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Genre: Fighting



X-Men vs. Street Fighter
Reviewed by Joshua Dickens

A collision of two unique fighters

Gather round, 2D fighting fans, for the greatest show on earth. Capcom has created a masterpiece ... X-Men vs. Street Fighter. It's the first game to use the new 4-Meg RAM cartridge for the Sega Saturn, and it proves that a little RAM might go a long way, but it can't hold a candle to a _lot_ of RAM. OK, hype aside, there's some good news and some bad news. First the bad news: It's only available in Japan. The good news: A US release is on its way.

Capcom might be viewed by some as a one-trick pony who rides their Street Fighter franchise out for all it's worth. Well, as my mother used to tell me, the key to success in life is to find something you're good at and go all the way with it. That's exactly what they've done, creating some of the best fighting games in the arcade and home.

To many gamers, the 2D fighting genre has become stale, eclipsed by the wowie-zowie 3D of the Virtua Fighters and Tekkens of the world. Capcom, undaunted, has pushed 2D fighting forward by increasing the quality of animation, the size of the game characters, and introducing new depths of gameplay into their 2D fighters. This began with the likes of X-Men: Children of the Atom and the Street Fighter Alpha series. These ideals of innovation have met, like the characters of these two games, and set a new standard for 2D fighters in the form of X-Men vs. Street Fighter.

These innovations took place initially in the arcade, where the hardware can grow to meet the developer's demands. Giant 2D sprites and silky-smooth animation take up lots of RAM -- RAM which the current home systems just don't have. Until now. The 4-Meg RAM cart allows the Sega Saturn version of XMvSF all the graphic depth and subtlety of the arcade version. But it's not just about eye candy. The primary innovation of this game -- mirroring the concept, the team-up between X-Men and Street Fighter characters -- is that you choose two characters to fight with in a match which can be switched on the fly.

This gives XMvSF an element of strategy that other fighting games -- 2D or 3D -- simply don't have. First of all, the addition of a second character gives a second life bar, which can be rejuvenated while that character is off-screen. One of the keys to success in the game is knowing when to switch between the two characters to keep each life-bar at a maximum. Furthermore, having two characters with which to play means different strengths and weaknesses come into play in one match. Don't think a Wolverine vs Zangief matchup is fair? Press Z+C to bring in Dhalsim, or any one of the 16 total playable characters you might have brought in to battle (Akuma is a hidden character...hmmm.).

While all this depth makes for an extremely fun and exhilarating (or, in X-Men lingo, X-tremely fun and X-hilarating) two player game, it's not quite the same as a one-player battle (then again, is it ever?). XMvSFis not nearly as easy as Marvel Super Heroes was, so gamers are definitely in for a challenge, including a final matchup with a multiple-screen-filling Apocalypse (well, almost final). The game is long and full of play, with sixteen characters and who knows how many combinations (I think it's something like 240 possible team ups, but my math is rusty), but like most fighting games it's gonna get stale if you don't have some buddies that you can pound on.

Nevertheless, its an amazing feat of gameplay, not to mention visual and auditory splendor. The 4-meg RAM cart houses not only some of the most stunning character animations in fighting game history, but also gorgeously detailed, multi-layered, multi-level backgrounds. One favorite: The Manhattan street scene, where a police barricade is surrounding the fight, and after some serious pummeling causes the street to collapse, shifts underground into the sewers.

The sounds are also exquisite thanks to the added room of the RAM cart, more highly refined and robust than some of the scratchy samples of earlier Capcom releases for the Saturn. The music is streamed PCM audio, but it's easily of the same quality of most red-book audio, and the Q-Sound feature helps fill it out. An extra bonus of PCM audio is that the music doesn't stop when it reaches the end of a track. A small pet peeve of CD-based music that's been alleviated. Thanks, Capcom.

The speed of the game is adjustable, with multiple levels of turbo, and some other options to help expedite the overall presentation of the game. The most immediately noticeable seems to come thanks to the RAM cart. After the initial loading screen when the game is booted, there is almost no noticeable load time. This alone is to be applauded, particularly considering the amount of data that seems to be in any particular level.

All of these leave this gamer walking away (or rather, being pulled away) from an all-around excellent game, and a flawless arcade translation. X-Men vs. Street Fighter is stunning to look at and listen to, and amazingly fun to play. It's simple enough that anyone who's ever played a Capcom game, heck anyone who's ever seen a Capcom game (Button-mashers unite!) can pick it up and play, but there's enough depth for die-hard Street Fighters to stick around for a while.

My only disappointment is that this game is coming so late in the Saturn's life. The added RAM has allowed the programmers to exploit some real power in the oft-underestimated system, and it would have been nice to see the impact this game and others like it might have had, particularly in the US, on the success of the Saturn. Otherwise, this game leaves very little to be desired, except more time to play it. If you can't play import games, then you should be pleased in a few months when the domestic release comes along (You might have to buy the RAM cart separately from Capcom, though). Otherwise, run, do not walk, run and buy X-Men vs. Street Fighter.


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