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FGC #578 Red Earth & Capcom Fighting Evolution

Let's fightNow for the tale of two separate and incredibly unequal videogames.

And, uh, don’t worry. Both games contain dinosaur-dragons, so that should keep your interest.

In 1996, Capcom released Red Earth. Known by the much more metal name of War-Zard in Japan, Red Earth was a fighting game that did its best to set itself apart from its peers. Just how different is it? Well…

· There are four selectable characters, and if you do not play 2-P mode, you will never fight the other heroes of the adventure. But who do you fight?
· Dinosaurs! And Squids! And at least one Chimera+ (the plus is for two extra heads)! There are eight levels in Red Earth, and each features a decidedly not-human adversary. The closest you are going to see to something like an even matchup is a harpy that at least does not have any extra limbs on your character, but the same cannot be said for Gi Gi the robotic statue with as many arms as possible.
· And, to be clear, these “bosses” are absolutely not fair fights, complete with a few super moves that can eliminate half your lifebar in one go. These moves are very telegraphed, but if you choose not to dodge at the right time? Down you go.
· Likely to mitigate some of this unfairness, there are health power-ups randomly scattered around. Additionally, continuing after a loss does not reset your opponent’s life meter. Unlike in your typical fighting game, you can (more or less) pick up exactly where you left off after dropping in another quarter.
ROAR· And you’ll want to pick up that joystick again, because every fighter has a story that advances with every fight, and an ending or three with multiple available choices. Play the game well enough, and you just might see your heroine naked and humping an alien. Or maybe she gets a puppy!
· And you may want to pursue all those extra endings, because your character actually levels up, gains new abilities, and increases stats with points that are awarded for every hit. This serves the dual purpose of encouraging playing the game more, and offering the possibility of growing stronger mid-match even if you have been repeatedly losing to the oni du jour.

This all adds up to a game that feels like a fighting game in the individual moments, but plays like an entirely different animal. Much like Konami’s Monster Maulers (released three years prior), this is an attempt to bring some of the most popular conventions of the beat ‘em up genre (health powerups, “boss fights”, multiple routes) into a fighting game to create a more inimitable experience. Additionally, the “leveling system” may unfortunately be a naked attempt at adding “grinding” to a genre that absolutely does not need that kind of nonsense, but it does encourage the player to earn a “new experience” when trying a replay. And, if you are the type to never deviate from a preferred “main”, that’s a pretty big get. Make your Lion King (uh… not that Lion King. He’s just a king that happens to be half-lion) the best Lion King (still not Disney-related) he can be.

Squidly bitsAnd while we are looking at reasons Red Earth was able to set itself apart from the pack (no lions at all involved in that statement, to be clear), consider that this was the first of three(ish) games to feature Capcom’s CP System III. In layman’s terms, pondexter? It means that, like its CPS3 brother, Street Fighter 3, this is one of the most gorgeous sprite-based fighting games out there. Everything from the cloth on Tessa’s hammer pants to the heat bellowing out of Hauzer’s maw is elegantly animated. Even “incidental” bits, like the continue screen countdown, include pixels not likely to ever be seen again. CPS3 may be known for Street Fighter 3 (and maybe a JoJo game), but its maiden voyage here really makes an impact on the ol’ eyeballs.

In short, Red Earth is unique and stunning. It is exactly the kind of fighting game the world needed in 1996, and it promised a great future for the genre.

But there never was a Red Earth 2. Not even a “Turbo” edition graced this title, and the OG version was barely even distributed in North America. If you wanted to play as the lord of lions or the ninja that could fell a sphinx, you would have to wait eight years to see their second adventure. You would have to wait for Capcom Fighting Evolution.

And, sorry Warzard fans, it wasn’t very good.

Further squidsCapcom Fighting Evolution came on the heels of the Marvel vs. Capcom series that was amazing, but also assumed to be totally dead/impossible thanks to Capcom losing Marvel’s favor (don’t worry, kiddies, it would eventually return). Capcom Fighting Evolution also came after the Capcom vs. SNK series, an evolutionary offshoot of the Versus franchise that some still claim is some of the best 2-D fighting you’ll ever see. And what could Capcom Fighting Evolution offer after all of that? Well, even without the accompaniment of Captain America or Geese Howard, the Capcom universe had its fair share of luminaries. You could simply toss every Street Fighter into a game, and it would be gold. Or you could combine Darkstalkers, Street Fighters, Final Fighters, and… what have we got left here? Rival Schools? Whatever! It could work! And that’s before you get into including the likes of Mega Man or Breath of Fire heroes. A “pure” Capcom Versus fighter could be a thing of beauty!

Or it could just be a mishmash of random sprites all slapping against each other. Guess which one we got?

While Red Earth was a potential new future for fighting games, Capcom Fighting Evolution forsook its name and sounded a death knell for the genre. Capcom Fighting Evolution was less a brand new experience and more of a “going out of business sale” for an era. Capcom took four fighters from each of its most popular fighting games, and plunked them all in a 2v2 fighting game. And, while that could have been fun for everybody, a significant drawback of this process was reusing the original sprites of each of these brawlers without any attempt to visually normalize… anything. Morrigan’s sprite was the creaky bane of MvC2 in 2000, and Dimitri did not look any better next to Street Fighter 3 characters four years later. And, to make matters worse, those sprites from Street Fighter 3 that looked so gorgeous in their original game had a number of frames and animations reduced, so they were literally pale imitations of their former selves. And, lest you think these complaints are entirely graphics-based, don’t worry, a game that attempts to merge the intricacies of three different Street Fighter games, Darkstalkers, and an asymmetrical “boss fighter” doesn’t exactly work from a gameplay perspective either. You wouldn’t parry a dinosaur!

WINNER!But that’s kind of the thing: you can parry a dinosaur. Capcom Fighting Evolution contains characters from Street Fighter 2, Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter 3, Darkstalkers, and (most importantly) Red Earth. And, while there are still exactly four Red Earth playable characters, now two of the “bosses” are available for your playing pleasure. Want to be the dinosaur? Or the squid? Have at it! Are these former boss-class monsters rebalanced to be appropriate combatants? Well, as much as anything else is balanced in this game! You probably do not want to take a lumbering dinosaur’s gigantic hitbox up against Metro City’s best ninja, but you can certainly fell that fighter if your fireballs are true. And, while playing as ol’ squidly bits is probably less rewarding than the more sensible adventures of Tessa back on Red Earth, it is inordinately satisfying to see Zangief piledrive an eldritch horror.

And that’s basically Capcom Fighting Evolution in a nutshell: it is objectively bad, but can be subjectively good. CFE is a rushed product featuring many poorly considered decisions, but it is also a game wherein Sakura can fell a furry Conan. Is Red Earth a better game than Capcom Fighting Evolution? Pretty much by every metric! But, in being a tighter experience, it loses the fun you might experience with a looser game that lets you pit a rifle-toting ninja against a psycho-powered dictator.

Some games are good. Some games are bad. But any game where you can fight a dinosaur at least has its priorities straight.

FGC #578 Red Earth

  • THE WARZARD!System: Arcade exclusive. I guess we have to hope for some manner of “Capcom Mini” device to see this one. Maybe they could stick it in the inevitable next Street Fighter 3 compilation?
  • Number of players: Two players, and you can only play as the (mostly defined as) humans. No playable living suit of armor for you.
  • Favorite Character: Like in Pocket Fighter, I’m going with Tessa here. She’s a witch that may or may not have found a second job in Little Witch Academia, and her general… Ryu-ness goes down easy. Second place goes to Kenji the Ninja, but he is a little too Strider-esque to win on his own merits.
  • Favorite Boss: Gi Gi is the robotic monster that Huitzil wishes he could be. Also, his multiple arms and swords may have inspired the best boss in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, so bonus points there.
  • Finish Him: A lot of sources will claim Red Earth was one of the few Capcom titles to include Mortal Kombat-esque fatalities. And they’re not entirely wrong… but these “fatalities” are a lot closer to “Zero slices a robot in half because he used his sword for the final hit” affairs. And, considering you’re only “killing” monsters and robots, comparing it all to Mortal Kombat seems a little disingenuous.
  • What’s in a name: In America, this is Red Earth, clearly meant to convey how this takes place in an alternate timeline/Earth that is ruled by swords and sorcery (and the occasional mech). In Japan, this is known as Warzard, because the final boss is a wizard that starts a war. Either title seems appropriate, but Red Earth at least explains why there is an island nation called “The Kingdom of Reese”.
  • SLICEAn end: If you continue too often, you only get a paragraph of text and a basic message that your protagonist won, hooray. If you manage to conserve a few credits, though, you get a “choose your own adventure” where you can decide your central character’s ultimate fate. Be warned, I was not kidding earlier when I said that the wrong choice could see Tessa naked and straddling an alien, though. Generally NSFW proof here. Oh, also, if you continue the exact right number of times with Mai-Ling, she gets a new pet. Not certain how one heroine winds up in a porno, and the other gets a puppy.
  • For the sequel: Literally every one of Kenji’s endings involves his death. I have to wonder if there were plans to make Kenji a “legacy” character in future titles (as it is easy to replace a ninja that doesn’t ever show a bit of skin, left alone his face), or if Kenji just slept with the director’s spouse, and had to be punished for his hubris. One way or another, it is a wonder that guy made it into Capcom Fighting Evolution.
  • Did you know? The most obvious bad guy (but not the final boss) is Blade, who is a living suit of armor powered by an emerald containing his (once human) soul. This is notable, because, four years later, the final boss of the seminal Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was a living suit of armor powered by a magical gem-core. Is MvC2 the secret sequel to Red Earth? No, of course not. That would be silly. Shuma Gorath doesn’t have enough tentacles.
  • Would I play again: It is a shame Red Earth was only ever four playable characters and a handful of bosses. It feels like an expanded Super Red Earth II Turbo could have really been something special. As it is, it’s a game I’ll likely pick up again, if only to satisfy my need to bisect an oni.

FGC #578 Capcom Fighting Evolution

  • I ain't lionSystem: Apparently there was an arcade release, but most people were exposed to this contagion through Playstation 2 or Xbox. There is the distinct possibility you were able to get it on Playstation 3 as a PS2 rerelease, though.
  • Number of players: Two alternating fighters per team, and two players may control them. Sorry, these are more King of Fighters rules, and not the rapid switching of proper Versus titles.
  • Midnight Bliss: This is another title that went the extra mile and included Dimitri and his ability to metaphorically rape his opponents. While this move never stops being gross, at least most of the Midnight Bliss sprites lean on “humorous” rather than “sexy”. I mean, assuming “schoolgirl with the fossilized head of a dinosaur (wearing lipstick)” isn’t your fetish. If it is, hey, more power to you.
  • Original the Character: Ingrid is the only original character in Capcom Fighting Evolution, and was created for the game Capcom Fighting Evolution was always supposed to be… but never, ever came to fruition. So the last daughter of Capcom Fighting All-Stars has been forced to bounce around the universe with an ever-mutating backstory. In Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max, she was a time traveler. In Project X Zone 2, she had nigh-omnipotent dimension hopping powers. And now, in her Street Fighter 5 profile, she’s a “Code Holder” that is fighting against a fellow named Death. This is the story closest to her original concept, but who knows how long it will last…
  • What does dinosaur blood taste like?Favorite Character: This is one of the weird situations wherein my first pick is the biggest bear wrestler of them all, Zangief. Probably to balance out with the prehistoric heavyweights, Zangief actually has a little agility in this title, and a grappler with some speed is something to be feared. Or maybe they just wanted him to be able to compete with Alex? Who is pretty much the same, but without that all-important chest hair situation? I really can’t say.
  • Did you know? For the record, all sprites in CFE are from the character’s most recent appearance in their designated game… except for the iconic Street Fighter 2 cast. Ryu and M. Bison are encores from Capcom vs. SNK, and Guile is from Street Fighter Alpha 3. And Zangief? He’s a got a completely new sprite that is predominantly (but not entirely) based on his Alpha 3 incarnation. I guess somebody at Capcom liked Zangief, too.
  • Would I play again: I still think of this game as “bad”. On the other hand, in just trying to get a feel for it for this article, I wound up playing the thing for a little over an hour. That might not seem like much, but I had it in mind that I would only play for one arcade cycle… and just kept playing. So there’s something there! So, yeah, I’ll probably be tricked into playing this one again. Maybe I’ll even play as the dinosaur…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Guacamelee! 2! Enter the Mexiverse, and lucha your brains out! Please look forward to it!

Look at that hat
Is this… like… a sex thing?

FGC #355 Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo & Pocket Fighter

For a time, Street Fighter 2 dominated the arcades. Approximately seven seconds after Guile delivered his first sonic boom, the fighting genre took off like a hadouken, and every producer in the videogame industry cranked out an excuse for super muscular dudes to punch other super muscular dudes. But all good things must come to an end, and, in Japan, Street Fighter 3 wound up losing a number of quarters to… Puyo Puyo Tsu. Huh. Did anybody see that coming? Graduated Tetris beats Street Fighter? What’s next? Some manner of arcade dancing simulator?

The Capcom of the day, still firmly in the market of making videogames, was not going to take this sitting down. No, Capcom decided it would be best to produce a Fighting Puzzle game starring its most popular arcade heavies, and then steal innovate on the puzzle trend just as spectacularly as they had once innovated on the beat ‘em up craze. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo was born, and, for the first time ever, Ryu could beat down Hsien-Ko with magical gems.

And then everybody got bored with puzzle games, so Capcom went back to making fighting games. Or fighting game, as the case may be, as we soon received Pocket Fighter aka Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix. On one hand, Pocket Fighter was a clear case of marrying sprites and assets from a puzzle game to the tried and true (and profitable) gameplay of Street Fighter. That’s pretty cheap! On the other hand, Pocket Fighter became a gorgeous and creative excuse for possibly the first grand Capcom fighting crossover. Sure, the roster was pretty much just the usual Street Fighters and Darkstalkers, but the Pocket Fighters had a tendency to don the costumes and moves of some of their more famous Capcom brethren. It sounds lame now, but years before Marvel vs. Capcom would make it all a glorious reality, Felicia morphing into Mega Man and Jill Valentine as a natural part of a combo was fabulous.

But we’re not here to talk about fanservice, we’re here to compare and contrast two different though thoroughly similar games. And what’s the best way to do that? Take a look at their rosters!

Team Street Fighter (both games)

Priestess?Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li are locks. They are never not going to appear in a Street Fighter or Street Fighter-adjacent game (“What about Vanilla Street Fighter 3?” “Shut-up.”). Ryu is the headliner, Ken is his sycophantic remora of a friend, and Chun-Li is the legally mandated girl. And speaking of girls, we’ve got Sakura, who was really popular at the time, because… I’m sorry, have you met Japan? That country has some… interests. Also hailing from a street full of fighters is Dan, who was included because he slept with the producer (uh, to be clear, it wasn’t a sexual thing, he’s just really good at cuddling). Oh, and we’ve got Akuma, too, because he needed to get some additional training in before his Tekken debut. Across both Puzzle and Pocket fighting, you’ve got to have your basic Street Fighters.

And, sidenote, Chun-Li is the only one of that bunch that doesn’t forward, down, down forward punch.

Team Darkstalkers (both games)

MEOWBack before Capcom had a pile of fighting game franchises (and well before Capcom forgot how to make videogames entirely), Darkstalkers was considered the “mate” to Street Fighter. They were both enjoyable fighting games with random dudes hurling fireballs, but Street Fighter was a very serious game about serious psychic Hitlers and their hockey mask wearing matador ninja, while Darkstalkers was a goofy game where a mummy might turn you into a frog. And it had amazing sprite work with “morphing” fighters that stretch and distort and absolutely preclude their inclusion in any future, polygon-based titles. But they work well for chibi sprite work! So please enjoy the presence of Morrigan, Hsien-Ko, and Felicia! That’s one Darkstalker for every Darkstalker game produced! And at least one of those characters isn’t just weaponized fanservice (though she is mostly weapons)! Yay!

Donovan (appears only in Puzzle Fighter)

Get out of here, nerdDonovan is such a damn weirdo.

Okay, so here’s Donovan’s deal: he’s basically the Angel (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) of the Darkstalkers world. He’s a tortured half-demon that has made it his goal to hunt the wild and wacky Darkstalkers cast (or at least Vampire Savior). And there’s a twist! He’s got a little girl sidekick that is silent, creepy, and likely destined to destroy the world. There’s your hook, ladies and germs! Who doesn’t want to watch the tortured adventures of sullen wolf and cub? All aboard the glowering train! Choo choo!

Except… that isn’t what anybody wants from Darkstalkers. Darkstalkers is a game where you can ram a yeti into a merman at high speeds. This is not a place you want to see brooding, it’s a place you want to see giant bee people, or maybe Little Red Riding Hood with an uzi. Tortured soul with a sword is maybe not the best fit, even if the sword can talk.

So, I guess, with Puzzle Fighter trying to be a “smart” take on fighting games (that’s what a puzzle game is, doncha know), Capcom included its most morose character. However, Donovan did not return for Pocket Fighter, because, geez, what a downer.

Devilotte (appears only in Puzzle Fighter)

Princess Devilotte de Death Satan IX, daughter of Satan, originally appeared in Cyberbots: Fullmetal Madness, a 2-D fighting game about giant robots. This title never made it to the west in any capacity, though, because we know what we did. More’s the pity, because we never got to experience Devilotte, a character that was apparently designed as an homage to Dragon Quest’s Princess “Going to Be Punching You Now” Alena. Do… do you need to know anything more about this character? She’s basically a mix between Alena, Team Rocket, that one pirate from Mark of the Wolves, and Alice Liddell. And she communicates primarily through explosions! She’s the perfect character! No wonder she cameos in every other Capcom game.

BWA HA HA HA

… But she kinda didn’t have a moveset outside of her mech, so no Pocket Fighter Devilotte for you.

Zangief (appears only in Pocket Fighter)

Zangief’s invitation to Puzzle Fighter must have been lost in the mail. It’s not like he wasn’t requested for the puzzle game because he still hasn’t been able to figure out pants or something. He could compete in a puzzle game anytime he wants! Gems are not more complicated than bears!

Ibuki (appears only in Pocket Fighter)

A breath of fresh airAh, the requisite “shape of things to come” character. Ibuki was introduced in Street Fighter 3, and one would suppose her inclusion in Pocket Fighter was an attempt to further bolster the popularity of the future/death of the Street Fighter franchise. At the time, she was likely just the Street Fighter 3 character most likely to fit in the Pocket Capcom Universe, and one could bet that the more interesting parts of the SF3 roster would go on to appear in later titles. I mean, ninja school girl is cool an’ all, but how can that compete with stretchy electric albino man? Or the hulking marquee character? Or the unforgettable Captain Banana Hammock? Look, Ibuki just snuck in on a technicality, and that’s all there is to it.

And then she returned in Street Fighter x Tekken.

And was one of the few SF3 characters to sneak into Street Fighter 4.

And then she returned for Street Fighter 5!

God, I just want to fight Q again, but, noooooo, we have to deal with Sakura: The Next Generation over and over again. Bah! Go be stealthy somewhere else, you damn ninja!

Tessa (appears only in Pocket Fighter… like, ever)

Another nerdRed Earth aka Totally Bitchin’ War-Zard: The Battle for the Side of Metal Steve’s Van (insert guitar solo here) was a fighting game contemporary of Street Fighter 3. It was also never ported to a single home console, because Capcom makes awful decisions. This is a game where a lion-man wearing a loincloth can fight a dinosaur. And, no, I don’t mean like some Soulcalibur Lizard Man, I mean a freaking t-rex. And there’s a snail man that is a lot more interesting than the description “snail man” could ever allow. And there was Tessa, too, a witch woman who is “researching magic” by walloping a chimera with a magic staff. As you do.

Tessa snuck into Pocket Fighter likely for the same reason as Ibuki (let’s promote some new games!), but, unlike her Street Fighter buddy, no one recognized her from her origin game. No one. The audience of 1998 was mostly convinced she was an original character made just for this title. And that’s fine! She just kind of fails as a promotion for Red Earth when no one has a damn clue that game even exists. So… good hustle, Tessa?

Then again, did anyone realize Pocket Fighter existed? Super Puzzle Fighter 2 HD and a complete lack of a matching Pocket Fighter HD seems to point to a resounding “no” on that one. Guess Donovan beats Tessa in the grand history of fighting/puzzle games.

Laaaaaame.

FGC #355 Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo

  • System: Playstation and Saturn (really!) initially, and a HD rerelease on Playstation 3/Xbox 360. Also, there was a Dreamcast version in Japan, because Capcom loved that lil’ loser.
  • Number of players: Two, which is simultaneously very common for puzzle games, and very unusual. “Head to Head Puzzle Title”.
  • FINISHPort-o-Call: Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD is supposedly the superior version, but it cuts out a lot of the little endearing details of the original. Everybody only gets one win quote, for one thing, and the sprite work looks downright fuzzy against otherwise HD gameplay. All that said, I did mostly play the HD version for this review, as it was inevitably going to capture better, even if it did drop the essential musical tempo changes.
  • Favorite Character (SPF2T Exclusive): Devilotte is number one with a bullet (giant robot). On a slightly related note, where did that “anime laugh” thing originate? You know, with the holding your hand below your chin and laughing like Marie Antoinette? Just curious.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: I stole this game from my buddy Sean. He hasn’t noticed yet. Wait, no, he’s noticed, but every time it comes up, I distract him by talking about the president. The system works!
  • Did you know? The console (though not HD) versions of the game include Mei-Ling and Anita as hidden characters… but they were already palling around with Hsien-Ko and Donovan, so they’re more or less just easter eggs. On the other hand, who didn’t enjoy seeing Orange Hulk and Red Venom in Marvel vs. Capcom?
  • Would I play again: Odds are good, as this is one of the few puzzle games that actually has some recognition among the locals. And it’s loaded on the Playstation 3 anyway…

FGC #355 Pocket Fighter

  • System: Playstation is my Pocket Fighter platform of choice, but Saturn, Arcade, and even Wonder Swan are also available. The Wonder Swan version doesn’t look that bad!… for a black and white title, anyway. Also, Pocket Fighter inexplicably popped up on the Street Fighter Alpha Anthology on Playstation 2, too.
  • Number of Players: It’s two. It’s always two.
  • What’s in a name: Wikipedia claims this game is known as Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix in North America, and is Pocket Fighter only in Japan. However, scroll up, see that American title screen, and tell me it says all that gem nonsense. I can still hear the silly “Pocket Fighter!” title announcement echoing in my head.
  • Get out of here, nerdSpeaking of Voice Acting: In Japan, apparently the narrated scenes for the opening and closing had full voice acting, and it just didn’t get translated for the trip across the sea. While this usually bothers me, I am almost certain I don’t need to hear Playstation-era voice acting for my favorite chibi street fighters.
  • Favorite Character (Pocket Fighter exclusive): Tessa seems to play the most like Blanka, and he was always my Street Fighter 2 main, so here we are. And now I can pretend I’m playing as Shining Chariot of Little Witch Academia, so that’s a plus, too.
  • Sexual Dimorphism is a Scourge: In two decades of Capcom fighting games, this is the only Capcom title where the women outnumber the men. Go ahead and figure out the reason for that.
  • Did you know? Dan’s official backstory is that, when he’s in a serious mood, he’s trying to avenge his father’s murder at the hands of Sagat (well, more like manslaughter, but still!). So, naturally, Dan’s default special attack in Pocket Fighter is attacking with the green, rotting corpse of his father like it’s (he’s?) a hammer. This makes Dan more well-adjusted than Batman.
  • Would I play again: I kinda love this game. Of all the Playstation fighting games (including the entire Alpha series and early Vs. titles) I think I’m most likely to play this one first. Strange but true! Then again, I’m also pretty strange…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen another Sonic game, and we’re going to race it up against a Mario game. You gotta go fast, after all. Please look forward to it!

Get out of here, nerd dad

FGC #116 SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos

Who's that guy?It’s always fascinating to consider what takes priority in developing any given game.

Think about it: save rare, generally Kickstarter related situations, it is highly unusual for the general public to have any sort of insight into the creation of a video game. Yes, there are things like developer interviews that may give us the tiniest crack of light through the impenetrable wall of secrecy, but… well, I hate to say it, but developers are liars. Yes, that’s harsh, but the sentiment is the same: a developer is usually interviewed around the time of a game’s release (when the PR machine is in full swing, and no one wants to get in the way of that bad boy) or at the event of some anniversary years later (when memory has been damaged by experience and fear of fan reversal). It takes a very brave person to admit that something wound up sucking, and would have been better, but, well, we just didn’t have time/budget/managerial support to do that… and here we are. Conversely, if there was some amazing feature that would have made a great game even greater, it’s usually forgotten beneath the pile of praise heaped upon the masterful final product. And then it gets rolled into the sequel, anyway. Point is, it’s nigh impossible to say what “may have been” with games that are hits or misses. Sure, we can go review exactly what pieces are left over on the cutting room floor, but we’ll never know what a “complete” Xenogears could look like.

So we’re left with whatever is released as the final product. This, really, isn’t a bad thing, because, frankly, for so many games, “seeing how the sausage is made” might cause a “there is no Santa” level loss of innocence. Hell, the “revelation” that the clouds of Super Mario Bros. are just recolored bushes seemed to break a number of brains. I can’t imagine what would happen if, say, Nintendo revealed that Samus Aran’s gender was determined by the fact that they couldn’t organically reveal the star of Excite Bike was Excite Michelle. There’s a lot of little things that go into creating a creative work, and, like Rowling revealing that a “beloved”, snapely character in her novels was based on a slimy teacher she had back in her school days, sometimes you’re happier just assuming everything is the result of boundless creative energy and deliberate design.

But sometimes you really have to wonder what was going on.

I think?SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos was the last of the Capcom vs. SNK fighting games. For those of you unfamiliar with the companies, there had long been a sort of rivalry between Capcom and SNK. Two companies that produce fighting games, and two companies very anxious to steal the quarters right out of your pocket. For a time, Capcom accused SNK and its Art of Fighting series of outright plagiarism, and, frankly, who could blame them? 2-D fighters featuring a guy named Ryu hurling fireballs seemed to originate with Capcom, but SNK palmed that shoryuken and made a 2-D fighter featuring a guy named Kyo hurling fireballs. While you could argue this dispute never came to anything (aside from Dan Hibiki), by 2000 or so, Capcom and SNK decided to bury the hatchet and work together on a few crossover games. Capcom had just lost its Marvel license (and would not see it again for years), so its Vs. series needed a new competitor. Capcom vs. SNK was born, and, finally, Ken could show Terry Bogard who’s boss.

So, with the two companies finally working together, we saw a couple of games produced by the two separate developers. Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight and Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium were both products of Capcom, and they seemed to play like typical high-quality Capcom games. They were both good, but the sequel was a marked improvement over the original. Here’s a tip, kiddies: never buy the first version of a Capcom fighting game. SNK gave us SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium, a great fighting game… for the Neo Geo Pocket Color. It was a fun lil’ experience, but since it was released on a system that could barely support color, it was hard to feel like this was a real competitor for the big boys. Though it did have BB Hood and Sakura, so who am I to complain? Seemingly a long after the Capcom offerings (but I guess it was only two years), SNK released SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos. It was, finally, a game that truly felt like the SNK answer to the Capcom Vs. games.

It also wasn’t very good.

BLASTI’m not a fighting game historian, and I’m probably inevitably mixing up my facts here, but I feel like there were a few different “epochs” for 2-D fighting games. There was the initial batch (with Street Fighter 2 leading the charge), the violence wars (thanks, Mortal Kombat), the whacky times (the X-Men, Alpha, Vs. days), the serious times (Guilty Gear, Street Fighter 3), and then we circled back to accessible for the average bloke (Street Fighter 4, MvC3). “The serious time” probably deserves the most explanation, as that was an age when game designers noticed that only the “hard core” crowd had stuck around when 3-D took off, so all sorts of crazy techniques and concepts were baked into the games of the period by design (as opposed to before, when even “combos” were a happy accident). The Capcom vs. SNK games (to be clear, the Capcom side) seemed to be firmly entrenched in that mindset, with ratios and styles and more complicated “systems” than you could shake a hundred hand slap at. But SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos? Not so much. Chaos (let’s just call it that from now on) seemed… dumb.

Chaos is, basically, a very simple fighting game. It’s not necessarily bad… per se… it just feels like a 1995 game in 2003’s clothing. The sprites are gorgeous… but the backgrounds are flat. The fighting is fun… but your options are limited. The roster is expansive… and half of it is locked behind weird codes. Speaking of the roster, it’s unbalanced to a ridiculous degree, with the most egregious examples able to shut down an opponent with maybe three moves (Leopold Goenitz is a beast). This is a “playable” fighting game, which puts it leagues ahead of the likes of Primal Rage, but it still feels very lacking. There’s an outline of something good here, but someone forgot to do all the shading.

Which only draws attention to where SNK decided to focus its time.

Chaos is a sprite-based game, so, unlike the polygonal 2-D fighters of today, every last movement must be carefully animated. And, as someone who has always loved the art of sprites, I really appreciate the care that has been put into animating everyone from Shiki to Zero (“Neo” Zero). But there’s also another place in the game that involved a lot of pixel perfect effort.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Midnight Bliss:

Not so blissful

This is a move that can only be performed by Dimitri, the lone Darkstalkers character in the roster. Dimitri shouts, “Come on, baby”, approaches his opponent with a bouquet, and then… Well, two choices here: one, if he’s facing a female opponent, he will morph her clothing into something more… alluring, or two, if the opponent is male, he will be transformed into a woman. Then Dimitri lifts the opponent into the air, sucks her blood (causing her sprite to shrivel like a raisin), and then tosses the victim aside.

It’s a rape metaphor. Hell, it’s barely a metaphor.

And, in this case, it’s a rape metaphor that must have required a lot of work. The entire roster has a “midnight bliss” sprite swap. The men’s sprites are much modified for their gender-swap, and the artists went the extra mile and gave every woman a new outfit for their impending assault. What’s more, it’s clear a lot of thought went into this feature, as some characters’ “swaps” are very deliberate references, like the appearance of The Queen of Fighters or Dhalsim basically transforming into his wife. And while a few are played for laughs (Hugo and Mars People both look like “Ms. Pac-Man” “bow” style counterparts), the majority of the morphs are straight up designed with the male gaze and particular fetishes in mind. The witch Tessa turning into a magical girl in a short skirt or the already practically naked Mai donning a kimono seems a might too specific to be anything but a clear appeal to specific male interests. Oh, and Dan even turns into a “frumpy” looking girl, because let’s define what an undesirable lass looks like while we’re at it. A lot of effort and thought went into this move. This rape move.

But maybe I’m thinking too hard about it. This move has always been a part of Dimitri’s moveset. And he’s a vampire! Vampires are eternally tied to sexual imagery (even when they’re sparkly virginity vampires). This is all in good fun, it’s not like…

Seriously?

Oh. Oh, okay, yeah, that’s terrible.

Look, I’m not saying this move should be wiped from the face of the Earth (it absolutely should), but my point here is that, in a game that is severely lacking compared to its Capcomian cousins, the developers decided to take the time to devote resources to a rape metaphor played for laughs. Dimitri always has this move? There’s no reason Dimitri had to be in this game at all. Still want someone from Darkstalkers? There’s literally every other character in that roster. Still want someone from Darkstalkers that will cause a “fun” sprite modification effect? Anakaris’s curse ability would scratch that itch. There’s absolutely no reason Dimitri and his Midnight Bliss had to be included, and soak up resources that could have been devoted elsewhere, but here we are.

So, yes, over anything else, SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos had to include a rape-monster. Why? We’ll never know for sure. We know that Chaos was a fairly lame fighting game that could have devoted time to its multiple lacking areas, and didn’t. But we did get a fully-realized rape-monster. Way to go, SNK.

FGC #116 SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos

  • System: Only on Xbox! That’s also weird in and of itself, but I believe there was a Japanese PS2 release. Also, I suppose Arcade/Neo Geo counts, too.
  • Number of players: Two seems like a good number for a fighting game.
  • FIGHT! (fart)Favorite Character (this game): I always have a soft spot for the giant bruisers, so I think Earthquake of Samurai Shodown gets my vote here. Runner-up is Tessa, because any Red Earth representation is a good thing. Or just puzzle fighter.
  • Crossover: I want to say this is the only game in history to feature a character primarily known for the Gameboy Advance (Zero of the Mega Man Zero series… whom I consider to be an entirely different character from Mega Man X Zero) appearing also on the Xbox. Not Playstation 2, not Gamecube, just Xbox.
  • I want everybody: For reasons I can’t even fathom, nearly half the roster can only be accessed by holding down the R button over specific character portraits on the fighter select screen. You don’t need to do anything to make that “code” work, you just have to know to do it. This seems like an excellent way for an experienced player to access a “powerful” boss character, while the new player is trounced so soundly, they can’t even find a good counter pick. Little brothers across the nation are infuriated.
  • THE ENDHeaven or Hell? Assuming you don’t suck, the final boss of the game will either be the goddess Athena or demon Firebrand. If you lose, you’ll be transformed into either a divine animal (to fit in Heaven) or a demon (for Hell). Some of the demon transformations are pretty rad, and some of the animal transformations are cute, but Mai is transformed into a cow. Get it? It’s horrible.
  • I want everybody Part 2: And to unlock Firebrand and Athena for regular play, you must complete 36 battles in Survival Mode. Yes, it takes forever, and, yes, you can fail on fight 35, and it all amounts to nothing. Heaven is so far away.
  • Did you know? SNK can’t properly translate a fighting game to save their lives. Zero is really concerned about Shell.
  • Would I play again: As a curiosity, only. Like, look, this happened. Capcom vs. SNK 2 is where I can really see Balrog pummel Iori.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Felix the Cat for the NES! Are you ready to feel the magic? Please look forward to it!

Look out