Ole Traxton pretty much dared me to improve upon his node here, so I thought I'd give it a shot, using my immense Street Fighter fanboy
knowledge as a base. So, here goes...
First of all, because I'm a horrible pedant, I should point out that Capcom Vs. SNK 2 is not technically a "Vs." title. It has "Vs." in the name, sure, but what distinguishes true "Vs." games from more traditional Street Fighters is their use of improved versions of the Marvel Hyper Fighting engine. This leads to radical differences in play styles between, say, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Capcom vs. SNK 2. MvC2 and previous "Vs." titles are heavily combo- and super-based, which leads to a more frenetic pace than the slower, more strategic successors to Street Fighter 2, such as the Alpha series and Street Fighter 3. While CvS2 borrows some of MvC2's graphical flash, in terms of gameplay it is clearly part of the latter group. Also, where all proper "Vs." games thus far have been tag-team affairs, CvS2 limits each player to one character on the screen at once, not unlike the system employed by SNK's beloved King of Fighters series.
The groove system is greatly expanded from Capcom vs. SNK, to the point where newbies frequently burst into tears when forced to choose one of the six available choices. For those of who who have played Street Fighter Alpha 3 or King of Fighters, the grooves could be said to be vaguely akin to Alpha 3's ISMs or King of Fighters's Modes. In essence, each groove enables different gameplay features for the player. One groove might allow a character to break into a roll, while another might let the player recover in the air from an attack, and a third might let the character execute a counterattack in the middle of an opponent's special. The grooves were intended to account for the fact that each game represented in CvS2 had very different play mechanics, thereby allowing someone with virtually any previous gameplay experience with a Capcom or SNK fighter to feel right at home in CvS2. The following is a brief description of each of the grooves:
- C-groove: This is your standard Alpha-style groove. Three levels of super meter, air recovery, and alpha counters, plus decent mobility options. Good for people sliding into CvS2 for the first time from SF2 or SFA.
- A-groove: This groove could probably be best compared to the custom combo system from Street Fighter Alpha 2, although SFA3's V-ism is also somewhat similar. You have one level of power meter which serves as a timer; when activated, for a certain period of time all of your moves will chain together, allowing you to create truly mammoth combos.
- P-groove: The groove of choice for those who have mastered Street Fighter 3. You are essentially allowed parries and nothing else, with one level of super meter. However, parries are so powerful that a truly capable P-groove player can overwhelm virtually anyone. Groove of the 1337.
- S-groove: Much like the SNK groove from the original CvS, which is turn was based on a similar mode of play found in King of Fighters. Players charge their one level of super meter manually, are allowed infinite desperation moves (at 15% health or less), and ultra-powerful level three supers if the gauge is maxed out while a player is at low health.
- N-groove: An extremely complex groove to describe. It allows for incredible mobility (rolls, running, small jump, and air recovery) as well as counter attacks. The super meter charges automatically as the player attacks; when it reaches max, the player's energy is stored in a little red ball. A little red ball can be expended to counter attack, throw a level one super move, or charge up for a time, during which time the player does more damage and can throw level three supers. This too comes from King of Fighters.
- K-groove: Kind of the SNK equivalent to the P-groove, it works exactly like P-groove but in reverse. Instead of parries, the player uses the "Just Defend" system, in which the player taps back on the joystick at the same time that an attack is thrown at him or her. If the timing is right, the character receives a sliver of life back, as well as a bit of energy added to his or her "Rage Meter." When the meter hits max, it slowly goes back towards empty, during which time the player does extra damage and can throw relatively powerful supers. From what I hear, this way of playing was originally found in Fatal Fury and one or more of the Samurai Shodown games.
As to the characters in this game, virtually everyone is here except the one character that you alone have managed to master and have been playing for the last seven years. A lot of old favorites were left out (I personally miss Guy, Gen, and Karin from SFA3), but the fact that 44 characters from the two universes managed to come together is enough to make me become rather violent towards those who whine about character selection. Aside from a more or less complete SF2 roster on the Capcom side (minus the freak characters like Deejay and Fei Long) there's also Rolento from SFA, Yun from SF3, Eagle from the original Street Fighter and Maki from Final Fight 2. Meanwhile, SNK managed to put forward almost all of the popular characters from their wide variety of 2D fighters, even including such relatively unknown titles as Last Blade 2. Thankfully, there is no Megaman. Nobody liked him anyway.
From a graphical perspective, the game is both luscious and appalling. While the Capcom programmers remembered to include the awesome 3D backgrounds that made MvC2 such a treat to look at, they somehow forgot to fix the characters so that they didn't look so freakin' low-res. Morrigan's graphics, for instance, haven't changed one bit for ages, making her look clearly out of place in this game. Still, those who want their fighting games to be pretty can go play Dead or Alive...maybe then the line of dibs quarters won't be so long on the CvS2 machine.
Two final things that Traxton forgot to mention were the recently-released PS2 port of the game, which by all accounts is excellent, and the fact that this will probably be the last Capcom game with an arcade presence. Having single-handedly saved arcades once already, Capcom is throwing in the towel this time around, having decided to withdraw from the arcade business altogether. While there will no doubt be future Street Fighter titles, they will exist solely for the consoles.
Thanks to Shoryuken.com for the groove info. Street Fighters of the world unite!