Beginning 20 years ago, “Marvel vs. Capcom” has been a groundbreaking and bestselling franchise of fighting games. Appearing in the arcades and adapted onto seven different video game platforms, the series has let players pit some of the most popular Marvel superheroes and supervillains against iconic characters from Capcom games. It’s been a match made in heaven from day one and continues to be so.
In 2016, Capcom announced the eighth game “Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite” would be released in 2017. With excitement building for the release, CBR has decided to take a look back at the history of the legendary series. Unless you’re a hardcore gaming fan, these are 15 things you probably didn’t know about the epic fighting games.
15. ARCADE GAMES
“Marvel vs. Capcom” started way back in 1996 with roots mainly in coin-operated arcade games, so let’s set the stage by talking about the state of video games back then. Arcades were still going strong, and if you wanted the best graphics and sounds, then you had to go down to the local arcade with a pocketful of quarters. You also need to remember the fighting game genre had been popularized by “Street Fighter II” only five years earlier in 1991.
If you wanted to play games at home, then your choices back then were the Game Boy, the Nintendo 64, the first Playstation, the Sega Saturn and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. If you were really an outsider, you could get the Neo Geo or the 3DO. You could also play games on your Windows PC, but that was an even more grueling experience with most games being released on MS-DOS, the precursor to Windows. Some of the biggest releases that year were “Duke Nukem 3D,” “Super Mario 64,” “Diablo” and “Dead or Alive.”
14. THE INSPIRATION
Before the “Marvel vs. Capcom” series started, Capcom set the stage with two previous fighting games set in the Marvel Universe; “X-Men: Children of the Atom” and “Marvel Super Heroes.” “Children of the Atom” was released in arcades in 1994, based on the “Fatal Attractions” crossover event in the X-Men comics that ran in 1991. The voice actors from the 1990s “X-Men” animated series worked on the game, which featured mid-air combos and multi-level environments where characters could break through the lower levels.
Capcom took its Marvel license to the next level in 1995’s “Marvel Super Heroes” arcade game, which was loosely based on the “Infinity Gauntlet” miniseries in 1991. This game took heroes and villains from the entire Marvel Universe, not just the X-Men. The game had a unique power-up system of collecting Infinity Gems, which would boost power or defense or add special attacks, but the best was yet to come.
13. X-MEN VS. STREET FIGHTER
The first real “Marvel vs. Capcom” game wasn’t even called “Marvel vs. Capcom,” but rather “X-Men vs. Street Fighter” in 1996, debuting in the arcades before later being ported to the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation. “XvS” was the first game to bring Capcom characters and Marvel characters together, and even though they were limited to two specific franchises, the game set the stage for all the “Marvel vs. Capcom” games that followed.
“X-Men vs. Street Fighter” was a landmark, not just for its inclusion of characters from the different franchises, but also for its gameplay. The tag team system that became the hallmark of the “Marvel vs. Capcom” series was included in this game. Players could choose from different characters and swap between them during the fight of a single round. It also took the “Super Jump” and “Aerial Rage” from “Children of the Atom” and “Marvel Super Heroes,” becoming the spiritual successor of both.
12. TAG TEAM
By far, the most iconic feature of the “Marvel vs. Capcom” series has been the tag team system, so let’s talk more about it and where it came from. Up until “X-Men vs. Street Fighter,” most fighting games had a standard system of each player (or computer-controlled player) choosing from a single character, and fighting to win the best two out of three rounds. “X-Men vs. Street Fighter” was different, allowing the players to choose two characters and switch between them during a single round.
The tag team concept actually came from 1995’s “Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors’ Dreams.” In a secret mode called Dramatic Battle, two players controlled Ryu and Ken teaming up against M. Bison, who would be controlled by the game. The sequence was inspired by the ending battle in “Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie.” The team-up concept apparently inspired the entire game of “X-Men vs. Street Fighter,” and thus the “Marvel vs. Capcom” series was off and running.
11. MARVEL VS CAPCOM
While “X-Men vs. Street Fighter” was the first to combine the Capcom and Marvel franchises, most fans would start the series with “Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Superheroes” in 1998. The arcade game expanded the roster beyond just Street Fighter and the X-Men, allowing for the whole range of both licenses. Only three of the characters on the Capcom side were from “Street Fighter,” the rest coming from games like “Mega Man” and even the more obscure “Captain Commando.”
“Marvel vs. Capcom” also changed things with the addition of the “Guest Character” system, which assigned random characters to each player at the beginning of the match, who could switch between them a limited number of times each round. There was also the “Variable Cross” or “Duo Team Attack,” where both of the player’s characters could attack at the same time. The whole thing proved a game changer for Capcom and Marvel, launching the franchise for real.
10. THE MARVEL LICENSE
While “Marvel vs. Capcom” has been a real cash cow for Capcom, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. That’s because of the one thing in the game that Capcom doesn’t control: the Marvel part of it. The whole series depends on being able to use characters from the Marvel universe, and Capcom has lost the license many times over the years.
In 2002, after the release of the Playstation and Xbox ports of “Marvel vs. Capcom 2,” Capcom lost the rights to using Marvel properties in their games. It seemed like the series was over until 2010, when Capcom got the rights to develop “Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds.” As soon fans began celebrating, Capcom lost the rights again. This time, it was the House of Mouse who put the brakes on the franchise, because Disney had bought Marvel in 2009 and wanted to use the characters for its own “Disney Infinity” series. Fortunately, Disney gave up on “Infinity” in 2016, and sold the licensing to Capcom again.
9. THE NOVICE PLAYER
One side effect of “Marvel vs. Capcom’s” popularity has been that its audience have spread beyond lovers of fighting games. Some people have picked up the game, not because they like fighting, but because they like the Hulk or Iron Man. To broaden the appeal of the game beyond people who argue about the size of hitboxes, Capcom has made the controls more friendly to casual and new gamers over the years.
The first three games in the series had the traditional six buttons (light, medium and hard punches, and the same for kicks), but “Marvel vs. Capcom 2” reduced the number of buttons to four (light and heavy punches and kicks) with the other two used for assists. “Marvel vs. Capcom 3” went even further, introducing a Simple Mode which changed the three primary buttons to trigger basic attacks, special moves, and hyper combos. That meant a player could just mash the attack button over and over, and the more flashy moves could be pulled off easily.
The roster of characters that have appeared in the “Marvel vs. Capcom” games have always changed from game to game, but there’s one character who’s been in the series from the very beginning to the end: Wolverine. Wolverine is one of Marvel’s most popular characters on the printed page, movies, TV shows and video games, so it might not be that surprising to find he’s been the only Marvel character who’s been in every single “Marvel vs. Capcom” game.
In the first “X-Men vs. Street Fighter” game, it made sense to have Wolverine there, since he’s a member of the X-Men, and he’s one of the Marvel Universe’s fiercest fighters. Plus, who wouldn’t want to control a ferocious ball of muscle with razor sharp claws? As the series changed to become “Marvel vs. Capcom,” Wolverine showed up there, too. “Marvel vs. Capcom 2” even had a bone claw version. A shame they didn’t make him as indestructible as the comic version.
7. ORIGINAL CHARACTERS
While most of the characters in “Marvel vs. Capcom” have been taken from the comics or previous video games, there have also been a few originals who have been slipped in. In the Japanese version of “Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter,” there was a secret character named Norimaro, who was there more for comic relief than anything. He was created and voiced by Japanese comedian Noritake Kinashi, and was a nerdy schoolboy who would throw things like rulers and plushies. He’s best known for his end scene, where he’s shown stealing Chun-Li’s panties. Seriously.
In “Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes,” there were two original characters: Amingo and Ruby Heart. Amingo was a humanoid barrel cactus who could summon other cactuses for special attacks. Ruby Heart was a French pirate who used magical ship-related objects in battle. Both of them made cameos in the backgrounds of “Marvel vs. Capcom 3,” but never returned to the series as playable character or ever had their own games.
6. THE PORTS
While the arcade versions have been almost universally praised, the home versions of the series has been hit-or-miss, depending on the platform. It’s probably not much of a surprise that taking a game built for a high-end arcade system and scaling it down to a lower-end technology will lose something in the translation. The Sega Saturn version of “Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter” was considered a near-perfect translation, but the Playstation had such low memory that the tag team aspect (considered the hallmark of the franchise) had to be removed altogether.
The same thing happened to “Marvel vs. Capcom,” which had a very successful translation to the Dreamcast, but the Playstation version missed out on the “tag team” element yet again. “Marvel vs. Capcom 3” had much better success with its translations, mainly because they were designed for home gaming systems instead of arcade consoles. Part of the decision by this was because, by the year 2000, arcades had become much less relevant to the gaming industry.
5. KING MAGNETO
While “Marvel vs. Capcom” has been successful around the world, “Marvel vs. Capcom 3” stirred up a lot of controversy, particularly in Spain. In all the games, one of the most prominent characters has been the supervillain Magneto. In the downloadable content called the “Ancient Warrior” costume pack, Magneto got an alternate costume dressed in the royal outfit from the 2005 “House of M” miniseries. The only problem is that the outfit seemed a little too familiar.
It turned out “House of M” copied the uniform of Spain’s King Juan Carlos, right down to his sash and medals. Spain wasn’t happy about that, and was even less happy to see the uniform make its way to the video game. In fact, the government of Spain actually contacted the Spanish game distributor of “Marvel vs. Capcom 3” to remove the Magneto skin as a violation of copyright and “misuse” of the image of the king.
4. SAM ALEXANDER
Speaking of controversy over the characters, we should also talk about the problems caused by “Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3” when it added an alternate Nova. In 2011, “Marvel vs. Capcom 3” released a DLC featuring an alternate version of Nova. In the full game, Nova was Richard Rider, who had been the original character in the comics since 1976. However, the DLC version was a very different look that no one had seen before, and that’s because they weren’t supposed to.
It turned out that the DLC had included the costume for Sam Alexander, the new character who would become Nova, but still hadn’t officially been introduced into the comics yet. Capcom had jumped the gun and wasn’t allowed to talk about where the character came from. Alexander made his first appearance in the “Marvel Point One” 2011 one-shot with no real backstory. He didn’t show up again until “Avengers vs. X-Men” #1 in 2012, and got his own series in 2013.
3. LESS INNOVATION
While the series has been a bestseller and gained a lot of critical acclaim, not everyone has been happy with “Marvel vs. Capcom,” especially the longtime fans. The first few games had groundbreaking changes in each release, but later instalments have been less and less revolutionary. Over time, fans have begun to criticize the lack of new content between each version.
“Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds” was released in 2011, followed by “Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3” later that year. While introducing new characters, some were disappointed to learn that there were no new features or modes in the Ultimate version. In 2012, “Marvel vs. Capcom Origins” was released, which was really a high-def re-release of the first two games in the series, so some fans were disappointed by the outdated gameplay and lack of balance to the characters. That’s why there’s a lot of high hopes for “Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite” to breathe new life into the series.
2. THE ARTBOOK
One thing that fans have consistently praised throughout the franchise have been the character animations of the game. At the time of the first game’s release, fighting games had begun to move away from animation to 3D models or even scans of real people and models like “Mortal Kombat.” “Marvel vs. Capcom” felt like a breath of fresh air with its detailed artwork and flashy images. That may be part of the reason why Capcom released an official artbook in 2012, “Marvel vs. Capcom: Official Complete Works.”
In the almost-200 pages of the book, fans could find the original character designs for the “Marvel vs. Capcom” games, as well as “Children of the Atom” and “The Punisher.” The book has game cover art and promotional art. The book also had new pin-up art from legendary artists like Akiman and Miho Mori. The book was a delight for fans, so nobody was surprised that hardcover copies sold out quickly.
1. BIG IN JAPAN
One of the reasons Capcom began using the Marvel license in its games was to appeal to a larger Western audience, and they’ve done their job. Fans love to play the characters they’ve been reading about for decades. On the other side, the Marvel games have been popular in Japan for the exact opposite reason. You see, for most Japanese players, the “Marvel vs. Capcom” games have introduced them to Marvel characters for the first time ever.
Marvel comics have never been really popular in Japan, where anime and manga are the most popular genres. Marvel has struggled for years to break into the market, starting with a Japanese “Spider-Man” title in 1970, drawn and written by Japanese creators. It didn’t do well. In 1978, an infamous Japanese TV show featured a looser translation of Spider-Man with giant robots and monsters. In 1995, the “Marvel Super Heroes” game brought Captain America, Juggernaut and Wolverine to the general Japanese public for the first time in a big way.
What did you think of “Marvel vs. Capcom?” Are you excited about the new game? Let us know in the comments!