Remembering… Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes
Before level 3 X-Factor, before songs sung of being taken for a ride, and before the curling of mustaches, there was the first. After years of crafting battles waged within the Marvel Universe, and having their best testing mettle against Street Fighters, Capcom finally threw down the gauntlet to unify the chosen of each world for a battle royale deemed, at the time, to be the pinnacle of cross over madness: Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes.
Aside from being the last Versus title to use the traditional six button layout (light, medium, and heavy punches and kicks), MvC1 is perhaps best remembered as having a headcount of 16 default characters, humble in comparison to MvC2 and Ultimate MvC3’s 50+ rosters. New faces were brought into the MAHVEL fold, but only two would make consistent appearances in future installments (Strider Hiryu and Morrigan) while the rest (Venom, Mega Man, Captain Commando, Jin Saotome and War Machine) would be given their severance checks after their stint in the sequel. MvC1 also featured secret characters who were actually palette swaps of a number of the original cast including Red Venom (a ridiculously sped up version of the symbiote), and Gold War Machine (completely immune to hit stun).
Additionally MvC1 featured the Variable Cross/Duo Team Attack – an ancestral version of Street Fighter X Tekken’s Scramble Mode. At the cost of at least two meters, performing quarter circle back + Heavy Punch and Heavy Kick will bring both teammates (granted you still have them) onto the screen with infinite meter for a limited amount of time. How long the duration lasts depends on how much super meter you saved prior to activation.
While the popular choice of teams consisted of any combination of Wolverine, War Machine, Gold War Machine, and Strider (known for their versatile access to high damaging shenanigans), unlike fighters from the dawn of the 21st century, it was still very much possible to win matches with all the characters in the game. What also determined the strength of one’s team was choice of assist character. After selecting your two warriors, a mini character select screen appears where you can choose from a number of assists, summoned by hitting Medium Punch and Medium Kick, and can only be used for a limited number of times in battle. Due to the gameplay’s pace, assists with solid horizontal attacks were held in high regard (ex: Colussus, Psylocke, and Michelle Heart). While newbies were confuzzled by how fast the assist select screen’s cursor auto scrolled, the trick was to press start and hit a certain combination of buttons to pick the character of choice.
Of course, a public cheat sheet wasn’t available at the time, but some arcades were generous enough to print one out and tape it to their MvC1 cabinets. Understand that this was a time when the internet still had a ways to go – forums were still in development, the thought of uploading videos to computers seemed like a science fiction fantasy, and despite GameFAQs having been conceived three years prior, the fighting game community didn’t have the patience to wait around for someone to type up a guide when IRC chats and just simply going to the local arcade would provide all the immediate knowledge required.
This was most prominent where combos and strats were concerned. Infinites ran rampant just like in any other Versus title, but MvC1 was perhaps most notorious for featuring ‘Uncombos’. These were combos where you would delay your strikes, long enough to make the game give up on counting hits but still quick enough to keep the opponent juggled. Almost every fighting game utilizes the universal fail-safe of damage scaling where the more hits issued in a combo, the more your general damage output diminishes per hit. Because the game is being tricked into resetting hit counts, a glitch is triggered where damage scaling is being constantly reset at the same time, thus ensuring that each hit performed packs fresh damage. Observe; notice how Hulk dies in a matter of seconds. Given the strict timing involved in performing Uncombos, they were more difficult to learn compared to infinites. But once you mastered both, the poison you preferred boiled down to whether you wanted to procure a quick death or a slow and painful one.
Perhaps a prelude to the US’s ascendency in the MAHVEL scene, the majority of the tricks and tactics were discovered by American players, while the Japanese were slower on the uptake, despite their dominance in X-Men vs. Street Fighter. Some say it’s due to the fact that MvC1 is slower in comparison and the inclusion of assist characters were met with disagreement. Although this was a time before the coming of Justin Wong, the scene was still strong with MvC1 communities not only existing in California and New York, but New Jersey, Virginia, and Connecticut. Memorable players included long retired JR Image, Darrick Perez and still active OGs such as Viscant, Alex Valle and Arturo Sanchez. Although Japan was not heavily invested, they still housed great players such as Liquid Metal.
MvC1 was ported onto the Dreamcast and PS1, the former staying true to the arcade version and including Cross Fever – allowing four players to control 1 character. The latter was considered the most disappointing as due to memory constraints, players only controlled one character while the second was used during Duo Team Attack. Nevertheless, after the explosion of the FGC, with the hit success of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, MvC1 quickly faded from mainstream recognition. However, small communities continued to play one another on MAME/GGPO which not only ensured active participants from the US and Japan, but even players from South America and even Mexico. Thankfully, Clash of Super Heroes will be making an HD return in Marvel vs. Capcom Origins for PSN and XboxLIVE. Tune in September as we shall see if things remain true to the memory of Capcom’s first Avenger.
Special thanks to James ‘Nokato’ Stanley for the much needed knowledge refresher.