The 9/9/9 DC launch ushered in not only the 3D era of Sonic, but also brought the Marvel vs. Capcom series home. Previous Marvel “versus” games had hit the market before, but none of the prior domestic releases did justice to the arcade originals. It took fighting games to a more frenetic place than they’d ever been before - and its sequel only raised the bar further. Unfortunately, it suffered from being released late in the DC’s lifespan, and in short supply on the PS2 and Xbox. Thankfully, a surprising XBLA/PSN release not only revamped the visuals, but also brought with it online play and an increase in the game‘s popularity.
Thanks to that resurgence, and an assist to Tatsunoko vs. Capcom showing that it wasn’t just nostalgia driving the love for a fast-paced fighting style, we now have a third installment in the much-beloved series that brings with it the same kind of fast pace as well as many old faces, some new ones, and a stunning 3D visual style that finds a happy medium between the sprite-based look of its predecessors and the more realistic look of Super/SFIV.
The core gameplay is exactly what fans have come to expect over the past decade. MvC 3 is all about crazy 3-on-3 fighting action with satisfying gameplay at every possible skill level. Stringing moves together and massive combos with wacky names (now including viewtiful AND megaton) are the name of the game here. Combos are crazier than ever thanks to being able to swap characters during mid-air combos at will, and furthermore, being able to reset your character’s animation once per fight with the new X-Factor feature. Beyond referencing a fine comic series, it also lets you start new combos whenever you want - while also boosting your speed and power. It’s great for not only insane combos, but also come-from-behind victories, and is especially useful against the final boss - the screen-filling Galactus.
Like some past Capcom fighters, a simple mode is included that maps numerous actions to just one button. This is a controversial feature among die-hard fans, but as someone who is a more casual player, I’ve found that it’s fun for when you just want to play a quick session, or for when you’ve got a group of friends over and everyone can just do match after match of crazy attacks. It also makes MvC 3’s system of unlocking things basically each time you beat arcade mode a little less time-consuming as well, so there are some valid reasons to use it that go beyond someone trying to get an advantage. A skilled player should be able to beat anyone using the simple mode anyway, especially with the reduced moveset that comes with using it.
The controls are as responsive as one would expect from a Capcom fighter, although the default controls have been reconfigured from MvC 2, but players can remap them if they so desire. I had no problems playing with the default setup, but did try the game out with my Saturn-styled SF IV pad to see if that made any difference in my play since it did wonders for me in Super SF IV. Here, that didn’t happen - the game controls like a dream on the default controller, although as usual, 360-only players will probably want to only use the left stick instead of the D-pad. The default Dual Shock 3 controller’s D-pad works just fine, although the left stick for that is also a fine option, and may actually be preferable than the 360’s since it’s somewhat rubberized and you won’t have to worry about wearing down the 360 stick’s bumps during extended play sessions.
The roster has gone from 56 down to 36 presently available, with two characters coming soon, and more DLC increasing that number as time goes on. While that seems like a massive drop on-paper, in the game, I never really found it to be a huge problem. There are so many possible combinations of characters that the roster doesn’t get old, and even characters that may seem to play the same theoretically, like Haggar and Hulk, can be played quite differently because of all the little nuances each character has. I do miss my Servbot vs. Sentinel battles though, so hopefully the diminutive Mega Man lackey makes it in as DLC.
Online play is definitely a weak point of the overall package. Despite a patch that decreased load times and was supposed to make play smoother, it can still get pretty laggy. There also aren’t many bells and whistles with regard to the online side of things. You can do ranked or unranked matches, and that’s it - there’s no tournament mode or even a spectator mode for when you’re waiting for the next match. You’re just stuck looking at menus, and sure, they’re beautiful-looking menus with some nice background art, but it just isn’t enough - especially when Capcom itself raised the bar with Super SF IV’s online play.
MvC 3 is a gorgeous-looking game. It’s hard to say if it’s better looking than SSF IV because of the different art styles boiling down to personal preference and I love them both. However, I’ll give the nod to MvC 3 because while both look great in still form and in motion, MvC 3 and has far more going on at any one time than SSF IV. Despite seemingly a billion things going on at once, there’s never any slowdown during offline play. The backgrounds, as should be expected in a Capcom fighter, are full of little details to notice whenever you get a free second during the action. The giant Spidey and Servbot floats in the Daily Bugle stage are quite memorable, while Metro City‘s usual ruffians hang around its stage and Asgard is full of gorgeous clouds, a rainbow, and a giant pegasus. There’s always something to notice no matter what stage you’re in. Character animation is smooth and adds a lot of personality to the roster - especially Deadpool, who moonwalks when he walks backwards. MORDOK’s facial expressions are also hilarious, and given that his character is 99% head, that’s a very good thing.
The audio is largely fantastic. The soundtrack is better as a whole than MvC 2, while opinions on the “Take Me For a Ride” remix will vary depending on if they got a chuckle out of the original or just outright hated it. I found it hilarious, and the remix is actually a decent little song in its own right. The rest of the soundtrack is fine, although it isn’t all that memorable. What is memorable are the sound effects, which range from an awesome clank when Haggar hits you with a pipe to the sound of the Sentinels hydraulics sending its limbs towards you (or better yet, an opponent). The voice work for the characters themselves is pretty good - Deadpool’s wacky voice fits his over the top character perfectly, while Magneto’s makes him sound serious while also referencing the infamous “WELCOME TO DIE” bit from the X-Men arcade game. Capcom had some fun poking fun at themselves, and a light-hearted project like this was the perfect platform to do that. It helps make the experience that much more fun. The in-fight announcer…not so much, but he can thankfully be muted.
In the end, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a must have for any fighting game fan. If you somehow missed out on MvC 2, download it as well on whatever system you buy this for because they’re each top-notch fighters, and it’s only $10. MvC 3 delivers pretty much exactly what I would’ve expected a modern-day MvC to be - crazy gameplay, fantastic controls, a lot of roster variety and depth, and jaw-dropping graphics. The only area it underperforms in is the online play, which is still a little too laggy even with the patch and its barren online mode selection doesn’t do the game justice. Everything else is pretty much fantastic though, and that sole black mark isn’t big enough to dissuade me from giving this a high recommendation.