Of all the oddball franchise mash ups that litter gaming, none are as incongruously delightful as Marvel Versus Capcom. It’s fun watching characters like Wolverine and Akuma get stuck into each other, or Spiderman fighting characters from Megaman or Resident Evil. While the downside is the lack of technical depth to the gameplay with many characters sharing avery similar move sets. But the pay off is one of the most fun fighters you’re likely to play.
To go on a slight tangent, I was pretty critical of Street Fighter IV on its release and I’ve had various rants on my love/hate relationship with fighting games since I started writing for That Aussie Game Site. But as I’m still playing Street Fighter IV a year later I’m hard pressed not to re-evaluate my snobbish stance. Yes, I would like fighting games to be more interesting, to test some boundaries, to engage gamers on a Heavy Rain level of empathy. But I can’t deny Capcom are putting out some damn fun games. I should be furious at Marvel Versus Capcom 3 for its shallow fan service, but I can’t, I'm too much of a fan. It’s like the worlds most adorable kitten, purring on the wreck of a couch that it’s shredded into kindling.
She Hulk flashs her stunning, skull crushing, legs to the horror of Chris Redfield and Arthur
The plot? Dr Doom and Albert Wesker have joined forces to bring even more Doom! And Wesker! on the screaming people of the Marvelverse and Capcomville. Their combined evilness has attracted an even more evil evilness that you’ll forget about until the final boss fight and think, ‘oh right, that guy’.
Marvel Versus Capcom 3 was developed by the same team behind Tatsunoko Versus Capcom, an equally fun but underrated Wii fighter, long overdue for a proper console release. The characters themselves are 3D models interacting on a 2D plane, similar to Tatsunoko V Capcom and Street Fighter IV. The designs are hyper stylised and cartoonish, full of energy and colour. It's the art style that really makes the game fun to play, every move is over the top. When Thor swings his hammer in an arc sparks crackle and fly, and when Wesker pulls off a special move it's as sudden and violent as you'd expect from the former STARS member turned super zombie villain.
You can spend days just trying out every crazy combination of characters you can think off, pretty much anyone plus MODOK equals hilarity
As with most previous Capcom Versus titles you get to choose a set of three team mates to triple threat your opponent. Controlling the support attacks and team based super moves for your team mates is critical to winning games. Badly timed moves can result in hefty and simultaneous damage to your team members. Of course it's hugely satisfying to juggle an enemy, knocking them into the air with Wolverine to be followed by Ironman and the Incredible Hulk leaping onto the screen to smash them as they raggedly tumble helplessly. It certainly makes my kids laugh when they do it to me.
The roster of characters is pretty impressive, with most of the core favourites returning (not enough Xmen for my liking though). The new character additions have some pretty odd choices, on the Marvel side Deadpool's fan favourite credit makes him a must have addition, it's amusing to have MODOK on your team but it seems like bad guys are over represented on the Marvel side. X-23 is an odd choice, as being his clone daughter, seems to play very much like Wolverine, but she carves out a good niche for herself. Capcom has more new characters bringing Chris Redfield and Wesker to the table in RE5 garb, with Jill Valentine in similar garb available as DLC (although the codes hidden on the disc, insert grumble here), Dante and his compensating giant sword are on hand along with, Zero and Tron Bonne from Megaman, Arthur from Ghosts N Ghouls, Viewtful Joe, Bionic Commando and the worlds greatest mayoral candidate (and oddly prophetic character considering Jesse Ventura's election success) Mike Haggar from Final Fight. The full list is pretty stupendous and you'll spend a great deal of time just getting to know all the characters and coming up with weird and surreal teams, easy to do with Capcom's classic contributions to the mix.
Bionic Commando's contribution to the roster is more impressive than his own game
If I had to level a criticism at the roster it would be the lack of girl power on the Marvel side with three ladies from comicdom versus nine from Capcom. It's not like there aren't ladies to choose from, Black Widow, Ms Marvel, Wasp, Elektra or Psylocke (who appeared in previous Capcom fighting games) to name a few. I'd be more than happy to trade a few Marvel bad guys for girls. It's also a touch depressing seeing the characters who didn't make it in: some or all of the Fantastic Four were considered at one point, as was Silver Surfer. Frank West from Dead Rising (he's covered wars you know) was unfortunately dropped last minute and RE bad guys Tyrant and Nemesis were left out to get a better age rating. But I can't cry too loudly, the roster on hand is more than cool.
The games controls and moveset are often overpowered and there are some painfully cheap moves on hand it's not hard for a marginally skilled player to dominate the field with the right team and the right YouTube strategy research. But for most people the game is easy to pick up and play, with a simple mode with one button for a super move, but you don't get to pick which one and with some characters, like Thor, its an annoying short range attack. Anyone with the teensiest modicum of fight game experience will find the Simple mode too restrictive. There is some depth there in complicated combos to learn for the serious competitive fight game enthusiast, but too many cheap moves will likely turn away these ghosts of arcades past (and good riddance). Marvel Versus Capcom 3 is really designed for the fans who love the characters and want to enjoy using them which distinguishes it as the most approachable and enjoyable fighter I've played since Soul Calibur 4.
Chun Li nukes the face off Wolverine
Playing online, as expected, is painfully embarrassing for most people. The limited online isn't much of an issue as Marvel Versus Capcom 3 is part of that great tradition of couch games where a group of friends or family can gather and swap controllers amid shouts of, 'just wait, I'm learning the controls... I said just wait douche!'.
The worst element of Marvel Versus Capcom 3 is easily your end game reward, a short series of ugly comic panels and some dull text. After saving two whole worlds you'd be expecting some kind of cut scene or animated sequence as payoff. But you just get a dull wrap up and some lame old concept art and 3D models to glance at for a heartbeat. I've come to expect a certain level of flair to cut scenes and end game reward cinematics from other Japanese developers like Koei, Tecmo, Squaresoft and Namco; but Capcom seem focused on providing rubbish cutscenes. I'm still washing the taste out of my mouth from those ugly anime sequences in Streetfighter IV. Seriously Capcom, your in game content is so fluid and gorgeous, lets at least try and get an end movie half as good as your opening movies.
Dr Doom proves a greater challenge for Chris than an army of mutated zombies
If you have been waiting years for a fun fighting game you can get your friends aroud to play the way you used to do with Mortal Kombat or Tekken, wait no longer. Marvel Versus Capcom 3 is the accessible and plain old fun fighting game you've been waiting for. It might be lacking in depth, in complex gameplay, narrative and game rewards, but it compensates with whats likely to be the best toybox of cult characters you will encounter in any mash up game. Not to mention pick up and play controls that cater to all levels of fight game enthusiasts from non-gamer spouses to long term fight game rivals. If you have a few friends or family to share the fun with, you'll lose hours to Marvel Versus Capcom 3. Now who do I talk to at Capcom about an X-men Children of the Atom remake?