If there’s one genre of gaming Capcom knows, it’s the 2-D fighter. Since 1987 and the development of the original Street Fighter, Capcom has created over forty 2-D fighting games. That’s a damn impressive stat, even when considering a lot of those titles are sequels or upgraded versions of already established franchises in Capcom’s arsenal (interesting note: 25 of these games are Street Fighter related).
So with that in mind, and with the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds on the horizon, we thought it necessary to open up the time capsule on Capcom’s 2-D fighter history. And while we won’t be covering all 40+ titles, we will hit on the major bulletpoints that recount the company’s path to prominence in the 2-D fighting genre.
As previously mentioned, it all started with a little title called Street Fighter in 1987. The original Street Fighter was an arcade smash, and while it was never as popular as it’s eventual sequel, the game did introduce a number of gameplay conventions that would carry through to future Capcom fighters — six button controls and command-based special attacks.
Capcom’s next major foray into the 2-D fighter scene came in March 1991 when the company released Street Fighter II into arcades. The game was a commercial smash, reinvigorating the arcade gaming scene and getting gamers to toss their hard-earned quarters into an arcade cabinet without a moments hesitation. Since the release of Street Fighter II in 1991 we’ve seen four additional versions of Street Fighter II hit the market, each adding new characters, moves and levels. The most famous one is, without a doubt, Super Street Fighter II.
The success of the original Street Fighter and Street Fighter II also sparked Hollywood’s interest in the franchise, green-lighting a Street Fighter film with Jean-Claude Van Damme in the starring role as Guile. The movie might have been a critical and commercial failure when it released in 1994 — and the first true indicator that Hollywood has no idea how to handle a video game movie — but the mere fact that it was made speaks volumes to the success of the Street Fighter gaming franchise up to this point.
1994 also saw the release of a brand new Capcom 2-D fighter franchise: Darkstalkers (known as Vampire in Japan). Darkstalkers is often regarded as the criminally under-appreciated Capcom fighter, with a vocal cult-like fanbase defending the game at every available opportunity. But Darkstalkers will forever be remembered as an integral part in Capcom’s 2-D fighter line-up, introducing 16-bit color animation sprites which were later put to use in such titles as the Street Fighter Alpha and Marvel vs. Capcom series.
Another significant blip on Capcom’s timeline came in 1994 with the release of X-Men: Children of the Atom. The game released at the tail end of the year and marked the first time Capcom developed a fighter using a license not their own, in this case Marvel. From a gameplay standpoint, X-Men: Children of the Atom was a combination of the conventions of Street Fighter II and Darkstalkers and was praised for its faithful representation of the Merry Mutants and colorful animation. The respectful relationship between Capcom and Marvel would continue on from here with great success.
In 1995 Capcom would once again team up with Marvel for another 2-D fighting game, this one called Marvel Super Heroes. Marvel Super Heroes would be the first time Capcom expanded beyond the house Xavier built and created a game centered around the entire expansive Marvel Universe. Characters included, but were not limited to, Spider-Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Iron Man, Doctor Doom, Magneto and Thanos. The story was a fighting game’s take on the classic Marvel Comics storyline “The Infinity Gauntlet.” Marvel Super Heroes was essentially a gameplay update of X-Men: Children of the Atom, with a simplified super combo gauge and the ability to use the Infinity Gems for additional power.
Three years after the release of Marvel Super Heroes –and one after the game was ported to Sega Saturn and PlayStation — saw the launch of Marvel vs. Capcom in 1998. The original Marvel vs. Capcom was the first game in the “Capcom vs.” series, refining what Capcom learned on X-Men: Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes and incorporating it into a title that pitted Marvel’s greatest heroes/villains against the most well-known Capcom characters. And while tag-team 2-D fighters were nothing new to the genre at this point, Marvel vs. Capcom did introduce some new fighting game vernacular for combos performed on airborne opponents, as well as pulling off two or more character hyper combos simultaneously.
Capcom continued their “Capcom vs.” line in 2000 with the release of Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000. The game was originally released in arcades and was later ported to the Sega Dreamcast. Capcom vs. SNK saw the best Capcom characters facing off against the best SNK fighters, namely the characters from the King of Fighters series. Capcom vs. SNK received a sequel a year later that released solely in Japan.
After the launch of Capcom vs. SNK in 2000, Capcom once again re-approached their Marvel vs. Capcom line of titles for another sequel. This game would come to be known as Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (MvC2). While Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was technically a simplified version of the original MvC, from a gameplay standpoint, the game still managed to become one of Capcom’s most successful and longest lasting 2-D fighters. The game’s long-lasting reach has even lead to a recent re-release on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
In the years that followed the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Capcom was relatively quiet in the 2-D fighter genre. It wasn’t until late 2007 when Capcom announced Street Fighter IV, the first numbered Street Fighter title since 1999. While most other fighting game developers where changing with the times, adapting their series to three-dimensional space, Capcom remained unflinching in their decision to plant Street Fighter IV in its roots as a 2-D fighter. However, Street Fighter IV would use stylistic 3-D models set against a 2-D plane to achieve its eye-popping visuals.
Street Fighter IV released in 2008 at the arcades, with the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions following in 2009. The game has been a critical and commercial success, selling enough copies to warrant an updated version of the title, called Super Street Fighter IV, that introduced ten new characters, a deeper online competitive component, new ultra combos and additional costumes.
Capcom’s next 2-D fighting release was in 2010 when the company brought Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes to the West and released the title in North America and Europe as Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars for Nintendo Wii. Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars was the seventh iteration of the “Capcom vs.” series of fighting titles, ushered into the market after a hiatus of seven years. Like Street Fighter IV and Super Street Fighter IV before it, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom was a 2-D fighter using 3-D character models.
But that was all prequel.
On February 15, 2011 Capcom will release Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, the culmination of everything they have learned from developing 2-D fighters since 1987. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 will be the fifth Marvel-licensed Capcom fighter, the eighth installment in the “Capcom vs.” series, the second in the “Capcom vs.” series to use 3-D graphics on a 2-D fighting plane, and the first to be exclusive to consoles. The game will feature the same fast-paced gameplay mechanics we’ve come to expect from Marvel vs. Capcom, as well as more accessible gameplay for new players, 3-on-3 tag team battles and a massively epic plot.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds is poised to be the quintessential Capcom 2-D fighter when it releases. The hype behind Marvel vs. Capcom 3 also proves that there is still a furious beating heart for the 2-D fighter genre. In an industry where companies must roll with technological advancement or die trying, Capcom has gone against the grain and proven that graphical prowess isn’t everything. Games that are good games, first and foremost, will win out 99% of the time. Because, in all honesty, a Street Fighter game where you can side-step Ryu’s hadouken would be awful. Admit it. So thank you for never making that a reality, Capcom.