Game: Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita (Reviewed on PlayStation Vita)
I can remember quite clearly being extremely excited when I found out, some eight years ago, that one of my favourite fighting game franchises was coming to Sony’s impossibly gorgeous looking new handheld – the PSP – as a launch title. Incredibly, Capcom had decided to throw out a reworked version of Vampire Chronicle for opening day, and I had the pleasure of sampling it and indeed reviewing it at the time. The game was technically flawed with huge loading times and, of course, gameplay way hamstrung by the poor d-pad. The console would go on to host many more fighting games over the years, some of them excellent like the brilliant Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max and Namco’s Tekken: Dark Resurrection. But unless you took the time to glue one of those fancy d-pad attachments to the front of your console (Capcom shipped import copies of some games with said attachment), it was an exercise in frustration if you fancied some brawling on the go.
Of course today we are spoiled for choice where current gen fighters are concerned. The 3DS now has a veritable arsenal of kick-ass carts, and all of them work very nicely with the hardware and can be played effortlessly online.
The question is, with a trio of big hitting one-on one franchises set to arrive on or around launch for the PlayStation Vita, just how well does the new portable suit the genre, and can it really deliver on the long standing Sony promise of console-standard gaming, whilst sat on the toilet? An impressive looking version of Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3 would seem to be the perfect way to find out.
You’ll probably know that I am far from being a graphics whore. I will happily play anything as long as the gameplay tickles my fancy. But I have to hold up my still shaking hands and say I was blown away when I first saw UMVC3 in action. From the intro, which is virtually indistinguishable from the grown up console version, to the way they have crammed an astonishing approximation of the original game onto the gorgeous Vita screen, Capcom have really made the Vita sing. There is none of the blurring that plagued the PSP, and far fewer compromises have been made in on-screen action compared to the 3DS Street Fighter IV port – not that we are hating on that gem of a game; everything flies along at your full 60FPS, and no mistake.
Graphically there is not much that has been lost in translation, and the core gameplay is also shipped over to perfection. The original game, which I looked at a little while back, is a good one. With superlative three-on-three tag team action, wild aerial attacks, bombastic super moves and a frankly stupid amount of characters and depth, it is the pinnacle of Capcom’s long standing “VS” tradition and a treat that satisfies the twin geek receptors inside the cranium of us comic book-stroke-2D fight fanboys. What Capcom have done is to provide a perfect handheld version of this stellar game, which for many people, myself included, will probably negate the need to ever boot up the home console version again.
Unlike the console that preceded it, the Vita is more than adept at meeting the needs of the fight-fan’s thumbs. The D-Pad is responsive, as impressive and intuitive to use as the original PlayStation pad, whilst the cute little analogue nubs work just as well to pull off the myriad circular motions necessary to exact comic-book justice on your foe. The small face buttons worried me to begin with, but their close-nit placement make the basic combinations required for most characters a cinch to pull off. Of course, full customisation is available so you can map the controls however you please.
All of the modes from the original game are present and correct, including the same excellent lobby system and easy to use matchmaking which gives you the ability to watch others fight. It really is like having a PlayStation Network capable PS3 in between your mitts. You can train to your heart’s content, and the fun and increasingly more difficult Challenges return, asking you – particularly in the later stages – to pull off some insane combos, and effectively teaching you more about how the game works.
The only area in which this otherwise top notch port falls down is in the touch screen stakes. There is an option to control your characters using a series of touches, strokes and whatnot, but it simply doesn’t work. If you are playing someone in competition, someone who is not expected to show you any mercy, and can earn a victory using this method, then let me know your address as I would like to come and shake your hand. Because I’ll be blowed if I could get on with this addition, which makes no sense at all. The 3DS has the luxury of a lower screen which can be used as a handy way of storing additional “buttons”, or even programmable combos for the cheats amongst you. It is used to great effect in the 3DS versions of Street Fighter, Dead or Alive and Tekken. The Vita obviously only has one screen, therefore you wonder why, even with the rear touch pad, Capcom even tried to implement what was always going to be an unnecessary and cumbersome touch element to this game.
VERDICT: Dodgy touch screen shocker aside, this is a brilliant way for the Vita to break its fighting game duck, and is arguably the greatest technical achievement I think I have ever seen on a handheld device. It truly is an identikit version of its home console brethren, with all of the content and clout that comes with it, including a flawless online mode. With Street Fighter X Tekken on the horizon, Blazblue finally doing the business on a handheld and Namco themselves entering the fray soon, the future is bright for fans of fighting games. An essential day one purchase.