Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Most Dubious Capcom Ports "X-Men Vs. Street Fighter for Playstation"

As with our previous installment, The Most Dubious Capcom Ports glazes over a history of Capcom's most questionable ports. This time around, we're here to look at X-Men Vs. Street Fighter released on Sony Playstation. Wait a minute. Just hold on...

I had a dream. A literal dream. It was 1997. Somewhere in it, I saw the box art for X-Men Vs. Street Fighter in what I later interpreted as a longer, U.S.-style Sega Saturn case. I'd never played the game beforehand, but I had seen plenty of it in gaming magazines like GamePro and even GameFan. It was on my mind, so much, I had a dream about even before I really played it. Now, I wasn't much of an X-Men fan nor much of a Marvel comics follower but I did know is that fusing Street Fighter with another popular franchise was enough to capture my interest. It prompted me to explore and ask, when was this game coming home to the consoles? For one, the arcade scene in Connecticut, around the 90's was grim. If I wanted to go, it meant roughly $5 down and a ride to a few towns over to play games, followed by having somebody pick me up. I made it there once a week, if lucky, and cherished every moment of coin-op privilege and perfection. 

I'm not gonna rant about how today's kids with realistic graphics, online play and the fly-by-night Madden gamer can't relate to that. Arcade perfection is now at home, available on the fly, so it's no longer a dream (for the most part), it's a thing of the past and it makes it it a lot less exciting. Whether it was playing Mortal Kombat 3 with no load times, all the characters sound clips and rich, high-res sprites not found in the Playstation version or fawning over Super Street Fighter II and all the animations and sprite downsizing it was given on the 16-bit consoles, coin-op perfection was a dream that was edging closer with the advent of X-Men Vs. Street Fighter... for Sega Saturn?
By late 1997, X-Men Vs. Street Fighter made it's way home to the Sega Saturn. Well, I'd always known Saturn processed sprites a little better than the Playstation, probably making up for how much it lost out to the Super NES graphically almost every port. But it only released in Japan, with a special peripheral no one else got. Namely, the 4MB RAM cartridge, a glorious skeletal blue add-on cartridge designed by Capcom which gave the Saturn speed-like steroids of the arcade counterpart. Only on the Saturn, only in Japan. This forced many to import it, including myself seeing as the Saturn was on it's way out by late '97 and with no plans to export this technology anywhere outside Japan. 

Without the 4MB RAM extra, X-Men Vs. Street Fighter would have a tremendously hard time operating on the current generation of game consoles. This is what we learned by playing the vastly inferior Playstation port which came three months later. As the development team knew on the Saturn version, a game like this needs that extra RAM. It's like someone told the Playstation team, 'don't do it, you know it'll be horrible! It can't handle the power!' But they did it anyway.

Maybe you've seen the game in action. Doesn't look too bad, maybe. The game is still playable, right? Well try and imagine the arcade or Saturn versions --  swiss-cheesed and left out overnight and you've got the spoiled Sony Playstation port. 

All you have left is disappointment and depravity. And the crossover aspect that made the game what it is and pioneered the Capcom crossover versus games? Gone. That's right, you can't switch your players mid-battle. And zero load times that had been wiped from the Saturn version? Gone. Now, you'll be greeted with constipation at every turn with load screens after one another. Fluid, seamless framerate? Gone. Too often a slowdown-ridden mess. That second character you chose on the select screen? Well you'll have to die and then you play after a short loading sequence. Just awful, a butchered experience that never should have been. Why not develop like technology for the Playstation version?


Now Loading...

Now Loading...


What's even worse is that the Playstation version was called X-Men Vs. Street Fighter EX Edition in Japan. It's a damn good thing someone at Capcom USA had the sense to remove it because there's nothing EX about it. When you think "EX", you probably think Street Fighter EX, the 2.5 D fighter.  Or maybe EX really means extra or additional content. Nope. All it really means is EX-decent features. Like an ex-girlfriend, or ex-roommate it's EX-good. EX-Crossover. EX-zero load times. EX-well, you get it. Nothing good ever really comes after the prefix "EX" and it's no EXception here. Why did you even bother with his shoddy port? Sad thing is, the Saturn version came first in Japan, and the Playstation version was built up to disappoint. In the U.S., it's all we ever saw so it was our only version. No wonder everyone forgot about X-Men Vs. Street Fighter and its next Marvel Super Heroes Vs. Street Fighter.

Assuming "EX" means extra, what's so "EX" about this game? To compensate for the lobotomized version that this is, the developers threw in three extra modes: Battle, Survival and Training. Really? This is supposed to make up for all those lost minutes loading? I feel like I'm playing Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 on the Saturn. 

Miraculously, it must have done well enough because Capcom played the broken CD all over again with the release of another outstanding 4MB-propelled Saturn version of Marvel Super Heroes Vs. Street Fighter and yet another horribly, butchered port on the Playstation. To its marginal credit, the sequel played a little smoother, but still lacks the soul of the arcade and Saturn versions.

By 1999, Marvel Vs. Capcom released on the Sega Dreamcast as an arcade perfect port. No RAM carts needed here, and no Saturn version. But wait, you guessed it right. As a last ditch effort, Capcom had yet another "EX Edition" Playstation version on the way. So they can release three Playstation "EX Editions" and not another Saturn version?  This had to of been some kind of joke. What were they thinking?!

Here's to reassuring you the next chapter of Most Dubious Capcom Ports won't be so bad.

No comments: