Originally printed in the March 2000 issue of Arcadia, this interview with director Tatsuya Nakae and producer Yoshihiro Sudo covers the making of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, the final 2D iteration of Capcom’s beloved series of crossover fighting games whose over-the-top “hyper” game systems, tag-team mechanics and detailed renditions of popular and obscure Marvel and Capcom characters bore heavy influence on fighting games and comic book illustrators alike.

Over the course of the interview, Capcom’s developers discuss the new additions to the roster, some of their bolder aesthetic choices, their new open-ended game systems, the considerations of console/arcade inter-operability and the integration of online multiplayer — a first for a Capcom fighting game.

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Marvel vs. Capcom 2 – 2000 Developer Interview

originally featured in Arcadia magazine #3

Tatsuya Nakae (Capcom Production #1) – Participated as a plan-man on his previous projects; oversaw the development of this game as director. Known for Red Earth, Rival Schools, Power Stone, Marvel vs. Capcom 2

Yoshihiro Sudo (Capcom Production #1) – After a stint in sales and PR, moved to the development division in 1997; worked as a producer on Dreamcast/NAOMI & head-to-head online multiplayer titles. Known for Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Power Stone 2, “Capcom vs. SNK” (temp title), “Shiritsu Justice Gakuen 2” (temp title)

—You’re taking the unprecedented step of releasing the Dreamcast and NAOMI1 versions at the same time. What was the goal behind the simultaneous launch?

Nakae: The convention until now has been to stagger the release dates of the arcade and home versions, but this time around, we wanted to deploy them in a way that’d make them easy to play concurrently and get people excited to play both versions. Specifically, we made it possible to play the arcade version with a Dreamcast controller, and we put a lot of care into designing the controls so that they wouldn’t feel off-putting, whether played on Dreamcast or at an arcade.

Sudo: We wanted people to be able to play without discomfort, and that gave us a lot of trouble.

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Marvel vs. Capcom director Tatsuya Nakae (2000)

—What difficulties did you face in terms of Visual Memory Unit (VMU) integration and Dreamcast inter-operability?

Nakae: Initially, the plan was to release the Dreamcast and NAOMI versions simultaneously with almost the same content, but our concern was that people might pick up the Dreamcast version and never venture any further. As we were thinking about what kinds of differentiating features to include for each version, we decided to focus around the existence of the VMU.

Our ideas around VMU implementation were centered on the theme of “evolution”, with the thinking that being able to link and evolve from Dreamcast to NAOMI and vice-versa via the VMU would have obvious appeal.2

—What other ideas did you come up with before you settled on the game as it is now?

Nakae: Normally, the scale of a game project is gradually reduced from the initial plans, but this time, we were able to pull off way more than we expected, and the project actually ended up being bigger than we’d initially planned it to be, so there are almost no ideas that we weren’t able to implement.

Sudo: In that respect, this was an extremely fulfilling project. I’m proud that we were able to produce something with such a high level of completeness.

—This game features three new original characters: Son Son, Amingo and Ruby Heart. Can you tell us how these three characters came to be?

Nakae: Until now, Norimaro has been the only original Vs. Series character, so I wanted to add new characters to this game from the beginning. When I asked Eguchi, the character design lead, for designs, he told me he wanted to revive someone from a classic game and sent me a design that reinterpreted Sonson as a girl; it was interesting and had a lot of impact, so it was adopted. As for Amingo, we noticed the Capcom side didn’t have any non-human characters capable of really crazy movements, so he was designed in order to fulfil that role.

Ruby Heart is a character that was produced when we put out the call for original characters that could play a marquee role, similar to Ryu and Cyclops.

—In that case, is Ruby the leading character of the three?

Nakae: That’s right. There aren’t many games with a cool, female character like this taking center stage, so this is a new challenge for us.

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Marvel vs. Capcom 2 producer Yoshihiro Sudo (2000)

—Cable and Marrow are new additions on the Marvel side. How were they selected?

Nakae: One of the staffers at our company is extremely well-versed in American comics, so we asked him to come up with a list of candidates. Using the selection criteria of “attacks that can be easily understood at a glance” and “doesn’t significantly overlap with any of the characters introduced with the previous games”, as well as “cool factor”, we narrowed the selection down to those two.

With regards to Cable in particular, we also factored in his slightly convoluted backstory as Cyclops’ son from the future as something that players would find fun.

—Why did you include two Wolverines?

Nakae: At first, we wanted to focus on the adamantium-less “bone claw” Wolverine, but the directive from Marvel was that we had to include both versions.

—Was it tough to differentiate them?

Nakae: Yeah, it was—the two characters look almost identical, so we had to really think about where and how to add pronounced differences. There are a lot of subtle changes, so I really hope people play both characters and spot the differences for themselves.

—The game system has changed from a 6-button system to a 4-button system.

Nakae: When this project started at the end of last year, the Dreamcast port of the original Marvel vs. Capcom had just been released, and when I went to play it, I realized it was tough to play on a controller, and that’s when I came up with the idea of leaning into controller-style input—I figured that if I could unify the play feel, then home players would have an easier time playing in arcades.

Another reason was that, with a 6-button setup, there are a lot of commands that use simultaneous button presses, which aren’t especially intuitive; by reducing the attack buttons to 4 and adding dedicated partner buttons, we were able to more intuitively give players the feeling of controlling three characters. Initially, there were a lot of naysayers within the company, but the results from the location tests and other demo events convinced us that people would be comfortable with the new system.

—Aren’t there drawbacks to the loss of medium attacks?

Nakae: We’ve designed the game in such a way that it’s fun without them, so I hope people can enjoy this new system.

—Please tell us about the many new game systems that have been added.

Nakae: From the moment we started planning this game, I’d been thinking about a 3v3 tag system as the big selling point, and from there we came up with the idea for the Delayed Hyper Combo, which allows players to string together Hyper Combos (super moves) by all three player-characters. [General producer Noritaka] Funamizu was also interested in this idea, so we were able to decide on that pretty quickly.

Assist type selection is another idea that existed from the beginning. Initially, it was a personality-based system — a “bullish” Ryu would throw a fiery hadouken whereas a “cold-hearted” Ryu would throw an icy hadouken, for example — and from there, after a lot of trial-and-error coming up with something that’d be easy to intuitively understand, we came up with the system you see now.

Snapback is something that we came up with during the latter half of development, as the game system was in the process of being solidified. When you have three characters on each team, players tend to swap out characters when their life is low, which leads to a lot of games ending by time-over, so we started to wonder if there was anything we could add that’d let players yank their opponent’s characters off the bench by force, and that’s what we came up with. Accordingly, it added another layer of strategy and made players gamble on whether to defeat the character in front of them at that moment or to go for the player on standby, and I think that led to a more interesting game.

The efficacy of THCs varies wildly from character to character, with DHCs being the preferred option for the majority of higher-tier characters, but certain characters like Juggernaut and B.B.Hood have atypically powerful THCs that, when slotted into the right team, can prove to be obscenely powerful, as demonstrated here.

—What’s the difference between Delayed Hyper Combos (DHC) and Total Hyper Combos (THC; also known as Variable Combinations)?

Nakae: DHCs offer a lot of options, but also a lot of depth; there are a lot of elements to take into consideration, like the precise manner of connecting each move and the order of each character. THCs are something that have been around for awhile as an an easy-to-grasp, easy-to-execute way to give everyone a big flashy attack, and for this game we changed the input so that it can be formed by pressing two buttons simultaneously, without the need for a directional command. We’ve made it very easy for players to perform these big crazy attacks, and we hope they’ll serve as a gateway for players to assemble their own DHC.

—Did you focus on DHCs being the optimal choice for max damage?

Nakae: The advantage of DHCs is that they allow the player to maximize the amount of damage through their own ingenuity, whereas THCs are intended to deal a consistent amount of damage.

—I feel like there are specific hyper combinations that don’t combo.

Nakae: There are some that don’t connect in sequence, but in those cases, you can change the order, and their utility is different on block and so on, so I think players will be able to see new applications to match those circumstances. DHCs can be good or bad depending on how they’re deployed.

—What direction were you aiming for with regards to game balance?

Nakae: First off, the reduction of attack buttons from 6 to 4 might give one the immediate impression that their characters will have fewer tools, so we made sure that characters could still do almost everything they were able to do with 6 buttons — specifically, we made it so that the chaining routes which used 6 buttons can be recreated with 4 buttons by pressing certain buttons multiple times, and for specials for which the medium attack option was particularly important, we moved that functionality to either the weak or strong button.

We’ve also reduced the number of ukemi options, which lessens the advantageous nature of wake-up attacks, restricted the number of assists per combo to one in order to prevent infinites, and made a lot of less conspicuous tweaks like reviewing the overall damage and putting more limits on airdashes, and we think it’s shaped up quite well.

—In hindsight, is there anything you wish you could change?

Nakae: Hmm… nope!

Sudo: That tells you how much work went into it.

—This is the first 2D fighting game for the NAOMI platform. How do you feel about making 2D fighting games for NAOMI?

Nakae: The increase in storage capacity is a big deal, and the sheer size of this game’s roster is a fairly direct indicator of how big a factor that is. Beyond that, because it’s 3D hardware, it allowed us to combines approaches in order to achieve new methods of visual expression — even if a game system or character is rendered in 2D, you can make it look fresh, and I think that it can allow for a variety of different visual styles in accordance with the ideas of individual creators.

With this game, the characters are explicitly rendered in 2D and the backgrounds in 3D, which makes the characters easier to see; in the beginning, a lot of people say “the characters don’t mesh with the backgrounds” and “this just feels weird…”, but on the flipside, I felt that it made the characters very easy to track and directly contributed to the playability of the game, so this is the direction we settled on.

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MvC2’s mix of 2D sprites and 3D backgrounds was not inherently disliked by players but the general incongruity of the stage designs when compared to both the Marvel and Capcom rosters remains contentious, with the carnival stage being perhaps the most notorious. (This image is taken from the HD port produced for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, which maintains the 4:3 boundaries of the play field but renders the 3D backgrounds in full 16:9.

—The songs are unlike anything else, aren’t they?

Nakae: This time around, the songs were pieced together from existing materials, rather than using artists.3 The theme of this project — “I want to do something new!” — also extended to the music, and we even included sung vocals. I told the sound team I wanted an overall cool sound and more or less left it to them, and I think the tunes they came up with are quite hip. A lot of people have said that more traditional “game-like” music would have been better, but I think reactions like those prove that we made the right call.

—Who are the composers, and what would we know them for?

Nakae: The composer is [Tetsuya] Shibata, who was in charge of Power Stone’s music. He was also in charge of the music for Power Stone 2, which featured an orchestral soundtrack that was unusual for a fighting game, and he was able to come up with something unique for this game as well. I think it turned out great.

—Please tell us how you were able to realize support for the matching service.4

Nakae: In the beginning, Funamizu asked us if it’d be possible to add online battles as a major selling point, and after discussing it internally and determining that it might be feasible, we decided to approach KDDI with the idea. Thankfully, KDDI was on board and got to work on making it a reality; we didn’t have a ton of time for development, but thanks to the hard work of KDDI, we were able to make it happen.

At first, I was worried about lag during online matches, but when we ran in-house tests, the lag didn’t feel as bad as I feared it would and we were able to comfortably play online, so we rushed to finish the game. People who’ve never tried it tend to think “online play, I don’t know…” and shy away from it, but those people are the ones who are the most impressed when they finally try it for themselves, so I’d really urge you to go hands-on for yourselves.

—The line charge is 13 yen/minute, which comes out to 50-60 yen per game. Would you like to comment on that expense?

Sudo: It certainly won’t be increasing. I know some people are saying that the 13 yen/minute rate is too high as it is, but it’s the lowest price possible right now. My hope is that the price will be able to come down as more and more people play the game.

—Wrapping up, please offer a parting comment to the users.

Nakae: The NAOMI version is interesting in and of itself, but the full experience encompasses online battles and so much more, I’d like for people to enjoy it in its totality and not just for one particular element.

Sudo: Try taking your controller to the arcades! Give online battles a shot, too… or something like that. (laughs)

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Design illustrations for MvC2’s three original characters: Ruby Heart, Sonson and Amingo. (click to expand)

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Design illustrations for MvC2’s Capcom-side roster additions: Resident Evil’s Jill Valentine, Star Gladiator’s Hayate and, from the Mega Man Legends series, Tron Bonne and Servbot. (click to expand)