Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (Vita)
March 12, 2012, Author: Andy Corrigan
I consider myself to be a pretty big fan of fighting games. It’s not just the purist thrill of two combatants duking it out that gets me either, nor is it simply nostalgia, but it’s in the infinite strategies. While in that regard I prefer tighter, technical fighters in the Street Fighter mold, I do get on with most in the genre. Except for one. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has been one of those that, despite my best efforts, I just haven’t been able to master.
It’s not for the want of trying either; I’ve had two attempts on 360 at getting my head around its explosive and extravagant nature, and I failed both times at becoming even remotely competent with it. Every time I thought I had it nailed, the game would spit in my face, kick me to the ground and send me back crying to where I felt safe; Street Fighter.
Street Fighter will always be my domain, and while I will never come remotely close to being at Evo level (never in a million years), even in defeat I can always see where I went wrong, what I could have done better. For whatever reason, that ability has been sorely missing with both Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
I’m not ashamed to say that it eats away at me, especially being a fan of both companies involved. I wanted so desperately to be good at this game.
Well, Capcom have given me another chance, as Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom makes it to the Vita as a launch title.
Did I overcome my demons? Am I now a UMvC3 champion thanks to re-releases and perseverance?
More importantly, is it any good?
Just like a comic book!
You know the drill when it comes to most fighting games; there isn’t really a story, just a loose theme helping to explain the involvement of our chosen combatants.
This time, the dastardly duo of Victor Von Doom and Albert Wesker had originally conspired to unite both their own universes for total domination. Unfortunately, during the amalgamation of the two worlds, they got more than they bargained for.
It seems that Galactus, the cheeky scamp, has once again set his hungry eyes upon Earth, and will soon start to chow down. It’s up to the Champions of both Universes to stop him in his tracks, but before that, they must squabble and fight amongst themselves for some reason.
That’s it. Pick your three heroes and fight your way to the heavens to do battle with the purple-panted planet eater.
Ménage à Trois!
If you’ve already played this or the original MvC3 on other platforms, then you’ll know how this goes. You pick three characters from either the Marvel or Capcom universe and fight in single tag-team rounds against other trios.
Rather than splitting the attacks between punches and kicks, UMvC3 simplifies things and operates on a three-button attack system, with light, medium and heavy attacks, plus a special attack button. You have no control over whether you want to punch or kick, and it’s purely incidental on your positioning on the screen and what it is you’re trying to do. This has always been my biggest stumbling block with the game; I like to know what type of attack will happen. I crave that level of control over things.
That said, with its simplicity, people will find it fairly easy to get to grips with it. It at least makes it very easy to string basic combos and attacks together, same for special moves; but in having a simplistic button system, the game has many levels of depth to master before you can call yourself proficient. Button-bashing will only get you so far.
At any point, you can switch between your other two chosen characters by holding down either shoulder button, while a tap of one will see the assigned character jump onto the screen and perform one of their predefined moves before running off again. These can be used during or as the start of a combo, letting you get extra little hits in. One I used often was playing as Dante (DMC) as my primary character and calling in Spidey to perform his web-ball, which offers the momentary break of play needed to kick off a major attack. Timing here is paramount.
That’s not the only tool at your disposal though. As you fight, you build up a meter at the bottom, which goes up to level five. At any level, you can tap both shoulder buttons simultaneously to trigger a hugely effective attack. If you’ve built the gauge up three times or more, then all three of your chosen trio will unleash their attacks at once, and this is truly devastating when timed perfectly. Should it be only built to one or two levels, you get the equivalent amount of attackers doing their thing.
Then there is the X-Factor. Don’t panic, there are no talentless, teeny-bopper singers to be found here. Again, this builds up as you fight, and once unleashed will not only offer a short period of health regeneration, but also increased attack power and speed.
It wouldn’t be a Vita port without trying to make use of at least one of the new features. UMvC3 offers a Touch mode, where all you need to do is tap your opponent to make your character hit them. That’s it, and aside from swiping your finger to make them dash, everything else is done for you. It makes the game far too easy to be enjoyable; it’s boring and completely pointless, in fact. In the times I experimented with it, I managed to complete the game in no time at all and rarely swapping my characters around during fights. Worse is that it offers no clue on how to play it ‘properly’.
What does help is the Mission mode, which sits below the standard Arcade, Touch and Practice modes on the Offline Menu, and is actually better practice than the Practice mode!
This works by providing you with ten challenges per character, which increase in difficulty as you play. So they might start easy by asking you to perform simple, single special moves; but as you work your way through the challenges, you’ll be learning highly effective combos on both the ground and in the air, and learn how to use cancels and specials. It’s very nicely done, allowing you to get to grips with all characters, and it’s ten times more effective than wailing away endlessly in the standard Practice mode.
Elsewhere is Heroes and Heralds, which can be played both online and off. This sets itself up as a war between the Heroes of Earth and Galactus’ Heralds; silver skinned variations of the standard roster. In the offline version, you need to capture locations by fighting there and winning over and over. Each win will see your percentage of control in that area increase, while Online becomes a weekly war in the same vein, and gets reset every seven days, only for war to begin again.
Here is the real twist, though. As you win matches, you’ll unlock cards, which all have their own RPG-style effects and conditions. You can use up to three of these to make a deck, and these decks can have a huge impact on how your team performs. It’s an addictive mode, and certainly offers the offline gamer a bit more to do than just play arcade over and over.
It’s like a light show…
Playing this game on Vita really is really one of those milestone moments for portable gaming. Super Street Fighter IV may have looked great on 3DS, but this is a different story entirely. Not only are the bright colours and cartoon stylings perfect foil for the Vita’s gorgeous little screen, but thanks to the smaller screen ratio, it probably looks even better in motion than the home console version. The game ebbs and flows in a lovely fashion, never dropping a frame in spite of all the colour, action and busy detail in all areas of the screen.
That said, there have been concessions here and there, though their impact on gameplay is negligible. For example, many of the stages aren’t quite as busy or animated as much as in other versions; in fact, in some cases they’re just static full stop. Oddly, it’s quite inconsistent; the stages that probably could get away without animation have more moving parts than those that really can’t. Some strange choices in that respect, I must say.
Despite that, there is still huge amount of fan service to find from both franchises, be it fighting on top of the Daily Bugle, Deadpool breaking the fourth wall, or Arthur running around in his undies. There’s literally thousands of subtle references to spot in the background too, if you’re paying attention that is.
Audio remains completely unchanged from the other versions of UMvC3, and if you’ve never played them, you’re in for a cheesy arcade treat. The menu music especially harks back to the early 90s with its bouncy synth and dance beats, while the fights are as busy aurally as they are visually.
Aside from the sounds of punches landing, and aside from the announcer doing his thing, there’s more fan service going on in the audio. The fighters quip and crack jokes related not only to their history or their universe, but also related to each other, when appropriate.
The comic book vibe is helped so much by a great cast. In Capcom’s stable, many of the voice artists reprise their roles from other games, while for Marvel, most of their number are voiced by those who have had the part in various cartoons. For example, Spider-man is voiced by the excellent Josh Keaton, who has not only played Spidey in two different cartoons series (Spectacular and the upcoming Ultimate), but also voiced one version of him in Activision’s Shattered Dimensions. The same is true of Ironman and Wolverine, who will all sound instantly familiar to fans.
Let’s get ready to rumble!
Whether playing Heroes and Heralds online or just taking part in ranked fights, the online mode is probably as solid as it could be; although, it can be prone to lag here and there, souring the experience slightly. When it works flawlessly, it’s a joy to behold and online it enhances the thrill of combat immeasurably. All the glitz, all the slick animations, are totally unhindered.
Another plus in this port’s favour is that you can also spectate live fights in a lobby while you wait for your turn in a ‘winner stays on’ system, plus you can watch and download replays from the leaderboards. You can even slow them down to the nth degree and see the player inputs. A great little feature that’ll help you learn from the very best.
Although it doesn’t really bear any relevance to the outcome of this review, I do feel that I have to warn first timers, though. UMvC3 is a very hardcore fighter, and newcomers might feel like they’ve been thrown to the wolves if they head straight for the online component. In this respect, none of the offline modes ever truly prepare you for the level of relentless onslaughts you might face online, until you get your bearings and can hold your own, at least. Learning to play and getting the wins under your belt becomes a very rewarding experience, let me tell you.
A battle for the ages…
So the bottom line is that this is a great port of an already quality fighter. Fight fans will love that they can take a game of this calibre around in their pockets and cram in a couple of psychedelic fights wherever and whenever they get the chance. If you’re already a fan of the game on other platforms and want to take it around with you, then it really is a no brainer.
As for me personally? Well… this was the closest I came to falling in love with this third iteration of Marvel vs Capcom, yet I still can’t quite get on with it in the way I hoped. Hell, if it wasn’t for Street Fighter X Tekken on the horizon, after now tackling it on the Vita, I would be more determined than ever to get the hang of it.
Despite my own failings with the game, it’s hard for me to deny the high quality on display here. It’s clear for all to see that for those willing to nail the technique required, you’ll find a nicely balanced, colourful brawler with lots of content to keep you going.
Platforms: PS Vita | Tagged Akuma, capcom, Captain America, Chun Li, comics, Dante, Dead Rising, Devil May Cry, Doctor Doom, Frank West, Galactus, Hawkeye, Hulk, Ironman, Marvel, Peter Parker, Phoenix Wright, Ryu, Spencer, Spider-Man, Spidey, Street Fighter, Tony Stark, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Victor Von Doom, Wesker