Capcom proved a console-quality fighter could be pulled off on a portable with Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition on Nintendo's rival handheld. With Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 (UMvC3) arriving on the PlayStation Vita, it faces the challenge of standing out amongst Sony's strong day-one offerings. Despite the stout competition, UMvC3 reinforces the fact that players don't need a big screen and a fight stick to brawl with the big boys.
An extremely faithful port of last year's console version, UMvC3 offers exactly what I expected and little more. Because it stubbornly sticks to carbon-copying its big brother, some have been hesitant to recommend it. I tend to disagree with this stance (mostly). Sure, from its brimming character roster to its lack of solo modes, it's the same game fans played last fall. That said, it's safe to say many will be introduced to this amazing mash-up of Marvel and Capcom characters for the first time on their Vitas. For those who wouldn't know a Hyper Combo if it bit their backside, UMvC3 is a great fighting game that impressively puts Sony's new high-horsepower handheld through its paces.
It delivers the same eye-popping presentation as its console predecessor, minus a few lost details in the backgrounds. Fast, fluid animations complement equally quick combat and a rainbow-shaming color palette paints some of the prettiest visuals to grace the Vita at launch. In terms of showing off the Vita's graphical prowess, UMvC gives even the portable's poster-boy, Golden Abyss, a run for its polygons.
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UMvC3 is more than just a pretty face, though; it plays nice on the Vita. Even with the lack of a second set of triggers, mechanics will feel comfortably familiar to anyone who's high-kicked behind a controller. Despite the smaller buttons and sticks, and their closer proximity, I had little trouble keeping up with the thumb-numbing action. I should, however, disclose that my fingers are freakishly small, so mileage may vary in this regard. The three-on-three tag team formula is a blast offline, but shines brightest in infrastructure mode where players can fight with up to eight friends in an online experience that's both lag-free and easy to set up.
While it remains mostly unchanged, this port's been tweaked with all its console counterpart's post-release patches; so it's technically better balanced than the PS3 version was on day one. It also offers some Vita-specific fun in the form of a touch mode. Unpopular with a number of players, this feature is admittedly underwhelming, but not a total wash. On top of being an effective way to showcase the polished production values, it provides an accessible option for rookie fighters to enjoy and easily get through the game. As noted, the controls are solid, but budding brawlers may want to test the waters in this more user-friendly arena.
As a seasoned fan of the franchise, I too wanted more from this port; adding DLC characters to the regular roster and including more single-player modes would have been a good start. Still, for super-fans looking for an on-the-go fight or newcomers who've always wanted to tear Spider-man a new one from behind Strider's Cypher blade, UMvC3 is one of Vita's best launch-day buys.
[This Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 review is based on the retail PS Vita version of the game, provided by publishing partner Sony.]