If you've been reading this blog for any prolonged amount of time/posts, you probably would have ascertained by this point that I have an interest in fighting games. More to the point, fighting games would constitute my favourite of all genres. Whether it be 2D, 3D, team or solo play; I've had a strong and sustained desire to play these games in arcades or, most commonly, from the comfort of my own home. The rise to prevalence of the home console and gamers' increasing preference for online play had however, seen the genre slip into near-obscurity. I'll concede that the Soul Calibur and Tekken series both had reasonably frequent releases, but any fighter focusing on the two-dimensional plane was becoming a rare find. Now we have Blazblue: Calamity Trigger and Continuum Shift, the utterly forgettable King of Fighter XII, Super Street Fighter IV, a re-release of Marvel Vs Capcom 2 and now, over 10 years after the last instalment, Marvel Vs Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. Just a forewarning: it's hard to be objective about a game that I've been anticipating since my high school years.
Diverse cast - Interesting/debatable casting choices aside, Marvel Vs Capcom 3 features a cast of thirty-two genuinely different characters. They aren't fighters that feel like they're separated only by a different paint job. Mind you, some are just flat-out terrible, while others feel a little too effective (particularly when you're on the receiving end). The more I played and the more combinations I tried, the more my preferred team changed. I never would have thought that I would end up ditching Hulk in favour of Morrigan or Haggar, but after a few fights that's exactly what happened. Further to that, I was surprised to find that the pugilistic politician (Haggar) could match some of the more colourful characters in terms of both speed and spectacle. He was a great fit, and so were some of the other more unexpected additions to the roster like Ameterasu and Dormammu. No matter what your tastes or play style, there should be several characters that will be to your liking.
Fireworks - Every bout of MvC3 is a veritable pyrotechnics display with beams, arcs and balls of light volleying across the screen with differing speeds and colours. Every sprite and move is animated with a high degree of flair and faithfulness to each character's respective source material. Dante uses an assortment of the Devil Arms and guns that he's employed throughout his adventures, spraying fire, ice, bullets and nightmare energy with his every move. Taskmaster and Deadpool mimic the moves and catch-cries of many a series favourite. Tron (Bonne) summons hundreds of adorable Servebots into battle while Phoenix engulfs the screen in flames. Every moment of MvC3 is as chaotic as it is beautiful.
New Tricks - While series staples like the Snap Back and Hyper Combos have returned, a new controller layout and some new moves await those ready to tangle with this style-heavy fighter. Instead of using punches and kicks of varying intensities, players now have three attack buttons for light, medium and heavy and a special button which acts as a launcher for Aerial Combos. The best players have already mastered the skies, and knowledge of air defence is a prerequisite if you intend to last more than a few seconds against some of the more seasoned combatants. Also new is the Advancing Guard, which acts as a sort of parry that pushes attackers back a considerable distance. There's very little opportunity to throw in an attack upon performing an Advancing Guard, but when you do pull it off, the added breathing space can sometimes change the flow of a match. Mind you, I've played some who have met every hit of a Hyper Combo with an Advancing Guard and that can be somewhat deflating (massive understatement!). MvC3 is a very different game when compared to its predecessor: its faster, its deeper, and - despite its arguably simpler control scheme - it's much harder to play effectively.
Ropes - Do yourself a favour: read the manual. It is one of the few game-related documents in recent memory that will prepare you well for the action you'll find on the game disc. Mission mode will then fill in any gaps in knowledge not covered by the manual, with 10 combos/moves to learn for each character that translate well to the action both on and offline.
License to kill - The license card systems allows players to gauge the challenge presented by online opponents with an easy to read visual guide that charts their respective play styles. You can also view win ratios, character usage data, and trophy/achievement progress. It's an effective, user-friendly way to predict how badly your ass will be handed to you.
Galactus - The final boss fight is a great improvement over Abyss from the previous instalment and matches the general action in terms of visual impact and challenge. The fate of the Earth rests in the hands of your team of three heroes/villains, and the ramifications of defeat are dire indeed.
Balance of power - Some characters I found to be a little too fast, and way too powerful. Never one or the other, it was always both. Doctor Doom, Akuma and Magneto were the worst perpetrators, but Hulk and Sentinel are also more effective than they should be. I know that turtling is never a winning strategy (well, at least not on its own), but it is so heavily penalised in this game as block damage is far higher than that found in your average 2D fighter. Damage seemed to be doled out heavily in general for that matter, as many of my fights ended (in favour of my opponents) with a few well-timed Team Aerial Combos.
More similar than you know - While each of the characters may handle differently, their command lists are essentially the same. While this may make MvC3 a solid entry point for newcomers (particularly with the addition of Simple Mode), it does remove some of the mystique and wonder from the action. What do I mean? I can't perform pretty much any move that requires a 360 degree motion in any fighting game, so in an attempt to cater to n00bs like me, these inputs have been eschewed in favour of quarter circles. Nothing but quarter circles. This may sound nonsensical, but I appreciate not being able to pull off every move. It affords me some comfort to be bested by some freak of nature that is able to execute an Ultimate Atomic Buster on a whim.
Urkel - Quite a few times I was asking myself "Did I do that?" You could also prefix that question with how or why sometimes, as I often surprised myself with the complexity of the combos that I performed throughout my time with MvC3. Sometimes the surprise was combined with frustration as I found that the controls were a little too touchy. I would often try to vary light/medium hits to heavy specials, but this often resulted in a Hyper Combo being performed. Obviously there was not enough time between my inputs, but when I want to pull off a Hyper make no mistake, those attack buttons will be pressed at the same time.
Spam - I've discussed this previously, but some characters can employ some over-powered, spammable attacks. Sentinel's heavy attack is a highly-effective, long-range energy beam that can be fired reasonably quickly. To illustrate just how deadly this spammable move was, my wife came from 2 fighters down to almost defeat my far more experienced brother just by pressing the heavy attack button repeatedly. It was almost laughable how a normally well-orchestrated offence was undone by the one attack recycled ad nauseum.
Sentinel spam is a popular topic on YouTube at the moment.
I like to watch - There is no ability to watch online fights. When joining an eight player lobby, the most one can do to gauge the flow of a match is watch the steadily decreasing life bars at the edge of the lobby screen (that and the flaccid clashing of license cards). Only the most patient of fighters (read: no one) would be prepared to sit in the desolate lobby area waiting to be called upon to fight.
Shakey Dog - While there some positive signs initially, MvC3 offers some fairly inconsistent online play in terms of connection quality. For the first few matches I would have said that one in three would be subject to near-unplayable levels of lag, now it's nearing about fifty percent of matches played. Sometimes lag works in your favour with opponents not able to react to Hyper Combos and Crossover Combinations. More often than not the result is missed inputs and profuse amounts of frustration. When you find a good match, it's as enjoyable as any of its competitors. Add lag and the whole experience falls apart.
Slide show - Despite the flamboyance of the action, the reward for finishing the game is a lacklustre slide show with text for the character who lands the winning blow on Galactus. Even Street Fighter II treated players to animated endings, so the complete lack of effort in this respect is beyond disappointing. The lack of unlockable content in general is source for even further regret. There may be four unlockable characters, but you'll have them selectable within an hour of play. I miss the days of having to invest thirty hours or more to access all that a fighting game had to offer.
My place or yours? - While it is not really fair to level this criticism on MvC3 alone, fighting games are at their best when your opponent is sitting right next to you. As I live more than hour's drive from most of my friends, the chance to partake in this competitive ritual is becoming all the more infrequent. Online play is nowhere near as intense or visceral as destroying the person found on the adjacent chair. This is not necessarily an indictment of MvC3 alone, but of the genre at large.
7.0/10 - Marvel Vs Capcom 3 never had a chance of living up to a decade's worth of expectation. Not to say that there isn't to be fun found in the third instalment (far from the truth), there just seemed to be a few frustrations that at times detracted from the experience. The action is fast, frantic and gorgeous to behold. When played with friends (in the same room), MvC3 is just as enjoyable as any fighter on the market today. The game is at its best when you experiment with characters and strategies, but don't expect to learn in the midst of battle (at least not online). If you're not in the company of friends, hit the Training mode and activate Fight Request for the best results.
This is another great fighter that is worthy of its lineage, it does appear however as though there are some issues and exploits that could affect this game in the long term. There are certainly enough niggles to force me into an early retirement from MvC3.