Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite: A Return to its Roots or Devolution of the Series?

Over two decades ago the Comic Books vs. Capcom Characters crossover wars began with X-Men vs. Street Fighter. To the surprise of no one, having pugilists from one of the most successful fighting franchises of all time face off against some of the world’s most popular comic book characters was a success, which spawned Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter and subsequently Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes. Being the most inclusive of the two publishers’ properties, Marvel vs. Capcom became the format they stuck with and continued to evolve through subsequent releases. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is the newest entry in the popular franchise, but does this entry move the series forward or backwards?

Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite surprised me the first time playing it because it reverted back to the two on two tag team matches that hadn’t been seen in the initial game. This move isn’t necessarily bad, but is a bit confusing. Marvel Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes introduced the three on three face off, and with the unprecedented 56 playable characters that led to a ridiculous amount of possible team combinations. The smaller initial roster of thirty (which thanks to the magic of DLC will grow) can get away with two on two, but their decision got me to thinking that having a selectable team size of 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3 would have been a nice inclusion.

The game mechanics are a bit of a mixed bag in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. Before each match the player can select an Infinity Stone that can employ a special effect during the match, such as instantly filling up a character’s Infinity Meter part way or adding a knock back effect to their attacks. This adds an element of depth to the combat, but this is offset by the dumbing down of the fighting mechanics. Marvel vs. Capcom in general has always been more forgiving of button mashing than Street Fighter but the simplification of controls in the name of accessibility is nothing more than dumbing things down. Going back to the more limited format of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 of two heavy and two light attacks per character is not a major regression if that were the only simplification, especially since that is one of the stronger entries in the franchise. Combos are basically automatic now just by tapping the light attack buttons repeatedly. This is great for casual players or people who lack experience with fighting games, but for people who love learning how to pull off impressive combos the old fashioned way this is akin to playing a fighter on autopilot. While playing through the story mode I was able to get perfect victories by just mashing the Y button on the Xbox One controller, which does get old rather quick.

Which brings us to the story mode. On one hand the inclusion of a story mode is actually a welcome addition, and the stages being an unholy merged hybrid of locations from Marvel comic books and Capcom games is a nice twist and allowed the developers to showcase a different side of their creativity. Now, anyone who claims they play a Marvel vs. Capcom game for the story will be met with the same skepticism as people who claim they read a certain magazine for the articles, so we can forgive the fact that the story of this entry (and Marvel vs. Capcom in general) is largely a nonsensical convoluted mess. Having Dante, Chun Li, Thor and Captain Marvel together in the same game is just cool and that the point of these crossovers is just to have a bunch of great characters in the same setting despite the trillions of reasons why them meeting up makes zero sense. That being said, the story is actually entertaining once you just accept that these different dimensions have merged into each other, and it actually is more coherent than the story in Street Fighter V and does have the same type of popcorn appeal as ridiculous ’80s action movies. The main downside is so many of the battles are just against generic drone enemies like X Gardians and Ultron Drones.

The roster is an area of disappointment. I have begrudgingly accepted the market and business model has changed so that we get thirty characters now and more will be gradually doled out through DLC but there are some character choices that are questionable. The addition of Monster Hunter (coming soon through DLC) and Captain Marvel are welcome but some fan favorites like Wolverine, Deadpool, Akuma and Jill Valentine seem like glaring omissions. Perhaps maybe in round two of DLC we will see them or in Super Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite and One will flesh out the roster a bit more.

Overall Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is a case of taking a step forward while taking a step back. The inclusion of the story mode is a great addition; even if it’s on the short side and filled with cheesy dialog it was as enjoyable as it was easy to make fun of. The graphics are improved from previous entries and the music is a definite step up, which I always considered the weakest aspect of this series. The Infinity Stones adds a minor strategic element to the battles along with features like advancing guard but this is offset by how mindless combat can actually be. Why learn special moves and combos when you can simply spam the Y button to victory? As a two on two match it still works as a fun fighter but three on three sort of became Marvel vs. Capcom’s thing, and having the team building reduced is a minor negative on the title. For fans of the franchise, this can still be worthwhile title, but the improvements are unfortunately off set by some missteps.