Marvel vs. Capcom Origins is the re-release of the classic arcade fighters, Marvel Super Heroes and Marvel vs. Capcom. Both games come from a time when every corner had an arcade, busy with players taking on challengers for the right to keep playing. But since this is no longer a time when arcades can be found everywhere and multiplayer is generally designed more for online than local access, Marvel vs. Capcom Origins feels somewhat like a game out of time.
There have been several Marvel vs. Capcom sequels since its original release, and Marvel Heroes has expanded into a handful of later titles as well. In these sequels, the cast of playable characters has expanded, sound has gotten crisper, movement and environments have gotten more stylish and more varied and the visuals have gotten sharper and more graphically impressive. Which leaves nostalgia as the only reason to play the origins of either series.
That’s not to say that these are bad games — they are actually a lot of fun — but with so many sequels that have improved on the originals, without nostalgia to tie the player to the good ol’ days, there’s a lot less good to see in them. Still, both of the games are enjoyable, even if there isn’t a whole lot to them. Marvel Super Heroes pits heroes and villains from the Marvel universe against one another in a race for six power gems. The gems appear in fights and can be activated to give the player a small buff for a brief period of time. Gems can be knocked out of one player’s hands and picked up by the other player at any time, so there’s incentive to use them quickly, but saving them for a more appropriate time helps push an advantage or reduce a disadvantage. It’s a neat mechanic to be aware of, but it doesn’t make or break fights so less skilled players don’t really have to pay too much attention to it.
Marvel vs. Capcom, the other game included in the package, takes most of the cast of Marvel Super Heroes and adds characters from well known Capcom titles like Ryu from Street Fighter and Mega Man fro… er… Mega Man. Marvel vs. Capcom has each player pick a second fighter as a tag partner while the game selects a third, random character from either the Marvel universe or a Capcom game. The tag partner can jump in to relieve the primary character at any time. Importantly, both of a player’s characters must be defeated for a match to end, so players can’t lean too heavily on one character for every match. The third, random character will hop in and activate an attack after a button sequence, but otherwise has no impact on the fight. Marvel vs. Capcom foregoes the gem system of Marvel Super Heroes, but it adds enough of its own interesting elements that the gems aren’t missed.
Both games play virtually identically and fighting feels a lot like a faster paced version of Street Fighter with a little more emphasis on creating combos at a distance with projectiles rather than in closing in and fighting up close. The game is also friendlier to button mashers than almost any other title in the genre. It’s entirely possible to create fast paced, stylish fights by rolling your thumbs over the attack and movement buttons at random. The game rewards practice and mechanical knowledge, but it’s also possible to feel like an expert just by entering a mash-fu trance and hoping for the best. Fighting game purists have every reason to hate this sort of thing, but if nothing else, it makes it a lot of fun for groups with mixed levels of gaming experience.
Each game in Marvel vs. Capcom Origins comes with a single player arcade mode that’s rife with all the staples of fighting games from its time (most of which are recognizable in today`s fighting game). Opponents start off as pushovers until about the third match when the difficulty curve ramps up. The last three or four fights are merciless and culminate in a boss fight that is so brazen in its cheating it borders on ridiculous. As a reward for out-cheating the final boss, the player is treated to a few frames of their fighter exchanging grammatically incorrect quips with another character before living happily ever after.
The single player is pretty standard fare for a fighting game; there’s barely anything there, but that’s not what the game was designed for. For those that are interested in learning more about the game than button mashing can teach, the arcade and practice modes do the trick, but there’s no loss in ignoring the single player entirely. The game has the decency not to lock half of its content behind the single player, and every piece of bonus content can be accessed by playing either online or in local multiplayer matches, which is good since the game is meant to be played with other people.
Arcades may be gone, but their period of dominance has left an important legacy. For one, the fighting genre would not exist if it weren’t for arcades. For those that remember the games included in Marvel vs. Capcom Origins from when they required a quarter to play, the game offers a sense of nostalgia worth reliving. For those that have moved on, it might be better to pick up the series from a more console-friendly point. Marvel vs. Capcom Origins is a competent fighter but one from a bygone age.