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.