Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (MvC2) was a 2000 title that marked a before and after in the fighting games genre. The sequel to Clash of Super Heroes introduced the wild number of 56 playable characters — way before other series like Tekken and Smash Bros. became encyclopedias. It was a complex tag-team system of three against three characters, and a soundtrack that could take you for a ride. It also created a cultural phenomenon that expanded outside of gaming; for example, ESPN created a “character select screen” in a clear reference to the game for last year’s NBA Finals.
Although Marvel vs Capcom 2 became one of the most influential games in the genre, its present state is far from what the title deserves. MvC2 has been impossible to buy for eight years and counting, apart from overpriced older platform versions that can be found online. Issues with licenses and the characters’ rights, in addition to its latest edition being a digital-only release, left fans with almost no other options but emulation and piracy. However, the passionate fighting games community is trying to make a change.
Originally released on arcades, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was later ported to Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, and the original Xbox. The Dreamcast version is considered to be the most faithful to the arcade experience, while both the PS2 and Xbox versions suffered from gameplay changes and performance and resolution issues.
In 2009, a new edition featuring online play, a widescreen format, and other quality of life changes launched on the digital stores of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 by studio Backbone Entertainment before it closed its doors. The game was removed from both platforms’ stores in late 2013 due to the comic books characters’ license expiring, but it can still be played, even online, by users who already purchased it. And that’s it — one of the most fundamental pieces of fighting game history has mostly been erased from (legal) existence.
This is a shame. MvC2 conquered the scene back in the day, even with a fair amount of criticism during the initial release for its simplified control scheme of four attack buttons instead of six and the “shameful” imbalance of characters such as Magneto, Cable, and others. It saw the birth of legendary professional players such as Yipes, creator of the famous “It’s Mahveel, baybee” recording that became a meme for the years to come. It allowed Justin Wong to create one of the most hyped moments of any competition. But perhaps most importantly, it was the first step for a generation of newcomers to fighting games in general, thanks to its incredible roster and more accessible approach.
More than twenty years since its original release, fans are trying to bring MvC2 back to life. In 2020, MvC2 was going to be featured in a special tournament during the online edition of Evolution Championship Series 2020 — the most important fighting games competition, also known as EVO. Fans, content creators, and professional players were beyond excited that the game was going to be on the front page again. However, the whole event was cancelled after former CEO and organizer Joey Cuellar was accused of sexual abuse. The game wasn’t selected for this year’s edition, though the reasons why are not clear.
In the first days of August 2021, Maximilian Dood, a popular streamer and YouTuber who focuses on fighting games, started an online campaign with the hashtag “FREEMVC2”. During the campaign’s video, Max encouraged fighting games fans to show how important MvC2 was (and is) for them.
After Max’s YouTube video, hundreds of messages and tweets started flooding social media, with players showing their love for MvC2, sharing clips of bombastic combos, breath-taking illustrations, and even a thematic rug. A fan holding a sign for Max’s campaign was recorded during wrestling matches at All Elite Wrestling’s Dynamite on August 18th, 2021.
Maximilian’s initiative is going places, and it has reached important ears: Digital Eclipse, a reborn company by former Backbone Entertainment and current Other Ocean workers. Important members of Digital Eclipse have already shown interest in working on a new version of Marvel vs Capcom 2.
Digital Eclipse, originally founded in the early 90’s, has been developing emulations and modern versions of classic arcade titles since its first days. The company resurrected popular titles such as Samurai Shodown NeoGeo Collection, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, and games outside of arcades like The Mega Man Legacy Collection and the 2017 release of The Disney Afternoon Collection.
In an email interview with Polygon, Digital Eclipse’s studio head Mike Mika and the vice president of business development and production, Tom Russo, wrote about their thoughts on gaming preservation and Maximilian’s campaign to save MvC2.
“We’re always looking to accurately tell the story of these games, while building on the features fans have come to expect and appreciate,” explained Tom Russo. Sometimes, however, the features were quite unexpected, “unique” additions to the product. For example, the team managed to find a “finished but unreleased” version of Samurai Shodown V Perfect, which they later “convinced” company SNK to include in the NeoGeo Collection. At the same time, Russo says that “there’s always the challenge of what new modes we can add,” highlighting the importance of keeping things fresh for the fighting game community.
When asked about what he thought about #FREEMVC2’s resonance, Mike Mika wrote, “Max led the rally cry and all of the fans — all of us — joined in … it is remarkable to see so many passionate and positive people. With all of the toxic things that have been flying around in relation to gaming, it is a breath of fresh air to see everyone come together.”
Mika also highlighted the endurance and dedication of players who don’t make the jump between console generations to continue playing a specific fighting game. According to Mika, there are more people playing MvC2 on PS3 than many other titles on modern hardware.
Mika sees MvC2 as a “great example of the importance” of game preservation. He compares the situation with other mediums, such as cinema: “Frank Cifaldi (the Video Game History Foundation) once gave a great analogy: Movies, unlike games, don’t just die off at the end of a hardware cycle. By their nature, it is easy to dispatch a movie on almost any device. Games, however, are much more complicated. They are more expensive to migrate.”
Despite the challenges, Mika doesn’t have a pessimistic view of the future of games preservation. “We’re at a point now where the collective voices of fans are pushing hardware manufacturers to embrace backwards compatibility. My hope is that future platforms continue to support this initiative,” he wrote. Mika encourages the purchases of remasters, re-releases, and the support of groups such as The Strong and the Video Game History Foundation as well.
As to the future of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, “It’s really up to Disney and Capcom,” Mika says. A representative of Capcom declined to comment for this story. Mika and his team, on the other hand, appreciate all the effort being made by the fans and are waiting for the right opportunity. “If and when the stars align, we’re eager and at the ready.”