Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds is a game in which every single element is extreme. I don't mean Mountain Dew, X-Games kind of "eXtreme," although it has a nerdier kind of that in it too. It's extremity is more than just attitude or tone. This isn't a fighting game that decided to dial up it's crazy to eleven, it's a fighting game that decided to dial everything up to nine-hundred and ninety-nine, a game in which everything should be in italics all the time.
"Your game has only one on one fighting?" MVC3 asks. "Ours has three on three with multiple choice assists. Your game has ten, maybe fifteen, hit combos? Well, ours has combos that reach the triple-digits. That's right, hundreds of hits before we stop, baby."
Playing it feels like being manic depressive, with amazing highs and suicidal lows, moments when you want to declare it the best game ever made followed by moments of utter frustration and fantasies of ripping the game disc out of the system and smashing it with a rusty axe. It's a game for bullies. You are either bullying or getting bullied, and like that unfortunate but seemingly unavoidable social situation, depending on which end you're on makes all the difference. Of course, when two bullies of equal strength and meanness meet, then you get some real fireworks, and that's when the game really shines.
I've played online matches and annihilated my opponent with beautiful displays of chains, air combos, and epilepsy-inducing Hyper Combos. In these cases, I felt like a fighting game god, like the ghosts of Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Clint Eastwood were haunting my hands as I dished out combos with lightning-like speed and precision. Satisfaction flowed from my crown to the soles of my feet. "I love this game," I whisper to myself.
Then I get into another match. The round starts, and before I can even move, my characters are juggled, pounded, and brutally thrown around the screen as I hammer on my fight stick in vain. As I get hit, the combo counter goes from 5 to 10 to 25 to 45, then it starts over and reaches into the 60s, then starts over and all my characters are dead. These matches are the opposite of fun. These are matches that I might as well put my controller on the ground because it would be as effective a defense as me actually trying to play. These matches make me hate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, and question my self-worth as a human being. I punch the couch. I yell things like "fuck" and "pussy cock bitch" at the screen. Thoughts cross my mind about selling the game, and my arcade stick, and all of my other fighting games.
Unlike something like Super Street Fighter IV, when I get utterly destroyed in MVC3, I often don't even understand why. I mean, I understand that I am playing someone who is much better than me, but what I don't understand is why I was beaten on a technical level. When I get badly beaten in SSFIV, I usually can look at the fight or think back about it, and I can see where I made mistakes. I can figure out how my opponent, because of their skill, was able to take advantage of my weaker playing. The point is, I understand what happened and can therefore grow from the experience and hopefully become a better player. Frustration is such an issue with MVC3 for me because I often don't feel like I'm getting better, or even understand how I can begin to improve.
As I said, it's a game of extremes. It's hard for me to recommend it, but it's also hard not to recommend. The only way I can really enjoy this game, not being a highly skilled fighting game savant, is to sit around with some friends, either online or off, and just play each other. This is the kind of game that makes me wish I had some magical roommates I could manifest any time to play some Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 for hours. It seems built to play with a large group of friends often, and over the course of years to allow for rivalries and the development of skills against particular players. In this scenario the game is a blast, and even though I don't necessarily have this situation at my finger tips, I think I'll still be keeping the game around for a long time. Even in moments of the utmost frustration, I still want to keep playing, and I think that says a lot about the depth and feel of the experience. For all my whining about not feeling like I'm getting any better, I do feel like I learn something new every time I turn it on, and that's exciting in the context of a fighting game.