With Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite set to release on Tuesday, it means the official end of an era. Over the weekend in Las Vegas, 30 of the best Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 players in the world converged one last time to give this iteration of Capcom's popular crossover series a proper send-off. The event was the Curleh Finale, the final official UMvC3 tournament in the Curleh Circuit, an esports series designed specifically for pro Marvel players.
First released in 2011, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was one of the faces of esports before the term was even a blip on the fighting game community's radar. It pulled in large viewing crowds, drawn by the allure of familiar characters squaring off with neverending combos at breakneck speed. Players would get together at local weekly tournaments like New York's Next Level Battle Circuit and Los Angeles' Wednesday Night Fights, all honing their craft and putting together their best team of three. Even long after Capcom stopped supporting and updating the game, due to licensing issues, the players kept coming out all the way to the bitter end.
This weekend was a culmination of years of support. And even though it didn't have the same epic feel of past Evos and was missing some familiar faces, like former Evo champions Justin Wong and Ryan "Filipino Champ" Ramirez, there was still something special about this weekend's Curleh Finale. It was the opportunity to relive some epic memories, see heart-stopping Hyper Combos for the last time, bid farewell to some favorite characters (Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite shifts its focus towards the faces of the Marvel Cinematic Universe), and even grit teeth one final time over some of the game's most frustrating elements.
And hey, even Phoenix Wright got to come out and play!
The field was filled with competitors that had spent years striving to improve and become the best Marvel player they could be. While a handful of warriors had become the faces of the game several years ago, a new crop of challengers has emerged in recent years and caught up to the old guard. Former perennial powerhouses like Kyohei "MarlinPie" Lehr and Cole "Flux" Tocci were sent home in pools. Even former Evo champion Job "Flocker" Figueroa ended the weekend with a 7th place finish. All the while, players like Juan "Priest" Corona and Joshua "TerryBogard" Martin showed just how much they learned in the past six years, beating out a stacked field to reach the Top 8.
Top 8 thrilled spectators at the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. UMvC3's greatest hits were on display, from Zero's lightning loops to Vergil's parade of helmbreakers. Armando "Angelic" Mejia got one final opportunity to play around with his DLC character of choice, Shuma-Gorath. Shuma was always a fun character to watch, because of his unconventional movements, wacky specials, and his insanely-powerful Chaos Dimension, among the more powerful of the game's Level 3 Hyper Combos. Nobody played the character better than Angelic and he proved it again this weekend.
There was also no denying that the love for UMvC3 was a "warts and all" situation and that showed in the Grand Finals between Christopher "ChrisG" Gonzalez and Rene "RyanLV" Romero. Both players led with Morrigan, a character that many of UMvC3's detractors decried as broken, since her Astral Vision hyper combo could be exploited to litter the screen with Soul Fist projectiles. RyanLV also brought along Phoenix, another character that has given UMvC3 haters fits, since her Dark Phoenix form combined with the X-Factor mechanic could decimate entire teams in less than a dozen hits. It was a full display of everything that made UMvC3 so gloriously aggravating.
But that leads to the other wonder of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Even for all of the cheap stuff on display, it was still a thrilling final series to watch. Because the fun wasn't in watching the cheese, but in watching the opposing player try to overcome it using their natural skill. The fun was in seeing players adapt on the fly. In ChrisG's case, he was able to overcome the challenge of Dark Phoenix more than once and was able to ride to a championship victory. The 2016 Evo champion was one of the game's best players throughout its entire existence, so it only felt appropriate for him to ride off into the sunset as one of its final champions.
Just as ChrisG finished the series with one last Soul Fist, the realization set in. It's all over. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is history. But the memories will always be there of moments like ChrisG's Evo 2016 ascension, Justin Wong slaying the field at Evo 2014 before his victory barrel roll, the Filipino Champ/KaneBlueRiver rivalry, the local tournaments, the first-to-10s, the salt, and everything that's helped make the fighting game community what it is now.
Now the community moves forward to Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. If the Curleh Finale exhibition following the UMvC3 Grand Finals is any indication, the pro scene will continue on and start anew. The Curleh Finale, however, is a reminder of what the scene will be leaving behind and sometimes, it's just hard to say goodbye. Thanks for the memories, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
Photo credits: Bassem "Bear" Dahdouh