After the success of "Street Fighter IV," Capcom stumbled with the sequel. The decision to release an incomplete follow-up led to a poor first impression, and that move snowballed into a cool response from the fight community.
With "Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite," Capcom learns from its mistakes and presents players with a reset of the series, one that has closer ties to Disney's Marvel cinematic universe. Gone are old stalwarts such as Storm, Magneto and other characters from X-Men and the Fantastic Four. They're replaced by Captain Marvel, Gamora and revamped version of older heroes such as Thor.
The fresh start presents an opportunity to lure a new audience while adding needed innovation to the franchise. It begins with a simplification: "Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite" cuts the size of teams from three members to two and introduces the concept of Infinity Stones.
The move streamlines the team building process as players have to worry about learning two characters while also understanding the powers of the six Infinity Stones. The gems give characters an additional ability called an Infinity Surge that's mapped to a button. For example, connect with a Power stone strike knocks an opponent off the wall while the Time stone gives fighters a dash ability.
Additionally, each gem has an Infinity Storm move tied to a special meter. Activating the ability gives players a temporary advantage. In one instance, the Soul stone resurrects a defeated partner, while the Mind stone refuels the hyper combo meter.
Technically, the stones could be considered almost like a third character, but players don't need additional character knowledge. The stones act as a modifier that opens up new strategies and shores up weakness of other fighters while maintaining an easy-to-learn approach.
That appears to be the design focus of "Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite." To emphasize that point, the developers included an easy auto combo that requires a few button taps. Meanwhile, hyper combos are easier to perform by pressing two buttons at the same time instead of a complicated input.
This newbie-friendly push and above-average story mode are meant to draw the casual fan into the frenetic fighting game. The developer successfully balances that with the need to give experts new systems, and the Infinity stones are the key to that. The team also includes the advancing guard system that lets players reflect fireballs and push away aggressive opponents. If players are rushed, they can sacrifice meter to perform a counter switch that brings in their partner to take over and deal damage.
With a more polished effort, Capcom recaptures the magic and gives newcomers a chance to fall in love with the "Marvel vs. Capcom" series again.
A SECOND TIME AROUND: Although the Nintendo 3DS is showing its age, the system isn't lacking support. Over the past few months, Nintendo has released several gems for the handheld including "Monster Hunter Stories" and "Fire Emblem: Echoes."
That schedule culminates with one of the best games on the system in years -- "Metroid: Samus Returns." It's a reimagining of the classic Game Boy title, which itself was a sequel to the original "Metroid." The only similarity between this new iteration and the old one is the story, which finds Samus Aran on planet SR388. This is the Metroid homeworld and Samus' mission is to exterminate the dangerous life-form. That takes her on another journey through the planet where she explores its unusual ecosystem and ancient ruins.
In typical fashion, players start off underpowered with few abilities, but as they explore SR388, they gain new tools, energy tanks and weapons. This 2D side-scroller is a throwback to the heydey of the series and resembles "Super Metroid" on the surface, but the developers MercurySteam and Nintendo EPD add a fresh dimension to the controls and combat.
The teams shift movement to the analog circle pad and that move requires additional changes to the control scheme such as the use of the left shoulder button to hold Samus still so she can aim at foes. Switching between regular beams and missiles is done on the right shoulder button. Meanwhile, Samus can change up her other weapons with the touchscreen.
Also, Samus has Aeon powers that are mapped to the direction pad. These abilities let her scan the map, power up her defense or offense and slow down time. Like her other tools, they're the vital to exploration.
These big changes create a huge learning curve, and it complicates the gameplay. For veterans, it's disconcerting, especially for moments that require precision movements. Using the circle pad feels mushy, but the new additions provide unexpected to depth, especially during boss battles.
Ultimately, the revamped gameplay ideas are a double-edged sword that ultimately improves the series and creates one of the better entries of the franchise in years.
'Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite'
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC
'Metroid: Samus Returns'
3 1/2 stars
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Rating: Everyone 10 and up ___
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