After 10 years of waiting and begging, the popular fighting game franchise that combines the characters from Capcom video games and Marvel comics returns in “Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds.” 

A fast-paced fighting engine and fantastic presentation make for an awesome gameplay experience, but unfortunately many gamers won’t be able to. 

The first and most important thing to say about “Marvel vs. Capcom 3″ is that anyone who lacks experience with the “Street Fighter” series will not have any fun with this game. Sure, there will be the initial excitement that arises from being able to take Spiderman into battle against Wolverine or Ryu Hayabusa, but that joy will quickly fade away if you’re playing against anything but the easiest settings in arcade mode. 

The most frustrating thing about this barrier to entry is that Capcom has taken no steps to help new players learn the nuances of the gameplay. The training stages are nothing but an arena for you to practice moves in and, beyond a basic combination list, the game offers no instructions about how to properly execute various combinations or attacks. 

Mission mode is no better. Simply showing the name of a move for the player to do and leaving it up to him or her to open the pause menu and figure out exactly what is being asked of him or her. This gets especially frustrating when the combo required is longer than the allotted space on the screen. 

Once a significant amount of time is put into learning how the game works, it actually becomes fun to play. There are 36 characters, 18 per company, and each has a unique combat style and set of moves that relate pretty well to how he or she actually fights in their respective material. While some of the character inclusions (and exclusions) are questionable, anyone that’s a fan of Capcom games or Marvel comics should at least be able to find a few characters he or she knows and loves. 

The game is based around three on three combat, with the ability to switch characters on the fly in the middle of battle and combine the powers of any given team’s characters to rack up a significant amount of damage. Battles on screen are fast and exciting to both watch and play, where high-level players can pull off near endless combos through a mixture of basic moves, character assists and hyper combos. 

From a gameplay perspective, the only thing wrong with “Marvel vs. Capcom 3″ is that some characters are just better than others. This is what one comes to expect from any fighting game, but it’s especially bad in a game that has so many ways to stand on the far side of the arena from your opponent and spam projectile attacks. 

Though these problems have been balanced significantly when compared to the issues that arose from these tactics in “Marvel vs. Capcom 2,” there are still several characters that are used with these methods more often than not. 

Stylistically, “Marvel vs. Capcom 3″ is fantastic. The graphics and art direction are impressive and hold up well considering all the action that goes on during matches, coupled alongside an incredible musical score that is arguably one of the best in fighting game history, with enough variety that everyone should be able to find at least one theme they enjoy. 

The amount of appreciation towards the source material is also staggering, with characters engaging in pre-game banter, alternate skins that relate to costumes/outfits that the characters have worn in their respective titles and incredibly detailed character bios. The power levels listed for Capcom characters should be ignored, however, as they were rated with the wrong scale. 

Ironically, the biggest flaw with “Marvel vs. Capcom 3″ is not what was in the game on release, but what was left out. Before it was even put on the shelves, Capcom had already announced two downloadable characters for the title, and just a few days after release there were more character outfits shown to be going on sale soon. Capcom apparently sees this game as an opportunity to make money by selling “extra” content that should have been released in the final game, and it’s a shame that that attitude scars what could be a golden opportunity to integrate feedback and flesh out everything the game could possibly be to fans. 

Despite the fact that it is completely devoid of friendliness towards new players, “Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds” is a fun game once you have the mechanics down, especially in a group of people that are equally experienced/inexperienced. Test it out with a rental if you’re worried it might not be the game for you, but don’t make a final decision until you give it a try.

4 out of 5 stars

Jayson Grenwald is a senior majoring in English literature. Send comments, column suggestions and differing opinions to jgruenwald@wisc.edu.