Capcom Vs. SNK 2: Millionaire Fighting 2001 (カプコン バーサス エス・エヌ・ケイ 2 ミリオネア ファイティング 2001)

The 'Millennium Fight' was over almost as quickly as the millennium itself and Capcom released a sequel in the form of Capcom Vs SNK 2: Millionare Fighting 2001 to address the issues which had been outlined by fans in the first game. 

Artwork for the second game is a return to form for Capcom

Released at the end of the Dreamcast’s official lifespan in 2001, Capcom Vs SNK 2 was the first game I purchased when I first moved to Japan. The arcade scene at the time was abuzz with the game and also the more nouveau, Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, and I became sucked in by the accessible game play and the intensiveness of the Tokyo fighting scene. While I enjoyed the original immensely, CvS2 seemed such a leap both in terms of presentation and gameplay. It also helped that the number of characters had been beefed up by a fair margin with 12 new fighters to play with. Initially, I spent a fair amount of time learning Kyosuke Kagami as I was a big fan of the game Rival Schools United by Fate , and he was a great addition, adding some much needed variety from the Street Fighters who bossed the Capcom lineup of the original. Similarly, I played a lot of Hibiki Takane from SNK's The Last Blade series,  as her play style intrigued as she used a swords which was unusual for Capcom fighter and had a thoughtful, more considered fighting style with no real projectiles.

Unlike Millennium Fight 2000, in which you were fighting to be crowned champion of the millennium, Millionaire Fighting 2001 is a tournament affair in which your team is battling for a fat wad of cash courtesy of the Masters Foundation (as in Ken Masters) and the Garcia Concern (Robert Garcia.). There are no final bosses. Instead, the final match of the tournament is fought against a random team of three Capcom and SNK characters in front of Osaka Castle (Osaka is where Capcom is based) in Japan. If you meet the requirements and collect the necessary number of Groove Points (the point-scoring system also used in the first game which gauges your scoring performance) you will be challenged to a fight by either Gouki or Rugal after beating the tournament. You can also fight a godlike version of those characters and who are insanely difficult. If you do manage to actually beat either of them (good luck!), that character will be unlocked.

 This Tournament is held under the FREE Ratio System!

One of the major criticisms of the first game was the restrictive fixed ratio system and thankfully this has been modified in CvS2 with a more flexible “free ratio” system. The new format allows players to tailor 4 points of strength between teams of 3, 2, or even just 1 fighter, providing players with more freedom to assemble their team to their liking. The groove system is also expanded from 2 grooves to massive 6 to include mechanics from the various SNK and Capcom fighting titles like SF3, SF Alpha, and Samurai Showdown. Basically, if you've played many of these fighters, you'll understand the mechanics behind each mode. Certain abilities such as parrying, running, double-stepping and charging your power gauges are only for certain grooves, so I recommend spending time in the game’s training mode and getting to know them. The 4 button control scheme from the first game has been replaced with the 6 button style of play that Street Fighter fans are accustomed to. This makes the purchase of a six button pad or arcade stick a necessity. This game itself controls really well, with inputs being recognized perfectly as you would expect from a conversion of a Naomi title.

Sakura has been beefed up and her skirt shortened for this release!

Presentation wise CvS2 is a mixed bag. The animation on all the characters has been improved greatly and is much less choppier than before but the funky SNK inspired intros for each stage have been cut from the first game and the backgrounds replaced with polygonal 3D ones similar to Marvel Vs. Capcom 2. While, this makes the scenery look crisper and colorful with some nice pseudo 3d effects such as cars flying over you mid-battle, it also makes 2D sprites seem a bit more pixelated than before; especially on modern TVs. Likewise, the same issue with the reusing of old sprites which Capcom were criticized in the first game remain unresolved. While the SNK roster has been redrawn for the CvS series with much improvement over SNK's sprites, most of the Capcom ones have unfortunately been ripped straight out of their Zero series making them look older and muddier when compared to their newly drawn rivals. Especially, Morrigan whose low-resolution sprite from the original Darkstalkers game (which was released in 1994!) appears shockingly pixelated when compared to Capcom's newly drawn characters. I don’t understand why Capcom updated characters like Dan Hibiki yet left Morrigan in the game looking so terrible. 

The presentation has been improved vastly from the first game with a solid visual upgrade and some flashy collision sprite effects. The newscast-like presentation in between fights also really elevates the epic merger between these 2 great fighting dynasties. The audio has also been improved to include more of a variety of genres to that of the first game which had a solely techno soundtrack but it would have been nice to have some remixes from the various games represented. At least it's more tolerable than the absolutely terrible elevator music from Marvel Vs. Capcom 2. I particularly love the voice over from over excited announcer who really elevates the feel of a big tournament "This is the first dream event of the twenty-first century. If you choose the wrong groove, you may just lose", and also the characters sound like they should, which is a very important but underrated aspect in a fighting game like this.

Aesthetically, the game is a big improvement over the original

Dreamcast fans can take pleasure in the fact that the DC conversion of the game is considered the most “arcade perfect” of the home releases. This isn’t surprising considering the system’s close relation to the Naomi architecture but is still nice to note, especially when supposedly superior hardware like the PS2 has longer loading times, with pixelation and jaggies in the visuals. Just like the first game, the Dreamcast release of CvS2 also links up to the Neo Geo Pocket Color and Card Fighters Clash 2 using the Neo Geo Pocket Color link cable. Doing so will enable you to unlock all the secrets on the Dreamcast game.

 Card Fighters 2 sure makes it alot easier to get ultimate Rugal than by beating him!

Well, I suppose I have got to wrap this up but it is such a great game that I can’t help but wax lyrical about it. With a plethora of recognizable characters, refined gameplay, and classic arcade action, Capcom Vs. SNK 2: Millionaire Fighting 2001 is the game fans of both companies were so patiently waiting for. While there are some flaws, like a couple of slightly overpowered characters and the strict requirements to reach the final bosses, there is no denying the quality and immense fun to be found in the game. This is my favourite fighting game of all time; it’s the title I always come back to when I want a lazy afternoon on the Dreamcast. All of the improvements made from the revised ratio system, team structure, to the character expansion all make for a thoroughly entertaining 2D beat-em up, and a fitting swansong from a company which supported our beloved system so gallantly. 

Unfortunately, it seems like we are unlikely see a new Capcom Vs. SNK or HD update any time soon. The original agreement signed between the two companies in 1999 was to develop 2 fighting titles each and was made just as SNK filed for bankruptcy in 2000 (it is widely known that SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos was only made in order to fulfill the contract obligations and lost the company a fair bit) and that SNK were not happy with the terms of which stated that only the distributing company would gain from a release. In other words, SNK did not gain a penny from either of the Capcom Vs. SNK games and the companies have not communicated since. After a recent chat with some Capcom Japan staff this past month, I was told on the likelihood of a new CvS title, “there is more chance of Sega returning to the console market”. This all means that there is all the more reason to keep hold of your arcade-perfect Dreamcast copy.

A quick note for collectors is that you may want to keep a look out for the Capcom Taisen (Fighting) Fan Disc which came bundled with the original release of Capcom Vs. SNK 2 in Japan and is a great collector’s item for Capcom fans. The disk contains character profiles and artwork for all the characters in the Capcom Vs. SNK series and also VMU saves to enable you to view Capcom producer’s super bouts (providing you owned the games themselves). Although, with the event of YouTube and other streaming facilities it is now commonplace to be able to view other people’s battles it was quite a curio back in 2001. What will be of interest to most fans is the added special VMU save data for pretty much every single one of Capcom's games released on the Dreamcast, which means you can access all of the characters from Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, even those which were only available in the arcades in Japan. The disc is a genuine collector’s item that is becoming increasingly rarer each year and if you are a Dreamcast/Capcom fan then it’s a title you should have in your gaming library.