Fans of the fighting genre have been waiting nearly a decade for this game. No, it’s not the sequel to Shenmue, but in fact the sequel to what is, arguably, the greatest crossover fighting game franchise around: Marvel vs. Capcom. It wasn’t long ago that fans were making their own version of this game with the fighting game engine Mugen. While some of those were fun, none of them hold a candle to the official sequel. The MvC games are known for combos that fill the screen, air juggles that defy the laws of gravity and some of the flashiest finishers around. But, can Capcom capture lighting in a bottle for the third time?
In a word, ‘yes!’ The MvC series follows a unique formula pioneered by the original title in the series and perfected with its superior sequel Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Players choose a team of three fighters and enter the battlefield to find out who is the best hero or villain around. While it sounds super simple there is actually a lot of strategy involved in who you pick. You see, you can tag in one of your fighters whenever you choose, but each fighter also has an assist type. These range from a long range blast, to a column shot in the air to hit those people who like to jump. A well placed and timed assist can change the way the whole fight goes. You are able to tag out your fighter with the press of one of the shoulder buttons, this will give your previous fighter a chance to heal up and rest. If you time the switch just right you will earn a crossover combo which will net you extra damage as your new fighter comes out.
Besides your team’s health bars you also have a hyper bar at the bottom of the screen. Once full this will allow you to unleash a spectacular super move on your opponent. The bar has five levels, and all fighters have three of these moves. They fill the screen with flashes and awesomeness and all of them are pretty amazing to watch. At least one of them will require at least a level 3 or 4 bar to unleash and will do more damage. As you land attacks or even get hit by combos you will notice the hyper bar begin to fill. Unlike other entries in the series, the super meter does not increase with the use of the heavy attack button. This removes the strategy of spamming the attack buttons while away from your opponent.
This game isn’t about technical fighting or using a complicated chain of moves. Unlike the other fighters from Capcom, MvC prides itself on being easy for anyone to pick up and play. If you have ever played a Street Fighter game and can throw Ryu’s Hadoken, then you can pretty much throw most projectiles in MvC3. With this iteration of the franchise Capcom has made it even easier for people to play by adding a “simple” mode. What this does is place any given fighters skills directly on the 3 face buttons. For instance, one button will be for strikes, one button for special moves, like a hadoken or magnetic disruptor (Magneto is my boy, in case you were wondering) and the last button is for a hyper finisher or super attack.
I can confirm that this will allow any non-seasoned player to hang with those that have experience with these games. I have played with my children and they have bested me on multiple occasions using the simple mode. But, like I said, your move set is severely limited while using simple mode. You only have one hyper as opposed to the two or three that each fighter usually has, and one or two special attacks as opposed to the multiple that each fighter has.
If you do find yourself on the losing side of a fight, Capcom has added a new feature to give you a hand. It’s called “X-Factor” and it is activated by pressing all three strike buttons and the special button at once. This gives you a boost of speed and greater damage output. As an added bonus, X-Factor heals you and your teammates at a faster rate, allowing you a few precious moments to turn the fight around. Now, as with all good things, there is a catch. You can only use “X-Factor” once per match. Use it only when you need it not before.
When MvC2 launched in 2000 the roster was comprised of a staggering 56 characters. This latest entry has been toned down to 36 to start off with and more to undoubtedly come with DLC. Capcom’s reason for this was simple and made sense. In 2000 with MvC2 all they had to do was reuse the same sprites from the other fighting games. With this one, they had to start from scratch: new animations, new colors and graphics and, most importantly, a brand new engine. I understand this and I am fine with the roster size, what I disagree with is their reason for leaving some characters out and dropping others in as substitutes. Capcom’s reasoning is that they didn’t want duplicate characters, like Ken is to Ryu. Well, OK, but then why add X-23 who is just a female Wolverine, or She-Hulk who is, you guessed it, a female Hulk? I think that these were wasted spots and could have been used for better characters, but this is just one humble reviewers opinion.
The graphics in this game are beautiful, mixing comic book art and 3D animation. “Living Comic Book” was the buzz phrase that was used when the developers described this engine and I think they nailed it perfectly. On the Marvel side, most of the fighters have color swaps or changes in their costumes that represent different issues of the source material, like the Red Hulk, or Iron Man’s blue stealth suit. On the Capcom side most of the colors are just palette swaps and don’t really pertain to anything of note, but they look just as good.
There are subtle visual effects that you will see during a fight, like when Wolverine unleashes his Berserker Barrage finisher and you see the background cut to shreds as if it were paper, or when you fight the boss Galactus and he rips the page down and you see the corners blowing in the wind. All of this adds to the comic book feel and is a treat for the eyes. With all the graphical touches and screen filling explosive attacks, it is wonderful that the action never dips below 60 frames per second.
Another area that the developer nailed was the audio. Each fighter has their own theme music and, as one falls and a new fighter enters in their place, the music will change to the replacement fighter’s theme. For those fans of the now iconic “Take You for a Ride” theme from MvC2, MvC3 has three different remixes for you. Aside from music and the typical shouting of move names the developers managed to get some talent to voice the characters. Iron Man is voiced by Eric Loomis who does his voice work in the new Avengers cartoon, Wesker is voiced by his Resident Evil 5 actor D.C. Douglas and the list goes on and on. Not only is it great to get the original actors, but it helps when each fighter banters with their opponent that they have history with. For instance, Chris exclaims that he has found Wesker and is preparing to engage. When Magneto defeats Wolverine he tells him to be grateful he didn’t rip the adamantium from his very bones. This may seem like a little thing, but I think it adds a layer of familiarity to the characters, and helps players relate better to them.
As for game modes, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has your standard fare. You have an arcade mode, online mode, training and a mission mode. Mission mode sounds like some super cool single player type mode. In fact, it is the same as Street Fighter 4’s Challenge mode. What it will do is ask you to prove various attacks and combos that will help prepare you to play online, or against the A.I. It’s not a bad thing actually, and has helped improve my game, so I would recommend it to anyone that wants a little extra help on how to string certain moves together.
The online mode uses the same code that is used in Street Fighter 4, which is, in a word, awesome. It is easy to create lobbies, get into a ranked matches or player matches. The downside is that, as of this review, there is no spectator mode. This means when you are in a lobby and waiting for your turn to fight, rather than viewing the fight in progress you are treated to the two fighters’ license cards bouncing on top of each other with the words “Match in Progress” flashing. It is very boring and doesn’t make sense seeing as Super Street Fighter 4 includedthe spectating feature. I can only hope that this will be remedied with an update in the near future.
Capcom has done a fantastic job with Marvel vs. Capcom 3 from the pick up and play controls to the eclectic cast of fighters and the new flashy hyper finishers. It is next to impossible not to recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of either of these two brands, as you will most assuredly find a fighter that suits your play style. Aside from the lack of spectator mode and redundant characters that made the final roster, I have nothing negative to say about this game. I just hope that we don’t have to wait another decade to go for another ride.
Review copy provided by publisher.