Fans will appreciate the abundant details and references and cameos scattered throughout the levels. I'm a much bigger Marvel fan than a Capcom fan, so I naturally noticed more of those details, but there's a lot of love for fans of either brand. Characters will call each other out by name and even reference their histories and backgrounds. If Phoenix finds herself matched up against Wolverine, she'll say, "I wish it hadn't come to this, Logan." When she dies, she'll just whisper "Scott," the name of her husband, Cyclops, as she falls to the ground. There are loads of details in the environments too, from the mythical beings in Asgard, to the banners for Heroes for Hire on the skyscrapers in New York. It's these little touches of fan service that make the whole game seem more like a sincere attempt to capture each franchise than just a cheap way to cash in on someone else's popularity.
The characters themselves are also unique and genuine. Fans interested purely in the numbers will be dismayed that this iteration of the game has fewer characters, but it makes the game more focused by cutting out the redundancies. Really, have we ever needed a Ryu and a Ken? By trimming the roster, Capcom has made each character matter more, and is able to really hone in one each fighter's personality. Even though many of the basic moves use the same inputs, Captain America fights like Captain America and Chun-Li fights like Chun-Li.
The only really disappointing thing about Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is the online play. After all that Street Fighter IV did, it's kind of strange to consider why this new game feels so lacking. There are online options, sure, but the one-off battles against random opponents aren't particularly compelling, and even the larger lobbies where groups of players can compete in a winner-stays format don't let you watch the matches. I have no idea if it's a lag issue or what, but there's not much entertainment in just chatting with total strangers for ten or fifteen minutes while watching gamer cards bounce against each other as the fighting players' health bars slowly drain away. Even when playing with friends, it's kind of a downer not to be able to see the fights.
Bottom Line: Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a fantastic fighting game, full of flashy moves, fast action, and heaps of sincerity for the franchises and the genre as a whole. It's approachable enough for newcomers and deep enough for hardcore fans but it doesn't help the new guys out enough.
Recommendation: If all you care about is online play, skip this and go with Street Fighter IV instead. But if you love the either of these franchises and have a friend for local play, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is loads of fun.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Steve Butts still thinks Finishing Shower is an unfortunate name for a combo.