Rating: ★★★★½

Some people just get fighting games, while others struggle to ever win. That’s why they have always been popular in arcades. Walk in and play a friend, maybe a stranger or two, have a good time and leave. But on a console, that experience is much more difficult to replicate. Standard fighting games like Street Fighter IV or something like Tekken or Dead or Alive can be fun to play alone, for the sake of finally winning. Marvel vs Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds is not one of those games.

Penny Arcade summed up my first thoughts of MvC3 after a few hours of play perfectly.

MvC3 is, well, huge. Featuring 36 characters (18 from Marvel and 18 from Capcom), players are given a 3-on-3 battle with intense combination attacks, character swapping, personalized power attacks and both singular and team ultra-attacks. New character models are in 3D instead of 2D like MvC2, and characters come from a plethora of Marvel comics and Capcom games. It’s not just the regulars like Ryu and Hulk, but oddities and fan favorites like MODOK, Chris Redfield, Dormammu and Arthur.

However, as illustrated by Penny Arcade, excellence isn’t required to play well. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting lucky. With MvC3, that luck isn’t one in a thousand; it’s one in twenty, using standard controls. Use the new simplified controls, made specifically for use on gamepads, and two buttons will act in place of eight while connecting amazing combinations, mutli-character special moves and unique abilities which normally require intimate knowledge of the game.

That said, the real fun isn’t in just playing with simplified controls and letting the game do the dirty work. Playing this way is only amusing for so long. Putting several hours into learning the main moves and combinations each character has and then utilizing them with normal controls, hopefully using a fightpad (like the recently reviewed Versus Fightpad) or fightstick and not a standard gamepad, makes the game more enjoyable over time.

Character strengths and weaknesses are very easy to discover in MvC3. This is done in two main ways: character size and speed. The bigger and slower they are, the more damage their attacks do, as a rule of thumb. There are some exceptions, like MODOK – a giant floating head – but looking at characters like Viewtiful Joe and Phoenix, compared to Haggar and Sentinel, and that rule is clear as day. That means combinations with these larger, stronger characters are harder to do, but that’s alright. A five hit combo with Hulk can result in the same damage as a 15-hit combo with Amaterasu.

Some of the new characters are questionable, however. Chris Redfield for instance is the worst cheezehead anyone can use. His gun attacks are devastating, from any range. Either a shotgun close-range, SMG at mid-range or a Magnum at long range, he is just unacceptable. Sure, he’s fairly weak without these weapons on-hand, but a patient player can cheaply wipe out an entire team of three just using Chris. MODOK must be good at something, but I can’t figure out what. Nathan Spencer may be a Capcom character, but he’s not nearly likeable enough, or known enough, for anyone to want to play as him. Amaterasu is so short that anyone fighting this wolf will feel like an idiot because any attack that isn’t low just flies right over its head.

Chris is seriously just a cheap character. If you don’t think so, have fun dodging bullets.

Others are great. Dormammu is an interesting choice, one that I applaud because at first he seems useless but with practice he is an incredibly powerful character, with proper control. X-23 is Wolverine but weaker with better combinations, and is a great assisting character to have. Deadpool is…well, just hilarious, and his constant breaking of the 4th wall is funny every time. From his moonwalk retreat to demanding more games from Marvel after winning a match, he’s just fun to have. Dante is a fan-favorite and a fine addition, bringing along a great selection of moves and weapons without being overpowering.

In fact, when it comes to available characters my concern became that too many came from the same series’. Ryu, Chun Li, Crimson Viper (really?) and Akuma from Street Fighter is too many. Chris Redfield and Wesker feels like too much (Nemesis would have been better in my opinion instead of Chris) Resident Evil. Even Trish and Dante felt like too much of Devil May Cry. I didn’t have the same problem with Marvel, though Marvel is such a tight-knit selection of characters that they all end up in each other’s comic books and games anyways. They’re all connected in some way. I’d rather see less fan-favorite characters, or even less well known characters, so long as they are different and fun in some way.

Once players get a feel for gameplay (which can take anywhere from 3-20 hours), it really can get exciting. MvC3 is not a game you rent for a weekend, it’s an investment that matures over time. And Capcom has done a few very intelligent things, like a training mode that can simulate internet lag, and a ton of unlockables like info on each character and their “universe”, character models and whatnot. The plot is throwaway, without a doubt, and even then it’s still fun beating the game with each character to see their story all while improving your skill. So while the first few hours of gameplay will consist of confused victory and miffed, controller-throwing hostility, take your time and let it all soak in. Marvel vs Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds just needs to grow on you for a little while. Let it.

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.