- Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
- CLR [rating:4]
Release Date: February 15th, 2011
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Genre: Crossover 2D Fighter
ESRB: T for Teen
Geeks get taken for a ride – but do they want to chip in for gas?
Geeks are funny creatures. We fall in love at early ages with activities and characters that few others know or would even care to learn about, and then scream to the world about how great they are. If this could be looked at from an anthropological perspective it’s sort of the geek’s mating call, for when another geek is nearby and doing the same thing, both geeks immediately know another is present. When the two geeks come into contact generally one of two things happens:
They find they each love the same things, and become fast friends.
Or they find that they don’t, and then proceed to debate which is “better.” Of course, this usually devolves into “Who would win in a fight?”
Wolverine versus Spider-Man, Batman versus Superman, Pirate versus Ninja, “Twihards” versus sanity; all these permutations are variations on the “better” debate, which is always more telling of the participants themselves. Look to the debates between Weird Fantasy authors Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft, or between JRR Tolkein and C.S. Lewis if you want to see some historical precedents. Perhaps this pedigree puts the many varied and endless ideological wars (easily found in your nearest internet forum) of “Greater Starship Captain: Kirk or Picard?” and the Mac versus PC hurly burly into a new light, though it doesn’t change the fact that they’re still annoying to encounter when you do.
From the loins of this principle a sub-genre emerged in the videogame space; that of the crossover fighting game. In these games one can make the debate manifest directly, and the outcome is only determined by the time you invest in becoming more skilled, or by poor character balance. The latest addition to this tradition, Marvel Versus Capcom 3, from developer and publisher Capcom comes to the world ten years after their last title in the series. Perhaps it is time once again for geeks across the world to assemble, if only to deliver digital fisticuffs to fanboy favorites.
The story setup, as meager as it is in MvC3, is one ripped straight out of most classic Marvel Team-Up comics. Several villains from the Marvel universe, led by Dr. Doom have gathered together and are attempting to take over the world (like they do), partnered with Resident Evil villain Albert Wesker who wants them to help conquer his plane of reality. They decide to create this space-time rift by siphoning energy off of Galactus, which isn’t the wisest of decisions when you consider that the purple G-man is a guy who eats planets. Meanwhile, the various heroes, mercenaries and otherwise “not as bad” guys from the two dimensions run into each other and begin duking it out before realizing that there are greater threats to their homes in the form of the villain coalition and of course the mighty world-eater himself.
Narrative in games like this is a rather inconsequential thing, and perhaps fighting game plots are one of the prime examples of “porn plots” in videogames. You aren’t here to have a moving or even epic story. You’re here to go toe to toe with your favorite characters against other folks online and with friends at home. The single player Arcade mode in the game is really there for practice battles against the AI, and to unlock various and sundry items, like character profiles and bonus art for the game’s extensive gallery mode.
As a crossover game, one of the most important aspects to judge is in representation for the respective fan bases. Some unique choices were made by Marvel and Capcom that result in a very eclectic assortment of “stars” showing up in this game. Almost half the cast has never been in a fighting game before, including such picks as Chris Redfield from Resident Evil, the old Dr. Strange villain Dormammu, Arthur from the classic Ghouls and Ghosts, the Ally McBeal of the Marvel Universe She-hulk, Dante from Devil May Cry and Spencer from the recently revived Bionic Commando; and even M.O.D.O.K.
For the most part, the picks are great; even if a few seem at least slightly influenced by the two company’s respective marketing departments. Though Captain America is a mainstay it seems doubtful Thor would appear if he didn’t have a movie coming out this summer, and a number of Darkstalkers cast members rally to try and make fans remember their games and get a proper sequel. However, since popularity has finally shined on Deadpool, the Merc with a Mouth is finally getting a proper place in a fighting game, where he obviously couldn’t be happier with himself. In his case it’s definitely a win-win for everyone involved.
Deadpool’s one of the best examples the game has to offer in its ability to convey its characters. He has an incredible assortment of animations and voice-overs, and it’s obvious much care was put into him. The same could be said with the entirety of the cast, who all look and sound excellent but more importantly for a fighting game, move fluidly and with precision. The audio is superb too, especially musically, where a vast array of songs were either culled from past games and remixed, or created just for MvC3. The menu screen anthem “I’m gonna take you for a ride!” returns and is as annoyingly catchy as it was a decade ago, though now at least it has a few remixes of its own to prevent too much repetition.
While superb presentation goes a long way, the core gameplay is really what matters, and here Capcom performs to expectation, delivering fighting dynamics up to the quality the company has aspired to. It’s a system cribbed in part from their previous crossover on the Wii, Tatsunoko versus Capcom. The traditional Street Fighter 6-button layout being turned into a mere 4; 3 for attacks and one for “exchange” commands. Of course every character has special moves that require unique joystick input, and there are many varied sub-systems in place, such as throws and counter-throws, hyper combos, character assist and switch functions, and a myriad other advanced techniques that sometimes feel like an advanced college degree is required to comprehend fully.
Multitudinous and complex arrays of button inputs have often been the biggest barrier in getting new players to take the dive into fighting games, but for folks who don’t know a dragon punch from a hadouken, Capcom has opted to include a simplified control scheme in the form of “easy” controls. These actually work quite well, allowing for a complete neophyte to compete against a friend who has spent years playing similar games. However they’re a testament to compromise, as they limit a character to a much smaller array of abilities, so this scheme can only serve a limited function at introducing players to the game for a short while. If you really want to feel the blazing heat and fiery insults to your mother that occur with online competition, you’re still going to have to spend a lot of time learning how to play the game.
To this end Capcom has included some of the best training features yet seen in a fighter. The Training Room mode has a ridiculous array of options for practicing every character’s nuance, and should only be commended for excellence. On top of this, every character is given ten unique missions which train the player on how to perform some of their best attack chains, and if you go through these missions with diligence and perseverance you can quickly see your skills improve. If there’s a major flaw to be had, it has to do with training a player on the important defensive abilities of the game. While the single player mode helps with this, many of the more unique defensive actions receive very limited coverage except in the game’s manual; as a result it often seems as if you learn these abilities by accident and chance when losing to a twelve-year old.
One of the unique abilities of the game is its “X-Factor” technique. As with Street Fighter 4, Capcom has given players a tool for turning a match around, and with a quick press of all your buttons, you’ll find that your characters move faster, do more damage, and recover health quickly for a limited time that increases if more members of your three-character team are down. You can only use this ability once per match, so it serves as a very important emergency maneuver to master. It’s an interesting take on mid-battle reversals, though not as flashy or as punishable as SF4’s Revenge gauge moves.
Whilst new game-changing abilities and characters are nice, this is still a fundamentally familiar experience to any gamer whose been playing for a while. Fighting games in general are one-trick ponies; you either love that trick to death, or soon enough you’ll go elsewhere for a new novelty to occupy your time. Most classic fighting games would have little mini-games like barrel punching or car destroying, heck Tatsunoko versus Capcom had shmup, so it’s a bit dismaying to see they’re not here to mix things up a bit.
More disturbing though, is the sense that certain elements of the game were rushed out the door. The online mode is missing a few features from Super Street Fighter 4, especially a spectator mode that once introduced there, feels like a requirement to include here. This harried development can also be seen in the game’s achievements which feature just terrible art, and also in the character Sentinel who is incredibly unbalanced. Perhaps having only one notably broken character is sort of a godsend in a game where fair play is paramount, but it (since it’s a genderless robot) is so ludicrously powerful that any match up against it feels like an exercise in futility. If you go online, get ready to play against dozens of players who build teams around such a powerful force, if only to annoy the crap out of you.
It’s hard to shake the idea that some of this is intentional on Capcom’s part, who seem to have a very firm grasp on the game’s upcoming DLC strategy. Two characters, Jill Valentine and Shuma-Gorath (an archaic Dr. Strange villain only included due to its legacy in older fighting games) aren’t present in the game at launch. They will be available a mere month after release, along with bonus costumes and a unique mode where you get to play against AI modeled after the strategies of actual people, from testers on the game to tournament champions. Of course all of this is going to cost the consumer money – how surprising.
One can only wonder what else Capcom is going to charge for down the road. Capcom must know that they hold a fairly captive audience, since their fighting games are the most popular, and for any game in this genre to succeed a large player pool is a necessity. In last year’s Super Street Fighter 4, they at least charged less and included enough new content to warrant a repurchase, but if they start a strategy of charging for rebalanced characters like Sentinel, it may be time to vote with your dollar and not give in. Just don’t be too shocked if in a year’s time we’re treated with Ultimate Marvel Versus Capcom 3 – Intergalactic Conquest Edition: “Taking a ride to the stars,” Chimichanga Mode.
All things considered though, MvC3 in its vanilla form is a great game. It’s a bit bare-bones, and doesn’t bring too much innovation to the table, but right now it’s the best place you can go to live out your geekiest match-ups. If you want to have King Arthur test his might against Iron Man, Magneto attempt to strike down Chun-Li, or in my case, Mike Haggar take on the world, you shouldn’t turn anywhere else.
Even if you don’t really have a lot of choice in the matter.
[youtube width=”560″ height=”340″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UD6Qrxe7jS4[/youtube]