Why is it on this list?
So far, all the games I’ve used to define gaming have been predominantly single player experiences. Yes, Gitaroo-Man had a two player mode, and, technically, you could consider the “score” elements (item acquisition percentage, speed involved, damage incurred) of the previous games to be competitive, but, by and large, these are games meant to be enjoyed by a solitary person gradually being absorbed by a hungry couch. Sometimes, though, that couch hungers for more souls, and two player games are there to sate that desire. Pong, widely believed to be the first video game, was a two player competitive experience, and it’s only natural that much of its progeny follows the same template. Man versus man is going to be more interesting than man vs. machine most days, and what better way to highlight that fact than with a homicidal raccoon versus a hulking zombie?
Can’t I just compete through Ultimate Frisbee instead?
In the man v. man world of competition, video games are, at their core, just a complex set of rules for a game. Consider the difference between a “complex” board game like Monopoly and your average Mario Party installment: both are, at their core, the same kind of “game”, but one allows for so much more complicated (and fun!) distractions. There’s no way you could ever play a game of Risk where you settled disputes by springing up and organizing an impromptu round of finger football, but that’s basically what you do every round in Rampart. Video games, with the programmer working as inventor, organizer, and referee all in one, allow for much more complex play experiences than anything available in the real world (unless you have amazingly cooperative friends).
You could toss on some gloves and box with your buddy, or get into a fistfight if everybody is receptive to the whole “losing a few teeth” thing, but you’re still going to get a more interesting experience when you’re pitting the Master of Magnetism against the Reploid. This is a fighting game, but that genre left behind the trappings of a simple fist to the face right around the time that dude in the bandana starting hurling chi balls across the dojo. And that’s even before you get into the fact that a significant chunk of the cast isn’t even human. Yes, it’s not as fun as growing wings of you own and assaulting a colleague with a dive bomb attack of your own devising, but until genetic manipulation finally grants us dominance over birds, it will have to do.
So why this game? Why not Ultimate Frisbee Pro 2099?
The most obvious example of a competitive video game for a lot of people would be a simple, actual sports game. People understand sports, and people understand grandslamming that puck past the three-point line and into the endzone (did I get that right?). But video game sports, try as they might, aren’t anywhere near the actual experience they’re emulating. No, I’m not lamenting the lack of body odor involved in (most) video games, or that special runner’s high you can only get from towing a basketball the proper number of meters (not really a sports guy, sorry); what I’m talking about is that, by definition, a video game is merely an abstraction of a real physical activity. You’re not throwing a football, you’re pressing the X button. Hell, you’re not even just pressing the X button, you’re pressing the X button at the right time, the right number of times, and while aiming the analog stick in the right direction. This is what video games are, and I’m not disparaging sports games for being sports games, simply stating that turning a simple throwing motion into a series of rigidly defined button presses is maybe not the best way to endear someone to the medium.
And, incidentally, this is what made Wii Sports such a perennial hit: a “bowling motion” actually allowed you to bowl, as opposed to having to properly line up some abstract meter. And Wii Sports would be a great introduction to gaming if only another game in the last decade actually emulated what was so great about it. Alas.
Like proper sports games (fighting is a sport!), Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is an abstraction of a real dog god battling an intergalactic murderess. You can no more throw a punch in reality and get a reaction from your digital avatar than slap a puck at your television and expect your virtual goalie to move accordingly. But here, with the pomp and craziness of the UMvC3 universe, you’re already in a “weird” environment, so it’s a lot more conducive to learning the “new” controls demanded of you. You can easily throw a ball in real life, but you can’t hurl a fireball, so there’s less of a disparity between the “advantages” of reality and the video game universe.
But you’ve still gotta learn all those super moves, right?
And that leads to the other reason I chose Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3: it’s kinda easy. No, I don’t mean it’s easier to beat an AI opponent than any other fighting game, what I mean is that about 90% of the roster has super moves based on variations on a simple quarter circle controller movement, or, put simply, “the fireball motion”. Punch, kick, jump, it’s all in your mind and at the push of a button; but with a little extra effort (but not too much effort), you can summon punishing lightning showers or unflinching zombie hordes. And the combos, an essential piece of any fighting game, are not as demanding as some franchises, but are still spectacular to behold. With just a little practice, the average player can graduate from frantic button mashing to more nuanced combat techniques. It won’t happen immediately, but video games are about improving, and UMvC3 is here to provide a plethora of “easy to learn, fun to master” options.
Aren’t there other “simple” fighting games out there?
Probably, but they don’t have Tron Bonne fighting Iron Fist. Yes, half the roster was birthed of Capcom video game hits, but the other half should be very familiar to anyone that has opened their eyes in the last decade. Let’s see here… including upcoming features, it appears that the only heroes on the Marvel side that haven’t hit the big screen are… Nova, She-Hulk, and X-23. So if you ever watched Thor, Iron Man, or Wolverine, and thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to be that guy?” Then congratulations, your wish is granted, and you can be all three at the same time.
This is not to discount the Capcom side, though, as half the fun of those guys is seeing someone interesting and then being inspired to explore their origins. Zero already appeared in one Gaming Five entry, but the rest of the gang are eclectic beyond belief, and you will get a very different experience between exploring the origins of Frank West or Mike Haggar. If part of the qualifications for these games is to create a desire to play more video games, you really can’t go wrong with a game that dares you to discover Trish’s deal.
It’s a fighting game, it’s a history of Capcom, it’s a perfect game for beginners, and it’s a wonderful way to battle it out with your friends. It’s not just a good choice for someone to learn about video games, it’s one of the Ultimates.
The Gaming 5 #4 Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
- System: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Vita. But it’s not available digitally, because licensing is a scourge.
- Number of players: Two. That… was kind of the point.
- What about One Player Mode: It’s a great way to practice against an AI opponent, and you do have to do it at least once to battle the one and only Galactus. It’s kind of amazing that this is the only game where I feel like his might was properly utilized (Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is second place… and then nothing). Galactus is a gigantic purple clad “man” in a skirt who wants to devour the Earth: how is he not the final boss of every Marvel game?
- It can’t be all good: Oh, so, despite having a team of three, every run through One Player Mode only unlocks one character’s ending? And it’s just the character that landed the final blow, so if Phoenix got chumped on a bad hit, I’m out of luck? Thanks a lot, guys.
- Favorite Character: The fact that Tron Bonne made it back into the fold made my bitter, twisted heart grow three sizes. I missed Mega Man Legends on its initial release, so Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was my first introduction to Ms. Tron and her adorable servbots. I still remember a friend and I trying to figure out her deal from her moveset. She throws a rock… is she related to Guts Man?
- Did you know? Of the original, pre-Ultimate MvC3 lineup, the only character without any form of action figure/model merchandise was Mike Hagger (if you consider Sir Arthur and Maximo to be the same character… which I do for merch). With the Ultimate crowd added, there’s Red Arremer/Firebrand and, I believe, Frank West. Amusingly enough, Strider had an action figure for… Mavel vs. Capcom (he fought Spider-Man!).
- Would I play again: Yes. Granted, I’ve logged more hours in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 by virtue of existing longer, but UMvC3 is my go-to for fighting games with friends, so it sees play pretty often. Incidentally, MvC2 might have made this list if it wasn’t balanced about as poorly as a match between a towering mutant hunter and a kitty cat.
What’s next? Mother’s Day. Please look forward to it!