Imagine playing a game of Street Fighter where in the middle of the match, you break Ryu’s wrist and he can no longer throw fireballs. This would instantly change the dynamic of the match, as Ryu can no longer keep you at a distance with projectiles. While I’m not actively campaigning for breaking bones to be a feature in the next Street Fighter game, the concept of losing abilities as a fight is happening is a fascinating one. You can already experience this concept in action by playing Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
This is a 3-on-3 fighting game where you actively control one character on screen while the other two characters are waiting off-screen. Having said that, the off-screen characters can affect the game in many different ways. For one, you can tag one of your off-screen characters into the fight to replace the current active character. They can assist your primary character by hopping onto the screen and performing a quick attack before quickly exiting. Off-screen characters can even jump in at once to join the main character for a Team Hyper Combo, a maneuver where every character does their super move at the same time.
Flashy combos are great, but what makes Marvel vs. Capcom tick is the concept of losing options as the battle progresses. In Street Fighter, Ryu will always have the ability to throw a fireball. In Marvel vs. Capcom, Ryu might not be available to you at all if he gets knocked out early. By knocking him out, you lose all of the moves and abilities that made him worthwhile in the first place. It’s not as graphic as breaking someone’s wrist, but it essentially achieves the same effect of reducing your opponent’s ability to fight.
When you think about combat on those terms, it requires a new layer of strategy that normally isn’t present in a fighting game. As soon as you see the team you’re about to face, the first question you should be asking yourself is, “What is the most efficient way to defeat this team?”. Or in more layman’s terms, “What is the quickest way to break this team’s metaphorical neck?”
With experience, this is something you can do with decent accuracy as soon as the versus screen arises. Odds are, if your opponent has Zero in the lead position, you’re going to want to kill him first, as his propensity for one-touch kills could wipe your team out before you get to do anything. Similarly, if you see Phoenix in the anchor position, you’re probably going to want to kill her first, because Phoenix with 5 super bars and level 3 X-Factor is one of the most destructive forces in all of fighting games. Nipping that problem in the bud should not only alleviate that problem, but put your opponents at a huge disadvantage, as the first two characters were likely meant to just be batteries to charge up the super meter.
Otherwise, you’re going to have to be observant during the match. Considering how short a match can be, you need to formulate and execute on a game plan quickly. Pay attention to the synergy created between their characters, such as assist setups that allow their two characters to hit you from different sides, or certain combos that require multiple characters to achieve. Then, think about how you can cut that off. Usually, that means forcing certain characters onto the field and beating them up before your opponent can take advantage of those opportunities, but that in itself can be quite a challenge as well.
The future of Marvel vs. Capcom is murky at best. With Marvel no longer under contract with Capcom, no further copies of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 are being distributed, nor is there a sequel anywhere on the horizon. Though I wouldn’t hold my breath for a future installment, I highly encourage players to give Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 a shot. There’s still an active player base in tournaments and online. Also, the ability to take your opponent’s options away during the battle makes for fights that are interesting in ways that are mostly unique to the Marvel vs. Capcom series.