Capcom Fighting Evolution was released as Capcom Fighting Jam in Japan, and while the differences in titling may seem subtle, "Jam" is a more accurate descriptor than "Evolution." That's because Capcom Fighting Evolution isn't an evolution at all, but a "what-if" style fighting game that brings together 23 characters from five select games in Capcom's massive library.
The full roster includes:
The problem here isn't necessarily that there are only 23 different characters to pick from. Sure, a DVD can hold a ton of data (and this disc is by no means full), but most good fighting games seem to be able to make do with anywhere between 16 and 25 playable characters. In fact, if your shelves aren't already packed to the gills with classics like Street Fighter III and Capcom VS SNK 2, you likely won't have any complaints with the roster of characters included in Capcom Fighting Evolution. However, anyone that owns and has played the heck out of any of the games listed above is most certainly going to have a beef with the choice of characters Capcom has opted to put into this so-called new game.
Blanka, Dahlsim, and Cammy are notoriously absent from the Super Street Fighter II team, as is Ken, the blond white-boy variant of Ryu that many of us blond white-boys like to play. It's pretty disappointing that the Alpha 3 and Street Fighter III teams don't feature Rolento, Dudley, or Hugo, even though Capcom did do right to include Sakura, Guy, Chun Li, and Urien. The Darkstalkers III team got shafted the most. Demitri, Felicia, Jedah, and Anakaris certainly are four of the game's most recognizable characters, but that doesn't make up for the absence of characters like Baby Bonny Hood (demented Red-Riding Hood) or John Talbain (the wolf man), and it doesn't explain why Morrigan (the hot vampire) was left out of the game, seeing as how her sprite has been re-used so often in other games that it makes Paris Hilton seem obscure.
The characters have all of the same attacks and super moves that they did in the games they were taken from, and, for the most part, the character sprites and animations are identical as well.
Sticking with the old move sets is a good thing since doing so guarantees that fans of a particular game will already know how to play its characters, but the choice to go this route also causes a few problems in terms of overall game balance. The Darkstalkers characters have twice as many moves as any of the other characters, especially with regard to air attacks, and their EX and super attacks build up quickly, which gives them a potent one-two that the rest of the roster doesn't have. Conversely, the characters swiped from Red Earth have the fewest air attacks and supers of the entire cast, which puts them at a disadvantage. Somewhere in the middle lie the teams from the various Street Fighter games. You can overcome many of these innate advantages and disadvantages over time by mastering a character and figuring out what defensive moves to use in certain situations, but it's kind of a let-down that Capcom didn't even try to balance the game more by giving characters new moves or toning down particularly overpowered attacks.
Despite the mismatches in the character line-up, this is an easy game to just dive right into and play. Matches are one-on-one, but you can take two characters into each fight. After each round, you have the option of sticking with the character you're already playing or swapping to the alternate character you picked. Capcom used its classic six-button setup for punches and kicks, throws are performed by pressing punch+kick simultaneously, and special attacks are typically done by performing quarter and half circle motions on the d-pad or analog sticks and pressing a button. Every character has one or two quick combos that can be done by performing a specific combination of punches and kicks, as well as deeper combos that involve the inclusion of special attacks and supers. If you've played any of these characters in the past, you already know all of these combinations, and if you haven't, they're easy enough to learn by reading one of the many FAQs available online.
Personally, while I like the concept of cramming multiple characters from various franchies together into a single game, the execution of the concept in Capcom Fighting Evolution falls flat. One reason for that, as alluded to above, is that Capcom didn't bother to give the characters any new moves. The skill sets for the Super SF2 and Red Earth characters, in particular, seem stale, especially once you go up against Jedah or Pyron and wish Zangief or Leo had some sort of instant counter or combo-break to deal with the comparatively "cheap" attacks that those Darkstalkers characters have.
Further contributing to the game's lackluster-ness is the choice on Capcom's part to put together the graphics and audio using a combination of old and new elements. For the most part, the character sprites were ripped directly out of older games and not retouched. This is the same lo-rez character artwork we saw when games like Super Street Fighter II Turbo and Darkstalkers III were originally released. Problem is, the backgrounds are entirely new and drawn in a higher resolution than the character sprites. It's very distracting to notice the jagged outlines around the characters and the giant pixels forming some of their features, when the backgrounds (by contrast) have smooth lines and sharp features. The new backgrounds are fairly good looking, however, and it's especially nice to see familiar characters like Sagat, Dahlsim, and Sasquatch hanging out watching the fights, even if they're not actually playable in the game.
The audio bears out the same. Capcom obtained all of the voice effects and sound effects for the characters from the original games they came from, but composed new music and recorded a new announcer to oversee the action. How you feel about the new music will depend on what you think about the idea of Asian and tribal drums mixed together with heavy rock riffs.
You can unlock each character's original theme music by beating the game with them. Unfortunately, those classic themes are only available in the sound test menu and can't be set to play throughout the game. That's also the game's only real bonus feature too. There are no online features whatsoever, and Capcom didn't even bother to include an RPG-style character building mode (as in Street Fighter Alpha 3) or a style editor (as in Capcom VS SNK 2). The three play modes include arcade, versus, and training. That's the long and the short of the game's modes and extras.
Capcom Fighting Evolution certainly isn't the worst 2D fighting game ever made, but when you take into account the lack of effort on Capcom's part, the number of fan-favorite fighters that didn't make it onto the roster, and the complete lack of any sort of character building or online play features, it's tough to recommend this game to anybody. It's $30 and it's OK–which is hardly a ringing endorsement seeing as how Capcom VS SNK 2 has been on the market for 3 years now and is vastly superior to this "newer" title.