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Replay: In Defense of Marvel vs. Capcom 3
by Joey Núñez

In 1992 I was not much to look at. A below average height 7 year old boy with questionable social skills and an apparent lack of talent for anything involving a ball, bat, glove, or set of wheels, I was not what you would call an imposing young tyke. There were, however, a couple of things I was pretty good at during that young age. Very good at, actually. The first was remembering the name, power set and origin story of every character featured in my favourite Saturday morning cartoon: X-Men. The second was the ability to execute a flawless DOWN + DOWN-FORWARD + FORWARD motion on my SNES controller, culminating in the most glorious battle cry of all time... Hadouken!. These are talents that I have kept ever since.

Over the years my love for the X-Men evolved into a full blown Marvel comics obsession. While Stan Lee tended to my love for comics, Street Fighter nurtured my love for gaming. To this day I’m still a sucker for a good fighting game; everything from Tekken to BlazBlue - you name it, I’ve played it. So you can imagine my reaction all those months ago when Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds was announced by way of that geektastic trailer featuring the likes of Ryu, Morrigan, Chris Redfield and Wolverine.

The doctors said I was touch and go there for a while, but since first watching that trailer I have fully recovered my eyesight and the use of my left arm.

Yes, I was pretty excited, I mean wasn't everyone? Fans of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 had been clamouring for this game for years, and when Street Fighter IV came around and proved that the fighting scene in gaming was most definitely not dead, the clamours only got louder. So why on earth do I find myself writing up a piece in defense of Marvel vs. Capcom 3? The reviews are in, and the game is good! Haters, however, are gonna hate.

If you haven't followed it, let me describe the different camps who have problems with Marvel vs. Capcom 3. On one side of the bunch you have the hardcore fans who are disappointed in the apparent dumbing-down of the control scheme, and on the other side you've got casual players who love to scoff at the mere 36 characters, compared to the 56 featured in Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Surely, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is not the second coming of Christ; and no, it is not the perfect fighting game, but I’ll be damned if I stand by idly and let you fine readers allow a couple of naysayers turn you off of this fine game.

Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is the fighting game equivalent of a bowl of cool beans bathed in awesome sauce. Let's discuss why.


There is a reason Marvel is called the 'House of Ideas'. The stories and characters the company has produced over the years are some of the most memorable and iconic in all of comics. Featured in television, literature and cinema for decades, the characters of Marvel have withstood the test of time and proven to be near and dear to the hearts of many millions across the globe. The faces featured in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 are a great representation of what Marvel is all about.

The necessary crowd-pleasers like Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America and Wolverine have all made a triumphant return to represent Stan Lee and friends, but Capcom spiced up the comic book roster by throwing in some great new additions like She-Hulk, Phoenix, Deadpool, X-23 and the almighty Thor. Some fans have questioned the inclusion of lesser known characters such as Taskmaster, Dormammu or M.O.D.O.K., and to some extent I can relate. I am definitely not a M.O.D.O.K. fan, and would have much rather preferred his slot be given to a competent fighter (did anyone at Capcom even hear about Iron Fist or Elektra? Come on now!). But I recognise that these 'unknown' characters add nothing but new personality to the game, and help therefore make the roster of characters that much more unique.

As for Capcom, well, where do I even start? You would think that Capcom would play it safe and draw heavily from their fighting franchises (Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, et cetera), but as usual the company seemed determined to represent themselves with characters from all over its diverse library of villains and heroes. Some standouts worth mentioning are the Resident Evil trio: Chris, Wesker, and Jill Valentine (the last available as DLC); Spencer of Bionic Commando fame; the devilishly awesome demon hunters of Devil May Cry: Trish and Dante; and Amaterasu, the god which is dog, but is still really a god, originally featured in the cult hit, Okami. Per usual the company managed to stick in some oddball characters, which actually works given the random context of the game. Most notable in this category are Viewtiful Joe and Arthur, of Ghosts n’ Goblins.

Now, if you are at all familiar with the characters I’ve mentioned above you may worry that this is a mismatched roster. I mean, how can you have Amaterasu (a god) fight Deadpool? How does that even work?! But that’s just the thing - it works perfectly! I will admit that there are some balancing issues to be dealt with (*cough* Dark Phoenix and Sentinel *cough*) yet for the most part Capcom managed to do something quite extraordinary with this game, as you can pit any of these characters against each other and for the most part have a fair and balanced fight.

You might be worried that the essence of your favourite characters have been abused in order to fit them into a fighting game paradignm ("Jill Valentine throwing a fireball? Blasphemy!"). You can lay those fears to rest. The greatest thing about this roster is that each fighter still feels like the character we know and love. Every character has retained his or her own signature fighting moves and styles, drawn directly from their respective games and comics. Yes, Amaterasu’s moves are as artful as you would expect them to be, and yes, Dante has access to basically all the weapons featured in Devil May Cry 3. The same goes for each and everyone one of the Marvel characters, with move sets that seem to have been pulled right from the panels of a comic.

Add to the above the fact that, unlike in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 no two characters really fight alike, and you’ve got yourself one of the most exciting fighting game rosters in years. Still scoffing at the mere 36 characters? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Fighting Mechanics

If you’re not familiar with the fighting mechanics of the Marvel vs. Capcom series, here’s the skinny: you pick a team of three characters, each with their own health bar. The first player who has all three health bars drained by their opponent loses. During a fight you can tag-out with either of your two available partners at any time, or you can call either one in for a quick assist move which you can integrate into combos using timing and planning. All characters have special moves (projectiles, grabs, etc.) and super moves (the flashy screen tearing end-all moves which every fighting game seems to feature these days). These super moves and hyper combos can only be used when your 'super meter' is full. The more energy available in your super meter, the stronger the move you can pull off. As an added twist, Capcom has thrown in an 'X-Factor' which can be activated once during a fight to give all your remaining fighters a considerable boost in strength, vitality or speed; the strength of the boost is directly proportionate to the amount of characters on your team who are still alive - the lower the amount of characters, the stronger the X-Factor boost.

There are other complex details to the game's design to master, but I can tell you’re headed towards an information overload, so we’ll leave it at that. Suffice it to say, the fighting mechanics are very cool, very stylish, and very awesome. Three on three fights featuring wacky Capcom characters and comic book superheroes make for grand affairs. The thing is, these fights are not always so easy to get a hang of. Like in any decent fighting game, they take practice.

Since I’ve been pulling off fireballs and dragon punches since the early 90s, it’s easy for me to forget that not everyone is gifted with Hermes' nimble thumb. This can make playing a fighting game with unexperienced friends a boring affair. The gap between experienced and amateur players was especially apparent back in the days of Marvel vs. Capcom 2; you could never really show off what the fighting engine was capable of unless you got two experienced players involved. This was something I was worried about while waiting for Marvel vs. Capcom 3 to hit game shelves; I wanted the game to retain its signature air combo-filled craziness, but I didn’t want to have to offer a free training course for my friends.

Capcom addressed my worries in two very cool ways. First of all the normal controls for the game have been somewhat streamlined; no, this does not mean dumbed-down. It just means normal controls are more accessible to new players. Each character has a light, medium, and strong attack, all of which can be chained together to pull off basic combos. On top of those, each character has a launch attack; with the press of a button you can hurl your opponent into the air and supplement your combo with some airbourne hits. It's when a fight takes to the skies that stuff gets really flashy. Previous games in the franchise gave each character specific launch moves which you had to know in order to even hope to pull off an air combo. Adding a generic launch button has made the process much simpler to learn, while still keeping enough complexity to make it difficult to keep things challenging. Just because you can launch your opponent into the air doesn’t mean you’ll be able to pull off a 25-hit air combo just like that. Trust me, I know. I hate to fall back on the 'easy to learn, difficult to master' cliché, but there really is no better way to describe the fighting mechanics of Marvel vs. Capcom 2.

The second measure taken by Capcom to reconcile varying player skill levels is a bit more straightforward. Before starting each match the game will give you the option to choose between the 'normal' control scheme and its 'simple' counterpart. The latter transfers all of your normal hits into a single button, while a second button will automatically launch a special move (no DOWN + DOWN-FORWARD motion required) and a third button will launch a super move. Yup, it’s just as simple as it sounds. The downside to this is that under the simple scheme you don’t have access to all the characters moves, and, if you ask me, you don’t really stand a chance against a skilled player using the normal scheme. That said, the ability to choose between control settings is nothing but an extra option which allows any fighting noob to pull off some of the flashier moves in the game without moving to Japan and finding a Marvel vs. Capcom sensei. And that takes me straight to my next point.

Fun Factor

Simply put, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a fun game. Sure, it's complex enough to be in in the fighting game tournament scene, but at the same time it's more than accessible enough to pull it out and mash some buttons for a while with a few friends. Virtually anyone you can sit in front of the TV will recognise at least a few of the characters featured in the game, and will get a kick out of watching them face off. Throw in the 'simple' mode, and I can guarantee even the most amateur gamer will find myriad reasons to love pulling off a show-stopping hyper combo filled with flashy colors and snazzy visuals while using their favourite characters from gaming and comics.

Even though the core gaming experience is a blast, I have to admit Capcom kind of dropped the ball on the content side of things. The game disc is somewhat bare when compared with other fighting games. Although there is a story which frames the setting of the game, and each character has a unique (albeit short) ending sequence featuring some nice comic panels, there isn’t really a story mode (à la Mortal Kombat). There are a 'Training Mode' and 'Mission Mode', and Capcom is constantly updating an online feature called 'Event Mode', in which the game asks you to complete the game under certain conditions (using only a single character, or a team pulled from the X-Men universe, et cetera.), but while these modes can be fun for trophy and achievement hunters, I really would have liked some more meat on Marvel vs. Capcom 3's bones.

Nonetheless, there is no denying that watching Thor, Captain American and Iron Man pull off a team hyper combo against Wesker, Doctor Doom and Akuma is pure entertainment, particularly for a comic fan like me. Avengers Assemble baby!

Stylish Visuals

Boot up Marvel vs. Capcom 3 on an HD television and you shall be impressed. Unless, of course, you hate all things awesome. Hater.

The game features very appropriate 3D cell shaded graphics which match the tone of the game perfectly. Most matches look like they were pulled straight from a comic book, and that is a good thing. A very good thing. The character animations are fluid, which is necessary when you’re pulling off 50-hit combos, and each and every fighter looks great while in motion. Capcom made sure to have each character move exactly how you'd expect them to. The effort shows.

Building on the style developed in Street Fighter IV, Capcom places these 3D characters on a 2D plane; however, the stages in the game feature a lot of visual depth, so although your fight will occur only on the foreground, there will be a lot of stuff going on in the background behind you. The stages featured in the game are pulled from both Capcom’s iconic games and Marvel’s most celebrated stories, and all are filled to the brim with crisp, colourful details which are sure to make any fan smile.

In short, the game looks good, flashy and stylish.

I could go on and on about this game (...well, I kind of have already), so I’ll leave it here. Feel free to bash or praise the game in the comments section below.

Until next time, true believers. Excelsior!

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- Joey Núñez

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