Marvel vs. Capcom 3: A fighter for the masses?
6th Jan 2011 | 11:41
In this cruel world of frightening numbers and cold hard cash, we wouldn't be surprised if Marvel vs. Capcom was dreamt up by a well-dressed, cigar smoking businessmen - as a cross-promotional scheme to sucker in two immeasurably passionate fanbases.
However, if we went by early impressions of the third instalment in the crossover series, it's what you'd get when a comic book nerd and a fighting game fan get trapped in an elevator with a few important people long enough to deliver a pitch.
A pitch that we like to imagine consists of said nerds acting out overly-dramatic fake punches, making sound effects like KKKKRRRUNCH, KA-BOOM and SMAAAASH while stringing together scenarios featuring the likes of Ryu, Iron Man, Hulk and Dante with 'and then... and then... and then...', barely drawing a breath in between each.
There's nothing like seeing Spider-Man, Ryu and Captain America shatter intellectual property boundaries to whale on an equally star-studded opposing team - that's something that anyone can appreciate.
This simple pleasure is the key to why the series has stayed so popular over the years and - coupled with a few smart control tweaks and gameplay enhancements - is what could make Marvel vs. Capcom 3 the most successful entry in the series yet.
Capcom has taken the 'if ain't broke, don't fix it' approach to developing the fighting system for Marvel vs. Capcom 3. The series' 3 v 3 fighting mechanics have stood the test of time and Marvel vs. Capcom 2 has obviously been used as the blueprint for the third game in the series.
It's not all the same though. While there hasn't been an MvC title in ten years, 2010 saw the release of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom for the Wii. The tweaks introduced in that entry have been rolled back into MvC3 and the result is a far more accessible feeling game that is likely to be less overwhelming and intimidating for new players, whilst allowing execution masters to focus on developing strategies and practicing match-ups.
For the uninitiated MvC3 is all about picking a three-man dream team of fighters from an impressive selection of Marvel and Capcom characters, then beating the Stan Lee out of the opposing trio of combatants.
The bread and butter of combat is a combo system which allows players to string together attacks by quickly hitting the light, mid and heavy attack buttons in ascending order.
Beyond that, it can be as deep and complex as you want it to be. You can choose to execute an attack that launches the enemy into the air, follow them up there with a super-jump and begin another string of combos, or finish with a special attack and get ready for another assault once the player drags his sorry comic butt off the ground. You could even call in one of your two teammates for an assist attack to catch your opponent off guard and give you the time to rethink, reposition and kick off again.
The biggest new feature in MvC3 is the ability to call in your partners one by one during an air combo. After pulling off a string in the air hitting the launch button with a direction pressed will summon one of your super-powered buddies to pick up where you left off and continue the beat down. After all three characters have had their fun the opponent is smashed back down to earth.
Sounds unfair right? Luckily the victim can try and guess the direction used to tag someone in and input the same direction and launch command to prematurely end the air assault. This new addition makes air combat a guessing game as opposed to the one-sided combofest it was in previous games. Also, it looks ridiculously cool.
Ok, so maybe all that is still a bit confusing, but for those who don't have the luxury of experience or time Capcom has kindly implemented a 'simple' control scheme which condenses all of the inputs required to execute these manoeuvres down to just a few button taps.
With the simple control scheme combo strings, super attacks and assists can all be executed by tapping a single button for each. Special moves are executed by pressing a direction along with its designated button.
Unlike in previous games the launcher has now been standardised across all characters and also assigned its own button, thus making the flashy air combos possible for even the newest of players to pull off.
The rabbit hole goes a lot deeper, explaining mechanics such as tagging, advance guarding and X-Factor only serves to make the game seem more complicated than it actually is.
Our playtime has taught us that words are an inadequate substitute for playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It's the kind of game where you'll see someone do something crazy like an advanced guard or X-Factor cancel and then immediately pause the game, dumbfounded by the on-screen madness and demand an explanation.
Like most other fighting games MvC3 is a game where you learn by doing. The difference this time is that executing the doing part isn't as daunting a task thanks to the simple control scheme.
With Marvel transcending beyond just a comic book publisher to a multimedia entertainment juggernaut since the last MvC game, we expected that Marvel vs. Capcom 3 would have high quality presentation, but we weren't prepared for just how well MvC3 manages to pull it off.
In previous games the fact that Marvel characters and Capcom characters were in the same game felt almost incidental. However, in MvC3 both companies seem to have gone to great lengths to marry the two worlds together more cohesively and comprehensively.
Everything from user interface elements such as the character select screen - which places your chosen characters on the cover of a comic book - to the win quotes indicate that this is a game that will almost certainly get a squee of excitement from comic and fighting game fans at every new screen.
We certainly let one out when She-Hulk ended a battle by saying, "Somebody once called me Phoenix Wright with muscles... and then I called an ambulance".
The attention to detail so far is impressive, which is relieving considering how apt to getting upset both fanbases are. Characters are not just detailed in terms of their models but also in their personalities and interactions. Deadpool stands out as our favourite, the self-aware Merc with a mouth lambasts the player for sitting back and tapping buttons while he does all the hard work, and even requests that Capcom put him on the cover of the next Street Fighter for his efforts.
Battles take place in familiar places such as an Umbrella lab that houses Lickers and a Tyrant, outside the Daily Bugle during a parade celebrating Spider-Man, the Graveyard from Ghouls n Ghosts and the soundtrack includes remixed versions of themes from Marvel vs. Street Fighter.
Even something as insignificant as alternative costume colours are given care and attention, with alternates being based on costumes from the characters sported throughout the different comic book eras.
The faithfulness to source material even extends to interactions during battle, with characters being aware of who their teammates and opponents are and making references to any significant relationships.
Pick Iron Man, Captain America and Thor and Iron Man will start the battle by ordering The Avengers to assemble. Play as the Hulk and tag in She-Hulk and Bruce will call her Jennifer, making reference to their family connection. Put Ryu up against Spider-Man and he'll kick off the fight by saying "I hate spiders," while Spidey retorts with "You must have a black belt in stupidity if you think you're going to beat me". It's these small details that suggests that the game will appeal to an audience much broader than its predecessors.
So far Capcom has revealed 32 characters for the game and even after the numerous hours we've sunk into it we've only just scratched the surface. There are still hundreds more combos to learn, strategies to develop and moves to practice.
With more character reveals and stages to be confirmed in the next few months MvC3 is shaping up to be something really special in the beat-em-up genre and we can't wait to see what's in store.
Until then we're going to continue kicking ass with C.Viper, Viewtiful Joe and Super-Skrull. Excelsior!