A Presumption of Skill Will Not Suffice As A Prerequisite
A Video Game Review of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (PS3)
By: Lawrence Napoli
The battle royale continues with the latest crossover installment of the Marvel vs. Capcom series in Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. In MvC3 we find plenty of old mainstays and fresh faces to rebirth the franchise with an entirely new aesthetic look complimented by familiar, but slightly modified gameplay. The character roster (as it currently exists) is not as robust as the Noah’s Ark found in this game’s predecessor, but the overall look of this game is a vast and welcome improvement. Producer/director Ryota Niitsuma set out to make a capable follow-up to the brilliance of Street Fighter IV and in many aspects, his work shines with the luster of whatever the Silver Surfer is made of.
Fighting genre purists, especially world tournament competitors, may feel that this game is not nearly as disciplined as either of its predecessors seeing how the learning curve for the mastery of certain characters through the proficiency of unique combos has been cut in half to allow what Capcom refers to as more “strategic fighting” to be introduced to the mechanics. This is a curious comment from the good folks at Capcom seeing how there isn’t an awful lot of time in fighting games to implement a strategy outside of outclassing your opponent. But perhaps there is a method to this particular brand of madness. If the playing field in regards to the control scheme becomes simplified, the range of legitimate competition increases exponentially as well as ever increasing the role of chance in a match. Depending on how skilled you actually are at fighting games, this may or may not be something you want to hear.
As I said before, MvC3 looks very sexy. The main reason for this is the significant upgrade 3D character models have over 2D sprites. There’s just more room for detail in costume design and animation that allows each fighter to truly POP from each stage’s background. This increased graphical detail is also quite helpful in regards to learning to be a better fighter because amidst the button-mashing frenzy one may or may not enter during fighting games, MvC3 allows you to see each punch and kick with unmistakable clarity to indicate the point where you messed up in a combo or mistimed some movement. The quality of the character models are true to their original designs and the vibrancy of the color palette redefines the rainbow. The overall size of each character in relation to the rest of the screen takes a bit of getting used to. On a 40” plus LCD, plasma or LED screen, even midgets like Zero come off as Herculean in size. And when Hulk makes an appearance . . . well . . .
The background stage designs are equally as detailed and refined as the fighters themselves. Some of them remain relatively static such as the area outside the Daily Bugle featuring parade balloons in the form of Spider-Man and various other characters. Other stages have significantly more business happening in the background like Wesker’s underground base that features a glass cage of lickers crawling all around inside or Arthur’s (from Ghouls and Ghosts) stage that features a high-def, 3D rendition of the first level from the 8-Bit classic.
On top of all this, the voice-overs and sound effects are top notch. The individual fighters favor a series of grunts and groans to accompany the litany of kicks, punches and projectiles while you’re in the middle of the action, but when they do speak before and after matches, the audio clips are quite satisfying. An added detail that is quite welcome is how certain fighters will have specific quotes reserved for other fighters that they share specific history with in previous video games or comics. Chris Redfield and Wesker have vintage venom for each other as an example, while others that seemingly have no connection like Felicia and Dormammu have more comical quips.
MvC3 features a few different game modes such as arcade (vs. CPU or local player), online (vs. other humans), mission (combo training) and extras (character bios + all their personal sound bytes). If you are trophy/achievement hunting, most of your time will be spent in arcade mode as you gain points, unlock character endings and master the trio of fighters you feel best suits your own personal style. Online battles present an opportunity to get owned by 8 year old wizards and button mashing imbeciles who aren’t the most gracious if you happen to be winning, so boosting is always a welcome alternative should you find some helpful online friends. Mission mode is a challenging opportunity to gain proficiency with each character’s signature combos which requires a high level of dexterity and patience to perform a series of predetermined chains.
As for the game control of the fighting action itself, I have to say that there is a noticeable difference in precision between MvC3 and its predecessors. The first major difference is the “dumbing-down” of the control scheme. Gone are the tried and true weak, medium and strong punches and kicks in favor of simply weak and strong attacks. Gone is the need to develop precise timing to pull off air combos as there now exists a “special attack” button which is used to instantly launch the opposition into the air for said combos and can also act as a short-cut to actually pulling off certain special moves. And if everything I just mentioned comes off as far too complex, you can even engage “easy mode” after selecting your fighters that short cuts special moves and even some combos to the pressing of single buttons. Yes, the learning curve takes a major hit that gives all noobs a puncher’s chance to challenge veterans in any match.
In addition, I noticed a significant difference in the overall speed of the action itself. In MvC and MvC2, navigating your fighter towards any portion of the screen was almost instantaneous. If you just laid a solid combo into your opponent and sent him or her flying to the other side of the screen, it took less than half a second for you to dash over to their body to follow up with more punishment. Regular movement that does not involve the execution of a combo is very slow and dashing forward/retreating is equally lethargic.
Extras and Satisfaction
MvC3 has a healthy does of content to unlock from extra fighters (which will expand with DLC) to media by defeating the final boss with each fighter. Each character has about 65-70 audio clips that can be replayed at your leisure. This bank of audio media represents an excellent source to be exploited for fan generated fiction destined for youtube.
In addition to the clips, each character has an unlockable bio that comes with a status meter that gauges each fighter’s strengths and abilities. I’m not certain if these status pages translate to in game performance, but it would present an alternative means of forming teams that compliment each other in relation to the actual numbers that the game itself is based on.
Unfortunately, the character endings that have always been memorable and unique to the MvC crossover fiction are a major disappointment in this latest installment. Every character gets only 2 panels of stationary art with no voice-over, cheesy music and utterly ridiculous text that outlines what the fighter moves on to after defeating the game’s big bad. The quality of each ending is no better than any 16/32 bit council game. It seems very curious to me in a fighting game where attention to detail was such a point of order that allowing this amateur level of production value to be included in the final product insults a seasoned gamer’s intelligence. Capcom would’ve been better off simply flashing a continue/quit screen at the very end and leaving it at that.
Fighting genre purists would do well to stay away from MvC3. It does not deliver the same level of challenge and precise control as previous 2D manifestations. This reinforces the inherent weakness that the introduction of any 3D element to fighter games not named Soul Caliber presents.
Fans of either the Marvel or Capcom franchises will reap the most satisfaction due to the Easter eggs scattered throughout. The novelty of controlling certain iconic characters remains a strength for this game, but if one doesn’t know the characters, this is a moot point.
MvC3 does not distinguish itself in any other manner than the combination of two popular franchises and its incredible ease to pick up, play and master in one or two afternoons of button-mashing. I find it very surprising that this video game series does not take more advantage of an evolved story-telling mechanic to add an extra level of depth to the gaming experience seeing how Marvel Comics is a 50% partner in this venture. But then again, should we all be surprised when this past year has seen a litany of rumors involving the lost potency of Japan’s game-development?