After covering the best 2D games for the PS2 and Gamecube, it is now time to look at the XBox’s Modern 2D library. Overall, the selection is a more limited than the PS2 and even the Gamecube in terms of variety, but there is a decent selection of fighters and run-and-guns if you are into those.
Because there are a number of excellent 2D games for this system, I’m making a cut-off point of 1998 as the earliest year of original release for a game to included in this list of “modern” 2D games. This allows games like Street Fighter 3 from the Street Fighter Anniversary Collection to be included, while keeping this list from being filled with countless compilations and ports. Also keep in mind that not all of them use old-school sprites or hand-drawn art. Some of them actually use 3D graphics for all of the visuals, but keep the gameplay in a 2D perspective.
Instead of stressing myself out trying to writeup a summary of each of these games, I’m citing some quotes from my favorite reviews of each of the featured games. I invite you to click on the review link to read the full reviews for the games that grab your attention. Enjoy!
Run N Gun
Metal Slug 3
“Metal Slug 3 is classic 2D side-scrolling gaming at it finest. The missions are relatively short since the goal was to squeeze as many quarters out of gamers in the shortest possible time, but the included gameplay missions makes up for this. SNK handled the Metal Slug 3 arcade port perfect in nearly every way. Impressive to us was the fact that they realized the importance of adding additional features and functionality to the original arcade version. Only hardcore Neo Geo fans would fork over $40 for an original coin-op port that could be beaten in less than an hour. SNK included extra missions that shy away from the normal gameplay, Live functionality, and different difficulty levels which help increase replayability and bang-for-the-buck. Also consider yourself lucky since gamers were shelling out $150 for Metal Slug carts back in the day if they had a Neo Geo, and without any special features.
The gameplay from the arcade mission is marvelous for its genre since it tackles the normal shooter with a hilarious and interesting twist. For instance, the undead make an appearance in the second level and have the ability of infecting the PC’s with their zombie-like state. Player characters turn into zombies, barely able to hold their weapon and only able to jump about an inch off of the ground, for fear that a limb might break off. Gamers can continue as a zombie, impervious to Morden’s infantrymen, or the can seek a vial that will turn them back to human form. Scenarios such as this make for a very interesting game which usually leaves gamers begging for more after zipping through the five short levels. Each mission has huge end-of-level bosses which border on the bizarre- a trademark to the Metal Slug franchise. The controls are perfectly converted to the Xbox; playing with the X-Arcade stick may have you reaching down looking for the coin slot – it’s that good. Fans of any 80’s/90’s style 2D shooter will be overjoyed after playing the best that the older Japanese arcades had to offer.”
TeamXBox’s Review of Metal Slug 3
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Alien Hominid (PAL Only)
“Hominid makes a compulsive and charismatic star, the very best quality of sociopathic teenager’s notebook margin-scrawlings brought into technicolour life. He shoots people, and they die in a splendidly bloody fashion. Fire the red laser beams and slice your targets in half, slumping messily to the side like a prime side of beef. A blast of the freeze-ray and reduce those who dare try and prevent you leaving the Earth into statues to shatter. A flamethrower either reduces them to an embarrassed cinder or sets them running about in an understandable panic. Yes, they’re standard weapons you may expect to see in any arcade game. And, yes, the results are almost as unimaginative. However, the execution is cartoon-perfect and ripe with charm.
In addition to these standards, they’ve given the little chap an expanded, demented action set too. Time a jump right and you can grab hold of people’s heads, then either lift them from the floor to lob at the opposition or bite their bonce clear off, to the horror of their nearby friends. Less dramatically, a forward roll allows you to nip beneath an incoming bullet. As a defensive measure, the Hominid can burrow into the ground where he’s invulnerable. His stay is only limited by the amount of time his lungs can hold out, but until then he can grab passers-bys down with him. Oh yes – and if he fires close up, he dispatches foe with a knife-slash rather than a laser. Add an R-type-styled energy-build-up-blast, and you’ve got an amusing arsenal to unleash..”
Eurogamer’s Review of Alien Hominid
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Shikigami No Shiro II / Castle of Shikigami 2
“So what makes Castle Shikigami 2 so good? In most respects, it’s just a run of the mill shooter. But what it does, it does well. Enemies large and small fly on screen and your job is to dodge their bullets and blow them up. There are seven different characters to pick from. Each has a unique standard shot as well as two optional charge shots (you can select one). Tapping the fire button unleashes the standard shot attack, while holding the button activates the charge shot, which the game refers to as a “Shikigami.” Shikigami attacks can often home in on and lock onto enemies, but the downside is that they very often leave you unprotected from excess enemies, as well as the soft bullets that your normal weapon can simply neutralize. Like any good shmup, you can also unleash a “bomb” by pressing the X button.
And so it goes, for ten levels or until you expend 3 lives and 3 continues. In each level, you’ll fly up the screen dodging bullets and shooting minor enemies until you reach a mid-boss. Then you’ll do it again to reach the level-boss. Bosses tend to have multiple forms and transformations, which is always a bonus. They’re also psychotically well armed. In the vast pantheon of shooters, this one falls into the “bullet hell” category… which means that the screen is constantly packed with bullets and lasers…
The ride is certainly pleasing to the senses. At first glance, Castle Shikigami 2 looks like any other old school vertical scrolling shmup–with ship sprites and bullets overlaid over scrolling backdrops. Look closer though and you’ll see that those cities and forests aren’t hand drawn, but are instead photorealistic concoctions made from polygons and high-resolution image elements. You’ll also notice a free flowing river in one level, and moving car traffic on a freeway in another. Meanwhile, the ship sprites and bullets are made out of 2D and 3D elements, but the kicker there is that they’re also highly animated. Your own character’s arms and legs will kick out and sway as you shoot and fly around, and enemies will twirl around and show off their little flaps and engines as they try and catch up with you. There’s some slow down here and there, but that’s understandable given how many bullets are often on screen. Not bad for a 3D shooter designed for old Naomi/Dreamcast hardware.”
PSXextreme’s Review of Shikigami No Shiro II (PS2)
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Psyvariar II: The Will to Fabricate (Japan Only)
“The game has a striking resemblance to Ikaruga. The mix of metallic enemies and some soothing backdrops mixes really well. The combinations of stages in space and on earth adds to the mix, from light blue of sky and oceans of the earth to the blackness of space. The color of bullets from enemies and your mech, work well. Blues, Purples, Pinks, and Greens fell the screen and it seems that you know were they are at all times. The Lighting on your ship is draw great, every time you perform a buzz (a 1/4 circle on your d-pad), a pink halo forms around your ship, and when you hit an enemy while in a buzz, you’ll shoot lightning. Even when your not buzzing you have a mellow colored halo around you ship. Awesome, more one that later. The explosions were created very nice, it seems that you can count the flames of each explosion as they fly off. Bombs are very bright and well rendered. The cut-scene for the level 2 boss was just awesome.
Learning Curve is about an 15 min ride. There are 2 selectable characters. The women named Kei ,21, agile and more suited for just shooting. Then we had a man called Yuhei ,21, slow and best for the buzzing ability. At least that’s what the game said, I find it to be the other way around. I had to get used to dodging the bullets by buzzing. Buzzing is a great ability but it can get you killed really quick. Buzzing is an ability to dodge your mech, any direction, and doing so cause you to become some what godlike and allows your mech to spin. Doing so causes you to shoot a curly-looking pink bullet barrage and you will still keep spinning as long as you keep dodging. If you hit an enemy, lightning will shot out and strike some enemies down. The more you hit while buzzing the farther the lightning goes and the points rise and your level gage rises. When this gauge maxes out, you are awarded a brief period of invincibility while you “level up”, which can be used to quickly refill the gauge or to escape from a tight spot. The gauge fills up in two ways: shooting enemies and Buzzing. To do this ability you got to keep making quarter circles (up to left, up to right, down to left, and down to right) and I found that just doing circles can help too. You could also go threw stages by just buzzing your way threw except boss fights, your going to have to shoot ’em or bomb ’em. Your best bet would be your Analog stick and not the Joypad, I’ve found it hard to keep doing circles on the D-pad. The buzz ability can be used on the same bullet multiple times, but you got to keep quarter circling. You gain experience and new power as your level increases, and your level of power will retain even if your machine is destroyed. Now that feature is great to complete the game. Very Frustrating at times, seems to be all timing (Ikaruga hint-hint). Also, the Buzz count has a lot to do with the strength of you super attack. The Super attack looks like you mech just used an atomic bomb on its self. Not very good range, effective on bosses though. Just hug and nuke’em. You’ll start each stage with 3 bombs and 3 only, you can’t get more. The game is like Giga-Wing, unlimited continues. The buzz factor “science” was the one thing that takes a while to get used to and master. ”
SHMUPS! Review of Psyvariar II
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Shikigami No Shiro (eBay)
Street Fighter Anniversary Collection
“There’s a whole lot to like graphically in the Street Fighter Anniversary Collection on top of the nice anime DVD that has been burned onto the game disc’s surface. Hyper Street Fighter II looks like any other coin-op version of the franchise mainly because it’s comprised of past ROM’s that graced the arcades. The port appears to be perfectly executed and the additional code necessary to make all of these characters work together in matches does not interrupt the visuals in any strange way. Capcom knew their limitations on a project such as this, shunning the idea of backwards compatibility with characters in exchange for a smooth, beautiful looking homage to one of the best fighting game franchises of all time.
Street Fighter III: Third Strike shows how the sprite-based graphics of series two have evolved. The style is a bit more rugged and realistic, possessing a finer resolution which aids in the detailing of the intricate new characters. Animations are more plentiful, helping the new hit detection system to its thing while at the same time helping to convey a much more mature project. Backgrounds are as creative as previous versions of the series but there’s a higher level of detail, that similar to the Marvel Vs. titles.
The Street Fighter series shows off a believable progression, from the original to the Street Fighter II series, and now in Third Strike (there were a few other SF III’s before Third Strike that acted as a foundation for this title). Third Strike is one of the few late, great 2D fighters tied firmly to its arcade roots, and it’s great to have it as a part of this anniversary collection.”
Team XBox’s Review of Street Fighter Anniversary Collection
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Guilty Gear 2X #Reload
“The curse of 2D fighters is that they look pretty simple on the surface. Casual gamers come to a 2D fighter expecting to get away with fireball moves and button mashing. But if you arrive at GGX2 with that same attitude, you’re going to run into trouble. Sure, anyone can pick up Guilty Gear and smash some buttons and probably win a few matches, but those folks will be missing out on the hidden depths of GGX2.
The HUD features four different meters. The biggest and most obvious is your health meter, which operates as you’d expect, depleting with each hit until you bottom out at zero and get KO’d. Next there’s the Burst Gauge. This meter fills as you deal damage or take it throughout a match and actually carries over between rounds. The Burst gauge can be used either as a defensive combo buster that knocks your opponent backwards or as an offensive attack that not only hurts your opponent but instant fills your Tension Gauge.
Speaking of the Tension Gauge, this meter also fills as you take hits, deliver damage, and whenever you move towards your enemy. It’s there to reward aggression. Tension allows for a variety of different moves including the ever-popular and eye-catching Instant Kills, tension attacks, and Roman cancels (a way of canceling any recovery time for a move and allowing for an immediate attack).
The Instant Kills are a source of contention, in a way. For all of the jousting, combos, and blocking, you can always enter Instant Kill mode and try for the one-shot win. Should you miss (and it is easy to miss or be blocked), your tension bar disappears for the rest of the round, which will severely limit your fighting options. It’s a gamble, but if you are about to die, it’s one you might as well take. While the Instant Kills offer up very creative endings that are actually more enjoyable than most of Mortal Kombat’s fatalities, some will find them to be a bit cheap. Fortunately, you can turn to choose these off. I like Instant Kills for the single-player game, but it is a little cheap for multiplayer.
The final meter is the Guard Gauge. This meter is normally half full. As you block, the meter slowly fills and as you get hit, it decreases. The more empty the gauge, the less damage you take. This creates a strange phenomenon where the last hit of a massive combo does less than a sneaky hit you manage to get in on a heavy blocker. This is, again, to force aggressive play by punishing those who block too much..”
IGN’s Review of Guilty Gear 2X #Reload
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Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO
“As the title implies, this game is a perfect blend of Street Fighter and SNK’s various fighting titles. I have to say I never really liked any of SNK’s offerings as they are very fast-paced butting smashing fests, and later 2D Capcom offerings have been the same. The coolness of the online gameplay is what really dragged me in with CVS2:EO. While if you’ve played any other Capcom or SNK fighting game you’ll be right at home here, the addition of what the game calls “groove” fighting styles adds for an interesting twist or two—or six.
Although the description of the six grooves (C, A, P, S, N, and K—cool, huh?) is a bit vague by definition, one can think of them as stances in, say, Soul Calibur. The first three groove styles—C, A. and P– are more Capcom-suited styles that we’ve seen in Street Fighter, while S, N, and K are very reminiscent of SNK fighting games. What this does is allow both games to retain their unique styles while mixing the characters and other elements of each game together. The major style difference, according to the manual (I can’t really feel much of a difference) is the changing of the “super meters”. Capcom styles have Capcom super meters and SNK styles have SNK super meters.
I spent about an hour trying to find out what EO meant in the title. At first I thought it meant “edition online”—online edition reversed (just because those Japanese are so different), but apparently it means Easy Operation mode, which was first introduced with the GameCube version of Capcom vs. SNK 2. This basically allows gamers to pull off long-chain combos and strings of moves with a simple touch of the right analog stick. This makes the game a lot more fun, especially for less…how do you say, “button mashing” people like myself. I could never remember any combos for more than ten seconds, so this is a nice addition for gamers like myself.
2D fighting fans should be jumping for joy here. Capcom has successfully ported one of their flagship fighting series to the Xbox with added online play. I’m preaching to the choir here—the experience is virtually lag-free, the fighting is fast-paced and exciting, and the EO mode allows even novices to have incredibly tense bouts.”
Team XBox’s Review of Capcom vs SNK 2: EO
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Marvel vs. Capcom 2
“If you’ve ever played a 2D Capcom fighter, you know what you’re getting into: A hell of a good time! Being that Capcom recently released Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO with full online play via Live, it was certainly disheartening to find out that Marvel vs. Capcom 2 would not join its counterpart in the online ring, but the fantastic Capcom fighting style remains nonetheless!
MVC2 features all of your favorite characters from the Capcom world, such as Mega Man, Jill Valentine, and of course, Ryu. On the other end of the spectrum Marvel provides us with what we’ve all dreamed of: controlling Spider-man! Aside from the web-slinger himself, gamers are able to chose favorites like Wolverine and Captain America as well. Now get ready for this one, MVC2 features 24 characters to choose from…. And 32 to unlock! Now, don’t get your calculators out, because I have mine out already. That’s a whopping 56 characters to choose from!
Now with character talk aside let’s dive into the actual game play. MVC2 features a great combat system based on the original Street Fighter games of quarter circles, half circles, full circles, two circles… you get my point! Of course, add to that the hard kick and punch, as well as the light variations of the same two. So old-school gamers, like me, will have no problem picking it up and jumping right in. MVC2 allows each player to select three characters, unlike the original, where gamers were only permitted two. This adds a ton of gameplay to the mix. Aside from tagging, gamers are able to call in their partners to unleash an aiding attack which they select when choosing the character, such as Ground, Air, and Projectile to simply name a few. Additionally, gamers are actually able to perform intense Super Combos which call on all three characters to lay waste to unexpecting foes. These Super Combos are built up via a gauge at the bottom of the screen, as a player deals damage, gives damage or even swings into mid-air.
MVC2 features the classic arcade mode, where players will build up points according to how well they perform. Also MVC2 gives you the choices of: VS Mode, Score Attack, Training Mode, Option Mode, Score Ranking, and Secret Factor. Most modes are just as they sound, The Score Attack mode is a quick jump in challenging the top scores you and friends may achieve. The Score Ranking mode allows you to track stats of the character’s you’ve used and the scores you’ve achieved. I enjoy these statistics because it really gives you a feel of what you’ve done.”
Team XBox’s Review of Marvel vs Capcom 2
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King of Fighters 2002/2003
“For a long time, it seemed as if the King of Fighters existed to please its fans and no one else. Ever since the series began in 1994, the series has only really evolved by tweaking gameplay mechanics and adding or subtracting characters. SNK, perhaps realizing its fanbase wasn’t enough to keep it alive anymore, finally changed up things with The King of Fighters 2003. SNK has released one of the best one-two punches in recent memory with this package – including both King of Fighters 2002, regarded by fans of the series as being one of the best; and KoF 2003, a faster-paced game eager to change up the formula.
The King of Fighters 2003 gives the game a jolt by allowing on-the-fly character switching, much like the Capcom Versus titles. This tag-team gameplay is much faster and more flexible, but keeps the rock solid foundation of the previous games. As a result, it dodges falling into the hyperactive flashiness of the Marvel games. Additionally, one of your three team members can be designated as the “leader” allowing them an additional set of super moves. An entirely new set of 3D backgrounds have also been created for the home console releases. They’re much better than the standard 2D ones, even though they look extremely pixellated unless you turn on the “Soft Focus” option.
The character selection has been paired down a bit from older offerings, removing classic fighters like Andy and Choi. The new characters are freckled-face pretty boy Ash (mostly a Guile ripoff), punk-ish martial artist Shen Woo, and the mysterious Duo Lan, who can disintegrate and materialize at any part of the screen. SNK is also doing a bit more to integrate Mark of the Wolves into the King of Fighters games, as they’ve included badass outlaw Gato and Mexican wrestler Tizoc, as well as outfitting Terry Bogard in his Garou uniform. The game also marks the return of Chizuru (from KoF ’96) and a classic version of Kyo under the moniker Kusanagi.
Even if you’re not a fan of the changes made to 2003, more conservative aficionados will have their fill of King of Fighters 2002. Being the the second “Dream Match” of the series, KoF 2002 collects characters from both recent and classic titles, regardless of the ongoing storyline. In addition to characters from the NESTS saga (K’, K9999, May Lee, Angel, Whip, and Kula), plenty of old faces like the Shermie, Chris, Vice and Mature — and Rugal once again returns as the final boss. Exclusive to the home release are King, Shingo, and perennial Fatal Fury villain Geese Howard. Unless you really miss the Sports Team from ’94, this is one of the best rosters in all of the KoF games, and longtime fans will probably not be disappointed.”
Armchair Empire’s Review of King of Fighters 2002/2003
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Samurai Shodown V
Many gamers may not be familiar with the Samurai Shodown series, as it was the sleeper hit even at its time. This was a 2D fighter which sported an awesome Samurai theme that hooked many gamers worldwide. Samurai Shodown V isn’t widely considered the best of the series (that title often gets put upon Shodown II), as part V added new characters and elements that made the series more wacky, and took some things away from the overall Samurai theme. But the core gameplay is the same, and after many delays, Xboxers new and old can once again experience what the old folks talk about when we think of old-school fighting with Samurai Shodown V…
Allowing players free reign of the gameplay controls is great, which will aid you when it comes to the various combos and gauges that enter play throughout each match. During each fight, players will have varying sets of abilities and attacks at hand to deal out to their foes. Attacks ranging from weak to strong, as well as some kicks and specials are the norm, and are pretty standard issue for each character. There are also weapons thrown into the mix, which, like the characters, range from traditional to just plain wacky. Period Samurai swords are the most effective, but others range clear down to using a dog as an attack.
The aforementioned moves can also be linked into a wide variety of combos, 23 total with 8 being new to this Xbox version, and most can be pulled off with combinations of the D-pad and face buttons. The majority are three to four buttons in length, and are well balanced for experts and new comers alike. After tinkering with various character styles, players are sure to find one that suits their fighting needs, but the learning curve is even throughout most of the fighters. Also during a match, players will need to watch over various gauges, such as the rage gauge, spirit strength, and sword spirit gauge, which will affect the match, such as slowing down time. These effects bring in a new layer to the combat, as well as bringing in some great aesthetic looks to the match.
If I was limited to one word that described Samurai Shodown V, it would have to be unique. From the character designs, to amazingly thematic music, and unique twist on combat, this is a 2D fighting series that may not have gotten the crappy Hollywood movie like some other games in this genre, but it deserved a look then and warrants one now. This is a niche title for a niche audience, but the original arcade experience is available on the Xbox, in addition to some upgrades (some new characters, but most notably Xbox Live support). A package deal with a variety of games from the series would have been a great compilation, but as it stands, fans of this lost era will find their money’s worth in Samurai Shodown V.
Team XBox’s Review of Samurai Shodown V
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Puyo Pop Fever
“If the screenshots look familiar, that’s because Puyo Pop has been around in various incarnations for years and years. The first time I encountered it was actually under the banner of Kirby’s Avalanche on the SNES – basically a re-badged Super Puyo Puyo released with revamped visuals in the USA in order to give it a recognition factor – but you may also have played it on the Neo Geo Pocket Colour, the N-Gage, the Mega-Drive, various Game Boys, the Dreamcast, and plenty more besides.
For better or worse, it’s still largely the same game. For the most part it’s played with two players, at least one human controlled, each trying to form “chains” by rotating and slotting pairs of different coloured blobs into groups of four or more of the same colour as they fall from the top of the screen. Doing so makes said blob groups disappear and dumps “nuisance” blobs on the other player’s screen to upset their efforts. The first person to run out of space loses, either thanks to their opponent’s skill in conjuring chain reactions to fuel larger nuisance dumps, or through their own lack of skill in managing the blobs’ accelerating descent. Chains reactions, by the way, are when one set of blobs disappears allowing those above to join with those below and set off another chain, and mastering chain reactions is absolutely critical to success.
But Puyo Pop Fever obviously has more to it than just vanilla Puyo Pop. For a start there’s the eponymous Fever mode. This basically consists of a sort of power meter that fills up as you build more and more chains – a process accelerated by the use of larger chain reactions – until you’re flipped into a sequence of pre-arranged screens and tasked with slotting the blobs raining down into the optimum position to create as many linked chains as possible. Doing so visits even more misery upon your rattled opponent and, with a bit of quick thinking, can be more than enough to conquer him outright.”
EuroGamer’s Review of Puyo Pop Fever
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