MARVEL VS. CAPCOM VS. INJUSTICE

What do you think of when you imagine a Superhero story? For many the Superhero brawl is the staple trope of the genre.  A Superhero story can seem incomplete without a flurry of supersonic blows accompanied by earthquake-inducing wrestling. While the moral internal struggle of the hero is narratively essential it’s a safe bet that a majority are tuning in to see Superman and Doomsday pummel each other to the brink of death.  That’s why it makes sense that when superheroes crossed over into the video game industry it found a tailor-made niche in the fighting game genre.  What better place to experience  the excitement and power of a superhero story than in a buttonmash brawler like Mortal Kombat or Streetfighter? 

Having fun playing is great and all, but Fighting game players will tell you only one thing matters in their world…

 

So in the spirit of the genre let’s see “Who’ll come out on top?” as the best Superhero Fighter video game series: Marvel vs Capcom or Injustice?

Series History

Marvel vs Capcom certainly has the upperhand in the history department.  The first entry in the company crossover series premiered in Arcades in 1996 with X-Men vs Streetfighter giving it an extra-Decade of experience pitting Superheroes and villains against one another in a video game setting.  It broke the mold by combining existing fan-favorite comic book characters like Wolverine and pitting them against popular video game counterparts like Ryu.  The series continued by introducing the larger Marvel and Capcom Universes in subsequent games to include characters from popular franchises like Megaman, Captain America, Strider Hiryu, and Hulk.

Injustice is a bit more contemporary than its competitor series, but that doesn’t go to suggest that it does not have roots in the genre.  Going back to 2008 we saw the seed from which Injustice sprouted in DC’s partnership with Game Developer company NetherRealm Studios to release DC vs. Mortal Kombat.  The game pitted fan favorite characters from DC comics against the cast of the fighting game blockbuster Mortal Kombat.  The series deviated from the franchise-mash-up model in the next game Injustice which had only DC characters (though Scorpion from MK was indeed included in the DLC).  Unlike Marvel vs Capcom, the NetherRealm game series has featured story modes since their inception and they seem to be getting better each game.  Injustice has also launched a weekly comic book series of the same name that has been released on and off for almost 5 years. 

Gameplay

Marvel vs Capcom takes the win in this category although there is certainly room for personal preference.  The games have a certain fluidity to them that Injustice (and indeed all NetherRealm fighting games) lack.  Players generally sweep the sticks for combos which gives the game a quick, but graceful pace.  This is diametrically opposed to Injustice‘s static move input system which relies largely on forward-backward type controls that generally take longer to execute.  Injustice feels like a console fighting game while Marvel vs Capcom can feel like an arcade game even if you are not using a joystick.  There’s room to love the feel of both games, but serious gamers tend to prefer MVC’s arcade-like control system. 

Aesthetic

Anyone who has played a Capcom or NetherRealm game will already know that both companies have a distinct aesthetic.  From color pallet to character design you’d be hard pressed to mistake a NetherRealm game for a Capcom game and vice versa.  Marvel vs Capcom uses bright tones and colors that give the game a visually optimistic and exciting feel.  The visual style is inarguably distinct from Injustice as epileptic-seizure triggering flashes strobe player’s faces as they activate Hyper combos and an incorporeal announcer shouts phrases of encouragement at the gamers with words like “AWESOME!”, “COOL!”, and “HYPER COMBO K.O.!!!” popping in and out of view.  This is especially effective for a game like Marvel vs. Capcom as it gives the matches the feel of a comic book battle where onomatopoeias like ‘BANG’, ‘CRASH’, and ‘SMACK’ pepper the panels.  Capcoms’ stylized graphics certainly lend themself to a Superhero fighter. 

It is also interesting to note the tonal similarities between the respective game franchise and their cinematic counterparts.  MVC’s vivid and bright hues could be likened to the MCU’s look while the DCCU’s patented grim, darker de-saturated countenance is mirrored in Injustice (although Injustice 2 had a noticeably more colorful feel than its predecessor).

When it comes to the actual fighting the games are just as distinct.  Mortal Kombat‘s brutality is not quite as prevalent in Injustice, but the fighting still bears the cut-scenes of bone shattering Supermoves.  The fights in Injustice are a tad more adult while the combat in MVC has a distinctly surreal feel to it.  

Roster

The character roster in a fighter can make or break the game.  Historically, I would have told you the MVC was a shoo-in for this category, but Marvel vs Capcom Infinite‘s roster is severely underwhelming.  For our purposes here we are going to focus on the newest games for the sake of currency and ignore DLC, partly because Injustice 2 has a leg up on MVC with its earlier release date and also partly because I refuse to be party to developers charging people extra to have a full game. 

On paper MVCI has Injustice beat since it has 30 characters in the base game as opposed to Injustice’s 29 and it has the advantage of being able to draw from two different franchises which gives it an added nuance and diversity.  That said MVC really cut themselves off at the knees with the character list in this game by blacklisting some of the best parts of their cast.  It seems to me that someone from Marvel Studios was standing behind whoever was selecting which Marvel characters to include with a gun to the back of their head.  Fans of past MVC games will notice immediately that every single X-Men character has been removed from the game.  This move is highly conspicuous considering these were some of the most popular characters in past games AND the fact that the series started off with just X-Men rather than the Marvel Universe at large.  It should be noted that not a single character that 20th Century Fox owns the movie rights to is included.  Dr. Doom who has been in every previous Marvel vs Capcom game is glaringly absent as well as Deadpool who has seen a massive increase in popularity in the past 3 years.  This makes the game’s roster feel like an advertisement for the MCU.

Just in case that wasn’t bad enough Capcom decided to re-use 26 characters. Yes, folks…26/30 characters are the same as MVC3 barring a few moves changed here and there.  That is a fairly egregious affront as half the fun of having a new installment in a fighter series is testing out the new characters and moves.  To contrast, Injustice 2 has only 13 repeat characters out of 29.

As a fan of comic books Marvel vs Capcom’s rosters always excited me because they weren’t afraid to use the deep cut characters.  It was fantastic to see little known heroes and villains like Marrow, Shuma Gorath, and MODOK appear in the series.  Marvel Studios campaign to streamline all their entertainment properties with their Cinematic Universe deeply hurts the freshness of Marvel vs Capcom Infinite and while they won’t say it outright, the message is loud and clear that they care more about their bottom line than pleasing their fan-base.

As for Injustice 2, it only improves upon the first game and the roster demonstrates that NetherRealm actually listens to their fans.  I recall there was an online campaign to get Swamp Thing, Dr. Fate, and Black Manta into the first game as DLC.  That didn’t happen, but gamers have the opportunity to play as all three in Injustice 2.  Director Ed Boon has posted Twitter polls to gage fan interest in DLC characters and he has been true to the voice of the people and included many poll winners from Red Hood to Star Fire and even Dark Horse’s Hell Boy.  Injustice has usurped MVC’s title as champion of the people and representative of second and third tier characters and the game is much better for it.

FIGHT

Stylistically and mechanics wise I have to give the win to Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, but I do not think that outweighs the replay-ability of Injustice 2.  With such a fresh and diverse character list, a bottomless trove of unlockable costumes, and an ever-shifting array of online challenges and tournaments Injustice 2 gets the ultimate victory as the best current installment of a Superhero Fighting Game.  Who knew it pays to make fans happy?

 

Written by | Danny Moore

Danny Moore serves as Editor-in-Chief for the Heroic Universe.