I was never an arcade rat. I played consoles. I didn’t cut my teeth in the trial by humiliation setting of a GameWorks or the various mall food courts across America. I’m sure Dr. Garcia and Lord Hawkins can recount with scary accuracy those epiphanal moments of “footsie” clarity earned through countless quarters and callused fingers at the threshold of a wooden box. They, like many other , later would find sanctuary amongst each other at forums like Shoryuken.com to hone their craft with a feudal Japan level of discipline. They may take a lot of flack for being one-trick ponies of sorts but you can’t really argue that how impressive that is. Now, I’m sure there’s an asshole or two that might think they’d like to give it a try, claiming that there’s no real art to it and on any given day a button-masher can take down a champ. To that I’d like to invite you to investigate “Option-selects“… afterward, promptly fuck yourself.
*(I’m about to get all kinds of wordy, so if you want the cliff notes, jump to the bottom)
I wish my own pedigree was as grand, but its not. One might even wonder why Golgotron‘s own collection of Dash-canceling masters aren’t writing this review. Well, while I can’t read feints or adequately explain why Ken get more priority than anybody else in the Goddamn world, I do know some things. I know all about juggling and how to punish broken-ass Sentinel combos. I can point you in the right direction on which assist types work best with your character selection, and I can make a damn convincing argument as to why Jin Saotome is the best character in the game! Yes, my one claim to fame, perhaps the only fighting series I can hold my ground in, is Marvel vs. Capcom. Now after ten years of waiting, I look upon the next installment… but with a heavy heart. There are tears in my eyes as I say this, but to me… MvC 3… fails.
Suspicion first crept in my head when leaked gameplay footage reared its ugly head on the internet. I shuttered to see my beautiful 2D sprites of old being replaced with the sleek 3D graphics of the new era. I quickly shook it off, after all Capcom did quell my fears of the same with Street Fighter 4, and that turned out to be simply amazing. But something else struck me, and this thought more troubling. The game didn’t look like a MvC game. It looked like Tatsunoko vs Capcom, another in the “versus” series and a fun game in its own right, but one severally under developed and over-simplified. I too put that aside and elected to put my faith in my fingers rather than my eyes. So later that year, I got my chance and sat down with the game at E3. It was then that irrational fear quickly became a reality. The game was TvC! I did what I felt best and vocalized my concerns to Capcom. Telling them that they may have made a grave error in not taking the time to develop an engine from scratch but instead utilizing borrowed code. The developers there in turn said that this was only early build and more than likely not in any way shape or form reflect the finished game. What else could I do? It’s not like I carry any clout, so I bit my tongue. Now, cut to several months of PR, videos, stills, and convention demos later, I have my copy.
At first play, I thought I was in love… I can’t lie about that much. The game was fun! I still wasn’t pleased with the character selection, they replaced some of the cult favorites with what appeared to be a collection of Marvel characters pushed on Capcom in order keep the franchise license. And I sure as hell wasn’t pleased that my entire team had now been removed. However, that was more of a personal gripe, so I could look past it. The first few hours flew by in a cloud of button taps; it was a blast to test out all the new characters and look for combos to lead into supers. Once the initial rush of the honeymoon phase gave way though, the relationship began… and like always, the faults came out.
The familiar mechanics of MvC2 were significantly dumb-down, with each character having only a bizarre control setup of Light, Medium, and Heavy Attack with a special attack/modifier used to launch your opponent and set up chains. There’s no longer a separate button layout for punches or kicks, just attack, like its pretending to be Smash Brothers or something. The assist buttons are back, but are situated strangely in the default arcade stick set up and I had to remap them to make effective use. For those of you new to the world of Marvel vs. Capcom, the assist buttons can call upon your teammates to interject in the battle at any time. This can play to your advantage when setting up combos or just help get you out of trouble. The assist buttons can also be held down to tag in your partners if your health gets a little low, or to just setup a better match against your opponent’s character. The mechanics on this haven’t changed much, but the time you have hold the button down seems to take a frame or two too longer than necessary to activate. And while that doesn’t seem like a major hindrance, in a game where matches are decided in half a second, it can be problematic.
Keeping along with explanation portion of our show, there are some other control features I should point out. By pressing all of the attack buttons and the Special button at once you can activate X-Factor. This will up your attack damage and speed and can be caveated depending on your situation. The worse shape you’re in, aka having lowered health or fewer teammates, the more powerful the boost. Alongside this, the Snap Back and Advanced Guard systems are back, but I’ll let you read up on them elsewhere. These could allow for a level strategy and provide some depth to the game, much in the same way they did in MvC2, but they easily trumped by the game’s fundamental flaw, simplicity.
The gameplay is just far too simple. Generally speaking, in most fighting games there’s a very distinct pattern of progression to be followed. You button-mash until you learn the basics, from there you workout some simple combos through trial-and-error. Then you move on to more difficult and usually broken attack chains that piss off your friends and the Xbox-live’ers alike. After that, if you’re not bored, the real work begins. You start looking up strategies and counter attacks, ones not only for your preferred character, or “main“, but for every other one in an effort to be able to out think others strategies. It’s this, that gives fighting aficionados backing when they same a game has depth. MvC3, at least for the moment, doesn’t appear too. While you certainly can become skilled enough to pull of some pretty impressive feats, you still can easily be outdone by some of the stronger characters without much effort. Capcom has been quoted as saying that they’ve been taking careful consideration in balancing out every character to equal ground, but I don’t see it at all. Sentinel is still incredibly broken, even more so than before. If you couple him with newcomer Arthur of Ghost N’ Goblins’ fame and incessantly mash at assist button while executing Sentinel‘s charge beam, the match will end before it even gets off the ground.
My other problem with the game lies in its speed. It feels like they coated the whole damn thing in thick molasses and then lined the floors in glue. By all traditional senses, its faster than most fighters out there, but it definitely doesn’t operate at the blistering place of its predecessor. That in itself takes away from the skill of the game, as a major tactical advantage lied in whoever pulled off their combos first. Now, I feel like I can make a sandwich, take piss, and smack Rich all in the span of time it takes to walk across fucking screen. You’re more or less forced to dash at ALL TIMES, and if you don’t master this quick enough you might as well not ever play. To me it just doesn’t make sense to slow down the game and add an input just to bring the game up to the speed at which its formers played. One might argue that this was added to provide that level of depth I’m claiming its missing, but that’s just stupid. Why focus on adding a complex mechanic if Capcom wanted this to be more approachable? If they wanted it to be what it was, they just have left the gameplay alone and spent their time refining the combos and other fight mechanics. And if their goal was to simplify things, why not just take out the button and make your character always dash. Or better yet just take the whole damn thing out and let the game play at its slow-as-shit pace. Sigh.
Yes, I know that what I’m saying might come off as presumptuous, seeing as the game has literally been out for a few days, but such is always the case when reviewing a fighter. The review almost always has to read like an initial impression, because come eight-nine months to three years later someone’s going to figure out something we’re all missing and spin the game on its head. So you can take my words with a grain of salt if you must, but I trust my gut and its telling me that what I’m saying is true. The game has been made with the causal market in mind, not the elitist. Its no longer a title for us, and I’m fairly certain that while you may catch it at EVO 2011, I wouldn’t bank on it being at EVO 2012.
Even Justin Wong, has come out guns-a-blazing about his dislike for the game. Think what you will of the guy but you can’t deny that he’s a credible source on the matter.Now, I don’t hate the game, not at all. Like I said, it can be fun, just not to the degree that I wanted it to be. Hell, that WE ALL WANTED IT TO BE! If Capcom wanted this to be more accessible than they’ve succeed, and honestly I can’t fault them for that; everyone’s got to eat. I also can’t deny that there’s been work done here. The art direction of the game is gorgeous, even to a traditionalist like me. Though a bit sluggish and dumbed down the matches can still be exciting and abusing your friends is always a riot. The game’s not perfection and I think that’s what’s hurting me the most. It feels like an after-thought, and frankly I think it deserves more… Also, Jin better be DLC!