Marvel vs. Capcom 2 might be one of the best looking fighters of all time. I spent God knows how many hours playing that game just to unlock the huge number of brilliantly bonkers and gorgeously rendered characters. With its fantastic sprite work and massive roster of 56 playable characters, half the fun was making your way through a cast that included such wildly outlandish oddities as Omega Red, Tron Bonne and Marrow.
Things were already on a downward spiral with the release of the solid but comparatively uninspiring Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, a game that, while still largely brilliant, lacked the roster surprises and magnificent sprite-based visuals of its predecessor, but things have only got worse for the latest in the king of crossover fighters. Simply put, Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite’s roster is hugely disappointing and the art style has at this point lost much of the comic book magic that made Marvel vs. Capcom 2 one of the best looking games on Dreamcast.
In fairness, it’s not as ugly as some would have you believe, and by most standards, the roster of 30 fighters (with more on the way via upcoming DLC) is actually pretty decent; it’s just that, compared to its predecessors, it’s all so, well, bland.
Beyond the lack of fan favourites such as Magneto and Wolverine (Marvel are obviously keen to keep this an MCU-friendly fighter), the absence of some of the series’ more peculiar entrants makes for a decidedly less interesting experience. I for one adhere to the belief that any fighter is made at least 10% better by the inclusion of Shuma-Gorath. Some fans are undoubtedly going to be mad about this, but the roster is still pretty decent, and for the most part, feels much more balanced than it has in previous entries. The reduced levels of madness are certainly to be mourned, but in terms of long-term appeal and high level play, that balance will likely make better use of its streamlined cast of characters.
What is less forgivable however is the art style. Again, I’d argue that it’s actually fine based purely on its own merits, but whatever your views, I think we can all agree that it falls a long way short of the series’ high watermark of, Marvel vs. Capcom 2. It all looks competent enough, but the character design, and in particular, the backgrounds are all painfully boring. Technically speaking, it all runs well, but it definitely lacks that spark that made previous entries quite so special.
The thing is, despite its issues, Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite, from a purely gameplay perspective, is probably the best game in the series to date. Beyond the aforementioned balancing, something that makes just about every character in the game a viable option (something resolutely untrue of previous games in the series), the move away from aerial combos to a more structured affair makes for a more enjoyable and largely accessible experience.
Due to the absurdity of the premise, Marvel vs. Capcom has always been seen as the most accessible of the major Capcom fighting franchises, but in truth, it has never been nearly as welcoming as reputation would suggest. That has changed for the better here though with a proper training mode included for the first time and a mission mode that teaches the basic tricks of the trade in a more enjoyable and challenge based setting. The big change though comes in the form of the games’ reduced speed. This not only makes it a more visually manageable game for the inexperienced but also ensures that this is the most technically proficient game in the series to date.
Beyond the reduced pace and move from 3 characters to 2, the other major change comes in the form of the Infinity Stones. Essentially replacing the assist characters found in previous games, the Infinity Stones allow you to choose an additional ability at the start of each fight. Some of these abilities are actually somewhat powerful, but rather than unbalancing the game, they deliver an array of additional tactical options with many of the skills available suiting specific characters and set-ups. They arguably lack the visual impact of a support character joining the fray, but they do make for a more potentially impactful addition to each battle.
I’ve heard a lot of criticism aimed at the games’ story mode, and while this relatively brief 2 hour adventure certainly is silly, the delivery, in which nobody seems to have any issue with all of these absurd characters being in the same place at the same time, is pure 80s Saturday morning cartoon nostalgia. The actual narrative isn’t up to much, but for as long as it lasts, it’s great fun and gives you an excuse to try out many of the characters available. The fights are usually too short for you to get any real idea of how each of them plays, but as a well presented taster menu of the full cast, it works an absolute treat.
The visuals (while not as bad as many would have you believe) are certainly disappointing and the roster falls short of previous games while omitting some genuine fan favourites, but despite these issues, Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite, thanks largely to its improved mechanics, delivers a genuinely enjoyable cross over fighter and a far more accessible experience to newcomers than its predecessors. Rather than dumbing down the experience, the slower speed and reduced roster has lent the game a more balanced approach, one that is likely to suit newcomers and veterans alike. There is no getting over the lack of Wolverine and the move away from the series’ previously gorgeous art style, but judged on what is here rather than what isn’t, Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite proves a flawed but technically excellent entry in the series.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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