3D Vs 2D, Capcom Vs SNK, Street Fighter IV Vs The King of Fighters XII

February 23rd, 2008

capcom vs snk

A Brief History Lesson

Back in the 90s Capcom’s legendary Street Fighter series and SNK’s also legendary King of Fighters series were two of the best 2D fighters on the console and arcade scene. Street Fighter 2 set the standard for 2D fighters to come and for a long time was the copy and paste formula used for all developers when making 2D fighters. One of these developers which were known for this was SNK whom borrowed heavily from Capcom’s winning formula on several occasions. SNK managed to crave its own niche into the genre with it’s 3 on 3 fighter, best of the rest, The King of Fighters for the Arcade and NeoGeo CD.

For many years in the 90s these two franchises stood toe to toe with each other, dividing the fighting community with each game’s own unique style. The two developers noticed the divide and agreed on working together to build the Capcom Vs SNK fighting series. Which eventually resulted in 3 titles; Capcom Vs SNK, Capcom Vs SNK 2 and SVC Chaos.

Since the mark of the millennium (did you catch that one) this long rivalry slowly began to fade away. The dying down of the arcade scene and the lack of a new Street Fighter title in recent years has almost killed this fascinating rivalry. That was until now.

Recent Developments

fatal furyBack in December I posted about the first Street Fighter 4 screenshot. One which finally revealed the real direction that the series was indeed taking. Abandoning Street Fighter’s faithful 2D sprite heritage Capcom decided to make Street Fighter 4 a three dimensional fighter.

I’d like to say something like “this divided long time series fans” but to be fair I don’t really follow the fighting community so I’m not really sure if it did. But I think that it would be safe enough to assume that a few people were upset. As much as some may deny it the 3D character models do totally change the gameplay completely. Thats not to say that Street Fighter 4 won’t feel like the previous games of the series (judging by impressions of the game so far it does actually feel like a tribute to SF2).

I’m getting of track here. With the prior announcement of a high definition remake of the original Street Fighter 2 the gaming community were expecting Street Fighter 4 to go down the same route. But it didn’t and for a lot of people this would have hurt pretty badly (I know it did for me). It would have been incredible to see how Capcom’s sprite work would have translated into gorgeous, detailed, smooth scrolling and animating HD sprites. True high definition sprite work for many traditional/old school/purist gamers is something of a dream, a dream which we may have considered never coming true.

I say may because this is where SNK and their King of Fighters come in. Just recently at the AOU convention in Japan, off screen media was leaked of gameplay video of the new game (KOF XII) for Taito’s Type X2 arcade platform. You can watch the video below or read a fantastic breakdown from Arcade Renaissance here.

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Although this is off screen video it already paints a picture of exactly what to expect. That is the dream has come true; high definition, ultra smooth 2D sprites. I must say it simply looks fantastic, doesn’t it? I mean imagine what it would look like on screen.

I’m excited and so I should be. SNK have made a very bold move here and have thrown down the gauntlet. They have done something usually reserved for long time rivals; Capcom. The pure quality of sprite work and animation seen in the video are simply firsts in it’s field. Look at the crowd scene in the fight between Kyo and Ash. The subtle effects look fantastic too.

In reality SNK aren’t really taking much of a risk as they are just upgrading the same fighting game that they have been upgrading for the last 14 years. What they are doing though is saying: “Hey all of you Street Fighter fans whom wanted a HD 2D Street Fighter 4. Why don’t you come here and take a look?”. SNK are doing a Capcom and it is putting themselves in an advantageous situation.

The Real Significance of The Rivalry

I hope that you have caught my drift here. Street Fighter 4 and King of Fighter XII represent much more than just two old foes, going at it once again. What it represents is 2D sprites Vs 3D models and how 2D sprites, much like the arcades that birthed them are dying a slow death. There are two examples which best highlight this point:

The Lack of Higher Definition Sprite Games Last Generation

Last generation there is only one game series which I can distinctively remember which fully utilized 480 resolution sprites and that is the Guilty Gear series. I really can’t think of anything else and if there is anything that I have missed then leave me a comment because I would like to know.

street fighter crewThere were definitely sprite games like Ys, Street Fighter Anniversary and King of Fighters XI. But these games either weren’t 480 resolution, only occasionally used sprites or were upscaled and smoothed sprites.

The Complete Lack of Interest in HD Sprites by Game Developers

I’m surprised that it has taken this long for high definition 2D sprites to actually get this sort of attention. You’d think that with Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Store that developers would be keen to fix up and perfect their previous games. Obviously not. I guess that the previous point explains why this is the case.

The Real Significance of The Rivalry (Continued)

Capcom’s decision to abandon sprites with Street Fighter IV symbolizes this changing trend and SNK are literally fighting to keep 2D sprite work alive. The ‘traditionalists’ if you will. Capcom haven’t abandoned sprites altogether though, there is of course Street Fighter 2 HD Remix and Sengoku Basara X. But it definitely looks as though they are following the downward decline of sprite games.


The respective 3D and 2D graphical decisions from Capcom and SNK for their major fighting franchises ramps this rivalry up to a whole new level. Not only is it a resurrection of two fighting greats returning to form but it is also a battle between modern and traditionalist views. One of which I believe will significantly shake up the fighting genre for a long time. The release of these two games will be an iconic, landmark event for the industry. One which SNK have the strong possibility gaining of larger market share of the fighting scene. But to do that they are going to need to out smart one of the industry’s sharpest sons. Best of luck to them. It should be an interesting how this plays out.

  • Mike

    While on the internet, I stumbled onto your article. It was definitely an interesting one. You mentioned modern vs traditionalist views but there is more too it than that. The 2D fighters (i.e. … Street Fighter, King of Fighters, Guilty Gear) have a better game play system than the 3D fighters. If you have access to them, go ahead and play those games (better with a live competitor). Next play a 3D fighter like Tekken 5 or Soul Calibur 3. What do you notice? The visuals on the 3D fighters are better but the game play is not that complicated or intricate. If 3D fighters are going to take over, then their game play must match or surpass that of 2D fighters. If that doesn’t happen, then 2D fighters will be here for many years to come.

  • Although I agree with you, I think that between the two there is no real better or worse just difference. A good arguement can be made to say that games like Soul Calibur are actually more complex with side-stepping, weapon selection and destrucable environments; all things absent from 2D fighters.

    Another point of view is that 2D fighters posses a longer, stronger heritage. A franchise like King of Fighters is blessed with the layers of additional sub-mechanics added on by the 10+ titles released in it’s lifetime.

    Also the two 3D fighters you use as examples are both made by Namco and Namco fighters differ significantly from Capcom/SNK etc.

  • Mike

    I see your point that each has their merit. Personally, I expected more from 3D games than what has been out there. Now, I’ve seen Street Fighter 4 at a local store and was impressed by it. Unfortunately, I was unable to play it! I assume the rivalry will continue on the new gen systems with upgrades to the current games (Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter 3, King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match etc). Let’s hope the game play on these new systems is stellar!

    Now, I just wanted to bring up a few things. When you fight Ken in Street Fighter 2 and get knocked down, sometimes the oil cans break. Also, when you fight Guile and get knocked down, the boxes on the sides can break. Side-stepping was first implemented by King of Fighters. It wasn’t in 3D but has the same effect. The player just rolls under to avoid an attack. Street Fighter used a parry system to deflect attacks in Alpha. This is similar to 3D parrying as well.

    Great discussion!

  • No worries Mike. I’m aware of your points in the second paragraph too, all noteworthy points.

    I’m personally more interested in the new HD sprite based KOF XII and Calamity Trigger. It’s just the gorgeous spritework that hooks me. Whatever the case there is plenty to look forward to playing. Thanks for stopping by. ^_^

  • Mike

    Have not heard of Calamity Trigger but will look into that. When I get a PS3 I’ll probably get both Street Fighter 4 and KOF XII. 🙂 For PS2, I’m waiting for KOF 98 Ultimate Match and Samurai Shodown Anthology. I understand that KOF 2002 Unlimited Match is already out for PS2 Japan but hoping it will be released for North America as well.