Capcom's Versus series is one of the quirkiest and most respected fighting franchises in the industry today. Its last entry, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom may not have captured a broad audience due to its Wii exclusivity, but Marvel vs. Capcom 2 has charmed both OGs and new gamers alike. Alas, the 11 year old game has shown its age. With the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, fans of the fight have let out a collective sigh of relief, but does the Fate of Two Worlds take us for a ride?
Take a cache of characters from Capcom's expansive game library and Marvel's encyclopedia of comics, give them all quick, hard hitting, flashy attacks and the ability to effortlessly string together combos and you have Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I wish I could tell you what the story is about, but after playing through a few times, I'm clueless. It was supposed to be a big deal that the writing was handled by Marvel wordsmith Frank Tieri, but none of that is apparent in the game itself. Maybe the comic that came with the special edition sets the story properly, but owners of the "normy" edition are left out of the loop.
The action is fast and furious as always, if a bit slower than Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Tatsunoko vs. Capcom vets will feel right at home, with little to no adjustment period required. There are four attack buttons; light, medium, heavy, and special. The special button acts as your pop-up attack, but can also be used in tandem with commands and other buttons to execute special moves. This aspect of the button layout works well in its simplicity, allowing just about anyone to pick up and play. Two buttons are dedicated to your partners, tap either for an assist, hold to tag out. The tap/hold method takes some time to get used to, especially for hardcore MvC2 junkies.
As you would expect, the action moves at a blistering pace. Most characters are slow to move, but lightning fast when delivering attacks. The ease of comboing and chaining makes Marvel vs. Capcom 3 a button masher's paradise. Fortunately, button mashing can only get you so far. To inflict the big damage, and get incredibly high combos, you have to know what you're doing. To facilitate your mental combo Rolodex, MvC3 offers you two types of training mode: one where you can go in and do whatever you want, and one more structured, which teaches you the moves and combos for your character of choice.
A new inclusion that seems to divide the fanbase is the X-Factor. Each team has one X-Factor to burn per match, and it's a bit of a game-changer. Once your X-Factor is activated, your active character can regenerate lost life, take no tick damage when blocking, and receives juiced up speed and damage. The less characters you have remaining, the longer the effect is. You don't want to see this thing activated when Dark Phoenix is your opponent's last fighter. There's even a clip of an X-Factor juiced Hulk killing THREE characters on full health with ONE Gamma Crush. Imbalanced much?
The online system doesn't seem rushed or ill thought out, and is very well implemented. The main knock against the system is the lack of spectator mode, preventing any prep-work or scouting you may want to do against an opponent you'll end up facing off against. Aside from that, there's a wealth of features, like an individual player license that lists a bunch of your stats, such as favorite teams, and other attributes. The license feels very much like a summed up dossier on the back of a superhero's trading card, which fits the theme nicely.
Character models are quite sexy, almost resembling the character design choices of Street Fighter 4, though with less brush strokes. A few combatants -- such and Spiderman and Captain America -- benefit greatly from the palettes used for alternate color choices. The Iron Spider and Punisher's Captain America spin-off are rad color swaps that almost make the fight feel like you're using two brand new brawlers. Of course, if you want actual reskinned characters, plenty of DLC will be available shortly to satisfy you fix, providing you have the money to spend on them.
As with any fighting game in Capcom's Versus series, there will be some head scratchers in regards to character decisions, like the inclusion of Zero without X, or She-Hulk, who I'm not sure if anyone anywhere has ever cared about in her history. And don't get me started on Tron Bonne, who I'm sure is only present so Capcom can keep their unofficial mascot Servbot in the public eye without including the incredibly cheesy pint-sized domestic helper as a playable. DLC should mitigate some of the strange choices, with names such as Frank West and Doc Ock already being churned in the rumor mill.
The stages are beautifully composed, with plenty of details in each background to keep your stoned friend who doesn't play fighting games occupied. Hell, if you're not careful you might get caught up pixel-peeping and fall victim to a vicious combo. Background entrancement is usually my excuse when I have my ass handed to me online.
The music on the Capcom side is mostly a nice reminder of each characters roots, with just enough variation to keep you on your toes. Marvel's fighters have a collection of stock-sounding tunes that don't really do much for me. I was very let down that the intense collection of tunes found in X-Men: Children of the Atom was not included in some shape for many of the returning Marvel superheroes. If the music tires you at any point, you can switch between two versions of the soundtrack to spice things up.
The voices are spot on, particularly for Marvel's camp who sound the part perfectly. Capcom's voices are no slouches either, and if you find them to be, just switch whoso-ever's voice you disagree with to Japanese. Problem solved! Though the incentive to keep everyone speaking English is the awesome pre-and-post fight banter between characters. Example, when Arthur fights Iron Man he states "Ah, a knight from a foreign land, huzzah!" Great touch.
Was the decade long wait worth it for Marvel vs. Capcom 3? Maybe not, but regardless, we have a solid entry in Capcom's legendary Versus series. While there still may be some balance issues between characters, they're just a patch away from being rectified. And with pick-up-and-play access for casuals, as well as the deep combo ability for the hardcore, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has something for everyone, no matter who you may be.