I have mixed feelings about the recent release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. Every time I select my three-person team I'm instantly reminded of all the good times I had with the Dreamcast title. For a while I lost hope, resigned to the sad reality that tricky licensing would keep me from seeing Ryu kick Wolverine's butt again. But I was wrong. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is finally here and I couldn't be more excited. So why is it sitting on my shelf collecting dust after only a week?
Even by my ridiculously high expectations, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a triumph. Oh sure, I take issue with some of the casting choices (did we really need three Resident Evil characters?) and I would have preferred dedicated kick buttons, but it's just
Marvel vs. Capcom 3 features 3 Resident Evil characters, yet not one of them is Nemesis!
as over-the-top as I had hoped for. And it's unrelenting. The game never lets up; pounding players with some of the craziest animations I've ever seen in a video game.
Yet, despite all of these nice things I have to say about it, there's something keeping me from putting more time into Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It's not for a lack of characters
Mortal Kombat may not have been the first fighting game with unlockable characters, but it's definitely the bloodiest!
to learn or movies to unlock. It's not because I've grown out of fighting games. No, it's none of those reasons. It's because there's absolutely nothing to do.
It used to be that a fighting game would come with some artificial reason to keep you playing. Often it was the promise of unlocking hidden characters by jumping through a series of hoops with different combatants. Tekken
It's just not the same without Strider Hiryu holding this ragtag group of fighters together!
pioneered this, locking away half of the cast and requiring dozens of play-throughs in order to see the full roster. This is a tactic seen as recently as Street Fighter IV, the game that kick started the recent fighting game resurgence. But for whatever reason, this is an element that has been stripped from modern fighters.
In Marvel vs. Capcom 3, players have the ability to unlock four different characters -- Akuma, Sentinel, Hsien-Ko and Taskmaster. But don't get too excited, because all four are unlocked the moment you beat the game. You don't even need to beat the game four times; all it takes is once through (on any difficulty). Complete
this simple task and you have control of all 36 characters, giving you an almost overwhelming amount of choices for your three-person team.
That's not how it worked in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on the Dreamcast. Part of what made it so much fun was earning points by simply playing the game. No matter if you were beating the final boss or challenging your friend, you were always earning points that could be used to unlock new characters and stages. Even if you already knew the full roster, it still gave solo players a goal to meet.
Unfortunately Capcom decided to strip this out of the Xbox Live Arcade port of Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Right from the get-go, all 56 fighters are ready to fight. It gave me no
For some strange reason, Capcom decided to take the movie archive out of Super Street Fighter IV!
incentive to play the game. I could go through the brief story mode and try my luck online, but that's about all there was for me. And just like that, I stopped playing Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on the Xbox Live Arcade.
The same thing happened with Super Street Fighter IV. This budget title went the Marvel vs. Capcom 2 route, unlocking all character right out of the gate. It offered all of the bells and whistles you would expect from a Capcom fighting game (arcade mode, training, online, etc.), but nothing for a single player. There was no reason for me to keep playing, and so I quickly lost interest and left it collect dust on the shelf. I fear Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is next.
Believe it or not, there's a genuinely good reason why game companies should lock some of these characters away. Beyond the carrot and the stick argument, it's wise to
The EVO kids may disagree, but I'm confident we can come up with some sort of compromise!
limit the amount of fighters you have from the start. That way new fans can pick up the basics and feel a sense of accomplishment along the way. It also forces players to experiment with different fighters, something they may not do if all of the characters are available to them.
Sadly I hear my peers excited that they no longer have to unlock the best characters. The Giant Bomb crew has repeatedly praised Capcom's decision, going as far as to say that it was one of the worst part of the classic fighting games. These days it feels like I'm taking the unpopular stance, forced to defend one of the best things about console fighting games.
I am sympathetic to the type of gamer who buys Marvel vs. Capcom 3 so he can play it with his
Do you remember the 100+ characters you could win in Tobal 2's epic quest mode? Oh, you don't? Then never mind!
friends. There's nothing worse than having a game party and realizing that half the cast is tucked away. You don't always have time to unlock a dozen characters, sometimes you just want to kick your friend's ass.
I propose a compromise: Unlock every character for multiplayer purposes, but keep them locked for players going for the single-player story. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 may not have much of a story, but watching all 36 endings is an obtainable goal. Unlocking characters along the way would make the experience more rewarding, while also forcing me to try out fighters I might have otherwise overlooked.
Capcom has figured out how to create the most beautiful fighting games of all time. They control well, offer amazing characters and over-the-top action. They are some of my favorite games. But in all this time, the company hasn't been able to figure out how to make a compelling single player experience.