Capcom developed a winning formula with Marvel vs. Capcom 2 that, despite its bizarre premise that combined the most unlikely of combatants, won over the typically staunch 2D fighting scene. Its sequel, landing some 11 years later, successfully brings that same bizarre premise and its chaotic, three-on-three, tag-in, tag-out gameplay into 2011.
And as great as MvC2 is, MvC3 is, by all rights, the game to unseat its predecessor. While many characters return, the roster now includes many from both stables that have become (or remained) popular in the past decade: for instance, the likes of Deadpool makes an appearance for the Marvel camp, with his trademark self-aware humour intact; Amaterasu, the wolf-like sun god from Capcom’s 2006 hit Okami, represents the new blood from the other camp. Combined with some killer visuals possible only on current-gen consoles, it all serves to freshen up and contemporise a proven recipe. Of course, some older, classic characters from both stables are also represented for the first time: Sir Arthur from ‘80s coin-op platformer Ghosts ‘n Goblins is a new and welcome inclusion, and Super Skrull, who first appeared in Fantastic Four comics back in the ‘60s, freshens up the Marvel side of things. The cast of characters, the cameos, the subtle references to their source material and the ways in which they interact with each other all blend together to make MvC3 a deep and fleshed-out experience.
The original mechanics have been further refined, simplified to light, medium and heavy attacks (that don’t distinguish between punches and kicks) and a "special” button that is used mostly to launch your opponents to initiate an air combo. It means that the barrier to entry is low, but don’t let that fool you for a second; Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is one of the deepest and most-technical fighters on the market, and there’s always something new for the player to master. Newcomers can still be competitive without it necessarily dissolving into a button-mashing mess. It’s a balance few fighting titles have managed, and, subsequently, MvC3 appeals to more than just the hardcore.
If you pick this game up, though, it should primarily be for the multiplayer aspect, either online or off. For single-player evangelists, it’s rather light on extras and there’s very little here for you outside of a story mode that does get rather samey. In fact, there are fewer characters this time around, and the individual player endings really aren’t anything to write home about. There is the Mission Mode, which tasks the player with performing a series of increasingly more difficult moves and combinations. While there is the challenge aspect to it, it effectively serves as a tutorial for each character’s more advanced combos, and it’s a useful tool for improving your competitive game before taking it online.
And online multiplayer is the real bread and butter of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and one of the true joys is finding a team (and assist combination) that works for you. All 36 characters have various strengths and weaknesses, and paramount to your strategy should be finding a combination of three characters that enables you to react to any given opponent’s strategy. It takes experimentation, identifying your own weaknesses and ways in which you can plug those weaknesses.
There is something that bugs me about the online aspect of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, though, and it’s a hangover from previous Capcom fighting games that you’d think the publisher would have rectified by now. If you search for any kind of online match and it fails to connect (which happens fairly frequently), you’re booted right back to the main title screen. There are a couple of sub-menus before you get to search for a match, and this oversight means it can be quite a time consuming affair to just get a match of any type off the ground. If only it took you back just the one step…
I did encounter difficulty finding Ranked and even Player matches, too, and the reason for this is currently unknown. Manually searching for lobbies or turning on "Fight Requests” in single player will seemingly net you more matches than the official Ranked or Player search functions. It’s a good thing, then, that when it works, it works well. Capcom’s killer netcode works a treat yet again, and most low-ping matches play like your opponent is in the same room as you. There is a raft of search options at your disposal, so you can specify whether you wish to limit the search to your region (recommended), to players of your skill level and more.
With Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Capcom created a game that enjoyed a cult following to this day and even carried the fighting scene through its darkest days. I truly believe that Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds has similar staying power and will cement itself as a mainstay in the competitive scene for years to come. There’s a metric tonne of depth on offer and plenty of character combinations, techniques and more to keep you coming back.