Fri, Feb 10, 2012 | 13:27 GMT
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3: a Vita system-seller
The Vita launch line-up is a treasure chest of goodies, and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 is one of the brightest gems therein. We went straight to the source – Capcom’s Seth Killian – for the lowdown on this system-seller.
Capcom: Seth Killian
Probably best known as a senior Capcom USA community manager, Killian was once a pro fighter. “Not anymore,” he modestly demurs when described as one of the world’s best players. He prefers an arcade stick, crosshand, and is considered one of the best commentators for high-level fighter tournaments. He has a PhD in philosophy and once rescued me from an after-midnight trek in Japan.
“I lose close to 40 IQ points, which I do not have to spare, when I look at a fighting game,” Capcom’s Seth Killian apologised during our brief conversation at a Capcom event in Sydney.
“My whole brain slides right in there.”
Everyone else in the vicinity was suffering the same kind of mindsuck; Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 on the Vita draws the eye like the first exposed flesh of a new summer.
“Hopefully this game looks good to you. I think it’s one of the better-looking games on the Vita,” Killian observed.
It really is. Street Fighter IV was one of the 3DS’s most successful launch titles, suggesting there’s a strong market for core fighters on portables, but UMvC3 has to climb into high heels to piss from a height great enough to communicate its superiority to the earlier release. Get a good look at UMvC at a retail demo station; it’s a system-seller, if not a killer app.
It helps that Capcom has been so clever with its touch controls implementation.
“The touch controls are basically if you turn them on, they’re active the entire time and it’s completely continuous with the regular controls. Often what I do when I play is I play normally on the keypad, and then, I’ll use touch controls in part. So you can use as much of the touch controls as you want, or as little of the touch controls as you like,” Killian explained.
“So let’s see here, Felicia – I can dash around, I can tap out combos. It’s quite good! You tap the screen – there I hit the super. If you hit the super bar, it’ll do a super right away. You can always activate X-factor just by tapping the X on-screen.
“Usually I’ll just do like a normal combo,” he added, demonstrating. “I’ll go up into the air and do a regular combo, and then finish it off with a super on the ground.
“So I used basically no touch controls, and then finished it off with a [touch control] super just because I don’t want to risk losing my super or something.”
This last consideration is a serious one for Killian, who as a high-level player, has never been entirely comfortable with control pad layouts.
“I’ll say this: I play on an arcade sticks, so this is actually not my preferred way of playing, but I can play it easily anyway because touch controls let me overcome the little liabilities I have.”
“I’ll say this: I play on an arcade sticks, most of my fighting games, so this is actually not my preferred way of playing, naturally,” he noted.
“But I can play it easily anyway even though this is not the way I usually play fighting games, just because touch controls let me overcome the little liabilities I have. Like, I miss supers all the time, because it’s hard for me to hit two buttons at the same time.
“You can actually get quite extensive with touch control; it’ll give you a really good combo just by tapping the screen and do touch control combo.
It looked a lot like the simple mode on the standard version of Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, a godsend when fooling about with friends or exploring the move sets of unfamiliar characters.
“The one thing is, you only ever get a couple of variations of these combos,” Killian admitted.
“Basically, about two per character depending on where it starts. So there’s a little bit of limitedness there, and you’re not always doing the right thing; it’s obviously not the greatest combo you could ever do.
“A great player could do something definitely better than that. But for intermediate or newer players, it’s still quite a strong combo.”
Killian’s evangelising isn’t going to convince everybody, but for those on the upper reaches of oline leaderboards, there’s always the option to turn it off, or filter out those using it for online matches – and to be fair, the Vita’s touchscreen isn’t a push-to-win button.
“It’s a good bit of fun – oh, he’s got me. That’s not good. Computer’s getting…” Killian tuned me out momentarily to put the AI opponent in its place, repeating his regular pattern of keypad combos followed by a touchscreen super, fingers flying over the handheld with precision, the screen balanced so carefully it held rock steady despite the frantic action.
Capcom has clearly been quite thoughtful about how to use the system’s strengths rather than simply piling on the novelties.
“We stayed away from the rear screen because the inputs started overlapping,” Killian said.
“You’d get things [happening] just by holding it that you didn’t mean to get. Stuff that you didn’t intend. That didn’t work out so well. We moved away from it.”
The Vita version has other system-specific features, both core-friendly and a little more frivolous. There’s a replay sharing system and a hit box viewer – good for pro players keen on analysing and upping their game – and Near functionality allowing players to collect exclusive alternate costumes by swapping data with others nearby – “just a little silly, mini-Pokémon”-style extra.
Killian had turned the difficulty up, and the AI was busy turning him around “like a rag doll” while he spoke, so he returned focus to the game, determined to show off some fancy moves – double supers, for example.
“I can snap out a basic combo, and – oh, he’s dead. Well, then I can super – oh, he’s dead too.”
“You know, Marvel’s already a fairly easy game to pick up and mash around with, and then this just opens that door even further to players.”
What about those already so far through that door that they’ve set up camp in the living room and are demanding tea and their pick of teatime assorted? Is there any reason for core fans to pick up another version of UMvC3 – can it function as a portable training aid, perhaps?
“Oh, totally. Totally. The gameplay is identical,” Killian emphasised.
“The only difference between this and consoles in terms of anything you see on the screen is some of the animations in the background., these guys here will turn their heads in the console version, and here they’re static. If that’s the kind of thing you’re staring at when you’re playing one of these games, you’re doing it wrong anyway.
“The backgrounds are the same, they just animate slightly less, but the characters, the gameplay, the combos – as far as your training aid question? It’s 100% the same. We tested that extensively to make sure there were no secrets. It’s the same code. You’re never quite know when it’s running on a different processor, yeah, but it worked out to be identical.
“You can call assists just by tapping your buddies. Or by holding it down, you can tag in to somebody else. Basically anything you can do in normal Marvel.”
The Synergistic Might of Team Chair
Challenged to a match later in the day, I decided to mine Killian for tips. What is the best team in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3? Interested parties demand answers.
“I switch all the time,” the ex-pro said, disappointingly, but then added:
“For a while I played what I called ‘Team Chair’, which is not a cool group of guys, it was just… guys who sat in chairs at different points in the fight.”
“So Doctor Doom gets out of a throne; M.O.D.O.K. is floating around in a chair the whole time; and then also Dormammu is a hellord who floats up out of a hellish throne at the beginning of the match.
“I reach for inspiration for my team. Not a cool thing like, ‘these guys are all Avengers from Marvel comics’, more like ‘these guys are all in chairs’ or ‘guys who make annoying sound effects’ or something like that.”
“I was kind of expecting you to come back with something more hardcore analytical, like, these three guys have a perfect synergy with this cancel and this super,” I hazarded, exposing my deep, deep ignorance of fighters.
“That’s what everyone else does, and I quite enjoy that,” he agreed.
“But then I want to figure out the same thing – with chairs. Put my own special flavour on it.
“It’s such a creative game, You can find something interesting to do with almost everybody. Not always the best in terms of winning tournaments, but – yeahhh, we won.”
Another victory for Team Chair.
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 releases along side the Vita on February 22 in the US and Europe, and February 23 in Australia.