A Brief History of Marvel and Capcom

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Most players know about the MvC series, but this legendary partnership has been around long before that. How will it continue to evolve with Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite?

One of the most recognizable fighting franchises in the world is easily Marvel vs. Capcom, a series with generations of fans who support it. Marvel and Capcom have been working together for nearly 25 years now, with their partnership well-known for focusing on crossover fighters. The Marvel vs. Capcom title holds a special place in fighting game history, as it’s done a phenomenal job of bringing casual players into that highly competitive world.

During the height of Marvel’s popularity in the mid-’90s, MVC games acted as an easy entry point into fighting games for those who enjoyed the comics and cartoons. The lenient combo system and flashy super moves helped ensure those newcomers could get a thrill out of just button mashing, which helped ensure those players stuck around.

In respect to the legacy of Marvel, let’s take a bit of time to look back on Marvel history, the community today, and a bit of speculation on the future of the upcoming game and the community that’s already begun to form around it.

Marvel vs. Capcom’s origins

The recent announcement of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite seems to be a return to the franchise’s roots in more ways than one. While the aspect of 2v2 matches and no assist moves is a mechanical callback to X-Men vs. Street Fighter, the focus on making the game easier to play for those less involved with competitive fighting games is one of the core features of the franchise as a whole.

Marvel and Capcom have a long history together, going all the way back to 1993 with a traditional Beat ‘Em Up featuring Marvel Comics’s The Punisher. This was at a time where Marvel was at peak popularity, particularly with their X-Men characters. Any casual comic reader would be forgiven for being unable to tell the difference between X-Men, X-Force, X-Factor, Excalibur and every other X-spinoff Marvel could come up with. Then considering the “X-Men: The Animated Series” cartoon, which was in full swing, and it’s easy to see that Marvel had their eyes set on all things mutant.

This is where Capcom came in. Well-known for being an arcade juggernaut with Street Fighter II breaking records, redefining what it meant to be a successful arcade game and establishing the fighting genre all in one stroke. This partnership saw the birth of X-Men: Children of the Atom, which was the first step toward what would eventually become one of the biggest crossovers of all time.

While X-Men: Children of the Atom was indeed the first Marvel fighting game and it did contain Akuma as a secret character, it wasn’t until X-Men vs. Street Fighter that the crossover really began. It definitely seems these early titles are being used as inspiration for the newest addition to the franchise, but most players know and remember the series for Marvel vs. Capcom 2.

The fighting game genre has always been niche relative to the rest of the gaming world, due in large part to their high execution requirements and the primary focus being on competitive multiplayer content. The lack of an easy in for casual players has been a bane of the fighting genre’s early years, which was in part what made the first several Marvel fighting games so successful.

Marvel 2 Screenshot
MvC 2 was a title that evolved over a decade© Capcom

MvC games were easy to pick up, easy to mash buttons on, let casual players perform a lot of flashy moves and MvC2 specifically had a massive 56 character roster. All of these features came together to form the perfect lure for people who otherwise might never have touched a fighting game.

The FGC’s first class

The way MvC2 catered to newer players was perfect, but the game’s competitive fanbase was a large part of its success, as well. One of the most vibrant communities within the whole Fighting Game Community is without a doubt the Marvel vs. Capcom scene. Boasting the status as one of the oldest and highest energy scenes for any fighter still active today, the Marvel community had been playing MvC2 for 10 years before its sequel, Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

The reason people played for so long was partly due to the fact that it was a massive game with tons to discover. Between strange glitches that enriched the gameplay, new characters suddenly rising to prominence, and old strategies being replaced with newer, more effective ones, there was a lot to become invested in. Competition was alive, and constantly shifted depending solely on the player’s understanding of it.

From an outsider’s perspective, between the size of the roster, how unbalanced the game was, and how insane some of the tactics were, it’s hard to imagine a competitive scene could form around it. There wasn’t even any developer support through patches or tournament support; the game that dropped in 2000 was the game that’s still played today. A big part of what made MvC2 competitively playable was a series of seemingly minor bugs that actually helped ensure the game could nurture high level competition, some of which are explained below by Skullgirls developer Mike Z (the meat of the explanation starts at 1:48).

Both the hardcore and casual communities had an amazing time with MvC2, but that of course wasn’t the most recent update to the series. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 came out in late 2011, ushering in a whole new audience. During the height of the cinematic superhero era, MvC3 dropped and performed largely the same way previous titles did. It focused on bringing in casual players who got hooked through the movies and making the game as easy for them as possible, while still attempting to retain fans of the previous games.

Marvel vs. Capcom 3 did wonderfully, quickly becoming the highest selling MvC game to date and immediately building a strong competitive following. A good example of the FGC’s acceptance of the game is Evo: Hands down the biggest fighting game tournament in the world, MvC3 has been at Evo every year since its release. It’s become a staple of the tournament series, much like its predecessor was.

Over the past six years, the MvC3 community has supported their game relentlessly. Big names from the MvC2 days like Echo Fox’s Justin Wong continue to play and push the community forward, while comparatively newer talents such as Evil Geniuses’ Christopher “NYChris G” Gonzales entered the scene and became dominant. In addition to the raw skill that came into the scene on the tournament circuit, the community itself has worked hard to establish support for themselves.

A new age of heroes

With such a energetic and longstanding community, there’s no doubt that Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite will have a strong start. Comic book movies are still everywhere like they were when MvC3 came out, so it’s easy to believe that a big casual audience could take interest in the title as well.

A primary point of interest to the FGC will be whether or not Capcom supports the game with more than just DLC and patches. Street Fighter V is currently enjoying a healthy place as the most-played FGC title, which is largely thanks to the Capcom Pro Tour. The Tour sees SFV spotlighted as the center gem of the community, with many tournaments proudly branding themselves as official Pro Tour stops. That’s great for SFV, but the Capcom Pro Tour currently highlights SFV exclusively.

Curleh Circuit screenshot
The Curleh Circuit is a new FGC initiative© Curleh Circuit

That hasn’t stopped Marvel fans from doing it on their own, however. With the help of Smash.gg, the Marvel community has taken it upon themselves to form an unofficial tournament league for themselves, known as the “Curleh Circuit.” Their setup is akin to the Capcom Pro Tour in the sense that it’s helping incentivize more players to enter tournaments, while also highlighting their most prominent events. Their efforts are already making a big splash on the tournament scene, and is helping immensely to keep the community active until the new game’s release.

The Curleh Circuit is a great thing for the community, but the lack of official support has been present for a long time. Today’s Capcom has a good chance to change that. Incorporating MvC:I into the existing Capcom Pro Tour or working with the community on their Curleh Circuit could work wonders. If they did that or even set up a new Tour strictly for Marvel, it’s very possible that Capcom could push Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite past Street Fighter V in terms of FGC play.

Mega Man screenshot
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite isn’t far off© Capcom

Aside from wondering how Capcom will support the game at tournaments, another question is who exactly is going to thrust themselves into the spotlight this time around? Will it be a veteran MvC2 player, like Justin Wong? Could it be one of the big UMvC3 heroes who took the reigns from the MvC2 players, like Chris G? Or will it be a complete newcomer who blows everyone out of the water? Surprisingly, those aren’t the only possibilities.

The dark horses

There are a few games that may house players who could excel at Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite outside of the MVC franchise. Street Fighter X Tekken is one such game, as it operates off a very similar premise to MVC:I. It’s a two-man tag team game, focusing on tagging back and forth both in and out of combos. Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is another such game, which has a very solid core fanbase that excels at team gameplay, so we may see a previously unknown player rise from the shadows to take over in this new MVC title.

Another game that may contain secret Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite killers is Skullgirls — a game directly inspired by MvC2 — which has been a breeding ground for players who understand and excel at fast-paced, team-based fighters. One notable top Skullgirls player is Echo Fox’s Dominique “SonicFox” McLean, who is currently the undisputed best Skullgirls player today. He is better known for his dominance in Mortal Kombat and Injustice, but takes Skullgirls very seriously, as well.

Fight for the future

With all that said, it’ll be interesting to see what Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite’s future has in store. Will the next Marvel title be getting Pro Tour support? Will old MVC2 gods rise again, will the current UMVC3 heroes continue their reign, or will surprise rogues come in and steal this title from traditional Capcom players? We just have to wait and see later this year when the game drops in September.