Marvel vs. Capcom 3 – The PS3 Attitude Preview
When Marvel vs. Capcom 2 arrived in 2000, its three-on-three gameplay and super-fast action went down a treat. It was fresh and exciting. Some argued that it favoured style over substance – after all, it did feature simplified casual-friendly controls – but even so, it was still a hit with hardcore and casual players alike.
If the series has such a cult following, why then have we waited so long for a sequel? One reason is that Capcom lost interest in fighting games, and they only regained their passion for them following the success of Street Fighter IV (a game they were initially reluctant to make). The other answer is also quite dull: Capcom lost the rights to use Marvel characters, and you cannot have Marvel vs. Capcom 3 without that crucial Marvel presence. It has been an agonising decade-long wait for the fans, many of whom lost faith in ever seeing a sequel, but we suspect the reward for their patience will be great.
The first thing we noticed about Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was just how good it looked. Many of you will have seen the videos and screenshots, and no doubt you will have been impressed, but you really need to see this game live to appreciate it. It runs incredibly smooth. At the forefront, characters move across the screen as if they are made of mercury; there is an overdose of special effects, enough to leave anyone feeling bewildered. In the background, if you find time to study it, you will see many fine details: banners, an inflatable Spider-Man, a helicopter and even a parade float; all are moving. We saw keen reporters watch the action and take pictures as we knocked ten shades of blue into our opponents. The levels felt alive.
The characters are also rich in personality. Deadpool, when tagged in, will start posing and making comments towards you, the player, if you leave him alone. This is something that no one will ever see, due to the fast pace of the game. Yet, it is reassuring to know that these details are here. It’s a sign of a developer who cares for their game.
MT Framework – Capcom’s in-house developed engine – is powering these incredible visuals. You will know it from previous Capcom titles such as Lost Planet 2 and Resident Evil 5; the engine gives developers a lot of processing power to work with. Surprisingly, MT Framework was not used for Capcom’s premier fighting game, Street Fighter IV, but that shouldn’t be seen as a reason to be concerned about its suitability to a fighting game.
Even though Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a 2D fighter, it features meticulously designed 3D character models. The Marvel characters are especially detailed and pleasing on the eye. Recently, we spoke to Ryoto Niitsuma, the game’s producer, and he told us that their priority was to perfect the Marvel characters, to Marvel standards:
This time we concentrated on maximizing the display of Marvel characters more so than Capcom characters. In a way, Capcom characters are more flexible – they are still in the melting pot, quite random in a way – while Marvel are a bit more consistent with their stuff. We want to make sure that their characters are portrayed at their best…”
In other words, Marvel is very fussy about how their characters are portrayed – and rightly so – and it has forced Capcom to build the game round the Marvel style. This isn’t a complaint; in fact, it oozes cool. It looks just like an American comic book.
Marvel is a much bigger company today than in 2000, due to the phenomenal success that many of their franchises have had at the box-office (Iron Man, X-Men, and Spider-Man etc.). Having Marvel characters in the game is a much more exciting prospect today than it was before, and their presence alone will sell copies. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 will attract gamers who don’t necessarily play fighting games, but will be excited because they will get the opportunity to play as their favourite Marvel characters.
Despite all this, Capcom characters are in no way inferior. Ryu is as exciting to play and see as he has always been, and new additions such as Dante (Devil May Cry 3 version) and Viewtiful Joe will certainly become fan favourites. Capcom also has the most exciting new character: Amaterasu, the Godly wolf from the wonderful and sadly underappreciated Ōkami. How many fighting games allow you to fight as a wolf against the Hulk? Amaterasu is all about fast combos; she is lightning quick. You would think her inclusion would lead to problems, what with her small hit-box, but we did not actually come across any issues, but we need more playtime before we can say for certain.
One thing that Niitsuma-san was keen to stress is that the game has “perfect balance” (i.e. no player is more powerful than another is). You will choose the fighters that suit your playing style and not because they are the best in the game. Perfect balance is one of those things that developers often claim to have achieved but they are more often than not wrong. Once again, it is too early for us to state whether Marvel vs Capcom 3 has perfect balance, but we will let you know in the reivew.
Just feel reassured to know that the team are very serious about the meat and bones of the game; Capcom consider playability more important than visuals and presentation. In fact, Niitsuma-san expects Marvel vs Capcom 3 to perform very well on the competitive scene. It should also prove popular online; apparently, the net-code is near-on perfect, allowing for a lag-free gaming experience.
Going back to the fighters, you will notice the roster is smaller than in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (down from 56 to 36 – plus two extra DLC characters). You are not being short changed; there are several reasons for this: it is partly down to logistics because more time is needed to make character models these days; but more importantly, Capcom accept that Marvel vs. Capcom 2’s roster was flabby, that it had numerous overlaps and clones, and they have tried to get away from that in the sequel.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 will not have any clones or overlaps; Niitsuma-san even tells us that they avoided using similar characters: “For example, in the Fantastic Four there is the character Thing but we already had Hulk; the same with Chris Redfield who was kind of similar to the Punisher from Marvel.” They basically want every character to have a unique “taste”.
That they will. Each fighter falls into different categories, and there are four categories altogether: standard, power, speed and technical. Ryu would be an example of a standard player; Hulk, power; Viewtiful Joe, technical; Dante, speed. There are numerous combinations and approaches to the game for the player to explore.
As for changes to the actual fighting, the action is a lot faster and smoother than Marvel vs. Capcom 2, which you would expect following such a lengthy gap. It certainly feels more precise. You always feel in control, which is a miracle considering all the crazy stuff happening on screen at once. You certainly have more control over your assists; for example, you won’t be forced into a move when switching characters, because now you have to hold the command to trigger that move.
The jump path is also different: “It used to be too long, too high, and now it’s a lot sharper.” One change that may not appeal to all is the decision to simplify the launch command down to one single button press. This makes it easy for even the most inexperienced fighters to launch their opponent into the sky for some air-combo madness. Some say it is making the game too easy.
The philosophy is that sound tactics and good judgement should be valued higher than the ability to master finger-bending combos. If you want this writer’s opinion, in no way does having a launch button mean that there is no skill required to master the game. This is not true at all. It is clear from our early play that a skilled player will enjoy digging very deep into Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
Marvel vs. Capcom has always been different to other fighters. Fights are often lengthy and momentum can change at any time. In one fight, we cruised ahead by taking out two of our opponent’s fighters before they awoke and began their awesome comeback. In the end, we won with only a fraction of our life left (cue mild air punch, followed by a sigh of relief).
It’s these moments that most games will be looking forward to most, and the game is sure to have plenty of them. We will be back soon with our definitive review of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but before then we will be posting the full version of interview with Ryoto Niitsuma, which will be landing on the site early next week.