With Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition released a couple of weeks ago and both Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Mortal Kombat being out for a few months now, fighting game enthusiasts are hotly debating on the interwebz which of the three top dogs should be crowned king in this resurgence of fighting games. Of course people have different opinions and all three games are great and offer very different styles of fighting despite all being 2D fighters, so I’m going to break it down by category to determine a winner.
First we have Marvel vs. Capcom 3. This is probably the least balanced game of the three but what did you expect from the sequel to one of the most broken (but beloved) fighting games of all time Marvel vs. Capcom 2? Phoenix players run rampant and can herp derp wins with extremely fast teleports mixed in with homing fireballs and normal moves that create projectiles while Wolverines can Berserker Slash and divekick their way to victory, especially if they have an assist like Tron or Akuma to make their approaches safe.
With the extremely fast pace of the game, these tactics can be extremely
difficult frustrating to deal with. Throw in the new X-factor mechanic that basically doubles speed and damage for most characters and these mixups can easily lead to the death of an entire team. X-factor was meant as a comeback mechanic but being able to take out three characters with only one is just too much and I think this year’s Evo (which is the Super Bowl of fighting game tournaments) will prove that X-factor drastically needs to be toned down, especially for some of the more powerful characters. Fix X-factor and some of the top tier characters like Dark Phoenix become much less problematic to deal with.
On the other side of the Capcom coin, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition re-balances most of the cast from vanilla SF4 and Super with nerfs to most of the top tier characters and buffs to the lower tiers, making previously useless characters like Makoto entirely playable. It also adds four new characters, two of which throw a wrench in the balance tweaks that are otherwise pretty good. I’m talking, of course, about the twins Yun and Yang. Why Capcom would spend so much effort re-balancing the cast and then place two new characters in a tier above 90% of the rest boggles my mind. Their ability to put on pressure with those damned dive kicks easily makes them the best characters in the game. If you’re not playing either of the twins, you better have a good plan to keep them out of your face.
As far as Mortal Kombat goes, this is kind of hard to answer seeing as how Nether Realms has been continuously tweaking the game via patches since its release. Things that seemed overpowered in the early days like Kung Lao’s spin move, Cyrax’s bomb traps and Kabal’s run cancel block string are now less of a problem. Sure we still have some top dogs like Kung Lao, Reptile and Kabal but for the most part, much of the cast is viable.
Seeing as how Nether Realms promises to keep up with these tweaks in order to keep the game as competitive as possible, I’d probably have to say MK has the edge right now in terms of game balance. If it weren’t for the twins in SSFIV:AE, that would likely become the winner in this category as the rest of the cast is well balanced.
Winner: Mortal Kombat
On the surface, MvC3 may seem like a shallow game. The removal of punches and kicks in the new control scheme (now replaced by Light, Medium and Heavy attacks) and the ease of doing simple magic series combos is certainly the reason why many people think so. But once you get into the nitty gritty of combo extension, loops, frame data and set ups, this is hardly a simple game. One of the biggest proponents I have for this is the evolution of the game, especially in the hands of skilled players.
All you need to do is check out recent videos of Clockw0rk’s Doctor Doom or Richard Nguyen’s Dante compared to the week one combos that people were doing to see how far the game has advanced in only a few months. This makes me really excited for what we’re going to see one or two years down the line. The other type of depth in this game comes in the form of team creation. Because it’s 3v3 rather than 1v1, team synergy and choosing the right assists to compliment your characters and create set ups is arguably more important than combo creation. If your characters don’t mesh well (ie. they don’t DHC into each other, they don’t have any assists to help you get in or continue combos, your characters can’t self OTG and have no assists that can, etc) then your team will fail.
The depth in SSFIV:AE is a lot more technical because of the slower pace and is less focused on the creativity of combo creation than MvC3, although it is important too. Learning match ups become much more involving than simply “ok this is a dangerous close range character so I’ll stay away”. Intimate character knowledge is needed to know what attack is the best anti-air, what attack is the best counter to X character’s attack, how you can punish X character’s attack, etc. Because of the slower pace, mind games are also much more important as it’s not as reactionary as MvC3 but more about positioning and footsies to predict what the other player will do. Because of how technical the game is, I believe that SSFIV:AE is the most fitting competitive game of the three and the best game for tournament play.
MK is on the other end of the spectrum in my opinion with the least amount of depth. Firstly the characters. Traditional archetypes have been largely removed from this game and pretty much every character has the same tools. Most characters have projectiles and pretty much all characters’ normal moves are the exact same unlike in the other two games. For example, every character has a sweep that is the exact same, everyone’s jumping punch is the exact same, everyone has an uppercut that only varies in speed. Even things like character health and walking speed are even across all characters. This means that the difference between characters lies solely in their special moves and chain combos.
Secondly, the combo system is very limited. You have your set chain combos listed in the pause menu and you can link them into each other using special moves and juggles, which makes the overall combos vary a little but a year down the line, the same chain combos are going to be used because that is all the engine will allow. Another problem I have is the dial-a-combo nature of the game. In SSFIV:AE and MvC3, you can visually see that a hit connected so you can react and finish your combo (aka hit confirming), whereas the combo would be dropped if you did that in MK. What this amounts to is that you need to commit to the chain combo by dialing it in before you even recognize that the hit connected. This leads to more rigid fighting rather than the fluidness of the other two games.
With the technical aspect of match ups and in depth character knowledge, I believe SSFIV:AE has the most depth but MvC3 is a close second despite being less execution heavy because of the simplified control scheme.
Winner: Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition
In terms of features, MvC3 is clearly lacking. All you get is a basic arcade mode, challenges for each character and online play. There are lobbies you can join but what’s the point when there is no spectator mode to watch others play? While fun, there’s no mistaking that MvC3 is barebones in terms of features. The only saving grace is that the training mode is one of the best I’ve ever seen, allowing you to create situations for yourself to test out counters and set ups.
In SSF4:AE, you also get a great training mode, an arcade mode and online play featuring an Endless Battle mode, which is like MvC3‘s lobbies except you can watch others play while you wait for your turn. You also get a great replay channel where you can save and watch replays. Other than watching videos on Youtube and streams of high level play on Justin.tv, this is the next best visual tool to learning new tricks and getting better at the game.
MK is probably the most feature rich game of the three, especially if you play offline a lot. Rather than a standard arcade mode, you get a fully animated campaign experience. There is also the Challenge Tower, which pits the player against 300 varying challenges such as finishing the opponent with a certain fatality. New to this game is also a tag team mode where the game becomes 2v2. It’s not designed so much as a team game like MvC3 but hey it’s another feature. Lastly, there are King of the Hill lobbies where, like Endless Battle, you can join a lobby and spectate while you wait your turn. Unfortunately, you cannot watch replays of matches that already happened and the training mode in this game is absolutely pitiful.
Both SSF4:AE and MK are feature rich games so between the two it’s pretty close. MK has great offline features (minus the terrible training mode) while SSF4:AE has better online features, specifically with the replay channel. Even though MK may have more features, SSF4:AE‘s features are far better where it really counts for most players: online and training mode. The lack of a decent training mode hurts MK so much that I have to give it to SSF4:AE even though MK is definitely no slouch in this category.
Winner: Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition
Not much to say in this category, even though it is arguably the most important for online warriors. MvC3‘s netcode is not great mainly due to the input lag. With a game this fast paced, any bit of input lag can make execution heavy combos extremely hard to do while fast mixups become impossible to block on reaction. SSF4:AE actually has decent netcode in comparison. While it’s certainly no GGPO, it’s decent enough so no complaints there. MK by far has the worst netcode of the three. It takes forever to find matches and when you do, it’s laggy most of the time to the point where it’s a struggle to play. This actually undermines much of MK‘s features as listed in the last section. Sure you can play a tag team match with your buddy on the couch versus randoms and yeah you can join a lobby of eight with a spectator mode but what good is any of that if the game lags so much that it’s not enjoyable?
Winner: Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition
Now this is the x-factor (no pun intended). While the other categories were mostly objective, how much enjoyment you get out of any of these games is going to be purely subjective. However, this is probably the most important category as having tons of features isn’t any use if it isn’t any fun to play. Anybody who knows me knows that I have played virtually nothing but MvC3 since it released last February. Sure it’s not the most balanced game and sure it sometimes makes me rage when I lose to level three X-factor but the bottom line is that it’s the most fun for me to play of the three. Even more, precisely because of the unbalanced nature of the game, the crazy comebacks and pendulum swings of momentum make this by far the most entertaining game to watch. And yes it doesn’t have the most features compared to the other two but it has exactly what I (and most other fighting game fans) need, which is a fantastic training mode to hone my skills and a decent online (though input lag can be a problem at times).
Winner: Marvel vs. Capcom 3
So what’s the overall winner? Well it depends on what you’re looking for exactly. Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition won the most categories and it’s probably the best fighting game for competitive playing. It’s very balanced and has a crazy amount of depth but some may consider it a fairly dry game. So if you’re like me and part of the 90% of the population who aren’t going to tournaments or playing super competitively, you may not enjoy this game quite as much as those who are. Otherwise, perhaps the frenetically fast pace of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is just the jolt of craziness you need. Or if you’re one of the few who don’t go to tournaments and don’t play online much, then Mortal Kombat is probably the game you’re going to spend the most time with since its campaign and Challenge Tower can keep you busy for a long time.
However, the whole point of this article was to look objectively at the three games to determine a winner and since it won the most categories, I must crown Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition the winner. But really you can’t go wrong with any of them as all three are fantastic games. What a great time for fighting game fans!
Winner: Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition