Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite's emphasis on teamwork goes beyond the game

Yahoo Esports

Capcom has become notorious for its misinformation and trolling in recent years, especially after the leaks plaguing Street Fighter V’s marketing. In turn, Marvel vs. Capcom fans waited with baited breath to see what Capcom was bringing to PlayStation Experience.

Thankfully, they were not disappointed. Marvel 4, officially known as Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, is real.

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Marvel lives

After the reveal, I met with two members of the Capcom team and two members of the Marvel Games team to learn more about the game. This didn’t feel like a typical Capcom appointment. The presence of Marvel Games told me they had been more involved in this venture than I would have guessed.

“It’s not called Marvel vs. Capcom 4. There’s a lot of meaning behind the Infinite part. Capcom can make great fighting games. What we’ve never been able to do is tell the story about why these worlds are coming together,” Marvel Games executive producer Mike Jones told Yahoo Esports.

Street Fighter V had a rough launch thanks to being catered towards the hardcore competitive scene. That not only turned away the casual players Capcom hoped would flock to a new entry, but it led to a game missing tons of features. It was so shaky,  Street Fighter V was called the “worst fighting game launch in modern history,” by David “UltraDavid” Graham.

Arcade mode? Nope. Second player having the ability to control the menu to ready up for another versus match? Nope. While the game was great for competition and the Capcom Pro Tour, it didn’t perform as expected at retail,  selling roughly 1.5 million copies and falling short of Capcom’s projected sales goals by about half a million.

Seeing both Capcom and Marvel at the table gave me hope for MVC:I because the two companies can focus on giving fans a complete product and hopefully keep each other in check. Capcom can worry about the fighting, while Marvel can guide the characters and storytelling.

“Story is a huge pillar for this game. We will be coming out with a fully-featured cinematic story mode,” Jones said.

Give the fans what they want

Story isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about fighting games. Even before FGC was formally esports, it’s always been about competition. The Mortal Kombat series set the precedent for modern storytelling in fighting games and, for better or worse, every other fighting game is held to a higher standard. Marvel understands that and wants to give purpose to MVC:I, which means creating a compelling story about why Capcom and Marvel characters are duking it out in the first place.

“Storytelling is at the core of everything Marvel does in comics, TV, film, and now games,” Bill Rosemann, creative director for Marvel Games, told Yahoo Esports. “That’s what we do. It’s not just characters colliding. There’s a reason for everything. You’ll notice in the backgrounds it looks like the worlds are merged. The question is who did this? These are questions and mysteries that will be answered as you play the game.”

My hope is Capcom and Marvel get more people interested in the idea of competition when they come in through single player content. Street Fighter V failed miserably at attracting a larger playerbase and is now facing an uphill battle to grow beyond its first year.

Capcom and Marvel aren’t just hedging their bets with story modes, however. There is greater purpose for their character choices this time around. Ryu and Iron Man are obvious. They’re staples of their respective franchises. However, when thinking about who to include in their reveal trailer, they chose to go with something classic and something brand new.

Mega Man as a franchise has been criminally overlooked by Capcom. The Blue Bomber appeared in the original Marvel vs. Capcom and its sequel but was replaced by Zero in Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

“Mega Man X is far and beyond the most requested on the Capcom side,” Jones said. “We wanted to get him in there and give the fans what they want.”

While it was nice seeing Mega Man X in the trailer, I was pleasantly surprised by the addition of Captain Marvel, especially in light of the potential absence of X-Men characters.

“Iron Man is one of the most popular characters in the world so we wanted to deliver on that,” Rosemann said. “Then we wanted to make a statement. There are all sorts of characters we could have picked. We said Captain Marvel. Why? She’s never been in the franchise. She represents what a modern Marvel character is. She has stepped up and earned that mantle.”

It doesn’t hurt that she also has “Marvel” in her name (and that a Captain Marvel movie releases in 2019.)

Capcom also gave me a sneak peek at the extended gameplay trailer, which aired during Capcom Cup Finals. When they prepped me for it, I had hoped it would be a combination of one series veteran and one all-new character. Instead, it was Morrigan and Captain America.

I’m not disappointed with either character. Captain America is a no-brainer given Marvel wants this game to stick close to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Morrigan isn’t a surprise either because she anchors the Darkstalkers series to MVC:I. Plus, it would be a crime to take away Evo 2016 champion Christopher “NYChrisG” Gonzalez’s favorite character.

Characters are obviously important to the series, and I’m sure we’ll see plenty of new and returning faces from both universes in the coming months. But I’m more interested in the choices being made in regards to gameplay.

Elegant complexity

As with Street Fighter V, Capcom is stripping some of the complexity that chased away casual players from previous MVC games while maintaining the depth required from a fighting game to make it competitive.

“Choosing three characters and three assist types can be very daunting for anyone who isn’t a hardcore fighting game player,” Capcom’s director of production Mike Evans told Yahoo Esports. “Simplifying it helps with accessibility. Past games had huge rosters but only a handful of characters surface as competitive. We’re hoping to disrupt the classic tier system which makes characters viable at a competitive level.”

Making the game 2v2 is one way to accomplish that.  The other is swapping assists for a freeform tag system. They don’t want to dumb the game down just for the sake of it, but just like Street Fighter V, making the game more accessible is great for lapsed players who want to jump back in with MVC:I.

“This [extended gameplay trailer] shows off how the freeform tag system works,” associate producer Peter “ComboFiend” Rosas told Yahoo Esports. “It’s a display of the idea of partnership we’re driving home. 2v2 may not seem to be as deep as 3v3, but that’s far from the case. We’re driving up partnership in a way you could never do with three characters with the Infinity Stones acting as sort of a third character.”

The hope is that two characters, the ability to tag when you want, and the inclusion of Infinity Stones (which offer unique properties and powers to each character) will allow for more creative freedom than before.

Street Fighter V players initially felt the game was too simple, but it evolved over time. Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi’s Ryu looked very different from the beginning of the Capcom Pro Tour compared to the end. Ryouta “John” Takeuchi showed that Rashid wasn’t quite as terrible a character as we thought he was in the beginning of the year. The same could, and should, happen with MVC:I.

ComboFiend described MVC:I as being built on two pillars: the tag system and the Infinity Stones. You can tag whenever you want, which allegedly means during combos (you can this see occurring multiple times in the Morrigan and Captain America portion of the extended trailer.)

“[Infinity Stones] expands on the possibilities and offer final effects,” ComboFiend said. “When activated, they break a rule within the engine. If the rule is a character can’t cancel their attacks, the appropriate stone breaks that rule. If a character isn’t hitting hard enough, the appropriate stone magnifies each hit.”

“We think the battle design gives users of all skill levels infinite possibilities,” Evans said. “A lot of fans don’t have 1,000 hours to put in the lab or training mode to be a competitive fighter. We want to make sure people don’t feel like they need to be an expert in MVC2 or MVC3 to play this.”

That’s an interesting thought, because there are influential people within the FGC, like Maximilian “Maximilian Dood” Christiansen, who doesn’t agree with making fighting games “more accessible.”

“[A casual player] is going to get competitive regardless of how easy or hard a game is to play,” Maximilian said. “Accessibility doesn’t make sense towards trying to build an audience for fighting games because they’re just going to play it and they’re not going to want to try and figure things out.”

Whether or not the game appeals to casual players, the specter of Street Fighter V’s launch still looms over Capcom. There’s work to do to clean up Street Fighter V and the Capcom Pro Tour. Announcing Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite earns them some goodwill from the FGC, but they absolutely must get this new game right.

“We really listened to fans,” Jones said. “We’ll take our time, do it right, and release it when it’s ready.”

Michael Martin is excited for the Marvel series getting back to its 2v2 roots. Follow him on Twitter @Bizarro_Mike for more SFV and MVC:I news and info.

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