As with all fighting games, success still relies on great timing, but also on an encylopaediac knowledge of the escoteric D-pad/stick and button combinations required to pull off your most vicious attacks. This, and the complexities of the tag-team system, can make the game offputting to beginners. Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 on Vita tries its best to get around this with a simplified control system and even an optional touchscreen mode, where simply tapping on the screen is enough to draw out an unstoppable barrage of attacks. In the end, though, there’s no replacement for practice and for just getting stuck in.
It’s worth the effort. While some regard Marvel vs Capcom 3 and its Ultimate offspring as a dumbed-down, hyped-up alternative to Streetfighter IV, it just works on so many levels. The character roster, for a start, is practically unmatched, not just because so many of the stars are so familiar – even non-gamers know Spider-Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Doctor Doom, Magneto, Wolverine et al – but because the sheer variety and quantity of the fighters gives the game so much long-term appeal. You can spend hours just experimenting with different line-ups, and come across line-ups that demand you rethink your strategy. The fighting is fast and fluid, and the fully-charged attacks and team attacks provide satisfying high-points and the odd last-minute upset. It’s a great fighting game to play.
This makes it slightly disappointing that the single-player modes aren’t all that inspiring. On top of the traditional arcade mode we get a simple training mode, plus a challenge mode where you’re tasked with wiping out a series of opponents using specific moves. The first doesn’t really tie the fights into a story, while the last two are really only good for helping you get to grips with the game. There’s some recompense in a bit of day-one DLC, with a Heroes and Heralds mode where you fight to conquer specific zones on behalf of the heralds of the world-eating Galactus or the heroes and villains that oppose him. By winning fights you also win cards, which can be added to a deck to confer certain in-fight bonuses. This adds a little meat to the game.
Of course, any fighting game is best enjoyed with other players, and while Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 can’t match the pleasures of beating someone you know on the same screen while sitting in the same room, it makes up for it with a solid online mode. Before launch it’s impossible to give a final verdict on this, but with eight-player lobbies and ranked matches all in place, there’s no shortage of potential. Heroes and Heralds is also available as an online game, with the idea being to give a more interesting long-term structure to the action.
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 brings all the action and bombast of an excellent beat-em-up to the small screen, and is another sure sign that PlayStation Vita can imitate recent console hits without breaking a sweat. It’s tough on newbies and the lack of single-player modes hurts, but if you want to see Marvel's biggest names square off against some of gaming's, then this is the finest game in town.