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”


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.

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.

I Went to Nintendo World and All I Got Was This Tatsunoko vs Capcom Autographed Poster

On my way to  Nintendo World’s Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars I thought to myself, “Even though I’m getting there an hour after it started, there shouldn’t be too many people! I mean, who really knows about Tatsunoko vs Capcom anyway?” But never again will I underestimate fighting game fans.

Upon reaching the second floor, my friends and I noticed that it was packed. Not only was there a tournament about to commence with the prize on the line being an actual copy of TvC, but there was an autograph line snaking throughout the entire floor, and small groups crowded around each sample kiosk.

You could pretty much tell that almost everyone there was a fighting game fan, and in all likelihood weren’t really sure what “Tatsunoko” was. There’s something about the dress, the demeanor, the energy of the crowd that really made it obvious that they loved 1 on 1 fireball-throwing action and possibly yomi.

Another thing I noticed was that the event actually brought cosplayers. And it wasn’t even like all of them were relevant to the event at hand. While there was a Yatterman cosplayer walking around, I also spotted a Kakashi from Naruto with flack jacket and all, as well as a guy dressed as Kyon from Haruhi. Still, it wasn’t like the event was overwhelmed by anime fans in anime costume, but I was both a little nonplussed yet not surprised at all at this situation. It was an event celebrating anime characters after all.

All this time, I was on the line to get my autograph poster, and after an hour and change, I reached the signing. There, I asked the producers of the game an important question: Is Joe the Condor’s voice actor in TvC the original, Sasaki Isao, i.e. Joe’s original voice actor and famous anime singer responsible for shows such as Space Battleship Yamato, Neo-Human Casshern, Galaxy Express 999, UFO Robo Grendizer, and Getter Robo? They said “yes,” and were surprised that I even knew who Sasaki Isao was. Mission accomplished.

Afterwards I played the game a little, using Gold Lightan and seeing if he felt any different. I wasn’t that good at the game so I couldn’t really tell, but he’s still the Gold Finger Crashing Behemoth we know and love.

And then I ate udon. Mm mm.

East Coast Tokyo Baby Where You At: Hands-On with Tatsunoko vs Capcom

Yesterday, thanks to a heads up from Sub, I got the opportunity to play Tatsunoko vs Capcom. Now, I’m nowhere near good at fighting games though I’ve played more than a few, so you won’t see any insightful comments on strategy and metagame and what-not.

Instead you’ll just see me talking about how awesome Gold Lightan is.

Ready for it?

Gold Lightan is very awesome.

I hear he’s not so good in actuality, but I really don’t care. Ryu threw his Shinku Hadoken at Gold Lightan and the Big G was all, “Whatever man,” and totally chopped him in the face. I also tried characters like Roll and Tekkaman (while narrating), and overall it’s exactly what I wanted out of TvC: A really faithful crossover.

Characters move how they should. When Casshern jumps back, he does the HIBIKE TATAKAE KUDAKE flip from the opening. Chun-Li’s Spinning Bird Kick is animated with grace and glory. As per the theme song, both Gatchaman characters have the Science Ninja Phoenix for supers. Sadly, Casshern does not have access to Friender Jet.

I tried playing Marvel vs Capcom 2 in college just against the computer, and I couldn’t even get past the 4th opponent. The game was confusing beyond belief. While TvC is cut from the same cloth, it also doesn’t seem nearly as visually distracting which I can only put down as a positive.

All in all, a great time and a good game, especially when I pretend Gold Lightan is a giant golden Mario and stomp on people like they ain’t no thang.

As a reminder: Gold Lightan? Awesome.

I also played Arcana Heart for the first time. It’s going to be the start of another post, but not the kind you might expect.

I too shall lament the unlikelihood of Tatsunoko vs Capcom reaching American shores

Tatsunoko vs Capcom, the crossover fighting game which allows you to pit Roll from Megaman againt the ill-conceived-yet-somehow-awesome Gold Lightan, is probably not going to be for sale in America. Much like the Super Robot Wars series, which only managed to legitimately reach beyond the shores of Japan when it released games with Original Characters Only, TvC’s problem is primarily on the T end.

As anime gets licensed in America, there is no hard-and-fast rule that one company’s shows must all go to one US licensing company. This is good for us because if one company goes under it doesn’t take too many shows with them, but it’s also bad because negotiating any sort of crossover game is more difficult than trying to translate Hong Kong subs into sign language. Capcom and Tatsunoko are not Scrooge McDuck, they do not own giant money bins in which they can perform backstrokes, and it only makes sense that they avoid trying to release their mutual effort in game form over here, especially because Tatsunoko is not exactly well known in America. Maybe they could do better in  Spanish-speaking countries.

There’s always the rumor that they could take the engine and modify it into a new Marvel vs Capcom. I don’t know what’s up with the Marvel game license.

In conclusion, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe has terrible Fatalities. I don’t mind the lack of gore, I mind the lack of creativity.