Anyone who claims to know a thing about fighting games knows about Marvel vs. Capcom 2. But even if you've somehow managed to avoid the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 and Xbox Live Arcade/PlayStation Network versions, the odds are fairly high that you've seen the arcade cabinet haunting some local arcade. Known for its absolutely broken gameplay, its immense cast of character and wide range of infinite combos, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was a fan favourite for years in both casual and tournament scenes. But the series was caught in limbo for years due to Capcom losing the rights to Marvel's cast of characters, leaving fans only with the hope that one day a third installment would be released. Thankfully, that day has finally arrived, which begs to ask the question: is Marvel vs. Capcom 3 worth taking for a ride?
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is not only the most recent successor to Capcom's Versus series, but it also represents the developer's first 'real' shot at attempting to balance what was previously seen as a 'broken' series by fans. With 18 characters from each side of the playing field, it's Capcom's goal to weed out many of the characters from the last game that were neat, but absolutely unnecessary. All while trying to focus harder on making each character available on the roster more unique, something which is rather tricky when you have so many characters. Players will notice from the very start that no two characters really mirror one another anymore, and that some pretty unique teams can be crafted amongst the roster.
Those familiar with Tatsunoko vs Capcom or Street Fighter IV (any version) will be right at home with how Marvel vs. Capcom 3 plays. Weak attacks are used to chain into more powerful combos, which can be spiced up with special attacks, assists, and ultras. Likewise, players who find themselves on the receiving end of the beating should find that unlike Marvel vs. Capcom 2, there are a few more options to escape. Counter Attacks and Advancing Guard give defending players room to breathe against a particularly aggressive opponent, and X-Factor can give a player who may be a little behind a much needed aggressive boost against the enemy. All these new combinations add a lot more depth and strategy, in addition to balance across the board.
This isn't to say that the game isn't without flaws however, since there are still some aspects of the game which are largely unforgiving. Players looking to compete online that are new to the series may find the competition to be a little cruel, as players tend to sport the more synergistic (or otherwise widely used) teams to fight. There's really no mercy for a player who has a hard time mastering appropriate blocks, or is still learning moves, the game's mechanics simply don't allow for it. Button mashing also accomplishes very little. This is also completely aside the fact that some characters are still sporting a few infinite combos; attacks which, when properly strung together, provide a guaranteed kill with no real way to fight back. Even taking Capcom's "Simple Mode" into consideration, anyone who truly is looking to compete online needs to take some time offline to learn the controls, the characters, the assists, and (of course) the combos.
While some of this is going to come naturally as you play through the game, having to look for out-of-game guides and strategies simply to compete online may be a little too much to ask for. Thankfully, Capcom has seen fit to include a Challenge Mode for each character that reviews some of the more complex combos in the game for both points (used to unlock bonus content) and player knowledge. They take time and practice to master, but are well worth the investment.
Another disappointing aspect of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 comes in the form of online mode, which has very little to offer outside of ranked and unranked multiplayer fights. If more than one player is sitting in a lobby there is no option to be a spectator in a match, nor is there a way to record or play back matches that have already occurred.
This is rather disappointing considering the amount of time and effort that was poured into Super Street Fighter IV, but perhaps fans can look forward to seeing more advanced tournament, lobby, and replay options in the near future; similar to the bonus characters that have been announced, but will only be released via downloadable content so far.
So is Marvel vs Capcom 3 everything that we've been waiting ten long years for? Undoubtedly so, and though the game does have its drawbacks, the positives quite heavily outweigh the few negatives the game has. A far cleaner roster, more interesting cast and far more defined characters mean that you would have to be playing the game for an extremely long time for it to get old. On the same page, future support in the form of downloadable content may just keep players who are getting tired of their current teams to mix things up as the roster continues to expand outward.