Starting Over: Marvel VS Capcom 3
Marvel vs Capcom 2 is one of the most popular fighters of all time. In fact, it may be the only fighter whose popularity matches that of the original Street Fighter II. This is made even more significant by the time of it’s release. Yes back in the 90s Mortal Kombat gave Street Fighter a run for it’s money, but by 2000, fighters had greatly decreased in popularity. But Marvel vs Capcom 2 stood out. So, of course, a sequel was in high demand.
But many things happened in the decade since MvC2’s release. Marvel gave exclusive rights to make games with their characters to EA for starters. Capcom then got out of the fighting game business declaring fighters to be “dead” and fired most of their staff. Couple this with SNK going bankrupt and it ushered in an era where the only new 2D fighters out there were doujin games, fan creations.
History is funny though. Fast-forward to only a few years ago. According to legend, Capcom called in an analyst to help them make more money and one of the first things the man said was “So, how is Street Fighter IV coming along?”. Indeed it could be the most obvious question to ask, but Capcom was apparently oblivious. Once it was made apparent that a new big budget fighter was needed, Capcom found themselves in a jam. As mentioned earlier, they had fired much of their fighting game staff and as such had to outsource development to Dimps. Meanwhile, anime company Tatsunoko asked Capcom to give their properties a whirl. This, of course, resulted in Tatsunoko vs Capcom which was made by Eighting.
That last move was rather peculiar on many fronts. For starters, the versus series was not particularly popular in Japan and the chance of a U.S. release of the title was slim. Of course, they did manage to release the game in the U.S. but it was sadly a bit of a flop. Still it whipped people into an even greater frenzy. “If you’re making versus games again, how about Marvel vs Capcom 3?” Of course there was the whole licensing issue. However, according to legend, someone from Marvel directly approached Capcom about it and so it was done. It makes sense after all, the demand was so great there was no way the game couldn’t make money!
The initial reaction was pure jubilation! Finally, a sequel to Marvel vs Capcom 2, one of the most popular fighters of all time! Now in high-definition, with actually good graphics, and even online play! However, as more information began to seep out, reality began to set in. This would not be Marvel vs Capcom 2 again. Not because they didn’t want it to be, but because it was impossible.
Marvel vs Capcom 2 is best described as a freak accident. Take just a moment and look at it some time and you’ll see what I mean. Stages that have nothing to do with anything and odd jazz music coupled with a massive 54 character roster that consists primarily of recycled sprites. Add in the unprecedented 3 on 3 tag battles and you have complete madness! There is next to no balancing what so ever and glitches gun rampant in the streets. The game is indeed best described as “throw stuff at a wall and see what sticks”. Marvel vs Capcom 2 was an anomaly of gaming.
However, it was an appealing anomaly. With a roster that gigantic, everyone could find someone they wanted to play as! The combat was fast-paced and flashy and the options seemed endless! This resulted in a long lasting popularity. With fighting games, popularity is the most important thing. You see, fighters are best played competitively against another human opponent. If no one plays a fighter then there is no point in playing it because you have no competition. It doesn’t matter how fun, deep, or balanced the game is. If no one plays it, the game is worthless as a fighter. This is an unfortunate fact that I have grown all too aware of.
Marvel vs Capcom 2 represents the other side of this equation. If we were to look at it seriously, it is not a good fighter. The game is morbidly unbalanced, caked with bugs, and downright spastic in it’s pacing! However, it was popular and this forced people to play it. In playing it though, the began to discover an odd appreciation for the game. Everything was so broken and glitchy that almost anything was possible! These glitches became an integral part of the game and added to it and finding more glitches could give you the edge. Marvel vs Capcom 2 was so horribly un-playtested that you never knew what you would find! The secret to victory was to find a character no one was using and figure out a new way to abuse them! As I said, it was unlike any other game ever made.
However, this brings us back to Marvel vs Capcom 3 and it’s unique problem: the game was going to be good. With it’s new high-definition 2.5D presentation, every character had to be recreated from the ground up. That means that actual effort and care has to be spent in making each and every one of them. This meant that both the roster would be smaller and the game more balanced, resulting in an outcry. The next thing we knew, fighting game fanatics were flaunting their Stockholm Syndrome and writing massive essays about how MvC2’s horrific bugginess made it the greatest and most balanced fighter ever made. There was, in fact, a deep fear that the game would be good.
Well, now the game has hit and the resulting title is…odd. If flashy and unbalanced was what people wanted, Capcom couldn’t have picked a better company to handle it. As mentioned earlier, much of Capcom’s fighting game staff was fired and now they have to outsource all of their development. As such, the task of making MvC3 fell on Eighting’s shoulders, the makers of Bloody Roar.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right now: this game is not Tatsunoko vs Capcom. While some systems like Advancing Guard and being able to tag out in the middle of an air combo do return, as does the 3 button control system, the game is radically different. It almost feels like half-way through development, Eighting actually listened to the complaining fans and threw all of it’s balancing features out the window. The Mega Crush, a guard breaker that costs super meter, is gone. Tagging out in the middle of an air combo is now free. Meanwhile the oddly named Baroque system has been replaced with a simpler revenge mechanic: X-Factor. Baroque let players sacrifice the red of their health bar to cancel any move and deal extra damage based on how much damage they recently took. X-Factor, on the other hand, gives all characters a speed and power boost that increases the more in trouble a player is. However, it can only be used once per match.
The pacing is also different. Though Tatsunoko vs Capcom was fast, it was generally still within reason. Marvel vs Capcom 3, however, nearly replicates MvC2’s spastic pace. The resulting game is indeed as close as one could get to Marvel vs Capcom 2 while making an actually good game.
However, things are indeed very different. Oh sure there are returning characters with similar movesets, but the mechanics have changed. Normally this would be expected. Marvel vs Capcom 3 is, after all, a new game and should be judged as one. However it’s awkward as the game is so similar to MvC2 and yet also so different. The point is that after a decade of MvC2, everyone has to go back to square one.
However, this is a good thing. MvC2 was starting to become very by-the-numbers as a solid “best team” was finally starting to arise. Seeing something beyond Magneto, Storm, and Sentinel was a rarity. Perhaps one character would be switched out for another but ultimately the game seemed to finally be dead ending.
But it is going to be hard prying people away from their traditions. The new 3-button layout, which is becoming the industry standard for fighters, is hotly contested. Many gamers claim that it’s dumbing the game down despite it being the removal of a single button. However, people made the same complaint about Marvel vs Capcom 2 when it switched from 6-buttons to 4-buttons. Indeed, Marvel vs Capcom 2 recieved as much if not more backlash after it came out. But as I said earlier, popularity is what’s really important. I don’t mean amongst the fighting community either. While the hardcore fighting game fanatics may complain about character changes and button layouts, the average joe doesn’t give a shit much as they didn’t with MvC2. Marvel vs Capcom 3’s lasting appeal depends entirely on it’s popularity.
However, a new kink has been thrown in the mix which could change all of this: the internet. For starters, online play allows small communities of players to stick together and always find competition, giving smaller fighters a chance. As such, gamers no longer need to rely as much on popularity as they once did. But even more than that, it could potentially allow the game to be patched and new content to be added! We already know Capcom intends to support the game with downloadable content for at least a year, with new characters already confirmed, but does that means they’ll fix bugs as well? Could the game become more balanced over time and what affect will this have on the players? While logic would dictate that being more balanced is a good thing, we’ve already seen players revolt when wall-bounce combos were removed from BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, forcing them to be added back in. Couple this kind of outcry with the addition of DLC characters, the game may even become less balanced over time.
Ultimately, Marvel vs Capcom 3 is still a gigantic pile of potential. It will be years before we know it’s actual fate. Will it become another long standing fighter played for more than a decade, or will it fade into the past as Marvel vs Capcom 2 retains it’s throne? All we know for sure is that the game is very different. It’s different from Marvel vs Capcom 2 and it’s different from Tatsunoko vs Capcom. Marvel vs Capcom 3 is a whole new game and one that everyone is going to need to spend some serious time with before they know what’s really up with the game.