Marvel vs Capcom 3: what I expected

, | Game diaries

Kick it. Kick it. Kick it.

There isn’t any character more associated with the Street Fighter franchise, and by extension Capcom, than Ryu. In a way, he provides the baseline for how the game is played and discussed. The quarter-circle forward is referred to as the “fireball” motion. The forward, down, down-forward motion is usually shorthanded to “Dragon Punch”. Ryu is the archetypical Capcom character. Above, you can see him engaged in the archetypical Marvel vs Capcom 3 activity.

Kicking. For all that Marvel vs Capcom 3 appears to be a game about fireballs, laser beams, and world ending explosions, at its core it’s a game about low kicks.

After the jump: guessing games

The terrible secret of Marvel vs Capcom 3 is that a lot of the flashy moves and animation are really just a distraction. Window dressing that has little, if anything, to do with the actual decisions that are being made by the players. At the core of the game, there are basically only two things that a player has to worry about: getting the first hit, and maximizing damage from that hit. Maximizing the damage is all done before the match by memorizing which combo does the most damage, and when you can use it. It’s the result of hours of experimentation to find the best combo, and then hours of practice to ensure that you can do it on demand. Or, more realistically, reading the strategy guide and watching Youtube videos, because somebody else has already done that work for you.

And this isn’t an unexpected development. It’s a core feature of the game. People talking in the community will refer to a “full combo” as a basic unit of damage that should be expected any time a player gets the advantage in a match. It’s like shooting par in golf. If you can’t pull off the full combo, you’re below the standard. Suddenly, you need to be even better than your opponent at creating openings, because you need that many more to make up for the damage you forfeited. For more experienced players, sometimes it seems like it would save time just to make each hit do as much damage as a full combo and cut out all the flashy theatrics. I’ve heard tell that some tournament players will take their hands off the controls or even stand up and stretch when their opponent starts a particularly lengthy chain.

So, when you’re actually playing the game, the only thing that really matters is how you get the first hit. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of strategy and technique in that first hit. Most of that technique is creating a situation where your opponent either can’t block an attack, or make your opponent guess where the attack is coming from, and hope they guess wrong. The low kick is part of the simplest guessing game there is: high or low.

Next time: This is gonna hurt. How fast are you?
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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.