IGN Review of SNK vs Capcom Card Fighters DS
Videogames based on competitive card battling aren't something that often catch on outside of Japan, but every once in awhile a title strikes gold. SquareEnix just recently released Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales, which blended together a complex card system with mini-game challenges, and the original Pokemon Card Game for Game Boy Color was a cult classic within the established Pokemon niche, but it's really a genre that doesn't do amazingly well outside the Japanese audience. So when SNK announced that SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters DS would be hitting stateside, we were more than a bit surprised. The game features the same basic design of the original Neo Geo Pocket Color title "SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighter's Clash" released nearly seven years ago, but delivers an updated gameplay mechanic and of course touch integration. Does the game have what it takes to revitalize the card fighting genre here in the US, and can it really bank off a series that's been dry for nearly a decade?
No, it can't. SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters DS is a shell of a game, and while it was a hot topic for niche DS gamers over the last few months, the title fails to deliver in multiple areas. Whether it's the somewhat simplistic card battle mechanic, the poorly translated text, one-dimensional story mode, or game ending bug that rests within the depths of the single player adventure, the game is entirely melancholy throughout. The soul of the franchise is there; it just doesn't execute well.
Like its predecessor, SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters DS puts players in control of a card-wielding battler who - for one reason or another - is on the fast path to glory. In this case, an out of control card-battling super-computer has taken over Card Tower, trapping the world's best battlers within its never-ending floors. Starting from the base of the tower, you'll need to overcome rivals, build your deck, battle bosses, and thwart the evil computer bringing justice to the world. After all, what would a world be like if it was ruled by a sinister card-battling machine? We'd all be forced to settle conflicts in turn-based games of strategy and chance! The horror.
And though the story is amazingly basic, it wouldn't really matter if the card system was engaging, or at least more addictive and in-depth than its predecessor. Instead, SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters DS brings a new battle system to the table, and while it has some entertaining moments, it'll eventually be a pretty sizable letdown for seasoned battlers (at least it was for this one). The game pits players one on one with 50-card decks, each of which are built from a list over 400 different cards that'll need to be won or purchased over countless battles. From there, players will accumulate "force" power which is used to send out iconic SNK or Capcom battlers into a virtual playing field. The characters fight amongst themselves in an attempt to break through the lines and deal actual damage to the duelists themselves. The first team to successfully drain the other to zero is the winner.
That's obviously a very brief overview, but after a few rounds with the starter deck both seasoned and new card battlers should be able to play like a pro. The game mixes things up by charging a certain amount of "force" to deploy characters, do team-up moves, or bring "counter" or "action" cards (basically support for your main fighters) into play. Each round more force is given out based on what fighters are currently in play, and each card can make only one move at a time. This means that if you're gung ho about attacking each round, all your fighters will need a turn to recover while your opponenet takes free shots at your human counterpart. A game of virtual cat and mouse begins, as both teams draw random cards in hopes to outnumber or outgun their opponents and attack strategically from fighter to fighter.
Where the game will fail to really grab many serious card battlers, however, is in the sheer amount of chance that goes into the rounds. The game begins with a roll of the die to determine who goes first, and then gives players six starting cards to kick the game off. If you don't start off with the right cards you're at an immediate disadvantage, as your lines are weak from the very start. There are tricks to working with weaker starts, such as discarding weak cards for added force power, but the start of a game is still extremely important, and it leaves a few of the opening moves to chance.
The game does manage to suck players in with a strong use of SNK and Capcom characters, each of which have multiple cards for bonus attacks and crazier upgrades (so rather than just using Akuma, you can later use Super Akuma, who deals far more damage at a higher force price), so there's definitely the aspect of customizing your deck and working out strategy with your cards. We won't deny that the game has its entertaining moments, it's just too shallow of a mechanic to really engage us, and has compounding flaws on top of the main system. Attack animations are rarely more than a simple color sweep or starburst, as the cards push into each other in mock-battle, and even the main world that story mode is made of isn't much more than a few characters, touch-enabled icons on the bottom screen for player movement, and extremely basic animation sets. Yes it's a card game, but that should free up even more space for presentation, rather than giving development teams an excuse for poor visuals and storytelling.
And speaking of storytelling, SNK vs. Capcom is a total wash. The finished product is poorly translated, containing a ton of typos and missing letters or punctuation in the lines of dialogue. Not only is it distracting, but it's everywhere, and we actually looked for a brief moment to see if our cart was indeed a final copy of the game, having opened it from its package just a few minutes before. It literally feels unfinished, and that's a definite shame.
On top of that, a game-ending bug sits in floor nine of the tower, so unsuspecting players may find that they screw over their save file simply by battling a foe for the second time. Once each enemy is beaten they become available for additional battles (a great way to earn more cash for cards), but should a player battle a character by the name of John a second time (something needed to fully-complete the game and get all cards), the game crashes. SNK has already released a press notice telling consumers that a new fixed version of the game is on the way, and should you have already purchased the title you'll be able to send it back for a new copy, but it's a serious hassle, and the risk isn't worth it to play a totally average card-battler that may or may not have a game-ending bug in it.
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