When Capcom announced plans for "Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3" in July, Fans wondered why the developer saw fit to release another standalone "Marvel Vs. Capcom" title mere months after "Marvel Vs. Capcom 3: Fate Of Two Worlds" hit shelves. After spending an hour getting acquainted with the game -- which goes on sale in November -- it's easy to see why the upcoming installment of the franchise deserves some shelf space alongside its predecessor and why dropping your hard-earned cash on the "Ultimate" fighter might not be such a ridiculous idea.
First and most notable among the big changes in "Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3" is, of course, the new characters joining the franchise roster.
"Capcom has the biggest collection of Doctor Strange fans you will ever see," laughed Capcom Marketing Coordinator Ryan McDougall when asked about the eclectic list of "UMvC3" additions to the pre-existing 38-character roster of "Marvel Vs. Capcom 3." At this point, the new character ranks include "Ghosts & Goblins" villain Firebrand, Strider Hiryu of the "Strider" game franchise and monstrous "Resident Evil" behemoth Nemesis all representing the Capcom half of the equation. In addition to the previously mentioned Master of the Mystic Arts, Marvel characters Hawkeye and Ghost Rider also join the fray in this new installment. Beyond that, the rumored list of characters yet to be announced includes Iron Fist, Rocket Raccoon and Nova from the Marvel side and Frank West ("Dead Rising"), Phoenix Wright ("Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney") and Vergil ("Devil May Cry") rounding out the Capcom contingent.
Still, while the addition of new characters is all well and good, what really sets "Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3" apart from its predecessor is not just what the new characters bring to the game, but what's been tweaked, balanced and otherwise changed since "Marvel Vs. Capcom" was released in February.
For the most part, "Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3" slows down the frantic style of gameplay that was a hallmark of earlier installments of the franchise. While it still plays faster than many of its peers in the fighting-game genre, UMvC3 now feels a bit more welcoming to players who value strategy and character-based strengths over a string of frenzied 72-hit combo maneuvers.
According to McDougall, when it came to consider potential changes to the existing "Marvel Vs. Capcom 3" package, bringing some of the Marvel characters more in line with their comic book source material was near the top of the list. The change is especially evident in characters like Magneto, who had become a popular character to use in up-close melee fashion due to his speed, despite the long list of cool, long-distance powers available to him in the game.
"If you know the comics, you know that's not Magneto's style," said McDougall. "When we saw that he was being used in a way that was so unlike the comics, we wanted to make that change."
To Capcom's credit, playing as the Master of Magnetism in "Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3" feels far more in sync with the character's comic-book roots. The same applies to many of the other comic-book characters making the jump from "Marvel Vs. Capcom 3" to the "Ultimate" version, as well as the game's new additions.
Successful battles as Doctor Strange (who McDougall called a "glass cannon") require the player to attack from afar, setting up mystical traps and planning ahead with the character's long list of powers. On the other hand, new addition Ghost Rider is all chains and flames, combining heaps of power with an aggressive style of gameplay.
Possibly the most tank-like of the bunch, "Resident Evil" experiment-gone-wrong Nemesis is the lumbering equivalent of a tank, complete with a powerful bazooka.
One of the most intriguing of the new additions we had access to was Firebrand, a flying, flame-spewing character that spends most of his time in the air. Taking to the sky is a change-of-pace strategy from other characters, and the bulk of Firebrand's attacks originate from a flying position well above his opponent. McDougall cited this as yet another way "Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3" aligns itself closer with the source material, as anyone who knows the "Ghosts & Goblins"games is probably all-too-familiar with Firebrand's constantly swooping, fireball-shooting attacks.
Another change the "Ultimate" edition brings to the table is a new slate of character-specific interactions and dialogue. In the new version of the game, characters who share some sort of connection in their comic-book lives or general backstories are prone to referencing it before, during or after battle. In one example, cloned mutant X-23 takes a jab at Nemesis by commenting on their shared laboratory origin and informing him -- and we're paraphrasing here -- he's clearly one of the experiments that didn't go well for scientists. In one of our favorite examples, Iron Man asks "Bionic Commando" character Nathan Spencer why he didn't bother buying the whole suit instead of just an arm.
Additionally, when one of the Marvel heroes on the Avengers roster goes up against another Avenger, there's a mention made of their comics connection. The same goes for characters facing off against their arch enemies.
While we didn't see them at work in our demo, other changes McDougall mentioned include a toning-down of one of the game's most powerful characters -- Dark Phoenix. Those familiar with the previous installment know that when a player using Jean Grey stores up enough energy to use the Phoenix Force, it's usually a game-ending maneuver. Like other types of balance issues, the developers tackled this in "Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3" without simply weakening the character. Instead, they've made it more difficult to activate the Dark Phoenix power and also made certain characters capable of depleting the stored-up energy that enables the most powerful moves. We saw this at work with characters like M.O.D.O.K., who is now able to drain all sorts of energies and abilities from his opponents.
According to the Capcom crew, there will also be an entirely new series of ending cinematics for the game's characters and we took a few minutes to check out the brand new "Spectator Mode" that allows players to observe fights happening elsewhere around the world.
However, even with all of these new tweaks, additions and overhauls, the specter of "Marvel Vs. Capcom 3" being released mere months ago has some fans still feeling a bit sour.
Asked how they settled on the decision to make a whole new game out of what was once planned to be a series of downloadable "Marvel Vs. Capcom 3" upgrades, McDougall compared the $40 price point for the "Ultimate" version to the sum total of buying each of the new characters separately as DLC -- a total that would go well above $40. On top of that, the Capcom team reiterated that the sheer number of changes made to the game since February's "Marvel Vs. Capcom 3" effectively make it an entirely new experience -- something CBR News can vouch for after our hands-on time.
While the company certainly has its hands full when it comes to changing skeptics' minds, our time with the demo made it clear that the "entirely new game" hype isn't simply a marketing strategy. Boasting a more welcoming style of gameplay for all types of gamers, closer attention paid to the characters' source material and a long, long list of clever extras added for good measure, "Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3" does indeed feel like a brand new game -- and a very fun one at that.