If any company knows how to make a decent beat'em up, its Capcom. Between the mid 90s and 2002 Capcom first held the rights to use Marvel super hero characters and decided to use them in games across a number of different platforms.Out of this came a number of excellent fighting games.
We here at Retro 101 are sick to death of only seeing Marvel vs. Capcom 2 paraded around in every magazine and on every internet site while the other games in the series go relatively unnoticed. That is why we are happy to redress the balance and present a feature on all six of the retro Marvel 2D beat'em ups.
The first and generally most ignored of the five fighters is the sublime X-Men: Children of the Atom. The game was something of a benchmark at the time of release with its huge characters, massive destuctible stages and the introduction of technical elements that would become common place such as air blocks, tech hits and reversals.
There are eight characters to choose from, each of which is incredibly different from the other. Each of the combatants has a different style and requires a lot of practice to be effective with. Furthermore, each fighter is designed to act as a nemesis for one of the others. For instance, Wolverine has a really hard time taking down the Sentinel, while Omega Red will quickly take out Cyclops.
Children of the Atom is a difficult game and will certainly take some time to get used to. The old jump kick and sweep combination that many gamers are used too won't do much good here, as the characters move sets simply don't work like that. Once you get to grips with it all though, it soon becomes clear just how far ahead this game is from the rest of the crowd. Even now it retains a sense of being unique, and as such still has much to offer fight fans.
After the technical showcase of the X-Men game came this much more frantic and over-the-top offering. Eight fighters are available, but now most of the X-Men characters have been replaced by the likes of Spiderman, Hulk and Captain America. The scenery is still big and impressive, though there is much less crumbling of floors.
Where as Children of the Atom was based around basic moves being used to parry and counter, this title relies far more on characters special powers. There is also a selection of magical gems that can be used to give your character a boost. It may be the less technical title, but it is arguably more fun due to the faster pace, softened difficulty level and screen busting moves. The two games are very different in there approach so there is no excuse not to add both to your collection.
So we come to the first time Capcom decided to mix its fighting franchises, and it proves a master stroke. By now all memories of the technical bouts found in Children of the Atom are long gone, replaced by taking some of finest characters from the two franchises and letting them bash the living hell out of each other in the most fun and stylish way possible.
X-Men vs. Street Fighter introduced Gambit and Rogue into the fight for the first time and also added the ability to tag in a partner. Players now pick two characters to take on two opponents with both having to be defeated in order to progress. The constant tagging, even faster pace and even bigger special moves produce a real spectacle.
However, the game is not without its faults. The most noticeably of these is that each of the characters has at least one infinite combo. We're sure that many a player has been reduced to tears by a merciless pro hitting them with string upon string of unstoppable, never ending attacks. As well as this there are a few balancing issues with certain super moves being far superior to others. Flaws aside though, X-Men vs. Street Fighter remains a fun experience.
As you might expect, this second entry in Capcom's vs. series is quite similar to the first. The major difference is that now instead of the X-Men there are characters from the whole Marvel universe. Cyclops, Omega Red and Wolverine make it through but the others are replaced by Spidey and co. Fan favourite Iron Man is surprisingly dropped though.
While on the surface things may seem a little too similar there have also been a number of refinements and tweaks implemented. The infinite combo moves are now long gone and the game has undergone a rebalancing. This makes what could have been a somewhat lazy follow up become a decent streamlined and refined effort. There is also an extra boss character to be dealt with. It may seem like more of the same but it is still as fun as any of the other titles.
The first Marvel vs. Capcom introduces characters from Capcom's back catalogue into the action such as Strider and Mega Man. The game remains two-on-two, though now a third character can be called upon to jump in with a special move. The super moves have once again been ramped up in style and are now much easier to execute.
Unfortunately, Marvel vs. Capcom is arguably the weakest of the six games. Some of the characters are wildly unbalanced and it can be hard to tell when your character is getting hit due to some weak impact sound effects. The game also has one of the most frustrating and cheap boss fights in history.
The final and most grand entry into the series, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 pulls out all the stops to create a frantic fighting game. The matches are now three-on-three and the roster has been boosted up to include fifty-six playable characters. All the fighters from the previous games are here, along with combatants from pretty much every other Capcom game.
Tagging and special moves are now even easier to execute with two buttons being used for just that purpose. Unfortunately, because of this, we lose the Capcom standard configuration of a light, medium and hard kick and punch. The four remaining buttons are assigned to light and hard attacks. This may take away some of the tactical approach but it certainly helps make the matches move along at a break neck speed.
This really is a classic game. Aside from a couple of the characters (well, aside from Cable), it's balanced nicely and will take you days to find your perfect combination of three. The only slight complaint is that the sound is once again a little weak with impacts being hard to distinguish and the music not really fitting with the action. But these are minor points.