[In a spot-on imitation of Professor Farnsworth] Good news, everyone! I’ve finally discovered the secret techniques necessary to perfect the art of video game critiquing! It’s quite simple, really: I’m surprised I didn’t think of it sooner. In order to find the perfect balance of proper critique and personal opinion, you have to play a game you really hate, but have no objective reason to dislike.[/in a spot-on imitation of Professor Farnsworth]

Yes, since you asked: I have been watching a lot of Futurama reruns lately.

To be perfectly honest, though, I wasn’t being entirely facetious with that: I really didn’t enjoy the time I spent with Marvel vs. Capcom Origins very much. Which is why it felt so odd when, after reading over all my notes, I realized that the score I was going to give it was going to coincide with a recommendation. It’s not a situation I’ve ever been in before: in my short time reviewing for RipTen, I’ve generally been able to count on the idea that having fun with a game will lead to a recommendation, while having a less than enjoyable time means that there’s something impeding me from having fun, which must then be discovered, fleshed out and warned about. Not this time, though: this time, the lack of enjoyment is all on me.

If you’re at all familiar with arcade fighters, then you know the Marvel vs. Capcom series. Developed by Capcom, this crossover series features popular characters from the Marvel comic book universe and Capcom’s repertoire of video games, who team up to duke it out for reasons that usually have to do with a Marvel villain. Marvel vs. Capcom Origins is a two-title collection featuring 1995’s Marvel Super Heroes (which made the transition from arcade to consoles in 1997), and 1998’s Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes (which hit the Dreamcast in ’99, and the PlayStation in 2000). MvCO, available now on PSN and XBLA, are prettied up ports of the original arcade titles – not the later console ports – which is where my biggest problems with the two lie, but, overall, these are strong arcade fighters that you’ll enjoy playing if you’re a fan of the genre, or replaying if you’re a huge fan of the series.

To get this out of the way, the story in both games is pretty much nonexistent. You pick a character (in Marvel Super Heroes) or two (in Marvel vs. Capcom), and beat up on your opponents. If you’re savvy with the material, you’ll probably be able to piece together some kind of rough idea of plot based on the final bosses in both games – Thanos and the Infinity Gems in Marvel Super Heroes suggests that the game is tied in some way to the Infinity Gauntlet storyline, while Onslaught in Marvel vs. Capcom hints at the story somehow involving Xavier and Magneto (though this doesn’t explain the presence of Capcom characters) – but if you’re not, you’re not going to get much more out of the game other than a series of unrelated fights.

And that’s fine. Not having any narrative to speak of doesn’t take away from the game at all. In fact, the lack of a story is in some ways better than some fighters that try to strong-arm a convoluted story where it doesn’t fit (yeah, I’m looking at you, Soul Calibur). After all, it’s not like anyone plays fighters for their stories. If, like in Mortal Kombat or Persona 4 Arena, there’s a narrative there, that’s fine: so long as it meshes with the rest of the game, it’s just icing on the cake. What really matters is the mechanics behind the fighting, and here, the titles included in Marvel vs. Capcom Origins shine just as brightly as they did when they were first released a decade-and-a-half ago. However, they also carry the same flaws those original games had.

The actual controls within both games function perfectly well: they’re tight enough that old hands and newbies alike will have no trouble executing some pretty terrific looking combos. That said, the individual moves are significantly less impressive, which is a spot where the games really show their age. The move sets feel a lot more restrictive than what we saw in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 – partly because there are actually fewer moves, but also because those that are there aren’t quite as spectacular. They’re just kind of bland on their own. When you string them together, it still looks cool, (not to mention it still feels really good), but of their own accord, the moves are overly simple.

Not to mention that the move lists are not balanced. At all. It’s not a simple case of each character having their own strengths and weaknesses, it’s that some characters are good, and some are bad. Like, really bad. This wouldn’t have been a problem in the arcade days, but it means that if you play online, you’re going to get extremely sick of playing against certain characters very quickly.

This isn’t helped by the fact that both rosters felt very small, which is another area where the games show their age. When you’ve got all the characters unlocked, Marvel Super Heroes features a bare dozen fighters to choose from (with some really odd choices  in the roster), though Marvel vs. Capcom is a little bit better with around 20. This in itself is in no way a deal breaker, but the fact that your choices are somewhat limited makes the balance issue all the more prominent.

That said, it really would just be the character choice that gets on your nerves online, though. Playing online, I experienced absolutely no lag in any of the matches I took part in. I got my rear-end handed to me by Spider-Man, Wolverine and Red Venom quite a lot, but it wasn’t because there were any hiccups in the connection. Considering these games didn’t have any online features to begin with, the smoothness of this addition is definitely worth noticing.

There are also a variety of other little things that were thrown in. There are a series of challenges thrown in that net you Vault Points when you complete them, and you can use these points to purchase concept art, short cinematics (which sort of counter the ‘no story at all’ problem), and secret characters. This is where you’ll get the dreaded Red Venom from, folks.

In addition to that, you can set your preferred viewing mode. The default view is a widescreen mode that shows your challenge progress on the side of the screen, but you can change it so that the action takes up your entire screen, add scan lines to mimic CRT, or change the angle to replicate an arcade cabinet. The presence of these other viewing modes shows off exactly how geared the game is toward the nostalgia of old-school fighting game fans.

The fact that Capcom didn’t take this opportunity to fix the balance issues suggests that nostalgia is one of the only reasons to pick this title up, but, even if you’ve never played this title, fans of arcade fighters are sure to find something to like with this one. If you’re new to fighting games, you should probably give this one a pass. Balance issues aside, even the arcade mode can be intensely punishing. It’s definitely a title geared toward people familiar with the genre. If you are such a fan, though, you’ll definitely find enjoyment with this. If – like me – you only have a passing interest in the genre, you might want to think carefully about it. There is quite a bit to like with this one, but it isn’t a given that you’ll find it entertaining.

 

Here’s the Rundown:

+ A perfect port of the old-school arcade versions of these titles.
+ Tons of extra unlockables to keep you playing
+ Controls are tight and responsive
+ Online play is as smooth as you could want…
- … but the character balance issues will get in the way of the enjoyment at times.
- Character rosters are a little small (especially in Marvel Super Heroes)
- Not at all friendly for newcomers

 

6 and 6.5 represent a game that doesn’t do anything spectacular or drastically fails to meet the high expectations people had for it. These scores are for games that you would only recommend to diehard fans of the series or genre, something that the average gamer wouldn’t miss very much if he/she skipped it.

Marvel vs. Capcom Origins was developed and published by Capcom. It was released on the PSN and XBLA on September 25th, 2012, and is available for purchase for $14.99. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review.