It’s surprising that in this day and age, when sequels are churned out every year without fail, it has taken more than ten years for a sequel to a huge smash hit franchise like Marvel vs Capcom. With a tremendous legacy to live up to, does the third iteration match up to the legendary MvC2, and perhaps even manage to (gasp) surpass it?
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The USP of Marvel vs Capcom 3 still remains unchanged, i.e. the 3 vs 3 tag team battles the series is famous for. However, this time around the gameplay is somewhat simplified, with the attacks being Light, Medium, Heavy and Special, instead of variations of punches and kicks, represented by the face buttons of the controller. The special attack, when connected, is used to launch the opponent into the air, where flashy aerial combos can be performed, even combined with switching between the other team mates. Then again, if the opponent is able to guess the combination, he can successfully break out of the offense. Outside air combos, the controller’s shoulder buttons can be used to switch between characters in the team, while a tap of those keys results in tag-teamed assistance attacks.
The control scheme makes gameplay feel natural without the use of a fight stick, which goes to show that this is a game designed for home consoles, rather than the arcades. Of special note to the new players of the fighting game genre is the addition of a Simple Mode, which maps various attacks, including special attacks, to face buttons without requiring any special analog sequence. While this is fun for amateur players, trying to explore the full potential of their characters, the limitation of the range of the attacks proves fatal while playing online against the more experienced players.
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While most newcomers would be at ease dealing in chained attack combos special moves, most which can be performed by a simple quarter circle combo followed by an attack button, there is a lot more strategy to the game. The concept of advanced guard, which can be performed by pressing two attack buttons simultaneously in a successful guard stance, can be used to push the opponent a good distance away and break the onslaught of rushdown characters such as Wolverine. Also, only a fraction of each attack’s damage actually results in decreasing the rival’s health bar for good; the rest of the damage turns a portion of the bar red, which can be recovered over time by not taking more damage. This encourages switching between team members frequently and strategizing the order in which mates are tagged into battle. An opponent’s fighter can, however, be tagged back by force with a Snap Back attack to prevent the red health from healing.
At the bottom of the HUD (which can be completely customized), there is a hyper meter gauge, which can be filled completely up to five times by inflicting or taking damage. If a special move is performed with multiple attack buttons pressed simultaneously, it results in a super/hyper move, which consumes one or more hyper bars and deals some serious damage. There is also a temporary on-steroids mode called X-Factor, which can be activated by pressing all four attack buttons (only once per match), which results in recovery of red heath, better speed, and greater attack damage for the entire team. The duration of the X-Factor is, however, inversely proportional to the team members still left standing and thus, the time at which it is activated can play a major role in the fight’s outcome.
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In spite of the excellent gameplay, the game’s most distinguishing facet is the enormous and varied roster. Although falling 20 fighters short of MvC2, the roster is successful in exhaustively capturing both the Marvel and the Capcom worlds without the characters feeling like mere palette swaps of each other. Notable additions such as Wesker, Dante, Trish, Amaterasu, Arthur (Ghosts and Ghouls) and Chris Redfield from the Capcom universe and Thor, X23, Deadpool and Phoenix from the Marvel universe, among the many others, bring about a great deal of variety and flashy over-the-top moves to fill out the various fighter roles in the MvC3 roster effortlessly. There are the aggressive offense type characters like Wolverine and Dante, who can cover ground easily and are extremely deadly up, close and personal; Wesker, Spiderman and Deadpool can confuse the opponent with their constant movement; characters like Iron Man and Chris Redfield are good from a distance; and then there are tanks like Hulk, Thor and Haggar, who possess an extraordinary ability to absorb and dish out all sorts of damage.
There is, however, a bit of imbalance in the characters, with some appearing in a superior tier. Dante can be fatal while dealing massive hit offense combos without using the hyper bar, Sentinel can cause pure carnage with his high hit points, health and mammoth attack damage, and Phoenix is a truly unique character, who has miniscule health to start with, but on dying, gets reborn as Dark Phoenix if the hyper bar is filled to level 5, allowing her to single-handedly take on an army in her X-Factor form. Needless to say, almost every expert gamer would surely include one of these fighters in his online team for some time to come.
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Speaking of online, the multiplayer borrows the net code from Super Street Fighter IV and runs pretty smoothly. There are ranked and player matches, which can be searched for randomly or joined through lobbies. Disappointingly, an online spectator mode is visibly absent, which restricts actual viewing of live matches, and instead relays real-time updates of only the players’ health bars. Offline, there’s a Training Mode with the ability to simulate various network conditions, a Mission Mode where players can try to perform various special attacks and combos of a chosen character, and an Arcade Mode that offers a barely-there story with a cheap end boss of galactic stature. Beating the Arcade Mode with a character unlocks his/her ending cutscene, 3D model, art pieces, sounds and stage music. Various player points are also earned in both online and offline modes, which can be used to unlock alternate opening movies and artwork.
Marvel vs Capcom 3 is based on the MT Framework graphics engine, which, in combination with the somewhat cel-shaded 3D character models and background stages results in pure eye candy, while toning down the flashy attack combos. The game runs smoothly, rarely, if ever, dipping below a terrific 60 fps, and the comic book presentation with ripping pages et all adds a special touch to the overall look and feel. The graphics and excellent voiceovers do full justice to the roster and the catchy stage music complement the colourful stages ripped straight out of Capcom games and Marvel comics. Of special mention are the dialogues between various rival characters and the 4th wall-breaking antics of Deadpool (who is now getting a little clichéd in Marvel games), such as hitting opponents on the head with the health bar.
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Marvel vs Capcom 3 is a fantastic game that which successfully carries forward the legacy of the renowned franchise. It is easy to pick up for new players, but mastering the game strategies and coming up with the perfect tag team would prove to be quite a challenge and would ensure that the game thrives online. The remarkable attention to detail makes MvC3 provide the fan service expected from a sequel more than a decade in waiting.