For the uninitiated, "Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds" is a cartoony, frenetic, horizontal, cartoonish, button-mashing exercise that will tax fingers while featuring fights between Marvel's iconic comic-book characters and those from Capcom's classic series of games from a video-game publisher.
And yes, it is all that -- but it is so much more, as well. Go online and you will find skilled players that take moments to unleash a series of combination attacks certain to decimate those unfamiliar with the pacing, or the control schemes, or the style of side-scrolling combat vehicle presented. There may be times when you find yourself frantically stabbing through, the manual wondering how those amazing combos were pulled off or how your combos were so easily turned aside and the health bar of your fighter went from almost full to nothing inside three rapid blinks of the eyes.
MvC3 is a glorious tribute to a style of arcade game that once dominated the medium that manages still feels fresh and register high on the fun meter. The list of characters is not as deep as in the previous iteration of the franchise (there were more than 50 in MvC2), but those appearing in the third title cross a broad range of character types and fan bases. And in addition to the characters that appear with the retail box, there are also downloadable characters -- with more likely on the way, for a price. From Marvel's stable comes the likes of Captain America, Thor, Wolverine, Phoenix, M.O.D.O.K., Iron Man, Magneto, Hulk, Dormammu, Doctor Doom, Deadpool, X-23, Super-Skrull, Storm, Spider Man, Shuma-Gorath, Sentinel, She-Hulk and Taskmaster; while on the Capcom side players can choose from Akuma, Zero, Albert Wesker, Crimson Viper, Hsien-Ko, Mike Haggar, Viewtiful Joe, Tron Bonne, Trish, Ryu, Morrigan, Nathan Spencer, Jill Valentine, Felicia, Dante, Chun-Li, Chris Redfield, Arthur and Amaterasu. There is a final boss battle as well that features none other than Marvel's world-eating Galactus.
The game features a "simple" control scheme designed to allow those not so familiar with the intricacies of the game to leap in with both feet and do well, though that a bit of a simplistic way to look at it as doing well with the "simple" scheme in no way prepares players for the carnage of multiplayer online gameplay. MvC3 also sports "Missions," which are almost like an extended tutorial, challenging players to perform combos in simplistic arena battle settings. These missions are rather limited in scope and the payoff is not enough to keep players coming back for more. This is, after all, a game that is about fighting, strategy realized on the fly -- as in how to rotate your injured characters to be able to continue through a fight while blocking, countering and unleashing combos as rapidly as possible -- and working your way up the leaderboards.
There are costume changes for characters, so in the 3-on-3 battles, if different players have the same characters on the screen, it is easy to tell who is fighting on which side, and caveats have been paid to some of the games from which a few of the characters originally spawned. Overall, the graphics are first rate, with seamless combat animations and an eye-popping palette of colors that flash and dance across the screen at a sizzling pace. The sound, however, is merely average, and after each fight, a key character will utter the same repetitive catch-phrase that does get tiresome after the third or fourth time, if not sooner.
The game modes feature a limited offline format for those who want to get their chops up and learn how to build the combo meter in order to unleash each of the characters' special -- and devastating -- attacks. Those tired of solo play will find the meat of the game exists in the online battles, entering lobbies to find fights, creating lobbies of their and tourneys, but be forewarned -- if you are a relative "n00b," you will be "pwned" by the players this style of game attracts -- namely those who cut their teeth on the side-scrolling brawler and who race for the "K.O!" signal as quickly as they can. Talking smack sometimes accompanies a particularly nasty beat-down.
"Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds" had a mess of hoops to jump through before becoming a reality, but the end result -- while not really offering much that can be called innovative to the genre -- is a fast-paced bit of eye candy that challenges players new and old alike, is slick and fun in doses and in online play quickly separates the hard-core from the newcomer.