In retrospect, it’s odd how fascinated I used to be with seeing a character appear in another character’s game.
I was thrilled when I saw Mario and Link in Donkey Kong Country 2. They were rendered in CG! Alongside Sonic’s shoes! They just kind of stood there, but still. Fighters Megamix was like Christmas morning. Mortal Kombat characters in NBA Jam marked everything great about loose licensing standards. Smash Bros. — even in those early days when it was just Nintendo characters — seemed almost scandalous.
Crossovers and guest characters made games feel alive, like there was this alternate universe where Sonic and Mario hung out in their down time. That sort of thing is everywhere now, from Fortnite to Smash Bros. to your indie game or metaverse of choice. But in the ‘90s, it felt like breaking news whenever game companies decided to open their borders.
And there were no two companies I followed closer in those days than Capcom and SNK. Yet there had been a clear rivalry there, shown in marketing materials and in-game references like Capcom seemingly making fun of SNK characters when designing Street Fighter Alpha hidden character Dan. So it didn’t realistically seem like we’d see those two team up, and it was pretty surprising when they did.
In 1999, SNK kicked off the partnership with Neo Geo Pocket Color card game SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash. I remember being kind of confused at first as to why SNK was taking all its fighting game characters and throwing them into a card game. On the surface, Capcom’s take — arcade fighting game Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000 — made more sense. SNK’s take felt like the table scraps it got for not having as strong a negotiating hand.
Whether or not that was true, SNK got its game out first, and thus got $40 out of my pocket. Despite not caring much about card games, I played and played. I loved the extensive character list and background details and Easter eggs. People tell me it was a decent card game, but I don’t have much memory of that. I was there for the IP, and it scratched that itch almost perfectly.
A couple days ago, SNK re-released the game on Switch, and almost immediately it started to scratch that itch again. It hits differently now, since the appeal today is less about having your mind blown by the crossover and more about nostalgia for the game itself. And the Switch port doesn’t have the same split-version concept or local multiplayer features of the original. And it’s not hard to come by games using Capcom’s and SNK’s IP at this point.
But as a snapshot of those early crossover days, wrapped around what turns out is a pretty solid card game, we’ve got something special here. It also marks the second Switch port of SNK’s crossover games, leading many to wonder if this could open the door for Capcom to port its Capcom vs. SNK fighting games to modern consoles next.