Capcom can't have been pleased. Its Internet-melting Captivate 09 announcement had been ruined. A week earlier, a retailer listing popped up on UK site ShopTo.net for MadCatz Marvel vs. Capcom tournament sticks, scheduled to ship in July. An ERSB listing and thinly-veiled teaser site followed. The proverbial cat was out of the bag.
So, when it came to the night before Captivate proper, there were no gasps or tears of joy or screams of adulation when Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was announced and its title was blazed across a widescreen television. It was more a case of, well, yeah, tell us something we don't know.
And, actually, playing the thing sparks a similar feeling. For all intents and purposes this XBLA and PSN re-release of the Dreamcast fighting game classic is a straight-up port. The game's still got a huge, eclectic roster of characters, still got an accessible but deep fighting system, still got an incredible pace, still got three-on-three fights and still got special attacks that result in hundred hit combos. Bar some new graphical options, widescreen support and, most importantly of all, online play, this is the same game that's still to this day played in fighting game competitions around the world.
Now this might disappoint some who had hoped for an HD Remix of the game, ala Backbone's Super Street Fighter II Turbo, but the fact that Capcom hasn't given it a Remix lick of paint shouldn't come as a surprise: its work on Super Turbo was a tortuous affair that ran over budget and over time. And in any case, the number of frames of animation included in MvC2 is many times more than in Super Turbo. We would probably have had to wait a decade for the redrawn art, let alone the rebalanced gameplay.
Still, MvC2 arguably is one of those games that doesn't need to be HD Remixed, because it still looks lovely to this day and the fighting engine is so tight. The backgrounds (all 3D, remember) are vibrant, full of colour and movement, and every single one of the 56 characters is finely detailed, with expressive animations and spectacular attacks. MvC2 is a gorgeous game. It always was, and probably always will be, with a charm that comes from a roster packed full of memorable faces.
That's not to say Backbone hasn't implemented any graphical changes so that the game holds up well on large HD televisions. Real-time sprite filtering has been refined and there are two upscaling options for the sprites: "Crisp" and "Smooth". Crisp is as good as it gets with Smooth a half way house. Purists, of course, can stick with the "Classic" sprite graphics for that old school Dreamcast feel.
As in Super Turbo HD Remix widescreen support will lend the game a modern edge, but this time the game won't zoom in on the action to artificially create the effect. Instead Backbone has been able to genuinely widen the camera field of view beyond the 4:3 aspect ratio because the original 3D backgrounds ran off the edges in the Dreamcast game. So, what this effectively means is that the play area is unchanged: the gameplay area will be in a 4:3 field while the viewing area will be widescreen, And, of course, purists can play in the original 4:3 ration, complete with black vertical bars on the left and right of the screen.
Beyond the graphical improvements Backbone's tweaked the odd feature here and there just for fans. All 56 characters will be unlocked from the get-go, which is great (unlocking fighting game characters is so 90s). There will be independent music volume controls (so you can turn off that inane jazz rubbish), too, and even support for custom soundtracks on both versions.
Most exciting of all, though, is the online play. The game will use netcode that's "largely the same" as the one used in Super Turbo HD Remix, which is great, since that game works well online. Thankfully the quarter match mode, which enables players to spectate from a lobby in a winner stays on arcade style format, makes it in. There will be online leaderboards and stat tracking, too. Capcom has proclaimed that the fans are "pretty much assured the best fighting game net code ever created for consoles". Brave, exciting words.
Given that MvC2 was Capcom's most-requested title, its appearance on XBLA and PSN can't be anything other than wonderful news for fighting game fans. It won't have half the mainstream appeal that Street Fighter IV has, but, for those in the know, it's no less an exciting proposition. Time for Capcom to take us for a ride once again.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is due out for XBLA and PSN this summer.