After years of endless cries for a sequel and combo-juggling its way through licensing issues, Capcom has delivered Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds to gamers on the Xbox 360 and PS3.
In a genre riddled with hardcore, sore-thumbed zealots, the latest entry in Capcom's famed crossover series may do more to craft an appreciation for fighting games from casual gamers than was ever expected.
Though I've loved fighting games since my youth and have spent a pretty penny collecting relics from franchises throughout the genre, I've never been especially skilled in any series. Sure, I can sometimes pull off impressive stretches against friends; eke out wins against my betters; and do enough to save myself from embarrassment against pros, but I'm not going to be looking for sponsors to take me to the Evo Championship Series anytime soon. What makes Marvel vs. Capcom 3 impressive on its surface is that the game's developers have managed to simplify the control scheme since Marvel vs. Capcom 2, yet still retain the depth for rich competitive play.
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It's easy to pull off taunt-worthy combos with the game's light, medium, heavy, and "Special" attack buttons--the latter of which will mostly be used as a launcher for air combos--however, the game's fun factor raises exponentially as you learn how and when to best utilize your moves. This, sadly, is where Marvel vs. Capcom 3 falls a little short for the more casual player. Though Marvel vs. Capcom 3 includes an informative Mission mode, the game doesn't do a great job of explaining when certain moves are useful in real-world situations. This was a similar complaint I lodged at Street Fighter IV--which included a similar mode--when it released.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 does include a deep Training mode, though. And after you've understood the basics and set up your desired perimeters, the mode can help accelerate your skill. There's also a new mode being added to the game as post-launch DLC that may give players a better understanding of advanced play. Shadow mode is said to give gamers a variety of A.I. opponents that are modeled after pro players, which I hope can help to sharpen my personal "on-the-fly" decision-making. (Note: Capcom has yet to reveal pricing for the mode or its subsequent updates.)
Marvel vs. Capcom 3's roster is much slimmer than the previous game in the series. The cast has been reduced to 36 characters (with more coming as DLC) versus the 56 found in MvC2. In playing the game online, many of the people I came across were perturbed by some roster selections. I suppose it's a matter of taste. Personally, I found the variety of characters pulled from both respective universes to be a welcome selection.
The decision to dig beyond the surface for characters in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 gives me the same excitement I felt after seeing the care that went into featuring so many characters in DC Universe Online, though my aim isn't to compare the two games. My point is that it's more representative of the overall quality of a company to include sprinkles from throughout its history rather than just focus on the obvious. The core characters that the casual gamer will recognize are front and center on the box, like Capcom's Ryu and Marvel's Wolverine, for example, but within the disc's spinning data lies an ass-kicking Amaterasu (Capcom) and a sinister M.O.D.O.K. (Marvel).
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 doesn't expand on showcasing its roster too much beyond unlockable character profiles, but it does a great job of featuring both the mainstream and obscure for a well-rounded presentation of both worlds.
What Marvel vs. Capcom 3 lacks, however, is an overall story. Though Capcom touted former X-Men and Iron Man comic scribe Frank Tieri as the game's narrative and dialog creator, there's very little featured in the game. In fact, the only way I was aware of how the two world's are brought together was the comic included in the game's special edition. As for endings, players are treated to two comic panel style drawings with minimal exploration on the fate of the winning character. The "winning character" is based on which character on your team lands the final winning blow against the game's galactic final boss, which is one decision I can say I'm personally not a fan of. Other than that, there's no conclusion to the tale.
Dialog, or in-match chatter, is a different story. Characters are referential and show great personality before, during, and after matches. Deadpool, for example, is a laugh riot, breaking the "fourth wall" on multiple occasions.
It's really up to the individual player to decide whether story in a fighting game matters. I would venture to guess that it isn't on many priority lists. However, it would have been nice to expand a little more on the fate of these two worlds, considering the history of the franchise and the depth of the characters--and the game's title. It's not a major detractor, and though Capcom isn't big on detailed in-game story within its fighting franchises, it's simply something I think people would have appreciated.
Speaking of referential, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 bathes itself in the franchise's own placement within the annals of video game history. The game looks and feels like it was crafted by a group of people who revel in its over-the-top insanity and who aren't beyond sprinkling in nods at popular internet memes as a tip of the hat to the hardcore. Face off against Magneto as Deadpool and you'll see more than a few throwbacks to this famous clip, for example.
It's a healthy dose of fun and frantic action for both casual and hardcore, wrapped in a love letter to the tournament junkies that are still maintaining eternal team-up's of Magneto, Sentinel, and Storm.
The game has four hidden characters that are easily acquired after an hour or two of standard play. Though there's a bevy of unlockable content, it's mostly down to artwork, movie clips, sounds, and online icons and titles.
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Online play was a bit spotty for me throughout my experience. Ranked matches were hard to come by for most of my time with the game, forcing me to take my favorite teams to unranked arenas. The netcode is comparable to that of Super Street Fighter IV. You will go against some lag for most of your online matches but, for me, it rarely felt like it was making the experience unplayable. This, I suppose you can call, "acceptable level of lag" is the nature of bringing a game that hinges so much on precise timing to the online market. But that doesn't excuse it from being a flaw.
Modes for online play are limited to "Ranked Matches," "Player (Unranked) Matches," and a "Lobby" mode. The Lobby allows players to create a room for up to eight competitors to do battle under the "Winner Stays" rule. Unfortunately, other than flash real-time life bars of the two players in a match, the game has no spectating options. Hopefully that feature will be added later--and I don't mean in an Ultra Super MvC3 Edition, either.
My approach for writing this review cannot be one based on my complete and technical understanding of the game's inner workings. What I may find to be perfect balance, a pro could consider completely broken, or vice versa. What I can do is offer an opinion based on my experience with the game and, if you're keeping track, it's pretty obvious that I'm a big fan.
In my eyes, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has been dealt some chip damage with its lack of spectating online, minimal attention to story, and bouts with varying levels of lag, saving it from recording a perfect victory; however, it's a great overall experience that you must explore whether you're looking to go pro or just want a to have a lot of fun.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, provided by Capcom.