In the decade since one of our industry’s most iconic crossover games, Capcom has successfully reinvigorated the Street Fighter franchise, restoring the faith of the fatigued fighting community and attracting a legion of new fans along the way. With "Marvel vs. Capcom 3" (MvC3), the company was in the unenviable – and nearly impossible — position of pleasing multiple crowds. The long-awaited sequel needed to offer a bounty of fan service, be tournament-ready and offer a pitch-perfect balance between accessibility and depth. Adding to the pressure, it needed to be fun as hell for veterans and newcomers alike.
The developers, led by Producer Ryota Niitsuma, have unequivocally succeeded.
This game’s accessibility is through the roof. It feels like home to the new generation of players raised on "Street Fighter IV," and it layers on enough strategy to keep veteran fighters hooked for years. You may hear complaints in the dark recesses of internet forums about the game’s shallow roster (MvC2 had 56 playable characters while MvC3 contains 36), but the more time you spend with the dizzying combination of characters and strategies, the more the absurdity of these claims is magnified. Series veterans may bemoan the noticeable omission of the entire Fantastic Four, or characters like Frank West ("Dead Rising") and Mega Man, but the subtleties and diverse move sets of newcomers like M.O.D.O.K, Dante and Viewtiful Joe (a chaotic and formidable team, by the way) soften the blow.
A new and controversial feature is the game’s new Simple Mode which is proving to be the gateway for new players. By accepting a smaller range of moves, rookies can have important combos and special moves assigned to a single button. It feels awkward to veterans, but proved enticing to a few guinea pigs willing to try Capcom’s vs. series for the first time. Eventually the innate need for a challenge will overcome these players and they will hopefully upgrade to the standard controls, which are much easier to master than those in "Marvel vs. Capcom 2."
MvC3 also introduces the fighting genre’s equivalent of rubber banding, something that occurs often in the racing genre. The game’s X-Factor mechanic allows players on the ropes to boost their strength and speed for a limited time, and also serves to negate chip damage which so often spells the end of a weak character. It adds yet another layer of strategy that is most useful when you’re down to your final fighter.
Capcom deserves hearty applause for the lavish attention they’ve given to character animations and the sheer amount of stunning eye candy. It’s clear that an updated version of their "Resident Evil 5" and "Lost Planet 2" graphics engine is on display here. Hyper and Crossover combos are such spectacles that gazing in adoration at them can often spell your doom as your eyeballs sit captivated.
The online multiplayer makes or breaks any game requiring twitch reactions and split-second decision making, and the fighting genre is often the biggest victim of sloppy programming. Thankfully, those days are behind us. Capcom has nailed the online play, even if the feature set surrounding it is a bit anemic. Latency didn’t affect our gameplay whatsoever, and the matchmaking system consistently hooked us up with well-connected opponents. We can’t emphasize how important this is since the bulk of your time will be spent playing "just one more round" against your online rival.
Amazingly, we didn't experience a single disconnect during multiplayer, probably because Capcom pits quitters against quitters.
While online gameplay is silky smooth, there are several aspects of the online experience that left us puzzled. As much as MvC3 looks and feels like "Super Street Fighter IV", its online suite is a giant leap backward. The absence of a Replay Channel borders on depressing, especially with the wide array of ridiculously entertaining hyper combos on display. Also gone is the ability to watch a match-in-progress from inside a lobby, eradicating the primary draw of the lobby feature itself – to replicate the arcade experience. With Capcom’s recent push toward fostering a community around its games, the lack of these features, both present in "Super Street Fighter IV," is a disappointing mystery.
Speaking of mysteries, respected comic book writer Frank Tieri (Iron Man, Deadpool) – known for his gritty style – penned the story line for MvC3, but there is no narrative outside of the stunning CGI opener and the still-frame closing scenes. In typical Capcom fashion, bite-sized pieces are revealed as you finish the arcade mode with various characters, but we had hoped for considerably more exposition.
Even with these minor gripes, "Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds" is so vibrant, unpredictable and addictive yours truly missed his review deadline. Even your button-mashing friends who have no idea what's a Hadoken can jump in and make something amazing happen. Pulling off that magic is contagious and it frequently turns "just one more round" into a few dozen more rounds. Put simply, MvC3 makes us want to skip the 900-word foreplay and scream "just buy it!" at the top of our lungs.
To be honest, it feels like an injustice reviewing this game without spending hundreds of hours learning the nuances of each character and its multiple ways of creating synergy with the entire roster. The glowing, underscored point is that we sincerely intend to let "Marvel vs. Capcom 3" consume those hundreds of hours from our lives, as we fight our hearts out for years to come.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5
Contributor's Note: A retail 360 copy was provided for review by Capcom PR. All images and videos courtesy of Capcom.