SNK Vs Capcom: Card Fighters’ Clash
Card games spring eternal when it comes to entertaining people – they existed hundreds of years before video games existed and even helped a little company called Nintendo cut their teeth before Mario was even a fever dream. As they continue to be enjoyed in innumerable guises around the world even today, it stands to reason that card-based video games will also have an incredible shelf-life, as proven by the recent re-release of SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters’ Clash (Card Fighters’ Clash) on the Nintendo Switch – a game first released on the Neo Geo Pocket Color way back in 1999.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Chibi art style bursting with character|
+ Simple pick-up-and-play mechanics
+ All your favourite characters represented
|Negatives||– Old menus are rather clunky|
– Small field of view creates a lot of unnecessary clicking
– No online features
|Price (When Reviewed)||£7.19|
|Our Playtime||10 hours|
|Available On||Nintendo Switch|
To offer a very quick overview of the rules to give you an idea of how things work, cards are split into two types – character and action cards all based on popular characters from both SNK & Capcom franchises. Character cards are your bread and butter and represent your fighters on the battlefield; you can only have three characters on the table at any one time and each card has a Battle Point (BP) rating, representing both their health and the amount of damage they can cause to your opponents. Characters also have a Soul Point (SP) value which is added to the player’s total as the card is played – the player can spend SP to activate action cards or combined attacks that make your characters much more dangerous to your opponent. Characters known to be allies in their respective games can be used to ‘back up’ characters already on the battlefield, bolstering their BP, and many also have special abilities that can be absolute game changers – particularly as they often have no SP cost to activate. Action cards have a myriad of effects that players must spend SP to activate – it would be impossible to list some of the effects here, as there are so many, but these cards often allow you to turn the tide of battle by doing something out of the normal rules of the game.
The aim of Card Fighters’ Clash is to reduce the opposing players life total to zero, and you do this by having your characters attack them. Not willing to just get smacked around though, the opponent may choose to have his character cards counterattack, meaning that the characters battle it out between themselves by comparing their BP ratings. As characters takes damage their BP is reduced and they’ll cause less and less damage – any character reduced to zero BP is KO’d and removed from the table.
Wonderfully simple to play on the face of it, the game is beautifully pick-up-and-play once you’ve learned the basic rules. After you’ve played a handful of games it all becomes about learning the cards in your deck and how they best combine to hurt your opponent. Players of more complex games might be a little underwhelmed by the game early on as you’re forced to wait to collect the more powerful cards, and as things do often come down to a slow war of attrition about who can keep the most characters on the table for the longest, but there’s still enough complexity to keep Magic: the Gathering fans happy.
While you’re not battling it out on the table, your character can travel around a rudimentary map and visit various card shops and clubs in order to challenge new players and gather new cards from vending and gambling machines. You can take on the levels in any order you wish, allowing you to battle loads of different players, meaning you won’t get stuck struggling against the same opponent over and again if your deck doesn’t stack up. I was a huge fan of the ‘open world’ style of play – even on a small scale it’s a breath of fresh air; it goes to show that a lot of the gatekeeping that some games do to keep you on track is needlessly restrictive.
While I absolutely love the mechanics of the battles, navigating the game board proves rather fiddly in 2022. Since Card Fighters’ Clash is a straight port from the Neo Geo Pocket Color – resolution and all – there were very few pixels for developers to work with in displaying all of the information about the ongoing game. The cards are about 10×20 pixels when they’re on the table, and so can’t possibly display anything of worth, and this leads to you forever having to use the ‘Search’ function to hover over the cards to double-check all of the characters’ BP and abilities. The small resolution makes text rather tricky too, as the game struggles to fit more than a few words on screen at once which leads to some rather minimalistic rules verbiage that confused me more than once. There’s some other simple quality of life features missing as well, like not having any quick reference about which characters back one another up, and this can be a real click-fest when you’re dealing with characters you’re unfamiliar with.
I know I should review a game for what it is and not what I’d like it to be, but in a perfect world the graphics would be upscaled to make use of the Switch’s improved resolution, allowing a lot more details to be added on screen and making the game significantly faster, and easier, to play.
Anyone seeing the promo art for the game can be forgiven for thinking this is a new game – the cover art has entirely stood the test of time and wouldn’t look a bit out of place had it been an initial release in 2022. Firing up the game it’s age becomes somewhat more apparent, but there’s still a nostalgic charm to the pixel art, which is reminiscent of the early Pokemon games. The character cards are especially charming and capture the likenesses wonderfully, despite being transformed into an adorable chibi style that makes everyone more playful. There’s some really nice artwork for the action cards too, where Capcom were able to have more fun than simply showing the character in a fighting pose.
Perhaps due to cartridge space in the original game being squeezed by all of the lovely visuals, the sound suffers significantly and really dates the game. There are only a few chiptune themes that play on a repeated loop, and after 30 minutes or so you’ll be entirely sick of them. This didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the game though, as I could happily listen to a podcast or earwig at the TV while I was playing, with the sound not being required to play the game at all.
All of your favourite Capcom and SNK characters are represented (assuming they existed pre-1999 when the game was made!), and particularly noteworthy characters might have two or three different iterations with slightly different power levels and abilities. It might be the inherent collector in me, but seeing an opponent with a card that I wanted just made me keen to play more of the game in order to add it to my collection – and with 300 individual cards to collect, there’s plenty to work towards.
Card Fighters’ Clash originally released as two separate games, with an SNK and a Capcom version (a la Pokemon Red and Blue), this re-release does away with all that and allows players access to both games in the same purchase, which feels like absolutely the right thing to do in 2022. Handily, you can trade cards between the two versions of the game, which allows you to more easily collect all 300 cards, but I was sad to see that no online features had been added, meaning that you’re really only reshuffling two collections into one, rather than doing any meaningful card trades with other players. Again, I appreciate that this is a port and not a remake, but it feels like an online trade feature would be a common sense amendment to carry over the original trade mechanic into a new century.
While you can’t play or trade cards online, there is a very fun local multiplayer mode, allowing players to sit opposite one another and have the Switch screen act as the table in between them. It’s a little fiddly and likely not the best way to enjoy the game, but is undoubtedly a lovely idea that hammers home the card game style and encourages the old fashioned competitiveness of looking your opponent in the eye while you play.
A wonderfully simple game with just enough complexity to make it incredibly addictive, SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters’ Clash is a nostalgic blast from the past that’s as fun to play today as it was 20 years ago. The playful art style and masterful pixel art really bring your favourite characters to life, and completionists will get a tonne of playtime out of the ‘collect them all’ aspect of the game. With some slightly better sound, a few modern quality of life improvements, and some online features, this game would be almost perfect. (Please SNK and Capcom, I’m begging you to do a full remake/remaster of Card Fighters’ Clash – I need a Mr X card for my Resident Evil deck!)
In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.