Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds


Written by Chris Price
21 Monday 21st February 2011

Evolution’s a great thing. Once we were lumps of goo, floating about in ponds. Now we're a shiny, shaven race of peoples, with fridges and fridge magnets to stick on them. Once, the duelling pixels in Yie Ar Kung Fu represented the pinnacle of fight gaming. And so it developed. If Street Fighter was man learning to stand on two feet, Street Fighter 4 was the discovery of the iPod. So where does MvC3 fit in? It's man sprouting wings and fucking off into the stratosphere in a crack of magnetic disturbance. It’s certainly a step ahead... but maybe a step ahead of the audience?

Its 34-strong fight roster pits the great and the good from both companies in a fight for supremacy. Protagonists from Japanese games developer Capcom classic franchises - Final Fight, Devil May Cry, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Okami, Megaman and even Viewtiful Joe. Marvel Comics is represented by international icons such as Captain America, Doctor Doom, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Storm, Thor, Wolverine, and also left of centre curiosities such as Deadpool, M.O.D.O.K., She-Hulk, and X-23.  Each is accompanied by fan-friendly backdrops. Marvel at the servobots from Tron Bonne hapless scampering, or Firebrand from Demon’s Crest swooping around the Ghost ‘n Goblins Demon Village level.

Switching on the game, the first thing you see is a warning of the flashing lights. Frankly a bit of an understatement. MvC3 is firecracker in a box of Lucky Charms. An experience akin to being repeatedly smacked around the face with a rolled up comic book till you see Comic Sans in your sleep. Make no doubt about it, MvC3 is an overwhelming sensory experience first and foremost.

It’s no slouch in the audio department either, delivering bewildering series of noises, emphatically and in unison. Like standing in the middle of a really busy arcade with the volume on all the coin-ops turned up full blast. Familiar tunes from classic characters chime in over urgent orchestral background tunes and cheesy acid-jazz house reminding you of the ticking clock presiding over each round. Familiar voices echoing around you (a very Patrick Stewart-esque vocal for Magneto), smart-alec quips and grunts duel with meaty FX, emphasising the delivery of every blow and parry.

But amongst all this aesthetic anxiety is a proper game. A layered fighting experience requiring gradual mastery, practice and repetition. As opposed to the rigid contextual finger tapping exercise of Tekken 6, if your fingers are quick enough (and character animation permitting) you can input any number of combinations you can dream up. Sitting the joypad on your knee (or investment in an joystick) is highly recommended - some of these inputs will require some proper Riverdancing from your fingers.

MvC3 bouts split your attention into two sections. The first is outright offence. The once advanced tactic of three stage attacks (jump kick, punch, special attack) is now the basis of your offence. MvC3 is all about the triplets. 3-on-3 bouts, with characters tagged in using the shoulder buttons. Three different weight blows can be delivered either standing, jumping or ducking, familiar to the now gospel Street Fighter hieroglyphics. Finish with the fourth special button to launch your opponent skyward, where the fights take on gravity in ascending strikes. From here, repeat for an emphatically announced ‘Air Combo’ culminating with one of your team swinging in to take your place, while delivering a final blow that depending on your inputs will knock an opponent to the floor, bounce them off the battleground wall, or onto the floor, providing an opening for the whole thing to start again […pauses for breath].

The other side is defence, and survival management of your team aka the tactical deployment of the ‘charged’ elements of the game. As you receive damage, you can tag characters out to regain their health. Mashing all the attack buttons enables the new ‘X Factor’ ability, where the active character recharges their health, while becoming just a bit more lithe and resistant to damage, enabling some infuriating by-a-whisker comebacks. Both offence and defence contribute to a ‘Hyper bar’ allowing for team attacks and hyper combinations, all delivered in an explosive cut-scene. And I haven’t even gotten around to talking about Cancels, Hyper Combo Cancels and Advance Guards.

You’ll be glad to know there is a training mode of sorts, allowing you to experiment with different basic offensive groupings. In addition, you’ve also got a fairly staid collection of Arcade, Exhibition and the online ranked and un-ranked battles. Each mode delivers points for completion, unlocking character art.

But I fear that many people will rarely get this far with the game. For novices, ‘Simple’ mode selection enables you to unleash special input at the tap of a button. And doling out 40+ hit combinations like it was no thing, coupled with faithfully replicated debuts (Haggar from Final Fight stomping the screen, armed with a lead pipe. Zero from Megaman like a freckled American kid high on Kool Aid. The reposed Wolf Ameratsu from Okami, and the hyperbolic all-action midget Viewtiful Joe – complete with a fearsome camel toe) can’t fail to entertain for a week.

Button-bashers may experience success in the short term, but discovering the right combination of characters, primed with tag attacks and learning to deploy them at the right moment is truly an art form. Complete with all the subtle rigours artistry offers. In its enthusiasm to replicate the superhuman abilities of its cast, you’ll need to try and look beyond the fit-inducing Special attacks and instant gratification of ‘Simple’ mode. Its steep learning curve and high difficulty levels  in both on & offline MvC3 greatest defining assets may prove a hurdle too high for many casual visitors.

MvC3 requires application and study to master. As far an evolutionary leap forward, MvC3 might represent a genre that’s sprouted wings and taken to the air - but it might well be leaving a lot of people floundering on the ground. I recommend Youtube tutorials and a guidebook. And blocking a few weeks out of your diary for training.

Marvel vs Capcom 3 : Fate of Two Worlds is out now on PS3 and Xbox 360.

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