Reviewer: Marcus Way
Overall: 8.5 = Excellent
The struggle between Capcom’s and Marvel’s finest has been going on for well over a decade now. Debuting in 1996 with X-Men vs. Street Fighter, the Versus line of tag-team fighters stood out in the saturated genre with its over-the-top action and crossover roster, and it would quickly evolve to include characters from properties throughout both companies’ libraries. The culmination of this expansion was 1998’s Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes, a release that saw such unlikely matchups as Mega Man against War Machine and Captain Commando against Captain America.
Despite the popularity of its follow-up, Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes, and its prominence in tournament circuits since its release, it took nearly 11 years for the series to continue with Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. Oddly enough, Fate of Two Worlds was released only nine months before the seemingly inevitable souped-up re-release, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. With the recent disasters in Japan causing problems with the Capcom’s production schedule, the planned DLC for Fate of Two Worlds was instead collected together and released in a budget retail package that also included gameplay tweaks, new modes, and a handful of additions. The result is an undoubtedly fantastic fighter that sits at an odd crossroad as its speedy launch finds it at risk of being released too soon for both casual fans and hardcore followers.
The most noticeable addition is the expanded roster, with both sides each gaining six new combatants for a total of 48 characters. Team Marvel now hosts Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, Hawkeye, Iron Fist, Nova, and (surprisingly) Rocket Raccoon, while Capcom’s Firebrand, Frank West, Nemesis, Phoenix Wright, Strider, and Vergil join their gaming compatriots. It’s an odd mix that’s fitting for the series, and the fresh blood does wonders to flesh out a roster that was significantly lower than that of its predecessor. However, some of the previously released DLC characters, namely Jill Valentine, have not been included and remain a paid addition. Those that were added have all proven to be worthwhile additions—at least, to this novice—and I enjoyed my time with each one, from Phoenix Wright and his erratic attacks with stationary to Ghost Rider and his very Scorpion-like chain-pull and fire-breath combo. Galactus is even playable offline, for those who want to dish out some screen-filling pain. Several of the characters were also initially listed as fighters in Fate of Two Worlds, making Ultimate feel much more like a definitive release.
Not much in the way of modes has been added, though. There is a free team-versus DLC planned that will pit Earth’s heroes against Galactus’ heralds, but aside from that, fans can enjoy a new six-player Spectator mode for online play, which rectifies a stinging absence from Fate of Two Worlds, eight new stages, and a revamped interface. The gameplay has been tweaked as well, with adjustments to move animations and hit boxes. This presents an interesting situation in that, while $39.99 is more than fair for what’s included, the discount price is not so attractive that casual players will be eager to pony up more after spending $60 on the original and the serious crowd will be discontent with having to purchase a new game to keep up with their competitors. There’s a risk of the player base being both small and incredibly good. Even then, the real winners are still the newcomers who skipped over Fate of Two Worlds. They might face some tough competition, but they’re getting a great deal.
For those who are new to the series, or are just jumping back in now, the core of the game remains the same. Two teams of three are pitted against one another in fast, colorful, and over-the-top bouts. Fighters can be either switched out during matches or simply called upon to lend assistance with one of the chosen pre-selected moves from the character select screen. As the fight progresses, various meters are built up, similar to those found in Street Fighter, allowing for stronger and more cinematic super attacks. A key component of the system is the ability to launch opponents into the sky and jump above the viewing screen, allowing for wild aerial combos and extended juggles that can combine with ground combos for moves that land 50-plus hits. The system is a bit deceptive, however, in that its flashy presentation and three-button layout masks an engine that rewards patience and practice. The modes included to aid in learning the commands is okay, as are the missions that reward successful attempts with new titles and icons for online profiles, but a more in-depth guide would be helpful as the sheer visual zaniness can be overwhelming. It doesn’t take long to come to grips with the basics, especially since the moves are based around the quarter-motion move pioneered in Street Fighter, but it’s also easy to get swept away in lasers that cover entire screens and blinding super moves. On the upside, it’s that very focus on the absurd that will pique interest and keep newcomers glued to their joysticks; plus, it doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the more accessible fighters in recent years.
Also, one last item of note: the Xbox 360 controller is, to put it kindly, not terribly comfortable to use for fighters; we recommend grabbing either a MadCatz FightPad or Tournament Stick, which work great not only with fighters but also with many arcade-oriented releases.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a great fighter that was released at an awkward time. With the original Marvel vs. Capcom 3 less than a year old, many players are either still coming to grips with just how to perfect their game or are burned out on the hyperkinetic combat. For those who have yet to jump on board, however, this serves as a great entry point and will offer up hours of pugilistic enjoyment.
(This review is based on a retail copy provided by the publisher.)