They said it would never happen, but eleven years after the second installment, it's finally time for Capcom's Marvel vs Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360. Dozens of characters from the Marvel and Capcom worlds such as Ryu, Spider-Man, Nathan Spencer, Wolverine, Zero, and She-Hulk have come together to prevent mighty devourer Galactus from destroying both home realms in a new fighting game that brings the series up to Street Fighter IV levels of presentation. The traditional offline arcade mode meshes with online play and a few bonuses to comprise what has to be the biggest collection of fan service that you'll see in a game this year. After all this time, however, can the finished product hold up to the hype and anticipation behind it?
Marvel Vs Capcom 3 has plenty of personality and fun little character moments. If there's a single solitary reason to play this sequel, it's to enjoy all of the fan service (and I'm not just talking about some of the female characters' costumes). You'll hear Iron Man chide Nathan Spencer about not being to "afford the rest of the suit" in reference to Spencer's bionic arm. You'll hear Deadpool chide Magneto with "Welcome to die!" after the old X-Men arcade game (and he'll break the fourth wall when defeated by shouting "You pressed the wrong button!" at the player as he's tossed from the arena). One of Mike Haggar's attacks features him grabbing a steel pipe and whacking opponents with it as seen in Final Fight. The stage based on Ghouls 'n Ghosts opens with the musical sting from the franchise's map screen. Zero dies by exploding into a collection of energy circles that radiate out from his point of demise. Spencer shouts "Get over here!" when using his bionic arm to snag opponents as a fun Mortal Kombat reference. Sometimes the character select screen is set to a remix of the Marvel vs Capcom 2 "Gonna Take You For A Ride" theme. There are an impressive number of little touches that help elevate the experience and it's obvious that the developers put a lot of time and effort into coming up with some great moments.
What Marvel Vs Capcom veterans will notice right away is that the basic control scheme has changed to accommodate a more mainstream audience. The old days of Low Punch, Medium Punch, High Punch, Low Kick, etc. are gone, having been replaced with more general Low Attack, Medium Attack, and High Attack buttons and a dedicated Special Attack button. The shoulder buttons are mapped by default to the different super combos and the trigger to switch one character for another during a fight. On top of all of that, a new overly simplified control scheme is available for fighting game newcomers. It takes a bit to adapt to the new controls, but I have no complaints after using it for a while. Another new addition to the franchise here is a license card that tracks one's performance, character selections, fighting style, and other statistics. Players can check opponents' cards to get an idea of individual playing styles.
Unfortunately, it's not all sunshine and Shoryukens. While I'm a fan of Street Fighter and other fighting games, I'm not a hardcore player. I can't tell you what percentage damage a Hadouken does, nor do I care about which tier characters belong. I choose fighting game characters based on how much I happen to like the character and whether or not I can perform their attacks with moderate success. I'm in it for the flash and spectacle, not the technique and precision. I say all of that ahead of time so that when I tell you that it feels like the experience feels wildly unbalanced at times, you'll understand the gravity of the statement. Some characters are radically outmatched when set against specific other characters to the point where if I'm noticing it, then it must be a problem. I've had amazing luck with a team of Zero, Wolverine, and Akuma, while She-Hulk has an unstoppable somersault kick chain if one does it right. In fact, I was able to take down final boss Galactus's heralds using only that kick attack without taking any damage at all. Trust me when I say that I'm not usually that skilled of a fighting game player. Meanwhile, I can't even initiate a single attack when playing that encounter as Spencer.
The balance issue combines with a few other little issues to give me an overall sinking feeling. While there are several stages in which to fight such as Metro City and Katterox Island, I feel as if there could have been more. Popular characters such as Mega Man and Rogue have been excluded entirely from the roster. Most damningly, it's not possible to watch fights play out in online multiplayer mode as a spectator; in fact, plenty of the online additions and innovations from Capcom's past Super Street Fighter IV are missing altogether. All of these things add up to make me wonder if we're being prepped for a Super Marvel Vs Capcom 3 towards the end of the year in the tradition of Super Street Fighter IV. There's also the issue of paid DLC costumes, characters, and more coming up in the near future that could easily be rolled into a definitive re-release along with a few non-DLC exclusives. While I'm enjoying Marvel Vs Capcom 3 overall, there's so much obvious room for improvement and DLC seemingly ready to go that it feels as if Capcom is playing the greed card a little too heavily here. I'm going to go on ahead and recommend it since I am enjoying it overall, but just be aware of what you're getting involved with before you put down $60 on it.