One of my best gaming memories ever is of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
GemuCon, a convention held for one year only in 2013 (you might know its spiritual successor, CoxCon), had a screen set up in the fighting game room with this colourful screen with superheroes knocking the stuffing out of each other, and it looked great. I had no idea what it was, but it was, sadly, being ignored for the Super Street Fighter IV screen just to the left of it.
So I sat down, plugged in my arcade stick, and began fiddling around with MvC3. It was faster and slightly more daunting than the SSF4 I’d come to play (GemuCon was also my first fighting game tournament, and certainly not the last), but holy crap it was fun. After a while, a guy I didn’t know plonked down next to me, plugged in his stick and we spent what seemed like forever trying out different teams and working out the systems together.
When the convention staff came into the game run to shut it down for the day, me and this absolute stranger were screaming with excitement about ‘team tiny’ – the three smallest characters in a mirror match that took up a tiny portion of the screen. It was hilarious, it was fun, and I still have no clue who I played with. But I loved every second of it.
Since then I’ve loved Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I’m still no good at it four years later, but that’s thanks to the hiatus the game was put on when Disney and Capcom removed the game from all digital platforms at the end of 2013. Fast forward to 2017, and Mahvel’s back, baby with a rerelease for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Although, maybe the time spent away could’ve been put to better use?
I loved every second of it.
UMvC3 is simple enough to understand: two teams of three go head-to-head in a 2D fighter, with a huge emphasis on team synergy, unending combos and screen-filling special attacks. One of the biggest differences for newcomers is the use of only four buttons (low, mid, high, and special) as opposed to the more standard Street Fighter-style six. That doesn’t make the game any simpler though, as learning the idiosyncrasies of three characters and slotting them together to get the best use from them adds a hell of a lot to the strategy.
UMvC3’s biggest strength is by far in its roster.
Or, it would if the game was properly balanced. While you have a few players who’d die for some non-standard team set-ups, generally only a handful of characters are considered remotely viable in even the entry-level competitive scene. Your Dantes, Weskers, Akumas and Doctor Stranges tend to dominate the playing field, while the likes of Hsien-Ko and Pheonix Wright consistently get plastered. While that isn’t a big deal for casual players (a-la Team Tiny, may it never be forgotten), it does make committing to the game the way I did Street Fighter 4 a difficult proposition.
It’s also a massive shame because UMvC3’s biggest strength is by far in its roster. With rumours that the upcoming Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite will be focusing on characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I really appreciate the breadth and depth both the Capcom and Marvel sides went to bring interesting and sometimes obscure fighters to the ring. Rocket Raccoon hadn’t become the superstar he is now when the game first launched, X-23 only just got her big-screen debut, and I still don’t really know who Nova’s supposed to be. Capcom, meanwhile, has old-timers like Strider, Zero and Arthur, to give a bit of history to the whole proceedings. Oh, and this is the best Deadpool you’ll see outside of comics.
Some of the characters introduce really inventive mechanics, too. The best examples being Pheonix Wright, who has to collect evidence during the fight to boost his damage and unlock special abilities and Phoenix (not Wright, the Marvel character), who is meant to fit in with the game’s damage-boosting X Factor system, becoming a terrifying glass cannon when she gets going. Rocket Raccoon has a series of traps he can set to stun the enemy, while Frank West literally uses shopping carts and zombies to his advantage. There’s so much creativity, both in the characters chosen and in how they play.
The arenas are oozing with style. Each one is lovingly crafted, visually stunning, and shows just how much care was taken to put forward the best of both companies’ worlds. My personal favourite is Spiderman’s The Daily Bugle stage, a colourful and dynamic assault of colours. To add to that style is an utterly killer soundtrack full of catchy and intense tunes (although, I will say, the original MvC3’s victory theme is miles better than UMvC3’s).
Unfortunately, the biggest problems with the game are either introduced or exacerbated by the game’s porting from lost-gen systems. On Xbox One and PS4 there is nothing in the way of legacy arcade stick support, which is confusing after both Street Fighter V and Skullgirls both letting you run 360 or PS3 sticks. You’d think a game that was massively popular last generation would let those who’ve not yet updated their controllers get on board, but nope. Nothing. I bought the PS4 version at launch and had to wait for the PC version before even playing it, as I’m total garbage with standard controllers.
The game’s infamously bad netcode also hasn’t been improved in any way in the three-ish years it was away. Online games are difficult to find, and when they are can be laggy as all hell. Characters zip and stutter around the screen, which is murder for a game that requires such precise timings as this. While there are a variety of single-player modes available (take that, launch-day Street Fighter V), competition is at the heart of every fighting game, and if Skullgirls and its lower budget can pull off great netcode, Capcom has zero excuses.
On Xbox One and PS4 there is nothing in the way of legacy arcade stick support.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s rerelease is appreciated, but feels somewhat lazy. There’s no balance fixes, no netcode improvements, and no attempt to add in legacy controller functionality to be seen, making the game, essentially, the exact same as it was the day it was snatched away in 2013.
But that doesn’t make it a bad game. UMvC3 is easily one of my favourite fighting games with its huge and varied cast of characters, frenetic pacing to the battles and a decent spread of single-player modes. If you’re able to play locally with a buddy, or heck, if there’s a local competitive scene where you live, this is a game you’ll definitely want to pick up.
Oh, and Team Tiny is Rocket Raccoon, Arthur and Viewtiful Joe. Let the legacy live on, my friends.
A PlayStation 4 copy was purchased by the reviewer, while a PC version was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
Platform: PC [Reviewed]/PlayStation 4 [Reviewed]/Xbox One/PlayStation 3/Xbox 360
Release date: Out now
- Frantic, visually stunning combat.
- Huge, creative roster.
- Stage design and music are brilliant.
- Unbalanced characters.
- Netcode issues.
- No legacy controller support on modern systems.
One of the fighting game greats is back, but feels slightly rusty from its time away.