If I had to describe Marvel vs. Capcom 2 in one word, I think it would be chaotic. With two available partner characters to call at any time and massive beam combos, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is a flurry of flashing lights and brutal turnovers. Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds attempts to simplify… chaos.
Capcom didn’t alter the core. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is still an extremely fast paced 3-on-3 fighting game with partner characters flying in for special attacks. Taking a cue from his work on Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has three basic attacks – light, medium, and heavy. A new button coined "special" launches a character in the air. Once airborne you can continue a combo and switch characters using the special button. You can bounce an opponent against a wall for maximum damage, launch them upwards, or slam them to the ground to instantly fill up one hyper combo gauge. Another player can counter this by inputting the same motion as you, but because there are three directions team assist counters are like a mid-air match of rock-paper-scissors. (As of this writing it seems online players prefer the ground knock.)
While a basic combo string in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was something like: light – heavy – launch – light – heavy – special – hyper combo. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 extends the chain to: light – mid – heavy – launch – light – mid – heavy – team attack – light – mid – team attack – light – mid – special attack – hyper combo.
For newcomers, that looks like a lot of buttons and motions to remember. To make the game more accessible, Capcom created simple mode. This changes the controls to attack (light/mid/heavy), special attack, super move, and launch. So, if you’re playing as Ryu one button throws a Hadoken. Add a direction (but no roll) to do a Shoryuken. Press the super move button and you’ll fire a Shinku Hadoken. Simple mode players sacrifice versatility. Ryu can’t even do a standing Hurricane Kick or his second hyper combo in simple mode. Other characters suffer worse penalties like Deadpool who loses his handy teleport. Getting a set of easy to use attacks by giving up a chunk of a character’s move list, may be one way to explain the tradeoff.
I thought simple mode might encourage players to tryout more characters online, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Encountering rookie characters like M.O.D.O.K., She Hulk, Trish, and Amaterasu are rare online. Almost every character is unlocked when you unwrap Marvel vs. Capcom 3. The four characters you need to play arcade mode to use are (highlight to see the spoiler): Akuma, Hsien Ko, Taskmaster, and Sentinel. With two large universes, I don’t think any realistic crossover roster would satisfy everyone. Some characters may seem out of place because they aren’t usually in the spotlight as much like X-23. I admit I didn’t even know who she was prior to her announcement, but as a newcomer she adds a new flavor to the game with a mix of fast ground and air strikes. X-23’s most basic move is a forward roll with either light, medium, or heavy. The button you press changes the move from a diving slash or a ground skimming attack you need to block low. To my surprise, X-23 manages to keep an opponent guessing in addition to being easy to use.
Wesker may be the master of mind games with fixed teleports. Add a handgun with infinite bullets and you have a character who can attack from any angle. Cammy didn’t make the cut, but Phoenix replaces her Cannon Spikes with flaming tackles. She can also play keep away by flying and piling the screen with slow moving fireballs (or better put fire orbs) and burning shields. Phoenix is a frail character with maybe even less vitality than Akuma. If you have five hyper bars saved up and Phoenix dies she can come back to life as Dark Phoenix who is even more powerful. Amaterasu is another interesting choice. Being shorter than other characters allows her to naturally dodge attacks. Reminiscent of Mega Man, players can switch between three weapons which have their own range and special attacks. The rosary equips Ammy with a whip and ice breath (tap attack to fire more icicles during Cold Star). While slower, the sword deals more damage and gives her a thunder attack. One of Amaterasu’s super move summons the elements and targets practically the whole screen.
Dante has the most special attacks out of any character. Armed with all of his tools from Devil May Cry 3, the devil hunter can fire guns, close distance with stinger, shock an aerial opponent with his guitar, and freeze enemies with an icy spikes. One unique trick Dante has is almost all of his moves can be extended or powered-up by doing the same motion twice during the attack. One move makes Dante create a fire cyclone in the air. Repeat the motion and the flaming tornado takes up the screen. While Dante gets in your face, Dorammu’s game is entirely keep away with teleports and long range magic. He can create black holes and the distance those appear related to him depends on what button you press. These can be traps, but I imagine a good Dorammu player will have to know where an opponent will land. Dorammu can also charge up attacks by adding power to his left and right hands. The amount of power you store changes his specials from a horizontal explosion to a Storm-like fire rain. You’ll have to remember a bunch of commands to use Dorammu effectively.
Returning characters like Ryu, Wolverine, Chun-Li, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Sentinel or Tron Bonne haven’t changed much from Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Newcomers like Haggar and Chris are almost like replacements for absent characters Zangief (with an invincible, but life consuming clothesline) and Cable (with more types of guns).
The X-Factor changes the game for everyone. Once per fight, you can press all four attack buttons for an instant boost. X-Factor increases your speed, health regeneration, and strength of your team. You could activate your X-Factor early and rush an opponent or save it for a comeback if you only have one character left. The effects of the X-Factor last longer if you wait until you have one character to use it. I found it can be helpful to switch characters out when they’re weak either with a team aerial assault or hyper combo chain and then use the X-Factor to quickly restore them to fighting shape. With so many options, it will be interesting to see how players figure out how to best use this feature.
Like all fighting games these days, Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds has online play. However, the feature set compared to other Capcom games like Super Street Fighter IV seems lacking. You can enter eight player lobbies, but you can’t view the current match. Instead you see battling health bars, bouncing back and forth while lobby players hit the shoulder buttons to "cheer" each other on with cartoon text bubbles. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has no replay viewers or team battles either. While you can accept online challenges in arcade mode, the list of options shares more in common with the digital re-release of Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Mission mode, the game’s offline trainer, is barebones, as well.
You don’t have to grind for points to unlock more characters or colors. So, why bother with arcade mode? Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has character specific ending movies. Whoever strikes Galactus, the final boss who takes up one side of the screen, last earns an ending. The endings in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 are filled with references to geek out over. Characters who aren’t playable (typically Marvel characters during a Capcom ending and vice-versa) make an appearance for some hilarious scenes. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there are moments in the endings that will satiate fans of both sides.