So, let me take ya for a literary ride on how the game felt.
The information provided comes from a guy with a big interest in fighting games, in fact no game comes nearly as close to Super Street Fighter IV on my XBOX 360 in terms of the time I've played games on the console...and considering my 360 gets a lot of use, that's saying something. So hopefully I can give you a better insight into the game than someone who doesn't 'get' the true joy fighting games can bring.
There is no better place to start this off with how the gameplay feels...
Saying that, there is also no better way to give you an impression of how the gameplay is than for me to compare it to other Fighting Games, specifically ones made by Capcom.
So with that I can straight away point towards 2008's "Tatsunoko vs Capcom" (2010 for the rest of world). It's less than a week until Marvel vs Capcom 3 is released, so if you want to get sort of familiar with MvC3 in advance, then I suggest you play a bit of Tatsunoko vs Capcom for the time being.
The similarities to Tatsunoko vs Capcom is a positive one though, as TvC is definitely an improved gaming experience over Marvel vs Capcom 2. I'm not trying to say Marvel 2 played bad, but Tatsunoko vs Capcom was a more sanded off product overall, Capcom had definitely gained a lot of experience with there vs. series of games by TvC. Where as in hindsight Marvel 2 needed a lot of rough edges shaved (especially in character balancing).
Thankfully we're now living in an age of downloadable patches, so even if exploits or problems occur with MvC3 (as players around the world throw everything at it) we will hopefully be able to see any major errors (such as dreaded infinite combo's) get fixed.
Marvel vs Capcom 3 does more than enough to set itself apart from Tatsunoko vs Capcom though, I'll give a few examples covering the more obvious, and the not so obvious.
First up, the controls.
- Tatsunoko vs Capcom ~> 4 button game (Light, Med, Heavy, Assist).
- Marvel vs Capcom 3 ~> 6 button game (Light, Med, Heavy, Aerial (Launcher), Assist 1, Assist 2).
Strategically you're still mostly trying to work some light attacks through to medium and to hard in regards to the average characters combo methods, however Marvel 3 is a lot more Aerial focused than previous vs series games. Not only are you encouraged to take your combo's from the ground to the air, but you're encouraged to get your team involved if possible to keep those air combo's alive!
I can't even begin to go into the advanced details of the possibilities MvC3 brings, mainly because the game still isn't out, and there is soo much yet to be fully explored! However just going off the brief streams I've seen already, as well as the information gathered and posted on the likes of Shoryuken.com and other Fighting Game Community hot spots, it seems MvC3 does a lot in terms of allowing for some very creative and unique set ups. So once you find that team of 3 you like, and you start putting in the hours of training and matches to see how your team can flow together, you'll be "wow'd" by all the unique options there are. Heck! I myself and many of the local "serious" Super Street Fighter IV players still manage to find new little things that we didn't know worked to this day during casual sessions, and that's after nearly a year of heavy play on a game that [in comparison to Marvel vs Capcom 3] is quite linear. So I think it makes sense to presume that MvC3 will be making jaws drop and we'll be seeing new things for a long long time.
It's not just the new combo and team interaction possibilities in Marvel vs Capcom 3 that set it apart from TvC though. Marvel vs Capcom 3 is also a faster game than Tatsunoko vs Capcom. I don't think it's quite as fast as MvC2 was, but it's still a very frantic game. The first time I got to play a game was on an arcade cab that was missing a configured "Assist 2 button", I was trying inputs to get some moves out (not really knowing what the characters I'd picked where capable of), and had my 3 character teams' ass handed to me in just over 1 minute by a guy who'd spent the morning cramming valuable time in. Importantly though, you can get an idea of the pace of the game from the video below, as well as get a basic idea of how n00b mistakes can and will go punished by those whom know how.
You can also see in the video above (as well as from the other trailers you've probably seen by now) that MvC3 is also a visually impressive game too. The videos can only do so much justice too...it's even better in person. The cel shaded art style works very well, not just at delivering a game that will still look great in 10 years time (unlike Marvel 2), but the cel shaded art style is pretty much the perfect fit for bringing comic book characters off the printed page and into video games. Another thing I should mention is that no matter how much was going on at screen at a time, the game always ran at a consistently smooth frame rate too (which is more than I can say for SSFIITHD Remix :|).
Some of the stages you fight in have some cool fine details too, in fact some that you'll only catch when you're watching a replay or a friends match. Although some stages were a bit on the bland side, or that didn't press enough nostalgia buttons to make them that memorable, although at the Capcom Fight Club there was no stage select option, and I'm pretty sure it was only a limited number of stages in rotation in the 'near-final' build of the game that was on show, so hopefully in the final game the 'good' will out number the 'meh' in terms of the background scenery.
Another area of improvement in Marvel vs Capcom 3 over previous games is the differences in the character selection. It's usually common to have a few "copy and paste" type characters in a game like this, or to have too many characters that require pretty much the exact same sort of play style. Whilst playing this game last Saturday I experimented with around 24 of the 30 characters we had to choose from, and I can certainly say there are some big contrasts in terms of play styles. Super Street Fighter IV did a nice job of having a nice range of characters that play different (apart from the 6 shoto's).
[Below: 30 character's we had available to us last Saturday. 36 will be in the final game, with more available in time as DLC]
It'd be too ambitious of me to say Marvel vs Capcom 3 does a better job at making all characters feel unique, as some of my play time with certain characters resulted in nothing more than eating big combo's with them, but I think it's safe to say it is at least on par with SSFIV in having enough different character types amongst selection for you to eventually find characters that 'fit' with the way you like to play the game.
To elaborate a bit more on what I mean about the differences, you have characters like "Haggar" and "Hulk" whom are grapplers, they're generally slow in speed, useless from afar, but if they manage to get close and in your face, they'll deal heavy amounts of damage, then you have characters like "Ryu" and "Deadpool" whom are somewhere in the middle in terms of speed, but seem to be like the all-around types in terms of having options to deal with a variety of opponents. Characters such as "X23" and "Jill Valentine" are unbelievably fast, and at the other end of the speed scale there is "Arthur" and "Modok" whom are slow, but rely heavily on fighting people from afar (playing keep away). As well as numerous high execution characters in the middle of the foray for those who go to bed at night dreaming of combo chains.
Hopefully those whom are familiar with previous "vs. Capcom" players overall can sort of get the impression from my comparisons and observations above of what to expect when they finally play the game.
For those that are reading this out of curiousity, or those whom have never really given fighting games a proper chance and want to board the MvC3 hype train, then you'll be happy to know Capcom included a "simple mode" in this game. It's basically an option to overly simplify the inputs required to do some of your characters special moves. I didn't try out this mode myself, but the mode does seem to do a nice job of making the unskilled players put together some basic flashy moves (as opposed to just random punching air and trying to break the controller). Simple mode doesn't give you the range of moves or the creativity you'd have if you put the time into learning the game properly, nor will Simple mode make it so that you can hang with those whom have banked 50 hours+ into the game. It will allow 2 people with no fighting game experience playing the game to have fun easily pulling off some of there characters trademark moves though, which makes for a more entertaining experience for that type of player.
Marvel vs Capcom 3 is a fresh experience and a lot of fun to play (unless you're one of those "all fighting games look alike" prejudiced types). It also makes fantastic use of the 2 licenses with many subtle references, alternate costumes, background cameo's, story crossovers, and more...
It will no doubt prove to be the next big multi-player sensation in the fighting game community, with tournaments already popping up all around the world. Not forgetting that the online multi-player is meant to be one of the best Capcom have produced yet, as well as hinting at being more rewarding than the already fun SSFIVs online experience.
All that's left to say now is...Roll on February 18th!
[p.s. If you happen to be reading this from Preston, or even just the North West of England, take a look at "Street Fighter Preston". It's a group set up to try and round up Fighting Game players from the region. Allowing for some great local players to level up there skills by playing each other online and offline].