Review: SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium (Switch)

One of the premier handheld fighters ever made has returned!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 02/25/2021 06:10 1 Comment     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Stunning presentation that pushed Neo Geo Pocket Color to the max; great tunes, beefy sprites, excellent color palette; tons of fan service; multiple modes and options; huge roster
Poison Mushroom for...
Switch analogue stick isn't quite up to pulling off more complex attacks and combos; AI can get ridiculously tough; omitted quality of life tweaks are a bit perplexing

Prior to the new millennium there was quite a bit of fantasy and speculation about what the turning of the calendar to the year 2000 would mean for the world. It was a heady time, with the buildup to the new year arguably more exciting and fascinating than the inevitable culmination. It makes sense, then, that two of the titans of the fighting game world would finally unite and produce projects together to mark the occasion. Enter SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium. Launched over 20 years ago, this handheld fighter was one of the best portable examples of the genre ever made. Interestingly, were it not for some difficulties at SNK, SNK vs. Capcom might never have even been made.

In truth, SNK vs. Capcom was as much about saving SNK as it was satisfying the dreams of avid fans. SNK was not doing well financially by the end of the ’90s, so turning to Capcom for a series of crossover fighting games was intended to help staunch the bleeding and get the company back on its feet. It didn’t hurt that the combination of rosters was something fans had always wanted to see. For those who remember the era, it was actually quite surprising to see SNK and Capcom working together. Throughout the ’90s, SNK and Capcom regularly made subtle jabs at each other with not-so-secret cameos in their games that regularly poked fun at the other’s premier fighting franchises. It wasn’t quite Sega versus Nintendo-levels of animosity, but it was absolutely a rivalry.

Time heals all wounds, however (and facing bankruptcy likely helps), and the end result was a smattering of SNK versus Capcom games, including this gem from Neo Geo Pocket Color. Now, if you’re a regular Nintendojo reader you’ll know that we’re massive Neo Geo Pocket Color fans around here. The handheld was launched in the US in 1999 as a competitor to Nintendo’s Game Boy Color, and by all rights was a very worthy challenger. Sadly, the portable never caught on, but it did yield a bevy of great games that have been getting some love of late thanks to SNK’s Neo Geo Pocket Color Selection lineup. SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium is the latest addition and one that any fighting game fan is going to want to consider downloading.

Firing up SNK vs. Capcom immediately rewards players with some of the best pixel art and animation that Pocket Color had to offer. While Game Boy Color was no slouch, from a graphical standpoint SNK’s handheld was a notch above in terms of the graphical fidelity it provided. Character sprites are beefy, their movements fluid, and the backgrounds are stuffed with details. There are 26 total combatants to choose between (eight of which must be unlocked), with characters pulled from the likes of Street Fighter, King of Fighters, Darkstalkers, Fatal Fury, and more. Not only is the selection great, but the thought that so many fighters were somehow stuffed into a Pocket Color cartridge is really astounding. Fun fact: SNK vs. Capcom could be connected to Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000 on Sega Dreamcast via a link cable to unlock characters in that game. GBA link to GameCube, eat your heart out.

In all seriousness, however, the technical prowess on display here is a huge part of the allure. Yes, there are countless retro aesthetic-styled games that far outstrip this effort, but the point is that SNK was able to pump so much from the Pocket Color’s processor. This was developed in the late ’90s on original hardware, a feat that deserves just as much acclaim and recognition now as then. What’s more, the fighting game component of SNK vs. Capcom is only part of the fun; there’s also the game’s Olympic Mode, where a series of challenges are presented that pull heavily from the two companies’ rich back catalogue of games. Toss in a litany of different faces from multiple Capcom and SNK series peppered throughout the backgrounds of arenas, and SNK vs. Capcom feels like a true celebration of both companies.

As a fighting game, what’s most important is that SNK vs. Capcom delivers the goods. While only having two face buttons and an analogue stick might seem too limiting, in reality SNK mined a lot of depth from the spartan selection of inputs. Short taps of the buttons launch light attacks, while more sustained presses unleash heavy attacks. Switch’s analogue stick lacks the insanely satisfying clicking sounds of a Pocket Color, but it gets the job done… mostly. Despite being newer, that stick on Pocket Color was a better fit for SNK vs. Capcom‘s controls. This means that some of the more challenging boss fights, or facing off against a live opponent, can become trickier than they should be. Other controllers help alleviate this, but it’s a slight frustration nonetheless when attempting to pull off more complex moves and combos.

Yet another testament to the care put into SNK vs. Capcom is how faithful the mechanics and feel of each fighter are. Move sets and attacks are contemporaneous with how the fighters would’ve played in games in their own series at the time. It’s evocative of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and the ways that fighters from different franchises are made to simultaneously fit in with the Smash-style of play while also feeling authentic to how they control in their games of origin. There are dozens of combos to learn and execute, but the game buries its moves list in the digital manual, which can be a burden to pull up. It’s one of a handful of quality of life issues present in SNK vs. Capcom, but overall the controls here are sublimely implemented.

Returning to the quality of life problems in SNK vs. Capcom, they’re not huge but do stand out enough to warrant a mention. There are multiple Neo Geo Pocket Color frames to select from, which really helps to evoke the feel of playing the game on authentic hardware from back in the day. However, it isn’t possible to turn these boarders off, which is unfortunate. It’s possible to remap the buttons in-game, but there’s no way of taking advantage of the two additional face buttons on a Switch controller. I’m all for authenticity, but it’s such an innocuous addition that it seems strange to have omitted it. There are other options available, like being able to rewind gameplay, screen filters, and so on, but in some ways SNK vs. Capcom still comes across as lacking in the customization department.

Finally, if there’s any other flaw to be found here, it’s that the enemy AI is woefully inconsistent. There are multiple ways to take on Tournament Mode, including 1-vs-1, 3-vs-3, and even Tag Team battles, while special gauges have three styles that are themselves appropriated from SNK and Capcom fighting games. As yet another element of SNK vs. Capcom‘s fan service, this variety of options is a winning inclusion. It’s getting into the matches themselves and working through foes that the AI issue begins to present itself. Fights are arguably too easy, right up until some of the later boss fights. Suddenly, opponents are dealing massive damage and healing quite a lot between rounds. This can become irritating, and when coupled with the iffy analogue stick control, downright infuriating. The rewind function will help alleviate this for some players, but purists won’t be mollified.

SNK vs. Capcom does so much right that the problems are far outweighed by everything else that is done so right. Oodles of characters, tons of callbacks to both companies’ rich histories, and really balanced, fun fighting mechanics make this one of the best handheld fighters ever made. Some modern quality of life tweaks would help propel SNK vs. Capcom to greater heights, but what is here truly shines and stands out among similar fighters of the era. Even today, SNK vs. Capcom is a pleasure to play—definitely consider heading to the eShop and adding it to your own collection.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

One Response to “Review: SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium (Switch)”

  • 22 points
    Zack Fornaca says...

    Does it support using the D-pad (or the left Joycon face buttons), or is the stick required? It wouldn’t even occur to me to try to control a fighting game with an analog stick, honestly.

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