Originally Published: February 27, 2011, on my StrongProtector account on GiantBomb.com

In high school and even later in college, my friends and I back in Jersey would head over to the mall arcade maybe once a week and feed a ton of quarters into our favorite machines. A couple guys would settle into the chair of a racer like Initial-D, but I would always head over to the Marvel vs Capcom 2 cabinet. This went on until I graduated college and the arcade, like many others in Jersey, closed down.

Fortunately for me, shortly after that, Capcom would give us Marvel vs Capcom junkies a downloadable version for current generation consoles. Instead of placating us though, all this ended up doing was feed the fires for myself and others like me who wanted another sequel to this beloved brawler. And now, after a decade of waiting, its finally here. But with so much hype and anticipation surrounding it, could Marvel vs Capcom 3: The Fate of Two Worlds live up to the lofty expectations of addicts like me?

The basic plot of the game is that Doctor Doom has tampered with his dark magic a bit too much and has discovered a parallel Earth populated by the characters of our favorite Capcom games (and a future Earth with Zero). Tempted with the thought of conquering multiple worlds, Doom teams up with not only the greatest threats of his Earth like Dormammu and M.O.D.O.K., but also with the greatest of the Capcom universe, Albert Wesker. Unfortunately, this wormhole into other dimensions has also stoked the hunger of the greatest nemesis anyone, hero or villain, has ever faced, the cosmic being Galactus. With a smorgasbord of planets to possibly quell his insatiable hunger, Galactus has begun his approach and now heroes and villains will have to unite to save all universes threatened by his cosmic power.

Right off the bat, this is probably the best plot of the series as it has more of traditional Marvel comics feel and you can credit veteran comic writer Frank Tieri for that. On top of the plot being heavily influenced by comics, the entire art direction of the game seems to be ripped from comics as well. Bright, stylized, cel-shaded graphics with beautifully drawn paneled cut scenes, much like a comic book page, has the game seem more like a fan service for loyal Marvelites out there. All you need is Stan Lee to yell “Excelsior!” before every match. Even the character select screen sees the chosen characters placed onto a graphic novel style tablet as you choose their assists before a battle.

The audio is also very strong as instead of each level having a set theme, now each character has their own theme and you’ll hear the theme of whomever you may be facing. From a more patriotic ballad for Captain America to the classic Bionic Commando and Street Fighter themes for when Spencer or Ryu jump on screen, the music is tremendous. It’s not the only part of the audio that shines though as the voice acting is also well done. With each character having specific taunts both in battle and after every victory depending on whom they’re facing, like Captain America yelling at Iron Man “That was for the Civil War!”, the audio is simply top notch all around for Marvel vs Capcom 3.

Marvel vs Capcom 3 isn’t perfect though. The standards of the series return such as three member tag-teams and huge hyper combos that can be done singly or with your team if you have enough power bars. But other diehards of the series might be a little put-off by the fact that the combat system has been simplified in many ways. Instead of having the standard six attack buttons like the old arcade cabinets (high punch, med punch, low punch, high kick, med kick, low kick), now there are only four comprised of a low, medium, high, and special attack that can be used to launch foes into the air. This offered me a lot of confusion when I first started playing the game and was trying to perform a low kick with Iron Man.

To help remedy this, there is a new missions mode reminiscent of some of the later Mortal Kombat games which serves as a chance for you to learn some basic combos and special moves to get the feel of the game if you wish. Each character has 10 missions and so this lets you either become well-rounded with many characters, or really specialize in two or three.

One positive to the new button layout is that it is much easier to switch characters in and out, call for assists, or perform your hyper combos as now each one of those maneuvers has been assigned their own button on the controllers. This does allow for more rookie fighters to jump right into it and level the playing field with more veterans, but there are plenty of new maneuvers that have been added to help separate the rookies from the veterans as well like the brand new team air combos and new reversal systems.

Another new aspect added is the “X-Factor” where by smashing the four attack buttons at the same time, you can increase the attack power and heal your active character. This new feature does give an interesting strategic twist, but again diehards of previous titles in the series probably won’t even remember to use it as it just feels so gimmicky and foreign to this series.

The biggest disappointment probably for the game is the lack of characters though, both old and new. There are only 36 characters total at launch, with more coming in DLC to sap you of more money. Sure new characters like Deadpool, Super-Skrull, Viewtiful Joe, and Amaterasu are great original additions to the series, but others are just rip-offs of characters who were removed or are still in the game. Haggar is just a Zangief rip-off with a steel pipe, X-23 replaces the “bone claw” version of Wolverine, and Zero is Mega Man with a sword.

I understand that Capcom wanted to streamline the 56 characters that were in Marvel vs Capcom 2, but to cut out 20 characters including a lot of fan favorites? Just to re-package them as DLC later? Of course fans will still buy it, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say how disappointing that is. Cutting out half the roster when making a fighting game sequel is not usually the way to go because by pure definition that is not bigger nor better.

Despite all this, Marvel vs Capcom 3 is still a very good fighting game. Technically it is very sound and it is easy to pick up but hard to master with a great storyline that will make any and every Marvel fan squeal in delight. If you are a fan of the franchise, Marvel, Capcom, or just fighters in general, then this is a game you should add to your collection even if you’ll walk away feeling it is a bit more generic than you’d initially expect.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

Graphics: 10.0: The visuals for MvC3 are absolutely tremendous done in a stylized cel-shading that really stresses the comic book feel that is persistent throughout the game as you are bombarded by bright and vibrant colors all day long.

Audio: 10.0: Redone classic video game themes for all the Capcom characters and fitting original themes for the Marvel characters is one of the great highlights of this game. Coupled with great voice acting from all those involved and the audio is as perfect as can be.

Plot/Plot Development: 4.0: Most fighting games truly lack a compelling plot, and MvC3 may have the most piss poor of them all. Never even properly explained, all you have to go on is a stylized opening sequence and a solid boss battle with Galactus to put together that Wesker and Doom have partnered together. Solid comic book plot, but it needed to be explained a lot better than it was.

Gameplay: 7.0: Many diehards will be irritated with the button changes and new features added, but at the end of the day, they work and will appeal to a mass audience. Too bad for this review, I’m representing the diehards.

Replay Value: 6.5: Like any good fighting game nowadays, the replay value really comes in the online play, especially since you can blow through the single player offline mode in a weekend if need be. Unfortunately, it may take you 20 minutes to find an opponent to play online and therefore make the online play moot because who wants to play three matches in an hour? So if you don’t have some friends to form a lobby with, then you might think twice about the worth of MvC3.

Overall (not an average): 8.0: MvC3 is a very solid fighter on a technical level, but fans of the series will be put off by the gimmicks added and the arcade style of play that is the true staple of this series. More bells and whistles are all well and good, but it felt like Capcom sold the soul of this game. So even with it being technically perfect, this game falls just short of being put into elite status in my mind.

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