Review | SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium
After playing SNK Gals’ Fighters and Fatal Fury First Contact, I thought I saw everything the Neo Geo Pocket Color had to offer when it came to fighting games. Now that I’ve played SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium, I now see just how wrong I was. While it predates SNK Gals’ Fighters, everything about SNK vs. Capcom is incredibly impressive for the little handheld. Now that The Match of the Millennium is available on the Nintendo Switch, players of a new generation can play this rare gem of a game.
As the title suggests, this is a crossover fighter between the two publishers, SNK and Capcom. This is actually the second game in the crossover series, but it’s the first fighting game. Unlike the later arcade and console options, the Neo Geo Pocket Color version opts for a chibi designed variation. This carries over from SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash, which released prior to The Match of the Millennium. Players will have several modes and options to choose from, and they’re surprisingly detailed. The game even offers a slight story with the Tourney mode, which gives you a plot where Geese Howard and M. Bison team up to build an army for world domination.
Both companies are giants in the fighting game industry, so it’s only natural they would showcase their big fighting franchises. A total of 26 characters are available to select from for either solo fights, a two-person tag team, or even a team of three. On the SNK side, you’ll have characters from The King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, The Art of Fighting and more. For the Capcom side, you’ll have characters mainly from the Street Fighter and Darkstalkers series. Depending on who you choose as a leader, that will determine the focus of the story. It also determines your rival, who even provides a special pre-fight intro, adding to the charm of the game.
Not only is this the biggest roster of fighters in the Neo Geo Pocket Color games, but it’s also the most diverse. Characters from their respective series are perfectly crafted to maintain the same essence from their main games. While some of the SNK characters already had some of the work done from Fatal Fury First Contact, it was really impressive to see how well the Capcom characters transitioned. Chun-Li or Guile can do all their charge abilities, Zangief can do his lariats and power bombs, and even Morrigan can do all her transformation attacks and her Izuna drop. Best of all, the characters do their moves with incredibly accurate animation. Just when I thought a character would have a limitation, I’d discover I could do another attack.
It’s not just the moves that are impressive, but also the fighting mechanics as well. Players can dash back and forth, alternate between light and heavy attack combos, stun opponents, guard cancel, and even perform Super Impact Blasts. Some characters even have more complex maneuvers like air throws and command grabs. To make things more interesting, you’ll have various different styles to determine how your super attacks work. Average style will give you two levels for your Super Impact Blasts, level 2 being a more powerful version (and often a different animation). Counter style allows you to collect power and unleash it in a powered up state, including stronger Super Impact Blasts. Finally, Rush style gains meter by doing well with chain combos, giving more Super Impact Blasts at a cost of attack power.
Each style has a completely different feel, and some even offer special commands like invasion evasion and power builder. I myself found myself partial to the Average style, though the combo options with Rush is great too. When adding it to the mix of an already mechanically deep fighter, you have a lot to work with. But wait, the game goes even deeper with the attack options. The game allows players to unlock extra attacks for their fighters by competing for “Versus” points. To gain Versus points, you need to compete in the Olympics, which is an alternate mode with different types of games. You’ll be fighting to earn medals in this mode, though Versus points are the bigger incentive. This is also where you’ll get to see more characters from both publishers.
When selecting Olympic Mode, you’ll have the choice between team SNK and team Capcom, both run by their respective manager. It’s just one of those extra features that makes The Match of the Millennium stand out. Samurai Shodown’s Rimururu runs the SNK side while Street Fighter’s Karin runs the Capcom team. Both offer a Survival, Time Attack and a one-hit kill mode called First Blast. On top of that, both teams offer two unique games starring additional characters. Team SNK has a Metal Slug shooting gallery minigame called “Target 9,” as well as a sword slashing minigame called Blade Arts, starring Jubei from Samurai Shodown. Both of these minigames are pretty challenging, and it takes some really good reflexes to do well.
Capcom’s team offers Cat Walk, a rhythm game starring Felicia (the only one using an actual playable character). This one was a bit tricky, as the game seems to have trouble recognizing inputs on the faster speeds. I had no trouble with the slower songs, but the faster speeds simply destroyed me. That’s okay though, because I would just play Ghost Trick (no, not THAT Ghost Trick). This Ghost Trick actually stars Arthur from Ghosts ‘N Goblins, which is a simple treasure collecting minigame where you guide Arthur across pits while avoiding Red Arremer. It’s definitely the easiest event, but I just couldn’t help loving the Ghosts ‘N Goblins theme being a part of the minigame.
That’s another thing about SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium that I love. The music is faithfully recreated with a charming chiptune soundtrack that fits perfectly with the handheld style. It’s likely you’ve never heard Guile’s theme like this before, and that’s something that needs to be corrected. There’s several great King of Fighters songs, classic Street Fighter tunes, and many other classics. It goes great with the overall presentation of the visuals, which are just fantastic, with or without the Code Mystics filter. Characters have vibrant, full color art while backgrounds are incredibly detailed for the hardware. Of course, it does take a hit with the localization, which is full of typos and some questionable dialogue. The dialogue does have some fun moments though, which is good for a laugh from time to time.
I will say that despite the good pixel graphics, there are still some performance issues. It seems that the game does have issues with scrolling the backgrounds, as it tends to tear occasionally. It’s jarring, but it doesn’t happen all the time thankfully. It’s also worth noting the difficulty during some of the modes. Tag seems to be the best balance for the Tourney mode, but Team and even Solo tend to make the final fight a bit difficult. It’s possible to win, but sometimes the final boss characters can do some pretty impossible feats. The eight unlockable fighters can also take a while to obtain. Finishing Tourney mode destroys a handful of blocks that obscure the hidden fighter, meaning you have to play multiple times to unlock them.
Overall, SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium is easily my favorite Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection game. I haven’t unlocked all eight hidden fighters, but I do plan on playing until I do. With a large cast of SNK and Capcom characters, detailed sprite animations, and an awesome soundtrack, it’s worth checking out. Despite the limitations of the hardware, it’s hard not to be impressed with what SNK created here. Even with slight performance issues, this is a fantastic retro fighter, and I’m thankful that Code Mystics managed to bring it over. If you’re even slightly interested in the SNK vs. Capcom crossover series, for $8, this is a worthy pickup for your Switch.
Final Score: 9 out of 10