What do Ryu, Deadpool and the Incredible Hulk all have in common? Well, aside from the fact that they hold a Phd in violence, gained after several years at The University of Twattem, the answer is that they all appear in Marvel vs Capcom 3. The vs series is one of Capcom's most beloved franchises, a marriage of over-the-top action and nostalgia for the developer's back catalogue, drenched in the company's unique special sauce (made with sun-dried hadoukens).
MvC3 was Capcom's most popular product at this year's E3, a fact underlined by the lengthy queue that formed near the developer's booth at the start of each day of the show. Few companies know how to make a one-on-one fighter (or in this case, a three-on-three fighter) quite like Capcom, and thanks to the rampant success of Street Fighter IV and its Super sequel, the genre is well and truly back in season. A total of 10 fighters were available to try at the show. In addition to the names I've already mentioned, the Marvel side boasted Captain America, Iron Man and Wolverine - all regular stars of the vs series. Joining Ryu on the Capcom crew were Morrigan and Felicia from Darkstalkers, Dante from Devil May Cry, and muscle-bound Resident Evil star Chris Redfield – the latter making his debut appearance in a fighting game.
For gamers who only have Street Fighter IV as a point of reference, the important thing to know about MvC3 is that it ditches the traditional "best of X rounds" format in favour of a three way tag battle - a rolling rumble where characters leap in and out of the fight, providing assistance and helping to forge elaborate, lengthy combos. Early games in the vs series used a Street Fighter-like set of six attack buttons – offering light, medium and fierce punches, alongside an equivalent trio of kicks; Marvel vs Capcom 2 switched this setup for a set of four attack buttons (two punches, two kicks) plus a pair of buttons for summoning your tag partners. MvC3 has changed the rules again, so now you get three "normals" at different strengths, two tag buttons and one "launcher" – a standard attack that sends your opponent flying in to the air. If you successfully connect with one of these, your main aim should be to follow up with some kind of air combo, perhaps using a few assists from your partners to keep the chain going.
This three-button arrangement may sound familiar to anyone who played Tatsunoko vs Capcom on the Wii – hardly a surprise, since both games where overseen by producer Ryota Niitsuma. As complicated as it all sounds, the ultimate aim of the three-button setup is to make the game a bit more accessible to newcomers. The launcher button also appears to be a further concession towards journeyman scrappers, since it gives every character an immediately obvious way of starting a combo. And my oh my, combos are something this game delivers in spades. By the time you start busting out cross-over Super Combos, with each member of your trio throwing out their own show-off contribution, you'll easily be hitting your opponents with sixty or more consecutive attacks.