Over the weekend, a monthly Capcom vs. SNK 2 tournament at Japan’s Club Sega Shinjuku held a special exhibition between three established competitors. The event had brought these three players together due to the similarities in how they play the game, particularly their use of a specific fighting style that rewards characters for getting hit and getting angry.
Of the old school fighting games that are still popular, Capcom vs. SNK 2 is arguably the most complicated. In addition to selecting a team of three characters from franchises like Street Fighter and King of Fighters, players also must determine which of the six fighting styles, or grooves, they will use. These grooves vary dramatically in the tools they provide competitors. A-Groove, for instance, gives players access to Street Fighter Alpha 3-style custom combos. Meanwhile, K-Groove is the style that revolves around characters reacting to getting hit; it bears similarity to Garou: Mark of the Wolves’s Just Defend mechanic and Samurai Shodown’s Rage meter. This fighting style formed the basis of Saturday night’s exhibition, providing a spectacular look into its complexities.
The three players in the showcase, Bocchan, GAO, and RAI, are all masters of the K-Groove, each with notable wins at events both local and major stretching back years. They were invited to put their skills on display at Club Sega Shinjuku after the monthly Capcom vs. SNK 2 tournament in a lengthy round-robin competition called K-Groove Madness. In this game, different characters excel in different grooves, and this became clear when the players chose the characters for their teams. Where Street Fighter mainstays like Blanka, Cammy, and Sagat—all of whom make up Bocchan’s team—are generally going to be good in just about every groove, K-Groove also allows fighters like The Last Blade’s Hibiki and Fatal Fury’s Geese—used by RAI and GAO, respectively—to compete on a more even playing field.
Capcom vs. SNK 2’s K-Groove revolves around two key tools. Just Defend is almost like a parry in that it gives the defender the opportunity to act quickly out of blockstun and retaliate against their opponent. Furthermore, successful Just Defends give the user a small bit of life back and contribute to the Rage meter. Unlike other grooves, where performing certain offensive actions will build meter, Rage can only be acquired by getting hit and using a proper Just Defend. Once the Rage meter is full, the character immediately enters an angered state during which they deal more (and suffer less) damage.
The existence of the Rage meter can allow for incredible comebacks, but players must balance their characters’ health with the Rage bar in an effort to make the most out of the power-up. As seen in the clips below, matches can turn on a dime as soon as one player fills up the Rage meter, no matter how far that player may have fallen behind in health. Bocchan, GAO, and RAI were all able to take advantage of K-Groove in this way over the course of the exhibition.
This comeback by RAI’s Sagat was one of the most exciting moments of the night, perfectly showcasing the power of the K-Groove toolset.
Capcom vs. SNK 2 occupies the same space as Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike in that they are all beloved, classic fighting games that continue to be played seriously to this day. While they don’t draw stadium-filling crowds, what they bring to the table is still special. The confluence of style and customization has kept players coming back almost two decades later and makes events like last weekend’s K-Groove Madness possible. Give players more ways to express themselves and they will always find a way to do something extraordinary.
Ian Walker loves fighting games and writing about them. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.