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It's been 11 years since the second “Marvel vs. Capcom” entry premiered in the arcades followed by the Sega Dreamcast release shortly after. Even when fighting games were less prominent (yet very loyal) in comparison to many other genres during the mark of the millennium through most of the decade and licensing issues with developer Capcom and Marvel Comics, “Marvel vs. Capcom 2” was able to stand for a long time. It's frantic nature and effective strategies constructed by many top players throughout its lifespan was a sight to behold. Present and the third entry has arrived to much anticipation from the fighting game community and myself. Like the first game and its sequel, “Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds” feels similar to its older siblings with many signature traits intact but its nuances is what makes it different. The new features and modifications accommodate casual and entry level players but it doesn't alienate the hardcore crowd if they want to engage in high level play which Marvel vs. Capcom 3 possesses and does well.
Generally, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 plays like any game before it but it can also be compared to Capcom's Nintendo Wii crossover fighter “Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All Stars;” specifically through their control system. From a 3 punch/kick system in first game to a 2 punch/kick style in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 adopts Tatsunoko's approach with having low, medium, and high attacks including an "Exchange" button that can create air combos or other special attacks. Combos can be easily pressed with an order of low to high attacks followed by a Special. This button system streamlines the combat and makes it more enjoyable to perform combos. Players who play other fighting games like the “Blazblue” games or “Arcana Heart” series will be able to get used to the buttons with ease. Veteran Marvel players will likely transition easily as well. For those who just want to have mindless fun and prefer not to remember combos, there is the "Simple" operation where combos and special moves can be pressed with the press of one button; "Hyper Combos" also get their own button. Although it can serve as a stepping stone for new players, when challenged against "Normal" operation players, it can lead to sometimes unfair situations as Simple decreases the amount of moves available and can make opponent easily predict what will happen next. In some way, the Simple mode serves as a sort of cop-out to actually training new players how to play the game.
Similar to “Street Fighter IV's” "Trials" is the "Mission" mode where players must complete a set of move objectives with something like a simple hadoken to doing a complex combo. The mode doesn’t seem robust enough for those who want to engage in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 competitively but are not experienced with past fighting games. Even with a manual detailing mechanics of the game, the learning curve can be very complex to new players. Those who endure though will be rewarded with good results in practice. The three member team structure returns intact from Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Players can tag out, perform assist moves (selected in the character select screen), and even perform team hyper combos. With a new game, further mechanics to the team have been implemented. Air combos can extend farther considerably with team cooperation. With the press of the Exchange button and a direction, players can call out a team member to inflict more damage. As a countermeasure, the opponent can stop the combo by also the same motion. This creates a challenging guessing game which can possibly determine the rest of the match. Tag outs get a good bonus as players can get another member to assist with a counter while blocking at the price of one of the five chargeable hyper bars. That makes players pick the decision of either saving up for a powerful hyper combo or prevent the fall of a team member.
A major game element introduced in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is the “X-Factor” mode which allows team members to gain an additional boost in speed, health regeneration, and power. Activated with all four main attack buttons, the intensity of X-Factor can vary depending on how many team members left. This mechanic can change the level of the playfield and the match energy dramatically with the right character and how many teammates left.
An aspect of what makes Marvel vs. Capcom games so cool is the match-ups against different characters from both companies. It’s very exciting to see Dante from Capcom’s “Devil May Cry” fight against Marvel’s outrageous masked sword and gunslinger Deadpool or Captain America going at it against “Resident Evil” antagonist Albert Wesker. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 downsizes the amount of characters of 50+ in the previous game to a total of currently 36 (18 each). Although it seems like a bad thing, each character represented in a 3D model seems to be crafted with care and balance instead of previously just tacking on low quality sprites. This game seems to aim more at having varied teams instead of just one powerful group that dominates all dramatically like in Marvel vs. Capcom 2. With extra downloadable characters coming down the line, I hope to see more different and interesting combinations in high level play in the future.
While the first two Marvel vs. Capcom games were primarily made for local matches, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 features an online mode but currently it’s mostly unsatisfactory in comparison to other fighting games. The biggest gripe is its navigation system. Instead of a more reliable manual search found in “Super Street Fighter IV,” Marvel vs. Capcom 3 does automatic search. With a game that a large amount of people trying to get online, automatic searching is not good as players might connect to a match before you which leads to waiting in the menus for a large amount of time. For a fighting game, it’s unacceptable and needs an overhaul to remedy the issue. Adopted from recent fighting games is a lobby mode where players can group up and play against each other in endless matches. That though also has a major fault where only the competing players can see the match while everyone else is stuck in menus at a time. With rumors of a spectator mode incoming, I only hope for the best as it can benefit a large amount of players. Depending on the connection between users, playing matches online is mostly exceptional with almost very little to no delay.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has probably one of the weirdest learning curves in any fighting game and the online can also be an annoyance if nothing gets remedied in the future. The core game though is still amazing and really fun to play or watch. While it’s generally easy for veterans and the hardest thing ever for first time players, it’s mastering the game which is a major challenge for everyone. With the resurgence of fighting games still in effect, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a definitely exciting hit that shouldn’t be forgotten when looking back.