Marvel vs. Capcom (マーヴルVSカプコン Māvuru versus Kapukon ) is a series of crossover fighting games created by Capcom, featuring their own video game characters alongside the characters created by the comic book company Marvel Comics. The series is part of Capcom's Versus series, and while it was the first Versus series involving Capcom, the name Marvel exists to distinguish it from Capcom's other Vs. series.
Marvel vs. Capcom originated as coin-operated arcade games, though later releases would be specifically developed for home consoles, handhelds, and personal computers. Its gameplay borrows heavily from Capcom's previous Marvel-licensed fighting games X-Men: Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes; however, instead of focusing on single combat, the games incorporated tag team battles. Players form teams of two or three characters and, controlling one fighter at a time, attempt to damage and knock out their opponents. Players can switch out their characters during the match, allowing team members to replenish their health and prolong their ability to fight. The series' gameplay is also distinguished from other fighting game franchises due to its character assist mechanics and emphasis on aerial combat.
The Marvel vs. Capcom series has received generally positive reviews from critics, who have praised its fast-paced gameplay, animated visuals, and wealth of playable characters. On the other hand, the games have been criticized for their lack of content, especially more recent installments. The series has enjoyed broad appeal, especially in markets outside of Japan, and is considered one of the most famous crossover gaming franchies. As of December 31, 2021, the series has sold approximately 10 million units, making it Capcom's seventh best-selling IP.
The Marvel characters depicted in these games were often based on their incarnations in various early 1990s animated series and were often voiced by the same voice actors.
Many of the characters and fighting mechanics used in these games were first developed and refined in two other fighting games Capcom had developed earlier, serving as precursors to the series: X-Men: Children of the Atom, which featured characters strictly from the X-Men universe, and Marvel Super Heroes, which gleaned characters from Marvel's entire roster (X-Men included).
Although the tag-team fighting concept was not new, it was refined with this series. New fighting game terminology, such as the Aerial Rave (the act of performing a combo on an opponent while the opponent remains airborne) and the Variable Combination (the act of having two or more characters on the same team to perform their Hyper Combos at the same time) were added to the fighting game vernacular with this series.
List of games
- X-Men: Children of the Atom - (1994)
- Marvel Super Heroes - (1995)
- X-Men vs. Street Fighter - (1996)
- Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 - (2011)
- Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite - (2017)
- Marvel vs. Capcom Origins - (2012)
The basic gameplay of the Marvel vs. Capcom series was originally derived from X-Men: Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes. Players compete in battle using characters with unique moves and special attacks. Using a combination of joystick movements and button presses, players must execute various moves to damage their opponent and deplete their life gauge, or alternatively, have the most cumulative health when the timer runs out. However, unlike the two aforementioned games, which focus on single combat, the Marvel vs. Capcom series revolve around tag team-based combat. Instead of choosing a single character, players select multiple characters to form teams of two or three. Each character on the team is given their own life gauge. Players control one character at a time, while the others await off-screen. Players are also free to swap between their characters at any point during the match. As characters take damage, portions of their life gauge will turn red, known as "red health", which represents the amount of health that a character can recover if the player tags them out. The off-screen, dormant characters will slowly replenish their red health, allowing players to cycle through their team members and prolong their ability to fight. Furthermore, as characters deal and receive damage, a colored meter at the bottom of the screen known as the "Hyper Combo Gauge" will gradually fill. By expending meter from their Hyper Combo Gauge, players can perform "Hyper Combos" – powerful, cinematic attacks that deal heavy damage to the opponent – in addition to several other special techniques. If one character loses all of their health, they are knocked out and the next available fighter will automatically come into play.
Each successive Marvel vs. Capcom installment has added, removed, or altered gameplay elements over the course of the series' history. X-Men vs. Street Fighter added two-on-two tag team features. Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter introduced the concept of the "assist" by allowing the player to summon their off-screen partner to perform a special move without switching characters. This feature was replaced in Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes, which instead randomly allocated an unplayable guest character with a preset assist move before each match; in addition, assists were limited to only a few uses per round. The assist features from Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter were re-incorporated into the following sequel, Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes, once again granting players the ability to call in their off-screen characters at any time during the match without constraint. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 also increased the number of characters per team by one, providing a three-on-three battle format. Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds introduced "X-Factor", a comeback mechanic which offers increased damage, speed, and red health regeneration for a limited time upon activation. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite reverts to two-on-two partner battles and removes traditional character assists. Infinite also implements the Infinity Stones as a gameplay mechanic, where each of the six stones grants unique abilities and enhancements to the player.
Another gameplay element that helps to distinguish the Marvel vs. Capcom series from other fighting game franchises is its emphasis on aerial combat. Every character in the Marvel vs. Capcom series is given a "Launcher" move, which sends the opponent flying up into the air. The player can then choose to follow up immediately by using a "Super Jump", which allows a character to jump much higher than normal, in order to continue their combo; these airborne combos are called "Air Combos" or "Aerial Raves". Marvel vs. Capcom 3 introduced a gameplay feature known as the "Team Aerial Combo" or "Aerial Exchange", giving players the opportunity to extend their Air Combos further by quickly tagging in their other characters while mid-air.
As Capcom's design philosophy for the series has changed to appeal to a wider audience, the control scheme has been repeatedly modified to accommodate people less familiar with the fighting game genre. The first three installments utilized the same layout of six attack buttons, separated as three pairs of light, medium, and hard punches and kicks. In Marvel vs. Capcom 2, in order to make the game more accessible, the layout was tweaked to four attack buttons, consisting of two pairs of light and heavy punches and kicks, and two dedicated assist buttons. The control scheme was further simplified with the release of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which included three attack buttons designated to undefined light, medium, and hard attacks, two assist buttons, and an "exchange button" used to perform Launchers and switch between characters during Air Combos. In addition, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 included two different control scheme options: Normal Mode and Simple Mode. Simple Mode, designed for casual players, allows players to perform special moves and Hyper Combos with single button presses at the expense of limiting a character's available moveset.
There does not appear to be a concrete story behind each game in the series (up until Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite), although several plot points run across the various games of the series. However, various pairs of characters - typically one Marvel and one Capcom, were often partnered with each other during game play (although later games randomized the partnerships so that it was possible to complete the game facing all-Marvel or all-Capcom teams). Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is the first game in the series to feature a proper story mode.
Capcom's partnership with Marvel Comics began in 1993 with the release of The Punisher, an arcade beat 'em up based on the comic book series of the same name. Capcom then created their first Marvel-licensed fighting game, X-Men: Children of the Atom, in 1994. Marvel Super Heroes soon followed in 1995. Many of the gameplay mechanics used in the Marvel vs. Capcom series were first developed and refined in these two fighting games, serving as precursors to the series. In 2011, then-current Capcom USA Strategic Marketing Director of Online and Community Seth Killian stated that many fighting game aficionados, including himself, consider them to have laid the foundation for the series.
The idea for implementing tag teams was allegedly inspired by an easter egg from Capcom's own 1995 fighting game Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors' Dreams. In a secret "Dramatic Battle" mode, two players, controlling Ryu and Ken, were able to fight against an AI-controlled M. Bison at the same time. The easter egg itself had drawn inspiration from the final battle sequence from Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, which featured a similar fight scene. Recognizing the uniqueness of a team-up concept, Capcom began to work on their next project. After their earlier licensing ventures with Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes, the company decided to combine Marvel's X-Men franchise, their own Street Fighter franchise, and their team-up concept, leading to the creation of X-Men vs. Street Fighter. The game debuted in Japanese arcades in 1996, establishing the series' fast-paced, tag team-based gameplay style.
Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter was then released in 1997, which replaced most of the X-Men cast with other heroes from the Marvel Universe and introduced the character assist mechanic. Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes later followed in 1998, exchanging the majority of the Street Fighter cast with characters from other Capcom video games series, such as Mega Man and Darkstalkers. In 1999, Capcom announced the development of yet another sequel, called Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 heavily re-used assets from previous Capcom-developed games, including Street Fighter Alpha, Darkstalkers, and the earlier Marvel vs. Capcom titles, resulting in a large roster of 56 playable characters. Shortly after the release of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox ports for Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Capcom lost the use of the Marvel license, putting the series on an indefinite hiatus. However, with the resurgence of the fighting game genre in 2008, owing to the success of Street Fighter IV, Marvel requested Capcom to collaborate with them once again. Capcom would announce the development of the next installment in the Marvel vs. Capcom series, Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, in 2010. The game was eventually released in 2011. An updated version of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, titled Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, was released later in the same year. The high-definition compilation game Marvel vs. Capcom Origins was then released in 2012.
Following the release of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for the PlayStation Vita in 2012, Marvel's new parent company, The Walt Disney Company, which acquired Marvel in 2009, chose not to renew Capcom's license with the Marvel characters, instead opting to put them in its own self-published Disney Infinity series. As a result, Capcom had to pull both Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Marvel vs. Capcom 2 off their online platforms in 2013. However, in 2016, Disney announced its decision to cancel the Disney Infinity series, discontinue self-publishing efforts, and switch to a licensing-only model, allowing them to license their characters to third-party game developers, including Capcom. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite was revealed in 2016, and then released in 2017.
In 2011, a series of Minimates based on the playable characters from Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds were released by Art Asylum.
UDON Entertainment published Marvel vs. Capcom: Official Complete Works art book consisting of promotional artwork, sketches and bonus material from the video game collaborations between Marvel and Capcom, beginning with the 1993 arcade game The Punisher to Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It contains contributions from a variety of artists and illustrators, including Akiman, Bengus, Shinkiro, Joe Madureira, Adi Granov, Joe Ng, Long Vo, Chamba, Adam Warren and Takeshi Miyazawa. Official Complete Works made its international debut at San Diego Comic-Con on July 11, 2012, in an exclusive hardcover edition. The hardcover also featured a wrap-around cover designed by Udon Entertainment and Capcom artist Alvin Lee, and digitally-painted by Genzoman. A standard-format softcover was released in November 2012 by Diamond Comics.
- Capcom | Game Series Sales
- Marvel vs. Capcom: Official Complete Works by Udon.
- Seth Killian: So the history of the Versus series technically starts with X-Men vs. Street Fighter, but many fighting aficionados including myself really date some of the origins back to games called X-Men: Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes which introduced things like chain combo and aerial rave [... all of that lead us eventually into X-Men vs. Street Fighter...]