When it comes to games like this, I really wish I could read the minds of everyone who buys it to see just how much appeal the comic-book license adds to the overall package. I’m sure there must be some people out there who bought it more for chance to play as some of their favourite Marvel characters than the fact that it might be a good fighting game.

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I won’t give you a boring history lesson on this title – well, not a long one at least, but it’s pertinent to explain why Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds is significant. The first Marvel vs. Capcom game was released in arcades in ’98, and was a complicated affair with six-buttons and a lot of unnecessarily complicated play mechanics. It did okay, but since it was only ever released on the Dreamcast for home consoles, I think it’s fair to say that a lot of Western players missed out on it.

Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was a lot more successful, largely due to the insane lineup of characters, the much simpler, four-button system, and the fact that it was released on the PS2 (and PSN and Xbox Live, if you still fancy playing it). Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which was recently released for the PS3 and Xbox 360, continues this proud tradition, with an even more simplified system and an all new roster of mainstream and fringe characters from both the Capcom and Marvel universes.

To be honest, the character roster is noticeably smaller than it was in MvC2, but Capcom seemed to have made up for this by including some of the most interesting and unusual characters they could find from each universe. Joining us from the Capcom side, we have all the mandatory guys like Ryu, Chun-Li, Crimson Viper, Morrigan and Felicia from the Street Fighter and Darkstalkers series, and some interesting choices, like Albert Wesker from Resident Evil, Amaterasu from Okami, Mike Haggar from Final Fight, Arthur from Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and Dante and Trish from Devil May Cry.

Each of these characters feel truly different and some of them have entire systems and gameplay elements unique to them. Dante, for instance, has (and I’m not joking here) probably the largest move count I’ve ever seen from a 2D versus fighting character – and to make things even more interesting, most of his moves have an alternate effect which can be triggered by performing the move again just as it comes out. It’s nuts! Amaterasu, the wolf god from Okami, has a move which lets her change which weapon she has attached to her back, allowing her to access several different move sets, and Arthur from Ghouls ‘n Ghosts actually plays like a 2D platformer character stuck in a fighting game.

On the Marvel side, we have all the expected faces. You know? Wolverine, Captain America, Magneto, Storm, Spider-Man and Hulk. They’re joined by some surprising recruits, including She-Hulk, M.O.D.O.K, Phoenix (Jean Grey), X-23, Super Skrull, The Taskmaster, and the coolest new addition, Dead Pool. Once again, some of these guys have unique play mechanics that set them apart from the rest. She-Hulk can go into an athletic starting position that gives her access to an arsenal of hard-hitting moves, M.O.D.O.K can fly at will and uses his opponent’s energy to power up certain moves, and The Taskmaster is truly unusual in that he has long combos of moves he can activate if, and only if, his opponent blocks his initial attack. Dead Pool, while not the most unusual or technical character on the roster, is sure to be a popular choice just for his badass moves and comedic nature. He’s even more mouthy than Spider-Man, if you can believe it, and has a whole lot of whacky animations and funny comments.

As in the last game, players choose a team comprised of three of these crazy characters and attempt to win the bout by knocking out all three of their opponent’s characters first. Players can switch characters at will during the fight, tag them in to perform a quick assist attack, or even bring out all three characters at once to do a massive three-pronged super combo. What really sets MvC3 apart from other versus fighters available at the moment is the simplicity of it. Any average Joe can pull off an impressive combo leading into crazy super moves thanks to the option of using a simplified control scheme which makes performing them as easy as pressing a button.

The core gameplay has been simplified too, from a four-button system in the previous game to a three-button system this time round… well, three attack buttons and a launcher. It’s very easy for just about anyone to dash in, press weak attack, medium attack, hard attack, launcher to send their opponents flying. Don’t worry though, there is plenty more depth available for those hardcore fighters who are inclined to dig for it – but that’s only if you want to. Hell, check out the game’s Mission mode and you’ll see where the depth lies. Mission mode is a progressively challenging set of 10 trials for every character in the game requiring players to pull of more and more insane combos. Only true masters will be able to clear them all.

Taking a leaf from Street Fighter IV’s book, MvC3 has gone for an illustrative graphics style instead of something hyper real, with plenty of deep-black shadows and slight cross-hatching to create the illusion of comic art. It’s quite beautiful – and seizure-inducing too, once everything starts moving and the crazy flashing lights, comic-dialogue balloons and hit effects starting flying all over the place. The sound is just as impressive, loud and obnoxious enough to make your neighbours call the police. The voice acting is superbly done, and pedantic old-school gamers have the option of turning the Capcom characters’ voices to Japanese, if they want.

Aside from that, there’s plenty of cool artwork and movies to unlock and even online play if you can stomach the lag and want hundreds of readily available opponents. All of this combines to make Marvel vs. Capcom 3 the ideal game for casual or hardcore fighting fans.