The fantastic thing about Marvel vs Capcom 3 is that it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Well, that can be said about a lot of fighting games, but Marvel vs Capcom isn’t supposed to. For example, above we can see a dog, who is also the Goddess of the Sun, fighting a giant mutant-killing robot using a rope made of flowers.
I’ll just let that sink in.
After the jump: origin stories
The Marvel vs Capcom series started as a matter of convenience. Capcom had the license to make the fighting games based on the Marvel super heroes, and in classic Capcom fashion, determined that it was cheaper to pad out character rosters by re-using existing character sprites rather than creating new ones. So it was a pretty short leap to combine their multiple fighting game properties into a single mash-up. The first of these bastard offspring was X-men vs Street Fighter, from which it was a short leap to Marvel vs Capcom, which would allow them to trickle in existing assets from their other series. One character, Morrigan, infamously used the exact same sprite for over 6 years, which was only retired when the series made the transition to 3D. But, of course, they still needed to introduce a couple new characters each game, and that way, of course, led to madness.
It can be awkward to convert characters from their original genre into fighting game characters. Being a dog, Amaterasu is significantly smaller than most other characters. Many attacks miss her entirely whether she’s crouching or simply standing. It’s a non-trivial detail, and certain strategies have to be completely re-thought in order to ensure that attacks against her actually connect.
Since her original game included a variety of different equippable weapons, Amaterasu’s moveset is split in between three different stances, each with a different weapon, and each supporting a slightly different style of play. It’s not quite as complicated as it sounds. Dante, another character with similar translation issues, resolves this by having the largest moveset of any character in any Capcom fighting game, each move evoking one of the many different unlockable abilities in his original adventure. Flaming nun-chucks, electric guitars, rocket launchers, demonic transformations, it’s all in there. Dante has a move for every conceivable situation, and one of the major hurdles in using him is understanding what would actually be effective in a given situation, not to mention actually executing it properly.
Complexity isn’t the only outcome. The titular character from Bionic Commando got imported with a sparse, although versatile moveset based purely around his bionic arm. Predictably, it involves a lot of grabbing and punching.
Of course, Marvel Vs. Capcom isn’t the only fighting game series to feature a wide variety of characters. Guilty Gear and its spiritual successor Blazblue are known for rosters that look like an anime character’s fever dream. In Guilty Gear, many characters even have a unique mechanic that accompanies their bizarre appearance. In some regards, the tension comes from the fact that these different characters are basically each playing their own separate game. In comparison, the Marvel vs Capcom characters are all playing the same game, they’re just each breaking a different rule. Some of them can fly, some can teleport, some can dash in the air, some can’t dash at all. Aside from a few special-case gimmicks, you can see a clear chain of mutations that leads from a basic character like Ryu to, say Arthur (double jump, no dash, 50% height, 3 armor states), or MODOK (larger character, flight replaces jump).
But the core language of the game remains the same. The basic grammar of projectiles, attack priority, launchers, and tag-team gameplay are all fundamentally unchanged regardless of who’s playing. You may bring a knife to a gun fight, but at least you know your opponent’s gun will be firing bullets rather than say, vanilla pudding or existential dread.
Charles Wheeler is the satan of martial arts and can survive anything — even nukes. He has been making and writing about games for over ten years. His latest project, The Rules on the Field, is a blog about sports and game design. You can find it here.