Note: This article may contain general spoilers for the story mode of Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite. Nothing heavy, but you have been warned.
I once claimed that Street Fighter V was the most disappointing game of 2016, and I stand by that statement. Street Fighter V at launch wasn’t a bad game, and it certainly was another Street Fighter game, just… Like the unenviable musk that lingers around anyone that stands downwind of Zangief, there was an unmistaken stench of exploitation surrounding the entire enterprise. Arcade mode was gone, survival mode was boring (could you please use random select for opponents? Please?), and online versus seemed built for someone that had already picked out a “main” (on day one, apparently). Eventually, we received a full story mode, new fighters (and a few old ones), and at least one character that apparently snuck in from a certain other game. Street Fighter V still comes off as disappointing, but now it at least feels like a complete game (albeit one still made for the more hardcore fans).
When I first started playing Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite while waiting for the complete download to finish, I was already noting why MvCI would inevitably be my most disappointing game of 2017. Admittedly, for my tastes, MvCI had an uphill battle, as Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is one of my top games of all time. And, if that game didn’t exist, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 would fill that same space. I’ve loved the Vs. series since Akuma first smacked around Cyclops, and the later entries that seem to include every character ever (except Daredevil) hit every neuron in my brain’s pleasure center like an epileptic Ping-Pong ball. I have videogame attention deficit disorder, and all I want to do is play as every character in every other round. I’m not certain I’ve ever picked the same team in MvC2 twice (except when trying to beat Abyss, then it’s Cable/Mega Man/Cyclops all the way). And MvC3 felt like a game that was built by people that played MvC2 for a decade, made a mental list of everything they’d add if they could, and then did. Zero! Thor! She-Hulk! Give or take an X-Man or two, that roster is perfect, and the gameplay matches it. And it’s even fairly balanced! No more Sentinel/Magneto/Storm defeating everybody! Most of the time!
Conversely, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite feels like it was designed by committee. There is not a single Marvel character that did not appear in a movie (or, in Captain Marvel’s case, is about to appear in a movie). The Capcom side isn’t much better, and features three stubbly white guys that have nearly identical facial portraits. We’re chasing power stones, where are the crazy anime characters of Power Stone? Where are my ghost tricks? Where is Ryu (the dragon, not the other one)? Heck, we don’t even have a single Street Fighter that was introduced after 1991. Akuma and Wolverine practically started this franchise, but they’re left behind because I guess the new, edgy version of Bionic Commando is a bigger draw (but not the new, edgy version of Dante, that guy sucks). And, while I know I’m railing at corporate overlords that only deign to make such a game because they have the spare cash from all the successes that are featured in this title (Avengers: The Movie made more money than the GOP of most countries, and I’m sure at least six people bought Dead Rising 4), I’m still more than a little annoyed at how… cheap this all appears. This feels like the most low-rent and recycled the franchise has ever been, and that’s even considering one of the best entries was about 80% recycled content.
And, oh yeah, the graphics suck. They, like, just do. I can’t explain Captain Marvel’s face. I… I don’t want to look at it anymore.
Dammit! Now I’ll never read this article again.
So I was all ready to hate on MvCI as the biggest letdown of the year when, after 40 gigs and 4 hours, the download finally completed (note: despite apparently having downloaded nearly 2 TB of games to my Playstation 4, I still only kill time with Sonic Mania. I will play that game until my eyes fall out of my skull). I could already play with the complete roster in versus mode, but now story and arcade modes were available. Fun fact: arcade mode is nothing, but it at least exists, so it has a leg up over Street Fighter V. And then there was story mode. I wasn’t expecting much, but, since I more or less bought the game “for the story” (it certainly wasn’t just so I could play as Rocket Raccoon [again]), I decided to give it a try.
And damned if that didn’t justify the entire endeavor.
Said it before, and I’ll say it again: There is no way to please fans of a crossover series. “Heroes” are meant to be the heroes of their own stories, and when you group a bunch of main characters together, everyone gets reduced to their component parts. A character that previously led an entire adventure is condensed to being “the smart one” because they solved like one problem without punching in the original tale. And, inevitably, your favorite character is reduced to being practically a sidekick to whoever is arbitrarily chosen as the “real” hero of the piece, and, ugh, did you see how Sora was able to defeat Power Trident Ursula with a stupid lightning spell? Totally non-canon. That would never happen.
And this is all utterly true of Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite. Do big damn heroes get shrunk down to Ant-Man sized roles? Absolutely. Are some more nuanced characters that have been around for literally decades now simply a fleshy conveyance for whatever happens to be their super power? Totally. And do I give a damn? Absolutely not, because they arbitrarily decided to make Mega Man X the focal point of the story. That’s all I need!
Mega Man X has not had a starring adventure since Mega Man X8, a game released in 2004 (approximately eleventy billion years ago). The Mega Man timeline continued from there, but all the trappings of the X universe (Zero having fatally bad days, Blue Ghostie Dr. Light, X moping about every goddamn thing) have been dormant since the Playstation 2 era. While one might already expect X to take center stage when Sigma is half of the bad guy duo, the X trappings of Marvel vs. Capcom infinite are… infinite. This is unmistakably Mega Man X crying about maybe having too much power and taking advice from a surprisingly animated mentor AI. And the final solution to the Sigma Virus is, well, I don’t want to spoil anything, but that’s the kind of Infinity Gauntlet I like to see.
And, man, that might not be astonishing for every fan, but it’s perfect for this fan. I never realized how much I missed the simple trappings of a franchise that barely has a story to begin with, but here I am, grinning ear to ear as Captain America looks to X to save the day. There are little bits that show how much the producers of this game care about the other characters as well (Ryu winding up on a science expedition because he’s Bruce Banner’s life coach is delightful), but the joy of X is unmistakable.
So congratulations, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, you might not be as fun as your predecessors, but you do succeed in making this mega-nerd happy. Capcom did not produce the most disappointing game of 2017. Will this mean good things for the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise in the future? Only the buster on X’s arm knows for sure.
FGC #332 Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite
- System: Playstation 4 for the review, though also available on Xbone and those personal computer thingys.
- Number of players: Two, right? There isn’t a 4 v 4 mode like in the original Marvel vs. Capcom, right? I really need to start paying attention to the menu details if I’m going to write about these games.
- Favorite Character: I love you, X, but you’re not my first pick for a fight. Mayor Mike Haggar takes that distinction, because he is always ready, willing, and able to show you what a pipe is. I kind of naturally gravitate toward the heavies, so I suppose Hulk gets the secondary slot on that team.
- Crossover questions: The finale features Thanos stealing Ryu’s Satsui no Hado in an attempt to use this “otherworldly killing power” to murder Death (the Grim Reaper, not just the concept…. Though also the concept). This is absurd, as everyone knows that even Akuma can’t seem to kill anyone. Gen? Still alive. Gouken? Still alive. M. Bison? Never gonna die. Dude can’t even kill a Mishima, and those guys die every other week. So good luck, Thanos, I’m sure your plan will work just fine.
- Other crossover nonsense: A.I.M.brella is simultaneously the dumbest thing I have ever heard and absolutely perfect for a smooshed Capcom/Marvel universe. Your one stop shop for all your mad science needs!
- If I Ruled the World: I’d like Firebrand to explain the dangers and difficulties of collecting all powerful rocks.
- Diversity Hire: Marvel can brag all they want about making Captain America black, Thor a woman, and Iron Man a black woman, but I notice everybody defaults to “white” for crossover battles. Would Captain America-Falcon have changed a damn thing about this story? No. Is it suspicious that he’s completely absent as even a supporting character? Yes. And I really miss Lady Thor!
- Did you know? According to the Mega Man X manga, X is the only reploid that is capable of crying. Dr. Light is a sadist.
- Would I play again: I’ve barely started playing this. I generally try to let games “digest” before posting a review, but I felt an immediate reaction was appropriate for a game that so immediately surprised me. All that said, I’ll probably be playing this one for a while, “designed by committee” or not. Gotta get the most out of those DLC characters! Sidenote: I’m a monster.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Ex-Mutants for the Sega Genesis. Finally! MvCI was making me hungry for some X-Men! Wait… these are… ex-mutants? What does that mean? Please look forward to finding out!