Reviewed: March 7, 2011
Released: February 15, 2011
Crossovers are common in the worlds of both video games and comic books. Gamers have become accustomed to seeing their platforming heroes donning helmets to compete in cart racing titles or battle it out in arena fighting game, and comic fans love seeing their favorite superheroes pitted against each other to see who will come out the victor. Given this, it was no surprise in 1998 that the folks behind the preeminent Street Fighter video game fighting series, Capcom, would join forces with the folks at the distinguished comics publisher, Marvel, to release an ensemble fighting game titled Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Superheroes for the arcades.|
The popularity of the arcade cabinets led Capcom to release ports of the title for the original PlayStation and newly-released Dreamcast consoles in late early 2000, and two years later a sequel titled Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes. Licensing issues halted the development of any further Marvel vs. Capcom titles, and other than a 2009 re-release of New Age of Heroes on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network, the series seemed all but done for. But you can never keep a good franchise down, and nearly a decade since the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 we finally have our first honest-to-goodness addition to the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise in Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. Believe me, it was worth the wait.
I may have cut my teeth on Street Fighter in the arcades, but I tend to be more of a 3D fighting fan at heart – typically leaning towards the Dead or Alive, Soul Calibur, and Tekken fare for their fluid and relatively realistic gameplay. And every now and then a 2D fighter comes along that piques my interest – like Guilty Gear X on the original Xbox, which sucked me in with its gothic rock n’ roll atmosphere – but with the 2D fighters, I often find myself a bit overwhelmed by the herky-jerky animations and severely combo-heavy gameplay. But like the Street Fighter IV that came before it, Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds is a fighter that maintains the over-the-top 2D style gameplay, but does so with all the fluidity of its 3D counterparts. This is largely accomplished through the addition of the “Simple Mode” control scheme that consolidates the overly complex controls to just a few basic button combos, making it relatively easy for newcomers to learn the ins and outs of the Street fighter realm.
Granted, the overall library of moves is a bit shorter in Simple Mode than it is in the Standard, but the overall ease of entry really kept me interested in perusing through the amazing cast of 36 characters ranging from series stalwarts like Ryu and Chun Li , to Marvel mainstays like Spider-Man and Hulk. But the list doesn’t end there, as Capcom digs deep into its archives to include characters like Dante, Viewtiful Joe, Arthur from Ghosts and Goblins and even Amaterasu – the wolfdog from Okami. Yes it is a bit odd to see a canine battling it out onscreen, but seeing Marvels oddball M.O.D.O.K character is equally as mystifying – and both characters absolutely kick ass.
Then again, all of the characters in Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds absolutely kick ass because the developers have done an impeccable job balancing the fighters’ features. Petite ladies like Chun Li can still kick the ass of behemoths like Hulk – but only when played with skill. There are no ringers in the cast, and even heavily armed characters can square up against close combat brawlers and the fighting is fair and rewarding.
Gamers choose one main and two support fighters to square up against an opposing trio of brawlers. As the one-on-one battle becomes heated, main characters can summon support characters to pop in and deliver quick, decisive punishment, or exchange positions completely with the main character to augment weaknesses and/or maintain health. Each round affords the gamer one “X-Factor” summons to temporarily increase health and speed that gets doled out equally to the gamer’s trio of characters – what this means is that a gamer with three characters left will have shorter and less powerful X-Factor than a player with only one character remaining. This definitely adds to the strategy of the timing, especially considering the X-Factor cancels all opposing attacks no matter their strength.
Visually, the game is astounding, with some of the best 2.5D graphics on the system. To call the look “cel” or “toon” shaded would be a disservice to the art. There is a definite comic book appearance to the proceedings, with heavy dark overtones to the deep inking, but the beautifully applied shading gives everything a definite appearance of depth and structure. The character animations are incredibly smooth, and really do a great job of capturing the 2D fighter ambiance while eschewing the sprite-based animations that typically come with the genre.
But the real visual treat comes from the fantastically over-the-top animations that come with the special moves. I venture to say that these scenes are better than anything seen in any of Marvel’s animated series – and if they were to incorporate these hyper-exciting visuals in their films and television episodes it would be absolutely incredible (hint, hint…). Seriously though, these hyper cutaways fill the entire screen with enough flashy explosions and electrifying fireballs to rival a Fourth of July fireworks show. And while a couple of the easier moves’ animations do find themselves a little played out over time, those moments when a lesser-seen move pops up is like discovering an Easter egg – even if it’s the computer performing the attack.
The Street Fighter games were never known for their sound quality – and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 does not do much to fix the issue. Each character has his or her list of one or two word ‘kias’ corresponding to their attacks – ranging from Ryo’s trademark “Uuurrahh” to the creepy-surreal “Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!” of the Marvel character Deadpool. It is interesting to note that many of the Marvel characters tag lines are being lipped by the actual voice actors from the Marvel cartoons, using actual taunts from the printed comics – even Hulk taunting Thor with the humorous “Goldilocks” or Iron Man with “Metal Man” comes from printed material. It definitely gives the proceedings a touch of authenticity for comic fans who might be a little turned off by the gaming crossover.
Aside from the requisite “Offline” and “Online” head-to-head modes, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 offers a couple of additional gameplay options in the form of the “Mission” and “Shadow” modes. While these two modes may sound impressive at first, they are little more than minor tweaks on the main gameplay. Mission mode is basically a glorified training mode that lists certain requirements for each match – these requirements may range from pulling off certain move chains, or finishing within a certain time. Sadly, while this is one of the more tiresome modes, it is also the mode that has he most Achievement Points attached to it, so completionists will be forced to slog through the increasingly difficult requirements.
Shadow mode is one of those quirky Japanese oddities in which gamers are allowed to play against the “styles” of prominent real-life champions. Yes, the developers study the styles of live Street Fighter champions, then programs the AI to “shadow” their gameplay. These Shadows are to be released as a series of downloadable content packs – the first of which has already been released for free – I personally did not find much of a difference between the Shadow Mode play and the standard AI, but we will have to wait for later releases to make a judgment.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 might be a bit light in the gaming modes, there’s no denying that the core gameplay is solid enough stands on its own and has something to offer for every type of gamer. Fighting fans of all flavors will enjoy the hybrid 2D-meets-3D gameplay, the smooth animations, and the excellent character special moves. Gaming fans will get a real kick out of the inclusion of classic gaming icons like Arthur, Viewtiful Joe, and even Dr. Wesker. Comic fans will enjoy the faithful implementation of their favorite heroes (and villains) in a fighter that is full of flash and fantasy. It’s a win-win-win situation and a solid recommendation for any gamer.