Late last week Capcom surprised everybody by announcing an iOS port of their classic arcade fighter Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 [$4.99]. In all honesty, I suspect this was a cleverly timed release to casually tie in with 'The Avengers' movie coming out next week, but whatever the motivation I’m not complaining. Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 is one of the most beloved fighting games in history, and prior to the downloadable rerelease on XBL and PSN in 2009 it could be kind of a difficult game to play unless you owned the Dreamcast or the somewhat rare PS2 or Xbox versions.

With that said it’s fairly mind blowing then that today you can download the entire original game onto a device that fits snugly in your pocket (or to your iPad if you’d rather, since the game is Universal, though it’s extra snug trying to jam that in your pocket). The iOS version of Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 is really cool for what it is, basically a cheap nostalgic trip, but it’s plagued with several major problems that drag the experience down, making it feel more like a novelty rather than another solid iOS fighter.

The major sticking points in Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 are that it’s difficult to control compared to the other top iOS fighters, the 12 year old visuals have not aged gracefully, and the overall performance leaves a lot to be desired. However, the virtual control setup that Capcom has come up with for the game is pretty clever, and just having a classic like Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 in my pocket is worth putting up with its shortcomings. It’s just a shame because with a little more care I think this port could have been a whole lot better.

Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 features a whopping 56 playable characters, 28 from the Marvel camp and 28 from Capcom. Only 24 are available from the start, with the rest being unlocked from an in-game store using coins earned through play, or for performing certain tasks like completing the arcade mode with different characters.

In the XBL and PSN versions of the game, all characters are unlocked from the start, but I far prefer having to unlock them on my own as it gives you a sense of progress and some goals to shoot for while playing. However, if you’re dying to download the iOS version and bust out some local Bluetooth multiplayer with a buddy (sadly there is no online) right out of the gate, then you might find it annoying to have to spend significant time earning enough coins to unlock your favorite characters. Surprisingly, there is no sort of in-app purchase option to unlock everything.

Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 is all about 3-on-3 tag team matches where characters can be swapped in and out at will, there’s a crazy emphasis on battles in the air, and the combos and special moves are all outrageous and over the top. Unfortunately, the iOS version runs so sluggishly that much of those fun moments are turned to frustration. The framerate can be a bit choppy and the virtual controls don’t seem to respond as well as even other Capcom fighters available on the App Store. This makes pulling off elaborate combos and air battling nearly impossible.

Despite the controls being sometimes unreliable, the default controls that Capcom implemented to simplify the experience are pretty nifty. There’s just a single button each for punch and kick, then there is a special button for controlling teammates and another for special moves. Besides just tapping these special buttons, each one can also be flicked in 4 different directions in order to perform additional moves. For example you can simply tap the special move button to shoot out a hadoken (fireball), but if you flick it to the side instead you can instantly launch into a shoryuken (dragon punch).

It’s a really cool idea and when it works well it’s brilliant, but for some reason much of the time it feels like the special buttons don’t respond to many of your flicks. There is the option to go with the original arcade game controls, which means no flicking for special moves, and I found that this option is much more reliable but does require more work on your part.

The visuals in Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 are also a pretty big letdown. I expect a 12 year old game to look dated, but for some reason the iOS version looks worse than any previous version. Sprites are noticeably jagged and pixelated, something that is accentuated on the iPad's bigger screen. On the bright side, the fully 3D animated backgrounds are intact here and actually look quite good, especially when you consider the boring static backgrounds used in Street Fighter IV Volt on iOS.

So, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 has a lot of issues, but nothing that renders the game completely unplayable. The controls work well enough but are far from as good as other iOS fighters, and definitely not good enough to fully pull off some of the game’s more complicated techniques. If you’re a fan of the game on other platforms and can accept the problems it has on iOS for the sake of having it in your pocket, then I think it’s definitely worth the $3 price of admission (or $5 when the intro sale ends). Personally, I'm having a ton of fun playing through the game again, even with the inherent frustrations.

If you don’t have any particular affinity for the original game but are just looking for a new iOS fighter, then Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 is a tougher sell. The controls are passable, but nowhere near the likes of Street Fighter IV Volt [$4.99], King of Fighters-i [$2.99], or SoulCalibur [$14.99] on iOS. It’s frustrating because those examples prove that Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 could have been such a better port, and it may be in the future after some updating, but if nostalgia isn’t playing a big role in your desire for having this game on iPhone then I’d suggest waiting to see how things shake out down the line.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Web

    I wonder if it would be possible extend the stage out a little so that the characters would be a little higher up on the screen so the characters aren't so obscured by the buttons. It's a port, yes, but wouldn't this involve just tweaking the background and then shifting the sprites up? <- not a game programmer

  • stormchild

    None of these fighting games are any fun on touch screens anyway. I tried MK3, SF4, and the SF2 collection, and while they're not as bad as you might expect, they're still frustrating at best and a pale shadow of the real thing. You need real, physical controls for these games, period. Doesn't have to be a joystick, necessarily — I kicked a lot of ass at SF2 with the SNES controller, and a friend of mine was so good that he could destroy anyone unless he used a one-handed RPG SNES controller (even then he usually won) — but touch screens with no tactile feedback simply do not cut it.

    • Out5poken

      Who said theyre not any real fun, have you seen the sf4v thread in the forum? Almost 3000 pages! 30,000 posts! and growing...Me personally I'm a big street fighter fan from the arcade days however I love playing volt online on my iPhone 4.

      This review highlighted some very good points. capcom seriously needs to update this app with the necessary improvements!
      Online play.
      Better visuals.
      Faster frame rate.
      Improved controls.

    • Laszlo Tuss

      You must be very lame if you can't control the SF4, it is awesome and very easy to play also on an iPad.

  • MadMilkMan

    I played it once, and thought the interface was clunky.. And when the game started I realized that the dpad takes up too much room..

  • Austin Riddle

    I'm not saying the review is wrong but I completely disagree, it deserves a 4. As a long time fighter game fan who's invested about 500$ in fight sticks alone, I find this game much more fun than anything on the market currently.  The fact that SF4 and King of Fighters have only about half the cast is unforgivable for me.  King of Fighters being the biggest joke, with nothing to unlock apart from a few costumes, and no online play to compensate.  The default controls on Marvel aren't that great, but I enjoy the 6 button interface enough to pull off some decent combo's.

    If this game gets online play, it will be my most played game on my phone for sure.

  • Palm Bear

    This game just SCREAMS iCade support....

    • Cat Astrophy

      I don't really get iCade support for a game that's already available as a downloadable on consoles that are in far more homes than an iPad. iCade really seems better for titles that haven't been ported very well to consoles (or at all) or naturally for titles that are mobile platform exclusive.

  • Cat Astrophy

    They really should have toned down the backgrounds to make room for higher bitrate sound.

    I give them credit for doing as well as they have with controls. There's a hell of a lot more command-wise you can do with Marvel than any other fighter on iOS. The controls are still too difficult to play the top tier characters at the high level of execution necessary for them to be as powerful as they are on the console, so at the very least you can take solace in knowing that the tiers are different for this version (imo Cable being the best, whom was near the top on very specific teams on console/arcade).

  • Deric

    This port is pretty much everything I expected for an ios version and I mean that in a good way. After practicing in training mode, I can actually play this version just as good as I play on the console version now. Since I play this on a ipod touch 4g, I don't notice any "dated" graphics, it seems pretty clear to me. With a few slow downs, it does not interfere with fighting because it just feels like normal speed rather than the turbo2 speed it is set at default. 

  • Austin Riddle

    Also it's much MUCH easier for me to go from Marvel vs Capcom 2 on my console to my phone, as opposed to SSFIVAE to my phone.  Volt is easily the ugliest fighter in comparison to original. 

  • Inaba-kun

    This really is an exceptionally poor port. The source visuals hold up just fine on the XBLA/PSN versions, but the way they're rendered in the iOS port is utterly shameful. 

    The problems are many - they're rendered to 480x320 resolution (old school iPhone 3G resolution), there is no texture filtering (meaning textures are blocky, like a PS1), there's no perspective correct texturing (meaning massive texture distortion/warping, like a PS1), and the frame rate is very low. (between 5fps and 20fps, depending on the device)

    It's some of the worst iOS coding I've ever seen, and there have been some exceptionally poorly programmed iOS games.

    The controls almost seem irrelevant with all the fatal graphical problems, but for what it's worth, I personally found them to be as useless as in other iOS fighters. 

    For me, this is a 1/5 at most. It'a a train wreck, and should be avoided by all. If you want a good portable fighting game, get Marvel vs Capcom 3 for the PS Vita.

  • Robert John

    There are 3 screen modes in the game - compact, normal and full modes.  Normal and full involve the screen being stretched without any decent scaling/filtering applied to them, resulting in the graphics looking warped/blocky and pixels distorted.  Compact mode appears to be running in the correct resolution/screen ratio as it has no graphical distortion, with the trade off being it doesn't fill the screen.

    Honestly, the screen scaling reminds me of how MAME used to display games in their non-native resolutions ... circa late 1990s.  There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for a game to look this bad in 2012.

    • Inaba-kun

      The original ran at 640x480. Even in full screen mode, the highest this dreadful iOS port runs at is 480x320.  
      What makes it so shameful, is that Marvel vs Capcom 3 on the Vita is a near perfect port of the X360/PS3 version, and the Vita has exactly the same GPU as the iPad 3. MvC3 pushes far higher end visuals than MvC2, so there's no excuse for this not to run at 60fps on pretty much every iOS device, and at retina resolution. Obviously the sprites would have to scale up a little, but the backgrounds should look flawless.

      • Sylvrrr

        you are comparing a $40 game vs a $3 game.  name a single $40 ios game that is successful.  oh wait, you cant?  name an intelligent reason why capcom should expect the same return by developing that level of a game for ios.  think from a business standpoint, not a fan standpoint.  that is the reality of the situation.

      • Inaba-kun

        You have spectacularly missed the point I was making. I don't expect a port of Marvel vs Capcom 3 for a few £, but I do expect a port of any game, regardless of price, to be produced to a professional standard.

        Technically this iOS port is truly abysmal. I can't emphasise that strongly enough, whichever studio did this should never be given any work ever again. How they managed to make the GPU perform so terribly is in a way impressive, as nobody had ever managed to get such dreadful performance out of it before. It's a new low point in terrible programming.

        Maybe it was done in an afternoon, who knows. That would be the only way to explain how badly it performs.

  • Joshua Nohr

    I understand that touch screen controls aren't the easiest to use, howevery, remember when the analog stick came around how frusterating that was?! Now an analog stick is second nature. KOF-i controls are actually really easy to use and I have this game as well. MVC 2 is good for iOS, however, I couldn't reccommend it over KOF-i and I am a more diehard SF fan then KOF. KOF-i is just a more polished game overall.

  • Matt Tacchi

    This game looks just awful on my iPad 3.. So very dissapointed :0(

  • BulkSlash

    The thing I don't get is why they abandoned making the special buttons work they way they do on SFIV and Volt. In those games you held a direction on the d-pad and then just pressed the "special" button. Whereas this game requires you to awkwardly drag the special or team button in a specific direction to activate a move.

    Maybe there's a good reason for this that I can't see, but personally I'd much prefer they change it to work like SFIV/Volt. If they do that (and fix the performance that's horrid even on an iPad 3) I might re-install it.

  • Erik Wilgenhof

    I'm disappointed in this extremely lazy port. Capcom has used none of the features of the iPad to enhance gameplay. At least in an emulator I can use filters to make it look better. They didn't even make it iCade compatible!

MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 2 Reviewed by Jared Nelson on . Rating: 3