While SEGA’s Fighters Megamix set the trend in pitting various IPs together in a digital cockfight, it was the partnership between SNK and Capcom that really began to stir things up. Two of the fiercest Japanese arcade company rivals would strive towards an agreement, signing a deal where it’s believed that 100 percent of the profits made on sales would be reaped by each developer’s own representative title regardless of intellectual property ownership.
Despite being masters of the craft in their own right, SNK clearly grasped the short straw in the deal. After all, Capcom was already by far the more dominant and recognisable household name. It also probably didn’t help matters by the fact that they absolutely smashed it with both Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000 and its even more impressive sequel, Capcom vs. SNK: Mark of the Millenium.
By the time SNK’s own mainstream variant would arrive in the form of SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos, the long-running Japanese company would already have their backs against the ropes buckling under the pressure of bankruptcy. However, SNK was the one to initially kick the deal off by releasing what could easily be regarded as one of the greatest portable 2D fighters ever made in SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium.
Unfortunately, the Neo Geo Pocket Color – the first actual affordable bit of hardware created by SNK – was a commercial failure. Which makes the release of SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium all the more interesting, as a fighting game that you will probably have never played outside unlicensed emulation. And, up until recently, an unlikely candidate to have ever shown its face on the Nintendo Switch.
Following the likes of SNK Gals’ Fighters and Samurai Shodown! 2, SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium marks the sixth Neo Geo Pocket Color game to be featured on the hybrid console. With bubbling talks of a compilation being teased by SNK recently, it could also quite possibly be the last individual release before getting grouped up into some form of pocket fighter collection.
However, If you were to only choose one out of the six titles available, then SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium is certainly a decent enough choice to make. Especially if you happen to be more familiar with Capcom fighters over SNK. This gateway drug into SNK’s past legacy manages to simplify a somewhat complex combat system down to only two buttons. Yet, don’t let the word “simply” fool you. There is undoubtedly plenty of depth to dig into if given half the chance.
From air blocking, dashes and sprints to parry-counters and guard-counters. You name it, there’s a good chance it’s represented here in some form or another. The ability to change between three different styles of gameplay alone only adds to the density of the almost-forgotten bite-sized fighter.
Each style effectively changes the conditions to utilise super meter for more powerful attacks. So, for example, the “Average” style allows the player to build up meter with the flow of play very much like the Street Fighter series. “Counter” mode enables the player to charge up meter independently with an added low-health comeback mechanic akin to the “EXTRA” mode in King of Fighters, and “Rush” style caters up to three stocks of super attacks to be earned and banked ready to be unleashed when the player sees fit. Furthermore, changing the style can have an impact on the overall gameplay mechanics of the combatant of choice.
Fights can be set between the one-on-one, a two-on-two tag team swap out like X-Men vs. Street Fighter or even a The King of Fighters ’98-style team of three endurance match. There are also several short-lived mini-games to plough through in an adorable little Olympic mode. Some are more combat-focused such as time attacks, survival and so on, while others are far more left field. Take Ghost Trick, a very basic single screen mini game platformer starring none other than Sir Arthur from Ghosts ‘n Goblins. Or Target 9, a gallery shooter starring those adorably ugly aliens from Metal Slug 2.
To add the cherry on top, there are a potential 26 fighters to choose from, all of which have been represented incredibly well considering the Neo Geo Pocket’s limitations. Most of the Capcom side is predictably made up of Street Fighter cast members with only a small few from the forgotten by-Capcom Darkstalkers series. SNK, on the other hand, has representatives from pretty much all their combat-based coin-op series along with Athena from 1986 arcade-platformer Psycho Soldier.
However, It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Without going into too much detail, there are a total of eight fighters to unlock and can only be done so by beating the tournament mode. While this isn’t an unusual condition to unlock fighters, the very strange and long-winded luck-based system of breaking the right blocks certainly is. Potentially, a player could gruel through what’s initially the arcade mode several times without ever receiving a single secret character as a reward.
As with the other five games, Code Mystics has done a wonderful job at porting over such an unsung classic over to the Nintendo Switch. While there isn’t any form of online mode included, all the interface groundwork that they have laid down beforehand carries over as well as it has done since Samurai Shodown! 2 was merely a pre-order bonus. That means scalable digital bezels of a selection of Neo Geo Pocket console skins wrapping around the action, a scanned game manual, and several multiplayer options – including an arcade table-style head-to-head mode where both players cradle each side of the console. There’s also an optional screen filter aiming to further provide that authentic Neo Geo Pocket Color feel.
All in all, SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium is a fantastic fighting game that genuinely pushed the boundaries of the portable technical limitations of yesteryear. Sure, this pocket-sized, chibi fighter doesn’t hold a candle to the undoubtedly cherished and much missed Capcom vs. SNK 2. But, given what it is, there’s a gorgeous on-the-go throwdown to be had here between mates with all the charm and spirit of the two legendary companies that it represents.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by SNK