Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Marvel vs Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes

Released on June 28, 2000, on the Sega Dreamcast, after a successful life in arcades, Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes pits a giant combined roster of Marvel and Capcom characters against each other in chaotic, 2D fighting mayhem.

Eighth grade. Don Carter's Bowling Alley, Baton Rouge, LA. I love bowling. I love hanging out with my friends. But the thing I love the best is when no one is anywhere near the Don Carter's Bowling Alley arcade, so that I can play the 2D fighting masterpiece, X-Men: Children of the Atom, without the threat of some game rat with a handful of quarters scoping me out, and coming over to slaughter my character and take over the cabinet.
I have never been great at fighting games (except for a stretch of mid-2000 when I briefly became an ace at Soul Caliber). If anyone other than my friends who are also not great at fighting games challenges me to fighting games, I will probably lose. This has always been true, even earlier in junior high when Street Fighter II was still shiny. Nothing in 1995 was worse than finding X-Men: Children of the Atom free, winning a couple of fights against the computer and feeling like a badass, then having some high-schooler waltz over and ruin it with a quarter and his superior fighting skills. Yes, 1995 was a pretty chill year for me (it was one of the best years of my life).
As time passed by, and home console technology improved, I rejoiced. Now I could play 2D arcade fighting games on my Dreamcast without worry of some professional jerk ruining my fun. Better yet, X-Men: Children of the Atom's descendant, Marvel vs Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes, was coming to Dreamcast--combining favorite characters from both Marvel Comics (The X-Men, Avengers, Spiderman, etc.) and video game studio Capcom's (Mega Man, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, etc.) storied histories.
By this point in history, arcades were becoming a dying destination. Finding a fully-loaded one was becoming next to impossible. Thankfully, the now demolished Siegen Village movie theater procured their own Marvel vs Capcom 2 machine. I figured I'd give it a spin before purchasing the home console version. Rather ironically, I used a trip to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as an excuse to play me some 2D fighting goodness...and then, the unthinkable happened: some junior high kid a foot shorter than me challenged me to a fight. I soon learned that Marvel vs Capcom 2 did not feature breakable, interactive, expanding environments like X-Men:Children of the Atom. It did, however, feature a combo system so blindingly fast, I actually broke into laughter when the 13-year old kid billion hit combo'd me, swiftly sending my Wolverine, Cyclops, and Storm tandem to the grave.
This did not appear to be the game I wanted, and stores in Baton Rouge didn't seem capable of stocking the Dreamcast version anyway. I forgot about it for a few years until I came across a complete copy for $25. Marvel vs Capcom 2 generally sells for considerably more than $25, so I scooped up this mint copy. I've now had the benefit of playing an "arcade bully-free" Marvel vs Capcom 2 for quite a few years. Is it the classic it's been billed to be, or is it the senseless, hyper-speed oddity that freaked me out so many years ago?
Longer: this cast of characters, or the introduction to this review?
Yeah, you guessed it. It's both, of course.
First, we should talk about aesthetics. New Age of Heroes is pretty. The 2D characters are well-animated, though they don't look as ridiculously good as their Dreamcast brethren in Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike and Guilty Gear X. However, Marvel vs Capcom 2's ridiculous hyper-combos are animated insanity. When a certain amount of regular moves have been landed or attempted on the opponent, the player fills up a gauge at the bottom. When the gauge is full, a hyper-combo, like Mega-Man morphing into a giant, laser-firing robot, Iron Man unleashing a massive wave of energy, or Wolverine unleashing an unbelievably fast salvo of claw-swipes, can be used. These are all nuts.
Hey, Cyclops, instead of standing around looking annoying, how about you stand around getting hit with cannonballs from a pirate ship?

Yeah, now you look way less annoying!

Except your visor. Haha, it looks so dumb!

You get to use three fighters in a fight, one at a time, switching freely, until all have been KO'd, or you have KO'd all three of your opponent's fighters...or the game's 99-second fight timer runs out...or your cat rubs against he power outlet and unplugs your Dreamcast. However, if you build up your hyper-combo gauge three times over (you can fill it up to four times over), all three of your characters can attack with their hyper-combos at once.This looks spectacular. The game's graphics do feature a divisive aspect, however. Instead of utilizing 2D, as it does with the fighters, the developers animated the MvsC2 backgrounds in 3D. The player's range of motion, however, is still 2-dimensional.The results are strange, and shouldn't work, but as I'll address again momentarily, this is one trippy game, and in that context, the backgrounds work.
Why is the game so trippy? In addition to the aforementioned backgrounds, MvsC2 plays like a strange drug trip. You can be winning a fight, when suddenly the computer decimates you with combos for a minute straight. I don't mean hyper combos either--MvsC2 utilizes some insane air combo'ing, where you can hit your opponent into the air, then use your various punches and kicks to deal blow after blow that your foe can be helpless to defend against. Unfortunately, that never really happens for me, and I am generally on the receiving end of these air combos. I am just not good at fighting games, particularly ones where you have to tap out dozens of button combinations to pull off these sorts of moves. Thankfully, MvsC2 understands players like me.
And their solution is far better than Mega Man's general, "launch a fireball and yell like a kid" problem-solving method.

New Age of Heroes, thankfully, features an adjustable difficulty level. This way, I can play on easy, and enjoy more reasonably-paced fights, instead of nightmare acid trip clobberings. This also makes mastering the game's simple control scheme far easier. Each fighter has a light and heavy punch, and a light and heavy kick. Many fighters feature the classic down, down-right-, right, push B projectile moves from previous fighting games, as well as directional variations. This only uses four of the Dreamcast controller's buttons, though (not counting the joystick or directional pad). The two shoulder buttons are used in certain combinations to respectively do hyper-combos, tag-in a teammate, or call said teammate to rain down an assist move (these fights, outside of hyper-combos or brief assists, are mano a mano)--this, of course, all adds to the chaos, but as mentioned, in the easier modes, at least it is controlled chaos. Thankfully, the game features a practice mode to hone all of these skills, as well.
In practice mode, Doctor Doom just looks at you smugly, instead of floating around like a chump, as usual.

Wait, did I say, "Dreamcast controller?" I guess using a Dreamcast controller is okay, but for fighting games on the system, you should really splurge and pick up the Agetec Arcade Stick controller. As of this writing, it is still reasonably priced used, and makes playing fighting games on the Dreamcast so much more fun. Speaking of fun...
Hey, you know how I mentioned an acid trip a minute ago? Speaking of that, Marvel vs Capcom 2 features a bizarre acid-jazz soundtrack that is extremely out of place, but pretty hilarious. I'm not sure if it is intentionally so, but listening to the wonky vocalist belt out over-dramatic lines over weird saxophone melodies, while the Incredible Hulk throws boulders at Mega Man's face is pretty funny. The announcer also sounds like he's been hitting the uppers pretty hard, speaking in a strange, almost psychopathic smiling voice. Even some of the character voices, like Sabretooth and his weird lisp, accentuate the craziness--though most characters speak in voices more apt for their characters. Oh, yeah, also, the menus feature a bunch of bright, swirly colors. What's not trippy is excellent replay value, and New Age of Heroes has it, and that segue was terrible.
The player begins with a limited roster of characters, and must fight and win in the game's arcade or score attack modes to earn points, so that further characters can be unlocked from the in-game store. The game's roster is huge, featuring dozens of Marvel Comics and Capcom games most beloved characters, as well as a few newcomers, unique to this game. Get all of the characters, and then you can earn alternate uniforms for them. Buy all of those, and you get the option to use the same character as all three members of your team. Mastering the game will also take time, and playing it is fun, so you are going to want to try to do that.
Yep, this is what OCD looks like.

I forgot to mention, there's some weird story about how all of the characters are fighting so that they can reach, fight, and defeat some weird shapeshifting beast named Abyss--you fight against seven sets of foes gathered from the game's cast in both arcade and score attack to reach him/it. You know, typical fighting game stuff--with that said, every character has the same ending...you are using three at a time, anyway. You can also play against a friend, hopefully not that jerk from the Don Carter's Bowling Alley arcade. That's always fun, particularly if you are evenly matched, but even better if you actually are that jerk from the Don Carter's Bowling Alley arcade.
Unless mankind finally invents both time-travel, and reverse aging, I will never get to play mid-90's 2D fighters as a teenager ever again. However, old enough to be President me can laugh with my son, as we unleash yet another cheap laser burst from Cable into Juggernaut's face...because like all good fighting games, Marvel vs Capcom 2 features some really cheap characters. That wasn't where I intended to go with that sentence, but I guess I should talk about it. This game features several characters who can shoot laser projectiles that do damage even if the opponent is blocking. You can block with the back button--sometimes it doesn't work, but against these types of moves, it never works. So feasibly, you can just stock Cable or Iron Man, and have them shoot lasers at your haplessly blocking enemy until they die. This takes little skill, and you definitely shouldn't do it, especially if you are fighting against your own child. That is, of course, unless you are teaching them to do it, so in the future, when arcades hopefully make some inexplicable comeback, they can be that kid. Yes. The cycle continues. FOREVER!

Beautiful, crazy fast animation, bright colors, and trippy visuals, though not quite on par with the best of the Dreamcast best.
Music and Sound
Weird acid jazz soundtrack casts a bizarre atmosphere, as well as do some of the character voices, though most voice-acting and sound effects are solid.
Some of the zaniest, most fast-paced 2D fighting ever, at the service of an insanely vast Marvel and Capcom combined cast.
Lasting Value
Collect every available fighter, earn every costume, play the game to you and your friends' hearts' content, and congrats, you're eligible for Social Security!


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