Valid In Any Given Millennium
HIGH This game is cute, concentrated nostalgia.
LOW Unlocking characters is a bit too random.
WTF I legitimately found myself trying to use Yuri’s moves while playing as Sakura.
Back in the latter half of the ’90s, fighting game fans only had one question on their mind — who would win in a fight between legendary swordmaster Haohmaru from Samurai Shodown and simpering fangirl Sakura Kasugano from Street Fighter? Blade versus fists, grizzled wartime veteran of countless life of death struggles versus an overly optimistic schoolgirl. Nobody knew how this matchup would go, but they yearned to find out, and in November of 1999, owners of the awesome Neo Geo Pocket would get the chance to find out with the release of SNK vs Capcom: Match of the Millennium.
Despite the Neo Geo Pocket’s heartbreakingly small install base and modest hardware, Match of the Millenium was an instant classic. It punched way above its weight and provided players with a dream crossover that was so full of charm, good humor and respect for the source material that it’s hard to think of a better example of fanservice, even today. Sure, it’s more than twenty years old at this point, but this rerelease on the Switch shows that it can still hold its own with nostalgia-driven players like myself, and it’s likely a strong enough experience to win over a few new fans as well.
As far as presentation goes, there’s a cute ‘virtual’ Neo Geo Pocket plonked in the middle of the Switch screen. The view can be zoomed in on to get a better view of the action, and the skins surrounding the play area can be changed to reflect the various types of NGPC skins that were available for the device. Naturally, I opted to mirror the one I owned and settled on a nice Stone Blue skin.
It’s staggering just how much personality and depth SNK managed to cram into such a tiny cartridge back then. Rival characters such as Kyo and Ryu or Terry and Ken often get pre-fight dialogues and animations before kicking off each bout, facial expressions and personality tics come across well in the super-deformed graphic style and the kicks and punches feel nice and solid with well-judged pauses at the moment of impact. Oh, and the writing is absurd — it’s oddly translated and utterly charming.
Since the Neo Geo Pocket only had two main face buttons, there’s only one button each for punches and kicks. A short tap will slap out a weak version and holding it a little longer will trigger the stronger one. It’s not ideal, but works well given the constraints of the original hardware. Sadly, there’s no option to map weak and strong attacks over the Switch’s four-button interface to more closely reflect the standard King of Fighters style setup.
The roster is excellent, with a variety of characters from each company’s respective franchises on offer. Whether it’s Kyo vs Ryu, Nakoruru vs Morrigan or sword-wielding maniac Haohmaru against resident schoolgirl Sakura, there’s a great initial roster that can be further bolstered with character unlocks such as Geese and M. Bison, powered up versions of Iori and Ryu, and a few others. Akari from Last Blade, anyone?
The stages and music are all lifted from the franchises rather than being original constructs and compositions, but this isn’t a problem at all. In fact, it’s the right move. While the NGPC sound chip isn’t able to replicate each track accurately, they’re still great renditions — fighting Morrigan on Terry’s train as it rushes past Mount Rushmore to the sound of Esaka… yep, it’s a pretty awesome dose of fanservice.
The method of playing against another player whilst undocked is cool, too. The screen flips vertically, mirrors itself on opposite ends of the Switch, and allows both players to use the buttons on each end of the device — a nice touch for the handheld as it brings to mind similar arcade cabinets I’ve seen in Japan.
Another nice thing about Match of the Millennium is that it comes with a hefty variety of additional modes. Of course there’s the standard Story mode where Geese Howard and M. Bison are teaming up to unleash evil on the world, in addition to a variety of one-on-one fights and Tag matches, but far more surprising is the variety of minigames unrelated to battle.
By choosing the Olympics mode, players can skip between Team SNK and Team Capcom (managed by Rimururu and Karin Kanzuki respectively) and aim for medals in a variety of events. Some of these are twists on the main game, while others are completely different. Ranging from fending off an invasion of the Mars People from Metal Slug in a shooting gallery to helping Arthur from Ghosts ‘n Goblins not get murdered by enemies while snatching up bags of gold and treasure chests, there’s a nice selection of simple (but enjoyable) distractions that earn points used to purchase bonus supers for each character.
So, Match of the Millennium is a nostalgic stroke of genius is basically what I’m saying. Surely it has some problems though? Surprisingly few, actually.
Unfortunately, neither the Switch’s Joycon analog sticks nor its d-pad are suited for precision inputs in fighting games. Dragon punch-style actions can be inconsistent to pull off in the heat of battle, though SNK’s half- or quarter-circle then forward motions didn’t give me the same amount of trouble.
The other issue worth mentioning is that unlocking characters requires many runs of the tournament mode, at which point panels will be removed from an illustration of the new character. Unfortunately, the panels removed are random and sometimes panels that are already gone get ‘removed’ again, making these unlocks a luck-dependent chore.
SNK vs Capcom‘s certainly not going to leave jaws on the floor with its technical prowess and it’s not as precise as many ‘serious’ fighters on more powerful hardware, but it’s a cute and immensely enjoyable blast from the past that’s certain to bring a smile to the face of fans at a price that’s tough to beat.
And hey, not to be greedy or anything, but when’s Card Fighter’s Clash coming to the Switch?
Disclosures: This game is developed/ported by Code Mystics and published by SNK Corporation. It is currently available on the Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. Less than 1 hour of play was spent in multiplayer modes. There’s no online play, and it’s not like there’s a lot of local competition during a pandemic. I checked it out though, and it looks neat.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood and Suggestive Themes. Nobody in their right mind could be offended by this. It’s cute and adorable with chibi characters duking it out in a cartoonish and lovable manner.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered or resized, except by enlarging the screen as a whole. Also, sound is not required to enjoy this game. This title is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: Certain functions are remappable, with buttons able to be changed on the emulator / hardware level.
The chance discovery of a muddy, burnt out copy of '50 Shades of Grey' in a hunting pit gave him an appreciation for complex plots, characters and overarching narrative, and the unexpected gift of a Spectrum 48k allowed him to indulge in these newfound sensibilities with intelligent, highbrow games such as 'flee from the badly animated spinning turquoise dolphins' or 'avoid the deadly glowing bricks of doom'.
The fusion of both these interests finally culminated with Darren teaching himself how to write by basically guessing at what words might look like when jotted down on paper as opposed to being howled inarticulately at the skies.
Now others occasionally get to read his scribblings. Lucky them.