Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Fate Of Two Worlds
There’s a cacophony of sound and a maelstrom of colour as we blast Spider–Man out of the air with Ryu’s mid-air Hyper Combo Hadouken, firing it downward and spinning him to the ground. Even before he’s halfway down, we summon Iron Man, the camera zooming dramatically on his enormous Photon Cannon as it pulses blindingly with power beams that fill half the screen. But we aren’t done punishing the arachnid hero yet, as we tag in Bionic Commando, mesmerised as his metal fist smashes Spidey across the stage and the screen explodes to the glorious cry of KO! It’s all loud, crazy and perfectly Marvel Vs Capcom – we couldn’t be happier.
It’s easy to see why casual passers-by might be slightly intimidated watching Marvel Vs Capcom 3 being played. Seeing players battle with three characters apiece – as they scream battle cries, constantly tagging while trading combos galore and dramatic, Hyper Combos that fill the screen with fire and fury – it’d be understandable to assume you have to be a fighting nut to get to grips with half of what’s happening on screen.
The irony is once you get used to the craziness you’ll quickly find a fighting game almost anyone can play in MVC3, regardless of your skill level. Whether you’re a fighting virgin with no idea what ‘down, down, forward and Hard Punch’ means, a button-mashing fiend who just wants to see cool things happen on screen or a fighting game crazy who threatens people in genre shorthand, you’ll find a level at which to enjoy MVC3.
As per series tradition, the roster is a bounty of beloved characters from Marvel Comics and Capcom franchises, and it’s amazing how both have moved on in the intervening 11 years – some of the characters you play as didn’t even exist when MVC2 was released. Naturally iconic mainstays on both sides like Ryu, Chun-Li, Spider-Man and Captain America are here, but it’s interesting who made the cut from the fringes of both franchises.
Fanboys on either side will be in hog heaven at the attention to detail. From the beautiful 3D character models rendered in frantic paced comic-book style, the canonical alternate costumes and the spot on voice work (characters actually quip and tease each other perfectly before matches) it’s hard to fault the level of fan service here.
There’s a grand total of 38 characters, ranging from damaging brawlers like the Hulk, quick combo-based fighters like X-23 and Zero, projectile and zone control tricksters like Arthur and Dr Doom, all-round fighters like Dante and Iron Man to a slew of oddball characters that don’t quite fit in one camp or another, like Amaterasu and Phoenix. Not everyone is quite created equal, but no matter what kind of player you are you’ll find a team, and discovering the right combination is half the fun.
It’s that rich palette of characters that makes MVC3 the varied and engaging fighting game it is. Some claim the series is the ultimate button bashers game, and while that’s somewhat true (MVC3 provides a Simple Mode, which does context-sensitive specials and supers for you at the touch of a button) a button-masher will only get so far.
Not only will you need to learn all of the individual attacks, Specials and Hypers of each character, but also how to use them together. MVC3 works because the learning curve from masher to real player is so nicely tapered, especially if you use the Training Mode and tackle the tough but worthwhile Character challenges. And more experienced players will quickly discover they can exploit their fighting knowledge to do some really cool stuff.
As ever, Arcade mode pits you against various AI teams and the game’s huge single final boss, and as with most fighting games it’s really only worth playing to watch the amusing end-of-game cut-scenes and to earn player points used to unlock things like name tags for online use, character models, and so on. Most importantly, you’ll unlock four hidden characters we can’t tell you about yet. Thankfully, unlike MVC2, it won’t take very long; a couple of hours of either Arcade or Online play.
But it’s in multiplayer that you’ll find the meat of the game, and here MVC3 doesn’t disappoint. It’s huge fun just getting to grips with playing a tag team of three characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as ‘Assists’ they use from the sidelines, briefly lending a hand with various special moves like a cheeky plasma blast or Shoryuken.
MVC3 is one of the fastest most combo-heavy fighters out there, but its use of a four-button system of Light, Medium, Heavy Attacks joined by a dedicated Launcher button to throw characters into the air is an inspired approach to accessibility. Most combos can easily be initiated just by hitting those buttons in sequence. From there the game really opens up, as tossing characters into the air and air juggling them is really the meat and potatoes of the game.
But it doesn’t end there, as Capcom has raised the stakes with Team Aerial Combos, as you summon in other members of your team to continue a combo with the Launcher button for more damage, a process the other player can only interrupt by correctly working out which direction you’ve chosen to push in – and as well as damage Aerial Combos feed your Hyper Combo meter.
This system of Team Aerial Combos and Counters makes combo combat an exciting high-speed game of chess, and great fun without being in any way complicated. And it’s truly exciting to play, as MVC3 is the closest thing in gaming to the frantic superhero battles we love from comics.
But the showstoppers of the game are Hyper Combos – they provide screen-filling superhero spectacle. As you battle you build up five levels in your Hyper bar at the bottom of the screen, which you can unleash at three levels with a single character – with the power, and visual dramatics of each scaling up as you go – or bring in multiple characters one after the other to punish opponents.
The key to victory is knowing not only which Level of Hyper to use – is it worth doing a single impressive Level 3, or expending a series of smaller ones? – but also knowing how to best use characters’ Hyper Combos in conjunction with each other, opening up with one, before switching to another for massive damage.
With all that power flying around you can end up taking a lot of damage, but you can use ‘Advancing Guard’, which cuts down on chip damage by mashing on two attack buttons as you block, or more offensively your ‘X-Factor’, which is activated by hitting all your attack buttons simultaneously. The result is a flaming red glow around your characters, and a serious increase in speed and damage for a limited time.
This one-use-only power can seriously save you in a match. It’s also the key to more advanced play, as Hypers themselves can be cancelled using the X-Factor, allowing crazy combo strings in which you can do things like hit opponents with more than one Hyper Attack from a single character for massive damage without allowing them to recover. The most technical aspects of play in MVC3 are all mostly tied up in Hyper Combos, but it’s mastering that combination of the combo juggle game, use of your specials and Hyper Combos that gives it greater depth.
While MVC3 is a strong fighter, too many characters lean heavily towards projectiles and heavy zoning play – like Arthur and MODOK, who throw everything including the kitchen sink at you – and it often feels like there aren’t enough all-round characters. With only four attack buttons individual characters don’t have the range of moves and depth of their counterparts in a game like SSFIV, and the game suffers for it slightly.
But none of that will matter overly much to most players beyond the very hardcore, who will still be able to enjoy it. MVC3 is one of our favourite fighting games, and thanks to how accessible it is, just about everyone can join in the fun.