Final Round. – X-Men vs. Street Fighter

In our Final Round series, we take a look an in-depth look at as many fighting games as we possibly can. In part 4, Shaun Eddleston takes a look at 1996’s X-Men vs. Street Fighter

Title

Year of Release – 1996
Developer – Capcom
Publisher – Capcom
Platforms – Arcade, PlayStation, Sega Saturn

Crossovers have become somewhat of a genre institution in the fighting game world. Fans have always posed the question “what if [blank] ever fought [blank]?” and wondered just how awesome it would be to play as their favourite fighters from another game series but with the mechanics of another. Ranging from some completely sensible mashups (Tekken and Street Fighter, it was a given), to some absolutely insane crossovers (Solid Snake in Super Smash Bros Brawl?!), these games remain a favourite with beat-’em-up fans.

So, the fourth instalment of our ongoing Final Round series takes a look at the very first Marvel Comics and Capcom collaboration, X-Men vs. Street Fighter.

Initially released in arcades in 1996, X-Men vs. Street Fighter introduced a new gameplay feature that is now a mainstay in many modern beat-’em-ups; Tag Team Fighting. Players choose a team of two fighters and can switch between the two during a fight. The starting character can tag the waiting one in at any time by hitting the Hard Punch and Hard Kick buttons, which activates a “Variable Attack”, which sees the tag partner jumping in with an attack and taunting briefly.

Activating a “Variable Counter” forces the opponent to switch partners, throwing their gameplan off completely and hitting a “Variable Combination” triggers an intensely powerful two-character Hyper Combo that often takes over the entire screen.

Each fighter has their own life bar, and when switched out, inactive fighters have the chance to heal some of the damage they’ve recieved. The fight is over when a player loses both members of their team. This new teamup element replaces the “best of 3” rule with a quicker, more intense single round.

Promotional Art

In addition to the standard “this is an arcade game, it will make you money” posters that were sent out to arcades, the game had a tie-in comic book release through Marvel Comics. Highlighting the excellent artwork of Bengus, this works extremely well with the theme of X-Men vs. Street Fighter. There was even a board game!

The game was also popular enough to see a release of an action figure line. These double-packs from Toy Biz include a fighter from each franchise and ran for two series.  Almost every character from the game (except Charlie and Storm) was available, with colour and matchup variants thrown into the mix too.

Roster

As is to be expected from the title, X-Men vs. Street Fighter pits heroes and villians from the X-Men universe against fighters from the Street Fighter franchise.

Borrowing character sprites from X-Men: Children of the Atom and Street Fighter Alpha 2, each character is colourful and exaggerated in the way only Capcom games during this era could (just look at Zangief!).

There’s nothing much here in the way of an actual story, but that is completely acceptable for a game like this. According to Storm‘s ending, it is suggested that Apocalypse has been abducting mutants and fighters alike, either to experiment on or just to join his army.

True to his origins, Akuma is a hidden character in the game, and Apocalypse is the final boss. The sheer size of Apocalypse in the game is noteworthy, as he occupies most of the screen, a first for the genre and an element that would be repeated for many years to come.

Fun fact: the voices for the X-Men in the game were provided by the original voice actors from the beloved 90’s animated series!

Levels

There are 11 stages to fight through in X-Men vs. Street Fighter, each with their own unique flavour.

  • The Temple Of Fists – Set in an unknown forest area, in front of a large golden statue of Buddha. This feels like a homage to certain Street Fighter levels, especially Sagat‘s stage from Street Fighter II.
  • Showdown In The Park – Set in the middle of a park at an unnamed city, characters fight on a path of rocks in the middle of a lake, overlooking several large bushes and part of the larger lake.
  • Dead or Live: The Show – takes place in the set of a live quiz show named “Moon Light Bomber”, with the contestant’s stands at the left side of the stage and the audience stands at the right, with its only occupant being a boy taking pictures. One of the more interesting stages.
  • Manhattan – takes place in one of the streets of the city during midnight. A full police force surrounds the area where the characters are fighting, with several police cars and two police vans forming a barricade. This stage has an unique feature: striking characters against the ground enough times makes the floor break down, sending the fighters down to continue fighting in the city’s sewers and effectively doubling the stage’s height, similar to the subway level found in Mortal Kombat 3.
  • Mall Mayhem – takes place inside a multi-tiered shopping mall. The mall is heavily decorated and there are several banners all over the roof and upper floors, including one for Capcom and another reading “PF II X”, which seems to be a reference to Super Puzzle Fighter II X.
  • Death Valley – takes place within a valley in a mountain region at midnight, with a full moon overlooking the area. There’s little detail in general, with several rocky formations and a cave on the background being the most notable. In the middle of the background one can see Blanka crouching in front of a fireplace (I always appreciate Capcom’s inclusion of franchise characters in their stage designs).
  • Code Red – takes place within an underground hanger, with the characters fighting on top of the resting Blackbird. One of the handful of X-Men specific stages.
  • The Cataract – set within a lush tropical jungle in broad daylight.
  • On The Hilltop – set on the top of a large tree. Players fight on one of its branches, overlooking the wide trunk in the center of the stage and the several branches coming out of its top, with a prairie visible on the background.
  • Raging Inferno – The stage takes place within an oil refinery plant in an unknown location at day. The characters fight over a metal platform overlooking the complex and its many pipes and containment units, with the figure of several sets of machinery and large chimneys visible far in the background. The stage possess an unique feature: after one character is knocked out, the stage flashes white as the plant explodes, changing its appearance entirely. The blown version features a raging fire over all the destroyed machinery and pipes, and a lone helicopter flying over the disaster.
  • Apocalypse Now! – Located inside Apocalypse‘s spaceship, characters fight on a rock platform with several metallic lines running through it, overlooking a massive crevice whose walls are completely covered up in wires, cables and several containment tubes. Several characters from the X-Men and Street Fighter universes, including Forge, Beast and Blanka can be spotted on the top tubes, while two more tubes on the right side showing Dan and Psylocke trapped as well. Striking these characters at this side of the screen can eventually break the tubes holding them.

Overall, some simple level designs, with some much needed interaction to help make the game feel more immersive! The cameos from several non-game characters are also a nice touch too.

Ports

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The PlayStation port of the game arrived in 1998 and recieved mixed to negative responses upon its release. Due to technical limitations on the console, some major elements of the game had to be scaled back or just removed altogether. The tag team element was taken out of the release, and the animations of the fighters were also dialled down somewhat.

Despite the port being regarded as weak, physical copies of the game on this format are worth quite a lot of money to collectors.

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The other port for X-Men vs. Street Fighter saw a release in 1997 on the successor to the Sega Genesis, the Sega Saturn. Originally intended to be the exclusive home console release of the game, this port is regarded as the better of the two, as it is pretty faithful to the original arcade version. It is considered by many to be one of the best arcade-to-console conversions ever.

While the port received favourable reviews, it only saw a release in Japan, as the Sega Saturn was struggling to sell in North America.

Victory!

Upon defeating Apocalypse, and a final match against your partner, ending movies are unlockable for each of the fighters.

There’s plenty of interesting endings to watch that add a bit more sense to why these factions are fighting each other, and often contain a plethora of mutants and fighters that didn’t make the cut as playable characters.

Overall Verdict

As a starting point for the fantastic Marvel vs. Capcom game series, X-Men vs. Street Fighter is an awesome frankenstein’s monster of a title. The games that followed it may have refined the formula to perfection, but for comic book lovers and Street Fighter fans alike, X-Men vs. Street Fighter is a simple blast of arcade fighting fun.

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