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Semi-regular upgrades have once again become a way of life for fighting-game players. I regularly pay for the latest versions of today's brawlers while others sneer that the developer will just release the same thing with minute changes next year. But I had a lot of anticipation for Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, even though it's not my favorite series in the genre and it's only been half a year since the original came out.
In other titles, I knew which characters I wanted to use and hoped that the various adjustments would turn out well for them. As the team-based UMVC3 approached, I thought up dozens of different combinations of warriors as I tried to figure out how best to save the world — or at least my win-loss record. Welcome to the concept of team synergy.
The Marvel Vs. Capcom series allows you to pick a gang of three pop-culture legends from a giant roster. Most people begin by tossing their favorites together, but adepts will maximize their team’s potential by using characters who work well together.
For example, late in the original Marvel Vs. Capcom 3’s life span I used Trish, Haggar, and Phoenix — please stop booing and hissing at me. After months of trying out different parings I wanted to focus on using the Devil May Cry heroine, so I had her join forces with Haggar. The Final Fight mayor is below average by himself, but while I’m playing as Trish I could call out his near-invincible Double Lariat assist to protect her. Phoenix functions as the match closer: She has paper-thin health, but she can transform into the omega-level threat Dark Phoenix when she dies with a full hyper combo gauge.
While I made this team based on pragmatic reasons — in that game you had to either have Phoenix or be able to deal with her — I eventually ended up liking Jean Grey and the discipline of conserving meter for her. But I also wanted to try out Iron Fist. Besides enjoying him as a Marvel hero, his Rising Fang assist could also shield Trish, and his lengthy combos and chi powerups could aid my goal to power up the X-Man. When UMVC3 came out, I pitted my new alliance against Vergils, Weskers, and Zeroes — as well as my disgustingly bad Wi-Fi connection. I have a winning record, but that doesn’t give me a lot of comfort.
My theories were working, but I find myself tagging between Trish and the martial artist more often to keep them alive longer. That means making unsafe switches that smarter opponents can punish, and Iron Fist alone is dead meat just like Haggar was. While Dark Phoenix can win matches by herself, it's harder to get a max gauge due to changes in the game's engine, and new characters like Hawkeye and Strider Hiryu can force her to play cautiously or lose in a second.
While she's hated by many, Phoenix is as much a liability as she is an asset, and she needs a team tailored solely to her. I can see myself going back to the drawing board if just having a good leader and a great assist doesn't cut it anymore.
Unlike Street Fighter, where you stick to one or two characters, your UMVC3 group is like a car engine that you’re constantly tinkering with to get the best performance. Recently, I swapped out Iron Fist for Captain America and am leading with the first Avenger instead of Trish. Cap had problems in the first game, but they've mostly been addressed, and he can finish off foes while still building enough meter to make Phoenix a threat. Or I could try out the new-school air menace Firebrand to see if he'll offer better synergy.
As we learn more about what works in UMVC3 that didn't in its predecessor, I can adapt and turn my kooky trinity into a deadly force. Otherwise, I really am just paying $40 for an update to a half-year-old game.