Infinite Issues

When it was first shown off at the Playstation Experience last December, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite gave fans of the high-flying fighting game series a sense of renewed hope. People believed that Capcom wasn’t going to let the series languish in a Hell where DarkStalkers’ Morrigan Aensland and Doctor Doom filled the air with Soul Fists and Hidden Missiles, or Zero of Mega Man X fame singlehandedly ripped through entire teams on a few well-timed mix-ups. It was a whole new ballgame, with newcomers Captain Marvel and X (also of Mega Man X) leading the charge alongside series staples Ryu (from Street Fighter), Morrigan, Iron Man, and Captain America. Minds ran wild with possibilities of what could be. There was even confirmation of a full-fledged story mode, something the series never had until this point.

(Video courtesy of IGN)

It all looked amazing. So much so that you would even say it looked too good to be true. And sure enough, with E3 creeping right around the corner, all those hopes were swiftly dashed.


Between leaks of the game’s entire starting roster, their supposed subsequent confirmation, and its overall presentation (especially the face of Street Fighter’s Chun-Li), all of a sudden people began to look at Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite in a more negative light. The overall consensus from the public is that the game looked and sounded soulless, like a shell of its former glory that Capcom pulled out from their cellar to make a quick buck. And anyone who said anything positive about the game, specifically professional players like Justin Wong and Michael “IFC Yipes” Mendoza,” were labeled “Shills” for Capcom, with the belief that they were being paid behind the scenes to speak highly of the game.

As if that weren’t enough, there are people out there who want this game to fail when it drops this September. Most want it to fail because they feel it’ll give Capcom the wakeup call it so desperately needs after bungling Street Fighter x Tekken and Street Fighter V, both high-profile fighting game releases as well.

Because the fans know what’s best for Capcom. Clearly.

First of all, it’s disingenuous to say that people praising the game are being “Capcom Shills.” People who have played the game have sung its praises, for sure, but they have also expressed concerns with it, and still may have concerns even after playing. It’s also worth pointing out that being paid to promote the title without any sort of transparency is illegal on the parts of both Capcom and the people in question. Even if that were the case, why would those same players sing Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite’s praises while openly criticizing Street Fighter V? Doesn’t make much sense when you think about it, does it?

Second, the game’s failure isn’t necessarily going to result in positive change for Capcom. If, gaming gods forbid, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite does end up flopping, it could make Capcom see where they’ve been going wrong. I’m not denying that for a moment. The failure of one of their most beloved and popular series would more than likely force them to rethink their approach, perhaps more than ever, when it comes to developing and releasing games.

Alternatively, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite’s failure could also signal the start of another fighting game “Dark Age,” where Capcom steps away from developing fighting games, instead putting their efforts towards reviving older franchises and creating new ones; meanwhile developers like NetherRealm Studios and Arc System Works would pick up the baton when it comes to developing fighting games, which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. Of course, then you’ll have fans clamoring for a new Street Fighter or Capcom Vs. title, and the cycle will likely begin all over again.

To the detractors’ credit, I can see why they’re so upset with how this game is shaping up. At least, most of it. Allow me to begin by talking about the one thing I think Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite has going for it, and the one thing it needs to have going for it to get a passing grade: Gameplay.


Instead of the chaotic 3v3 battles people tend to associate the series with most, this game goes back to its 2v2 roots, but does so with a twist. The game trades in character assists and the dreaded X-Factor mechanic from the previous entry in the series for the ability to tag in a partner at any point in time. They also introduce Marvel’s Infinity Stones, which grant teams new tools that they don’t have normally, and the ability to trigger an Infinity Storm and enter a state where their stone’s powers are amplified to ridiculous extents; the Space Stone Infinity Storm, for instance, traps opponents in a cosmic box where their movements are limited.

This in conjunction with smaller mechanical additions like the ability to stop combos makes the game more open-ended with regards to team construction, tactics, and especially combo potential. Considering the series lives and dies by flashy combos, that’s a very good thing. It’s a spectacle to watch, one that’s bound to get even better once the final build of the game comes out three months from now.


When it comes to the graphics, the game is very touch-and-go. While I greatly prefer Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s comic book-style cel-shading and visual tricks, Infinite still, for the most part, looks great when it’s in motion. The animations look solid, and the color palettes, while not as vibrant as Marvel vs. Capcom 3‘s, still look good; this is especially true when characters perform a Hyper Combo or trigger their Infinity Stone’s respective Infinity Storm. It’s only when you look at still frames or concept art where you start to see the flaws. I mentioned Chun-Li earlier as a chief example of how spotty the game’s graphics look, especially compared to her models in UMvC3 and Street Fighter V, where she looks as gorgeous as she ought to in both games.

However, Chun-Li obviously isn’t the only character with this issue; others like Devil May Cry’s Dante and Captain America don’t look any better. Capcom has said that they’re going to look into tweaking the game’s graphics to make characters look less garish; nobody knows if they’re actually going to commit to making the game look better than it does now, and it’s hard to trust them when they’ve been known to lie about this sort of thing before. I’ll hold them to it for now, because there’s a chance they may actually stick to their word this time.


And now we come to the game’s roster, the one major hang-up that I personally have. The roster was leaked towards the end of May by a NeoGAF user named Ryce, and is as follows:

Marvel:
Ant-Man (Newcomer)
Captain America
Captain Marvel (Newcomer)
Dr. Strange
Gamora (Newcomer)
Hawkeye
Hulk
Iron Man
Nova
Rocket Raccoon
Spider-Man
Thanos
Thor
Ultron (Newcomer)

Capcom:
Arthur of Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins
Chris Redfield of Resident Evil
Chun-Li of Street Fighter
Dante of Devil May Cry
Firebrand of Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins
Jedah Dohma of DarkStalkers (Newcomer)
Monster Hunter of the eponymous series (Newcomer)
Morrigan Aensland of DarkStalkers
Nemesis T-Type of Resident Evil
Ryu of Street Fighter
Spencer of Bionic Commando
Strider Hiryu of Strider
X of Mega Man X (Newcomer)
Zero of Mega Man X (*Originally assumed to be Dead Rising’s Frank West.)

Now, assuming this is what we’re actually getting on launch day, there’s a few different ways to look at it. First off, the initial size of the roster isn’t that big of a problem. I can understand why people would be disappointed with it because of the bar set by Marvel vs. Capcom 2’s 56-man lineup, but I also feel like Capcom is trying for a soft reboot of the series, opting for a smaller, more-manageable roster to start with. That’s not a terrible idea for a new entry in a long-running fighting game series; in fact, the same argument can be used in defense of Street Fighter V’s initial roster being smaller but easier to balance at the outset. The size of the roster does contribute to the real reason why I have a problem with it, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

I’m also not broken up about the lack of X-Men characters, though that’s mostly because I can see why. The Avengers are the most recognizable of Marvel’s properties at the moment, much like the X-Men were when Marvel vs. Capcom began in the late 90’s. So, of course, Marvel will want to promote the Avengers as much as they did the X-Men before them. That being said, it’s worth noting that the entire series got its start with X-Men: Children of the Atom back in 1994, as well as X-Men vs. Street Fighter in 1996. So, not including any X-Men when they were part of the series’ origins just doesn’t feel right.

The ongoing rights issues with Fox Studios might be a reason for it (and I say this because I don’t believe Mike Evans’ notion of people not remembering the X-Men for a second), but the least Marvel could’ve done is try to spring for the rights to some of them. To be more specific, the most ideal X-Men to include would be Wolverine, arguably the face of the X-Men; Deadpool, easily the most popular of the X-Men if not the most popular Marvel character in general; and Magneto, Storm, and Sentinel, who are considered the three strongest characters in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and by extension the most memorable in the series’ competitive lore.

What I have an issue with is the fact that there are so few new characters joining the series this time around. Again, if those leaks are correct…and after E3 it’s looking more and more likely that they are…we’re only going to be getting seven new characters right out of the gate, which is a painfully small number for two companies with the variety of characters they have to offer. This also goes back to the matter of the starting roster’s overall size; like I’ve said before, I’m not overly concerned about the game only having 28 characters to begin with, but it wouldn’t be an issue at all if they had more new characters from the get-go. Having only seven of those characters being brand-new is a huge letdown, even if they seem to have interesting playstyles.

To give you an idea of how bad the newcomer count is, consider this: Of the 38 characters on Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s initial roster, 21 of them were brand-new:

marvel-vs-capcom-3-all-characters-unlockable-guide-screenshot-small

(Screencap from Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds‘ website)

Marvel:
Captain America
Deadpool (Newcomer)
Doctor Doom
Dormammu (Newcomer)
Hulk
Iron Man
Magneto
M.O.D.O.K. (Newcomer)
Phoenix (Newcomer)
Sentinel
She-Hulk (Newcomer)
Shuma-Gorath *As DLC
Spider-Man
Storm
Super Skrull (Newcomer)
Taskmaster (Newcomer)
Thor (Newcomer)
Wolverine
X-23 (Newcomer)

Capcom:
Akuma of Street Fighter
Albert Wesker of Resident Evil (Newcomer)
Amaterasu of Okami (Newcomer)
Arthur (Newcomer)
Chris Redfield (Newcomer)
Chun-Li
Crimson Viper of Street Fighter (Newcomer)
Dante (Newcomer)
Felicia of DarkStalkers
Hsien-Ko of DarkStalkers (Newcomer)
Jill Valentine of Resident Evil *As DLC
Mike Haggar of Final Fight (Newcomer)
Morrigan Aensland
Nathan Spencer (Newcomer)
Ryu
Trish of Devil May Cry (Newcomer)
Tron Bonne of Mega Man Legends
Viewtiful Joe of the eponymous series (Newcomer)
Zero (Newcomer)

And that’s before the subsequent Ultimate re-release. In addition to across-the-board balance updates to the previous cast and the overall game engine, the update added twelve new characters…11 of which were also brand-new:

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(Screencap from Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3)

Marvel:
Doctor Strange (Newcomer)
Ghost Rider (Newcomer)
Hawkeye (Newcomer)
Iron Fist (Newcomer)
Nova (Newcomer)
Rocket Raccoon (Newcomer)

Capcom:
Firebrand (Newcomer)
Frank West (Newcomer)
Nemesis T-Type (Newcomer)
Phoenix Wright of Ace Attorney (Newcomer)
Strider Hiryu
Vergil of Devil May Cry (Newcomer)

Between both versions of the game, 32 of the 50 characters had never been in a Marvel vs. Capcom title before. It could be argued that 32 is too high a number and they should’ve brought back at least a few fan-favorites like Cable and Captain Commando. However, the point still stands that Marvel vs. Capcom 3 introduced a ton of brand-new faces, and to go from that to just seven initial newcomers for Infinite is a harder pill to swallow than the overall roster reduction.

The real sting in the tail is the fact that Capcom will be more or less holding back any potential new characters as downloadable content. This includes Marvel’s Black Panther and Mega Man X antagonist Sigma, both the first of six characters (with the possibility of more afterward) to be introduced in this regard. Sigma being DLC makes little sense because of his role in the game’s story mode alongside Marvel’s Ultron, and while Black Panther being DLC is annoying, the fact that he’s going to be playable at all is fair enough. As of now, it’s unknown whether or not the other downloadable characters will be veterans or other newcomers, but that’s neither here nor there.

While it might not be the biggest source of anger for most people in regards to this game, it seems like it’s a part of it, and if that is, in fact, the case, I agree with it entirely. If there were a better mix of veterans and newcomers on the initial roster, I wouldn’t have much of a problem with this; downloadable characters would simply be adding to an already-strong roster. As it stands right now, introducing only seven new characters and keeping more potential newcomers behind a paywall is questionable marketing at best, and at worst, forwards the general consensus that this game feels more like a cheap cash grab by Capcom than a passion project for longtime fans of the series.


There’s a lot more I could talk about here, but this article has gone on long enough as it is. Overall, I want Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite to succeed, and feel that it ultimately will. In spite of everything going against it, the gameplay still looks as fast and frantic as Marvel vs. Capcom should be, and I feel it’ll be a tournament pillar like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was before it. But at the same time, Capcom needs to listen to the pre-release criticisms the game is receiving and take them into consideration for the future. They already bungled their last few major fighting game releases in one fashion or another, and are failing to restore any sort of good faith while trying to resuscitate Street Fighter V; any more major miscues, and they run the risk of throwing away whatever is left of their good will with the general fighting game crowd. And that’s a road Capcom shouldn’t want to travel.


‘Til we meet again,
Tom

Despite Everything, It’s Still Mahvel, Baby

When’s Marvel? It’s leading off Evo Sunday.

The player’s choice charity race for Evo 2017’s ninth and final game concluded on Tuesday. To virtually no surprise at all, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is taking a victory lap before the next installment of Capcom’s Versus series comes to town, having raised over $70,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation; Pokken Tournament put up a strong fight throughout, but it wasn’t enough to win it all, although the Evo team did announce they would give $10k for all Pokken tournament pot bonuses this year as a sort of consolation prize.

Now, I will say up-front that I’m happy that Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 gets one more day in the sun, even though it came at the expense of other deserving titles like Pokken, Killer Instinct, and Skullgirls. It’s a fun game to watch, and has provided some crazy tournament moments, both at Evo and other big fighting game tournaments like Combo Breaker and Community Effort Orlando. My issue is that it should have been there from the very beginning. I did say once before that the lineup for Evo 2017 is fine, if not somewhat questionable. Amongst other things, I’ve asked myself…:

  • Why do we have both Guilty Gear and BlazBlue in the same lineup?
  • Why don’t they just hold an exhibition tournament for Super Smash Bros. Melee?

And most importantly:

  • Why is Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 not a definite part of the lineup?

I’ve already talked about why the donation drive was a bad idea in hindsight; it basically railroads Evo’s overarching purpose of uniting communities of various fighting games by turning them against each other for the sake of their own game. (And no, claiming that the money goes towards a good cause doesn’t make it any better.)

However, there’s another layer to it that was brought up by Michael “IFC Yipes” Mendoza, undoubtedly one of the most influential figureheads in the Marvel vs. Capcom community. As a whole, the series has too big a stake in Evo’s lore to be left out.


Ever since Evo started in 1996 (known as Battle of the Bay back then), Marvel vs. Capcom as a series has been featured since 2000. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was ran from 2000 to 2010, when it passed the baton to Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in 2011. Then, MvC3 was upgraded to Ultimate, and has been an Evo fixture…on every Evo Sunday since its inaugural tournament, no less…since 2012. It’s especially important to note that the Evo staff sent off Marvel vs. Capcom 2 before the next game came out, because they knew a new entry was on the horizon.

So, given all of that, is it really asking too much to give Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 one last hurrah before Infinite launches later this year?

I get it; games usually don’t get sendoff tournaments at Evo. But Marvel is different because of the rich history it has on its side. The fact that fans had to vote with their wallet to keep such a longstanding tourney pillar in the Evo lineup is poor form on the part of Joey Cuellar. I’m not saying he should be ashamed of himself for doing that, but I do hope that he thinks twice about excluding a fan-favorite title from the main lineup.


Overall, while I still think that Marvel was unfairly shafted by being regulated to a player’s choice candidate, I’m satisfied with what Evo 2017 is going to bring. It’s a solid (if not somewhat redundant) lineup of games that’s sure to provide plenty of exciting moments, and even a few surprises, just as any Evo does. It’s going to be amazing, and I can’t wait to see what happens.

The countdown to July has officially begun.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

Eight Crazy Games…Plus One TBD

The pillars are set for video gaming’s biggest competitive stage…almost.

At the beginning of the month, I talked about what I thought was going to be announced for titles at the Evolution World Championship, easily one of the biggest video game-based competitions in the world today. Recently, the head of the tournament series, Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar, announced the 2017 lineup on a livestream.

How right was I? Well, first let’s take a look at what my predictions were:
Street Fighter V
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Killer Instinct
King of Fighters XIV
Tekken 7: Fated Retribution
Injustice 2
Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator OR BlazBlue: Central Fiction
A “Day Zero” Super Smash Bros. Melee exhibition tournament

As for the official lineup, Cuellar revealed eight official games:
Street Fighter V
Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev2
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Super Smash Bros. Melee
Injustice 2
BlazBlue: Central Fiction
Tekken 7: Fated Retribution
King of Fighters XIV

There will be one more game, but we’ll talk about that later. For now, let’s talk about what’s officially there.


So, the lineup is almost exactly what I was predicting it would be. Street Fighter V was the ultimate gimmie pick since Street Fighter is a cornerstone series for the tournament. The new characters coming in the months leading up to Evo (as well as any balance changes if Capcom decides to answer the players’ call) will surely shake up the metagame, and it’s absolutely sure to be a part of the Capcom Pro Tour once again. Whether it’ll get primetime broadcasting on ESPN again is still to be determined, but with how well it worked out last year, it wouldn’t be shocking to see.

Tekken 7, King of Fighters XIV, and Injustice 2 were all games I was expecting to be there, considering all three series have a past history with Evo. From what I’ve been hearing, King of Fighters XIV has been doing well in terms of tournament attendance and viewership, and considering the series hasn’t been featured on the main Evo lineup since 2013, it’ll be nice to have it back. The same can be said for Tekken 7, though now it’ll be on console as opposed to being limited to an arcade cabinet.

For Injustice 2, it’s still fairly early to say whether or not it’s going to do well since it hasn’t come out yet, but I would imagine we’ll get some decent character variety with the game still being fairly fresh. (It was announced by NetherRealm Studios prior to the lineup reveal that Injustice 2 would be launching in May as opposed to April, which is when they traditionally release their new titles; this means that the metagame will only be about two months young by Evo.)

One of the interesting things about this lineup of games is that we didn’t get either Guilty Gear or BlazBlue, but instead we wound up with both games on the main lineup. It’s hard to say how I feel about this. On the one hand, both series are incredibly fun to watch, and they each have their place in Evo lore for different reasons. (Part of 2015’s Guilty Gear top 8 was featured on SportsCenter while BlazBlue had one of the most emotional grand final sets a year before.) At the same time, however, it feels a bit redundant having two “anime fighters” on the main block, especially when you consider that they’re both created by the same developer. Honestly, I’m torn on this one.

What I’m not torn on is my stance when it comes to Super Smash Bros.’ presence at Evo. I still stand by the notion that Melee should’ve been given a Day Zero exhibition tournament instead of being given a full-blown tournament, because everybody knows that it’s going to come down to one of Melee’s Five Gods or Leffen. Moreso, one of them is going to end up winning it all. I’m sure it’ll be fun to watch, as competitive Melee always is, but knowing the probable winner takes some of the excitement away.

That being said, I’m very glad that Smash Bros. for Wii U got a spot on Evo Sunday. The game has come into its own over the course of the year, with different names rising to the top from tournament to tournament. Despite a few technical hiccups and other issues (which I may discuss later), Smash Bros. for Wii U has shown that it can hang with Melee in terms of views and excitement. Now, it has a chance to truly prove itself as a worthy Evo Sunday title.

Overall, it’s not a bad lineup at all. Are there things that I would change about the lineup? For sure, but I’m not going to pout about it because there’s not a whole lot I can say on the matter that will actually change anything.

…Oh, right. There was one more game, wasn’t there?


Five years ago, Cuellar left the last game up to the players through a fundraiser contest; the game that received the most donations towards breast cancer research would be the final game at Evo 2013. The winning title, as fate would have it, was Super Smash Bros. Melee, which barely beat out Skullgirls and Super Street Fighter II: Turbo in the closing minutes.

The contest is coming back again this year. All proceeds will be going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation this time, and whichever game wins not only becomes the ninth game at Evo, but will lead off Evo Sunday ahead of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, BlazBlue: Central Fiction, Tekken 7, and the traditional closer in Street Fighter V. The candidates include:

Super Street Fighter II: Turbo
Mortal Kombat XL
Skullgirls
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Killer Instinct
Pokken Tournament
ARMS (A title for Nintendo’s Switch)
Windjammers
Nidhogg

We have three Evo mainstays (Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Killer Instinct, and Mortal Kombat XL), a potential returning title from last year (Pokken), an absolute classic (Super Street Fighter II Turbo), an underappreciated gem (Skullgirls), an unproven title that isn’t even out yet (ARMS), and two non-fighting games as candidates (Windjammers and Nidhogg) for the final spot. It’s…an interesting lineup, to say the least.

The issue that I see here has nothing to do with any of the titles that are up for contention…though I am very surprised that UMvC3 may not be in the main lineup at all…nor does it have to do with where the money is going. I recognize that the money being donated is ultimately going to a noble cause. That being said, the larger problem with the charity drive is that it’s counter-intuitive to the main purpose of Evo.

See, the whole point of Evo is to bring fans of fighting games together under one roof. It might have seemed like a daydream once upon a time when it strictly ran Capcom fighters, but now more than ever has Evo become a unifying force for fans of all fighting games, similar to how the Olympics bring together athletes from all nations for all sports. Even with a good cause in mind, however, setting up something like this only serves to divide, not unite. There’s already been a fair deal of in-fighting among many of the games’ communities, and there’s bound to be more of it when the donation drive ends in two weeks’ time.

Community interaction is fine, I’m all for it. But when it pits communities against one-another and enables them to put down other titles while promoting their own, all of a sudden we have a problem. If anything, I would’ve preferred if the Evo team debated on the last title and decide it for themselves…or, in a worse-case scenario, just stick to eight and be prepared to catch flak from the communities that have been left out. It may be a lose-lose situation, but it beats the alternative of the other communities trashing each other in the name of their game.


Here’s the bottom line, though. Whatever qualms I may have with this year’s Evo lineup…I would’ve included Ultimate Marvel 3 and Killer Instinct over Melee and Guilty Gear Xrd personally…I think it’s still pretty solid. No matter what the last game ends up being, it’s going to be a fun weekend come the middle of July.

It’s a long wait until July, and I couldn’t be more hype.

‘Til we meet again,
Tom

P.S. If anything, this is what I would’ve done for an Evo lineup:
Street Fighter V
Killer Instinct
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Injustice 2
BlazBlue: Central Fiction
Tekken 7: Fated Retribution
King of Fighters XIV
Windjammers (Purely for the sake of having something off-color by Evo standards)
Three “Day Zero” exhibitions: One for Super Smash Bros. Melee similar to last year’s “Battle of the Five Gods,” another for Guilty Gear Xrd Rev2, and a final one for Pokken Tournament.