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Been thinking about this game lately, and I haven't done an informal bullet-point review in a minute so lemme ramble for a bit will you? :3
-By this point, the myth of "honest footsies" ever existing in isolation has been debunked wholesale across the genre, but CvS2, particularly at the mid-level (which I would (generously) say I occupy), is far and away the most tempered, neutral-focused 2D game I can think of (aside from SamSho IG but that's cheating!!). You can point towards roll cancels and A-groove combos all you want but the vast majority of what I do here are the things that people who earnestly believe "combos are the worst part of fighting games" dream of. Couple this with the notably low damage output and the longer-than-life-itself timer per round and this game might honestly be so straight-laced that the weak-willed in the audience will be frantically checking their pockets for keys to jingle, lol.
(why this game was played in like FT5s back in the day will forever elude me, who the FUCK made that decision)
-Between the timing windows and lack of input buffer, the gulf that separates easily predictable combo situations like jump-ins and the tougher stuff like maximizing damage via normal links (1-2F links Everywhere) is So Wide that in casual/semi-pro play you're much more likely to submit and rely on the fundamentalzz, keeping your relationship with the game in a semi-permanent "pretty good but still learning" stasis. Reminds me a lot of SFIV and newer FG fans' relationship to that game, but unlike that game there are far fewer archetypes here whose express purposes are to skip that part of the game and break it down into 50/50s or wakeup gambles. Which is good! I think!
-it's one of those things that's almost too obvious to speak to, but the fact that this game has 6 interchangeable game systems that communicate between each other and is somehow not fucked beyond repair in practice is an outrageous badge for an FG to be able to wear. There are clear lines between each one's applicability, but aside from mmmmaybe P-groove I wouldn't dissuade anyone from following their hearts if asked (and it's not even that P is bad necessarily, just much harder to excel with given that parrying, which is already hard, is correctly assumed by Capcom to be powerful enough to quarantine in its own groove).
-That said, groove choice is a substantial decision in this game with consequences, which is once again something that sounds too obvious to state but for whatever reason people are surprised that this game's meta is as messy as it is despite there being like 300 choices to make, nevermind team comp bringing this number up by several factors. I wouldn't say this game's team comp is quite as iconic and impressive as MvC, but between the groove and ratios you have a lot to chew on and IMO!! it's more enjoyable on its surface how you approach it here considering in Marvel it defines basically every choice you make going forward. FAR less strategically rewarding admittedly but being a Marvel player is a disease I have yet to contract in my lifetime so forgive me for the preference.
-CvS2 gets shit for the mismatched sprites and, yes, Morrigan's VSav look doesn't make a lick of sense here, but I think the SNK sprites that Capcom cooked up for this game and the one before it are underrated as hell. Everyone on that side of the roster looks fantastic, and the low-contrast coloring that Capcom's fighting games are known for fit SNK characters far better than the reverse seen in SvC Chaos (though I do like the look of that game in a perverse kinda way). The only aesthetic drawback this game has beyond the sprites is that the spontaneous and stylish stages from CvS1 have few equals here. But everything else clears, we love the yellow diamonds here at FM Towns Party.
-I find it hard to pin down a "favorite" fighting game, as the circumstances for liking them are so out of my hands. Like yeah, I love Tekken 3-5 dearly and always have, but unless Namco suddenly becomes very cool and implements (good) netcode into those games, I can't imagine I'm playing folks with any regularity soon. 3S is sort of a mirror reflection of that: while there are plenty things unique to 3S that grind against me as a long-form game to play, it's also trivially easy to play with people in comparison, and even in more casual settings it seems like many are enamored enough to at least take it for a spin. Outside of my newest fling SF6, which has been a miracle worker of sorts in these regards, CvS2 might be the game that threads all those needles the best.
I usually don't think about rewriting things on here, but my prior HC3 review is currently the most liked one on this page and, Unfortunately, one that I have a deep embarrassment towards. Not that I didn't speak my truth, but lots of time has passed since my first interaction with the game, and my words on it were much more of a riposte of the thought-cyclone the game left me with than anything, like, substantial. And frankly, the feeling I get when I receive a notif about it, that someone assumes I still ride with those thoughts is - boy, no wonder I gave this shit a 5 - enough to coax a second try out of me. After all, as I said in my old review, to confine it to one conclusion would do it a disservice (though now I mean that in a more direct way than I ever did before, lol).
As far as more formal things go (character depth, conciseness, visual splendor) it could be argued that etherane has outdone HellChar 3 a few times by now, but to be honest, the more I sit with it, the more I think the circumstance of Hello Charlotte as a series is a worthwhile feature more than any kind of problem. Playing HC1 and casting it off as a study of RPGMaker more than a developed game in and of itself feels almost necessary to eventually get to the part where HC3 throttles some purple and blue into your cheeks. To put it more directly: even if I didn't see myself in it (which I do), I still think it's incredibly worthwhile to see this rare glimpse into the game creator's artistic trajectory.
What makes this game part of that trajectory, let alone the extremum of it? Well, with all its internet-coded self-reflection, the nihilistic lashouts at just about every aspect of the game as an object/piece of entertainment, the audience as a collective entity (crucially, the audience of people who were there at the time of HC3's release, who played HC2 and asked, "please may I have some more"), and the ensuing story as the byproduct of an intellectually and emotionally laborious creative process. It works through that initial stage of self-awareness games this metafictionally occupied have and into a world of razor-thin separations between idea and story. And none of this is strictly contemptuous, but etherane does not mince words and speaks to certain things so directly that the aforementioned separation of fiction is liable to break down, if only for a moment. (I believe the less-nice way of saying this is "preachy", but stick with me)
Hello Charlotte always has been very artificial as a fiction, but here its worldstate is so rebellious that it's a wonder any coherency occurs. Though, I will say, the conceptualization of creator and creation here (remember who and where you are at all times in the story) is perhaps more vital and centers more than that explanation leads on, and there's a layer of, for lack of a better term, knowing bratiness that IS SO IMPORTANT TO INTERNALIZE by the end or else you'd just fuckin' hate this shit. But, even then, these things are likely to someone's distaste (understandably so) given how brash and just straight up trying it all can be at the best of moments.
BUT, that's the thing, and I'm gonna just come out and say it, HC3's rigor and vulnerability remain unmatched in the space of games, even in the rolling wake of personal games or w/e tag you'd ascribe to them. It has a pinpoint line of sight to the core of tumblr's now-ruinous identity and truth politics and proceeds to shred the Earth's mantle to get there. You could not make this up if you tried - etherane shoveled the trenches of that distinct blog-era mental-to-digital-to-mental anguish and isolation, and the dirt and clay, cracking in the fiery kiln, forms this completely unstable work that cannot be any less angry or confused than it is, lest it fail to... be itself. But it succeeds, and I am so fucking thankful that someone out there spoke to it with such bare intentions, because it's a cultural aftershock that affected me and continues to affect me on multiple levels - I reckon this is at least partially why the game gets such a strong response years after its initial release, because it's prodding the tender points of a life so common among its demographic but also one that's, from my own experience, hard to come to terms with. I've seen some people struggle to understand or even outright despise this game for this, but in my case, there's no way, man. This game got it.
ALSO sneak-attack Heaven's Gate review because I finally played it: so much more than the AU tag gives it credit for, at least in the sense that it doesn't feel at all out of step with anything else in the series. I mean, rigid fiction HellChar is not, so what's a couple of smudged details to stop you from feeling out Charles, Anri, and Vincent as a graduating class? It pretty much sledgehammers the layers of abstraction left in HC and becomes unfettered conversations with these ideologues that the True Realm characters have assumed the roles of. Despite that, though, it's maybe the most natural dialogue of the series and every conversation with these three ends up being just SO emotionally fulfilling and a great treat for those who already liked the sprite versions of them. I guess that is etherane's twisted idea of an AU? God, please miss, just once.
Incredible in many ways, and I mean that sincerely despite my rating. A bit fuckin' befuddling that a game released in '93 existed that was anywhere near this level of focused and austere (there's literally a single-digit list of games I can think of off the top of my head to call seniors of this). The cacophonous polyrhythms of the industrial soundtrack mixed with the mind-puttying repetition and paranoiac structure to be genuinely as sharp as things that'd arrive Years afterwards (I'm insufferable so Grasshopper's work came to mind. But there's other things, too!!)
However, I didn't find myself engaged in the substance beyond that, unfortunately. There's a through-line of religious allusions, child apparitions, and increasingly bizarre spaces that don't really meld into anything coherently (or incoherently, for that matter) interesting. At the risk of sounding like a philistine, I'm not sure that I even think this game is really trying to be "about" anything in the traditional narrative sense? It's a clever adventure game inversion released in an era that lends it an UBER-evocativeness... sort of perfectly uncanny the whole way down. But, man, it's a bit too slight and unlasting to really be more than a virtual tchotchke. A very, very well crafted one - but one nonetheless.