We have to kick off this collective review by pointing out that many of us here at SPOnG are 2D fighting fetishists of the highest order. Our hands have evolved specifically to cover a greater expanse of arcade stick, our eye-to-hand coordination has been honed, tuned and refined through regular Shoryukening; and our brains have special sections specifically reserved for the storage of combo and special move data. Ever since the arcade release of Street Fighter 2, the call of the arcade stick has echoed in our heads on a daily basis, and rarely does a week go by without the Dreamcast surfacing to bear witness to a veritable thrash-a-thon.
Many less urbane, unsophisticated philistines now consider the 2D fighting genre to be an obsolete one: a throw-back to an era dominated by inferior technology, shunning all the important developments the industry has managed over the last 10 years. We, however, view it in a very different light. 2D beat ‘em ups are a delicately balanced artform of the gods; and after finding their pinnacle with assorted Dreamcast releases, we watched with dismay as such games vanished from rosters alongside the machine’s demise.
Fortunately, for the cultured few who can identify with our perspective, the 2D fighting genre is due for a mighty comeback, online and everything: and the present line-up for PAL consoles (mostly Xbox) is arguably as good as it ever has been before, even in those heady Dreamcast days. This is mainly thanks to both Capcom and SNK, the two leading proponents of the traditional beat ‘em up, who are both celebrating anniversaries this year: issuing remakes and re-releases as part of the wider celebrations. Capcom has generally been good about catering for the PAL market, but SNK typically less so. Fortunately for Europe though, Ignition Entertainment has taken it upon itself to publish key SNK titles over here, and so games previously thought to be reserved for the Japanese market will soon reach these shores, belated as they may be.