Developer/Publisher – Iron Galaxy / Capcom
Released – September 2012
Genre – Fighting
Formats – 360 (tested), PS3
Players – 1-2
Marvel vs. Capcom: Origins ® & © Capcom/Marvel.
Review copy and Screenshots were courtesy of Microsoft
It seems like re-releases of back catalogue titles have been something every company has been pushing through in the last couple of years. SEGA are going through their Dreamcast – and even their Saturn – catalogues to bring back games that hold nostalgic memories for those over a certain age, as are Namco and even Activision with the return of Tony Hawk Pro Skater.
Capcom, however, have been at this game for a while longer than most, from compilation packs of their classic arcade titles, to Xbox Live offerings of Street Fighter III and the somewhat maligned JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. In a generation soaked with these old classics fighters (not to mention newer titles like Skull Girls), the release of the original Marvel Vs. Capcom feels more than a little bit quaint. Is this an origin worth revisiting, or should the past be buried.
Marvel Vs, Capcom: Origins contains both the original Marvel Vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes and the somewhat earlier Marvel Super Heroes in their entirety, right down to the tricks, codes, glitches and bugs of the arcade cabinet. Surprisingly, the first ever release in the series, X-Men: Children of the Atom is not included in the package, nor are other titles like X-Men Vs. Street Fighter. This by no means diminishes the package as a whole, but it would have been nice for them to be included. The two games that are here though have become known for being somewhat unbalanced even by the standards of the series, with Capcom making steps to smooth out the edges in future titles in the franchise, to variable degrees of success. Both games are presented here as arcade perfect ports of their original forms, and that’s what they pretty much are. There been no tweaks or fixes beyond getting them to work on the modern hardware, but it’s clear that the years – both games are over a decade old and MSH is approaching its twentieth year- just haven’t aged as well as other games in the genre.
Marvel Super Heroes, the earlier of the two titles, is a standard one-on-one, best of three rounds that Capcom have put out since the original Street Fighter, whilst Marvel Vs. Capcom is a tag-team game where both fighters have to be knocked out to finish a round. Super Heroes introduces players to the Infinity Gem system, where each character had a gem, which, when activated, could aid you in battle in various ways. A Soul Gem, for instance, would recover lost health, whereas the Power Gem would increase the damage you’re attacks did. How you obtained gems differed depending on the mode of play, with single player arcade mode assigning them based on character, and awarding you with the opponent gem – as well as you’re own – in the next match-up. Certain combinations of Gems and characters bore heftier benefits, like the Power Gem and Spider-Man gaining a mirror image that would do both double damage and make it harder for the enemy to counterattack.
Marvel vs. Capcom changes the scene dramatically; with its tag and Assist Character systems opening up a even bigger pot of insanity. Yet the system’s found here would be so greatly in the named sequels, that it’s hard to go back to the original. Where in 2 and 3, you can call your partner in to give some brief aid, here you are given a specific number of uses of a third character chosen at random – unless you input codes at the select screen – to pop onscreen to do an action, the effectiveness of which varies greatly depending on a number of factors (character location, method of attack).
The tag system itself works in a similar style to the future titles, off-screen characters will recover loss red health and be out of the line of fire. Swapping between the two is as easy as pressing both HP and HK at the same time while in a neutral state. Certain characters can work off each other and assists to increase the damage potential players can pull off toward the insane levels, pulling off inescapable combos that take off entire lifebars is not unheard-of.
There’s no getting away from the fact that future games would refine the experience of the series, adjusting the balance between characters and simplifying the controls to make the game more assessable and enjoyable to play. Here, we are still in the realm of three punch and three kick buttons, and while it’s absolutely fine for the most part, with the controls responsive and precise, its also hard to shake the feeling that the games that refined and reduced the buttons did so for a reason. Perhaps it just a case of less being more for a game design around frantic pacing and kinetic action.
Marvel Vs. Capcom: Origins is slight on game modes, with only local play, online and training options really available. Training mode is bare bones to the ninth degree, and the game offers nothing but the basics of how to play and command lists for the player, making it extremely unwelcoming to newcomers. The game has no trial mode to teach even the most rudimentary of combos or skills to players, offering instead a small degree of pitiful advice directed at those who likely already know the more esoteric aspects of the games. One of the more bizarre things in the game is that the difficulty slider on the options screen seems to have no effect whatsoever on the game’s actual amount of challenge; which proceeds in much the same way as the original arcade cabinets did.
Several “challenges” are presented to the player, ranging from the banal spamming of fireballs to maintaining a winning streak for so many rounds. As you go through these trials your gain points that can be spent on concept art and movies in the vault. Perhaps more importantly, the game’s collection of secret characters can also be unlocked this way, enabling players to select them without the need for the long, complex codes that they originally required (although the codes do work just as they did back in the day).
The problem with these secret characters, is just how broken they can be, even in the context of the rest of the game. Red Venom, a repaint of Venom designed to resemble fellow Marvel villain Carnage is a rush-down monster from hell that can strike fear into any player, whilst Gold War Machine’s Hyper armour means that he is a glass cannon that can lay waste to opponents. On the flip side secret character Roll, of Mega Man fame, is next to useless to use by all but the most dedicated of players. Anita, a character originally left over as a place holder, never to be used, is Marvel Super Heroes’ counterpart for most broken character. Her super doing tons of damage on characters normally, and even more in blocked chip damage.
Like all Capcom fighters, Marvel Vs. Capcom: Origin features the GGPO-enhanced online code that is the defacto standard. Online you can except a barrage of veterans pulling of infinite combos to wreck you day. If you have an affinity for this kind of insanity, and don’t mind both getting caught in them and pulling them of, then you find enjoyment out of online multiplayer, otherwise keep to friends and local matches to ensure that you won’t pull you hair out. For what its worth, none of the game’s achievements ask you to put in time online.
Graphically, Capcom have set up the same settings that they have done for other 2D fighters they’ve released on the formats. Essentially you can adjust blurring, aliasing and even recreate CRT scanlines to suit your preferences (myself I have the game in 4:3 with all filters off). One of the oddest settings includes an over-the-shoulder viewpoint, designed to look like you watching someone else playing the game at an arcade.
The game never misses a beat, keeping a stable framerate at all times, even with projectiles flying and dozens of things all going off at once. The benefits of sprite animation mean that the games looks just as good as they did when they hit arcades back in the day. With the fast pace, it a candy-coloured feast for the eyes. Sonically, its almost as crazy, with some great remixes of popular Capcom themes and original music to the bombastic narrators, the games do present themselves with a ton of personality.
While there is plenty of potential nostalgia surrounding the title – and the accompanying Marvel Super Heroes – the stodgy mechanics and the availability of both sequels in the Vs. series, both of which I’d recommend over this, makes this a hard sell for anyone but the most ardent of fighting game fan. If you have fond memories of either – or both – title, or have to own every fighting game out there, then dive right in and enjoy, just be prepared to find yourself having a hard time online. For those on the fence, it might be best to find a better balanced alternative for your fighting game fix.
Originally published October 2012.