Capcom's Marvel vs. Capcom 2 started out as a Naomi-based arcade fighting game back in 2000. The game was later ported to the Dreamcast in an almost perfect translation, with graphics that melded 2D sprites with 3D backgrounds and featured some of the largest, craziest combos that the genre has ever seen. Now, two years later, that perfect translation has been carried over to the PlayStation 2. Like the rest of the versus series, the game has its audience of hard-core fans, especially those that love the various Capcom and Marvel Comics characters in the game, but technically Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is by no means the best fighting game available for the PS2.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 takes the series' long-running brand of fighting insanity a step or two further, making for Capcom's flashiest 2D fighter to date. It also made some changes to the basic formula seen in the series' previous entries. For starters, the six-button punch and kick system that has served all of the Street Fighter games for the last decade has been replaced with a simpler four-button punch and kick system. The buttons that used to serve as fierce punches and roundhouse kicks are now used to call in your offscreen characters for helper attacks, which leads to the other major change in MVC2 from the original game--you now select three characters instead of two. Also, your super combos can be linked together. If you pick the right three characters and link your supers together just right, you can get combos that range in the hundreds of hits.
Beyond that, you get to choose from roughly the same collection of fighters from the first Marvel vs. Capcom with a few new characters, such as Cable, Jill Valentine, and Amingo, thrown in and some old characters, like Iceman, brought back from previous Marvel-licensed fighters. The gameplay is still very similar to that of the previous Marvel vs. Capcom, with a focus on screen-filling fireballs and ridiculous air combos. Like its predecessor, it isn't the most balanced game in the world, but there's definitely some fun to be had.
To go with the updated gameplay, the graphical style of the game has been similarly updated, though since we're talking about a game that is more than 2 years old, that update isn't nearly as impressive as it once was. While the characters are still made up of 2D sprites, the backgrounds are made up of 3D scenes, full of movement and vibrant color. The contrast between 2D and 3D doesn't work quite as well as you might like, and the resulting clash makes for sharp-looking backgrounds and relatively pixilated character sprites. The scaled-up sprite of the final boss's third form looks especially nasty.
The game's sound is a bit off. The sound effects are nice and crisp, but most of the vocal samples, both from fighters and from the game's chatty announcer, are rather low-fidelity and sound muddy. The music is anything but what you'd expect from a fighting game. While previous games have been accompanied by the typical style of rock and techno that make up most game soundtracks, MVC2 features a strange sort of jazzy lounge music. You'll either love it because it's so hilariously out of place or be annoyed to death by its happy, upbeat rhythms.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 for the PS2 generates the same sort of replay value as the Dreamcast version did. As you play, you'll earn points that can be used as currency in a shop, and you can purchase new characters, outfits, and artwork. There's a lot of stuff to be unlocked, but anyone who has been playing this old game for any length of time in the past will find that unlocking everything you're already used to seeing in the arcade can be a bit of a hassle. New players obviously won't have this problem.
Fans of the off-kilter action found in the previous versus games will surely be pleased with Marvel vs. Capcom 2, as it represents the first major set of changes the series had ever seen. That said, this game has been surpassed on nearly every front since its original release. Games like Guilty Gear X have shown freshly animated, impressively sharp 2D sprites, and Capcom's later releases, like Capcom vs. SNK 2, are simply better games in almost every imaginable way. If you're a hard-core fan of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, yet somehow missed the Dreamcast version when it was originally released, this game is a port that you will definitely enjoy. But anyone else can find better fighting games on the market.