Fighting games have been around for close to five decades now and, inevitably, their long history means that a lot of gamers will have their own retro favourites. It’s in today’s modern trend of restoring these old games for a healthy dose of nostalgia that we’ve been given SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium. Originally released back in 1999 for the Neo Geo Pocket Colour, the game was ported to the Nintendo Switch back in February and reached PC in late September.
If you’re wondering if this is a game worth your time then really the only question you need to ask is if you like old fighting games. If you do, then this is a firm ten out of ten and well worth a look. If you don’t then there is nothing here that you’re going to find appealing. SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium is a tremendously faithful port of the original before it, right down to the emulator-style set-up the developers have produced. This means that you’re not really going to find anything new and innovative, but there’s nostalgia aplenty for any long-time fan of the SNK vs. Capcom series.
The game is broken up into a number of sections for players to explore. First and foremost, you have the Tourney, which acts as the story mode. Players choose their character from a wide range of SNK and Capcom fighters and then are immediately launched into a series of battles, interwoven with snippets of story cutscenes. By winning fights, players can progress through the – admittedly paper-thin – storyline to be crowned champion.
Outside of the story, there is a range of alternate modes to explore too. If you’re struggling in the Tourney, then the Sparring mode gives you the opportunity to have one-off fights against an AI-controlled opponent to brush up on your skills. Similarly, if you have a friend who wants to get involved, then the Vs. Mode opens up the possibility of local multiplayer. Considering the age of the game it’s based on, this mode works surprisingly well, although mapping the controls for two devices smoothly across a single keyboard can get a bit muddled.
Surprisingly, there is also a mode that offers content besides fighting. In the Olympics game mode, players can unlock extra content through minigames that include a rhythm-based dancing game and a timing-based platformer. As is to be expected from a game over twenty years old, none of the minigames are particularly complicated or even well-developed, but they are a pleasing change of pace from the rest of the game.
Backing up the solid range of gameplay are the title’s retro graphics and soundtrack. As with the gameplay, these features have been mimicked perfectly from their original counterparts and they are delightfully familiar to anyone who has played the old games. The developers have also helped to soften the limitations of the graphics by containing all the gameplay within the frame of the emulator, meaning they haven’t had to try to stretch decades-old graphics from an obsolete handheld device to modern, high-definition PC screens. The result is a wonderfully cohesive game style that really supports the rest of the title.
On the more negative side of things, there are two main hurdles players are going to be immediately faced with when they first start playing. Fortunately, both are eminently fixable.
The first is that the controls when you first load in aren’t particularly intuitive. For instance, the directional joystick is mapped to the arrow keys on your keyboard instead of the more traditional WASD set-up. However, this issue is entirely resolved by a very simple system that allows you to remap all the emulator’s controls to suit the player at will. It’s slightly strange that the default load out is so divorced from standard PC controls, but ultimately it’s such a minor problem that it barely ranks as a consideration.
The second hurdle is perhaps less of a problem and more of a design carry-over from an older style of gaming. As is traditional for fighting games, each character has their own moves that players can work to perfect. In and of itself, this is great; it gives the game a surprising amount of runtime given the limited content and there’s a level of challenge involved in mastering each player that can be incredibly rewarding.
However, in deference to letting players figure out these moves for themselves, there is no type of in-game tutorial whatsoever. If you’re someone who’s unfamiliar with fighting games, I can imagine that your first introduction to the game is going to be less trial-and-error, and more just key spamming until something happens. For example, the game features special moves for each character, unique attacks that deal a lot of damage that can only be used when their energy bar is filled. SNK vs. Capcom never tells the player this; unless you’re already familiar with this trend in the genre, you wouldn’t know that it was a game mechanic unless you checked the (blessedly included) manual via the overlay menu.
In 1999 it was perfectly common to have to read a manual before playing a game. As a result, developers didn’t need to include any prompts to do so in the game itself and could instead use their valuable disc space for actual content. In 2021, however, digging through a menu to find an instruction booklet probably isn’t going to be anyone’s first port of call to understand what all the different things on their screen mean. It’s not a game breaking issue, but the developers of the port could have given new players a little more signposting to make their introduction to the game a bit smoother.
All in all, these really are incredibly minor problems that most players are going to breeze past entirely. Setting them aside, SNK vs Capcom: The Match of the Millennium is a very faithful port of a fondly remembered 90s title. There’s a lot here to enjoy and if you’re looking for a bit of nostalgia, then definitely give it a go.