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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (Playstation 3)

After more than a decade of waiting, two legendary companies have finally teamed-up once again with the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. Like its predecessors, this is an over-the-top melee of video game and comic book characters spanning the library of both companies' glorious history. Most battles consist of three-on-three battles giving players plenty of flexibility in assembling teams while providing plenty of depth. The HD visuals are spectacular with over-the-top scenarios and incredible animations. Extensive online modes, downloadable content and a flurry of unlockable extras adds to the replay value, making Marvel vs. Capcom 3 a deep, engaging fighting title that delivers on the series' potential while extending its legacy.

Rumored for many years among hard-core players, the long-sought third installment in the legendary Marvel vs. Capcom series has finally arrived and it's definitely a worthy successor to the previous titles in terms of gameplay, visuals and depth. It stays true to tradition in many ways, but adds a few new elements to keep things from becoming stale. At the beginning of each battle, players select a team of three different characters, from an extensive roster. There are more than 40 in all, so there are endless combinations that you can try. Assembling your team is a key task since you have to balance out different factors such as strength, ease of use and effectiveness, while also picking characters that match you playing style and technique. As you'd expect, each player has the ability to perform their standard array of moves, with many of the traditional fighter characters retaining their standard attacks and signature special moves. Players can use a variety of strategic moves such as air-blocking and multiple jumps, counter moves, and dashing. These can be quite effective against enemy attacks but you need to learn the techniques. One key element is knowing exactly when to use these moves which can be tricky. This only comes with practice, but connecting successfully produces some incredible multi-hit combos that can inflict huge amounts of damage on your opponents. In MvC3, timing is a key element that can make a huge difference and learning to use techniques such as frame-counting, recovery moves, air-guards and other techniques shows the game has plenty of depth underneath its flash.

As in the earlier games, MvC3's over-the-top battles unfold at a blistering pace, so you'll need incredibly fast reflexes in order to win, but there are many strategic elements that make this much more than a standard button masher. As you perform attacks, your character's Hyper Combo gauge increases, and once it fills, you can then perform super attacks, which can inflict an incredible amount of damage on your opponent. The power gauge can be filled up with multiple levels, and building these up to the maximum of five is an effective strategy. Using these at just the right moment, you can definitely take opponents' life down significantly if they aren't blocking. In defensive mode, you can guard against attacks in several ways and perform counter moves when you successfully block an attack. Your character can also call on his two team-mates for assists at some point during the game, but in MvC 3, you have to be careful not to get hit when they're on the screen, since both characters can take damage simultaneously, which can devastate your team's chances. Making the gameplay even deeper is its reliance on teams and co-operation between the characters. Balancing out their strengths and weaknesses, choosing which order they'll fight in while also considering the makeup of the opposing team makes for an incredibly deep strategic title.

MvC3's collection of characters consists of a wide selection of well-known and obscure fighters with more than 40 playable in all. On the Capcom side, there are traditional ever-green SF characters like Ryu, Chun-Li, and Haggar. There are also popular characters from Darkstalkers including the sexy succubus Morrigan, Felicia and Hsein-ko. More obscure and unexpected characters like Arthur from Ghosts 'n Goblins, Zero from Mega Man, Chris from Resident Evil, Dante and evil Viewtiful Joe are included here as well. The Marvel Universe brings familiar names like Spider-Man, Hulk, Captain America, Wolverine, Thor and Iron Man, plus lesser-known favorites like Storm, Deadpool, Phoenix, and Super Skrull to round out the list. There's also a selection of more powerful sub-boss characters to use, such as Doctor Doom and Most characters are playable from the start, but there are a few unlockable ones available as well, plus bonus characters that can be downloaded from the online store. For such a wide variety of characters and styles, the game remains remarkably balanced, but some characters are much easier to use than others, making it a challenge to learn each one. Additional bonuses, such as extra endings and costumes give players motivation to play through each one. Learning their moves can be time-consuming, but the depth makes using them that much more rewarding. To give players even more choices, you can select which of their special moves they'll use during battle, which adds to your attack options. The selection of characters is quite appealing, and their varied moves and attacks gives the gameplay plenty of depth and unpredictability.

Several modes of play are available including a standard arcade mode, training and mission modes. The arcade mode unfolds in a traditional mode, as you battle through six matches with other competitors, then face off against the ultimate battle with the end-boss, appropriately Galactus, the world-eating foe who threatens the universe. Its definitely one of the more intimidating battles we've seen in a fighter, and his massive attacks are sure to generate frustration early on. The good news is that once you get the hang of dodging his attack beams, its usually a matter of waiting him out The first few times you'll face him are almost guaranteed to result in frustration and this is typical of recent Capcom fighters. However, the arcade mode offers loads of challenge before this as well, so you burnish your skills before you have to face off against him. The training mode is exactly what it says and allows you to practice performing moves and timing. There's also an interesting Mission mode, where you have to perform certain moves on each stage in order to unlock extra content and earn bonuses. As you complete each mini-game, more will be unlocked. In addition, there's a mission for each character in the game, which means it will take some time to complete this mode. Multiplayer options are also available, which means you can battle someone at the same time on your console, or connect online to compete in ranking matches. A warning though, you'll definitely need to have very good skills if you want to show yourself online, since not doing so usually results in quick ends to your matches online. Setting up the matches and tournaments was a relatively simple task and most players will probably be able to find a matching player, set up their game and get off and running relatively quickly. While playing against an opponent online isn't quite the same as someone in the same room, its definitely a challenge to move up the rankings in this mode.

As you'd expect, the controls are tight and responsive, and most players familiar with the Capcom style should be right at home. The commands and structure of moves should be second nature to most fans by now, and those with joysticks will be happy to learn that the game has been mapped effectively in terms of button placement. You can definitely pull of the familiar moves with ease, while performing the Hyper Combos isn't terribly difficult. This is definitely a game that rewards practice and skill, but players will also have fun unleashing each character's powerful attacks, which can be surprisingly satisfying if you know what you're doing. MvC 3 is definitely aimed at the hardcore player and there's little doubt that most players will have a great time, with the game. It definitely lives up to its legacy. While it's aimed at the primarily hardcore gamer, Capcom has also made a small concession to casual players with its simple control scheme, where a single button press, or a button pressed repeatedly unleashes Hyper Combo Attacks. This makes the gameplay instantly accessible, but the game loses some of its challenge and depth in the process, since some of the more advanced combos and move strings aren't available. While you can unleash a lot of power using these moves, there's a great loss of nuance and strategy. Playing with the standard controls using either the standard controller offers a decent experience, but when playing with an arcade stick, the gameplay truly comes alive and this is where MvC3 really shines. Its definitely one of the smoothest-playing and best-feeling fighters on the market, though its hyper-speed and somewhat frenetic gameplay means it's a little more tilted towards quick reaction than SFIV and SSFIV, placing it a shade below those titles in terms of overall feel.

MvC3 is a superb-looking game which mixes 3D rendered characters with a decidedly classic 2D approach to fighting. This mirrors the approach seen in SFIV last year, but the more comic-styling means that MvC3 doesn't look quite as realistic or gritty. There are some end-moves which take the action out of the usual side-view camera angle, but these don't interfere with the primarily 2D gameplay. In this respect, MvC 3 doesn't go quite as far into the 3D realm as Super Street Fighter IV does. This approach is effective because its brightly colored combatants fill the screen with brilliantly realized animation and fluid movements. One of the things you'll immediately notice is the speed at which battles occur, which makes the game loads of fun to look at, though occasionally the ferocity of battle can be a little bit overwhelming The renders are fairly good by today's standards, with some finishing animations and moves that brilliantly brings the battles to life vivid fashion. The comic book inspired backdrops are quite cool and Capcom fans will find a number of familiar and fun areas from classic games recreated while Marvel's Universe is aptly represented with some key memorable locations here which should excite followers of both companies. The game's voice-overs are fairly decent and its soundtrack, while nothing spectacular, does a good job in accompanying the action. It's a fantastic looking title that enhances the arcade-roots of the franchise, while brining the overall visual quality up to HD standards.

The recent SFIV revival set the stage for this series' comeback as well, and while both titles share some similarities, MvC 3's faster gameplay, more elaborate combo moves, co-operative gameplay and over-the-top animations give it a much different feel. It's a much flashier and more accessible game, with its one-button simple controls offering an easy way in for new players. However, the depth it offers comes when you delve deeper and find out the multiple strategies for each character and the huge variety in team composition offered. The appealing cast of playable characters allows plenty of entertainment value as you face off against popular figures from the comic and gaming realms. You definitely won't be bored as you fight your way to the final battle. Its multiple modes of play, piles of unlockable and downloadable content and challenging gameplay make MvC 3 a deep fighter that rewards continued play while not intimidating new players. Marvel vs. Capcom 3's high quality and deep gameplay delivers an engaging and entertaining gameplay experience that rewards both new players and veterans alike.

- Michael Palisano 

Grade: B+

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