“Here comes a new challenger!” It’s been ten years since the last time Wolverine and Ryu faced off and since then, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 has been a mainstay in the fighting game scene, keeping players busy for the last decade. Now finally the sequel we’ve been waiting for has arrived. So was Marvel vs. Capcom 3 worth the wait? I don’t know if it was worth ten years but it’s possibly the most fun and over the top fighting game we’ve seen this generation.
For those who have never played a vs. game before, let me lay it out for you. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (MvC3) is a fighting game that features characters from both titular companies and puts the 3D characters on a 2D plane to fight. The main focus of MvC3 is three on three team combat. You can only control one character at a time but can call one of your other two characters to jump in and quickly do an attack and can also tag one of them in to swap your point character out.
Fighting games have long since been a genre that turns off casual players because of the need to memorize joystick movements and button combinations. However, MvC has always been a series where button mashers are rewarded with flashy moves and makes them feel they are doing something right even if they don’t know exactly what that is. It makes it a lot of fun for even these novice players as long as they are not playing someone way above their skill level.
This aspect is still here and Capcom added even more for these casual players by introducing a simplified control scheme and a Simple Mode. First I’ll talk about the controls. Gone are the separate buttons for punches and kicks. There are now only three attack buttons (light, medium and heavy). In addition to this, instead of having to press down or down-forward and an attack button to launch your opponent and start an air combo like in MvC2, the launcher is now designated to a single button called the special.
Simple Mode maps certain special moves and Hyper combos to a single button, making it even easier for these novice players to feel rewarded. However, this is at the cost of not being able to use all normal moves, special moves and Hyper combos, making it virtually impossible for a Simple Mode player to beat a Normal Mode player who knows what they’re doing. This is useful for very casual players who have absolutely no intention of getting better or maybe for parents to play with their young kids but you’d be doing yourself a huge injustice by playing with Simple Mode enabled. Even if you’re a beginner (but wants to eventually get better), it’s more beneficial to take the plunge into Normal mode, challenge yourself with the steep learning curve and slowly learn the game mechanics because Simple mode is a crutch more than it is training wheels. Simple Mode plays so differently than Normal Mode, you’ll never be able to learn anything about the game, how it works or how to get better.
Things are indeed simplified on the surface and it opens the game up for casual players because of these features. But the complexity from its predecessors is still here. All the fancy techniques like triangle jumps, wave dashes, push blocks (now called Advancing Guard), invincible startup frames on certain moves and 100% combos are all still intact. And even though you don’t have to worry about whether you need to put out a punch or a kick to continue a combo anymore, the combo system is still pretty complex, largely in part to two new mechanics introduced in MvC3.
First is the Team Aerial Combo where you can tag out your character in the middle of an air combo and your partner can continue the combo by hitting your opponent while jumping in. Second is something called X-factor. By pressing all three attack buttons and the special button simultaneously, this will increase your speed and damage, prevent any chip damage at all and slowly recover your health (from only the red bar, which normally only recovers when that character is not currently in use). In addition to this, the fewer characters you have alive, the longer the effect will last and the greater the benefits. This is similar to Street Fighter IV’s Ultra combo system in that proper usage of X-factor can drastically flip the momentum of a fight.
Even more important is that X-factor can cancel anything that you’re doing, whether it’s a normal, special or even a Hyper combo. So with all that in mind, the combo system can get really complex and you can create some insane combos. For example, I can start a combo on the ground, launch the opponent and do an air combo, then when normally I would have to end it, I can do a Team Aerial Combo to tag in a teammate in mid-air while continuing the combo, knock the opponent down which causes a ground bounce, juggle into a Hyper combo then finally X-factor cancel into another Hyper combo. Or maybe I want to relaunch or use a partner assist to reset the combo and start it all over again. And then there’s unique moves like jump cancelling and fly mode that certain characters have that can mix up combos even more. With all these options, the potential combos are pretty staggering and I’m sure months and years down the line, even more insanity will be discovered.
There are 36 characters on the disk (plus two as DLC on March 15th). Some of them are popular characters like Wolverine, Iron Man, Ryu and Chun-Li while other characters may not be instantly recognizable depending on who you ask such as Mike Haggar from Final Fight, Amaterasu from Okami and Dormammu and Taskmaster from the Marvel universe. There are a few odd exclusions from the roster such as fan favorites Venom and Mega Man but hopefully they’ll come as DLC down the line.
Now I know some of you are thinking 36 is a low number compared to the 56 in the last game but keep in mind half of the roster in MvC2 were either complete clones of other characters or they were practically useless and were mainly added to beef up the total character count. Alternatively, every single one of MvC3′s 36 characters plays entirely different and have their own unique playstyles from the trapping techniques of Trish to the keep away game of Arthur to Haggar’s up close and personal grabs to X23′s tricky rushdowns. And it doesn’t just stop at the movesets and playstyles. Some characters are wholly unique in even the most basic of ways such as Arthur’s inability to dash or M.O.D.O.K.’s lack of a normal jump.
This game was really made with love and there’s a lot of fan service and cool little details that you may or may not notice right away. For example, Zero blows up in the iconic Mega Man death when he dies as the last member of your team, M.O.D.O.K. presses different buttons on his computer for each of his attacks and Arthur ends up in his classic boxer shorts when his Golden Armor breaks. The Marvel characters also have alternate costumes that appeared in the comics. Even MvC2′s infamous “I wanna take you for a ride” song is remixed for all those who thought it was either really great or really annoying. Awesome stuff.
In terms of offline modes, there is the classic Arcade mode where you fight through seven stages until you battle Galactus the World Eater but surprisingly, each unique ending is only told through text and comic book styled artwork. This is not a huge deal since stories are never the main focus for fighters, but it is a little surprising considering the voice-acted, animated endings we saw in Super Street Fighter IV (and vanilla SF4). Included also is a Mission mode that is like the Challenge mode in Street Fighter IV where it tasks you to do first special moves, combos and then finally very advanced combos. This is a great starting point for beginners but most casual players probably won’t be able to complete most of these because of how quick the difficulty ramps up. Most beginners will probably still need to look at external sources for some extra help and basic knowledge of cancelling to complete most of these because it doesn’t give any tutorials of any kind.
MvC3 also boasts a great Training mode. You can make your opponent do anything you want and can even record your actions for the AI to play back in case it is something very specific. There are so many options and things you can tweak in the Training mode that you can actually simulate several degrees of network latency (or lag for the layman), making it extra useful for training for online opponents. There is also a traditional vs. mode where you can play against a buddy on your couch but very surprisingly, there is no way to play against bots in this mode. The only way to make a bot match for yourself is either through Training mode or through Arcade mode. Even though online is the main draw for this game, this was very disappointing.
Now for the most important aspect of the game: the online. It’s using the same netcode as Street Fighter IV so lag is not a problem most of the time, although like all games of course, it depends on your connection. At the moment, there are some problems when quick-searching for Ranked games. Capcom has said this is due to the influx of players and is being worked on. I found this to only be an issue for the quick-search feature for Ranked games so it isn’t that troublesome considering how many other ways you can get into matches, both Ranked and Player. Turning on Fight Requests in Arcade or Training mode works wonders and can get a match in under 30 seconds while you warm up. Alternatively, custom searching for Ranked matches and searching for Player matches and Lobby mode also work just fine. While the high traffic is something that should have been expected by Capcom, it honestly isn’t that much of a problem because of how easily it can be avoided. And again, Capcom has said this problem is currently being worked on and will be fixed.
What is most disappointing is that while there is a Lobby mode that can hold eight players, there is no Spectator mode. This is astounding that they did not include this. What’s the point of joining a match with seven other players if you have to watch a blank screen for potentially seven other matches before you can play? To their credit,Seth Killian stated in a live stream before the release that Spectator mode was not forgotten, it was temporarily pushed aside for more character development and will be coming in a patch but the ETA is currently unknown. That’s great that it will eventually be added but considering MvC2 (in the XBLA and PSN) and Super Street Fighter IV included it from day one, it feels like not including Spectator mode was a step backwards.
Believe it or not though, none of that really matters to me in the big picture. It’s a shame that there is currently a problem with the Ranked quick search and the lack of Spectator mode and a vs. mode against bots is disappointing but the core gameplay is so much damn fun that honestly, it didn’t bother me that much. Especially since Capcom has stated that both the Ranked match issue and Spectator mode are being worked on and will be fixed/added via patches, I’m going to be a little forgiving here despite the fact that these should not have been issues in the first place.
This is one of the most crazy and over the top fighting games since Marvel vs. Capcom 2 released ten years ago and is definitely among the most fun, whether you’re a fighting game veteran or a casual player. Capcom has succeeded in creating one of the most accessible fighters on the market while still managing to pack in enough complexity for the veterans. Even though it’s not perfect, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is still one of the best fighters of this generation and will be in heavy rotation for many years to come.