Let’s be honest: the fighting game genre is merely a shadow of its former self. Ten to fifteen years ago, the genre was the darling of the industry; every developer was pounding one (or more) titles out every financial quarter, attempting to cash in on the demand of consumers both in the arcades and at home. It was very similar to the way developers view FPS games now days. Over the past decade, the fighting genre has all but died. While it may have died off in the general market, the competitive scene has flourished and actually grown exponentially thanks to the dedication of die-hard fans and an increased desire for the rush that comes from one-on-one competition. Even in its darkest (least popular) times, there has been a small but vocal demand for more games to satisfy that desire. Things have started to change dramatically over the last 3 years. Ever since Capcom released Street Fighter IV, the genre has been seeing a major resurgence in both the public demand and developer interest. Companies such as Namco, SNK, and Arc System Works were quick to hop on the bandwagon and grab their own piece of the newly-craved pie. The companies that jumped on board have resurrected some of their classic series like Tekken and Samurai Showdown as well as create new IP such as BlazBlue. The game’s predecessor, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, remains THE game on the competitive scene, only recently being usurped in some circles by the recent Street Fighter IV series. Fighting games are back and in a major way.
Enter Capcom and Marvel. As a team, the two companies are no stranger(s) to the fighting game genre. The two licenses combined for a series of hit fighting games back in the 90’s and left off with what is arguably the most popular game on the competitive scene, Marvel vs. Capcom 2. License issues over the past decade have prevented the two from picking up where they left off as the Marvel license has been bounced around like a rubber ball throughout the industry, from developer to developer. All of a sudden, to everyone’s surprise, the companies announced that they were getting back together in April 2010. Thanks to their new alliance, the possibility of a Marvel vs Capcom 3 wasn’t just a possibility, it was a reality. Now, nearly a year later, the fighting game that fans have been dreaming about for a decade is upon us; Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is here.
Close your eyes and think of the biggest, most action-packed, flashy, over-the-top comic book that you can imagine. Now, double its “awesomeness” factor and imagine that comic coming to life, jumping right off of the pages that are laid out in front of you. That is Marvel vs. Capcom 3. MvC3, from start to finish, is a comic book that has been brought to life. From the moment the first menu appears on the screen to the scroll of the final credit, the game is presented to you as if you are flipping through the pages of the world’s most dynamic comic. The personalities of both companies are prevalent throughout the entire experience in the colorful characters and the vibrant world that surrounds them. Whether you are transitioning from match to match or menu to menu, you literally see a “turning of the page” which just further reinforces that “comic brought to life feeling”.
All of the character models in the game have been designed to look as if they were lifted directly from the pages of one of Marvel’s monthly serials. You can freeze the action at any moment in time and I guarantee that it would fit in the panels of that imaginary comic book from earlier. The text and font that appears on screen throughout the various matches and menus strongly resembles the descriptive text and font that appears in an actual comic book. The gameplay even reflects this feeling as the screen often tears or rips as if it were made of paper; perhaps my favorite little graphical detail of the game is when the final boss appears and rips the pages off of the screen, leaving small sections remaining at the bottom as if your comic book fantasy had truly been invaded by the wielder of the Power Cosmic. This all leads to a persistent environment that creates a great comic-themed experience.
The gameplay system of MvC3 has undergone as big of an overhaul as the graphical system. If you have played Capcom’s last versus game, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom on the Nintendo Wii, it will feel vaguely familiar. notice that I said familiar, this isn’t the same system used in TvC; MvC3’s system is deeper and far more expansive. Gone is the standard Capcom, 6-button setup which utilizes three punch and three kick buttons. MvC3 relies on three attack buttons, a special button, and two buttons that correspond to each of your partners. The attack buttons function in a “context sensitive” manner (thank you Conker’s) in which the same button will be used to execute multiple attacks depending on your characters’ position and circumstance. This control concept was introduced in TvC but has been expanded, and dare I say perfected, in this game. This may sound extremely limiting but the result is an insanely expansive system that allows for deeper combinations and attack strings that can be altered with even the slightest adjustment of your character on the screen. This time around, timing and positioning is everything.The “special” button has often been referred to as the “launch” button in the pre-release builds of the game. This can be used as an attack button but it's primarily used to send your opponent(s) skywards where you can follow to continue your attack / barrage in an aerial fashion. Just like the attack buttons, it will be used for other maneuvers depending on the circumstance as well; if the button is pressed in the air along with a direction on the control pad, you can immediately tag in a partner to switch places on screen and continue the combo you had previously initiated. Not only is this extremely effective in the course of battle but it is also a very flashy thing to see. The partner buttons refer to each of your two, off-screen partners. Capcom has made a slight alteration to the game’s “tagging” mechanics in order to make better use of these buttons. Simply tapping one of the buttons will bring your partner(s) on screen to assist you in battle; they will then leave the screen immediately after they perform their attack, which is selected ahead of time from a list before the battle. In order to tag in one of your partners to switch to your playable character, you now have to press and hold one of the partner buttons. This takes a little getting used to when making the transition from previous versus games but I found it to be much more effective once I grew accustomed to it.
Most of the special moves and super combos in the game utilize standard “Street Fighter” inputs such as quarter circle and Dragon Punch motions on the joystick. Thankfully, the game has eliminated the use of any circular motions which were prevalent in larger characters in the previous games such as Zangief and T. Hawk. The entire movelist (special moves) feels more accessible and much easier to perform than ever before. The game also includes a “simple” control mode that is meant to make the game more accessible to players who may not be familiar with the complicated control patterns that most fighting games utilize. When playing in this mode, special moves can be executed with the press of a single button. The mode makes it possible for newcomers to experience and enjoy the flashy, over-the-top action that the MvC series, and this game in particular, has to offer. Part of the fun of the game is to see the insane action taking over the screen and know that you are responsible for it; not all of the special moves in the game are included in this mode though. The mode is only meant to introduce new players to the game and hopefully set them on the track to using the standard mode which opens up all of the games commands and maneuvers. If and when players move into the standard control setup, the game offers a detailed mission mode that will teach them the ins and outs of each character through a string of preset missions designed to teach you how to play. Throughout the course of these missions, players will learn many of the games advanced techniques including aerial combos, super move-cancels, and plenty more. If you can make your way through the entire list of challenges for a character (10 per character), you should be able to hold your own against the competition awaiting you online. The aforementioned list is just a brief description of the various maneuvers and combos available to players in the game; there is actually a ton more to discover but this is a review of the game and not a strategy guide. You will get exposure to all of the various concepts such as snap-backs, chain combos, air combos, team hyper combos, advancing guards, and a ton of others. Mastering them all is the secret to becoming a true competitor in the game. That is part of the charm of MvC3; the game is extremely accessible and a ton of fun to play for even a casual player with little to no fighting game experience. The game also has a depth that will keep the dedicated and die-hard fans coming back and digging deeper for years in the future.
I do not have any problem calling the character roster of MvC3 the greatest fighting game cast ever created. Capcom and Marvel have meticulously selected each and every character included in the game and designed them to stand out on their own. You won’t find any palette swaps in this game. Between the diversity of the roster in general, the amount of new faces to the series, and the personal interaction that occurs between many of the characters, things never get old. The personal interaction is an extremely nice touch and something that I am still discovering the longer that I play the game. Small things such as Hulk’s inability to remember anyone’s name aside from his cousin She-Hulk and the comedic stylings of Deadpool keep you paying attention to the small details long after your first play. The game will boot with 32 characters on the selection screen; you can unlock four more through repeated play-throughs of the game’s arcade mode. As I said, all of the characters have their own unique style and play almost completely different than one another; everyone is sure to find someone that the like. Unfortunately, that same variety cannot be said for the backgrounds included in the game. Most fighting games give each character their own, individual stage which leads to as much variety as the roster itself. Not Marvel vs. Capcom 3. There are only nine stages in the game, not including the final boss stage which cannot even be played on in anything other than the arcade mode. I love each of the stages in the game; they are all unique and filled to the brim with tiny details and an incredibly detailed and active background; the problem is that nine stages get old very fast when you play the game for extended periods of time. The source material of both companies is expansive enough to support plenty more stages had the developers chosen to; the character roster of the game alone lends to plenty more, but they just aren’t there. Hopefully this is something that Capcom is going to remedy in the future with additional, downloadable content because you won’t be seeing anything in terms of the background stages that hasn’t already been shown to death in the various previews of the game over the past year.
When it comes to the various modes of the game, there is a ton to do both online and off. First off, the game includes the standard “arcade” mode which challenges you to battle through six stages of teams before challenging the game’s boss, Galactus, and his squad of Power Cosmic-fueled minions. The mode is short enough that you can shoot through it in a matter of about 15 minutes depending on your selected difficulty level and is meant to be played numerous times. Each character has their own illustrated ending to top off the experience and many of them feature cameo appearances of other characters from each company’s universe. You will see characters long-forgotten from both companies including Nightcrawler, Kingpin, the Darkstalkers cast, Mega Man, Nick Fury, and even Master Mold. You never know who is going to pop up. Thankfully, Capcom has also included the fight request feature that was introduced in the Street Fighter IV series of games which allows you to accept online challengers when you are playing through the Arcade mode. This is meant to simulate the arcade experience of facing all challengers that may step forward while you are enjoying the game by yourself.
If you want to study up on your “game” and get better before facing off against the world, you can enter either the game’s Training or Mission Mode. I mentioned the Mission mode earlier; each character has their own unique set of 10 missions which is meant to teach you both simple and advanced skills using all of the game’s various gameplay mechanics. The missions range from doing something as simple as a single special move to utilizing numerous special move and hyper combos in attack strings that run into 70-80 hits. The Training Mode on the other hand simply gives you a chance to experiment with all of the characters in the game in varying circumstances. You can think of it as a sandbox of sorts that allows you to do whatever you want with whoever you want. There are a ton of options within this mode which allow you to customize the situation your liking or to help you prepare for specific situations in battle. Capcom has even included a “lag” setting which will help you practice under the same circumstances that you are likely to experience when playing against competitors online.
All of the previously mentioned modes are a lot of fun, but the true competition in MvC3 is to be found online, against the world. The game allows both ranked and unranked battles against players from all over the world. There is also the ability to create an open lobby for anyone in the world to join which can host up to 8 players, allowing them to alternate matches with one another, with the winner advancing to face the next competitor. Oddly, there is no spectator mode included int he game so you will b e left on a bland screen watching two sets of power bars deplete while you wait your turn. The netcode of the game is extremely solid, even on the
PSN from my experience. I have played a wide variety of matches online and have only experience one instance of bad lag; there is a slight lag evident when playing against competitors from other regions but the game is definitely playable and runs at a very enjoyable speed.
Regardless of the mode in which you are playing, you will always be contributing to your MvC3 resume, which the game refers to as your “license”, and unlocking items within the in-game art gallery. Your MvC3 license card is what will identify you to the rest of the fighting community both in the game and on the web. This “card” will track your win / loss record(s), character usage tendencies, fighting style(s), and track a scoring attribute known as player points. The amount of player points that you accumulate corresponds to your assigned rank which will let would-be competition know what they are up against. You can personalize your card with a wide variety of icons and titles which can be unlocked as your play through the game’s various modes. While the license is meant for the world to view, the gallery is included for your own personal enjoyment. There are a wide variety of items included in the game’s art gallery which are unlocked as you proceed through the game’s various modes. Within this gallery, you will have access to intro movies, character biographies, character endings, promotional artwork, stage and character sounds and music, and even a full 3D model viewer. The gallery will be empty when you first boot up the game, but as you perform different feats with the game’s various characters including beating the game’s online mode, completing character specific missions, and using (and winning) with them online. There is quite a bit to unlock and some of the features included in this mode are simply fun to play with.
Marvel vs Capcom 3 is a great package based on what’s included in the initial purchase and according to Capcom it is only going to get better as time goes on. The development team has already announced that numerous additions will be coming to the game including downloadable characters, and special downloadable AI which that can be assigned to the computer which is based on the various personalities and professional players at Capcom. The future of the game is promising and as long as Capcom continues to follow the example that they set with Street Fighter IV support, things will only get better. I had a lot of expectations when the game was announced and Capcom has managed to deliver a product that met and exceeded every single one of them. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is exactly the game I was hoping for; it’s fun, deep, gorgeous, addictive... I could go on forever. Fans of the series are likely to have a new favorite and I think that Capcom will be able to turn some new players into die hard fans with the accessibility options included such as the simple mode. I have waited ten long years for this game and I am not disappointed in the least.