Capcom Fighting Evolution (a.k.a. Capcom Fighting Jam in Japan) is the newest entry into the 2D fighter genre of games. It's been over two years since a new fighter has come out of Capcom (Capcom vs. SNK 2 in 2001 was the last we'd heard from them), and the first fully-3D Capcom fighter, Capcom Fighting All-Stars, was canned before it was ever released. Fighting game enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting the next Street Fighter-style game for some time, and when it was announced that CFE would actually come to consoles on U.S. shores first, many reacted with surprise. Traditionally, games are released in Japan months, if not years, in advance of U.S. domestic release, but in this case America beat Japan to the punch.
The premise of Capcom Fighting Evolution (or CFE for short) is to pit challengers from different Capcom fighters against each other in a dream-match type atmosphere. The warriors retain all of the attributes of their respective games. For example, characters from the Street Fighter Alpha series of games have the same "custom combo" system that was present in Street Fighter Alpha 3. Similarly, Darkstalkers characters have powered-up EX versions of all of their moves, and have the ability to "chain" normal attacks together for extended combo strings. Those from the Street Fighter II series have very powerful attacks and "super" arts, but have none of the quick-get-ups or other special abilities from other Street Fighter games. The "parry system" is retained for the cast of Street Fighter III that make it to CFE, and in a strange move, Capcom has also included fighters from Red Earth, the previously unreleased CPS3 fighter, which have an odd kind of "power-up" and "perfect guard" super stocking system similar to that in recent King of Fighters incarnations.
The cast is an interesting mix; after a closer analysis, it appears that each installment features at least one type of fighter. For example, for the Street Fighter II cast, there is the classic Shotokan fighter (Ryu), a charge character (Guile), a grappler (Zangief), and a boss (M. Bison). You'll find a lot of your favorites from each game in CFE, so it pleases all audiences. Capcom also included Ingrid, a new female fighter who has been retained from the previously mentioned cancelled 3D game, Capcom Fighting All-Stars. Her fighting style is more like Athena from the King of Fighters series than anything from Street Fighter. Also hidden within the game is Pyron, the "boss fighter" from the Darkstalkers series, who is also the final opponent in CFE. He becomes unlockable once you defeat him in the single-player arcade mode.
Go for broke
Capcom attempts to equally balance the drastically different styles of play in Capcom Fighting Evolution. For example, Street Fighter II characters deal more damage than the other fighters, to make up for their inability to block attacks in the air, or have a special recovery move. Street Fighter III characters' moves have been toned down a bit damage-wise, but in some cases speed and comboability has been increased. The Darkstalkers take more damage for every hit received to make up for their ability to chain combo, use EX moves, and move significant distances during a get-up animation from the ground. The Street Fighter Alpha cast no longer have their "flip-out" recovery ability from Alpha 3, but still have their quick recovery rolls. Custom combos, however, seem to have slightly different properties, which happens in every game they are present. And Red Earth fighters are, well…Red Earth fighters. Nobody can really say if they are different or toned down, since Red Earth was never released this side of the Pacific.
At first, the premise of CFE is a good one. You can live out some of your most desired dream matches like pitting Alex from Street Fighter III against the SF II version of Zangief. And for the first hour or so, the game is actually pretty fun. Despite the tweaks in damage and speed, it's definitely a blast to pit different genres of fighters against each other in a never-before-possible situation. However, this only lasts for so long.