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Farewell Marvel Vs Capcom

Nothing is more gratifying than sitting with friends, huddled around a monitor, and spazzing out over who has next on the gaming controller. Video games such as Street Fighter, Smash Bros, Tekken, and Marvel vs. Capcom (MvC) shaped some of the best moments not only in fighting game history but in casual gaming history simply by bringing us together through rivalries, nostalgia, and love for video game lore. I grew up with fighting games for a good portion of my life, and even though I wasn’t old enough for early 90’s Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, I still got to live vicarious fragments of those moments thanks to my uncles during the year 2004.

Heading over to their place was always hype because their friends would come over and go at each other at Marvel vs Capcom 2 (MvC2) and Street Fighter 3rd Strike for hours. I still have vivid memories of myself endlessly laughing at all the shit talking someone my age shouldn’t have been around—especially during the 3rd Strike bouts. When 3rd Strike was on display you automatically knew that it was about to go down.

You can feel the intensity when one guy picked Ken and the other picked Ryu with Akuma’s stage selected. Once the Ken and Ryu special fist bump intro animation happened it was on! Parries, footies, and precise block reads had me on the edge of my seat battle after battle. Not only was it memorizing to me, a kid just getting introduced to high level play, but it inspired a lot of the facets of what I enjoy today. I began to listen to music differently, drawing became an obsession, and my general taste in games got a bit more mature—I’ll never forget begging my mom to buy me Onimusha only to be rejected a hundred times until I was finally old enough to buy it myself. 3rd Strike was my gateway into the fighting game genre, however, Marvel vs Capcom 2 and the series in general truly unraveled a passion and admiration for gaming I would carry over into adulthood.

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I’m gunna take you for a ride!

“I’m gunna take you for a ride!” Hearing those lyrics (arguably one of the most famous lyrics in the industry), while selecting from an array of the most iconic characters ever assembled from both the Marvel and Capcom universe, became the beginning of a kid falling in love with the nuances of fighting games. I know I wasn’t the only one impacted by the opportunity to play against friends with the option of picking a team composed of Spider-Man, Megaman, and Amigo—for better or worse the possibilities of picking odd assortments of characters made the MvC series special and iconic.

The game made famous mechanics such as OTG (off the ground pickups), DHC (delayed hyper combos), and happy birthdays (attacking the point character and assists characters at the same time) into staples in many other fighting games the likes of Capcom vs SNK 2, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle and most notably Dragon Ball Fighterz. The influence MvC had on the genre was profound for many reasons. One of the biggest cultural changes it had was stylistically, games weren’t flashy the way MvC was and it stood out from the other traditional fighters where a slower pace was required as opposed to the frantic offensive approach MvC encouraged.

Watching high level play further exclaimed just how entertaining the game was to play and spectate. However, nothing ever peaked on MvC epic-ness than during Evo (the largest yearly fighting game tournament) 2006, when fighting game legends Justin Wong faced off against Yipes in perhaps the greatest comeback win in MvC2 history. Justin Wong was down to his last character Cyclops in what seemed to be an insurmountable comeback considering he was playing a MvC2 professional in Yipes who still had all his characters (Magneto, Storm, and Psylocke) left. The skill required for Justin to read his opponents attacks, manage a prefect offense, and have the presences of mind to unleash his finishing special attack “optic blast” with seconds left on the clock to defeat Yipes was god like.

That instant also cemented Justin Wong as the greatest MvC2 player in the world. Nothing ever reached the level of hype and greatness than that match and shortly after 2007, MvC2 was rapidly losing it’s audience with the rise of Super Smash Bros Melee and later Street Fighter IV in 2008. The Fighting game Community (FGC) was entering a second renaissance, but not without another MvC installment on the horizon ready to retake the fighting throne as the best crossover series in the genre.

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Pesky Sentinel

I had just graduated high school in the year 2010 and buzz was beginning to develop not only in my friend circle but in the gaming community. Marvel vs Capcom 3 had been announced that summer and the excitement from veterans and newcomers of the series were at seismic levels. There hadn’t been a new MvC game since MvC2 released in 2000 and the competitive MvC2 scene had fully died out by 2008. Not only had it been a full decade since the last MvC game, but it was the first time the series went with fully rendered 3D character models instead of the traditional 2D sprites every iteration had prior to it. Newer Capcom franchises that established their own cult following during MvC2’s life cycle were finally getting representation in MvC3. Popular franchises like Devil May Cry, Okami, Viewtiful Joe, and Bionic Commando (2009) were all getting a representative(s) for the first time in a MvC game and it was glorious—the mix of veteran and first time characters felt just right. MvC3 finally released in 2011 and the aforementioned new renaissance of fighting games felt complete.

Popularity in fighting games were reaching an all time high—tournaments were bigger than ever and streaming was stepping out of it’s infancy stages. Hype wasn’t even the word when my friends and I finally got the game. It was the first time in my life I wanted to become a “Killer” and learn professional strategies along with grasping the overall science of the game. As the game was steadily being discovered people were figuring out that current character properties were a bit cheap. The most infamous of the newly discovered cheap moves was Sentinel’s drone attack and assist. What made the move broken was it’s ability to still remain on screen even if you hit him during the move—essentially you couldn’t get any consistent offense against him because his drones would hit you mid combo no matter what. The out cry from fans to tone him down was impossible for Capcom to ignore and eventually the developers released a patch not only nerfing the move but the character entirely. This was also a reminder that during the generation of MvC3, fighting games didn’t evolve as rapidly until the flexibility of newer hardware (PS3 and Xbox 360) was introduced, allowing patch updates to fix general issues like the Sentinel fiasco.

As the kinks for the game were getting worked out by fan feed back, an unexpected surprise was coming our way regarding MvC3 the very same year it released. Evo 2011 came to a close and Viscant beat out PR Balrog to become the first ever MvC3 Evo champion. Fans still called for more fixes to the game because some stuff still remained cheesy and cheap. Rumors quickly surfaced that a huge update was on the way and a lot of the concerns regarding character balancing were going to get addressed. It was later revealed that it wasn’t necessarily an update that was coming out but a brand new edition of the game named Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 (UMvC3) was on the way, with newly added characters, stages, modes, UI changes, and a roster rebalance all coming later that fall of 2011—my mind was fucking blown away.

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The Crew

Aside from fans clamoring for character balancing, the biggest gripe against original MvC3 was the condensed roster in comparison to the 56 playable characters in MvC2. People wanted more content in general, and Capcom answered brilliantly with what they added in the updated edition in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. The roster bolstered up from a questionable 36 characters to a respectable 48 characters with the inclusion of the 12 new characters added in UMvC3, rectifying the once considered shallow roster. The game also added nine new stages as well as a beautifully designed comic-book-look aesthetic to the main menu and character select screen. The game in general just felt more badass and quite frankly it quickly made vanilla (original) MvC3 obsolete.

All the subtle rework Capcom made to the game added a riveting amount of addiction that very few games of any genre had on players. UMvC3 is the only game I’ve ever played and practice for 10 hours a day against friends. I even had the opportunity to beat three players at a NextLevel tournament held in Queens—I had finally satisfied my delusion of being a “Killer” at a MvC game. On a serious note, no game was more fun to watch nor more hype than UMvC3. The characters all felt so unique and varied, it brought about so many different play styles it made spectating rewarding because new techniques got discovered daily. Even Justin Wong, who is regarded as the best MvC player, stubbornly stuck with a team not considered high tier in Storm, Akuma, and Wolverine because it suited the aggressive style he wanted to play. In turn, Justin once again gave us one of most iconic MvC moments when he beat ChrisG for the UMvC3 championship at Evo 2014.

After dominating the entire life cycle of MvC2 Justin Wong became the face of the franchise, ironically when MvC3 released he struggled to win on the main stage at Evo, placing in the top 8 most times. Justin Wong was still regarded as one of the best players at UMvC3 but he still was looking to win the big prize at Evo. After falling short of winning Evo for three years consecutively, his fortune was finally going to shift his way in 2014. 2014 was said to be the year that ChrisG would win Evo and he was absolutely deserving of the praise by almost destroying every tournament leading up to the main event.

But Justin gave us another classic moment when he beat out ChrisG’s dominate lulling style of play to finally win his first Evo title for UMvC3. It was a pivotal accomplishment because Justin won under his terms of sticking with his team and not resorting to generic top tier characters. At the time it felt like UMvC3 generated the best narratives in the FGC, and nothing seemed to stop the hot streak in popularity it was on except the franchise was going to go through one of the biggest tragedies in modern video game history.

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Had Promise at its Original Release

The Marvel vs Capcom series always represented excellence and is revered as a pioneer for how fighting games are made and played today. Team based fighting game animations, as well as hit box science are now more detailed and in depth than ever before. The FGC is now seven years removed from the release of UMvC3, the FGC has grown substantially and interest in the fighting game genre are becoming a lifestyle with the inception of Esports. Yet, the MvC series didn’t transition well at all, some fans now call it a “dead” franchise with the most recent inclusion in the series, Marvel vs Capcom infinite (MvCi) flopping hard out the gate. MvCi released just last year and we are a couple of weeks away from the one year anniversary. The biggest conundrum with the game was it’s development period and marketing to say the least. The game never looked ready from the initial reveal trailer, it also never accumulated the same interest or hype the way every other game before it generated.

As more information trickled out, some “fans” in the community steadily started to turn on it. The most jarring frustration was the art direction of the game, characters looked out dated and the effort in design looked miserably myopic. It didn’t help that once again Capcom was releasing another MvC game with a lackluster amount of characters this time really cutting down to a staggering 30 characters. The game however did have some ambition with the inclusion of the six infinity stones, each with a unique power and ability. The game also went away from the traditional 3v3 style of fighting to a 2v2 format which emphasized on tagging and synergy between two characters while eliminating the assist function for the first time in franchise history. To be honest it was actually a really fun freaking game!

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Marvel Vs Capcom had infinite possibilities.

The infinite stones created endless setups and gameplay possibilities, the amount of creative freedom given to the players rivaled most fighting games. Gameplay wise, it was top tier stuff, but everything around it from the main menu to the presentation of the game quickly gave it a bad reputation to most fans. The disheartening part was that fans didn’t come together the way they did with vanilla MvC3 when it was facing it’s own fair share of issues, but instead the community divided within each other. In no way am I saying that MvCi is a prefect game, heck, I dislike how boring some of the roster is and it’s unforgivable that the X-Men were cut out, but what if this game was given a second chance? What if this game was given the “Ultimate” style makeover we got when UMvC3 came out?

Unfortunately we might have seen the last of the series and it sucks as a fan that the franchise that inspired so many games the way MvC did had to go like this. As a spectator, it feels awkward and weird that a MvC game doesn’t have a main slot time at Evo anymore, negating what was once an automatic generator for epic tournament play moments. If only we came together as a community the way we did for MvC3 maybe those comic-book-looking aesthetics can give MvCi that breath of fresh air it needs. I’m imagining 12 characters that can easily revitalize the series (Wolverine, Magneto, Cyclops, Psylocke, Deadpool, Ms. Marvel, Asura, Nero, Lady, Akuma, Jill, Amaterasu) the same way UMvC3 gained a jolt when it added its dozen characters. Maybe one day MvCi can live again with a little more love and carry on the proud legacy of the MvC franchise because no hype is like Marvel hype.

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Jeff Crespo

Jeff Crespo

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