Capcom Fighting Evolution would seem to be a can't miss proposition on paper. Take two dozen characters from some of Capcom's legendary series and put them together in a brawl to end them all. Unfortunately, the results don't quite live up to expectations, since the play balance is awkward and skewed with characters that just don't mesh. The poorly animated characters show their age on outdated character backgrounds with a lack of options and depth that offers little in the way of replay value. The confusing controls and mish-mash of fighting systems don't do the individual series greatness justice, either. Unfortunately, this watered-down game doesn't meet its potential and won't please anyone, including hardcore fans of Capcom fighters.
While there have been plenty of Capcom Vs. fighters that pitted the company's characters against foes from outside their universe, Capcom has never pitted its own characters from their myriad fighting games against each other until now. Mixing characters from Street Fighter 2, Street Fighter III, Street Fighter Alpha with characters from Darkstalkers and the obscure Red Earth, Capcom Fighting Evolution on the PS2 offers more than 13 playable contestants to choose from. Each character in the game retains their own unique style and move lists from their original appearances. The game's structure is a basic 2 on 2 system, which each team battling it out against another in some furious fights. However, the system doesn't let you switch during each match, like many of Capcom's tag-team titles do. Instead, players can only choose to change characters between rounds, but aren't obligated to switch and can continue with the same character for the next match. Each character's power and health bars are reset between rounds as well. Interestingly, the characters' moves and attacks are completely their own. The counter-attacks and powerful specials from SF2 work well against other characters for the most part. However, the more elaborate but slower moves of the SFIII characters make them sitting ducks against some of their faster contemporaries. This adds a little bit of strategy and nuance to each bout, but the depth would have been interesting with more characters to choose from. However, the game compensates for this by including a few unlockable characters, which can be opened by finishing the game through a few times. The limited number of modes and options is problematic and makes the game feel rushed and unpolished, especially when compared to the brilliant conception and execution of Capcom's older cross-over titles.
Most of the gameplay in Fighting Evolution is pretty standard Capcom fare, the exceptions being the odd-ball cast of prehistoric dinosaurs and monsters who make up the cast of Red Sun. These characters control well enough but they don't fit in the with spirit and the feel of the other games. Pitting a pre-rendered dinosaur against the hand drawn characters makes for an odd visual juxtaposition that never really gels into a cohesive game. Even worse, their presence completely throws off the play balance, since these large, screen-filling characters are very easy to hit, and their slow movements make them even easier to block. Otherwise, the character selections are fairly pedestrian and limited, with only 3 main characters from each classic fighter included. These characters composing the majority of the cast, with more obscure and interesting fighters ignored, while weird selections are included. This is even more disappointing when you consider that the recently released Street Fighter Anniversary Edition had a much larger cast, yet focused on a single franchise, not three or four. It gives the game an unfocused edge, where a better focus, perhaps a straight-up Street Fighter Vs. Darkstalkers would been much more enjoyable. As it stands, this diffused approach leads to a mish-mash of styles and characters.
As you'd expect, Capcom Fighting Evolution offers a number of standard gameplay modes including Arcade, Versus and Training. These are exactly what you'd expect them to be, and the game also has some minor options that allow you to change the difficulty and speed. The game's computer AI routines are predictable to a large degree, giving the computer opponents little to challenge you. You can also practice your moves in versus mode and play against a friend in the one-on-one versus mode. However, these modes offer little in the way of surprise or difference, limiting Capcom Fighting Evolution's variety and depth, giving it a short lifespan on your shelf. While you'd think a cross-over title like this would cry out for more elaborate modes, cut-scenes even online play, none are included, with the lack of online support the biggest disappointment. On the bright side, Fighting Evolution's basic controls are decent and use the traditional Capcom 6-button configuration effectively. This gives the character's a consistent feel while also offering excellent replay value. The fighting itself moves at a decent rate with responsive movements and attacks from the existing characters, however innovation is light with little in the way of new moves or tricks to choose from. It would have been cool to mix fighting systems amongst the characters, such as allowing Demetri to parry or use a Super Arts move, but this isn't an option. It leads to a limited range, curtailing the game's longevity significantly.
Capcom Fighting Evolution includes many of Capcom's older franchises, and it would have been a golden opportunity to update some of these classic characters. Instead, Capcom has re-used the older animations and sprites from the original games. This means each character looks and feels exactly as they did in the arcade. Unfortunately, many of these older characters have a dated appearance with limited animation that lack detail and fluidity. It's especially apparent when you place the SFIII characters next to their older counterparts from Darkstalkers or Street Fighter Alpha. This gives the game a choppy, incoherent appearance that looks rather dated. The backgrounds are new, but they're largely uninspired as well, giving the game a flat, listless appearance that feels old rather than nostalgic. The bare-bones menu design and average interface gives the title the appearance of a rush job, which is a real shame considering the potential this idea of a massive crossover has. While it's not usually a good idea to focus on what a game doesn't include, it says a lot about the game's quality that you'll find yourself constantly wondering how much cooler it would have been if this character or this feature was included. This definitely points to a title with some serious design issues and flaws that make it far less than it could have been.
Despite some cool crossovers between characters that have never met, Capcom Fighting Evolution still feels like less than the sum of its parts. It's not what's included that's so disappointing, it's that Capcom has proven in the past that they can offer much more easily. This is where the real problem lies. The sloppy presentation is below Capcom's own standards, the poor play balance makes you wonder if anyone play tested the title and the left-over character animations and lackluster backgrounds make for a lackluster visual experience. While the release of Capcom's 2D fighting games are generally a cause for celebration, this is the exception that proves the rule. It's safe to say that this is one of the least polished and least exciting entries in the Vs. series to date. Unlike the high-quality releases players have come to expect, this title's sloppy design and dull gameplay pales next to classics like Marvel Vs. Capcom and even SNK vs. Capcom. Fighting Evolution feels like an afterthought, and most players will be much happier purchasing the recently released, and much better, Street Fighter Anniversary Edition instead.