The mother of all fighting games has arrived. No, seriously…
Street Fighter has been around for almost 30 years and in nearly every incarnation of game console and personal computer going back to the rubber-keyed Spectrum 48k. Yes, there have been clones, lookalikes and contenders for the fighting game crown – King of Fighters, World Heroes, Art of Fighting, even Virtua Fighter, but many gamers all over the world would agree that when it comes to finely tuned perfection, when it comes to vibrant, lovable characters and when it comes to balanced game play, while many may have come close, none have managed to take the crown away from Capcom.
There is just something about the furious technical finesse required to pull off the moves, I remember coming back from school and watching games players pour their money into the machine just so they could gain enough practice to get the characters on the screen to pull off special moves at will. With so much time needed to be invested, one wonders whether they would have been better learning the moves in real life.
After the ‘never-ending story’ of sequels that followed, and just when players started to get bored with the ‘just how many characters can you fit into a game mentality’ up popped X-Men and then Marvel vs Capcom – true indulgences of fighting pleasure.
Now you had an insane mix of the comic book world and the manga type Capcom world with key fighters of each staring each other down, and letting rip with ever more exaggerated moves. Forget fireballs the size of a football, now they were six foot high. Sparks would fly as you pummelled your opponent into submission and the rush was as effervescent as a hypochondriac’s vitamin cocktail. But then came Marvel vs Capcom 2 and many felt that it was a rushed, diluted effort with bland backgrounds, ho-hum special moves and…well, crap music.
And now, after nearly 10 years of waiting for chickens to come home to roost, Capcom have brought back the franchise, but is it worth getting into the ring for?
All that waiting has meant improvements both in a technical sense and in a developmental sense for Capcom. The past number of years has seen an renewed interest in the appeal of Marvel characters – think about the Spider-Man, Iron Man and X-Men films of late, coupled with the likes of Devil May Cry, Resident Evil and recent Street Fighter games and you realise that not only have there been technical improvements, but a restylization across the genre. Hence the timing of this game could not have been better. But it is more than that. In many ways this game is a ‘love letter’ to the many fans of both worlds.
First thing’s first. And the first thing that grabs your attention is the presentation. We all know that Capcom has a proven track record of high production values in fighting titles and this game is no exception. Graphically there is no denying that it is impressive, based around the pages of a comic book but including the kind of intros and cut scenes we have become accustomed to since the recent Super Street Fighter games. The game is, like Street Fighter, 2D, but has had a 3D visual makeover.
Marvel and Capcom characters have rarely ever needed to have a reason to have a scrap so there is no back story worth mentioning, except that that ‘big bad mother of a bad boy’ Galactus is once again eyeing up Earth as his appetiser, and only the combined might of the two worlds’ finest can hope to stop him from destroying us all. What this means for us is full on three-on-three battles with more add-ons and combos than a bargain bucket meal from KFC.
Gameplay is very similar to its predecessor. Basically, you choose a team of three characters and embark on a tour of destruction. During each bout you can instantly call in one of your two allies to either assist you and attack your enemy, swap places with you or – if you have accumulated enough of one of the many combo bars – join in with you for a super attack. This may sound complicated and that’s because it is meant to be. Fights can change direction and players can change at any second – the action is very frantic and intense. But the game is amazing. The transition smoother than a baby’s bum, fluid to play and thanks to the game’s new ‘simple mode’, newcomers who might never have played the game before can now initiate combos with single button presses.
Unlike Marvel vs. Capcom 2, which featured four attack buttons separated as two pairs of low and high-strength punches and kicks, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 uses a simplified, three-button control scheme of undefined light, medium, and hard attacks showcased in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars. Capcom have said that they made this change because they wanted to make fighting games open to everyone. However, my friends and I have had some heated debates over this and whether the older system worked better in comparison. This is something you will have to decide for yourself, because in all fairness, if you are used to the older style, it does take some getting used to.
In a game full of enormous, flashy firework-like attacks and loads of characters, things could easily get boring and repetitive. But for me, it was the little details that consistently gave me the feeling that it was money well spent. A lot of attention has been put into character details. You would not be able to separate Chris Redfield from his likeness in this game and the likeness in Resident Evil 5 for example, and, typical of Capcom fighting games, they have that trash talk, stare-down before the fight which is very hard not to enjoy.
The backgrounds too are worth a mention with little touches to previous games such as Final Fight and X-Men realities with really nice details and this is so much better than its predecessor.
While the game isn’t quite as finely balanced as, say, Street Fighter VI, and not all characters are equal, it’s always enjoyable. Even if some fighters are blatantly overpowered, there is something about having a three-character tag team that just adds a dynamic to gameplay that is rare to see. There are so many intricacies of various combinations and it is rare to see them all. It will be interesting to see what online players come up with in the months ahead.
Talking of online play, I found this to be a little lacking. There’s ranked matches, player matches and, unfortunately that’s it. No tournament mode, no online play with a tag team consisting of different players, so individual fights are all you get and that is a real shame. Mind you, fights go on for a fair bit of time and I am sure there will be no shortage of people vying to get their hands on this game. Capcom have also said that they will be bringing out loads of downloadable content for this game which means that it might have an increased lifespan.
So my final verdict?
This is an incredible game to play, enjoy and return to. It’s only real fault lies in the fact that it might not be for everyone. While not perfect, it certainly provides some light-hearted relief, if not a button mashing one and for me it will certainly bide the time until the ‘father of all fighting games’ Streetfighter vs.Tekken comes out next year.
Marvel vs Capcom 3 is out now for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360