The Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite hype train is about to start screaming down the tracks, and that means the information is spilling out all over the place. We have a handful of newly announced characters, early story details, and even a bunch of gameplay reports and videos. The key thing that stands out to me, as a long-time fan of the series, is that Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite is really dialing back the complications. While it’s still a hectic, deep Capcom fighter, there’s simply much less going on for the player to keep track of. No assists, 2 v, 2 match-ups, and what seems like a fairly simple reversal mechanic all point towards a much more casual-friendly game than Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3.
Now that I’ve identified as much, the next step is to ask, “is that a good thing?” Of course, every time a new fighting game comes out, half of the marketing is about how much more accessible the new game is for new players. Sometimes it’s true to an extent, but fighters are still innately difficult to understand and get into with measurable success.
This is a much more nebulous concept when it comes to the Marvel vs Capcom games. By nature they’re very complex in terms of mastery, but also very appealing in how fast and loose the controls feel. Most of the time, button-mashing doesn’t look or feel very good in fighters. In Marvel vs Capcom, the distinction is less clear, making it more satisfying for the casual player in a general sense.
In Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite, the basic mechanics are being supplemented by the game actually removing features that fans of the series are familiar with. Assists, the ability to call in a side character to do a quick attack, appear to be gone entirely in early footage. Team size is also down to two instead of three. It's something that isn’t new for the franchise, but hasn't been seen since Tatsunoko vs Capcom on the Wii and before that the original Marvel vs Capcom.
The argument here is that with these key features no longer in play, there’s less for the player to keep track of. No assists and two characters means less buttons. It also means less to consider when building a team. In theory, this lets newer players focus on the fundamentals and succeed without having to also juggle mechanical minutiae in an already fast-paced affair.
Hardcore players may take issue with this. One of the problems with fighters is the long-running push and pull between casual fans who play for fun and hardcore players who live and breathe this stuff, even to the point of building careers around it. Capcom famously bungled its approach in trying to cater to both with Street Fighter V. It pushed the game out early with its competition-ready features in place, but its casual ones nowhere to be seen.
Part of that doesn’t just include mechanics, but also modes of play. Ever since Mortal Kombat and its gimmicky, multi-hour story mode, casual players have expected other games to follow suit. This resulted in some serious awkwardness in Street Fighter V, while games like Guilty Gear and BlazBlue have their niche Visual Novel thing going on. Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite appears to have a similar thing with its story, even going so far as to dedicate its second big trailer to it.
With all of the above in mind, Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite is poised for success. The Marvel brand is more powerful than ever, and having a story mode prepared for launch should mean everyone is taken care of out of the box. The simpler mechanics don’t necessarily mean a lack of depth. If the gameplay footage is any indication, there’s a whole new bag of tricks for serious players to learn and master. Now all that’s left is to see how the roster turns out, and as series fans know, that’s most of the fun.