I grew up with plenty of Marvel in my life, though I probably didn’t realize it at the time. I mostly remember the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends cartoon – it came on early Saturday mornings before Garfield and Friends. And later on I watched the original X-Men cartoon when it was on. In terms of live-action shows, reruns of both The Incredible Hulk and the kinda creepy The Amazing Spider-Man both regularly graced our little color TV. (I was big enough into superheroes that even The Greatest American Hero was must-watch TV for me.) But I didn’t know much about the vast world that laid behind those shows – the comics, the stories, the lore. Honestly, it wasn’t until the movie X-Men (2000) I came to understand the scope of what I previously did not know. Say what you will about the movie itself; for me, it re-opened my latent interest in the superhero genre. I became enamored once again with simple stories about good versus evil, heroic deeds, and the seemingly limitless power of spandex. And then, one day, my husband brings home a new game for our PlayStation 2 – Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (2002). Well slap my ass and call me Sally! You mean some genius mind thought to make a fighting game that combines the best Capcom fighters with Marvel characters complete with special powers, et cetera, et cetera?! Oh HELLS to the YES!!
Well you should have seen the dopey grin on my face when, after loading up the game for the first time, the character selection screen popped up. First off, it was HUGE! There were so many people from which to choose! Second off, my heart nearly jumped out of my chest when I saw both Morrigan AND Zangief as available characters! Without any hesitation, I picked my very first three: Morrigan, Zangief, and Spider-Man, and off I went into a world of web-slinging, pile-driving, bat-bombing special moves.
Now, you’re probably waiting for a “but…” here, and it’s percolating in my mind as well…yet…there simply isn’t one. I’ve played several fighting games over the course of my gaming life and there are definitely a few stand-outs, but I don’t know if I’ve ever had as much pure and unadulterated fun as I did with Marvel vs. Capcom 2. It didn’t have an overly-complex battle system. It didn’t possess an extreme learning curve (as long as you were familiar with the Street Fighter control scheme, that is). And though it didn’t offer as many attack buttons, the fighting wasn’t dumbed down or boring. In fact, for a 2D fighting game, I don’t think much can hold a candle to the spectacles of MvC2’s special moves. (Okay, maybe MvC3’s are a little better.) Also, those graphics! The game was as dazzling to watch as to play. I mean, 3D is all well and good, but sometimes you just can’t argue with really great looking and spritely 2D graphics.
But by far my most favorite thing about MvC2 was the character choices. I recognized most of the Capcom side immediately, but the majority of the Marvel folks were new faces. In my first rounds of play, I picked familiar characters – I knew what Rogue and Storm and Wolverine and Cyclops could do. And I was happy to have Cammy, Ryu, Bison, and Chun-Li on my team. After settling on the basics though, I had to, of course, see what everyone else could do. So I spent an afternoon testing out each and every character. Some I got along with very well, like the spry Felicia, the powerful Cable, and the mysterious Blackheart. Some I did not enjoy playing, like Shuma-Gorath and Tron Bonne, both clunky and difficult to maneuver. And some I completely ignored in the long run, apparently, because I can’t for the life of me remember ever taking up the reins with Spiral, Roll, Omega Red, or the Silver Samurai.
I eventually hit my stride with the game with the threesome of Morrigan, Zangief, and Cable. Why Cable?
Because of the guns. Period. And because he was just a fun characters to play. Bust mostly because the guns they allowed for distance attacks, which I needed since Zangief was a close-contact fighter and Morrigan straddled line between the two. But if I felt like going all Capcom and wanted to give my regulars a break, I usually went with some combination involving Strider Hiryu, Ruby Heart, Ryu, or Felicia. If I felt like going all Marvel and didn’t feeling like shooting at stuff, my favorite team was Psylocke, Hulk, and Venom, with the occasionally trade-out, Blackheart.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is one of the few PS2 games still in our possession, and hopefully it’ll remain so for a long time. As I alluded to earlier, maybe it’s been a little overshadowed by Marvel vs. Capcom 3, a fantastic game in its own right, but Marvel vs. Capcom 2 remains one of the best and most enjoyable fighting games I’ve ever played; and it’ll always have a place on my roster.