Marvel vs Capcom 3: how about a hug?

, | Game diaries

“After you land, immediately down, down special, cancel with special and — boom! — You’re nine frames up.”

My friend Mike is sitting on the couch beside me while I kill some time in training mode. On “boom”, he slaps the back of his hand into his palm, for emphasis. Mike’s generally quite a bit better than I am at fighting games. He knows the jargon and has a group of dedicated players he talks shop with. He has a big honking arcade stick, and will bring it with him when he knows he’s going to be playing. I always enjoy discussing games with him, but I usually understand, on average, about 60% of what he’s saying.

“If you finish her air combo with her butt splash, you can hit special right when you hit them on the ground. You’ll whiff her tag-out attack just as you hit the ground, so you’ll get the recovery frames and can combo into her super.”

After the jump, maybe you can

The problem isn’t so much that it’s beyond my physical abilities to press the buttons, although at times it feels like it. The problem is that even if I understand the theory, it isn’t something that I’ll ever be able to pull off in the heat of battles. I fully admit that this isn’t a game problem, it’s a me problem.

She-Hulk is very much not my kind of character. Playing She-Hulk properly requires applying pressure, which in fighting game terms means staying in close and constantly attacking so that your opponent is forced to block. She-Hulk’s particular take on the pressure game uses a range of movement options which she can chain out of any number of her attacks, moving around the screen in interesting and surprising ways so that the opponent is always kept guessing which direction she’ll come from next. She doesn’t produce huge combos like Dante, or deal massive damage with each attack like Hulk, but falls somewhere in between. In fighting game jargon, she uses top-downs, cancels and command grabs to catch her opponent off-guard. In terms of real-world fighting styles, you could think maybe of a Mexican luchador, but huge and green, and without a mask.

Ryu’s fireball is the archetypical Street Fighter attack. She-Hulk doesn’t have anything like that, and she doesn’t really have a lot of ways to deal with one when it’s coming her way, either. So, it’s important for her to stay close, where projectiles aren’t as effective. But staying in close and keeping the pressure on an enemy isn’t something I’m good at. I need time to re-set myself after each confrontation, like jousting knights in olden times. The constant attacks and action of close-in fighting makes me lose my head. I can’t keep track of where I am, what my opponent’s doing, and what I should do next for more than a few seconds at a time. So, I’m a poor, poor fit for She-Hulk. Honestly, there little reason that I should be using her at all.

But she’s just so charming. For those unfamiliar with the character, She-Hulk was created in order to stave off possible copyright infringements on the Hulk following the success of the 70’s TV show. After a few years of uninspired super-heroing, she was re-invented with the super-power to break the fourth wall and address the reader directly. So MvC3’s She-Hulk has a sense of humor about herself.

She goes into battle wearing sneakers. Her win quotes talk about her day job. One of her attacks involves a narrowly averted automobile accident, while others generate big block-letter THWAK! word bubbles like the old Batman cartoon. While MvC3 doesn’t take itself all that seriously, many of the characters are painfully “cool” or “badass”. Online play is an endless parade of black and red color palettes, as if players are afraid of color. A little bit of levity is always welcome.

So I can’t find it in myself to give up on She-Hulk. She may not be very good for my win / loss ratio, but she’s great for my enjoyment of the game while I’m losing. And that’s one of the strengths of MvC3, probably one of the most obvious ones. It’s as much about spectacle as it is about gameplay. Which is a good thing, because the gameplay itself can be pretty punishing.

Next Time: you must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance
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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.

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