Rating: T (for Teen)
Developer: Capcom, Fighling
Release Date: February 15, 2011
It’s been eleven years since the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes. This hugely successful game developed a strong cult following amongst not only fighting game enthusiasts, but casual gamers alike. Released across seven different platforms during the past decade, it was no surprise to anyone that it’s successor would be one of the most anticipated fighters this generation. The long awaited third installment, Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, finally dropped on February 15th for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. (There is no arcade version planned at the moment; a very telling notion about the evolution of fighting games.) It features full online support, including leader boards and boasts a roster of 36 characters. (That’s twenty less characters than it’s predecessor, however.) Two additional characters are available through DLC, along with an additional costume pack for a specific set of characters. Capcom plans to release more DLC for the game as well, but hasn’t announced anything specific as of right now. Shrinking amounts of content in our games and additional DLC just seems to be something we’re all pretty much used to by now. But is Marvel vs. Capcom 3, as a standalone retail package worth your $59.99? I would say for the most part yes, but it also depends on what you expect from a fighting game as a whole.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 follows Capcom’s trend of 2.5D fighting games, much like Street Fighter and Super Street Fighter IV. Both games were extremely successful, and this was a step in the right direction for Capcom; Rather than abandoning their 2D roots like Mortal Kombat did the previous generation (which they are now returning to.) The characters are rendered in 3D, but combat takes place with a fixed camera on a 2D plane. This maintains Capcom’s legacy of 2D fighters which fans have loved for years, while giving their games a fresh, modern feel. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is built on the MT Framework engine, which Capcom has built most of it’s next gen games on. Beautiful cell shading gives the game an inky, stylized feel, as if the characters came right from a comic book. The entire game, right down to it’s interface is designed to look and play like an animated graphic novel. Richly colored character models, overcast with deep ink blot shadows are a great homage for Marvel Comics and manga fans alike. The character select screen itself is a comic book (complete with barcode) that your three chosen characters will grace the cover of. Visually speaking, the combat itself absolutely dazzling. The detailing and animations are stunning, and further impressive considering the game runs at 60 FPS.
While the frame rate is a crucial aspect of the game visually, it impacts the fighting mechanics even more so. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is an extremely fast paced game. Capcom’s goal for this installment was to largely appeal to fighting game enthusiasts while at the same time granting those who find fighting games daunting, or are less experienced with them something they can pick up and enjoy casually as well. Thus, they introduced Simple Mode; which is, as it’s name implies a simplified version of the control scheme. For example, like in most Capcom fighting games a quarter circle on the D pad or analog/joystick + attack is a standard input for a special move. (Morrigan’s Soul Fist, Ryu’s Hadouken are mapped to this configuration.) For those of you who are extremely new to fighting games, you roll your thumb across the D-pad, or rotate the analog/joystick starting from the bottom center moving it to the right (or toward the opponent, which would be left from the right side of the screen) in one quick, fluid motion, simultaneously with an attack button. Simple Mode reduces this so simply pressing one attack button will execute the special move. Which may seem like it’s an advantage at first, but it’s quite the opposite.
The standard button layout is square for a light attack, triangle for a medium, circle for a heavy and x for a launch attack (to air combo–which is very important in this game.) While in Normal Mode, you typically combo by start with weaker attacks, following up with more powerful ones. Simple Mode remaps a basic combo to square, special moves to triangle, hyper moves to circle and allows you to automatically air combo by pressing x. (Which you would have to do manually in Normal.) For what you give up for easier, minimized inputs though just doesn’t feel worth it for me. The different types of combos you can do are severely limited. Certain moves are completely unable to be performed, and even variants of moves are missing. For example, Morrigan’s Soul Fist is normally a horizontal projectile when you pair the quarter-circle motion with either square or triangle attack. But if you pair it with circle, the projectile will move diagonally upwards instead. The latter cannot be executed in Simple Mode. Storm’s Typhoon has three variants depending on which attack button you press; one very close to her with light, one centered in the middle with a medium attack, and one far away with a heavy. You only get the middle variant in Simple Mode.
You also completely lose the ability to perform advanced combos, defensive tactics, throws and cancels–which is the act of entering the button combination for one move before the animation from a previous move finishes, effectively chaining the two moves together. This an extremely advanced concept, that requires a great deal of dedication and fighting game prowess–something many gamers may find tedious and won’t bother to learn, however. I would say any average gamer who’s spent at least some amount of time with a controller in their hands is far better off sticking with Normal Mode. I would really only recommend Simple Mode for those who have literally never played a fighting game in their life before, or younger children. Overall, I consider it a useful addition to the game, yet at the same time I wouldn’t recommend it to those who regularly play games, but feel intimidated by the genre or pacing of MvC3; a little practice in Normal Mode will be far more remunerative. One of the better aspects of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is the wide scope of players it covers. Two novice players can both play on Simple Mode, and have a pretty good time. The combat mechanics and control options make it very easy to pick up, yet extremely difficult to master. It has quite a bit of depth, enough that amateurs at the game whether employing Simple Mode or not will have a steep learning curve to even stand a chance against experts. It really all depends on who your competition is and their skill level, honestly.
There are some very important mechanics one must be aware of to really enjoy this game. The most obvious being that instead of selecting one character, you’re choosing three who will act as a team. This is important because each character has a set of support abilities they utilize to support the character you’re currently playing as in combat. With 36 characters available initially, it shouldn’t be difficult to assemble a team you enjoy. Interestingly, many popular characters are currently MIA for this installment. (No Mega Man or Gambit? Wow. I personally wanted Phoenix Wright to make an appearance, also.) While more obscure characters made a surprising addition to the roster, (Characters like Dormammu and Hsien-Ko weren’t expected by most.) You can freely switch between characters, calling in Partner 1 by holding L1, and Partner 2 by holding R1. Tapping the buttons will allow them to perform their support attack to assist you against your opponent. (You select which support attack or ability they can do before during the character selection process.) Calling them in or even switching to them can be tricky in the heat of battle, however; your team mates can take damage if caught in the cross fire of enemy attacks. If you tapped L1 or R1 for quick support, they’ll take an additional 50% damage than they would if they were the point character, or switched too.
Damage is not shared between your trio; they each have their own unique amount of health. The lowest HP factor in the game is 800,000 (shared by a few characters) while the highest is Sentinel, with 1,300,000. This is one of a few elements I felt made the game fairly unbalanced, among others. When a character is attacked, they take two kinds of damage; red damage and normal damage. While normal damage completely empties your health meter, every attack has a buffer of red damage that can be recovered by switching the character out and keeping them in reserves til the yellow health remaining refills the red. This is where Snap Backs become crucial as well. A Snap Back is performed by doing a quarter-circle forward + L1 or R1; this propels your opponent’s point character off-screen, and forces Partner 1 or 2 to the battlefield depending on which button you pressed. A very useful tactic designed to force a wounded character back into battle, so they don’t heal up too much of the damage they sustained.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 does not utilize proximity blocking–which makes your character auto-block when there is no button input. Blocking (by pressing and holding a direction away from the opponent’s attacks) is extremely important in MvC3. Further, if your opponent corners you, by pressing two attack buttons together while blocking, you can perform an Advancing Guard. This bounces your opponent back, giving you a chance to recover. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has also introduced an ultimate “underdog” technique; the X-Factor. This ability, which can be activated by pressing the four main buttons, puts your character into a state that greatly enhances your character’s strengths, while refilling the red damage of the point character. The reason I referred to it as an underdog ability, is because the more you’re losing (I.e. One or both partners are dead) and the lower your HP is, the more deadly you’ll become. I would definitely suggest using this ability strategically, as some characters become extremely threatening when in X-Factor state. For anyone looking to buy and get the most out of their game, these are certainly things you will have to learn to do to enjoy it, especially if you intend to play against others online.
As a whole, I feel the combat and damage statistics aren’t horridly unbalanced, but there’s definitely some advantages in terms of reach, frame rate speed of attacks, projectiles, and of course the versatility of how each individual character can be played. Some characters can fight effectively from any distance, while others need to remain close, or a distance away to be used efficiently. This isn’t a detriment to the game overall though, and it’s to be expected from a game with an extremely diverse roster of characters. It’s predecessor wasn’t known for being the most balanced game either, probably less balanced than this installment. As stated above, I would suggest spending some time in the game’s Training and especially Mission modes to get a grasp on each character’s strengths and weakness’. However, the variety of game modes and the way the Training and Missions are presented isn’t terribly helpful for people who are new to the series.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s game modes are a bit sparse overall. The Offline option gives you four modes; Arcade Mode, Versus Mode, and as mentioned above Training and Mission Mode. Arcade Mode is the game’s actual story mode, which most games of this genre separate nowadays. You select your team, and fight through six sets of randomly chosen opponents followed by a special boss fight with Galactus. (And he’s as cheap as any good fighting game final boss should be.) Each character’s ending is comprised of two comic panels with some dialogue. I know we shouldn’t expect much from the story of a fighting game, but I couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed. Soul Calibur III comes to mind, which had a completely fleshed out, strategic based storyline with it’s own unique characters along with appearances from every playable character in the series. When a game boasts a sub title like “Fate of Two Worlds” you do tend to expect a bit more than what Capcom actually gave us for this installment. I will say I did enjoy some of the more humorous endings, like She-Hulk presiding over a court case, with Phoenix Wright defending against Miles’ Edgeworth’s prosecution.
The Game’s Training and Mission Modes aren’t quite as fleshed out as they could be either. Training is a simulated battle area, where you can practice freely, which is fine. Missions, however sort of throw you to the wolves in terms of explanation. You can see the move you’re required to perform to advance to the next Mission under “Objectives” but the button display isn’t so clear cut, and executing some of these moves require way more precise instructions than you’re given. Take Morrigan’s Vector Drain, for example. You’re shown the button inputs to perform it, which is a half circle on the bottom of the D-Pad with an attack button. What the Mission fails to tell you however is that you must be DIRECTLY near the opponent to perform this move, as it’s a grab. There are other little nuances throughout the Missions where I felt the game just didn’t bother to mention certain things to execute a move. As someone who’s decently experienced with a long history of fighting games under her belt, I could only imagine how frustrating the miniscule amount of guidance would be for newcomers.
Online Mode features Ranked or Player Matches. You are randomly matched against another player, the only way to somewhat control who you face is the ability to set a rank cap on your opponent. (Your rank only, for example.) There’s a myriad of ranks to work through, starting from Beginner, to Fighter, to 9th Ranger and beyond. Lose too many ranked fights online, and you’ll rank down again. There is a penalty for disconnecting against another player as well, that will rank you down even faster. Player Matches are the more laid back alternative to this, where you can actually choose who you fight. You can create a lobby with friends, or join one of your choice with up to eight players. Only two players may fight in one lobby at any given time, and the others must wait their turn by watching the two opponent’s fight cards (that feature their team, HP and a selectable flavor title) bounce aggressively into each other. So in short, there is no Spectator Mode. You can see the individual HP values of each player’s set of characters as they take damage, or recover and so on, but waiting in a lobby for your turn can get boring pretty quickly. I don’t completely fault them for leaving out Spectator Mode at this time, however. While online play is pretty solid in regards to what your connection is like, having six spectators watch your match could GREATLY impede that. It’s an addition that needs to be considered carefully and I don’t mind that Capcom was reluctant in that regard. (It could cause a great deal of lag in games that featured it from launch, like BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger.)
The lack of game modes (Like a tournament mode, and a separate, more fleshed out story mode in addition to Arcade Mode) does diminish the game’s replay value somewhat. You can unlock lots of neat items in the gallery, like character illustrations and some beautifully rendered FMVs, along with stage artwork and music. Each of the 36 characters in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 have their own unique theme, which changes when a character is forced to the forefront of combat upon another character’s death. The starting theme is usually for one of the point characters, or the music unique to each of the game’s ten stages. I felt that the game could have offered more stages overall, though. (At least 15 would have been nice.) Those same ten stages will get old pretty quickly in terms of atmosphere, even though the music is beautifully incorporated. The way it shifts between characters will assure you’ll never hear one theme too often, and a stage’s music itself will never become ad-nauseum. Another great touch with the audio is the language options; you can individually set each character to speak in English or Japanese if you choose. (In Classic audio mode, Marvel characters will speak English while Capcom will mostly speak Japanese.) There are some exceptions, however.
Despite certain issues I have with the game, I feel Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a pretty solid game overall. I believe it’s replay value lies entirely on the company you keep, online or off. Without some friends to enjoy this game with, I don’t see many gamers getting the most out of their money, if anything at all. If you have a network of friends who enjoy fighting games, regardless of their experience level, I would say it’s certainly worth buying. Whether you’d be helping a novice buddy improve their skills, or you’re the newer gamer hoping to seek the tutelage of an experienced friend. I feel that after an 11 year hiatus though, several categories of the game certainly could have been fleshed out more. But there is, of course DLC on the horizon. (But when isn’t there?) This easy to pick up, but difficult to master fighter is at least worth a try for those new to the genre especially. If you love Marvel, comic books in general, or Capcom’s legacy of iconic characters, then Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a must have for you.