In theory, this would be another evaluation of yet another release of some variant of Marvel vs. Capcom 3; between February of 2011 and now we’ve discussed both Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in-depth, so really, a PS Vita port doesn’t seem like it’s going to generate much additional discussion. In practice, however, handheld fighting games are generally rather hit or miss; the console designs often make the games harder to work with, and for more modern games, corners often need to be cut to make the games translate well to the lower powered device. Thus, then, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for the PS Vita is actually an interesting test case for the device on two levels. First, it allows for a comparison to the console ports of the games, to see how well the handheld can properly emulate (or pretend to emulate) its more powerful brethren. Second, it works as a good test case for seeing how well the PS Vita works with fighting games mechanically, and how helpful or hurtful the physical design of the console is for the player who wishes to play fighting games on it. So, then, while this is essentially a handheld port of a game we’ve seen twice in twelve months at this point, let us approach this as more of a science experiment for the Vita itself. Knowing how Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 stacks up on the home consoles, let us see how it handles on Sony’s newest device, and what sort of a product it ends up being in this environment.
Having said that, the same rules from the Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 review apply: anything italicized can be considered to be from the original reviews, while anything “normal”Â can be considered as new content. Cool? Cool.
The story of the game isn’t especially involved; the Marvel and Capcom universes have crossed together into one world, Galactus is coming to eat the Earth, and your chosen team of fighters has to stop him. That’s really about the size of it, and while the endings for each of the characters are fine enough, you really won’t be playing the game for its engrossing storyline. Insofar as game modes are concerned, however, you’ll get some decent mileage out of those. Offline, you can go up against the computer in Arcade Mode and plow through a series of matches to face Galactus and jump into the Training Mode to test out various combos and teams or fight with no consequences against friends. There’s also a Mission Mode where you can pull off increasingly more difficult combos and patterns to learn your characters and how they work. Online, you can take it to friends and strangers in Ranked or Player matches, and you can assemble rooms of people to take turns kicking the crap out of each other as the situation permits. There’s also a Gallery to look around in which archives artwork, endings, character profiles and models, voice samples, music, and other fun things for you to play around with. The game also allows you a profile to customize, which allows you to choose a tag and icon, view your stats, and set up three teams that can be instantly selected, complete with character color and support type, if you know who you’ll be playing as.
Capcom has added in a few new modes to play around with in the PS Vita release of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 to make it stand out from its console brethren, fortunately. In the Offline modes, you now have the “Touch”Â mode, which allows you another simplified way to play the game with the touch screen, allowing you to move around by swiping the screen and attack by tapping the screen. Online Mode supports PSN connectivity online for fighting in Ranked and Player matches, as well as Ad Hoc play for just goofing around locally with your friends who have the game and the console and want to go. The biggest new addition, however, is the Heroes and Heralds mode, which can be played either online or offline. While we’ll get into the mechanical specifics of the mode a little later, you can either jump into the mode online to play tug-of-war with other players to take control of the galaxy for the Heroes (to save it) or the Heralds (to end it), or offline to play against random enemy groups in various locations. This is actually a really awesome mode that adds a lot to the experience, and it’s a shame the console variants of the game didn’t see it included at launch, though it is free DLC for those who still have the game at least, and it’s available instantly for the Vita version of the game. You also get the Galactus Mode (you play as Galactus and wipe out heroes) and Spectator Mode for online play, so basically you’re getting everything the console versions of the game received in a handheld package right from the get-go.
On the PS Vita, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 looks fantastic. While it’s noticeably scaled down from its console counterparts if you’re paying attention, during normal play it’s barely even noticeable, as Capcom has done a great job scaling the game down to the smaller screen. As is expected, the character models retain their interesting artistic design and outstanding animation quality, and the backgrounds are as colorful and lively as ever as well. Technically, there is no obvious slowdown during the proceedings, even when you’re getting into massive multi-person super moves, and the framerate is stable all around, even in the transition to the handheld. The visual and special effects that pop up are also quite solid, and again, while they don’t compare to the console versions on a clear one to one scale, they’re very nice for a handheld title. Aurally, the music is well produced, and each character gets their own song that switches up between characters as other characters are taken out, and classic songs, such as Arthur’s theme from Ghouls and Ghosts, pop up here and there. The voice acting is also very good, with some familiar voices popping up here and there (Spider-Man’s voice actor, for instance) amidst the new ones, and the Capcom characters offer a choice between English and Japanese voices that can be set from the options menu in a nice touch. The battle sounds are fitting and compliment the on-screen action nicely, and you’ll not find a sound out of place as you’re beating the crap out of your opponents. It’s interesting to note that the PS Vita version looks to include all of the character specific theme songs as well as the English and Japanese voices for Capcom characters, which from a handheld title is, again, fantastic.
At this point, the changes Marvel vs. Capcom 3 brought to the table are hardly “new”Â, so you’ve most likely seen what the game has done to the fighting mechanics Capcom is known for, but if not, here’s the basics. Each character has a light, medium and heavy attack, rather than individual punches and kicks, which can be chained together for combos and such. There’s also a Special button now, which is primarily used for launching opponents into the air or spiking them into the ground in combos, but can also be used for other purposes with various characters, so you can think of it as a modifier as well. The game will also set up buttons for each of your two tag team partners to allow you to use them in battle. Pressing the button summons the partner to provide support with whatever action you chose for them when you started, while holding the button allows you to tag them in for battle. Each character you can play as can also perform various special moves, used by pressing some directional input series followed by one or more buttons, which allows them to throw projectiles, attack, teleport, dodge, or any one of a number of other things, depending on the character. You can also, as noted, choose the support moves your allies will used based on the team dynamic and your style of play, so you can have a character set up to throw projectiles to give you breathing room to do something, or perform an anti-air counter if your character has none, for example. These are the basics of the game, and while fans of the series and newcomers alike will want to spend some time mastering the concepts, they’re not so hard to understand and work with and you’ll likely have a pretty good idea of what you’re doing in no time.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 brings its own unique elements to the franchise, of course, while also carrying over some elements from its predecessors. The game offers your standard super moves, called Hyper Combos, which are executed by performing a directional input and pressing two attack buttons at the same time, and each character has several available. By performing the directional motions for one of your partner’s combos while you’re performing one, however, you can also bring them in to perform a Team Hyper Combo, at the cost of another super bar, and you can chain between all three of your characters for up to three Hyper Combos in one shot. You can also call all three of your characters together to perform one huge super, called a Crossover Combo, for massive damage and special effects mayhem. You can also perform large air combos, alone or with your partners as a Team Aerial Combo, or prevent said combos from being performed on you when you get launched, to give or avoid big damage. You can also employ X-Factor by pressing all of the attack buttons and the Special button at once, which jacks up your attack damage and movement speed, and can impart other effects, and can be boosted by having less team members available, meaning that the worse off you are the greater the boost. There are also various strategic moves you can employ, such as the Snap Back, which drains one super bar and knocks the present opponent out of battle, so you could knock out a healthy character and replace them with a damaged character, or the Advancing Guard, which pushes enemies back to avoid combo situations and reduce pressure when you’re locked down, for example.
The game is mostly about the strategy of how you assemble your team, as different characters work best in different combinations, and that’s the way it’s been from the beginning. You’re given forty-eight characters to start with, including old favorites like Ryu, Morrigan, Spider-Man and Captain America, as well as newcomers like Albert Wesker, Mike Haggar, Thor and Deadpool, and you can make three person teams from them to accentuate positives and minimize weaknesses. Each character feels surprisingly solid, and characters that don’t seem obviously useful at first show their usefulness as you start experimenting with teams and options. While it’s entirely possible to build poor team combinations, none of the characters themselves seem useless or outmatched once you get used to them. Frankly, the Marvel vs. Capcom series has never really been about character balancing as much as wacky fights and crazy combinations, but the game feels quite balanced overall and the game feels forgiving without being easy. You’re even afforded a “Simple”Â mode that allows poor players the ability to string combos with one button, use special moves with another and Hyper Combos with a third to simplify things for less skilled or younger players. Even the final boss, Galactus, isn’t terribly broken, astonishingly enough; while he can be daunting at first, his attacks can largely be avoided by exploiting Super Jumps (down, up) and wiping him out on the hardest difficulty wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be. For inexperienced players he’ll likely be a hassle, but compared to Alpha-152 from Dead or Alive 4 or Azazel from Tekken 6 he’s child’s play.
So, as this is the Ultimate version of the game, as you’re likely aware, the game comes packed with forty eight characters from the start, lacking only Jill and Shuma Gorath from the outset, as yes, they’re DLC here too. Interestingly, however, if you own the PS3 version of the game and acquired the DLC for that game, hey, it’s already unlocked for you in the Vita version as well, which is neat. If you own the 360 version, however (*ahem*) you’re beat, so there you go. All of the balance changes from the console game are here as well, for those who might be concerned about this thing, as the game feels as balanced as it ever did. The game also includes “Touch”Â controls that allow you to play the game using the touch screen instead of the pad and buttons, for those who would want to. Mechanically, this is MUCH easier for stringing together combos and busting out supers from combinations, but it’s much more limited insofar as how much control it offers the player, and it also bears mentioning that it’s basically “noob friendly”Â, so you likely won’t be seeing too many people who want to allow people using this control scheme to play with them. There’s also an option built in to allow you to use the Vita as the “Ultimate Controller”Â for the PS3 console, which is cute; basically, it allows you to play as if the PS Vita were the PS3 controller with extra touch screen support. It’s a novel concept, though it’s not likely to replace your PS3 controller long term, as the pad is more friendly on the hand, and if you’re using an arcade stick, forget it. That said, however, it’s pretty safe to say that playing the game on the Vita is surprisingly pretty easy to do. While the analog sticks aren’t friendly in comparison to those of the consoles, for D-Pad users, the D-Pad here is pretty responsive (though dragon punch motions can take some fiddling), and you can jump into the game and do as well as you do on the consoles with ease. The buttons are responsive and the controls feel mostly tight on the Vita, so at this point, the Vita is seeming like a great choice for fighting game fans on the go.
The Heroes and Heralds Mode is also included in this release on the card (or possibly as an automatic update), and while the console releases did see this as free DLC down the line, it wasn’t something we had a chance to discuss in the review of the console games, so let’s talk about that now. The Heroes and Heralds mode is essentially an oddball sort of campaign mode that allows for offline and online campaigns on one of two teams: the Heroes, who are attempting to stop Galactus from eating Earth, and the Heralds, who are attempting to pave the way for Galactus and his subsequent planetary dining. When playing offline, you choose your team and pick from one of several locations to fight in, then lay waste to the team residing there to try and take control of the area for your team. You’ll also want to pay attention to the Hit List, a Bingo card full of characters you can face; defeating characters on the card checks them off the card, and when you make a line you unlock bonus stages to fight in. When playing online, you choose a team for the current campaign, which you cannot change until the campaign ends in a week. You’ll then take to online battle in random matchups against players on the opposing side until the campaign ends, at which point one side or the other wins and you start again. What sets the mode apart is the card deck you’re able to build to improve your capabilities in battle in interesting ways. You’re able to add three cards to your deck, with one card functioning as the primary card and the other two functioning as secondary cards. Each card has descriptive text that indicates what its primary and secondary function is, so you’ll have a good idea of what each card can offer. Cards might simply offer different levels of the same ability (such as Dazzler’s healing ability) or modified abilities (Nightcrawler’s teleportation) depending on whether they’re the primary or secondary card, so you’ll have a fairly extensive amount of options available. Mind you, none of the cards offered are game breaking so to say, but they add in some nice bonuses that skillful planning can make good use of, and the Vita version adds in additional cards not found on the consoles to give the mode more variety over its console brethren.
You can beat Arcade Mode once in about thirty minutes or so, but there are a ton of things to clear out and unlock in the game just to start with. By clearing out challenges in Mission Mode you’ll unlock titles to use and artwork, and by clearing out the Arcade Mode with various characters you’ll unlock artwork, and other amusing things. There are also a sizable amount of Trophies to clear out, and many are fairly easy to unlock, asking you to get various combo levels or perform various fight combinations online and offline. Speaking of the online, it’s moderately well populated and quite a lot of fun, as you can jump into lobbies and goof around with people while playing and switching up or participate in Ranked battles to improve your online standing depending on your personal interests. Add in the novelty of Galactus Mode, the ability to watch people play via Spectator Mode, the ability to review replays, the Heroes and Heralds mode, the DLC sharing between the PS Vita and PS3, the Ultimate Controller mode and the touch screen controls and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is simply beefy on the PS Vita. It comes equipped with all of the modes available to the console release in addition to a bunch of goofy new options that are fun to fool around with, and it’s basically a well equipped fully featured handheld fighting game that fans will love immensely.
That said, one more time, from the top: this is basically a handheld port of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and as such, the flaws in that game are still in this game. The endings are still static images, there is still something of a dearth of play modes when compared to something like a Tekken 6 or a Mortal Kombat, and Mission Mode is STILL massively unhelpful to new players. The addition of the free Heroes and Heralds mode mitigates the complaints of “lack of modes”Â that followed the console release somewhat, though some kind of actual Tournament mode would have been nice at this point. Further, on the other side of things, while there are additions to the game, and they’re cute, the Vita additions boil down to a touch screen mode that’s inoffensive but basically useless, an “Ultimate Controller”Â mode that isn’t as useful as using an actual controller, and portability. The game is functionally identical to its console counterparts, which is interesting from a “WOW THAT’S AMAZING”Â perspective, but loses its luster if this is the third time you’ve played the game. Considering that Capcom is the same company that gave us the awesome Chaos Tower in their PSP release of Darkstalkers and a novel Heroclix-inspired minigame in their 3DS port of Street Fighter IV, it’s a shame that this game is basically a straight port. It’s also annoying that those who purchased the 360 version of the prior games will have to purchase the DLC again for the Vita release, and while this makes sense from a business perspective, from a consumer perspective no one wants to buy DLC twice and Capcom could work out something to verify DLC between versions if they cared to.
Basically, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for the Vita is more or less identical to the console release; it carries the same modes and features, it’s just as fun and well assembled, and it offers some minor Vita extras, though not enough to justify owning a third version of the game. All of the modes in the console releases are here, along with a couple new Vita specific options, and the game still looks great on the small screen and sounds just as good as its console brethren. The gameplay is still simple to understand and easy to adjust to on the Vita, the game is quite responsive on the device, and fans of the series and genre both will find it to be an excellent port and an excellent mobile fighting option. However, it’s still the same game as the console versions, and while the additions are cute, none of them are enough to justify the Vita version as a must-have game if you’re looking at buying your third version of this game in a year. The game really doesn’t have anything specific to the Vita version that makes it “must have”Â, especially if you own the 360 version of the originals and have to buy the DLC again, making it essentially a direct port of a game you already own. On its own, yes, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is an outstanding portable fighting game and an amazing port that deserves to be given consideration, and if you love the series or missed it on the consoles it’s easily recommended. For those who have a console version, however, unless you need to have a handheld version as well, this does nothing to make it a must-have launch title for the Vita.
The Scores: Story/Game Modes: GREAT
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME.
Short Attention Span Summary: Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for the Vita is an excellent port of an excellent game, and if you’re looking for a portable fighting experience on the Vita it’s a fine one… but being the third time the game has been released in twelve months, it’s also hard to recommend based on that. The plot and gameplay modes from the console releases are here and as fine as ever, and the game does include some Vita specific options that are cute and fun to play with. The game looks excellent on the handheld and sounds as good as its console counterparts, and the gameplay holds up well in the transition to the Vita, something handheld fighting games sometimes have trouble with. The Vita port is basically faithful to its console counterparts, making it an excellent release for those who are looking for portable fighting goodness, as there are plenty of modes to goof around with online and off, and there’s plenty to do with the game to justify it for fans. However, it’s basically identical to the console ports save for a small handful of Vita specific additions that are amusing at best and unnecessary at worst, and the game doesn’t add anything really exciting like other handheld Capcom fighters have in the past. If you’re just looking for an awesome portable fighting game, yes, this is it, but it’s a much harder pill to swallow if you’ve bought the console games already, doubly so if you have the 360 releases and need to drop cash on the DLC a second time. Basically, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a great port of a great game that, if you don’t own it or want a handheld version of it, is easily worth your money… but if you do own it and don’t NEED it again, does nothing of note to convince you otherwise.
Mark B. is the Senior Editor at Diehard GameFAN, mostly because he’s been on staff for a decade. He has previously written for 411Games, InsidePulse Games, Not a True Ending, Retrograding and Beyond the Threshold, and he maintains multiple infrequent columns, as well as a Hitbox stream on Saturdays. You can check out his archives and non-game related work over at markbwriting.com, and follow him on Twitter at MarkBWriting or Facebook at MarkBWriting. (Special thanks to J. Rose for the artwork.)