Marvel vs Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds Review
Written : Tuesday, February 15, 2011
By: Dan Webb (GT: Webb x360a)
Capcom’s Japanese development arm might not have been making waves in other genres in the last few years, but there is one department that they’ll seemingly always be king in, and that's the fighting genre. In 2009 and 2010 Capcom rewarded the methodical and the strategical in Street Fighter IV and Super Street Fighter IV respectively. In 2011, they’re rewarding the insane with some balls-to-the-wall, over-the-top, in-your-face fighting action as they bring back the popular Marvel vs. Capcom franchise from the game development doldrums; and boy did they bring it back!
"Want to meet MvC3's Street Fighter contingent? No Ken do."
Unlike Capcom’s Street Fighter IV series, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 makes use of Capcom’s second generation of the MT Framework engine – recently used in Lost Planet 2 – and thanks to co-developer Eighting – who recently developed the brilliant Tatsunoko vs. Capcom – the team have combined to produce a stunning tag-team fighter of epic proportions for the high-end consoles.
For those new to the series, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a 3-on-3 tag-team fighter with an emphasis on over-the-top moves and never-ending combos, rather than disciplined and controlled fighting that you’d find in Capcom’s other baby. If Street Fighter is a traditional game of chess, then Marvel vs. Capcom is a game of chess that uses explosive pieces on a timer with a psychedelic chess board, flashing lights and whirling lasers whilst kicking out techno beats at a deafening volume. It definitely does feel more Tatsunoko than MvC2 though from a pacing and battle intensity perspective, which isn’t a bad thing by any means. In fact, it’s a good thing considering how good Tatsunoko was.
For those new to the series or those not really attuned to the disciplines of the fighting genre, the game looks to be more accessible for new players, offering a “Simple” mode control scheme; meaning all the character’s special moves are only a button press away for everyone. This isn’t going to break down the barriers online and completely level the playing field, not by any means, as the more skilled player will have access to move sets that the player using ‘Simple’ control scheme does not. It does mean that they won’t get their ass kicked as hard though, which has to be a good thing, but the main thing as far as we’re concerned is, that the depth is still there for veterans who opt for the normal control scheme, so it’s not sacrificing anything for it.
In terms of new gameplay features, nothing really stands out and smacks you in the face, aside from the new ‘X-Factor’ mode, which grants the player’s team a temporary strength and mobility boost. When you use it though determines how effective is; for instance, use it with one character with half a health bar left and it’ll be more effective than if you use it with three characters left standing with full health bars. I’ve yet to find an instance online where it creates an unfair advantage and can be exploited, but I get the feeling that it’s only a matter of time until someone can perform a 100+ combo with it activated and obliterate a whole team in one swift shot - they would all have to be on-screen at once though, which only happens in 'Crossover Combinations.' Whether you want to call that great tactics or a deceitful exploit though will be down to perception, but considering that we’ve not come across something like that yet online, we’ll say that it’s a fairly well-balanced implementation... for the meantime. If that’s not enough to keep you happy, there are also ‘Team Aerial Combos’ and ‘Team Aerial Counters’ which are cool ways to tag your teammates in, whilst also doing a decent amount of damage in the process.
"Viewtiful Joe... kicking ass and taking names!"
Of course, balance is key in fighting games more than any other genre and after ploughing through more than a few matches online and offline, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 seems to be an extremely well-balanced affair. Before launch I feared that Amaterasu and Arthur might cause issues thanks to their height, but thanks to Capcom’s health reduction for smaller characters, this isn’t an issue at all. Conversely, it appears as if the larger characters can also take more of a beating as well, as they’re bigger – and slower – targets. Obviously the game has its strong and weak characters in each tier, as does every fighting game, but there aren’t any that standout as being supremely overpowered – although Hsien-Ko and Dante do come close when you master their move sets. With a good spread of quick, agile attackers all the way to slow, powerful beasts though, character selection should come down to personal preference rather a necessity to survive, which is one of the most important things to balance in a fighter if it’s going to stay interesting in the long-term.
The only issue one could have from a gameplay perspective, is the movement speed towards your opponent which can sometimes be unbearably slow – especially if you’re one of the bigger characters – meaning anyone with ranged attacks can take advantage of this, as seemed to be the case in MvC2. However, most characters always seem to be able to counter to this, whether it’s with their own ranged attacks or with the ability to take to the air and circumnavigate the danger, so it’s nothing game-breaking. It is an odd issue though, considering the usual high-octane pace of the action that the game offers. Oh and it still sucks on the original Xbox 360 controllers, so either get yourself a stick, a pad with a better d-pad or stick to the ‘Simple’ control scheme otherwise you’re up shit creek without a paddle. Okay, it’s not that bad, but it’s not ideal.
After being treated to a stunning anime cutscene when you boot the game up, where you start first is entirely up to you. If you’re looking for a little offline action, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 offers the usual ‘Arcade’ mode, a ‘Versus’ mode, ‘a ‘Training’ mode and also a ‘Mission’ mode. All of which should be fairly familiar to Marvel vs. Capcom and Street Fighter players; so nothing new there.
In 2009 I sat here and criticised Capcom for locking up the vast majority of its characters from the get-go, but here in 2011, things have moved on somewhat. In Marvel vs. Capcom 3, 32 of the 36 characters are already unlocked, meaning you’re free to do whatever you want from the off – the other 4 unlocked without me actually doing anything insane, so all 36 are accessible to everyone, no matter how skilled they are at the game.
“36!” you scream, “Why that’s 20 less than MvC2!” Yes, that may be the case, but unlike Marvel vs. Capcom 2, there are no carbon copy characters thrown in to pad out the numbers, so no Venom and Spider-Man this time, just Spider-Man. That seems to be the case for the most part, although X-23 and Wolverine’s fighting styles are essentially the same, and the only difference is that one’s got breasts and the other is X-23.
"Watch out for Galactus, he's such an annoying boss!"
Despite the non-reappearance of fan-favourites like Strider, Gambit and Mega Man, the roster is a fairly solid one and it’s not long before you’re muttering “Strider, who?” Characters like Mike Haggar, Deadpool and Zero pretty much cover the voids they left behind as well. Rather interestingly though, there are a lot of returning characters from the second iteration, but there are enough new characters, like Hsien-Ko and Viewtiful Joe amongst others, to keep everything feeling fresh. Plus, the lovely cel-shaded-esque character models, impressive animations, lively back-drops and flashy-backgrounds give the title a new lease of life.
Despite not having to unlock characters in the ‘Arcade’ mode to use for ‘Versus’ matches, more so than ever, I was determined to complete the ‘Arcade’ mode with every character just to see their unique comic book style endings. Sure, it would have been nice to see a cutscene of a similar ilk to the opening one for each character, but having to make do with some hand-drawn comic strips isn’t so bad.
I’m going to go out on a limb here too and say everyone will hate the boss in ‘Arcade’ mode, Galactus, who is the cheapest and possibly worst boss in the history of fighting video games. Why? Simple, because in his first stage you have to fight two characters at once; and in the second stage, when he’s not stood there letting you belt the crap out of him, he’s pulling off some devastating screen filling attacks. He makes Abyss look like candyfloss and rainbows.
Outside of the ‘Arcade’ mode and taking the practice mode that one step further is the ‘Mission’ mode, that allows you to not only practice moves, but also to learn a new range of them in the process. Each of the game’s 36 characters has 10 specific move challenges to complete, ranging from the basic to the insane. If anything, this mode will serve to wean players from the ‘Simple’ control setup to the standard control setup, but will serve as nothing more than a distraction in the grand scheme of things. Like my grandfather always used to say: “Jump in the deep end and stop being a pussy!”
Similarly to its Street Fighter cousin, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 also has its own player profiles and license cards, but takes them one step further by not only allowing players to track character usage of themselves and anyone on the leaderboards, and set icons and titles for their card, but they can also track their stats, strengths and weaknesses via a fancy fighting style visual and also setup 3 “reserve units,” which is basically your preferred threesome, their character outfit – out of the 4 available – and the assist type – the move they perform when called in to assist. If you’re not a stat whore like me, then the amount of unlockable art, movies, sounds, models, endings and such to unlock and view in the ‘Gallery’ section will surely keep you busy flicking through pages.
"Sentinel can be a beast online if you master his moves."
The majority of your time will undoubtedly be spent in the game’s ‘Versus’ mode – local multiplayer – or online. The online on first inspection may seem rather bare-bones with just ranked and custom matches to get involved in, but the 8-player winner-stays-on lobbies are where it’s at and are in the true spirit of what fighting games are about. However, while it’s nice that you can drop in and out of the pecking order in the lobbies as you please, I do find it bizarre that you can’t actually watch the fights. Instead, you watch their energy bars deplete while you sit there looking at the lobby screen, which kind of defeats the object in some respects.
While the netcode seems stable enough when playing online – I rarely suffered any lag whatsoever – it’s a bit of a nightmare to get a game, with “Failed to join game session” and “Connection to the host has been lost” popping up every two minutes and being dropped from lobbies far too frequently. It’s a shame though, because with the connectivity online the way it is currently, it almost renders that aspect completely useless. Yes, my NAT settings are open, thank you very much. Unless Capcom sharpens that up fast, you’ll be confined to play ‘Versus’ and ‘Arcade’ modes for the foreseeable future, which is a shot in the foot for the game’s longevity.
From an achievement perspective, I never thought I’d hear myself saying this about a Japanese developer’s list and for a fighting game as well, but the achievement list is pretty damn fantastic. We rave on about balance, originality and spread in achievement lists all the time, and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is possibly the first Japanese achievement list that nails each and every one of those targets. The game offers something for veterans and newbies alike; its character team and Xbox Live achievements are an interesting and unique idea; and it also tempts you to try out every single mode. It’s not easy by any means and it’s not a five-minute job, but it’s fair, balanced and a pretty damn good achievement list. Japan, take note.
Incidentally, I should mention in case you’re playing through it and worrying why your achievement didn’t pop, that sometimes when performing the requirements of the achievement it can take 20-30 seconds for it to pop up, but fear not, it should eventually. It did for me, every time without fail.
It’s quite clear, well to me it is, that with Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Capcom and Eighting have looked to address the concerns that stemmed from Capcom’s stable of fighting games - mainly Super Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom - to create the perfect tag-team fighting game. Although Marvel vs. Capcom 3 isn’t quite the perfect fighter that they’d tried so hard to create, it’s not far off, and thanks to 8-player winner-stays-on lobbies and a plethora of bonus content to unlock – that doesn’t include the majority of the game’s characters! – Capcom’s latest fighting game is set to burrow its way into your hearts for many months to come. If only they could have got the online connectivity up to scratch, it would have been a 90+. Shame.
With both English and Japanese voiceovers that can be selected for each character, some classic Japanese fighting tunes and even a commentator which can be turned on, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 delivers pretty much everything you want from a Japanese fighting game, even the incredibly cheesy announcer.
The comic book style visuals may not be for everyone, but they’re perfectly fitting for the game’s source material. Superb animations and wonderfully crafted character models mean that Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a bit of an ol’ treat for the eyes.
Capcom has not only delivered some frenetic 3-on-3 tag-team action with Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but they’ve also broke down that initial barrier for newcomers with the ‘Simple’ control scheme. Excellent stuff from Capcom and Eighting.
With the vast majority of the characters unlocked from the start, a fairly solid balance, an ‘Arcade’ mode to blitz through and 8-player lobbies online, you couldn’t ask for much more apart from maybe tournaments. Oh, that and some stable connectivity online which seems to be non-existent at the moment. It’s still best experienced in ‘Versus’ mode with friends playing winner stays on though.
Balanced, original with a nice spread. It’s probably the best achievement list to come out of Japan.
As always is the case with fighting games, whether it’s 1990 or 2011, the core of the experience may depend wholly upon the game mechanics, but in order to deliver the complete experience, the game must be judged as the sum of its parts. Thankfully for us, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 not only plays like a dream and seems to be extremely well balanced, but it delivers more than enough content to keep you tied to your seat for months to come; whether it’s in the ‘Arcade’ or ‘Mission’ modes, or just in the ‘Versus’ mode and 8-player lobbies. Unfortunately, at present the connectivity issues online are a huge blight on what should easily be a 90+ game – What’s that, Dan? Out of 16 attempts you only got into 1 game? Yes... I was counting. Despite that, Capcom should be commended for its accessible gameplay for newcomers, its reinvigoration of the franchise and everything else it does right. Online connectivity though? Hell no.