Ever since receiving a Sega Mega Drive for Christmas some 20-odd years ago, I’ve been a fighting game fan.
From popular franchises such as Street Fighter, Tekken and Virtua Fighter, to the more obscure ones such as Eternal Champions, Primal Rage and Bloody Roar; if you name it, I’ve probably played it. These days though, I find their appeal slowly slipping away, mainly due to the emphasis they place on their online components. Sure, I enjoy the odd online scrap with a friend, but unfortunately I don’t have the time or inclination to learn the minor intricacies of most titles in order to enjoyably play at a competitive level with strangers. The one title I have been able to fully get on board with in recent years however, is 2011’s Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3.
This enhanced version of Marvel vs Capcom 3, which also released the same year – much to the anguish of fans – still has online play as one of its main components, but it’s the huge roster of characters, flashy gameplay and engaging Heroes and Heralds that makes Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 an absorbing play even for the offline-only player. Now just over five years old though, unless you still have your dusty last-generation console hooked up to play it, you’re out of luck if you want a similar fighting experience on more modern hardware. Or you were. You see, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 has now been remastered and re-released on PS4 at a budget price, with a Xbox One and PC release planned for March 2017, and it’s every bit as good as it’s ever been.
It’s a simple port, essentially. Jill Valentine and Shuma-Gorath, characters that were previously available as DLC have been included, but other than that it’s just a case of improving the resolution and smoothing out the framerate. In all honesty though, that’s all I expected to be done. Each one of Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3’s 50 playable characters is wonderfully created and animated, and though you can tell that their roots are in the last generation, they still impress with their design and fluidity. The environments fare even better; full of life and colour, they never fail to provide an impressive backdrop to the ridiculous fighting action that occurs in the foreground. It may be a game that’s over five years old, but it never really looks or feels like it, especially with its load-times that have also been dramatically reduced.
The combination of improved image quality, 60fps presentation and lightning quick load times culminate to make the gameplay of Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 simply better than ever. Perhaps the definition of a fighting game that’s easy to pick up but difficult to master; those that play simply for fun will have their eyes melted by the overblown theatrics of it all, as combos give way to showy special moves and then ostentatious hyper combos with very little effort. Competitive players will just enjoy that the action remains silky smooth at all times, ensuring that their victories and losses feel fair no matter which stage they find themselves fighting on. Well, as fair as they can be anyway. I’ve always found Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 to be rather unbalanced, with some characters having notably superior move sets to others. I can’t say that it’s an issue that has been resolved with this remaster.
Balancing issues aside, however, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 is a fighting game that is all too easy to get absorbed in. Finding your favourite trio of characters to play as from the wide range of popular Marvel and Capcom heroes and villains available will be your first task, and it may be a lengthy one. From Devil May Cry’s hot-headed Dante, to Ghost Rider, the anti-hero whose head is literally on fire, chances are you’ll be spoilt for choice as to who’ll feature in your prominent “menage à trois”. You could attempt to complete the trials for each available character to help you decide, or test them out in training mode. Some players may prefer to just jump right into arcade mode or take the action online in either player or ranked matches. How you play is up to you, but thanks to the sheer number of characters on offer and how you can tweak how they assist you in battle, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 has a lot of long-term appeal.
Perhaps the most intriguing and engrossing of Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3’s modes however, is Heroes and Heralds. Playable both online and offline, Heroes and Heralds has you choosing to side with the former or latter faction before fighting for dominance. When played online it’s a weekly affair, asking you to fight a succession of battles for your chosen faction until the end of that week’s war and then rewarding you for your efforts based on your performance. Offline, Heroes and Heralds works a little differently. You still choose between factions, but, unlike when playing online, you’re not tied into your choice on a weekly basis, enabling you to switch sides at will. Additionally, you choose your battles, fighting to gain territory on the game’s many stages. No matter how you play Heroes and Heralds though, what keeps you addicted is its deck system, allowing you to customise the abilities of your team. Any three cards in your possession can be chosen to create a deck, but to get the best cards you’re going to need to perform admirably and put the effort in. It’s a hook that once has you caught, will have you playing until the wee hours pursuing the best deck available.
On the whole then, whilst it is just a simple port, there’s no doubt that this is the best version of Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 available. It still has the issues that it always has, such as being unbalanced and having what has got to be one of the most aggravating final bosses in a fighting game ever, but the sharper visuals, improved performance and snappier load times more than make up for it. If you’re a fan of the game and own a PS4 then you owe it to yourself to get it downloaded, pronto. Those new to the series should seriously consider it too. With its bargain price, it offers a unique balls-to-the-wall fighting game experience that never fails to entertain, without doing too much damage to the bank balance.