Review – Capcom Fighting Evolution

It looks as if Capcom Fighting Evolution may be the last 2D fighter from Capcom that isn’t some sort of compilation. This is frustrating for two reasons. Firstly, something tells me they could revive the genre at least a little bit if they actually released a beautiful and balanced Street Fighter 4. Second, Fighting Evolution is not exactly the best way to end a legacy. The potential for this game is staggering, but the final product feels rushed and cheap.

The premise of CFE is simple; take a bunch of characters from different Capcom games and have them square off. The acute reader will no doubt point out that this sounds a lot like the premise behind Capcom’s plethora of “Versus” titles, though in fact they are somewhat different. The “Versus” games are mostly focused on representing the “best of the best” from the company, and then putting them into a streamlined combat engine. This is why the rosters are sometimes filled with non fighting game characters (ie Marvel vs Capcom 2’s Megaman fighters), or why the Street Fighter characters always seem to be based on their Alpha 3 versions. The purpose is to get all of these very unique characters under one roof and keep it all coherent, rather than trying to explore the intricacies of different combat systems. That would not appear until the creation of the Capcom vs SNK games, and it is obvious that this is where Fighting Evolution takes its cue from.

The concept is to focus deeper on Capcom’s many different fighting games, by pitting characters and combat systems from five different series against each other. That means the characters from Street Fighter 2 (like Ryu and Guile) are simple and strong (but lacking in abilities), while Street Fighter 3 fighters can parry and use EX attacks. The idea of fighting against so many different characters and systems is an interesting one, especially when you consider that two of the series represented in this game (Darkstalkers and Red Earth) are largely unknown to American players. Unfortunately, Capcom just didn’t put enough effort into Fighting Evolution to really capitalize on the concept, nor did they learn from some of their past mistakes.

“What if we put Guile in another 2D fighter, but make his flash kick take up half the screen?”

First off, we have the roster. CFE features combatants from Street Fighter 2, SF3, SF Alpha, Darkstalkers, and Red Earth. The list of potential characters from this pool is staggering, but we get four people from each game. Yes, only four. Now if you think about it, that adds up to 20 fighters, and when you throw in Ingrid (a new character that plays like SNK’s Athena), the boss, and good old Shin Akuma, the lineup grows to 23. Not exactly the biggest list, but it isn’t anemic either. So why am I complaining? I can only muster an obscure quote from Lisa Simpson listening to an electric violin: “Don’t listen to the notes she’s playing, but rather the notes she isn’t playing.”

The more you stare at the lineup, the more you see how much is missing. We have Ryu but not Ken. There is no Charlie or Adon. Meanwhile the SF3 block has Chun – Li in it (despite only being in the final iteration of that series, compared to being in every version of SF2), and out of all the original characters from said game they chose Urien over favorites like Hugo or Ibuki. I’m not saying we need the 50+ roster of MvC2, but half the fun of this kind of game is matching up some your favorites from each series against each other, which isn’t easy when there’s an 80% chance that character isn’t in the game. Hey, there’s Sagat standing in one of the backgrounds… wish I could use him!

Second, like in CVS2, bringing all of these styles together means they have to lose something in translation. The SF2 characters, for instance, do not have their original movelists or stats(except for Guile apparently). SF3 and Darkstalkers characters have lost some cancels and supers as well. It is obvious that these changes were implemented to keep the game fairly balanced (traditional SF2 damage, for example, would kick the crap out of anyone, but it would be difficult to do so against more complex foes from the other games). Yet there are still top tiers that render some characters useless in higher levels of play, and characters like Hauzer (who fills up almost half a screen) still don’t gel well with the rest of the cast. You may also have to relearn a favorite character just for this game, which defeats the purpose of bringing all of these styles together, since the best strategies from each game may no longer work.

HAAAAA-dooo…ah, whatever.

If each character was originally a good beer, then the CFE version of each is a can of swill. How much any of this bothers you will depend on how seriously you take your fighting games. If you really don’t care about counting frames and doing super cancels, you probably won’t notice any major balance issues while playing. However, while I personally am no master of this genre, I do believe that if the game is still going to have tiers and make changes to the combat, you might as well give up on balance and go the MvC2 route. Give us everything but the kitchen sink; it brings the same issues but with more variety. I’ve heard claims that the size of the roster was probably intentional, in order to keep the game from being terribly unbalanced. I think they were just plain lazy over at Capcom.

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