Developer: Capcom / Publisher: Capcom / Price: $14.99 / Played on: PlayStation 3 / ESRB: Teen [Violence, Partial Nudity]
It’s kind of hard for me to judge Marvel vs. Capcom Origins without relying on nostalgia. I played the two games it collects— Marvel Super Heroes and Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of the Super Heroes — extensively throughout my formative years, pumping quarter after quarter into the machines at the Broadway Mall on Long Island. As console versions were released, I dutifully bought them and hosted impromptu tournaments with my friends at home. But with seventeen years having passed from Marvel Super Heroes’ arcade debut and this collection’s release on the PSN and XBLA, are the games worth buying again? Yes, but only if you’ve been practicing, or you’re ready to get beat.
Gameplay and Control
For the uninitiated, the two games here are basically riffs on the classic 2D fighter format: each player takes control of a character on a 2D plane and tries to beat the snot out of his or her opponent before time runs out, or before they themselves are snot-beaten. Each game has its own quirks, though, making them stand out as unique in a field of very similar entrants.
Marvel Super Heroes collects a roster of characters from the pages of Marvel Comics, and very loosely ties in with the classic Infinity Gauntlet storyline from the funnybooks. Throughout the course of a match, the six differently powered Infinity Gems periodically drop down from the top of the screen. When collected by a player, each gem can be activated for a different temporary bonus: the Power Gem will increase the damage you deal, the Soul Gem will restore your health for a short while, and so on. Having and using a gem can alter the course of a match pretty quickly, and an unused gem can be knocked out of an opponent’s possession with a knockdown hit. I was pleasantly surprised to rediscover how fun playing with the gems can be. It’s a gameplay mechanic that really spices up the otherwise familiar genre traditions.
Marvel vs. Capcom, on the other hand, feels a tad dated by comparison. The game’s main selling point is the two-on-two fights, with selectable characters from Capcom’s stable of games and their line of Marvel-based fighters. At the time the game was first released, the concept of having a partner jump in and out of play was still pretty novel. By now, though, its relatively small cast of characters and the unavoidable comparison to more recent entrants in Capcom’s Vs. series that it inspired combine to make Marvel vs. Capcom a bit underwhelming. It’s still just as good a game as it ever was, but I found Marvel Super Heroes and its unique Infinity Gem mechanic more intriguing. But make no mistake—these are both two extremely solid fighters.
While simply including both games in one package might have been enough, Capcom’s added a bit more value in the form of achievements. Unlike the usual achievements and trophies in Xbox 360 and PS3 games, here progress alerts scroll along the side of the action to show you how far along in your achievement progress you are, helping you target specific goals like going for win-streaks, using every character to beat the game, throwing lots of projectiles, and more. And as you score achievements, you gain levels and earn points that can be redeemed in the vault, which has offerings like character endings, concept art, and even hidden characters like MvC’s Red Venom or Marvel’s Anita (an obscure Darkstalkers cast member who was a secret character from the Japanese version of the game). Even if you’ve played these games hundreds of times in your youth, the abundance of extras you can unlock might be enough to bring you back.
I must admit, though, I did have a bit of trouble with the PlayStation 3’s DualShock controller. I’ve found it’s never been particularly good for fighters, and nowhere is that more apparent than in this collection where fast button hitting and reliable movement were paramount. Now, more than ever, I have an incentive to buy an adapter to allow me to use my Xbox 360 arcade fight stick in the PS3. Of course, even with a better controller, I’m sure my own rusty fighting skills are substantially to blame, which leads me to my next point…
The big draw of Capcom’s fighters has always been challenging other kids at the arcade, or just beating up your friends at home. In that regard, this collection gets multiplayer right, offering plenty of matchmaking options for online play. Plenty of online multiplayer options are here: quick matches, joining or hosting lobbies, banning certain characters from being used, being matched up with players of similar skill. At one point, I did experience significant lag during an online match with a friend, but after he monkeyed around with his system’s settings, our connection was straightened out.
In fact, the biggest issue I encountered during multiplayer was more of a personal problem. Simply put, I’m not that good—or at least not as good as I remember. In the years since these games first hit arcades, the art of busting out high-damage combos has become standard for so many players. A scrub like me can barely hold my own, and constantly getting my ass beat definitely made me a little hesitant to keep playing online. That said, I’m determined to learn some combos and get back into the fight. But anyone who’s taken a similar leave of absence from the Capcom world of fighters may have trouble fully enjoying this collection’s main attraction.
Visuals and Sound
The games both sound just as great as they first did, and the nostalgia factor is pumped up pretty high as a result, an effect that’s only aided by the classic, sprite-based graphics. The visuals on display here are beautiful, colorful, and smooth, bringing me back to when they were fresh and new. The animation is fluid while frenetic, and I never had any trouble seeing what was going on. Not only that, but there are multiple viewing options to satisfy any gamer’s preference, like an angled arcade-style view, or a view with rounded corners like the old machine’s screens, to name a few.
One option, though, must be purely for show, as it offers a stepped back, over-the-shoulder angle on the action, meaning that fighting and winning takes a backseat to making the game resemble an arcade cabinet. But if that floats your boat, more power to you. To me, this illustrates that not all views are created equal. Stretching the view out to modern-day flat-screen proportions doesn’t do the game any favors, distorting the action to the point of ugliness. Stick with the normal views, unless you’re playing on an old cathode-ray TV.
In the end, if you were a fan of the original games and you’ve been jonesing to jump back into the ring, this collection is a great time. But unless you’ve been practicing your finger exercises and reviewing your combos, Marvel vs. Capcom Origins may wind up with somewhat limited lasting power. Sure, unlocking the various extras in the Vault will take a long while, but in the end, fighting games are simply meant for fighting others. If you get some friends over and pass the controller around, you’re in for a solid evening of fun. Just don’t be surprised when you don’t find yourself overly compelled to keep playing once your friends head home.