Eventually, there's a question every fan of ﬁghting games has to confront: 'Do I like air combos?'
Because for every purple-faced purist sputtering about Chun Li doing legs in mid-air, there's a green-eyed aﬁcionado declaring that nothing could be more important to a 'true' ﬁghting experience. Marvel Vs Capcom 3 (MVC3) doesn't just have air combos, it's got a dedicated 'launch' button.
MVC3 is the ﬁfth game of its type from Capcom: the series proper began with X-Men Vs Street Fighter way back in 1996, and since then it's followed the standard Capcom path of 'proper' and variant sequels.
But it's been over a decade since MVC2, and the complexity of MVC3's ﬁghting system is initially bewildering.
Even the basics are unusual: ﬁghts are one-round 3 vs 3 matchups in which you control one ﬁghter at a time but call in their teammates to either assist or swap out.
That's the tip of a huge iceberg. Controls are a basic four-button offense - light, medium and heavy attack plus that launch button - plus one button for each of the two teammates, which can be tapped for an assist or held for a swap.
Capcom has been at pains to point out that MVC3 is built on the SFIV engine but this means nothing: MVC3 and Street Fighter IV have little common ground.
Instead, this is a trigger-happy combo-pumper's dream: learn a few basic links into special moves for each character and you'll soon be whipping out 20 and 30-hit combos as standard.
Learn how to use the launch attack, follow it up immediately with a jump, start a hyper attack and then chain hypers from your teammates during that and things start to get silly.
It's that type of ﬁghter, where exchanges are 50 hits apiece, and it's entirely possible to decimate the opposition without taking a hit.
The genre runs from button mashers to zen precision, and MVC3 has characteristics of both: the pros may scoff, but there's no doubt you can pull off great multi-hit combos here by spamming your light attacks followed by ﬁreball and dragon punch motions.
That's ﬁne, but the trouble is that MVC3 is terrible at introducing its subtleties. The in-game training tools are atrocious - its 'missions' (training challenges) start off insultingly easy and quickly become impossibly hard.
It's not a learning curve, it's a learning canyon - new players might as well read a theory book - and the interface designer for this section (three button presses to clarify the inputs required?) should be hyper combo'd.
It's a theme of the whole: considering the complexity of MVC3's ﬁghting system, its attitude to new players is a disgrace. Will the game teach you how the character swapping works and how it can be chained into combos? No. How the hyper bars work? No. How to use assists to escape pressure or put it on? No. It's astonishing. This is a game without any kind of supporting structure.
So does this ruin the experience? It depends. When you begin to pull off the most amazing combos and switches intentionally, MVC3 is a beautiful game and begins to explode off the screen.
At times it's SFX overkill: psychedelic funnels, rocket explosions, ﬁres and spiders with massive ﬂashes, ripping blades and comic-book pop-ups. and screen-tears. Even standard moves come complete with massive ﬂashes, ripping blades and comic-book pop-ups.
The characters are even better: cel-shaded 3D models born of comic stylings and Capcom's peerless ﬁghting animators, instantly recognisable but distinctive takes.