When Capcom released Marvel Vs Capcom 3 in February of 2011, it backed itself into a corner. It had been over a decade since the last Marvel Vs Capcom sequel, and while the company’s latest crossover fighters offered tons of content for new and old fans of the series alike, those neophyte players had no idea where this franchise came from. Or so goes the logic behind Capcom’s latest downloadable arcade game collection, the aptly titled Marvel Vs Capcom Origins.
See, long before Capcom revived the series as part of its 2D fighter renaissance period, the company had been issuing a long line of games that directly led up to the characters and gameplay concepts found in Marvel Vs Capcom 3. Obviously that numeral at the end of the game’s title indicates that there must have been an original Marvel Vs Capcom, but even before that, Capcom established the roots of its “Versus” fighter line in games like X-Men: Children Of The Atom, X-Men Vs Street Fighter, and Marvel Super Heroes. That last title joins the first Marvel Vs Capcom in this collection, and while I’ll cover why this decision is so baffling, let’s first examine Capcom’s success in reviving these genuine arcade classics.
Capcom’s goal in reviving Marvel Super Heroes and Marvel Vs Capcom for this downloadable compilation was obviously to capture the feeling of the original arcade cabinets, and in that regard it’s a smashing success. Along with expected aesthetics options like wide screen display, the developers behind Marvel Vs Capcom Origins designed a number of more “arcade accurate” viewing modes. This includes a mode in which the screen is slightly tilted and covered in scanlines to match the experience of playing the game on an old CRT monitor instead of a modern HDTV. Another mode allows you to view either game as if you were standing off to the side of the arcade machine it’s running on. While most people will find one particular viewing mode they prefer and stick with that for the majority of their time in the game, it’s impressive that Capcom went to such lengths to ape the arcade aesthetic.
Unfortunately, certain viewing modes are objectively less useful than others. The picture directly above these displays my chosen viewing mode, and as you can see it includes a streaming list of various challenges the game has tasked me with completing during a match. Those aren’t there in some of the larger viewing modes.
Anyway, as with Capcom’s downloadable release of Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online, both of the arcade games here have been augmented with hundreds of game-specific tasks. Completing these tasks will earn you Vault Points which can be redeemed for a number of hidden extras. Unlike Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online however, the bonuses in Marvel Vs Capcom Online are far more appealing than simple concept art. Though that’s represented as well, the best stuff to be found in the Vault includes items that unlock either game’s numerous secret characters, as well as items that unlock each character’s ending cinematics. It’s a totally unnecessary addition given that both games are utterly arcade-perfect, but it does offer a tasty carrot on a stick to entice people to keep playing the game.
The biggest and most important addition to the games found in Marvel Vs Capcom Origins is definitely the game’s online multiplayer component. It’s a slightly upgraded version of the online component seen in Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online, and as in that game, punching people over the ‘net in Marvel Vs Capcom Origins is as silky smooth an experience as you can have outside of an actual arcade setting. Over the 100 matches I played online specifically to test the feature, I encountered absolutely zero lag. Once connected to your opponent, the game feels as smooth and responsive as in any of its offline modes. No hyperbole: Marvel Vs Capcom Origins has the best netcode of any fighting game to date.
As far as the actual gameplay in these games, they’re exactly how you remember them, for better or for worse. While I’m very pleased to see that Capcom perfectly replicated the gameplay experience of these original arcade titles, that also means that each game is utterly broken. The characters are unbalanced, certain fighters are much, much, much better than others, and each game includes a number of exploitable flaws. Normally that would be a problem, but this lack of balance actually made these games more entertaining in their original incarnations and I wouldn’t want to play them any other way. That said, I predict that anyone who plays this game online will get sick of seeing Wolverine and Red Venom very quickly.
Marvel Vs Capcom Origins seeks to offer the definitive, perfect home version of two classic arcade fighters and it does just that. Granted, it’s a bit odd that Capcom would choose Marvel Super Heroes and Marvel Vs Capcom from the six-plus games that could have conceivably appeared as part of this package, but who can really argue with perfectly preserved arcade games like this? The graphics are admirably retro, the in-game audio is as cheesy and lo-fi as you remember and the online component nearly perfectly replicates playing in a real arcade. Given Capcom’s goals here, I’d say the company did admirably. Fighting fans who fondly recall these games will find exactly what they’ve been missing, and maybe a few newcomers will get a bit of a history lesson on why Ryu occasionally has to punch Captain America in the face.
(This game was reviewed using an Xbox Live Arcade copy provided by Capcom.)
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