Sunday, February 20, 2011

Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds

I finally feel as though I can give a proper review of this game as I've played a decent amount of it and have gone through almost every character in one fashion or another. A disclaimer to begin with, I review games differently than most others that write these things. I try my hardest not to break the game down into it's individual parts, because, to me, that's not properly analyzing the product as a whole. With that said, however, this is a fighting game which puts it apart from something like Dead Space 2, the last game I reviewed. Thus there will be a lot of talk about the individual parts.

On with the show:

First the obvious: the entire Vs. series of games from Capcom, with a few exceptions, have been games made to appeal to a wider audience than their other fighters like Darkstalkers and Street Fighter. Going back to the two pre-Vs. games in X-Men: Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes, the games have had a much more simplified manner of playing and not a lot of variance in the execution of moves. There are no charge characters like Guile or M.Bison from Street Fighter here -- even if Guile and M.Bison appear in the game -- and there's no intense Zangief styled 360 rotation moves to pull of devastating wrestling attacks. It's designed so that anyone can pick up the sticks and feel as though they're actually playing the game. That being said, however, the timing on Marvel vs. Capcom 3's gameplay is quite precise and unforgiving in a lot of instances. Especially if you're the kind of player going after those devastating combos that leave the other player feeling completely helpless.

The gameplay is fast, hectic, and intense. It's the kind of fighting game where sitting around and feeling your player out for a round or two just doesn't work. You've gotta have a good knowledge base of how your character works before the fight begins, and you've gotta be pretty decent at executing that knowledge base if you want to put the hurt on people. The gameplay is also FUN. I've not had this much fun, personally, in the Vs. series of games in a very long time. And for a series of games that were designed to be total fan-service, I would assume that would be one of the most important factors.

The selection of characters is a fantastic assortment of who's who from both sides of the battle. The selection process was a long, legal battle to get the characters that do appear in the game, but I think the end result is well worth it. There's a lot of familiar faces missing from the previous game (and some long-standing characters that also didn't make the cut). The reason that Marvel vs. Capcom 2 had so many characters, however, was that the game's visuals and battle data was all copy and pasted from other games. There were only a handful of sprites that were new to Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (Cable, Marrow, Amingo, and a few others) and everything else was ripped from Darkstalkers, X-Men: Children of the Atom, Marvel Super Heroes, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, MSH vs. Street Fighter, the first Marvel vs. Capcom game, and the Street Fighter Alpha series. Visually, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was quite disappointing in that those recycled sprites didn't age well and became very pixelated (like Morrigan for instance), and even the new sprites didn't have the same polished feel as something from a Street Fighter III. Especially when set against the three dimensional backgrounds of the game. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is using a new engine (of which only two characters found in the game were previously rendered on; Chris Redfield and Wesker) in MT Framework, thus everything was being designed from the ground up. The animations for Chris and Wesker, while keeping the tone of the characters, are a bit different from Resident Evil 5; Ryu, Chun-Li and Gouki don't have any borrowed assets from Street Fighter IV, and Morrigan is actually brought into a new game with a new character model. Finally.

The character selection can be a little off when first experienced or first glanced, particularly on the Marvel Comics side of things. Especially if you don't read Marvel Comics or have a small understanding of what the New Marvel is trying to do with its properties. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of missing and/or absent faces that people would come to expect from another Vs. game, but people tend to forget that the last Vs. game came out ten or so years ago, and the landscape of Marvel Comics has changed drastically. A lot of characters that appeared in MvC2, for instance, are no longer relevant in the comics world (Gambit, Rogue, Sabretooth) and some of the characters in the game have risen up to take their places (Deadpool, X-23, and She-Hulk, for instance). While there may not be as many characters in this one compared to the previous one, I think the wide variety of the selectable characters from M.O.D.O.K. to Amaterasu balance the game out firecely. I'd also like to mention that with a much more compact selection of characters to chose from, it restricts the selection process and almost forces people to choose more characters. From a personal standpoint, I've used and have wanted to use more characters in this game than I ever did in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 across the arcade release, the Dreamcast release, and the more recent PlayStation Network release of the game. Each character is also presented in four different color schemes as per usual with Capcom's fighters. Some of them, like Spider-Man's selection, are all sorts of wonderful as I love Spider-Man's black and white costume the most even after all these years he hasn't worn it, and others are just painful on the eyes. One of Cap's and two of Magneto's are this way.

Visually, the game does what it's supposed to do. The design of the game was intended to be a living comic book, if I remember correctly, and it does just that. Each character model's rendering looks as though it could have been pencilled, inked and colored by any given comic book artist and then thrown into the game. This is one of the few games that really captures that vibe well, especially for a comic book related game. I don't know if this is a cell-shading process or what, but the end result is a rather brilliantly colored spectical of constant action. One of my biggest fears about fighting games going to a three-dimensional presentation from a two-dimensional one was the loss of intricate details such as flowing clothing, facial expressions, and the like, but this game has further cemented what Capcom has been doing with Street Fighter the past few years, and that fear has been silenced completely. There's a lot of detail going on in this game that, to me, rivals some of the animation that SNK has done with the King of Fighters series for a very long time. The backgrounds are also really well done, though I wish there was a background viewer of some sort in the game's gallery so you could see what was going on and fully appreciate it as it's almost nearly impossible to do so while playing the game. The backgrounds are just as varied as the characters, though there's a lot less of them, which is a bit of a downer for me. I miss the days of old when every character had their own background full of details, and then there were special backgrounds for specific things. Like the bottom of the Pit when you fought Reptile in Mortal Kombat, or the tall grass field in Australia where Ryu and Sagat fight in Street Fighter Alpha 2. My favorite backgrounds presented here are the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier and the Tricell Laboratory (which is full of Lickers and a Tyrant).

The sound of the game is just bat-poop crazy. There's so much going on all the time it's hard to decipher what's what at times. The character vocalizations are more present here than in any of the previous games, or any other fighting game for that matter, and they really do illustrate the personalities of the characters. Deadpool, by far and far, is the most hilarious and outspoken character of the game. From his opening game taunts against Wolverine, Magneto or any Street Fighter character ("I love Street Fighter! Would you mind signing your spleen for me?!), to his fake Shoryuken, to the random names for his own moves (Katana-Rama! Chimichangas!), and finishing it up with his win-quotes, which are done in pure Deadpool style. He breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to you. Wolverine sounds gruff and growling as always, but it is definitely a different voice actor this time around. Spider-Man mocks and is quite playful, Doom is dominant and egotistical, M.O.D.O.K. is insane, X-23 is trying to hard to be a better Wolverine, so on and so forth. Capcom really went all out to capture the what makes Marvel's characters... well, Marvel's characters and nailed it on the head with all of them. And they didn't do too shappy with the Capcom side either. The game also comes with a really neat Japanese voice over track option for the Capcom side, and if you set it to "original" you'll get a nice presentation of how the characters have always been shown. Certain characters (Ryu, Zero, Arthur) will speak Japanese, while others (Chris, Wesker) will speak english.

There's a ton of music in the game as well. Each of the nine stages has three different themes going on at different times, and each character has their own theme, a lot of which are brand new, others are remixed versions of their classic themes from other games.

The presentation of the game, from the cinematic sequences which are nothing short of amazing, to the game's menus and game's modes are all well done. There's the traditional fighting game stuff of course (arcade, versus, online battles) and there's the training mode which, I have to say is a stroke of genius on Capcom's part, has the option to simulate connection speed. Part of the reason I don't play fighters online is because I can't adjust very well to bad connections and lag (the other reasons are input delay, and it lacks the intimacy and fun of being right next to the person you're playing against). Here you can select what kind of connection you are playing at or who you're playing against has and relearn the characters accordingly. There's also a Mission mode that operates like the Trial mode from Street Fighter IV and gives you some time to learn specific moves and combos for every character in the game.

All in all, the game was more than well done, and I think it was more than worth the ten year wait for it. Not everyone is going to like it for whatever reason, but it's a solid fighter that presents itself as a game that anyone can pick up and play and it executes that presentation very well. On the flipside of that, however, it's also got a great deal of depth to it for all those tournament-like players, and frame-counters and the like. I think the people that would enjoy this game the most are, of course, people that REALLY enjoy fighting games, and fans of Capcom and/or Marvel.

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