Back in the mid 90’s, someone posed the question: “What if Ryu went up against Wolverine? Who would win?” The idea of clashing two legendary properties like the Marvel Comics Universe with the variety of characters from Capcom like Street Fighter has fueled the timeless “Who’s better?” debate for years. The Vs. series of fighting games have always been extremely frantic, faster-than-light thrill rides that pit the greatest characters of the Marvel Universe against those of Capcom. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 continues this long tradition of excellence; and after over a decade since the last game, the wait has been well worth it.
While fighting games have never had much of a storyline, this was a missed opportunity to further expand on connections between fellow heroes and villains. While quotes before and after fights do a satisfactory job at nodding to this, Capcom could have established a better plot than just pitting all of the characters together in the ring while the final boss prepares to destroy the planet.
The character roster features about 36 characters, with the promise of additional fighters in the future. Staple characters like Wolverine, Ryu and Spider-Man are still present, and new faces like Deadpool, Dante and Zero help bring variety to the roster. Every character is extremely well detailed, bursting at the seams with vibrant colors that pop off the screen. Although this game is about putting your favorite team together and taking everyone down, simply watching everything going on is a visual rollercoaster ride.
Controls have been simplified, but a few hours spent in training mode will get even the most inexperienced player up and running. Combos are as easy as pressing each attack button (Light, Medium, Heavy) in succession, and chaining them with special attacks is even easier. In addition to the basic Arcade and Versus modes, there is also a Mission mode, where the player is put through unique challenges for each character that help with mastering complex combos that will give an edge when playing against others. I found Mission mode to be a little unnecessary, because a lot of the trials required very specific situations and were rather difficult to pull off in more practical fights. For those looking for extra practice, it can’t hurt however. Once you’ve got your team picked out, the game really shines once you’re online, or playing against a friend.
While the average fight is exciting, I found them to also be very short. It doesn’t take too much effort to seriously injure a character, as a well timed hyper combo can take down a character outright, and cripple one of their partners if they were unlucky enough to get caught in the crossfire. The lack of an option to customize the rules in online player matches is another sore spot; a number of my matches ended because the time ran out, instead of my team or my opponent’s being knocked out. Not being able to change the time to unlimited makes the underhanded tactic of dealing sufficient damage and avoiding contact until the time runs out very possible; otherwise battles are often fist to fists brawls until only one is left standing. One trick I was impressed with was the use of Aerial Exchanges, where one character tosses their opponent in the air and tags in their second and third teammates to take turns letting loose on them, making matches dynamic. While this game is easy to pick up and play, it takes a long time to master. The sheer amount of strategies, combos and teams one can think of ensures that many different players will constantly bring something new to the table.
Among the many additions to the game, X-Factor is both a blessing and a curse. Activating it gives your team a noticeable damage increase, as well as a rapid regeneration to health. The time this lasts is proportional to how many of your teammates you have alive. Activating it while all of your partners are alive gives you about ten seconds of X-Factor, while activating it with only one character remaining brings it up to around thirty seconds. This is meant to be a saving grace for the loser to make a comeback, but I honestly found it to be a little too unbalanced. I won way too many matches that I had no business winning just because I waited until I only had one character remaining to get the highest boost with X-Factor. The drastic augments to my last character’s damage allowed me to rip through a three person team singlehandedly. Alternatively, players can take a dominating position by scrambling their opponents with an early X-Factor to get a comfortable lead quickly. What often happens is either X-Factor pushes an already dangerous character like Sentinel into “Overpowered” territory, or someone on the verge of losing abruptly takes the upper hand because they artificially start to do more damage instead of relying on their natural skill. In essence, this comeback mechanic adds to the craziness Marvel vs. Capcom is known for, so your mileage with this will definitely vary.
For the most part, playing online is really decent. In my experience, most of my fights were lag-free, and were just as fast paced as if I were playing offline. Actually connecting to players leaves something to be desired though. If you fail to connect to an opponent, the game takes you back to the main menu screen, which will cause a lot of headaches if you can’t find someone after the third or fourth try. Actually catching someone to play was difficult in the times I tried, but this should resolve itself as time passes and more people are playing at once. When you actually do get in a room of players, there isn’t a Spectator mode to watch the battle taking place, which is vital to learning new strategies by watching other people going at it. As a result, you’ll be stuck with nothing to watch until it’s your turn. This was a terrible flaw, because Spectator mode has been a staple in online fighting games for years, and the fact that a new game is lacking a very standard feature is a major oversight.
Without a doubt, Capcom has succeeded in crafting another masterpiece to join their dynasty of great fighters. Regardless of if you’ve won or lost a match, you’ll always have that itch to play “just one more round,” and before you know it, a few hours have flown by. Despite a couple of design oversights, this game never ceases to amaze. Whether you’re playing this game because you’re an avid comic book fan, or just simply love fighting games, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 successfully marries both hobbies and provides something cool for everyone.