If you’ve ever seen a line next to a Street Fighter 2 machine, or even dared to put up your very own quarters, then you’re already well aware of the joy that is playing fighting games with your friends. From the Neo Geo cabinet’s King of Fighters or Samurai Shodown, to the deep yet easy to pick up mechanics of Smash Bros. Ultimate, it almost doesn’t matter what game you play, but more who you play with that can make or break the impression of a fighting game.
While once home gaming consoles brought fighting games home from the arcades, around 1999-2000 the Playstation 2 and Sega’s final console venture the Dreamcast showed us the early forms of online console gaming, even before broadband and Xbox live. In the discography of around 300 games, the Dreamcast still hosts a variety of exclusive fighting games and rare franchises to be enjoyed if you’re a fan of the genre or just seek to discover underrated gems through retro video game emulation. While other fighters began to take on 3-D forms, there is still one classic 2-D fighting game that remains peerless in style, substance, and entertainment value, the crowning achievement of what we would later come to know as the Marvel crossover series. To be frank, we may never in our lifetime see another game like Marvel vs. Capcom 2.
The giant roster of playable characters is unlike any to date. Each one a part of their own complete story and universes full of lore, the licensing cost of which would be exorbitant today. The theme of the whole series is of course bringing together characters whose story and artwork, in many of the marvel comic cases, has developed over decades of creative design to near perfection. While much of the game’s style and mechanics were tested and proven by its predecessor, the arcade fighting hit X-Men:Children of the Atom, the most seamless blend of both Japanese and american comic art styles served over beautiful and deadly team based martial arts match ups was the lighting in a bottle powered sequel to Marvel vs. Capcom.
If you’re already a fan of the game, there’s an unmistakable sense of elation that comes with any utterance of the character selection musical phrase “I wanna take you for a ride.” In a heartbeat you’re now mentally selecting who will occupy your next team of three heroes, but If the sheer possibility of 3v3 match-ups matches don’t seem to brawl hard enough, strategically adding your favorite moves from your ultimate hero teammates mid combat using the assist feature adds dynamic gameplay and visually appealing chaos to every match. This became a genre defining mechanic that still feels original when playing years later. With so many assist types and three options per playable character, the fights never seem to get repetitive no matter when or how often you revisit Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, making it a game that’s never too late to get into.
One part of what allows fans to keep coming back is the music of the game, like the previously mentioned battle phrase. For 20 years the original soundtrack of midi latin jazz fusion has been the folded napkin centerpiece on the table of some of the greatest professional matches in the history of fighting game tournaments, like those of 7 time champion Justin Wong at The Evolution Tournament Series.
The funky and often soulfully sung compositions are as driving and technical as the fights they accompany. So much so that It’s hard to imagine the game’s success without the near perfect 30 minutes of original music from the Capcom sound team. You may even still catch the world’s best players humming their favorite melodies in the middle of a match for inspiration.
About a year before the writing of this article Marvel vs. Capcom 2 almost made an uncanny return to the evolution fighting game tournament. Because 2020 happened to be the 20th anniversary of the game’s release, an invitational competition was planned but was never officially commenced. But if the persistence of pro level competitions and celebrity fanfare doesn’t speak to this game’s priceless value, an authentic copy of Marvel vs Capcom 2 from two decades ago still averages around $80 USD anywhere in person or online, while a collector graded copy in good enough condition can reach thousands.
If street fighter style combos are unfamiliar territory, then don’t let the soaring heights of pro level skill and collectable costs deter you from enjoying this classic title. The move sets for most characters are refined from its pioneering games in the series to be unique yet easy to master with a little practice. Instead of a definitive tier list of character quality, players are allowed to vary their character choices and styles of play to a wormhole of 2D combat situations fit for each battle and opponent.
The timeless style, sound, 3v3 matches combined with the pool of characters and assist choices creates a one of a kind fighting game experience that always creates new paths to victory for any possible situation. The best way to acclimate with the game today may also be an artifact from a lost age, and that’s unlocking all the available characters through a system of points earned while playing on a console or emulation. When it comes to MvC2 age is just a number, because this fighting game is still a flagship experience for the new age of heroes.