Snikt vs. Shoryuken: ‘Marvel vs. Capcom 3′ Review

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Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Systems it’s available on: PS3, Xbox 360
ESRB rating: Teen
System reviewed on: Xbox 360

Marvel Vs. Capcom 3′s biggest achievement doesn’t come in the graphics department, though the visuals are stunning. Nor is it in gameplay, despite the fact that it sports a sharp and well-tuned fighting engine.

No, the most impressive thing MvC3 does is make me like Deadpool. Once, many moons ago, I sorta kinda liked the Merc with a Mouth as a supporting character. But, nowadays, he’s arguably the most over-serviced lead in the Marvel Comics stable. He’s wacky and lethal; he’s Bugs Bunny in a ninja mask. Various creators have run this joke into the ground. Over and over again. We get it.

But the developers at Capcom have hit an interpretative sweet spot in how Wade Wilson gets implemented in the game. Deadpool knows he’s a fictional character in the comics and here in the third installment of the crossover fighting franchise, it’s played to great effect. While most of the other characters grunt out determined clauses with their moves, he blurts out nonsense like “Pineapple surprise!” for a grenade attack moves or goofily mimics Ryu’s signature uppercut. Best of all, one of his Super Moves nukes the fourth wall by having him pick up the super meter and bash the opponent with it. Not ashamed to say I guffawed at that the first time I saw the attack in action, and that it reminded me of why I liked Deadpool in the first place. So, the key component to this long-awaited three-quel comes down to recontextualization. Whether on the Marvel side or the Capcom side, characters that you’ve known for decades feel fresh, with sly asides and fan service galore that lets players think about the assembled warriors from different angles.

(More on TIME.com: Emanata: What Superhero Comics Look Like)

Fighting games usually don’t offer much in the way of plot and MvC3 is no different in that regard. There’s an inconsequential sliver of story that involves Wesker teaming up with Doctor Doom to open up dimensional portals between their two worlds. Heroes from each meet and fight. Of course. Meanwhile, the vile megalomaniacal schemer from the Resident Evil games and the Fantastic Four archfoe need a power source to fuel their cross-reality conquest and decide to siphon juice off of Galactus’s ship. Needless, to say the Devourer of Worlds isn’t happy about that and threatens to eat the planet in retaliation. Mostly, the plot’s there to justify the cosmic, helmeted force of nature showing up as the game’s final boss.

(More on TIME.com: Captivate 2010: Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 Pits Resident Evil’s Chris against the Hulk)

But, story’s never been the meat of a good fighting game. Rather, it’s how the characters are balanced, the fighting engine and how it lets you tease moves out. As far as fighting games go, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 appeals more to neophytes more than, say, Super Street Fighter IV or Tekken 6. The special moves come out a bit easier and it’s far more fast-paced. In terms of balance, it’s a mixed bag. Characters like Devil May Cry‘s Dante feel like a nicely weighted mix of quickness, range and power where the Sentinel robot’s overpowering strength or X-23′s incredible speed make them useful in other ways.

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