When Worlds Collide
I’m not a hardcore fighting game fan, but I’ve always enjoyed the over-the-top style of Capcom’s Vs. series. I’ll dabble here and there with Street Fighter and other Japanese fighters (on occasion—Capcom has always ruled the fighting genre in my opinion), and as much as I would like to put the necessary time, energy, and fighting-stick-related expense into becoming a true master at a game that requires such chess-like strategy and technical finesse, it just seems highly unlikely that I’ll get around to actually doing so. The Vs. series, on the other hand, has always been a little more streamlined than Street Fighter, and while the actual amount of balancing attack, strength, and special move tweaking is no doubt as intricate and meticulous as the myriad systems in place in, say, Super Street Fighter IV, the arcadey likes of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 or Tatsunoko vs. Capcom have always seemed more accessible and entertaining than their hardcore Capcom cousins. Hardcore fighters needn’t worry; you can still employ your technical fighting aptitude when playing a Vs. title.
MvC 3 has a lot of fresh additions to its more than thirty strong line-up. On the Capcom side of the MvC3 roster, highlights include newcomers Okami’s wolf-goddess Ameratsu; Resident Evil 5-era Wesker, Chris, and Jill; Sir Arthur from Ghosts and Goblins; Bionic Commando’s Nathan “Rad” Spencer (note that Spencer is by default from Grin’s financially disastrous Bionic Commando reboot—whether or not original BC Rearmed Nate shows up as an alternate costume remains to be seen); and Devil May Cry’s Trish and Dante. Accompanying these new fighters are some old favorites like Mega Man Legends’ Tron Bonne, Mega Man X’s Zero and Felicia and Morrigan from Darkstalkers, among others.
The Marvel side is a mixture of old and new as well, and contains some interesting choices. Fan favorites like Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk are a given, but what about some of Marvel’s lesser-known characters, like MODOK, Super Skrull, or the one and only merc-with-a-mouth, Deadpool? MvC3 has you covered (though honestly MODOK seems like a really bizarre choice). Storm and Magneto return from the pages of X-Men, while Thor and She-Hulk make their debuts, and the octopus-like Shuma-Gorath, who was arguably known only to the most hardcore comic book fans before video game introduction in MvC2, comes back to complement Capcom’s Jill as DLC. If that wasn’t enough, art from an upcoming Marvel Vs. Capcom comic book recently surfaced online, showing the obscure Captain America villain Taskmaster as well as the devourer of worlds, Galactus. Though Capcom is keeping mum on the truth of these rumors, they do correspond with a Twitter posting earlier this month that leaked the rumored last character additions to the MvC3 line-up: Jean Grey/Phoenix, Taskmaster, and the mutant hunting Sentinel on the Marvel side, Darkstalker’s Hsien-Ko, Mike Haggar from Final Fight, and Akuma from Capcom. That would leave Galactus as MvC’s final boss, and would implicitly coincide quite nicely with the game’s subtitle.
Surprisingly, Capcom seems to be giving MvC3 more hype than usually reserved for fighters. The game’s trailers play like scenes from a crossover action game, showcasing MvC3’s wide array of characters tussling in setpiece-style battles. This is further enhanced by the fact that MvC3 is powered by Capcom’s impressive proprietary MP Framework engine, which has in the past run Dead Rising, Lost Planet, and Resident Evil 5, though for MvC3 they’ve given the visuals a new cel-shaded, comic book-style lick of paint. Coinciding with the new aesthetic, MvC3 also looks significantly less anime-stylized than previous sprite-based Vs. games, with the heavy use of shadow and thick black lines at times giving the game a Western look somewhat like the work of comic legend Jack Kirby. The switch from a Japanese style is one that takes some getting used to, particularly in some of the already more Western-looking Marvel characters, but there’s no doubt that MvC3 is still every bit a looker, making this one a worthy-looking HD upgrade from the Vs. series last game, the Wii-exclusive Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Vs. title without the gameplay to back it up, and thankfully Capcom hasn’t made too many tweaks to the series formula. Matches are still three-on-three, and you can tag characters out at will, but for this new installment the developers opted to expand tactical air combat, opening up a new level of strategy compared to previous installments. Compared to MvC2, which allowed certain characters to launch foes into the air to create aerial combos, every character in MvC3 has a directionally-flexible launch attack, which you can extend if you want by launching them up further, from side to side or down to the ground. Where things get a little more interesting is when you’re the one launched into the air—since all the characters in the game can launch, its up to you to figure out whether or not your opponent will choose to counter by launching you up further (which you can avoid by countering with your own launch) or painting you into a corner by, say, forcing you to tag out and then ambushing your tagged character with a devastating combo. Aside from that, it’s pretty much business as usual, with all the supers, breaks, and tag-team combos you would expect from any good Capcom fighter. In terms of characters, MvC3 also offers a pretty healthy balance of ranged, projectile and close-quarters attacks throughout its roster. Longtime fans of the series will see a lot of their characters still performing their signature moves from previous games (Wolverine’s claw strikes and the Hulk’s heavy attacks come to mind), though these are accompanied by fresh moves, while the new characters offer some wild new moves. I personally can’t wait to see some of Ameratsu’s moves, and if Galactus does end up being the game’s final boss, it should be a sight to see. In any case, MvC3 is shaping up to be one very memorable cross-universe showdown with enough grit and style to run with the best of ’em when it hits mid-February.