If you were intimidated by the competition at your local arcade, or just simply didn’t have a local arcade to go to in my case, home console conversions were normally how you played fighting games, and unfortunately those normally came with sacrifices that had to be made due to hardware limitations. As many hours as I pumped into the Mortal Kombat series on my SNES with my brother and friends, I knew I wasn’t getting the best possible version of that game from either the arcade, PlayStation or Sega Saturn ports, not that ever bothered me mind you. A series that I was introduced to through consoles and not arcades was the Vs. Series, which perhaps has one of the roughest home console conversion history, that is until the Dreamcast release of Marvel Vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes.
At the time in the mid to late 90’s when the Vs. Series was at its most popular, the home hardware available to Capcom was either not technically capable of handling everything the games could do, or just didn’t have a large enough audience to create any type of demand or audience. Nintendo, who were graced with the first port of Street Fighter II in the days of the SNES, had the Nintendo 64 which could not handle the games due to its use of cartridges that had very limited space. Sony’s PlayStation, the console that ruled the 32-bit era, didn’t have enough internal RAM to do true tag-team play, limiting the option to forcing the players to use the same team only in reverse in the post X-Men Vs. Street Fighter games. Finally, Sega’s Saturn, which had the most faithful ports of these games that allowed players to play how they did in the arcade with the use of a RAM expansion, failed to capture any kind of market share in North America when put up against the forces of both Sony and Nintendo which caused both its versions of X-Men Vs. Street Fighter and Marvel Super Heroes Vs. Street Fighter to be Japanese exclusives or for those who were into the import scene.
Sega’s last home console, the beloved and short-lived Dreamcast, was the first machine that combined both the power and popularity to do the Vs. Series justice in the home market, as evidenced by the excellent port of the first Marvel Vs. Capcom close to the system’s launch. Even though the game ran as well as it did in the arcade though, it was still held back by one very important thing: the Dreamcast’s controller. Without an eight-button controller or fight stick, playing the first Marvel Vs. Capcom felt pretty awkward compared to the Saturn’s controller that had a near-perfect design for fighting games, or even the PlayStation’s original controller or Dualshock redesign. Hardcore fighting fans who waited for this port when it was new or have since sought this out over the years probably had no difficulty investing and justifying getting a controller just to play the first Marvel Vs. Capcom, but for everyone else who just simply wanted to buy the game and play a round or two here or there, Marvel Vs. Capcom still left console fans who wanted to enjoy this series as it was intended in the cold.
With a console strong enough to run the Vs. Series as it was intended with an attach rate to boot, Capcom second entry in the Marvel Vs. Capcom series, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes, felt like the first time that the franchise was designed with both the arcade and console audiences in mind. This was evident in two ways, the first being the fact that in Japanese arcades, players could bring their Dreamcast VMU’s and plug them into the cabinets to earn experience to unlock things like characters and costumes when the game finally came home. The second was in the newly designed controller scheme that served not only to simplify the game and differentiate it from Capcom’s Street Fighter Alpha and III’s series, but to allow for ease of play on a standard Dreamcast controller.
From X-Men: Children of the Atom through to the first Marvel Vs. Capcom, the series kept to the same three-punch, three-kick scheme that Capcom had used since the first iteration of Street Fighter II, but for MvC2, both the medium punch and kick attacks were removed. This allowed all of the main attack buttons to rest solely on the face-buttons of the Dreamcast controller without having to rely on the left and right triggers to perform attacks and cross-overs like in the port of the first game. Instead the triggers were better put to use for tagging in your other characters and for assists.
More than a new controller scheme, MvC2 brought a lot more to the franchise that made it both the fan-favorite entry in the series and a candidate for one of the best Marvel console games ever. For the first time in series history, players could not only have one, but two partners and they could be used for more than just giving a character a break from the action. When selecting a fighter, players are given an option of designating what type of assist they’ll have in categories like anti-air or projectile. This new mechanic meant you not only had to choose your team wisely, but then choose how they will best assist you outside of coming in and firing a screen filling projectile.
The roster also ballooned to obsence proportions, bringing in more fighters than had ever been in a previous Capcom Marvel figther, over fifty in total, composed of every character who had ever been in a previous entry in the series alongside new comers like Jill Valentine, Cable, Iceman, even the Servbot from the MegaMan Legends series. Time has proven that not all characters are created equal and you’ll never see a match in EVO featuring Tron Bonne, but that’s really what makes Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 so unique and special. It can be enjoyed by hardcore fighting enthusiasts as well as those who just want to enjoy the game’s insane gathering of fighters across these two properties. Want to have a six-on-six Servbot match to see who comes out on top? Sure, why not!
Outside of the three-on-three set-up and the large cast of fighters, the music of MvC2 was something that was also noticeably different from other entries of the series and it was not something that a lot of people liked. Reviews for MvC2 were glowing for the most part, but the issue of the strange musical choice was something that was frequently brought up as a negative, which is an attitude that I feel has lessened over time. The “I want to take you for a ride” song that plays over the character select screen and the jazzy tunes that play when fighting are something that give this game a unique personality and identity of its own. In reading the name for the song that plays over the character select screen, you’re probably have the song now stuck in your head right now because it’s just that memorable.
Once the Dreamcast sadly became discontinued in 2001, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes became available on other consoles like the PS2 and Xbox in 2003 and more recently the PS3 and Xbox 360 via PSN and XBLA respectively. Though it’s probably easier to play MvC2 on either of machines as you may have at least one lying around in your home, it’s the Dreamcast port of the game that stands as the best way to play this game. Not only was it designed with the console in mind in the first place, but playing it on Dreamcast with its unique controller in hand just transports you back to a time when Sega was still a contender in the console space and games like these dominated arcades. However you play it though, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 is a game not to be missed.