The lights are on
When the first iteration of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 finally released, it was a condensed, yet thrilling experience. Although there weren't as many characters or additional modes as players usually expected, I still enjoyed the game's visual overhaul and top-notch game play. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a title that, by name alone, seems to rectify the flaws of the previous game. However, just like the countless versions of popular Street Fighter titles that Capcom's known for pimping out for easy profits, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 hardly feels "ultimate" at all to those already familiar with the previous game.
Let's start with the most obvious selling-point: new characters. Players might remember that the previous offering had about thirty-six. Adding 12 new characters - in addition to a couple DLC characters- makes the roster of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 a clean fifty, neatly divided by the universe they appear in. These characters are also just as enjoyably in-depth - and in the case of Phoenix Wright, unusual- as those that already appeared in MvC3.
So, what's so special about these new characters, then? Well, we have Nemesis, whose slow gait is well-compensated by ridiculous strength and visceral hyper combos. The return of Strider Hiryu, one of my favorite characters in the series, is also welcome. While not the strongest fighter, Hiryu's speed can pile on the damage and easily set enemies up for heavy-hitting tag-in hyper moves. Firebrand, on the other hand, has a useful mix of flying and projectile attacks - especially Luminous Body, which increases his overall speed and can be used in conjunction with his other Hyper moves. Hawkeye's one of the more balanced characters, with incredibly useful ranged attacks that also inflict decent damage - and in some cases, increase the chances of hitting fast opponents.
There's also some nice little improvements that most players won't notice, like moves that might have been a little overpowered being balanced out by reducing damage or increasing range. A new move or two has also been added to some characters, while things as simple as mashing buttons during hyper combos can now increase the number of hits. These, along with a bevvy of other minor tweaks, refine the gameplay. Yet, they really don't innovate much further.
The new levels are illustrated beautifully and successfully capture themes of the respective characters and universe. The ethereal Asgard level glimmers with vivid gold highlights amid a calm turquoise and cyan background, while another level has players fighting while Sentinels loom in a ravaged city. Others have a stark monochromatic palette that emphasizes the colors used in the players onscreen. While these, and some other visual updates are all nice, they fail to constitute more than a passing glance to those who purchased the first.
There aren't many new modes that merit this version of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 being anything other than a collection of expansion packs. While Spectator allows you to watch players compete with each other online, Galactus mode allows you to assume the role of the infamous boss, which, due to poor AI and execution, is a lot more boring than it sounds on paper. The free Heroes and Heralds mode DLC allows players to create a deck of three cards, out of over a hundred and pick a side; either a "Hero", or a "Herald" (Galactus' stool pigeons, essentially). The cards chosen can then be equipped to characters to give them new powers or abilities over their enemies - this, naturally, can be done by the opposition as well, spicing up battles with some unexpected and surprisingly entertaining results. While not destined to become the next TCG phenomenon, it still suffices as a modest distraction. It's unfortunate that this wasn't included - along with Jill and Shuma Gorath- in the first place.
In conclusion, while Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is still a stupendous game, it doesn't deserve the title it's been given. It makes more sense as an expansion pack than a standalone game, and has little to offer those who've bought the first game, aside from an increased roster and a few unimpressive new additions to MvC3's game modes. If you haven't purchased the first or don't mind paying up for so little, then by all means, treat yourself. It's still a great experience. Otherwise, avoid.
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