Marvel vs Capcom

     Marvel vs. Capcom ticks me off a bit. I just wanted to get that off my chest. But you know what, I play it anyway. I'm funny that way, or maybe I just like being hurt (see also: Captain Novolin, Lost Word of Jenny, Foton, et al.) It's probably a serious condition, one that should be treated before it mutates into some disorder that makes me believe that buying the annual updates of Tony Hawk/Dave Mirra/John Madden are a bargain.

     The premise behind the game is simple, as suits Capcom. I'd almost credit them with single-handedly inventing the game-mechanic excusing, arbitrary and mindlessly simple background story if not for the fact that a certain series starring a certain plumber who happens to be able to get more lift than the typical NBA player predates most of their major franchises. Whatever. The story, which is usually regarded by most fighting games as about as important as balancing all the characters, is sort of a retelling of the Onslaught storyline that encompassed the whole Marvel universe then was promptly forgotten about just like the other fifteen world-threatening crises. For the uninitiated, Prof. X (bad wheelchair guy) absorbs Magneto's genocidal bent through some sort of psychic STD kind of transfer. His vaguely-defined but presumably powerful psychic powers then combine with the dark emotions and create Onslaught, who is basically Xavier's id with Magneto's fashion sense and self-restraint. However, the last vestiges of Xavier's good heart (blech) summon the maaagical heroes of Capcom to battle evil since he knows deep down none of the X-Men are up to it. I guess the old man must have played too many video games, or not enough- remember Capcom's most famous champion can be beaten by anything vaguely pointy.

     The cast of heroes is refreshingly diverse in this one. Granted, if "fighter"+"Capcom"={true}it's no surprise that Ryu, Chun-Li and Zangief are in this. And since it's a crossover, Morrigan is a shoe-in. Street Fighters and the like aside, this game also features Strider Hiryu, the company's rightfully-neglected mascot Captain Commando, and Megaman, in the role of a lifetime. There's also a smattering of hidden fighters like Megaman's sister Roll (with the ability to not have to duck under things she is indeed his little sister) and well... Most of the hidden fighters are just the original fighters with different colors and moves. Like a Morrigan that shoots hearts, or a strange missile-launching Chun-Li. The Marvel heroes in this one are a little lacking in my opinion. Or maybe it's just how burnt-out I got on the X-Men craze speaking. Wolverine is here, and he's decent, with a nice super combination I rather like. Spider-Man yells the names of his attacks as he does them, which is somehow a step down from his usual mid-combat banter. Something about saying "Maximum Spider" feels dirty. The Incredible Hulk is a large, suprisingly spry character with a wider vocabulary than normal. He says about everything except "Hulk Smash," though. Odd. Captain America is sort of the Vega of the game, since he actually has to retrieve his shield after throwing it. Cap also has a super that shares a name with a Joe Don Baker movie (Final Justice.) The implications are staggering. Gambit's an okay fighter whose supers the computer never seems to be able to block.

     I didn't go into this before, but I like to think this game has the most unabashedly cheap Ryu I've seen. He doesn't just stick with his Hadouken/Dragon Punch schtick this time- he can change costumes so he fights like Ken or Akuma. Yes, that's right, Ryu can now rip off his imitators. I can only imagine that in later games he's going to start aping Sakura and Dan Hibiki's clutz-fu.

     The game format seems to be the major dividing factor between people who like the game and people who don't. Personally, I don't like a game where Dragonball Z-sized fireballs blast 21 hit combos that inflict remarkably little actual damage. I also don't care for the fact the controls seem to ignore my joystick/d-pad commands and just see which buttons I pushed down. And even then I found myself triggering moves I thought used punches instead of kicks and vice versa.

     The saddest truth of the M vs C game engine is they really, really seemed to have been trying for depth. For all the flash, most supers only seem to do about a fourth of a bar of damage- not that I'm necessarily complaining that Ryu's ridiculously huge Shinkuu Hadouken doesn't vaporize me outright. There's a little emphasis on air combat, which is rapidly going out of vogue since so few games even approach doing it well (DBZ games do NOT count, especially the new Budokai and its strange habit of making defeated fighters float in midair.) With all the random messages flashing in and out ("Tech Hit!" Whatever the hell that is, yay!) they seem to want us to believe there's more to the game than strobe lights and liscensed characters. Unfortunately, there are only so many features you can add into a game before It just starts getting awkward. This is the sort of game button mashers excel at. With so many things to do, random button combinations are bound to do something.

     Of course, I may just be a little bitter since the first time I ever played this game I was soundly thrashed by some joker who did nothing but keep calling in his helper character over and over. Who can say.

Chun-Li's apologies seem forced as ever.

Stinking cheap final boss.

Whatever ya say, Iron Man.