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Capcom vs. SNK Pro
Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Fighting

Graphics & Sound:
I remember standing next to the Street Fighter game in my college arcade too long ago to admit, watching hordes of people lining up to get a turn. Basically, you had people like me (perpetual watchers unless the arcade was empty and my friend and I could bash each other senseless without a lot of prying eyes), people in line who thought they might be contenders, and the 1 or 2 people who really knew how to kick ass and dominate everybody. This game is made, I think, for that last category. After so much time, the one thing that hasn't changed much at all is the look and sound of these games, since any purist would throw up his hands and walk away if anything so much as moved in the wrong direction or with even a hint of delay. There may be some backgrounds you haven't seen before, some fancy visuals you'll enjoy, but the meat of the game is in appearing as arcade-perfect as possible. The only bit of new eye-candy comes in the interface, and it's far more about mechanics than looking fresh.

Expect plenty of great visuals, including artistic stills showcasing characters you'll see during loading, and images you can view and manipulate in a special mode. As if the 90's scenery when the battles start isn't enough to get you to rush down to the store and buy this...

As any product driven by niche demand goes, Capcom vs. SNK Pro isn't as much about the 'What' as the 'How.' People like it for the fighting, and people play it for the fighting. Everyone knows walking in exactly what they can expect, but saying Capcom vs. SNK Pro is about fighting is like saying Jackie Chan is about martial arts. The execution is the art.

All your favorite characters are here, enough of a sampling of human, non-human, man and woman to keep any fighting fan happy. The moves for each character and the sheer volume of characters (30+) ensure that nobody plays this over a weekend and decides they're done. No, there is enough variety here to last most folks a lifetime. Hold that up against the number of games in this series and you may wonder how many lifetimes the average fighting game fan has, which makes for part of a problem. The first part is the overwhelming number of games released, and their variants, which basically offer a very similar experience. The second part is a transition from complete market dominance the Street Fighter games held years ago to a backseat position against a new generation of high-profile 3D fighters like Tekken. Any fan will tell you it's a Ford/Chevy thing, because 2D doesn't mean the action is any less intense. But, if you're looking for ragdoll physics and next-gen graphics, be warned that Capcom vs. SNK Pro, while totally great at being a hardcore fighting game, is decidedly old-school.

Like any old-school venture, you get some pretty simple gameplay options. One or two players can compete in Arcade Mode, or go up against stronger enemies in Pair Match Mode. You can compete against another human player in Vs. Mode, or do some Training to learn special moves and devise a winning strategy (or program those macros!). Other non-fighting modes include Price Mode, where you cash in points to buy special characters or view images of characters in the game. Finally, for the hardest of hardcore, a Color Edit Mode lets you modify the standard palette a character is drawn from. This last may seem a bit frilly to newcomers, but once this game became 'arcade perfect' the only thing left was the bells and whistles. Like any old technology, plenty of people have had plenty of time to get this right, but the little additions make Capcom vs. SNK Pro well worth it for fans.

The Groove Point Gauge is a little bar at the bottom of the screen showing exactly what you're accomplishing, tracking results in real time. If you pull off specials or perform in a round particularly well, the rating will rise. Try to be a button masher or fall on your face consistently, and your rating goes down. Keeping the rating up will have some unexpected results on your game, including special characters who'll drop in to test your skills. But the biggest reason for this gauge is that it allows you to trigger Super Combo or Special Attacks. These are devastating, and can mean the difference between winning and losing a battle.

As I said before, there are the gamers, the hardcore gamers and the godlike folk who have been playing these kind of games since Reagan was in office. The fact that Capcom vs. SNK Pro stays true to roots allows seasoned gamers advantages most of us won't have. No type of handicap is available, and don't think you'll be able to mash buttons and get away with anything. If there's one thing to be said for Capcom vs. SNK Pro, it's that it keeps you honest, doesn't let you get by on simply stabbing buttons and shaking the controller. There are certainly times when the CPU AI seems impossible, but practice and understanding of the capabilities each character has will allow most folks to come out on top most of the time. Fighting games, as compared to RPG games, have a reputation for 'pick up and put down' type of gameplay. Not to say you can't have several fights within a short period of time, but if you really want to see the depths of Capcom vs. SNK Pro, you'll have to put just as many hours in practicing as your friend next door with the RPG.

Game Mechanics:
There was a time when being arcade perfect was a holy grail, and with that objective knocked down there only remain peripheral improvements that can justify calling any of these games different or better. Several things lead us to believe Capcom vs. SNK Pro is really an improvement on the last version. The Groove Gauge provides a great way for novice and seasoned gamers to track results and understand where they are on or off. Sure, in the heat of battle, it is true this gauge is hard to keep track of, which would make some sort of replay a nice thing. But still, as you get more comfortable with the action, keeping up with your last move and rating yourself can really help improve and identify weak points. Every character may have a different strength or weakness, but poor skills playing the game shouldn't be an issue now that you can track results. Tutorial Mode also helps shorten the learning curve, and being able to see the button combos also really helps things sink in. The manual outlines basic and special moves for a number of characters, but you'll have a chance to play around with all possible combinations inside the game. Button layout is simple enough, and can be modified to suit your needs. Shoulder buttons serve as quick combos in that they provide the effect of hitting 2 buttons at once. Analog sticks aren't available for use, so get back to that old D-Pad. Many gamers who have really sunk their teeth into PS2 games over the last year may not have had much workout on the D-Pad, but they'll definitely get their fill here. All the controls feel great.

Most people have had the sensation of going to camp, college or a long trip with friends and developing a lot of 'inside' jokes nobody else gets. It's almost a sad feeling to realize you can't share the love with everybody, but as they say, 'You had to be there.' Capcom vs. SNK Pro is at worst, a bit of an inside joke to people who have been weaned on high octane 3D fighters like Tekken, Soul Caliber and DOA. For the people who have loved these characters going back 10 years, this is an important addition to the library of great console games and a way to hone skills away from the arcade. So, decide what side of the fence you're on, and even if you think you're on the opposite side this one is seriously worth a rental. Fans get it, and Capcom hears the fans judging by the proliferation of games in this franchise. Luckily, Capcom seems to have mastered that fine line between quality and quantity.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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