After ten years of epic exchanges, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is finally bowing out as its long-awaited sequel shows up, looks nonchalantly at its watch and apologises for being late. But before we take the Sons of Sparda and Odin into the training room, two of the world's most accomplished Marvel 2 players want to show you their skills in one last high stakes money-match.
The two in question are Neo – a Sentinel, Storm and Captain Commando player with an unbeaten money-match record – and cl0ckwork – an old-school Strider, Sentinel and Doctor Doom player who took third place in last year's Evo Championship Series. The first to 15 takes home the victory, and with an alleged $15,000 on the line, the winner could feasibly buy their own Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition cabinet.
Neo starts by (spoilers) replacing Captain Commando with Cyclops in an attempt to counter cl0ckwork's Doctor Doom, but after he goes down 4 – 7, he changes back to Captain Commando and ties the game back to 9 – 9. The match then continues as the crowd audibly gets more maniacal in the background. When it finally draws to a close after an adrenaline-packed 90 minutes, you can see why this game is held dear by so many.
It took an Osaka-based developer to bring it all together but the fan-base has always been in the West. Indeed, Marvel 2 never created much of a stir on its home turf, and while this could be attributed to the game's notoriously unbalanced roster, the Marvel license – by its very nature – was always going to resonate more on these shores.
This is something which Ryota Niitsuma, Producer of Tasunoko vs. Capcom and Marvel vs. Capcom 3, is acutely aware of. "Of course we hope Marvel 3 will be popular in every region, but we didn't really focus to the Japanese market," he says.
Marvel 3 is the fifth Vs. game to combine dragon punches with adamantium, and while it has a familiar mix of Hyper Combos, Snap Backs, Advancing Guards and Variable Assists, compared to Marvel 2, it's very much its own game.
This is initially noticeable through the lavish 3D presentation and slower pacing, but once you get to grips with the revamped system, it's clear that Marvel 3 is streamlining the complexity without diluting the depth.
The revised layout is a perfect example as the new Exchange button allows you to effortlessly chain from Light to Heavy before launching your opponent into the air. This process is the most intuitive it's ever been. Once airborne, it's easy to tag between your partners to dish out a hefty Team Aerial Combo.
But if you find yourself on the receiving end you needn't grit your teeth patiently, because if you can correctly guess the direction of your opponent's tag you can ruin their fun with a Team Aerial Counter. It also seems that while tagging up deals slightly more damage, tagging down nets you slightly more Super and tagging to the side is a happy medium.
Marvel 3 also borrows a reworked Baroque Cancel mechanic from Tatsunoko. Imaginatively called the X Factor, this technique can be used once per match and temporarily buffs your active fighter – and if it's a case of last man, woman, cyborg, wolf, succubus or dimension-lord standing – the effect will be more substantial.
"If you lost all characters and couldn't beat any, you'd feel like you just lost three nil," says. "To prevent this sort of de-motivation, we wanted to make sure there was always a way to come back."
X Factor activation also cancels whatever you're doing, so if you time a Hyper Combo badly and need to escape punishment, or just want to combo two Hyper Combos together, then a well timed X Factor cancel is only four simultaneous button presses away. And when you factor in Delayed Hyper Combos, it's fair to say that linking four harbingers of doom into one satisfying combo has never been easier.
But the epitome of meter-burning pyrotechnics is the Level 3 Hyper Combo. "Everyone had a Level 3 initially," Niitsuma says, "but because we wanted to continue the tradition of a purposely unbalanced roster, we intentionally left a few characters out. They don't all have an over-the-top style, and for these characters, we balanced it out by adding in something else."