Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium

These days, exclusive portable fighting games are few and far between as most are virtually identical ports of their console counterparts. There have been original IPs that attempted to be unique handheld fighters but are comparatively mediocre (I'm looking at you, Power Quest). It should come as no surprise that the best handheld fighters are based on already-established series, and SNK's Neo Geo Pocket Color is home to quite a few. SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium is a prime example of a handheld fighter done right.

Before handhelds were capable of console-quality fighters, simplified versions of popular franchises were attempted. Killer Instinct on the Game Boy is one example which, while not terrible by any means, just doesn't compare to its console counterparts. If it isn't evident from the above screenshot, Match of the Millennium is its own game, featuring chibi versions of characters from Capcom's Street Fighter and Darkstalkers series, and pits them against fighters from a handful of SNK series, including The King of Fighters and Samurai Showdown.

Despite limits in the visual department (the NGPC lies somewhere in between the GBC and GBA in terms of hardware, and the chibi style looks great anyway), the gameplay is fluid and has a level of depth that should satisfy any fighting fan. Each character's play-style remains in tact, and there are plenty of ways to string together their many attacks. A big part of the game's fluidity can be credited to the handheld's excellent 8-way micro-switched thumb stick, which won't reduce a thumb to a bloody stump after repeated half-circle motions.

The Match of the Millennium is packed with a surprising amount of content for a fighter, let alone a portable one. The meat of the game lies in the fighting of course, and the main tourney mode can be played through in standard 1v1 format, as well tag-team and 3v3 team fights. The victor of 1v1 is the first to win two rounds of a fight, tag-team is one round with the ability to switch between characters on the fly (though I couldn't figure out how to do this myself, the AI took full advantage of it), and 3v3 team fights have the player select the order in which to send out their fighters against the opposing team, and heals a portion of the current fighter's hp after a win. Players can also choose the way in which the super gauge is filled, from Average (Street Fighter), Counter (King of Fighters) or Rush (Darkstalkers) modes.

While fighters aren't typically played for the plot, it's worth touching upon briefly. M. Bison and Geese are up to no good, making trouble in the fighting neighborhood. They're taking fighters and either using mind-control or cloning technology to create ultimate killing machines, and it is up to the player to put a stop to it. Fights leading up to the villainous duo become increasingly more challenging, and the final fight with either Orochi Iori or Evil Ryu is likely to elicit more than a few expletives. Thankfully, continues are unlimited.

In addition to a meaty tourney mode, practice, and player vs player link-cable fighting, Olympic Mode contains a variety of mini-games and challenges to further test players' skills. Survival is a gauntlet of 100 back to back fights, recovering a portion of health after each. Time Attack tests how quickly the player can defeat 5 enemies, and First Blast is 10 rounds of sudden death, where the first to land a blow wins, rewarding one point for a win and zero for a loss. These challenges can be played either with SNK or Capcom fighters, but there are also mini-games, which vary depending on the side chosen. Under the SNK section are Targets and Blade Arts. Targets has the player take control of Metal Slug's Marco, shooting various alien pods as they fly in from 8 directions, and Blade Arts has Samurai Showdown's Jubei slicing and dicing strawmen as they appear in one of 4 directions. On the Capcom side, Ghost Trick consists of jumping across gaps, collecting treasure as Arthur from Ghouls and Ghosts while avoiding the Red Arremer enemy, and Cat Walk plays like a simplified Dance Dance Revolution, requiring precisely-timed A, B, and directional presses to the beat of 6 excellent chiptune tracks as Felicia executes the moves.

The game's only glaring flaw is the inability to return to the main menu during a fight. The only way to start over is to turn the system off and on or to lose the fight. Even so, SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium is sure to keep any fighting fan engaged with its fluid gameplay, various modes, challenges, mini-games, and 26-character roster.

Find SNK vs Capcom: The Match of the Millenium on ebay | Amazon

Released: 1999-12-22
Publisher: SNK
Developer: SNK 


Definitely a great handheld fighter. I think this was the first game I bought for Neo Geo Pocket. Reading this review has inspired me to start doing some more Neo Geo Pocket reviews again. After all, that is how I got my start writing for this site.

Just gotta get my emulator working, it's a pain. I would love to play on the actual hardware but I've got so many other things to spend money on and can't afford buying NGP games right now.

I hear ya. If you have a 360 controller, those work pretty well for it.

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