Review by BlackKnight456

"A fun 2D fighter... no more... no less..."

Brilliant 2D fighters like Capcom Vs. SNK 2 (CvS2) and Street Fighter III: Third Strike (SF3)unfortunately constitute a niche market in the wider mainstream of games today. Something like Capcom Fighting Jam (CFJ), I'll openly admit now, is not going to overthrow these titles and take their position on top of this small market. Whether or not you're going to want to buy this game depends on one thing: are you a 2D fighting fanatic or not? If you're not sure, read on.

Just to note, I'll be reviewing the PS2 PAL version of this game.

CHARACTERS

Characters- odd place to start eh? With CFJ, Capcom decided to do what it has done a few times now, with CvS2 and MvC2 coming to mind- take a whole lot of old sprites and assets, throw them together and make something that is strangely still fun to play. The question of why there are so few characters, however, becomes glaringly apparent. CFJ includes a small sample (four characters) from Street Fighter II, Street Fighter III, Street Fighter Alpha, Red Earth, and Darkstalkers, one new character, and two bosses. If your math serves that's 23 characters all up, roughly half of the 44 or so available in CvS2. If grabbing sprites was all that was necessary, then there really isn't a justification for such a meagre roster.

On the flipside, most favourites will be here, and I personally was pretty pleased with the mixup in CFJ. At least 8 characters were completely new to me- Red Earth and SF3 (in PAL-land at least) unavailable to a PS2 user previously. I was happy to see matchups like Bison vs. Urien, and to see a Japanese schoolgirl give it to a towering dragon/dinosaur thing, but that could just be me. Nevertheless, there still was a lingering feeling of sadness that Sagat, Hugo and even Ken were absent, and the choice of Pyron as the last boss still seems painfully misappropriated. Also of note is that some characters are missing moves. Ryu no longer has a Hurricane Kick super, nor does Guile have his Sonic Hurricane. That aside, the cast was big enough and well chosen in my opinion, breathing life into old characters with the inclusion of new and less familiar ones, but other people might not agree. (7/10)

GAMEPLAY

I am tempted to say the gameplay is perfect. CFJ plays along the same lines as CvS2, and feels pretty similar. Dragon Punches are still as satisfying as ever, as are charging moves, 360's and just about everything else. If you are at all familiar with, and like, Capcom fighters, you won't be disappointed here.

Characters purport to play just as their original counterparts did. Ryu, who comes from the SF2 family, plays without air blocking, a single powerful super gauge, and not much else. On the other hand, Demitri the Darkstalker has ES moves, rundown attacks, and chain combos at his disposal. It would be unfair to say that characters in CFJ play strictly the same as they always did though. The new game engine, and other factors dictate that things can't always be as you remember them. SF3 characters, like Urien had old combos that you can't do now, but also have all their super arts (as opposed to a single chosen one) available during the fight. Red Earth fighters, not that many would remember them, level up and handle completely differently. Honestly though, the different systems here offer variety, and make the game more interesting, and are a welcome addition.

There is problem though- these systems are fixed. In CvS2, you had ‘grooves;' gameplay systems that roughly corresponded to the ways in which old games played. P-Groove for example, with its parrying mirrored the SF3 series. A feature that is notably lacking here is that you cannot choose how your character plays. Bison is not from SF3, and thus will never in CFJ be able to parry. This is slightly disheartening, but something you'll grow to live with. It's just another example of a little extra that wouldn't have been that much more effort to implement. Overall though, as a game in the tradition of CvS2, it is magnificent to play, and a pure joy for any 2D fighting fan, despite the small issues mentioned. (7/10)

PRESENTATION

Nitty gritty finished with now, what is the impression the game gives off? I'll deal with graphics, sound, and then features here.

Graphically the game is a mixed bag. I'm sick of reading that myself, but it's true. Sprites are nice enough looking. I've read that they've all been stretched and edited to look better, but really the only example I can think of that's noticeable is Zangief's new face. Still it doesn't change the fact that all these images were originally drawn for either CPS-2 or -3 hardware, both of which ran at a resolution of 384x224 pixels. That means that this game, no matter how much fiddling around is done, will never look any better than that. In its defence though, you never notice. There was nothing worse than the decent, revamped M. Bison sprite in CvS2 standing up against Morrigan, whos dated Darkstalkers visage stood out like a sore thumb. That doesn't happen in CFJ though. The whole thing looks more cohesive than anything I've seen since Third Strike. Backgrounds are in 2D too, and although they aren't the incredibly breathtaking, they add to the overall feeling of togetherness that makes CFJ look a lot prettier than it probably would be if we took out the fine-toothed comb. It's admittedly no Guilty Gear, but CFJ looks nicer than any of its recent 2D fighter brothers. On a 2D scale, this is the score I'd give it, but it probably will be lower for the 3D-inclined among us. (7/10)

Sound is as good as can be expected. Effects make your punches feel like they've connected, and those classic yells of ‘Shoryuken' and ‘Sonic Boom' are all there. Music is average. The soundtrack isn't on par with SF2 or Alpha 3, but it is certainly better than MvC2 and even CvS2. Also, each character's original theme is available to unlock, just in case. If these acronyms are confusing, don't worry- suffice to say the music here is decent fare. (8/10)

The one point where CFJ really falls flat is in the extra features. The PAL version does have those handy 60hz and progressive scan options, and the game runs full-frame, without any colour loss or slowdown that CvS2 suffered from. Each character has an ending comic panel drawn by Udon to watch when you're done. You also have the two bosses, and a tune for each character to unlock… but that's all there is. CFJ has the bare minimum of modes- only Arcade, Versus and Training. There is no Survival mode, no Gallery mode to rewatch endings, and no extra options to tweak game settings. Most bizarre of all, and the biggest turn-off I found was that each fighter only has 2 colours. 2. Since SF2 we've enjoyed the luxury of at least 6 different colours for characters in every game. Some even offered a colour edit mode, because, after all, these are just sprites with a palette of colours attached. Neither are to be found in CFJ. Considering the fairly optimistic review the rest of the game has garnered, it's sad to see it fail in one of the most basic and obvious ways a game can. (2/10)

CONCLUSION

Buy or rent… At the beginning of the review I questioned whether or not you were a 2D fighter fanatic. If you found yourself baffled at every mention of ‘CvS2' or were left wondering ‘wtf is a Dragon Punch?' I am going to be blunt. Do not waste your time with this game at all. It doesn't have any of the extra padding needed to be worthy of anyone not an avid fan of the genre to begin with. You'd be better off with anything else- may I recommend Dead or Alive Ultimate? Or perhaps GTA San Andreas?

However, if you were in the same place as me when you read the review, then here's my honest opinion. I love this game. I cannot imagine *not* owning it. But it isn't everything it could, or should have been, and it is certainly not better than CvS2 or Third Strike. Hell, even some of those features that we've become practically accustomed to over the years are missing here- as are some staple characters. Ideally, I'd say don't buy this- instead take some friends to the arcade and play it there. Then I have to remind myself that this is 2005, and friends no longer necessarily like the arcade, and Capcom won't necessarily make another game after this. If this wasn't the case, then I'd let CFJ pass me by, and plan to buy CFJ Pro, or CFJ 2 instead, one of them hopefully packing Gill as a final boss. Unfortunately, this may well be the last game of its kind, and with that in mind it is definitely not worth missing. It's not perfect, and it's very rushed- the distinct lack of polish confirms this. But it's my thing, and its fun to play. Whether or not you buy this depends on if you feel this same way. On a final note, the PAL release is at a budget price anyway, so if your decision was hinging on that, or if you were too cheap to dish out the full cost of a new game, this might help you make up your mind.

CHARACTERS 7
GAMEPLAY 7
GRAPHICS 7
SOUND 8
FEATURES 2

OVERALL 6/10


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 06/20/05


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