It is a little-known fact about me that I missed the Capcom vs. SNK 2: Millionaire Fighting 2001 dry run by a matter of days; the Shinjuku Sportsland location testing closed just before I took my first (or was it second?) trip to Tokyo. So it was with much fanfare that we descended upon Osaka on Saturday, July 7th and attempted to find Neo Geo Land.
I was wearing my Capcom vs. SNK 2 shirt, featuring a remarkably strange assembly of characters, that came with my never-opened copy of the PS2 version of the game. (Dreamcast fo LIFE, foo.) Matt had on his brand-new, 300-yen DDR hat. We were stylin’ and ready to rock it out.
This turned out to be pretty easy, as Neo Geo Land was right across from the actual SNK… er, Playmore… or SNK Neo Geo… or whatever… anyway it was right across from their home office. I must have been thinking that I was on G4 or some shit, because I instructed Matt to start taping as soon as we got the huge Neo Geo sign in view.
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As a light summer rain began to drop onto Matt’s overpriced digital camera and I produced my stealth ninja umbrella from my carrying bag, we entered a room that said Neo Geo Land and found a bunch of stupid, non-SNK games. Like the false staircase in the middle of 8-1, the fake Neo Geo Land had momentarily fooled us. Without missing a step, we headed for the exit and spotted what had to be the real thing across the street.
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“We’re here; we’re queer; let’s make it happen.” Or so I said as we stormed the building, hopping on the escalator to the second floor of the Neo Geo entertainment complex, which also boasted a NEO GEO HYPER BILLIARDS ROOM and karaoke. (I meant queer, of course, as in strange, which as gaijin we certainly were. So don’t get any ideas or nothin’.) Matt nearly did not make it up the escalator, being briefly stopped in his tracks by a fat Japanese woman whose attempt to insert her rice-enlarged person into our video was, in the end, for naught. We ascended to the second floor, where we found a line of epic proportions stretching out mightily across the arcade.
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If you check that last video, you’ll see a suited, official-looking man at the top of the escalator, observing the proceedings, then turning around to see us barging on in. We didn’t look like your typical gaijin Neo Geo fanboys (meaning we hadn’t just spent three thousand dollars in Den Den Town, weren’t from Europe, and had showered that morning) and yet he still spotted us for enemies. We videoed the crowd for three seconds before he asked us to stop.
Now, I’m very used to Japanese people asking me to stop taking videos, and I’m very used to not really paying much attention to them. The trick is to do it in stages. First thing I did was say okay, and then Matt started taking pictures of the full-color move list poster. He got like two before the guy came over again and said, “No, you can’t take pictures of that, either.”
And I said, “You said not to take pictures of the game screens.”
And he said, “Well, you can’t take pictures of anything.”
And I promised him that from this point on I would not even dream of it.
Anyway, we were more interested at this point in navigating the huge crowd of people. As it turns out, this was much more manageable than we thought – what we imagined to be one gigantic line was actually one long line, one short line, and one not-a-line.
The short line was for player-vs-player matchups. The not-a-line was a seating area where spectators-only could view these versus matches on a big-screen TV. Waiting in the short line, Matt and I observed the twentysomething girls that were manning the machine, writing down all sorts of seemingly important information about each match including start time, end time, character used, etc.
For purposes of this article, and to create a distraction, I jotted down notes:
“Animation SNK style – not blocky.” It looked like a Neo Geo game, but somehow nicer and not as chunky as the recycled SFA graphics that popped up in the CvS games. The characters were big onscreen, reminding me more of SFIII than anything.
“Two rounds with two bars – VS style.” VS meaning “Vampire Savior,” if I recall correctly. I was wrong about this, it turns out – you don’t just blow through all your energy at once; the rounds stop and both players go back to full. There are, for some reason, two energy bars that each represent half your life. Not sure if your character gets weaker or stronger or what depending on which bar you have. Perhaps executing KOF-style super killy death moves requires you to be ‘in the red.’
< Brandon’s note: that’s exactly right – this is called the Exceed Attack >
Speaking of which, a quick glance at the moves list (scanned by me for your kanji-reading pleasure) reveals that the SNK folks have got more varieties of moves than the Capcom side. Whether the Capcom characters’ hissatsu waza will simply be more powerful at level 3 or what, I can’t say yet.
“Standard Super Meter.” Regarding the super bar at the bottom of the screen: so far, no selectable ISMs or Grooves or whatnot. What you see is what you get – a three-level super bar, Alpha style. One difference – when the bar hits level 3, it changes to MAXIMUM and becomes a timer. If you don’t use your maximum-flavored super within that time, the bar goes back down to 2 ½ and you have to build it back up to 3 again.
“Combos called RUSH.” As in, when you start a combo, it says RUSH plus the number onscreen.
“Fights, in both 1P and 2P mode, start with dialogue.” It doesn’t seem like you need to pick a certain combination of characters to get fight-starting dialogue; it happens with everyone. Obviously there will be special dialogue for certain matchups, but this is an interesting situation. One wonders about potentially humorous dialogue mismatches. Win screens feature only the winning character and a suitably bad-ass quote – no defeated, bloody enemy; sorry.
So we finally made it to the front of the VS. line. The player on the left hand side of the machine, who was probably about eighteen but looked fourteen, had racked up fifty wins so far with Ryu, and it didn’t look like we were going to be the ones to boot him off. Matt gave it a valiant try with his Guile. He lost, but it was clear to all present that the moment of the match was when Matt stopped a Shin-Shoryuken dead in its tracks with a Flash Kick.
(Engrish alert: the top of the screen showed this guy’s win count and read BEAT BY 50. Not quite the meaning they were looking for…)
I got up there for my first and only game of SVC Chaos and picked Ryu. Not content to simply beat on my ass, the eighteen-fourteen-year-old also pounded on the buttons to make sure I didn’t get to see any of the intro sequences. I did get down more of his life bar than Matt did, which surprised me since Matt can destroy me at practically any game with the word “Capcom” in it (or for that matter any other game whose title contains words), but I lost in short order as well.
The long line was for those who were waiting to challenge the one-player mode. This looked rather appealing since the computer was set to ‘relatively easy’ such that even girls – actual female persons – were able to get all the way through to Dan, who may or may not have been a boss character but in any case was pretty damned effective since we didn’t see a single person get past him. As far as new additions to the character, we noticed a huge burst effect on his short-lived Shinkuu Gadoken and a brand new super, which I will describe below, in italics even:
Dan throws a straight punch at the opponent. If it connects, he reaches out with his other hand and grabs them. Helpless in his grasp, he punches them in the face again, finishing off the combo with a point-blank Gadoken (not that there is any other type of Gadoken). He throws the opponent away, crouches down as if in prayer – then turns around to deliver a wink and a thumbs-up.
< Brandon’s note: Dan is one of the midbosses that can emerge at stage 4 – too bad nobody could make it past him! >
We’re not sure, but this might be an SNK-style Maximum-level near-death combo. Of course, considering how much trouble people were having beating Dan, I wonder if he was ever truly near death. Observation: this does in fact address the age-old question -- if Dan were an SNK character, would he be a joke? Answer: no, he would apparently be the most powerful character in the game.
Having had our fill of getting our asses beaten by this freak of nature, we retired to the not-a-line where someone, I won’t say who, accidentally had his camera on and just happened to get some video of Ryu beating the living fuck out of a few other characters like Ryo and I forget. (I won’t leave out that there’s still a little thrill for me at seeing Ryu kick the hell out of that pale imitation whose sole claim to fame is having inspired Dan’s outfit and “super” moves.)
Leaving the testing area, we climbed upstairs to the Neo Geo Land Karaoke Box Center EX 2003 where we took advantage of the quiet space to film our final thoughts for the day. If you don’t feel like downloading the video, I’ll summarize.
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Matt’s thoughts: Seems like an attempt at bringing SF Zero (that’s SF Alpha to you gaijin) gameplay to the Neo Geo home system.
Chris’ thoughts: So? Why are people going to care if this is just going to be a redrawn Street Fighter Alpha 3 with SNK cast members? Where are the new gameplay mechanics? Where are the new characters?
Disclaimer: The final product will differ from what we saw, played, and showed you, but by how much and will that be enough?
Those were my thoughts to end the mock-television-programming segment. Now, a day and some sleep later, what am I thinking?
First off, thinking back on the fifty-wins guy, I’m not sure what to think: should I be amazed that he so thoroughly mastered a game on the first day of its public release, or be annoyed that the game mechanics are so insultingly similar to years-old games that there was no significant learning curve at all?
Three years – probably more – in development or at least planning, and all they have to show for it is a standard Street Fighter engine with a predictable character roster. Sure, the game plays great, is fun, and has no glaring bugs at this point. But I didn’t come out of this experience in any state of awe, wanting to shout out my discovery of this game to the masses or some shit. That’s happened to me before; not now.
One thing I can say for SVC Chaos – and maybe this is really important – is that it avoids the whole MUGEN vibe given off by the first couple of CVS games. That is to say, the characters have been completely redrawn into a new, yet familiar, visual style rather than ripped directly from older games. And yet, I wonder how much this is really going to count for in terms of gameplay.
In the end, I get the feeling that SNK vs. Capcom was supposed to be released a long time ago – like, say, concurrently or soon after Capcom vs. SNK. It was announced, of course, at the same time as the Neo Geo Pocket Color cartridge. Two years ago, SF Zero-style gameplay on the Neo Geo hardware would have been interesting – but for 2003, SVC might end up being one big anticlimax.
Guess I should have filled out one of them there questionnaires…
Oh, and as an extra special bonus – if you want to know what I thought of the whole Capcom vs. SNK deal back in 2000, check out my feature article for j-pop.com, still available, with selected pictures even, thanks to the copyright-infringing magic of the Internet Archive!