February 15th, 2011 AD: A day many fighting game fans have waited for. Capcom has finally released the sequel to 1999’s big hit, Marvel vs Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes. The world had been teased with a sample of Marvel vs Capcom 3 at the San Diego Comic-Con back in July of 2010 and fans were excited. With the coming months leading up to 2/15/2011, Marvel and/or Capcom would release teasers of which 2 characters would be part of the new roster. There were some questionable choices and some fan favorites, but that’s for a later point in this review. A game that’s been MIA for almost one decade begs the question: Is Marvel vs Capcom 3 worth the wait that fighting fans have endured?
WARNING: I will be evaluating this from the mindset of a fighting game fanatic who values both challenge and fun-factor. I feel it is best to look at fighting games this way because it puts things into perspective for those who take the fighting genre quite seriously.
Marvel vs Capcom 3 (MvC3 for short) is oddly unlike its predecessor in play mechanics. It keeps a lot of the hallmarks of over-the-top action like the air combos, Crossovers (of all forms), Hyper Combos, and Team Hyper Combos. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of Marvel vs Capcom’s fighting system, you pick teams of characters to do battle with your opponent’s teams with 3 characters on each team. The basics are much like any other fighting game where you are fighting to take out the opponent. However in the Marvel vs Capcom series, there are some rules that twist things up. During the battle, you are able to call your partners to do Crossover Assists (which each character has 3 possible types which are locked in before battle) and even tag out to let a character heal up. To make things flashy and emphasize over-the-top battles, every character has a set of super moves called Hyper Combos that can be used to dish tons of damage and these can be used in devastating ways. You can even use all of your team members’ Hyper Combos simultaneously, called a Crossover Hyper Combo. If you stagger out each team member to use Hyper Combos one at a time, the tactic is called a Team Hyper Combo. These are the staple mechanics that compose the Marvel vs Capcom series.
The change, however, comes with how these moves can be performed. Some would say these changes are for the better as it opens up the availability to casual players. Others would argue that the game has become too easy to play. Not surprising considering the fact that a majority of the game’s direction/production was under Ryota Niitsuma who also produced Tatsunoko vs Capcom (Wii) per G4.
What’s all the fuss over? The game uses an extended version of the “Normal” controls that were established in Tatsunoko vs Capcom where the primary buttons are L(ight Attack), M(edium), (Heavy), S(pecial), Partner 1, and Partner 2. Now there is also a “Simple” mode that allows beginners to perform a limited number of moves, combos, and Hyper Combos at the push of a button(s); but considering how easy the Normal controls already are, Simple Mode is a bit of a joke. I can agree that the game is definitely more accessible to the casual player, but the major drawback is it allows veteran fighting game fans to become great extremely fast. This is a stark contrast to more technical fighting games such as Super Street Fighter IV (or Arcade Edition), Marvel vs Capcom 2, and BlazBlue Continuum Shift where mastery and practice are rewarded greatly for your perseverance.
There are some minor remixes on some concepts within MvC3; some of which are for the better and others… not so much. Crossover attacks can now be used as counters but cost 1 Hyper Combo charge and allows you to switch characters. The Air Combo, which is activated by hitting the S button and then “up” on the D-pad, can be made more severe with turning it into a Team Aerial Combo by just pointing forward, up, or down with the S button to switch characters mid-combo. This will add in more hits without the cost of a Hyper Combo charge. This is one mechanic I have seen abused a lot during online matches and I feel it could be balanced by requiring 1 Hyper Combo charge. The opponent’s only recourse is to counter by inputting the same command (by guessing) to turn the tables mid-combo.
Blocking is a game of reflexes and missing carries a heavy penalty if you get pinned in. This is in contrast to the concept of a Mega Crush that was seen in Tatsunoko vs Capcom or the Barrier/Psych Burst from BlazBlue/Guilty Gear XX. There is the X-Factor mechanic that allows a player to increase the speed, power, and regeneration of a character depending on how badly you’re losing. This allows the losing player an opportunity to make a comeback much like some may recall in the Tekken series.
The overall roster is a mish-mash of both staple and obscure characters from the Marvel and Capcom worlds. From the start, four characters are “locked” until you earn a specific number of Player Points (think experience points or XP from RPG’s) from your gameplay time. Some of the stages are definitely pieces of fandom and loyalty with the amount of detail that went into them. The artwork is really good and the use of the MT Framework engine (the very same one that powered Resident Evil 5 and Lost Planet 2) is excellent for the character animations and even dynamic stage changes. The best examples of the latter are a Ghost ‘n Ghouls stage that scrolls through the level as the fight progresses until reaching a demon boss, and The Daily Bugle stage which features a moving parade of floats and banners in the background.
MvC3’s starting roster is a smaller (36 + 2 known DLC) than Marvel vs Capcom 2’s starting roster had at 56 (28 Marvel and 28 Capcom). But from seeing the DLC voucher code in the Special Edition which give you Jill Valentine and Shuma-Gorath in March, we can only assume the new roster will grow. Depending on how they price those characters, they could be nickel and diming fans to the bank. If the prices are fair, some may not find it too burdonsome to pick up new characters. I can easily see Capcom later pushing a collection package that will give players the ability to purchase multiple characters for a slight price break. There is the first new costume pack that just became available March 1st for $4.99. If future costume packs are anything like Super Street Fighter IV and “vanilla” Street Fighter IV, you can expect those to run at about $5 a pack or $20 for a collection of packs.
The big feature piece is local and online multiplayer. Local multiplayer is nice, fast, and frantic as expected which is no surprise. The online portions of the game, however, are pretty sloppy as far as coding goes. One of my biggest issues being that the friends portion of the License Cards does not auto update with your friends who have been playing along with their single/multiplayer progress. Personally, it’s a little annoying that you can’t just glance at your friends, instead you have to pull each name up individually just to see their general license cards. Why? Because you also end up pulling the detailed one anyhow and you have to do this for each friend’s progress you want to view.
“Connection to host has been lost.” Get used to this line of text because you will see it a lot if you look for online matches with the default settings. I can say (on average) I run into this issue about 3-7 times before I get assigned a working match-up and I am on Verizon FiOS. Some folks in the fighting game community like Event Hubs have said that Capcom is aware of the issue, but its members have have found a temporary solution instead of waiting around for a patch that may never come: apparently by setting the language and region as appropriate to your location, you will be able to find online matches more easily. Also, another issue that should have been addressed is that as you wait in a lobby with friends that are still in matches, you can see their healthbars arbitrarily moving instead of being able to actually spectate the battle; Capcom says that the next major patch should resolve this by adding the ability to spectate matches when you’re in a lobby. Until then, prepare to work on your online socializing skills for those inevitable wait times.
As the ESRB disclaimer has taught us for the past decade, your online experience may vary. Unfortunately, this usually means for the worse and MvC3 is far from the exception. You may run into a lot of kids who play cheaply with characters just to pump up their win/loss records. You may also run into players who will quit the match prematurely just to avoid a loss. Capcom has a news flash for you, you will be matched to players that have similar habits as you, which most definitely includes the tendency to disconnect early. Capcom should get a Noble Peace Prize in Online Gaming for this because it means that rage-quitters will finally get to play with their kind and learn to love that loading screen. If they could only apply this same principle to kids who use cheap wins (because the game documents those too) as well they would have a perfect formula to clean up matchmaking to those who want a clean fun game.
As far as my overall thoughts on Marvel vs Capcom 3, it treads on a very uneven ground that needs balance. The tourney-serious fighting game fan will possibly get bored or cynical from how easy the game is to play in addition to having to face off against some kid online who will be able to execute the same combo over and over again at the push of a button. The casual fan who owns a 360 or PS3 might find Marvel vs Capcom 3 fun to play and may even move on to more technical fighters should the fighting bug bite them. If you’re a fan of both realms, the $60 price tag may and $70 if you opt to buy the remaining Special Edition copy of the game wherever it is available. The Special Edition includes a free 1 month trial voucher for the Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited (a $9.99 value and expires 6/30/2011), a special Steelbook case for your game disc, an exclusive art book, and a voucher code for unlocking Jill Valentine and Shuma-Gorath on 3/15/2011.
If you loved Marvel vs Capcom 2, I would advise playing a friend’s copy or wait until the game gets cheap. The reasoning for this is you may not like MvC 3’s “easy mode”, which is a pretty substancial change to the series. I will say that I hope Capcom looks seriously into doing some overhauling on rules and balancing because the game could seriously use it if Capcom wants it to last the test of time. For more images, check out our gallery of images provided by Capcom below!