Darwin, Wake Me From My Nap
Instead of trying to update or reinvent any of its fighting franchises, Capcom continues to inflame the cross-over fighting madness with Capcom Fighting Evolution. The question of whether Ryu is stronger than some other non-generic 2D fighter has probably crossed your mind, but this game will make your brain bleed from its skull-bludgeoning lack of execution. Though Capcom Fighting Evolution combines five (well, four) well-known franchises together - Street Fighter II, Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter III, Darkstalkers, and Red Earth - the novelty ends quickly. Whatever enjoyment you might experience during the first few run-throughs gets swiftly and repeatedly crushed by the number of places the game feels like a pitiful copy-and-paste job. If you have ever wondered why Capcom never puts credits in its game manuals, it is to protect its staff from the embarrassment of having made such an unpolished wreck like this.
Immediately after the usual title screen and epileptic intro movie, you are faced with a selection screen with four options that are oddly italicized. Unfortunately, two of them are Training Mode and Option Mode, so you're left with the barebones offering of Arcade Mode and Versus Mode. Capcom seems satisfied disguising a would-be arcade game as a slap-dash console title without any added value, except for the wearisome task of unlocking two characters and a batch of character theme songs. The inadequate couple of options will leave you wishing there was, of all things, a survival mode, which feels as fantastic as a punch in the stomach.
You will try to remain steady, even amidst a riff-heavy soundtrack that belongs in Sonic: The Hedgehog, but the character roster will offend you with its choice of Capcom titles and then beat you senseless with its choice of characters. As you can surmise from the selection of franchises, Capcom Fighting Evolution should really be called Street Fighter vs. Other Stuff. Now, Darkstalkers is actually a welcome addition, with its strong cast of demonic characters and its bloodlust art style, but why does Street Fighter need to be represented three times and what from the Capcom abyss is Red Earth? Does anyone care? Out of speculation, you may try to discover the concept behind the characters of Red Earth - a swashbuckling lion humanoid; a fire-breathing lizard that takes up half the screen; a mechanical ninja that uses sickles, knives, and cannons; and a creature that can only be described as an aqua squid-octopus - but your chances are slim.
The title selection notwithstanding, your odds of approving the four-characters-per-franchise limit are even worse. Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Capcom vs. SNK 2, and other (better) Capcom cross-overs have no trouble featuring more than forty playable characters. So faced with a twenty-character roster, you will feel slighted. Furthermore, many of your favorite characters won't make the cut. How can you represent Darkstalkers without the two succubae main characters, Morrigan and Lilith? And how can you speak about Street Fighter without Ken?
Oh, wait. Ken is standing in the middle of a street in New York, as if the game is pleased with putting him in the background. In fact, a whole slew of characters, including E.Honda, Dhalsim, B.B. Hood, and Sagat, will stand on the sidelines and watch. Because why would you want to play as them?
Furthermore, there is no game that will make it more apparent that your characters are fighting in front of a green screen than this one. Except for a few background animations made mostly with a measly two to five frames, backgrounds are static. Nothing moves. So either time has frozen or you're fighting in what is the most uneventful night in Hong Kong. Sure, this makes your fighters stand out more, but the game can't even get the character art right. Characters retain the art style of their franchises, which is a fitting tribute to their origins, but the differences in artwork - and even resolution - is stark to the point that the game feels like five disjointed titles instead of one cohesive statement.
You will get the impression that the game is a sloppy copy-and-paste affair, despite the coined "Switch Tag System". Coupling a one-on-one battle and a tag-team system together, you can switch freely between two characters before a round begins. This double-blind procedure gives the usually idle transitional time between rounds some importance and tries to smooth out the differences between characters by giving you a team of two characters, but the team element is weak. No real teamwork happens. Like an episode out of some reality TV show, your team is just a pair of characters from separate games that have nothing but individual strengths and weaknesses.
Gluing two characters together might mend other fighting games; however, the character balance is repulsive. The back cover declares that "Characters retain their unique moves so they'll play exactly as you remember!" and the manual boasts that Street Fighter II characters have "Just simple, powerful attacks!" Bad ideas.
Each fighter has a power gauge, special moves, and super arts, but Street Fighter II characters have been given the shaft. Street Fighter III fighters are the only ones that can parry and break through guards with leap attacks, both making them much too powerful. Along with Darkstalker characters, they can also power-up their special moves with a section of their power meter. Moreover, Darkstalker and Street Fighter Alpha brawlers can use original chain combos, and even Red Earth fighters can block all attacks with an Ultimate Guard. Nostalgic Street Fighter II characters deserve at least a fighting chance. You can vouch that any character can win if you're good enough, but the one-sidedness of powerful abilities is just unfair. Ultimately, you would rather play any one of the five franchises in the game by itself - even Red Earth - instead of Capcom Fighting Evolution.
Truly, the title says it all. We can clearly see "Capcom" printed in the bottom right-hand corner of the box, so the first word is unnecessary. It's also quite obvious within the first fifteen seconds, if you didn't already tell from Guile's roaring face on the cover, that this is a fighting game. So the second word is useless. And "Evolution"? Well, that's just a lie. Even monkeys can tell that this game is worthless in every sense of the word.