Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite could end up being a divisive game. Although the Versus series is often seen as a chaotic display of flashes and super moves, it has a surprisingly consistent core. Three-versus-three battles, assists, and a six-button layout have defined the series and for almost two decades have held the attention of a hardcore group of fans. Speaking with representatives from both Marvel and Capcom, the first two of those three core tenants are gone in Infinite, and they wouldn’t confirm the third.

Infinite’s fights are fought two-on-two and without call-in assist attacks, which might make some series fans a bit skeptical. But the move didn’t occur without a lot of consideration. The team at Capcom considered the decision for a long time before settling on two-versus-two for the sake of accessibility. Although frantic combat is core to the series, Director of Production at Capcom Mike Evans wants more casual fans to be able to jump in without being overwhelmed; in Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, each player has to choose three characters from an enormous roster, then choose one of three assists for those characters. In Infinite, you’ll only have to select two characters and one Infinity Stone.

That trade comes with its upsides, even for more seasoned players. For one, you can now instantly swap in characters at any time. You can do this mid-combo, similar to Marvel Vs. Capcom 3’s Team Aerial Combos but faster, and available on the ground as well. Capcom hasn’t nailed down specifics about how often players will be able to swap characters this way, but mentioned the goal is to give combos the freeform feel and endless permutations the series is known for. Having two characters makes this system far more manageable, since players will know for sure which character they’ll be swapping into during their combo, instead of having to memorize their team order.

 

To expand the number of options further, Capcom has removed the old “X-factor” mechanic from Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 and replaced it with six Infinity Stones. This not only hints at some of the potential plot points in the game (since the six stones are a nod to the Infinity Gauntlet), but acts as a way to customize your two-person team. The two Infinity Stones we were shown had "power" and "time" abilities. Power seems to increase the potency of each attack and could potentially offer new super abilities while active, while Time allows players to dodge moves and pull off flurries of punches and kicks, increasing combo potential. Each stone will grant one ability that can be activated at any time, and one stronger ability will be more rare (again, the team has yet to work out the specifics of how they will limit this ability). When I brought up Street Fighter V’s V-System as a potential reference point for Infinity Stones, they instead pointed me toward Capcom Vs. SNK 2’s Groove System.

Part of the reason for this new system is an attempt to even the playing field. In the Marvel Vs. Capcom competitive scene, you tend to see a core roster of characters that recur, and many other characters that are left by the wayside. In the game’s early life, some characters were chosen purely for their assist abilities, acting less like actual characters and more like tools. Capcom’s goal with Infinity Stones is for them to work like those throwaway assist characters, making up for the deficiencies of a particular team, enhancing its strong points, and acting a sort of comeback enabler. A Marvel Vs. Capcom game with a balanced roster still sounds like a tall order, but Infinity Stones will hopefully make that task easier.

When I asked them whether the simplified approach to team building also meant fewer buttons to use, Capcom wouldn’t confirm anything. Instead, they told me that they’re hoping to make the game as comfortable to play on a controller as it is on an arcade stick, so newer fans don't feel like they need to purchase the latter to compete.

The last big question for a Marvel Vs. Capcom game is the roster, but Capcom told me at the start of our meeting they wouldn’t be revealing anyone other than the four characters shown in the gameplay trailer shown off at the end of tonight’s Capcom Cup finals (Ryu, Mega Man X, Captain Marvel, and Iron Man). However, they did offer a few details about their direction.

When I asked them about the rumor that the game’s roster would not include as many (or any) characters from the X-Men or Fantastic Four series due film rights issues (the current film series for those franchises are owned by Fox and not Marvel Studios) and would instead favor characters already in the Marvel cinematic universe, Creative Director of Marvel Entertainment Bill Rosemann didn’t tense up the way PR folks tend to when you ask them a difficult question. While Marvel wants to take a forward-thinking stance with the characters they include in the game, he wants to make sure fans of all of Marvel properties, including X-Men, are happy. “That heritage is not lost,” he told me. Not the straight answer I was looking for, but it left me hopeful about my chances of Berserker Barraging people as Wolverine next year.

Rosemann and Executive Producer at Marvel Games Mike Jones also emphasized that they’re looking at this project the way they have all of their recent projects in games, film, and television (Jones brought up Insomniac’s upcoming Spider-Man game and their current run of well-regarded series on Netflix as a reference point). They want to make sure Infinite’s use of the Marvel license is well-earned, and mentioned the game will have a more expansive, cinematic story mode this time around. “We want to make sure this game is dripping with Marvel,” said Rosemann.

I wasn’t able to get my hands on the game itself so I can't speak to how all of the new ideas in Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite come together. That said, the big picture of Infinite sounds like a huge shift for the series. Reducing the character count and removing assists sounds like it could cut down on the flashy, ridiculous fun that has made the series so popular. But while it may not be the comfort food fans are looking for, I prefer that a series known for chaos go for broke when it comes to making changes, rather than play it safe.

Correction: This article previously referred to Bill Rosemann as "Bill Roseman." Game Informer regrets the error.