Capcom Fighting Evolution is seemingly designed to settle the arguments of hardcore gamers: Could Kenji from Red Earth take out M. Bison from Street Fighter II? What about Felicia from Darkstalkers versus Chun-Li from the Street Fighter franchise? All theories can be proved or disproved in Capcom Fighting Evolution, which brings together popular characters from five of Capcom's fighting games: Street Fighter II, III, and Alpha, plus Darkstalkers and Red Earth. Thrown into the mix is a new character, Ingrid, who supposedly comes from a Capcom game that the company never released. The overall premise of Capcom Fighting Evolution is particularly tantalizing for nostalgic purposes, especially for people who spent a lot of time with Street Fighter II on the Super Nintendo system more than a decade ago.

In spite of the graphics, which are almost laughably simple by today's standards, the games have aged well; Capcom Fighting Evolution maintains the addictive charm of the games that comprise it. On top of that, it's just cool to play characters from different games in different backgrounds, e.g., Ryu from Street Fighter taking on Hydron from Red Earth in front of a Red Earth background. It'd also be cool if Capcom just made the old games available for updated platforms (like Nintendo has), but mixing their ingredients this way both satisfies nostalgic urges and offers new challenges.

Beyond the gameplay: The original games obviously had different design elements. When two characters from different games play each other, their respective "super combo gauges" on the bottom of the screen look different.


Worth playing for: The chance to mix and match characters from different games. In arcade mode, you pick two characters for your team and fight them individually against two computer-chosen opponents. There's also a training mode (where you can attempt to master the characters' maddening special moves), two-player versus mode, and Xbox Live mode, where you can fight people online.

Frustration sets in when: Attempts to pull off the characters' complicated special moves fail. They look cool, but they can be the downfall of these and similar games because completing them can be so difficult. The training mode helps, but casual players will most likely mash a bunch of buttons and hope for the best.

Final judgment: Even though fighting games have come a long way graphically since games like Street Fighter II ruled the landscape, they pretty much remain the same at their core. That explains why the source games in Capcom Fighting Evolution have aged well, and why it's so enjoyable. Capcom's clever idea pays off.