Earlier this year in February, after eleven years of waiting and hoping, fans of the seminal Marvel vs. Capcom 2 were delighted by the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3. The game saw a return to what fans of the series loved: fast-paced tag-team matches, eye-popping graphics and over-the-top action, punctuated by ludicrous hyper-combos which delivered a flurry of hits to opponents. However, the release wasn’t without its problems, as the game had far less characters than the last instalment, starting with 36 playable characters (plus 2 DLC characters) opposed to MvC2’s 56-character-strong roster. A lack of DLC-support for the title opened itself to further criticisms, as it seemed that despite the strong game that was released, the issues that fans had were mostly with what wasn’t in the game, as opposed to what was in the game.
Fast forward nine months to the release of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, a rerelease with twelve new playable characters to bring the total number of characters to 50. The question facing gamers who purchased the original version of the game is a difficult one: whether to support what Capcom has done and buy the new game, or stay put with the original release. The game was released as a standalone product and not just a series of DLC because of a delay in the production of the DLC earlier this year, thanks to the earthquake in Japan. This prompted the creators to scrap DLC plans and make this a full release. To Capcom`s credit, the price point on this title has been kept relatively low in comparison to the original release of the game, to the point where the DLC probably would have been more expensive if they had kept it for the original game.
Furthermore, there have been numerous tweaks made to the characters’ moves, with some characters' either streamlined or with flat-out new ones. There’s been an effort to further balance the game and the mechanics, while at the same time adding in new stages. Characters now have a greater number of skins to utilize – six instead of four – to keep the game fresh and dynamic, so that there are more combinations for players to use visually. This aspect will appeal more to comic book fans who pick up this game as opposed to gaming fans, as the Marvel skins are specific whereas with the Capcom skins are more often than not nothing more than palette swaps.
One of the biggest problems with this title’s release is that it makes gamers who already purchased the first iteration of this title feel like they only bought a working-beta the first time around. I’m more of a comic book fan as opposed to a gaming fan, but from what I gather gamers are increasingly wary of Capcom and how they will rerelease games with minor tweaks and changes numerous times, making some wonder if this version of UMvC3 will soon be followed by yet another standalone edition of the game. The new characters are an intriguing bunch; from the Marvel Comics side of things, players get Ghost Rider, Iron Fist, Rocket Raccoon, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye and Nova, with Firebrand, Frank West, Nemesis T-Type, Phoenix Wright, Strider Hiryu and Vergil coming from the Capcom side.
It’s definitely an eclectic bunch. All of the Marvel Comics characters are new to the franchise, instead of bringing back old favourites from MvC2, like Iceman, Venom, Sabretooth, Cable or Cyclops, amongst others. For Capcom fans, the continued exclusion of Mega Man from this game will only prove to further infuriate fans of the beloved character.
The online play is definitely smoother with less of a lag than the previous version, and with the welcome addition of a spectator mode for online lobbies. It definitely makes being in an online lobby waiting for a fight more interesting and enjoyable, as you get to see the battle take place instead of seeing nothing but the health bars slowly diminishing, as was the case in MvC3. When playing in offline mode, there’s now an opportunity to play as Galactus against a computer-controlled force of three characters, but it really fails to deliver on the promise. Playing as Galactus is not a fulfilling experience in the least, with no controls even being listed. There’s supposed to be a new mode to play with called Heroes and Heralds, but it’s not yet available, but has been promised as an upcoming free DLC for the game.
The biggest drawback of the release of this game is that you are, essentially, paying $40 for the additional characters, but not much else at this time. You get some more skins for your favourite characters and the fun of the new characters, but there’s a lack of new modes or anything else to help justify the cost. Some of the rebalancing makes the gameplay a little deeper and more challenging to master. For those fans of the series who, despite hours of gameplay, are still not all that good at that game (such as myself), it can make the online matches even more frustrating. For fans of achievements and trophies, this is a game that is going to be almost impossible to complete to 100%, with an increased emphasis on online prowess, not to mention the amount of online time needed. The mission mode from the original release returns, and at times can be even less forgiving than before. The biggest drawback is that all the practicing in the world won’t help the typical, mediocre player improve, as the online gameplay moves at a frenetic pace that doesn’t let up.
There has already been a series of DLC previewed for this game, but sadly none of it includes new modes or characters. Instead, there are ten DLC skins packs to provide all of the characters with new costumes (save for the 2 DLC characters from MvC3, plus the 6 skins available for MvC3 as DLC). Gamers can either purchase them as they are slowly rolled out over the next few months at $4/each, or wait until March 6th and purchase all of them for $20, an effective savings of $20 if gamers can wait that long. Among the DLCs that stand out for fans include Nathan Spencer (Bionic Commando) in his traditional look featured in Bionic Commando: Rearmed, Zero as Mega Man, Spider-Man as Scarlet Spider, Phoenix in her '90s outfit, Hulk in his World War Hulk costume, She-Hulk as Jennifer Walters, and Magneto in his House of M outfit, among many others. Zero’s DLC skin being him as Mega Man will likely just salt the wounds of those fans decrying his omission once again from this game.
Could this game have been more than it is? Yes, it could have expanded the game more to truly deserve a separate release from the original. The relatively small roster of playable characters is still an issue, as it’s still smaller than Marvel vs. Capcom 2. In the eleven years between the releases of MvC2 and MvC3, there was a lot of time for gamers to master and enjoy the game and hope that someday there would be a sequel. There was a lot of goodwill garnered over that time, and with the release of UMvC3 coming less than a year after the first release, it spends some of that sooner than fans would have hoped. There’s still a feeling that this release is a bit incomplete, and given the willingness of Capcom to put out this title when MvC3 was still less than a year old, there’s the obvious fear that this is only the second of three eventual releases of this game, which threatens to spend all of that goodwill and leave the bank dry.