This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Capcom's crossover fighting game sequel Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which reviews describe as "another strong leg for the resurrected fighting genre to stand on." Marvel vs. Capcom 3 currently earns a score of 87 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.
Game Informer's Tim Turi scores Marvel vs. Capcom 3 at 9.25 out of 10. "Like the X-Men's Jean Gray, the fighting genre has risen from the ashes," he begins. "Since its announcement last April, hungry fighting fans have waited impatiently for Marvel vs. Capcom 3, hoping the company can hit it out of the park again. You can stop worrying. The long-awaited sequel will keep d-pads warm and arcade sticks clacking for months to come."
"This entry continues the tradition of pitting stacks of memorable characters against one another," Turi explains. "Capcom shaved the amount of Street Fighters down in favor of newcomers like Arthur from Ghosts'n Goblins and Amaterasu from Okami. The Marvel crew is the best assortment yet, with fan-favorite Phoenix entering the fray and oddballs like M.O.D.O.K. adding color."
The franchise's over-the-top action has been refined in its latest sequel, according to Turi. "The basic three-on-three tag team format from Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is intact, but the developers gave it much-needed renovation," he says. "Capcom trimmed MvC 2's ultra-narrow input windows down to more enjoyable [Street Fighter IV] levels, and the resulting gameplay is smooth as butter whether you pick up a controller or an arcade stick."
Turi adds: "Even if you're new to the series, this game offers rewarding training and simple mode, a convenient, streamlined control scheme that maps key combos and special moves to single buttons. Accidentally wrecking your friends by button mashing is fun, but like training wheels, simple mode must eventually be ditched in order to contend with the big boys using traditional controls."
"Despite being riotously entertaining, a few elements hold MvC 3 back," Turi warns. "Fans expecting the suite of online features accompanying Super Street Fighter IV should regulate their excitement, because MvC 3's virtual arcade only has the basics like ranked and player matches, plus custom lobbies to recreate the 'winner stays' arcade experience. [Super Street Fighter IV]'s successful tournament mode and multiplayer team battles are inexplicably absent. Why Capcom didn't simply borrow everything from its fighting cousin is a mystery."
However: "Small gripes aside, you shouldn't miss Marvel vs. Capcom 3 if you have even a passing interest in Capcom, Marvel, the fighting genre, or good games. This pugilistic prize mimics the polished, accessible reinvention of Street Fighter IV, forming another strong leg for the resurrected fighting genre to stand on."
Heidi Kemps at GamePro gives Marvel vs. Capcom 34.5 out of 5 stars. "Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was a beautiful accident of a game," she notes. "The end product was an undeniably unbalanced and broken mess -- and yet, the fanbase loved it. Rather than playing MvC2 the way its designers hoped it would turn out, the community essentially built a competitive tournament monster from the original game's scorched remnants, crafting it into a unique sort of fighting game nobody expected it to become."
"I bring this up because MvC3 isn't the sequel to the game MvC2 wound up becoming over its lengthy competitive lifespan," Kemps continues. "It's more the sequel to what MvC2 was supposed to be but never quite became."
Kemps finds that many aspects of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 more closely resemble the recent Tatsunoko vs. Capcom than Marvel vs. Capcom 2. "Deciding when and how to swap and call in your teammates, as well as what assist skills to assign them, is a key part of strategy -- summoning their aid at a bad time can leave them open to damaging attacks," she explains.
"Longtime MvC2 players will doubtless be familiar with these aspects -- in many ways, however, the implementation of them has changed slightly, feeling more like TvC than MvC2. In particular, the control scheme is lifted wholesale from TvC: each character has a light, medium, and heavy attack, along with a 'special' button for air launchers and other character-specific functions."
The new "X-factor" mechanic also adds significantly to gameplay strategy. "[X-Factor is] a special skill that can be activated once per match and grants incredible benefits to whomever you have on point: hyper-speed, boosted damage, the reduction of damage scaling in combos, chip damage elimination, and even healing," Kemps says. "The potency of the X-Factor is dependent on the condition of your team -- if your partners are both KO'ed, it's going to be far more effective."
The tweaked mechanics result in a very different game than what fans may expect, though it's still an enjoyable experience. "I'm sure some will be dissatisfied -- if you're expecting to play MvC3 like tournament MvC2, you'll likely wind up disappointed," Kemps admits. "But if you take MvC3 for the game it is, rather than the game anyone else thinks it should be, you'll find a fighter packed with fun gameplay elements, a great variety of characters and strategies to utilize, and the potential to remain a favorite far into the future."
GameSpot's Maxwell McGee rates Marvel vs. Capcom 3 at 8.5 out of 10. "Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was a game so completely dominated by a handful of characters and strategies that the majority of its design was rendered moot," he claims. "Developer Capcom has since learned from this, and the changes made help distill this game's combat into a more well-rounded experience than ever before. The result is not the most technically demanding of fighters, but is certainly one of the most enjoyable. The white-knuckle intensity is still here -- but this is not the same game you remember from 10 years ago."
"From beat to beat and blow to blow, it's the little touches that sell the experience," McGee praises. "It's that slight pause at the start of a hyper combo -- a breath just wide enough to fit a single expletive before the hammer falls -- or the feeling of weight right as you launch someone into the air. It's the fact that combat can just as easily take place vertically as it can horizontally."
McGee continues: "The addition of the new launcher button helps expedite this process. And once you're airborne, a few quick hits lead you to an important crossroads: either end the combo safely or press your luck. If you go with the latter, you can bounce your opponent in one of four directions, after which you switch characters and continue the combo. That is, unless your opponent inputs the same direction as you, in which case you're the one who's sent tumbling down. It's a gamble, and one that keeps both sides of the beatdown engaged."
McGee warns that online play does not live up to the standards set by Super Street Fighter IV, however. "Thankfully, it works, and it works well, but the online play lacks several of the luxuries found in Capcom's other fighting giant, Super Street Fighter IV," he explains. "In all of our testing, the online matches ran smoothly on both PS3 and 360 versions of the game. Small pockets of lag did occur, but they were so infrequent that they had no impact on the overall experience.
"But outside of the matches, online mode is pretty barren. This isn't as apparent in the ranked and player battles, but when you group up in a lobby with up to eight of your buddies, or total strangers, it gets real boring, real fast. When it's not your turn in the ring, you're confined to watching the contestants' health bars move up and down in lieu of the match. And should you have a particularly interesting encounter, the game's complete lack of replay support ensures that your triumphant victory, or crushing defeat, is lost forever."
In all, though, McGee is pleased with Capcom's efforts. "Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a blast to play, despite losing some of the high-level intricacies found in its predecessor," he concludes. "However, when it's outside of the fight, the game stumbles and is found lacking in many of its modes. Nonetheless, this latest entry in the venerable versus series captures the spirit of the franchise and may wear the Marvel vs. Capcom title with pride."