A Mashup of Epic Proportions
When it comes to SNK’s Neo Geo Pocket Selection releases for the Switch, SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium is the cream of the crop. First released at the tail end of 1999 during the height of the crossover craze, it was the first fighter to combine the rosters of the two fighting game juggernauts. Featuring a selection of 26 characters lifted from such franchises as The King of Fighters, Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, and Samurai Shodown, it was incredibly ambitious—especially for an 8-bit handheld. At the time of its release, there wasn’t anything quite like it. That is, at least until Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000 found its way to arcades the following year.
Flash forward two decades later, and Capcom vs. SNK is still one of the most fondly remembered fighters of its time. However, SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium seems to have been mostly forgotten. But gamers’ collective amnesia has less to do with the game’s quality than it does the Neo Geo Pocket’s relative obscurity. And you know what? That’s a crying shame because it’s one of the most well-produced fighters ever to grace a handheld.
Now, thanks to SNK and Code Mystics, SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium has been given a new lease on life on the Nintendo Switch. And if you’re a fighting game enthusiast who somehow let this one pass you by in its heyday, there’s no better time than now to get your hands on this criminally overlooked brawler.
The meat and potatoes of SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium is its tourney mode. Here, you can choose from three game types: Singles, Tag, or Team. Singles is just what it sounds like. Choose your favorite SNK or Capcom combatant and fight your way through a handful of matches. Manage to come out on top in the finals, and you’ll have to throw down against a tag-team duo of M. Bison and Geese Howard before going toe-to-toe with either Evil Ryu or Orochi Iori Yagami.
Tag Mode plays just like Capcom’s X-Men vs. Street Fighter or Marvel vs. Capcom. This mode is my favorite, thanks in no small part to SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium’s snappy and satisfying combo system. Seamlessly swapping between characters to deliver flashy beatdowns to your adversaries feels excellent and adds a welcome layer of strategy to the proceedings as players who’ve been tagged out recover health over time. Lastly, Team Mode is a 3-on-3 game type that closely mirrors SNK’s King of Fighters franchise.
Needless to say, there’s a lot of meat on SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium’s bones. With three different ways to tackle the main tournament and multiple endings depending on whether you’re playing in Single, Tag, or Team modes, it’s an insanely robust package — especially when you consider its 8-bit roots.
Hard-Hitting Handheld Hijinks
A wide selection of game types is great and all, but it doesn’t mean much if the game doesn’t play well. Thankfully, that’s not the case here. SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium builds upon the rock-solid foundation of the Neo Geo Pocket’s previous releases to deliver peak pint-sized pugilism.
During my time spent with the game, I couldn’t believe just how well it replicated Capcom and SNK’s arcade offerings. All of the combos, desperation moves and super specials you’d expect are present and accounted for. SNK also managed to iron out some of the kinks found from earlier NGPC releases. That frustrating slowdown that plagued Fatal Fury: First Contact is now a thing of the past. Additionally, if you’re like me and thought the AI of games like Gals’ Fighters a bit too easy, you’ll be happy to know that the computer puts up much more of a fight now. That’s not to say it’ll put your skills to the test. But you’ll undoubtedly need to pay attention if you want to topple the game’s tenacious boss characters, who fight defensively and know just when to let loose their ultimate attacks.
That’s not to say it’s perfect, however. Playing with the Joy-Cons feels very imprecise. And honestly, while the game is certainly playable with the Switch Pro Controller, its mushy analog stick leaves a bit to be desired compared to the Neo Geo Pocket Color’s clicky thumbstick. It really seems to struggle with diagonal inputs. This can make unleashing certain moves a frustrating experience in the heat of battle. If you have a proper fight stick — like the Hori Fighting Stick Mini — I really can’t recommend it enough if you want to get the most out of the game.
Pick Your Poison
If you read my review of Fatal Fury: First Contact last month, then you already know I found that game’s lack of bonus content somewhat disappointing. Thankfully, SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium is overflowing with extras. The game features a sparring mode to help you hone your skills, which is always a plus. However, the star of the show is the Olympic Mode. This mode is a collection of challenges where you compete to earn medals which you can use as currency to unlock MAX Supers for your characters.
Here, you’ll find fighting game staples like Time Attack and Survival Modes to more interesting mini-games inspired by other SNK properties. For example, Targets is a shooting gallery that plays a lot like the shooter segments from Konami’s Snatcher. You assume the role of Metal Slug protagonist Marco Rossi and have to aim your cursor to shoot down Martians who appear in a 3×3 playfield. At first, it’s pretty easy. But don’t get too comfortable. Before long, things kick into overdrive as the screen fills with ill-tempered alien scum. Another mini-game, Blade Arts, takes the straw dummy-slashing bonus rounds from Samurai Shodown and cranks the dial to 11.
Would I go out of my way to play either of these modes on their own? No, probably not. But they’re a fun way to unlock extra content in what’s already a surprisingly feature-rich fighter.
Bigger, Badder, Better
When it comes to presentation, SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium is as good as it gets on the NGPC. The chibi-style character sprites look great and are well animated. Additionally, the backgrounds, which were mostly static in previous NGPC fighters, are now brought to life with little details like an orchestra performing in Krauser’s cathedral and neon signs that light up Osaka’s streets. Speaking of the backgrounds, they’re lavishly detailed and quite colorful. For a prime example, take a look at the recreation of Bison’s stage from Street Fighter Alpha 3 in the picture above. Jaw-dropping, isn’t it?
The game’s music is also quite impressive. It’s full of 8-bit renditions of iconic Street Fighter and King of Fighters themes. The music will even change in the middle of a match as you switch between characters, making the action feel so much more dynamic than ever before. My personal favorite is the killer remix of the Psycho Soldier theme. It’s nothing short of infectious! If you have a soft spot for deconstructed chiptunes as I do, then I think you’re going to love what SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium’s soundtrack has to offer.
Party Like It’s 1999
SNK vs. Capcom: The Match of the Millennium may not be as awe-inspiring now as it was when it released more than 20 years ago, but it’s pretty darn close. Even today, it’s hard to believe SNK was able to produce such a full-featured fighting game on their humble handheld hardware. If you’re a retro fighting game enthusiast who somehow missed out on the game when it first released, don’t make the same mistake twice. Just be sure you have a decent controller — or better yet, a proper fight stick — to go with it if you want to get the most out of your purchase.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: Switch (reviewed); Publisher: SNK; Developer: Code Mystics/SNK; Release Date: February 17, 2021; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $7.99
Full disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher.