helper attack you chose in the character-selection screen. The addition with the most impact, Super Linking, is also the most fun addition. If you have enough levels in your super meter (it can now hold up to five), you can cancel from one character's super move to the next. Imagine Ryu, Morrigan, and Akuma, canceling from one beam super, to the next, to the next. This also opens up possibilities to suck your opponent in to on-contact supers that are normally hard to pull off, such as the Raging Demon or Captain America's Final Justice.
All these possibilities make for some fast, furious, frantic and seriously fun gameplay. Sometimes, though, things turn into a cheesefest, where one player will continuously throw beam/projectile supers out, wearing the other down and killing him via "block damage." There is skill involved in learning the game, but a lot of the "tactics" are actually just little tricks that trap an opponent, rather than relying on pure reflexes, dexterity and strategic thinking. The worst thing is when a character capable of a barrage of chain combos is used to just force the opponent into blocking forever. In that case, winning is not skill; it's merely waiting for the guy to slip up and stop blocking.
As much of a cheesefest as it may become, MvC 2 makes it fun to watch. While the mostly gorgeous hand drawn art may get pixellated at times (especially if you're playing with a Dreamcast VGA box), the backgrounds are almost fully polygonal 3D, moving at a brisk 60 frames a second (for moving stages, that is). Performing a super induces a psychadelic explosion of color and light, and just watching your team jump out into the playfield all at once to pound on a wee opponent is sheer joy.
Ah, but my ears started to hate my eyes for having so much fun. MvC 2's music is, how to put it lightly, compost. The music heard in MvC 2 is a sort of jazzy, lounge flavor that would have been alright in a puzzle game. But not for a game of this pacing. And even if it were music in a puzzle game, I'm not sure I'd keep the volume up. The themes and melodies are corny, goofy, and just plain dumb, for lack of a better word. The best thing to do is to turn off music in the options and keep all the beefy, crunchy hits, yelps, and energy noises that your fighters create. Those are sounds I want to hear in a fighting game, not weird-o trombone riffs.
This game gives you quite a lot for your dollar. There is absolutely NO story to this game, and thus, no real ending. Rather, MvC 2 has a lot of replay value in the fact that you have half of the entire roster to unlock as well as some additional stages. And, as with all fighting games that are fun, the replay value increases with every friend you have (and if you don't have friends, stop reading this site, stop playing the videogames, and GET A FREAKIN' LIFE).
When all is said and done, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is a 2-D fighting tour-de-force. It's not the deepest in terms of technique, but it's very far from shallow. Masked under the blinding flashes of light is some fun kick-the-crap-out-of-each-other action, marred only by moments of cheesiness. When you're tired of working over characters in whatever fighting game you deem to be the greatest of all time, take a break and play Marvel vs. Capcom 2 - the sheer chaos should bring you more than enjoyment.