SNK Vs Capcom: The Match of the Millennium
Developed By: Code Mystics, SNK
Published By: SNK
Release Date: 02.17.21
I can’t even tell you how excited I was when SNK Vs Capcom: The Match of the Millennium entered our review queue. I’m a huge fan of Capcom’s fighting franchises, and I’ve got some good memories of SNK’s work in the genre as well. MotM was originally released for the NeoGeo Pocket Color, a console I never even knew existed until after it had already failed, so obviously I never had a chance to play it before. I had heard good things about the game; it has a highly regarded reputation in the fighting game community, despite the NGPC being relegated to cult status – which is a cutesy euphemism for saying it was a financial bust. Thanks to the fine folks at Code Mystics, the game is finally available to find a wider audience on the Switch. While I am ultimately happy with the game and, more importantly, that I finally got to give it a try, MotM can’t help but show its age in a few important areas.
Around the World
There’s certainly a storyline here; some typical stuff about fighting tournaments and shady characters infiltrating them. Complex storylines in fighting games are a fairly recent invention, so I wasn’t very disappointed when there wasn’t much of a narrative component to the game. I was instead extremely pleasantly surprised to discover more than just the typical fighting game modes. Things did start with your traditional story mode – called Tourney – as well as a training mode called Sparring where you can practice your moves – you can’t really have a fighting game without either of those.
Additionally, I was super impressed with the way the game did its versus mode when playing undocked. Because the NeoGeo Pocket only had a few buttons, you can play multiplayer with just the Joycons. If you detach the Joycons, the game plays as normal on a single screen. But you can also keep the Joycons attached, and the game switches to a mirrored vertical dual screen so you can play together face to face. I don’t know how comfortable that would be to play with another player (social distancing is a beast), but even the idea of it is an awesome and unique touch.
Olympic Level Athletes
The fun, original part was Olympic mode, which is a set of cool mini games that really set things apart. There’s a survival mode game, a time attack game, and some more original mini games as well. One game on the Capcom side sees players playing as Arthur from Ghosts’n’Goblins jumping across chasms to steal treasure from demons. An SNK side mini game has players cut down straw dolls as they pop up on the screen, in a sort of Fruit Ninja way. The minis are a great way to add some diversity to the gameplay and give it more single player value if you can’t find someone to fight you.
And Now the Bad News
Unfortunately, Match of the Millennium is twenty years old at this point, and that age shows in a few ways. The most unfortunate is the pace and responsiveness of the gameplay. Newer entries in the Street Fighter franchise and in the 2D fighting genre in general are way faster and infinitely more responsive. After experiencing the nearly instantaneous response time of a game like DBZ FighterZ and breakneck speed of that game, it’s hard to go back to a game with a more deliberate framerate and controls that, by today’s standards, feel like they have an interminable input lag. Cancelling an attack to go into a guard isn’t nearly as smooth or fast, for example, which contributes to the overall feeling that the game just isn’t fast enough to fully satisfy anymore. Luckily, the devs did introduce a rewind function that softens this feeling – but it doesn’t fully eliminate it. If you’re having trouble getting used to the game’s timing (like I was), you can back up as much as sixty frames and try again.
But At Least It’s Pretty
MotM for the Switch does something pretty cool with its visuals. Since the NeoGeo Pocket screen was a lot smaller than the Switch’s screen, this port frames the game screen with a virtual NGP screenplate. You can get rid of the frame if you want and zoom the game to fit the height of the Switch’s screen instead, but the frame was a cool little nod to the game’s history. The actual graphics of the game, well… it’s a twenty year old game from a system that was originally a competitor to the Game Boy Color. It’s hard to hold a low framerate against a game that was developed for a dot matrix screen, but if that bothers you then consider this your trigger warning. The graphics are dated, to an extent, but they’re surprisingly attractive anyway. There are pixel art games that came out this year that don’t make as effective use of their pixels as SNK Vs Capcom: Match of the Millennium.
It’s the Match of the Millenium, Just Not This Millenium
I’m glad I got to play this game, even though I don’t think its gameplay holds up against modern fighters. That may be an unfair comparison given the difference in hardware performance between then and now, but the difference in responsiveness and game speed is, sadly, undeniable. Nonetheless, SNK Vs Capcom: The Match of the Millennium is an excellent effort in preserving an underappreciated moment in gaming history, and a fun game in its own right. It just takes some time to acclimate to the gameplay speed if you’re used to the pace of modern 2D fighters.
SNK Vs Capcom: The Match of the Millenium
Digital – $7.99
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The Switch Effect was graciously supplied a code for review purposes.