- Title: SNK vs Capcom: Match of the Millennium
- Released: November 30, 1999
- System: Neo Geo Pocket
- Developer: Dimps
- Publisher: SNK
- Genre: Fighting
- Players: single & multiplayer
SNK vs Capcom: Match of the Millennium (hereafter referred to as MOTM) is the first of the SNK and Capcom VS games. Being a fan of both franchises and fighting games in general, I purchased this game on release even though at the time I didn’t even own a Neo Geo Pocket. It took another six months to acquire one, which meant that MOTM was sitting in the top of my cupboard eagerly awaiting it’s first play. So, six months of waiting…it was a long wait. Was it worth it? In one word, absolutely. Read on to find out why I think the game is one of the better mobile fighting games, even for the saturated Neo Geo Pocket fighting market. In short, this game is so much fun. The game box promises “… the best of both worlds…” and in that regard, this game delivers in spades.
When you first start the game you’re treated to a slide show of clips featuring the characters from the game in Chibi form. Don’t let this put you off, it’s actually one of the best features of the game and makes for a consistent look, a lot better than the console versions anyway. Let’s dive into the main menu:
So here are the options:
- Tourney is the main game. Get in there & start fighting.
- VS Mode doesn’t need much explanation. To point out the obvious, you’ll need two Neo Geo Pockets, two versions of the game, and the link cable. I don’t know if the wireless linkup device works on this game. Yes the Neo Geo Pocket had a wireless linkup device well before the Gameboy Advance ever did.
- Olympic features side games which we’ll cover a bit later.
- Entry allows you to customise you own character. I wasn’t very big on this feature. All you can do is create custom music & cheesy tag lines for the characters. Meh…
- Sparring is a non stop practice mode.
- Record let’s you view your… well records. Win/Loss and other stats.
This is where the game really starts to get impressive. Both SNK and Capcom fans are well and truly covered here. You can battle it alone, with a partner in a Capcom “vs style” match or in an SNK style three on three team. Let’s have a look at the characters:
Here’s the lineup. SNK on the left, Capcom on the right, with eighteen characters available right from the get go. There are also four blank spaces per side…could there maybe be some hidden characters? Why yes there are, four additional characters per side, bringing the total to twenty six characters – not bad for a mobile fighting game from the 1990s. I’ll discuss unlocking the secret characters a bit later…I don’t want to ruin it just yet by having a rant. Here’s a list of characters per side:
- Kyo Kusanagi
- Terry Bogard
- Iori Yagami
- Ryo Sakazaki
- Mai Shiranui
- Athena Asamiya
- Akari Ichijou
- Yuri Sakazaki
- Geese Howard
- Orochi Iori
- Ken Masters
- Chun Li
- B. B. Hood
- M. Bison
- Evil Ryu
On this screen I’ve chosen Capcom “tag” mode, hence the 2 character boxes per side. In both the Tag & Team modes you’re given the option of choosing who goes first, or in the case of Team who goes first and second.
The gameplay, graphics, and attention to detail are all excellent. Sure we’re let down a little by having characters with only two colours, but this is more a limitation of the Neo Geo Pocket than it is the game or character design. The attention to detail is amazing. Rivalries are all covered at the start of battles. Each Capcom character has an SNK rival, so of course you have the original rivalries of Ken vs Ryu, Kyo vs Iori, Terry vs Geese (oops, did I just give away a hidden character?). They all interact and say things that highlight characters’ histories and rivalries. If the characters aren’t rivals then you a presented with a generic statement and the game begins.
Sound is great with every character having their own background music. Music from Fatal Fury, Street Fighter 2, and Samuarai Showdown are all present. Hits feel and sound like hits, and although you’re not going to get an almighty HADOUKEN! out of the little Neo Geo Pocket, you get suitable sound effects for every occasion.
The developers Dimps are obviously fans of the legacy Capcom and SNK fighting games, and it shows in the polish and attention to detail that they’ve applied. The programmers have even provided minute graphical flourishes and details that only true fans are likely to notices, such as making sure Ryu and Ken have different fireballs a la Street Fighter Alpha?
The main game is superb and eminently playable. As mentioned before, the characters are Chibi style, but this makes them feel like they’re a part of the same universe, which is something I had problems with with in the console versions of the game. Punches and kicks feel like they’re hitting; massive fists and feet actually don’t feel out of place. On a side note: The Neo Geo Pocket joystick is without a doubt the finest fighting controller used on a portable system, & after a few minutes of playing you can tell that SNK designed this little baby for fighters.
Olympic mode is another major part of the game you’re likley to be spending some time with. The only problem is that it’s rather average. The Olympic events are hosted by SNK and Capcom characters; Rimururu will take you through the SNK section while Sakura’s rival Karin is your Capcom guide. Here’s Rimururu with a list of options:
- Entry is obviously to enter an event.
- Record is to check your records in the events.
- Master Skill is why you’re putting yourself through this. You can unlock new techniques for the characters in the main game.
- Talk is to have a chat to either Rimururu or Kari. It’s rather uninteresting, although their replies are mildly amusing.
- Exit…I won’t insult you by explaining this one.
Rimururu & Karin’s event lists are the same save for 2 each side. Here are the girls with their event lists:
First are the 3 first challenges. Survival is just 100 fights with your character only one health bar which gets slightly replenished every few battles. Time Attack is beating as many people as possible in the given time limit of 7 minutes. First Blast consists of 2 characters with 1 hit point on the health bar each trying to get that first hit in.
Now onto the special events for each side – I’ll cover Rimururu’s list first. Target 9 is based on Metal Slug whereby you pay Marcus & have to destroy all the Mars people. Blade Arts is where you play Jubei from Samurai Shodown and have to destroy straw dummies. It sounds more exciting than it is, trust me.
Now Karin has Ghost Trick and Cat Walk in her list. Ghost Trick involves collecting gold while avoiding Red Arremer. Cat Trick is simply a Dance Dance Revolution style game.
Overall these are relatively ordinary single screen games. So why are we doing this again? Oh that’s right… secret fighting moves. Everyone has one more move that needs to be unlocked by doing events & earning points. Now the rant I promised you. Unlocking secret characters is a pain. After you complete tournament mode you are presented with a box made up of 9 squares. One of the squares in this box is removed at random to slowly reveal the hidden character. So you need to clock the game at least 9 times to reveal 1 character, BUT take note of the previous sentence. I’ll repeat it with the bit I want to highlight in bold:
“One of the squares in this box is removed at random to slowly reveal the hidden character”
Random. Yes this means even if a square has been removed the icon that removes the squares can land on that spot again. So you could be stuck with one or two squares left and the game just keeps going to previous unlocked squares. I played over thirty times before I unlocked Akuma. It was worth it however just to see Geese vs Bison. Firstly Billy Kane & Vega come out and square up, then they step aside to let their bosses duke it out. So it is a frustrating process, but ultimately worth it in the long run. The last two characters per side are insanely powerful. Once you’ve already unlocked them there isn’t much else to do with regard to game progression except unlock any special moves you missed from the olympic section.
So that’s the game; despite minor niggles it’s overall a fantastic portable fighting experience. A quick comment on the manual. Capcom characters are normally drawn with an obvious manga influence, while SNK characters are slightly more true to life. The artwork in this manual and on the box art should please both parties as it’s very balanced, sort of a half and half stylistic mix. Again this makes everyone feel like they’re part of the same game and world. Move lists are included for all but the hidden characters but hey, if they told you in the manual who was in the game they wouldn’t be hidden.
I go back to this game very regularly for a quick bash. I’ve unlocked everyone and everything, but it’s still fun – a hallmark of a great fighting game. If you’ve played other fighters for the Neo Geo Pocket such as Gal’s Fighters, Fatal Fury or King of Fighters, you will notice the game looks and plays quite similarly; this is fortuitous as they’re all top-notch fighters. This is an essential purchase for fighting fans who own a Neo Geo Pocket, particularly if you’re a fan of both franchises.