The beat-'em-up appears to be undergoing some kind of renaissance, and this all seems to spawn from going back its 2D roots. Check out Super Street Fighter IV and the new Mortal Kombat for proof.
And here comes a new challenger! The much-loved Marvel Vs Capcom series is about to get a third entry, in which spandex-clad superheroes (and villains) including Iron Man and the Hulk do battle with signature Capcom characters like Devil May Cry's Dante, Okami's Amaterasu and Viewtiful Joe.
This threequel is the first instalment to use full 3D models rather than sprites for its combatants, but it still plays out on a 2D plane. And frankly we couldn't be happier, as this is utterly mental, larger-than-life, laugh out-loud chopsocky fun.
A third dimension would probably ruin all that, we reckon. It's all pretty confusing to begin with, though, especially if you've never played a Marvel Vs Capcom game before.
As ever, you get to choose three characters to play with, that you can swap between at any time. Retiring an injured characters lets them regain a bit of health, see. So our first bouts were characterised by a bewildering array of fighters leaping in and out of the screen, unleashing a startlingly pyrotechnic display of attacks and abilities.
Iron Man whips out an enormous plasma cannon that fills the screen with blue fire, Spider-Man festoons your field of vision with webs and Deadpool shouts 'Bang! Bang! Bang!' with maniac glee as he fires his twin pistols.
It's all a bit disorienting, and initially we struggled to find the game beneath the flash.
But it's there, and it's brilliant. Capcom have plumped for a three-button attack system (light, mid and heavy) that's as welcoming to newcomers as it is deep for gimlet-eyed scrapping veterans.
Chuck in the triple-character tag system and an aerial move button that allows you to punch enemies in the air and you've got a game that's looks like it'll offer plenty of long-term strategies and much more depth than might immediately be apparent.
But let's get this straight - this is never going to be a dry game of fighting chess for the pro. It is, first and foremost, a lunatic celebration of primary-coloured pugilism, a glorious mash-up of two different worlds.
The selection of characters is fabulous: alongside the aforementioned Marvel folk there's also bananas head-in-a-chair Modok, She-Hulk, Wolverine, Thor, Doctor Doom and more: on the Capcom side you'll find gems like Resi's Wesker, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, Street Fighter's Chun-Li, Bionic Commando's Nathan Spencer and Darkstalkers' Morrigan.
There's someone (or something) for every occasion and the three-character system makes choosing a punch-up team quite the treat.
Mention must also go to the beautifully rendered backgrounds. Demon World from Ghosts 'N Goblins is a hoot, especially if you're playing as heroic knight Arthur.
We'd go so far as to say that Marvel Vs Capcom 3 is as entertaining to watch as it is to play; expect it to become quite the party game come 18 February.
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