Breaking from a decade old tradition, Capcom has decided to only use four attack buttons instead of six. The moves haven't been changed, so you will have no excuses this time. The game plays just like all the classic games this title is derived from, and feels even better with the PlayStation 2 control. This fighter has been optimized for the layout of the control, which has never felt more natural.
The game lacks any real story, which is probably a good thing, since I really don't want to know why Felicia, the cat-woman from the Darkstalkers series, is fighting Iron Man. What surprises me, though, is the general lack of one player modes. Besides the arcade mode and a score attack mode, which is basically exactly the same as the arcade mode, this game has nothing else for you to do. It would have been nice if Capcom had included a Survival mode or something, but I guess Capcom didn't feel like adding much to the original Dreamcast release.
The game is starting to show its age a little. Some of the characters look a tad rough, especially when put up against the beautifully 3D rendered backgrounds. The graphics don't look bad, but they certainly could use some polishing. This is especially true when you play the game on a high definition television. There are definitely things about the game that pop out, but there's also a fair amount of pixelization that can really damper the overall experience. The good news is that you can test out a couple of different filters that smooth out the graphics, but neither of them is ideal. It would have been nice to see a true HD update to this game, but that's probably asking a bit too much.
Oddly enough I do have what sounds like a very minor complaint about this game. You see, in all of the other versions of the game you started with only a handful of characters, making you earn the rest of them. Each time you played a match (no matter if you won or lost) you would earn tokens that you could use to buy new characters, costumes and stages. This kept me playing both the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 versions of the game long past the time I got bored simply fighting. It kept me engaged and coming back for more, even if it was only one or two matches a day. For whatever reason, all of that was stripped out in this Xbox Live Arcade version. Instead you get all of the characters unlocked from the get-go. While this is fine for the multiplayer mode, I miss having an incentive (other than achievement points) to keep coming back. In a lot of ways it makes this release feel like a bare bones package, even though it offers several dozen characters to choose from. It's funny how something so small can make me view it in a negative way.
While I'm complaining, I would also like to spend a few seconds griping about the Xbox 360's horrible D-pad. Yes, I know I mention it every time I review a game like this, but there's really no excuse for how shoddy a product the Xbox 360 D-pad is. You can play the game with the analog stick, but it doesn't feel right. Obviously the best way to play the game is with an arcade stick, so hopefully you already picked one of those up for Street Fighter IV. If not, maybe now is the time to do so.
The game more than makes up for these two problems with a solid online mode. Like Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 manages to give you exciting battles with a minimum amount of lag. That's not to say that you won't run into it from time to time, but my experience with the online mode was mostly positive. There aren't a ton of online modes to choose from, but at the end of the day all you really need is a second player to fight.
While it may not wow the crowds like Street Fighter IV or BlazBlue, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is absolutely one of the best fighting games on the Xbox Live Arcade. It's different enough from all of the other releases on the platform to warrant the price, and I guarantee that you'll get your $15 worth out of just trying out all 56 characters. Now that we have one of Capcom's most successful fighters out of the way, it's time to bring on Street Fighter III or Darkstalkers.
Believe it or not, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is different enough from all of the other fighting games on the Xbox Live Arcade to warrant a purchase. With 56 characters and a fun online component, it's going to take a long time before you get sick of this must-own game!
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