Anyone who has been following Marvel vs Capcom for many years will be aware that it has a reputation for taking the cross-over concept to new levels, with a wide variety of players, and crazy combos and moves.
Now we’ve reached the HD era, and with it the release of Marvel vs Capcom 3. As with many franchises stepping out into the world of high definition, there’s a delicate balance between bringing it up to the visual standard expected, and still remembering to tweak, improve and innovate the rest of the game behind the effects.
Capcom have mostly succeeded this time around. Certainly the game looks pretty damn good at 1080p, with 3D models on a 2D plane, much like Street Fighter IV. The graphics are crisp, bright, and incredibly fast. It can sometimes be a little hard to tell what’s going on, especially if you are new to the franchise, and I’d suggest taking the epilepsy warning at the start of the game quite seriously.
The gameplay format is exactly what you’d expect. Three-on-three tag team action, with high hit-count combos, giant special moves, and ultra three-character combined combos available to devastate your opponent. Character balance seems pretty good, though in the early days - as with all fighting games - it can be hard to judge.
In regards to characters, the Capcom defaults are mostly present, with Ryu, Akuma and Chun Li all accounted for. Marvel also has its staples, with Wolverine, Spiderman, and Hulk returning. Chris from Resident Evil and Deadpool are two new entries into the franchise, along with some obscure characters from long forgotten, or non Kiwi-released games. These include She Hulk, Arthur from Ghosts 'n' Ghouls, and Tron from Waku Waku 7, an old Capcom fighting game that was particularly weird.
One of the missed opportunities with this game, and perhaps for the franchise, is the story mode, as it really doesn't exist at all. You choose your characters (36 or so, down from the 50+ of Marvel vs Capcom 2), you beat the end boss, and whichever character lands the final blow gets a five or six frame comic ending of very little depth. Consider the fun that could have been had writing stories and tying in canon, factoring in that the audience will no doubt contain comic book fans, and Capcom have missed the boat here.
If there’s one thing the fans love, it’s tie ins, back-stories, and pop culture references to other characters and heroes. Something like a Stan Lee penned ending for each character would have been incredible.
There’s also a bit of a debate on the controls. Changed again and arguably over-simplified, you have a light, medium, and heavy attack button, and a special move button. Repeated spamming of these will quite easily see you beat the single player story mode on the default difficulty. However in multiplayer, you’d best be prepared for a severe beating.
Multiplayer is what the series is really all about. Typical New Zealand latency aside - a bane of all fighting games - matchmaking is pretty straightforward and perfectly usable. With a good ping you’ll find the multiplayer a fast paced world of mayhem and innovative combos. It's also populated by people who are far far better than you.
One major flaw however is the absence of a spectator mode. You can’t sit and watch other players battle it out to see combos, pick up ideas, and watch how counter attacks to certain moves are performed. This seems bizarre as it doesn't seem too hard to implement, and certainly beats staring at a lobby screen while you wait for your turn.
There isn't an awful lot else to explore in Marvel vs Capcom 3. No puzzle combat, no ‘Tekken Bowl’, no side-scrolling beat-em-up mode. You get a thin story mode, a good multiplayer mode, a mission (training) mode, and a good selection of characters. And that’s all you get.
Marvel Vs Capcom 3 is a pretty tight fighting game which could have been just that little bit special had they put some background into the story mode, let players watch online matches, and thrown in a few more features.
It’s still a great two-player fighting game, and one suited best for a night in the lounge with your mates. The mechanics are slick, the graphics are great, and it’s a huge amount of fun.