|Not the most balanced fighting game out there, but has a tasty mix of Capcom and SNK characters, slick presentation, and gorgeous high-resolution 2D backgrounds. It even tries to do some new stuff, most notably the "ratio" system whereby certain characters were valued higher than others.|
Let's cover that. This being a Vs. game, you can pick multiple characters to fight with against the enemy. You get four points, so you can pick four single-point characters, two double-point characters, one single and one triple-point character, etc. The point assignment per character is somewhat arbitrary, although bosses tend to get three (Rugal, Geese, etc), stalwarts like Ken and Ryu get two, and relatively peripheral characters like Vice and Sakura get one. Higher-point characters also get more hit points and do more damage than lower-point characters.
In practice, this allows for some interesting match combinations, and a feeling of striving to beat someone inherently more powerful than you, but it also spawns silly fanboy arguments, and leads to balance issues--for instance, King, a one-point character, is pretty damn devastating. I like King. ;)
So anyway you get wacky matchups that may or may not be very balanced, and that may or may not be intentional. It feels a little loosey-goosey in that respect. The control, however, is spot on as far as I know, and surprisingly Capcom ditched their six-button scheme for SNK's four-button scheme. Capcom fans lamented losing two attack buttons for their heroes but SNK fans, as you can imagine, were pleased as punch. I could go either way on the button issue, but my history is more SNK, so there you go.
You pick your "groove," SNK or Capcom, and this governs things like how your power meter charges up. The SNK one kind of sucks since it's the old "hold three buttons to charge up manually" thing that they did in old KOFs, so I stick with Capcom groove. The groove thing, as well as the ratio system, would be greatly expanded in the sequel, thank goodness.
There's no story, typical of Capcom's vs. series, and the regular Arcade mode feels really short: five fights maybe and then the boss, and that's it. You earn points based on play time, and clearing the game unlocks things in the "shop" menu that you can buy with said points, like alternate color schemes, EX versions of the characters, etc (a later, "Pro" release of the game in Japan came with everything unlocked and a few additional characters, oh and bug/balance tweaks). Speaking of points, you can link the game with the NGPC's "Match of the Millenium" (see entry 650) and transfer points from that game; and speaking of alternative color schemes, you can also brew up your own in the Color Edit mode.
The roster size is pretty good, but the short single-player campaign tends to limit my time spent on this game. I have a fondness for it, however, balance issues and all. I particularly like the zippy "futuristic" menus and robo-talkin' voice, the twangy-techno music, and, yes I'll say it again, those lovely high-res 2D backgrounds. Sure they illustrate the shortcomings of the low-res character sprites (anonymous characters in the backgrounds have far more pixels than, say, good ol' Ryu), but they look awesome in their own right and have a lot of character--for instance, there's the construction background where planks, beams, and eventually the whole building collapses from the fury of the fight, much to the onlooking construction workers trying to eat their lunch. Oh, and Capcom did a good job on the redrawn SNK characters--a little more cartoony and Capcomesque than in the SNK games, but very smooth looking.