If the fine folks at SNK and Playmore were in a contest for the least ambiguous title, they would be certain to wear the gold medal, or whatever other sort of award that would warrant. Unfortunately the G-phoria awards haven't picked up on this category, but judging by the integrity of the show, we should see it soon enough. What SVC Chaos may boast in title girth and complexity, it's core gameplay is much the opposite. 2D fighting straight from the arcades without the obnoxious scent of that overweight kid who always seems to want to fight you just after stepping off the DDR machine.
For years, kids of all ages have pumped quarters into machines at the arcade for that unexplainable joy which is the 2D fighter. Released nearly a year ago on the Neo Geo, SVC Chaos brings the arcade experience home to your Xbox in a no frills port. For the uninitiated, the “Vs.” series of games generally places your favorite characters from one arcade fighting game, against those from a different game in the genre. The challenge comes in the balance of characters, and the likeliness in which these characters would ever come across each other.
Although last year's port of the game to the Neo Geo was generally conceived as a disappointment to fans of the series, the game is still being ported to the PS2 and the Xbox later this month. What separates the Xbox version is it's full support for Xbox live; a key selling point for the aforementioned gamer who isn't interested in being drenched in DDR sweat. The line-up of characters contains everyone you would expect from Capcom (Street fighter, Dark Stalkers, etc...), and SNK (Art of fighting, King of Fighters, etc...) with a few unexpected to mix things up a bit. For fans of the genre, you will be happy to know that you will have 36 characters at your disposal, and a wide variety of balanced fighting styles.
In terms of gameplay, it is unlikely that we will see anything new here. You still have your basic button lay out of strong and weak, punches and kicks, along with individual super moves for each character. The super move gage is filled by completing special moves, and counters, a feature that is tried and true, but could use a bit of an update. The single player, or arcade mode, is essentially a rehash of what you would play in the arcade (no, arcade mode isn't just a clever name). Each battle begins with an interlude of a story, if you could call it that. Although a good idea, the story often ends up as being more comical than adding any kind of atmosphere to the game, and there are many grammatical errors to add to the comedy factor. This may be an early build of the game, but the story is one line away from, “all your base are belong to us” .
Aside from a lacking story, SVC Chaos faces another daunting problem that seems to plague arcade fighter ports: horrible AI. At first glance, the game feels balanced, but by the time I reached the third enemy, I was beaten into a bloody pulp. Many times, the AI performs feats in which no human could ever take on. Constant fireball moves, followed directly by a super move within a half seconds notice. Once again, this is an early build of the game, and hopefully these problems will be fixed in the end product.
In terms of on-line support, SVC Chaos thus far, seems to run quite well. For the few games I was able to play, the game ran with little or no lag, and intense matches felt just as good as any arcade battle I have had in the past. There are not a large number of options for modes of play on-line, but features such as only being able to use certain characters by host request add a new twist to the genre. My biggest complaint thus far is not being able to have a quick rematch directly after the fight. You have to find the person again, and join their game, a very frustrating aspect indeed.
With the current lack of fighting games on-line, any game that takes advantage of Xbox live support is a godsend. At this point though, SVC Chaos seems to only cater to the needs of hardcore old-school fighting game fans. To everyone else, there is nothing new here that will change your mind about 2D fighting games. Let' hope that the final version fixes any loose ends that need to be tied. You can expect the game to be released by the end of the month.