Crossover fighting games like Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds eschew realism. It's impossible to explain why Spider-Man and Resident Evil's Wesker would be facing off in Professor Xavier's Danger Room, so why try? MvC3 doesn't even attempt to take a stand on crossover match-ups, since all the fighters must be of comparable strength, or the game won't function. Is it ridiculous to see the Phoenix lose against Magneto? Yes. Fans of X-Men know that's impossible, but in this game, anything can happen.
Although MvC3 has plenty of straight-and-narrow fighters like Storm, Chun-Li, Ryu, and Magneto, you'll also see goofball hams like Deadpool, Viewtiful Joe, Felicia, and M.O.D.O.K. The game's tongue-in-cheek attitude will make you roll your eyes, laugh, or both. Fights begin and end with characters' taunts and one-liners, with Deadpool as the belle of the comedy ball. Even serious stiffs like Ryu can bring the laughs on occasion; I couldn't help but grin when he told the Phoenix that she might need to work on her "inner demons."
Fighting games tend to have learning cliffs instead of learning curves, but MvC3 is surprisingly forgiving of button mashers. It relies on drawn-out combos, especially in air; if you've got speedy fingers, you can win by not letting your opponent get a hit in edgewise. Learn to make good use of the Assist button; these matches are three-on-three, just as in MvC2, and you'll want to swap among your fighters to give them time to recharge their health backstage.
The game offers two control schemes: Simple and Normal. I recommend Normal even for novices, since Simple limits your attack variety so drastically that you'll have little to no hope of winning a match against a Normal opponent. If you need more practice, the game also offers a short single-player campaign with varied difficulty settings, as well as offline missions to help you learn complex combos on Normal. Even though the mission combos can become incredibly difficult, your work will pay off once you're brave enough to face off against other players.
Since I'm no combo aficionado, MvC3 attracted me because of Deadpool, X-23, She-Hulk, Trish from Devil May Cry, and the list goes on — not because I care so much about how they'll actually handle in the game, but because I love these characters. Some of the more obscure additions have been lambasted as nothing more than gimmicky marketing ploys. To those gamers, I say: you're just not enough of a nerd to get the references. X-23, for example, has proven herself in the comics as more than a mere "female Wolverine," and in this game, she's also a joy to play, with her lightweight leaping and lightning-fast slashes. Is her inclusion a bid to get fans interested in recent X-Men releases? Could be, but I prefer to see her as a gift for fans like me who already know and love her character.
Even though its characters were what caught my eye, MvC3 is the first game that motivated me to go out and buy a fight stick. Do I think I'll ever actually be good at this game? Probably not — but it's fantastic fun, even if you lose. The flashing lights on every swinging blade, the impossibly long and melodramatic special attacks, the over-the-top taunts — if you're a fan of these characters, you'll love all of this. And it might even provide the encouragement you need to step up your fighting-game skills.