While the Marvel vs. Capcom series is often thought of as a "button-mashing" game, it is anything but that, and a skilled player can quickly cut off a casual player at the knees. Yet it can still be incredibly difficult for the unfamiliar to adapt to the game's mind-numbing pace and move sets. But Capcom, in an effort to attract players who only want to play a few casual games and not worry about complexity, has introduced Simple Mode.
Simple Mode re-maps the three primary attack buttons to focus on special moves and abilities instead of strength-based punches or kicks. So instead of having three different punch/kick buttons, you'll now have one. Instead of having to memorize a series of inputs to execute a special attack, you can simply press one direction and one button. Want to use one of those devastating hyper combos? That's also just one button now. This streamlined approach does have its cost – most characters will lose access to several of their moves, including some of the most powerful in the game. It's a handicap that affords you easier, but not necessarily unfair, access to existing special moves.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has an incredible gameplay foundation that is familiar, fresh and skillfully assembled. Hardcore genre fans are certainly going to appreciate the careful construction here, particularly the fact that most of the roster is immediately available. The presence of an extensive training mode, as well as a "License" screen that collects statistics and allows you to "preset" three teams for quick use, will also certainly be popular. A full suite of online functionality is here, including the ability to play ranked and unranked matches as well as create lobbies for you, your friends and random players from across the globe. You can also allow impromptu challenges from online players while you play Arcade mode alone. At the time of this review, Capcom's servers were firing on all cylinders, and latency during combat wasn't an issue. With any luck the publisher has anticipated the demand that is about to come.
But for all its care in nailing the fundamentals, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 seems to be missing a lot from its total package. Over the years fighting games have added many extras that not only extend the life of the product but appeal to those who aren't necessarily going to want to spend 100 hours in Training mode mastering a half-dozen characters. The Simple Mode control scheme seems custom built for this mass market, but the rest of the game does not.
Prepare for one killer final boss.
What's a bit bizarre here is we've seen other Capcom games nail these extras. Outside of Mission Mode, which challenges you to execute various special moves and combos, there's not much to the game if you tire of the core battle experience. Even Marvel vs. Capcom 2 extended its life by allowing players to "purchase" characters using in-game points. Let's also not forget you have 20 less faces to look at when it comes time to select your team. MvC3 seems content with galleries of models and art, none of which are that interesting and most of which were debuted in the build-up to the game's release.
Where's Spectator Mode? Alternate victory conditions? Time Attack Mode? The ability to change costume colors, freeing you from the four that are preset? Crazy, unexpected bonus games? Extra stages? Behind-the-scenes footage? Survival Mode?
Several of the ideas I just listed were done by Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, which debuted over a year ago on Wii. Once you beat the Arcade Mode a few times, and have unlocked the four hidden characters, you'll find there's not much else to add to the experience. The core of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is incredible - but for many of you that's only going to go so far.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 doesn’t disappoint as a fighting game, even after a decade of waiting. It’s very much the same insane concept we know and love, which isn’t a bad thing. By drastically revising the roster, what’s old is definitely new again. The balance and depth in the game is astonishing, and even the odd characters have their distinct charms. It’s easy to lose hours and hours exploring team combinations and battle strategies. Graphically the game is solid, particularly when the action is at its most fierce. Some of the effects work and animation is stunning, despite a lack of detail because of the visual style that was implemented.
What’s really a shame here is that the developer didn’t manage to find a way to supplement the core experience with extras that would extend the life of the game by adding some variety to the package. If M.O.D.O.K. can be animated so that he presses different buttons on his keypad for every single move he performs, we should have a Survival Mode.