It’s (Ultimate) Marvel baby!
Having been in the market for a mere 9 months, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has died an (arguably) premature death. In its place is Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which is a stand-alone, disc-only and $40 release that aims to expand and refine the original formula. While the hardcore Marvel vs. Capcom 3 community have been chomping at the bit to get this more fully-realized version of the original vision, does this game appeal to the majority of the fighting game playing populous, especially if you just bought its predecessor 9 months ago?
The most obvious change between “vanilla” Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Ultimate is the roster. 12 new characters join the fray, upping the character count to 48 (50 if you bought Jill and Shuma Gorath as DLC). If you thought Marvel and Capcom would load up on fan favourites like Mega Man and Gambit, guess again. Instead, we get an interesting (if not obscure) mix of no-brainers, such as Ghost Rider and Frank West, alongside a list of characters you likely know little to nothing about. I don’t know anything about Rocket Raccoon or Vergil, but I’m sure glad that the ‘obscure’ approach brought forth Phoenix Wright, one of my most favourite video game characters ever.
Say what you will about character recognition, but they each bring something new to the table in terms of play styles. In particular, Phoenix Wright and Frank West have their own unique gameplay systems that make them tick. For Phoenix Wright, you have to collect evidence to be used to convict your opponent, which powers Phoenix Wright up in the process. As for Frank West, he progressively improves through a Dead Rising-inspired leveling system. The other characters may not have dramatic gameplay system tweaks behind them, but they feel like great additions to the cast. Even Vergil, who is Dante’s twin brother, has enough to separate him as a character to justify his existence in the game. My favourite of the new characters right now are Strider, Dr. Strange and Phoenix Wright, who are a blast to play as, but I’m excited to learn the nuances of all of the new characters.
The characters from the original game received quite the makeover as well in this iteration of the game. The surface-level changes are fairly clear, as most characters got new moves. If you’re not playing this competitively, that’s probably all you’ll discern if you jump into Ultimate, which is fine. However, for the enthusiast Marvel vs. Capcom 3 player, they’ll notice that Capcom has made quite a few balance changes have been made to even out the playing field. If you cared enough about the game to hate things like Tron’s invincible assist, Wolverine’s berzerker slash and everything about Phoenix, you’ll be pleased to see the number of tweaks made to each character to balance out the roster. While it remains to be seen how balanced the game ultimately is (no pun intended), for now, it at least most of the character issues the community flagged with Capcom have been addressed in some form.
Similar sentiments can be said about the core gameplay in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. If you’re not in this at a competitive level, then it’s easy to see this as the same game as before, which is true to a certain extent. The competitive crowd however will go nuts over the changes to the core formula, such as the changes to X-Factor, the changes to hit stun so that you’re less likely to sit through a 30-second combo while your opponent beats you to death, and to the fact that the DHC glitch, which in the wrong hands (like me) could kill any character in the game with just one combo, has been removed. Regardless of what type of player you are going into this, the core of what made Marvel vs. Capcom 3 a wildly fun and popular fighting game in the first place is intact and better than ever.
One of my biggest complaints about the original Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was that the feature set of the game was paltry at best. I wish I could say that Capcom stepped it up on this front, but the changes here are minimal. Arcade Mode is as basic as you’d expect from a fighting game, which is unfortunate in light of the advancements that Mortal Kombat made with its story mode. As with its predecessor, Mission Mode provides you with 10 different combos for you to execute with each character. To me, this is a poor substitute for a tutorial mode that actually teaches you how to play the game along the lines of the one found in Blazblue: Continuum Shift. The only meaningful change here is the addition of spectator mode in the online lobbies, which lets you watch matches occurring in your lobby while you wait for your turn. This is easier to swallow at $40, though it stings even more if you paid for (and were disappointed by) the limited feature set back then.
If you’re looking for the thrill of the fight, then don’t let the feature set deter you from a purchase. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 took a great core fighting game experience and made meaningful refinements to it’s most important parts. For someone like me, who took Marvel vs. Capcom 3 seriously enough to play it in a tournament, the purchase of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was a no-brainer. If you’re interested in picking up a current fighting game and passed on Marvel vs. Capcom 3 the first time around, you’re in for a treat, too. However, if you had your fill of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 months ago, or feel burned about having to pay another $40 on top of the $60 you paid for the arguably incomplete Marvel vs. Capcom 3, then Ultimate isn’t for you.