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Marvel vs. Capcom 3 review: The premier in button-mashing mash-ups

Montague vs. Capulet. Death Row vs. Bad Boy. Sparta vs. Athens. Yankees vs. Red Sox. Hamilton vs. Burr. Sure, these guys have some bad blood. I'd even go so far as to say they've got beef. But do any of them have the ability to manipulate metal or flex a bionic arm? How about healing powers and adamantium claws? Are any of them gods of thunder? I thought not. Advantage Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds.

The excuse for bringing all these characters into the same place basically boils down to this: Dr. Doom, of Marvel fame, and Wesker, from the Resident Evil games, try to meld their respective universes in order to take them both over at once. Unfortunately, by doing so, they made it easier for the rampaging planet eater Galactus to chow down on two worlds. It's all fairly inconsequential to the gameplay but, hey, there needs to be at least some reason for bringing all these folks together for a third time. And to be honest, when a game is as much fun as MvC3, I don't really care what that reason is.

Gallery: Marvel vs Capcom European pre-order T-shirts | 7 Photos

For a lot of people, fighting games are impenetrable fortresses of complex strategies, precise movements, and impossibly quick combos. Getting clobbered by expert players' ridiculous, furiously precise button presses and crazy fast half-circle joystick movements while those novices are struggling to pull off two- or three-hit combos and the most basic of fireball motions is more than enough to turn potential new players away from the genre. The Marvel vs. Capcom series has always bucked that idea, and it's no different this time around. You'll quickly realize that you can pull off flashy moves and special attacks just by flipping around the joystick and mashing buttons, especially if you're using the Simple control mode, which lets you pull off combos with single button presses. Anyone can team up Deadpool, Dante, and Iron Man and fill the screen with their respective bullets, making MvC3 one of the most accessible fighters to date. If all you're looking for is an enjoyable time throwing your favorite characters together in battle, then the simplicity of MvC3 is perfect for that.

In a game full of huge, flashy attacks and tons of characters, it's the little details that really give it the top-tier fighting game feeling that Capcom consistently pulls off.

Of course, MvC3 doesn't serve only to introduce newbies to the fighting genre. Just like its predecessors, it's one of the most deep and customizable fighting games out there. The three-character tag team adds a dynamic to gameplay that will have hardcore fighting fans arguing about the intricacies of various combinations of teammates for a long time to come. Do you start with the tank-style Hulk with Chris Redfield as a ranged assist character? Or do you try for speed right off the bat with Zero and save your heavy hitters like Sentinel and Tron Bonne for backup? I expect to see some very interesting combinations of characters to pop up in competitive play, and don't think I'll stop being surprised by what people come up with for quite some time.

Obviously, matches aren't decided by character selection. The lengthy aerial combos and timely character switching to continue those combos that were required in previous iterations of the series make their return, and both watching them being pulled off and pulling them off yourself is immensely rewarding, especially if it's backed up with some serious trash talk. Pulling off that perfectly timed team Hyper Combo to trap your opponent in the relentless assault of say, Amaterasu from Okami, Dante from Devil May Cry, and M.O.D.O.K. is one of the most brutal, beautiful experiences in the genre, and it begs you to delve deeper into the crazy deep gameplay in order to find a particular winning style.

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In a game full of huge, flashy attacks and tons of characters, it's the little details that really give it the top-tier fighting game feeling that Capcom consistently pulls off. Whether it's the character-specific trash talk between fighters, Deadpool's various antics (including beating enemies with his lifebar, moonwalking instead of walking backwards like normal characters, and various fourth-wall breaking dialog), or Zero's Mega Man-faithful death animation, it's obvious that the developers have a lot of love and respect for the source material. Hardcore fans of both the Marvel universe and its various character interactions may be turned off by some of the perceived continuity errors (Captain America is alive here!), but there's more than enough fanboy love in there to win their hearts back and then some. Plus, it allows them to find out who wins in a fight between Taskmaster and Thor, so who can complain? No one, that's who.

As usual, Capcom knows what it's doing with online play in the fighting genre. At no point did I notice any slowdown while playing against online opponents, even during the more graphically intense moments of the game. In a genre that requires precise timing and quick reactions, I'd expect nothing less, but it's worth commending due to other games being marred by lackluster online play.

Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds is an example of a game made great by an enormous amount of love and attention to detail. It's a worthy sequel to one of the most beloved fighting games of all time, brought to a current-gen level. Expect this one to be in heavy rotation among fans of fighting games for a long time coming.

This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 provided by Capcom. Taylor Cocke is a Bay Area-based recent graduate from University of California Berkeley. After spending a couple years as the world's greatest lowly intern at Official Xbox Magazine, he has begun his life as a freelance games journalist.

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