Reading into the Negative Responses Against Phoenix Wright in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3

Phoenix Wright was recently announced as a character for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and his reception from fans of MvC3 has been an interesting mix of unbridled enthusiasm and indignant anger. I find the latter to be particularly interesting because of how the criticisms from fans are being formed verbally and what it says about how a game like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is perceived by its audience on an aesthetic level.

Before we start though, I have to say that I do not know what percentage of fans actually dislike Phoenix Wright’s participation in this game. Whether they are a “vocal minority” or not matters little, as it is more about the reaction of that group in particular.

First off, let’s take a look at some of the comments critical of Wright as a Capcom representative:

“Im not hating at all, the game looks legit I just can’t believe that non-sense was allowed in and not a more traditional fighting game character”

“Phoenix Wright is the most awkward fighting game character I’ve ever seen. Fuck that guy. I hope he’s top tier and everyone ends up using him ’cause he’s so stupid, LMAO.

Nova on the other hand, now that’s a real character. Dude is a beast! He’s like a better Phoenix (non-Dark).”

“I agree, Phoenix Wright feels out of place here, and makes me feel like I want to throat up or something. What a crappy pick, should of been Captain Commando. We already have a Capcom joke character, his name is Frank West and he’s better than Phoenix Wrong lol.”

[In reference to a an attack Phoenix Wright uses in the trailer and the argument that Tron is a joke character too ] “Tron hits ppl, not sneezes on them”

etc.

All of them say essentially the same thing. A) character who is not a fighter an does absolutely nothing resembling combat in his own game should not be in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. B) The humor-based interpretation of his “fighting” style for UMvC3 is a slight against the game itself.

At this point, it would be easy to dismiss these statements with a couple of arguments, but those arguments have problems in and of themselves. The first is the idea that “gameplay is the only thing that really matters, so it’s not relevant if Phoenix Wright fits with the rest of the cast or not as long as he’s a strong character who can create interesting gameplay.” For Marvel vs. Capcom 3, how the game controls and whether or not it’s competitively viable are, while important to its success as a game, are obviously not the only factors in presenting it to the world and its audience. If gameplay were the only relevant component, then it wouldn’t be a crossover of a comic book company and a video game company using iconic characters from their respective libraries. Although it is easy to disagree with people who think Phoenix Wright is too ridiculous for the game (and I do disagree with them), it is besides the point to argue from a primarily theoretical game mechanics perspective.

The second is the idea that “the game is already ridiculous putting up some kung fu guys against ancient gods and beings with the power to rip the Earth in half, so why draw the line at a goofy lawyer?” But while Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (and the entire rest of the Vs. game series) does bring together a cast of characters whose powers and abilities can be horribly mismatched, it does not negate the fact that Phoenix Wright is indeed not a martial artist or in possession of superhuman abilities. A punch is a punch and can be made as strong as necessary, whereas Wright has to use something else entirely.

I think the idea that a fighting game should have “characters that fight” is an interesting one in that MvC3 becomes a sort of haven for a particular type of masculinity, a place where a (presumably male) player can feel comfortable in knowing that the setting and its character will not betray them aesthetically. This is not a coincidence, as the look of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is masculine and powerful in a way that is particularly appealing to American audiences. This is easily seen when comparing it to its sibling, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, whose anime influence gives a somewhat softer look to even the most square-jawed and chiseled of warriors. But Phoenix Wright apparently violates that security; to the people critical of his inclusion for the reasons outlined above, he demeans the game he’s being included in because he ends up mocking the aggressive portrayal of competition. Wright risks emasculating part of the game’s audience, somewhat like the entire Arcana Heart series minus the overt sexuality aspect that is near-unavoidable with that franchise.

Again, I do not know what percentage of people playing games feels this way, but I do have to wonder how much this affects a certain portion of gamers’ decisions in which games to pursue. Are games like Call of Duty and Halo even more indicative of this mindset? If so, it may bear taking a look at how and why men look to games to affirm their masculinity.

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Marvel vs Capcom 3: English vs Japanese Profiles

The other day I was looking through the Japanese Marvel vs Capcom 3 website when I noticed that a lot of the profiles were actually quite different from the ones on the official English page. I’ve translated them below so that you can compare. Though not an absolute rule, the Japanese profiles tend to talk more about personality and origin, while the English ones focus on powers and abilities.

Do note that the DLC characters do not have any Japanese profiles yet, so I’ve left placeholders for them until they do.

Amaterasu

English: The wolf incarnation of the Sun Goddess. She uses her power to restore peace and beauty to the lands.

Japanese: 100 years ago, she triumphed in the battle against Orochi, but was injured and lost her physical form. Afterwards, using spiritual energy she resurrected herself as a guardian deity, but lost all of her miraculous power. Amaterasu now travels out into the world, slowly regaining her power, in order to restore her life.

Arthur

English: Sir Arthur is a brave and valiant knight who goes into hell to save his love Princess Guinevere.

Japanese: He is the legendary knight who traveled to the demon world alone in order to rescue his princess from the Demon King. He has a courageous personality, pushing forward in spite of fiendish monsters and dangerous traps, but he also has a cute side, as shown by his favoritism towards strawberry-print underwear.

Captain America

English: A scrawny fine arts student who grew up during the Great Depression, Steve Rogers was injected with the Super Solider Serum, giving him superhuman strength and agility.

Japanese: The one and only super soldier born out of the “Super Soldier Project, his strong feelings of patriotism for his country and unmatched sense of justice earn him the highest respect even among other heroes. He works as leader of “The Avengers,” a team formed in order to protect the world.

Chris Redfield

English: Part of the S.T.A.R.S Alpha team, Chris was one of the first to see the horrors of the Umbrella Corporation. He is also one of the founders of the B.S.S.A, designed to deal with Umbrella-like threats.

Japanese: Ever since the incident in Raccoon City and the destruction of Umbrella, he has taken on biological weapons all over the world. However, as he continues to fight, more and more questions come up. He is searching for his former partner, Jill, who disappeared without a trace.

Chun-Li

English: An undercover Interpol detective with lightning fast kicks, Chun-Li seeks to avenge her father’s death.

Japanese: Clad in a China dress, she spends her days searching all over for the criminal organization Shadaloo in order to eliminate it. Though notable for her strong conviction to her professional responsibilities, she also has a contrasting feminine side; in her heart is the wish to “live like a normal girl.”

Dante

English: Dante is a mercenary dedicated to vanquishing demons, which were responsible for killing his mother and corrupting his brother. He is also half demon himself.

Japanese: Born from the union of the demon Sparda, a legendary dark swordsman, and Eva, a human woman, he is half-human and half-demon. As a child, his mother was killed by a demon attack, so in order to search for his enemies he opens up a demon-hunting service. Indicative of his skill as a Devil Hunter, his shop is named “Devil May Cry.”

Deadpool

English: The Merc with a Mouth…while he is incredibly silly, Deadpool is one of the most effective mercenaries out there

Japanese: In order to cure his terminal lung cancer, Wade participated in an experiment to grant him artificial mutant powers. As side effects, his skin gained the appearance of being covered in burns and his mind was warped. Though he enjoys running his mouth, he is absolutely and profoundly mad, making him often difficult to comprehend.

Doctor Doom

English: Victor von Doom is a genius and ruler of Latveria. Often thwarted by the Fantastic Four, he uses his incredible mind and vast resources in repeated attempts at world domination.

Japanese: He is the masked genius scientist plotting world domination. Although his physical abilities are ordinary, he uses his brilliant mind to invent a vast number of super-science weapons. Utilizing them in his elaborate operations, he has tormented many superheroes.

Dormammu

English: Dormammu rules the Dark Dimension, using his mystical powers to try and conquer other dimensions.

Japanese: Originally an energy-based lifeform from another dimension known as the Chaos Dimension, he obtained a physical form made out of metal, aspiring to enter our reality and conquer it. Currently, he is king of a mysterious dimension known as the Dark Dimension.

Felicia

English: A cat woman raised by nuns, Felicia left the convent and is on a quest to become a star.

Japanese: A cat woman found and raised by kindly nuns, she has a cheerful and gentle personality. Relentlessly pursuing her dream, she works splendidly towards granting her own wish of becoming a musical star. In order to take care of children who have experienced the same difficult circumstances as her, she also works as a nun at an orphanage.

Hulk

English: When Bruce Banner was exposed to radiation from a gamma bomb, the power of the Hulk was unlocked. Now, whenever Banner gets angry, he becomes the massively strong and powerful Hulk.

Japanese: Once a brilliant physicist, while testing a bomb he was bombarded by high doses of gamma radiation. Now, when his anger and frustration rise, he transforms into a green-skinned being possessing a power well beyond human. Hulk’s overwhelming power is the point of reference by which all other strength is compared.

Iron Man

English: Billionaire Tony Stark fights the forces of villainy in the high-tech Iron Man armor. He is one of the cornerstones of the Super Hero community and a founding member of the Avengers.

Japanese: He has the brains and the technical ability to be able to develop and modify his very own battle suit. As Iron Man, he is equipped with a variety of weapons and has mastered the ability of flight.

Jill

English: Jill was one of the members of the S.T.A.R.S Alpha team. She was also one of the few people to escape Raccoon City before it was destroyed.

Japanese: N/A

Magneto

English: With almost complete control of magnetism, Magneto is one of the most powerful mutants alive. He uses his massive powers to fight for his own mutant agenda at any cost.

Japanese: A survivor of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp and genocide in the Second World War, he strives for the salvation of mutants while embracing the idea that “mutants, being superior to humans, should lead mankind.” Ruthless, he will go to any length for his agenda.

M.O.D.O.K.

English: M.O.D.O.K., the Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing who leads Advanced Idea Mechanics, is gifted with super intelligence and psionic power, using these powers to vex the world’s Super Heroes.

Japanese: Though once a normal human, his body was experimented on and he became “M.O.D.O.K. (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing).” Possessing the abilities of superhuman intelligence and psionic power, Modok refers to himself as a “supreme scientist” and has buried all of the researchers involved in his experiment.

Morrigan

English: A fun-loving succubus, Morrigan is very powerful and prefers to neglect her duties and spend time in the human world.

Japanese: Known as a “succubus,” or a demon who seduces men with her charm, her notable characteristics are her outstanding proportions and her bewitching outfit. She is the head of the House of Aensland, one of the three great families in the demon world, but hates the everyday tedium that comes with the position.

Ryu

English: Ryu lives only for the fight and seeks opponents stronger than himself. He fights using the art of Ansatsuken as taught to him by his master, Gouken.

Japanese: Having fought the Emperor of Muay Thai and won, his name became widely known by the warriors of the world. However, fame is of no concern to him; he travels the world, trading fists with others in order to become a “true warrior.”

She-Hulk

English: When Jennifer Walters received a blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce Banner, she gained the power to become She-Hulk.

Japanese: Cousin of Robert Bruce Banner (The Hulk), in the past she suffered a serious injury and received a blood transfusion from Dr. Banner and gained the ability to transform into She-Hulk. The transformation applies not just to her body but to her personality as well; she stops being hesitant and becomes more self-condident.

Shuma-Gorath

English: Shuma-Gorath is an ancient and terrible being who wants to enslave humanity with his supernatural powers and ability to shapeshift.

Japanese: N/A

Spencer

English: Spencer is a bionic operative for a special branch of government. However, the government betrayed him, forcing him to go rogue.

Japanese: Once a great hero from his active service in the war against the Imperial Army, he was charged with treason, imprisoned, and given the death sentence, anticipating the government’s extermination of all Bionic technology. But when the Organization for the Revival of Bionics appears, he is dispatched to resolve the issue, choosing the path of warfare once more.

Spider-Man

English: When a radioactive spider bit Peter Parker, he gained the proportionate strength and agility of the arachnid, which he now uses to fight evil.

Japanese: When a young Peter attended a science exhibition and was bitten by a radioactive spider, he gained super powers and became Spider-Man. After experiencing the murder of his beloved uncle by a burglar who he had once let escape, he took to heart the words, “With great power there must also come great responsibility.”

Super-Skrull

English: The Super-Skrull (also known as Kl’rt) was given all of the powers of the Fantastic Four. He uses these powers as a champion of the Skrull Empire.

Japanese: After the Skrull invasion of the Earth was thwarted by the “Fantastic Four,” he was created as a super warrior, genetically modified to oppose them. His choice of words and his enormous pride indicate a disdain for other lifeforms; however, this stems not from any belief in personal superiority, but a cultural characteristic common to all Skrulls.

Thor

English: The God of Thunder wields the mighty hammer Mjolnir to fight the forces of evil. He is also a founding member of the Avengers.

Japanese: Son of Odin, the king of Asgard (the land of the gods), he is referred to as “Asgard’s Greatest Warrior.” Though once arrogant, he matured greatly after being reincarnated as a human as a form of discipline. Currently, he acts as a member of Earth’s Mightiest Hero Team, “The Avengers.”

Trish

English: A woman created by a demon to seduce and destroy Dante. However, she ends up aiding Dante on his quest to vanquish demons.

Japanese: Though once a demon created to seduce Dante, she was charmed by Dante while with him and betrayed the demons. Currently, she works at Dante’s shop as his partner.

Tron

English: A pirate and mechanical genius, Tron Bonne uses her servbots to do her bidding.

Japanese: The only daughter of the Bonne family of air pirates, she is prideful and absolutely hates to lose. However, she shows adorability in her inability to be honest with those she loves, as well as a gentleness when it comes to her family. Though she goes around the world in the hopes of obtaining wealth in one shot, she always fails and only ends up increasing her debt.

Viewtiful Joe

English: Sucked into Movieland, Viewtiful Joe fights for truth and justice using the time altering powers of his V-watch, which is activated by the magical phrase “Henshin

Japanese: Before transforming into Viewtiful Joe, he’s a 17 year old guy who loves heroes and movies. He has a strong childish side to him, which make his girlfriend Sylvia get mad at him quite often.

Wesker

English: Albert Wesker was part of the S.T.A.R.S. Alpha team. However, he was secretly working for the Umbrella Corporation. He has since betrayed Umbrella and is now working for Tricell.

Japanese: Extraordinarily cool-headed, he is a dangerous human being who will not hesitate to use others if it benefits him or his goals. He plots to complete the Uroboros virus and release it into the world, creating a new world where only he and a chosen similar few exist.

Wolverine

English: This Canadian member of the X-Men is the best there is at what he does, with his healing factor and adamantium claws. But what he does isn’t very nice.

Japanese: Often mistaken for a berserker devoid of civility, he has an extremely chivalrous personality and cares greatly for his friends and loved ones. However, he also has a dry side. He gives no mercy to his enemies and will not hesitate to lift a hand, regardless of time and place.

X-23

English: A female clone of Wolverine, X-23 has all of his powers in female form.

Japanese: She is a clone created from Wolverine’s genes. Having never been named since birth, she possesses a storied past, driven to a life as a highly-trained killer. Spending every day training for battle, she was named “Laura” by the scientist she considered her mother, she is prepared to cut open a path to taking back her life.

Zero

English: Despite being created by the evil Dr. Wily, Zero fights for good and righteous causes throughout his robotic existence.

Japanese: A male reploid discovered within some ruins by Sigma, since then he has worked as an Irregular Hunter. While ordinarily cool, he has an unusually strong hatred of evil; in combat with Irregulars, his fierce and decisive blade can annihilate his opponents in an instant. He is good friends and allies with X in the 17th Elite Unit.

It’s All in the Execution

Marvel vs Capcom 3 successfully captures the look a fighting game about Ryu fighting Captain America targeted towards American audiences wants to have. It’s a grittier style when compared to the one used in Tatsunoko vs Capcom, which makes perfect sense. MvC3‘s aesthetic step in the right direction however reminded me of a similar attempt not so long ago, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe.

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe was an aesthetic failure. Just like MvC3, the game looked to bring together two sets of characters by uniting them under a more realistic visual style, but the end product was just a series of awkwardly stiff 3-d models and jerky animations.

What is going on with that torso?

Worse yet were the Fatalities, that classic trademark of the Mortal Kombat franchise, the violent killing blows which defined the series in the eyes of so many gamers. In MKvsDC, the Fatalities were not only toned down in brutality but also terribly uncreative regardless of the level of violence, especially when compared to the stylish Instant Kills of games like Blazblue.

My goal isn’t to just trash MKvsDC though, and of course I can’t really compare the gameplay to a game that isn’t actually out yet. I just wanted to point out that it’s amazing just how much two different projects came aim for the same basic goal and produce such different results. Marvel vs Capcom 3 is exactly what Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe wanted to be.

For comparison:

A Visual Comparison of Marvel-Style Capcom and Tatsunoko-Style Capcom

When the preliminary screenshots for Marvel vs Capcom 3 were revealed, the way the Capcom characters were portrayed really caught my eye.

Now it wasn’t too long ago that the similarly themed Tatsunoko vs Capcom saw the light of day. Both it and MvC3 portray Capcom characters using 3-D models, but you might see a notable difference between the two games.

Ryu here, despite being in two very similar games, turns out looking quite different. Against the anime characters of Tatsunoko he too looks closer to an anime character, but against the American-friendly grittiness of Wolverine and other Marvel characters, he too becomes almost equally gritty. His design is being adapted differently in order to better match with the types of opponents he’s facing.

In any crossover but especially in video games, visual consistency is important. If the characters do not look like they belong together, then it becomes extremely jarring. The Capcom vs SNK series suffered from this, as the old Alpha sprites of the Capcom characters clashed with the newly designed sprites for the SNK characters. As an opposite example however, Sakurai Masahiro purposely added realistic touches to all of the characters the later Super Smash Bros. games in order to minimize the visual discrepancies between them, so that someone like the relatively realistic Samus Aran matches up with the more cartoonish Mario. If you look at Mario actually, he has much more detailed textures on his overalls than in any other game he’s in.

One last thing that I find interesting is that the old VS games (most notably Marvel vs Capcom 2) actually leaned in the opposite direction of MvC3 by having the Marvel characters designed to better match the anime-style Street Fighter characters used at that time. Either way though, the message seems to remain the same: MUGEN is really ugly.