I decided I’m gonna spare you guys the history lesson, this time around. Chances are if you’re reading a review of a fighting game, you know all about Capcom’s storied history of punching games with fireballs and lasers and whatnot. And chances are especially good you’ve at least heard of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and probably played it a good deal to boot.
On paper, it sounded great. For the generation of gamers who grew up with a Dreamcast and pounded out combos on MVC2 for days on end, it seemed to be a freaking godsend. An honest, Capcom-quality sequel that not only had most of the characters and features everyone loved about its predecessor, but was actually balanced. As fun as MVC2’s roughly 400 billion characters were, anyone who got involved with any form of serious tournament-level play quickly realized that there were pretty much only four characters worth using: Sentinel, Storm, Magneto, and Cable. Using anyone else was either a test of skill, cockiness, or both.
MVC3 did, indeed, fix all of this. It’s balanced, has incredibly tight and fluid combat; it even adds an online matching system that doesn’t suck! The problem, the big problem, is that Capcom tried to make the game a good deal more accessible to people who didn’t necessarily grow up playing fighting games. Part of that attempt worked well. As I said before, they made all the characters much more balanced, so anyone can pick their favorite characters and expect to have a decent chance at winning.
Unfortunately, they also made it embarrassingly easy to pull off combos, and those combos last a long, long time. Even in a game like MVC2, pulling off a combo above 10 hits (one that didn’t involve a super move, at least) took at least a modicum of skill and practice. In MVC3, you can basically throw the controller against the wall and Dante will start flipping around the screen and racking up hits like a damn madman. If I get juggled around the screen in a game like Street Fighter III, I patiently wait for my opening, applaud the guy for his skill, and move right along in the match. If I even get scratched by someone in MVC3, I might as well put down the controller and start cooking dinner. Maybe write a novel. Something about an old man and a sea, maybe. Either way, there’s not a thing I can do to interrupt the oncoming hour-long combo, and that’s a problem.
The other problem is the X-factor. Granted, it has a lot of good applications, and used properly it’s an incredibly strategic tool. Just one example: in addition to boosting all your stats and recovering your health, activating the X-factor cancels any move you’re doing, leaving room for a ton of combo opportunities. HOWEVER. All that’s an added bonus for the X-factor…not the point of it. The point of it is, again, to make things easier for players who don’t know what the hell they’re doing. Instead of being a purely strategic tool, it becomes a button you can idly push when you’re on the brink of losing, and suddenly be able to kill two characters in 10 hits. Some might call it an equalizer, I call it a lazy attempt at balancing the playing field.
Here’s the bottom line. With the updated Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 out, and available at a reasonably cheap price (as opposed to the full $60 I paid for the original MVC3…thanks Capcom), it’s certainly worth a cursory look, at least. But if you’re expecting the kind of truly fun and fair online play you’d get from Street Fighter III or Garou: Mark of the Wolves (homework assignment: look that up if you haven’t heard of it. Now.), you’re going to be just as disappointed as I was.