It’s not unusual for a company to trot out their back catalog, though how well this is received depends on how good the games in question are and how well they’re presented. Marvel vs. Capcom Origins presents players with a pair of CPS-2 arcade titles for $15, Marvel Super Heroes (1995, “MSH” for short) and Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes (1998, “MVC1” from here on). Both titles pit famous Marvel Comics characters against each other with game mechanics that were pretty ‘wild’ for their time, though what makes these games stand out is their contrast. One is notably more engaging to experienced players, while the other is a more enjoyable ‘sandbox’ at the beginner and intermediate levels.
There are some things that apply to both games. They’re both 6-button, 2D fighters with a fairly fast pace and easy to learn controls. Their character rosters are pretty small by today’s standards, but manage to cover most play styles reasonably well and even include some unusual ideas like flight, beam projectiles, and so on (they weren’t the first to do these things, but it was still uncommon back then). While you’re given a variety of defensive options, these games came before many ‘anti-infinite combo’ measures were common and a single hit can easily lead to losing half your health… and often more than that! Some players will be dissuaded from playing either game on that basis alone, yet others feel this classical approach adds more tension to each match. This isn’t to say it’s good or bad, simply that these games are quite different from more recent ones.
Origins uses the arcade versions of MSH and MVC1, albeit with some changes to add new features they share. A simple menu lets you switch between games, configure your buttons (which you can also do at the character select screen), adjust sound settings, and choose between several visual filters. These range from whether to use scanlines and how to stretch the image to making it look like you are playing on a virtual arcade cabinet. Other settings include toggling screen flickering during certain attacks, the number of rounds in a match, damage levels, and game speed; some of these use an eight-star system that may not be immediately familiar to some. Also new is a Vault system which lets you earn and spend points on a variety of items. These range from character art and ending movies, to easier access for each game’s hidden fighters.
Despite their similar themes, each game is a distinct experience. Marvel Super Heroes is a 1-on-1 fighter with ten characters (and three hidden ones, though the community seems to frown on their use) from various comic lines. This places a certain emphasis on fundamental skills, since you must build a strategy around just your character’s existing tools and can’t tag out to avoid a bad matchup. There are also six gems to fight over, which temporarily grant their user special abilities such as increased speed, super armor, health regeneration, and similar benefits. While MSH employs many staples of the Marvel series such as super jumps, chain combos, exaggerated attacks and very high damage, its lack of tag or assist mechanics means fights flow much differently than you might expect. It ends up being an interesting middle ground between a few different types of fighting game, and holds up reasonably well in competition. This may be the less famous game in the pack, but it’s probably the better one for serious play and seems underappreciated.
Marvel vs. Capcom 1 is almost the opposite, playing as a 2-on-2 tag fighter with an emphasis on giving you more things to work with. The roster is larger, with eight Capcom characters and seven from Marvel properties (plus six hidden ones split between the companies). You also have several Assist Characters, which can be called a limited number of times per match to contribute a specific attack to your team. This makes it important to build a good team, especially since you can spend meter to enter the Duo Team Attack mode. This mode brings both of your fighters onto the screen and lets them perform as many hyper/super attacks as you wish for a limited time, and some of the best teams involve two characters whose hypers work well together. While this is a lot of fun at the beginner and intermediate levels, MVC1 starts to hit some real problems when you get past that. The same tools that make it so fun early on end up constricting higher-level play, leaving you with a very small pool of viable options that make the best use of them. While there are those who genuinely enjoy what this game boils down to, I suspect most advanced players will be better served playing something else.
A good training mode is often important, and it’s fair to wonder how Origins handles that since neither game had one in the arcades. The good news is that both MSH and MVC1 now have one, offering the basic functionality that implies. The bad news is it’s the basic functionality and little else. You can use emulator style save states to replay certain situations, adjust a very small set of options, or have a second player control the training dummy, but neither game’s training mode comes even close to current offerings. That’s disappointing, but it’s probably the best one can realistically expect in this situation.
There are some changes and issues to keep in mind. These were originally six-button games in the arcades, but most current controllers have more buttons than that. Origins lets you use them to simultaneously press all three punches or kicks, which has some obvious implications on play. Ranked matches also seem to have some quirks regarding speed settings, which concerned players have been discussing with Capcom. Audio in online games also seems to have some occasional glitches, such as Juggernaut’s quake attacks continuing to play their sound effects long after the technique is over. To Capcom’s credit, their staff have asked for feedback to help correct and improve some of these matters.
The online play bears further comment, since it uses GGPO. A certain level of tech savvy is expected, but the main menu offers a few tips on how to adjust the settings to fit your connection and preferences. Once properly set up, playing against people on even decent connections works so well that it’s sometimes hard to tell you’re actually playing over the internet. GGPO isn’t a cure-all netcode and there are points where even it won’t help if the connection is bad, but overall it is an excellent fit for both games. Ranked and unranked games are supported, as are lobbies and spectating; combining the latter with an optional ‘arcade cabinet, over the shoulder’ view can make for a fun nostalgia trip where it somewhat seems like you’re watching someone play in the arcades. It’s even possible to save replays and invite friends to watch them with you, and while there are some limits on this it is still a nice feature.
Is Marvel vs. Capcom: Origins worth your $15? It certainly can be, depending on what you’re looking for. If you’re interested in a mix of arcade nostalgia, an older yet still interesting style of fighting game design, and smart inclusions such as GGPO netcode, it has all of that. Each game even offers a different appeal; MVC1 revels in being a wild ‘sandbox’, while MSH holds up better in serious play. Just go in with realistic expectations, since it’s unlikely either title will become an essential part of the tournament scene with big prizes on the line. If you’re okay with that, picking up Origins for fun is perfectly acceptable and its price is reasonable for what you get.