Monday, April 11, 2011

marvel vs. capcom 3

i play a lot of videogames, blah blah blah, refined tastes derp derp derp, specific things I like, snob snob snob. I tend to gravitate towards games that elevate the medium to the artistic standard that we hold books and movies. Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, Uncharted and Heavy Rain are some of my current-gen favorites, and they all deliberately blur the line between cinema and game, but more importantly are able to affect major emotional impact in their players. Games don't really do that whole "thing" are less likely candidates for me. Fighting games are kind of a retro thing to me, one of the last "pure" games in an industry where campaign is necessary. They are kind of like the cover shooters of the 90s. I stopped playing them a long time ago because I was never really good at them. Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat were the only ones I tried in their prime, and I never actually bought myself a copy of either because I spent most of my childhood alone. I did, however, download Marvel vs Capcom in my adolescence. This was a product of my then-budding (and still-budding really) Spider-Man fandom. I rented one of the Spider-Man games for the Sega when I was little, and my entire interest in the character started there, and not a more likely place like TV or comics. So when I played MvC, I wasn't; I was playing Spider-Man vs everyone. From there I was able to develop some competence with the Street Fighter Alpha engine (on which the whole MvC series is based, except for 3), learn a combo or two and beat the single-player mode. I did not really like the changes they made for MvC2, which was really frantic and hectic and did not put as much emphasis on player performance as it did assists and special moves. I knew Capcom would probably continue to make entires to the series, but what remained to be seen was whether they would continue with the changes they made for 2, and thus continue to make it a game I didn't like. Thankfully, they didn't do that. They've certainly departed from their formula and made it console-accessible, but they've made a dang-fine game.

First of all, you need to know something. If you try to play this and control it like you have every other fighting game ever, you will be really really frustrated at first. I tried buttons and did combos as I remembered them, but nothing worked. It took me a long time to learn the controls, and the normal "press every button a few times" way of learning controls simply did not work. If you try that, you will fail. I really tried to apply some logic and reasoning to figure out just how these controls were laid out, but I couldn't. Open up the manual, and rewire your brain. Trust me. Once you do that, you're golden. This game, like MvC2, does not use the standard arcade-style "3 punch buttons, 3 kick buttons" scheme. And, honestly, this is probably really forward-thinking of Capcom. I don't like it because I'm not familiar with it, but Capcom has to know that arcades aren't coming back, and if fighting games want to survive, something has to be done about mapping controls to 4 face buttons and 4 shoulder buttons. 6 buttons just don't translate well to it. What you get now are 3 all-purpose attack buttons: light, medium and heavy, and then a "special" attack button which is usually an uppercut for launching. Whether each one is a kick or punch is decided by Capcom, who translated the original characters' schemes well, and built their new characters' schemes from the ground up with the new mentality. You can tell that Spider-Man and Chun-Li's buttons are "translated" from the rest of the series where Dante and Chris have the pseudo-advantage of being built this way. It's almost never a problem to re-learn your favorite character, and only takes a second. My combos for Spidey and Wolverine still work and after only a few hours with the game I was using everyone the same without an "old character" template and "new character" template in my head. Control feels natural, and honestly I'm really glad that if 6-button control has to go, they've at least found an alternative.

Fighting seems haphazard at first. When you first try it, you will frequently shout "How did I do that?!". If you're like me and you actually care to know that sort of thing rather than leave it to luck, you can spend a minute or two with the manual and you'll understand it, but if you like doing it mindless, there's room for you too. Gameplay is the same good ol MvC that you know and love, just updated, streamlined, and next-gen'd out. Honestly there's not a whole lot for me to say there, except that it's still MvC. They have added an "X-Factor" in addition to hyper-combos (Shinkuu-Hadoken, Maximum Spider). This grants your character a little extra juice once every fight, at a time of your choosing. It can make for some interesting turns, but it's nothing major. It's still nice to see them adding. You have to choose 3 characters for each round, which kind of upset me when I found out I couldn't change that number. 1 on 1, or 2 on 2 can be really fun as they are not so hectic and to me are a little more intense for that. Maybe they'll update that. This frustrated me, because in every fighting game I've seen, you can pretty much tweak things down to infinitesimal levels, but when I finally actually want to use this kind of feature in a game, it's not included.

Character selection is not nearly as varied as in MvC2. Honestly, for a successor to the series known for its wide range of characters, there's not a whole heckuva lot here. No Virgil, no Venom, no Mega-Man, and an entire catalogue of neglected X-Men. They will be releasing some more, but they cost $5 each. I'm not one to complain about DLC price, but that's just wrong when the cost of  2.5 RockBand songs gets you one character. The ones they've put out aren't even that interesting. At time of writing we have only Shuma-Gorath and Jill Valentine (that's RE5 Jill Valentine). What's just as annoying is how many throwaway characters there are. No disrespect to Capcom for that one, as I'm sure a lot of work went into selecting and developing each, but honestly there's just not a whole lot of drive for me to play as M.O.D.O.K., Tron, a sentinel (a sentinel) or Wesker. I know I can't be expected to love every one of these characters, and that certainly the tastes of every possible player had to be anticipated, but I know I'm not the only one who's thinking this. Everyone knows that including Zero but not Mega-Man is just kind of ... "wait, what?". Honestly it's not hurting me that they left out key characters, but Capcom had to have known we wanted our Venoms. If it's not absent-minded neglect, it's DLC-sploitation. Dude, srsly.

That's a minor complaint, though. For all the ragging I can do, I can't say it's a bad game. In fact, it's a good game. This is one of the first "pure games" in a while that I've genuinely enjoyed. I'm so used to narrative and such that I forgot games could be played 5 minutes at a time like that's how they're meant to be played. I'm not going to be making any long-term switches to that kind of game, as I'll always love narrative, but Capcom has done some fine work.

[Again, sorry about the multiple posts, follower(s). At this point I'm not sure what's doing it.]

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