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Marvel vs. Capcom 2 Review: Classic Port Comes To iOS, But Needs Tweaking

It’s hard to review Marvel vs. Capcom 2 MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 2 - CAPCOM, the classic Capcom 2D fighter that first released a dozen years ago, in the same way it’s hard to review any of these big ports of classic games. Capcom has a lot of good titles, and Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 was one of the best. I remember one of these machines in the lobby of the movie theater in the town where I went to college. Many quarters were wasted in that machine! So I’m very happy to have it in my pocket today.

For the uninitiated, the game is a 2D fighting game in the style of Capcom’s classic Street Fighter. In fact, many Street Fighter characters are in this game, along with many characters from Capcom games of the 1980s and 1990s. [My personal favorite is Jill Valentine from Resident Evil, who can send flaming zombies at her opponents.] There’s also a lot of Marvel Comics characters dressed in their 1990s incarnations — so Jim Lee’s X-Men, a McFarlaine-esque Spider-Man & Venom, and forgettable characters like Marrow. They throw down for 3-on-3 tag-team matches, and much gonzo action ensues.

The game feels just like I remember it. It’s clearly an authentic port of the game, probably via the console versions, with all the bright colors, pixilated graphics, cheesy soundtrack of the original. The characters fill the screen to an almost comical degree, and it’s not at all unusual for special abilities to fill the screen with epilepsy-inducing animations. There’s not a moment where this video-game-characters vs. comic-book-characters takes itself even remotely seriously, and that’s one of the reasons it’s so great as a game.

Also, the computer AI is ridiculously hard, even in Easy mode. Which wouldn’t be such a big deal if the controls worked better. But to be honest, this game controls poorly. I’ve played many fighting game ports on my iPhone and iPad, and have experienced varying degrees of successful controls. These fall on the less successful side. And they take up so much of the screen that, especially on the iPhone, my thumbs routinely get in the way of actually seeing what’s going on on-screen. [There is a "compact" mode that shrinks the screen, but I found this to be unappealing visually.]

The game is very faithful to the original, to the point where Capcom has resisted things like alternative iPhone modes or IAPs. If you want to unlock characters beyond the starting 24, you need to play the game. A lot. In fact, the bar for unlocking new characters is almost too high, requiring dozens of playthroughs to earn enough coins.

In fact, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is too straight a port in some ways. The controls feel too literally like virtual versions of the arcade game (even though they’re not), and the video and graphics are too faithfully transplanted from the original. There wasn’t enough concession made, I think, to the differences that a touch screen and a small screen bring to such a game.  The app store is full of old school ports better adapted to the medium … including Capcom’s own Street Fighter! They need to apply some of those lessons here and make this a more broadly playable game, instead of a niche game for those of us nostalgic for the original.

With future updates addressing some of these issues, and hopefully bringing the game more in line with iOS expectations and a little more away from a pure port, this game could begin to shine. As it is now, I can only partially recommend Marvel vs. Capcom 2, especially if you’re on an iPhone. For iPad 2 and new iPad owners, this game is the best bet, as the controls are easier to manage when they’re larger and your thumbs are less likely to block the action.

If you’re a fan of the old game and have faith that Capcom will improve the issues with updates, now is the right time to grab the game. It’s on sale for $2.99, but Capcom has said the price will go up to $4.99 in the future.

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5


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