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San Diego Comic-Con 2011
The X Button at Comic Con: Saturday, July 23

by Todd Ciolek,

CAPCOM tends to be bad at keeping secrets when Comic-Con comes around—and fans apparently love them for it. Days before the convention's Marvel vs. CAPCOM 3 panel, news leaked about Ultimate Marvel vs. CAPCOM 3 and the 12 new characters it adds. CAPCOM gets Strider Hiryu, Phoenix Wright, Firebrand from Ghosts 'n Goblins/Gargoyle's Quest, Frank West from Dead Rising, Vergil from Devil May Cry, and Nemesis from Resident Evil. Marvel contributes Hawkeye, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Nova, Ghost Rider, and, surprisingly, Rocket Raccoon.

The build available for Comic Con had only four of the new characters: Strider, Firebrand, Hawkeye, and Ghost Rider. And those were the only ones talked about at the company's Ultimate Marvel vs. CAPCOM 3 panel. Undaunted by all of the leaks, the crowd roared with each character's introduction, even if Firebrand drew a little less excitement.

Producer Ryuta Niitsuma and CAPCOM Community Manager Seth Killian told the audience several things they didn't already know about the game: aside from the new spectator mode, Ultimate now allows characters to pull of their X-Factor power-up in the air, allowing for all sorts of new combos. Niitsuma, Chris Baker, Marvel's manager of licensed games, also described some of the new costumes, showing off five variations for Phoenix that did little more than recolor her outfit. Other alternates were more colorful: Storm sports a mohawk from the X-Men's Morlock saga, Chun-Li gets her Street Fighter Alpha track suit, X-23 looks as she did in the X-Men Evolution cartoon, Skrull wears his uniform from the “Annihilation” story arc, M.O.D.O.K. gets an Elvis-like hairdo and a microphone, Crimson Viper changes to her “Masked Viper” incarnation (designed by a major CAPCOM artist who Niitsuma declined to name), Wesker dons S.T.A.R.S. gear, Akuma becomes Cyber Akuma of Cyberbots and Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, Doctor Doom gets spiked shoulder pads, Sentinel reverts to his original design, Hiryu changes to his blue outfit from the arcade Strider, and Morrigan gets her disco-style shirt and slacks seen in a hidden victory pose back in second Darkstalkers game. See, you had to hold down all three punch buttons after winning, and...well, never mind. Night Warriors was a long time ago.

The panel closed with a Q&A session, and most inquires dealt with specific characters: the panelists answered that Cyclops and The Fantastic Four won't be in the game, though the Jim Lee-designed version of Phoenix is a possibility for an alternate outfit. The most interesting question came from an audience member who pointed out the lack of non-white characters in the game, aside from Storm, Ryu, Chun-Li, Hsien-Ko, and Hiryu. The panelists mentioned that this was unintentional, and that characters were largely selected based on how they fit into the gameplay. Killian also acknowledged the absence of female characters in Ultimate's new additions, saying “It's a bit of a sausage fest this time around.”

With only four of the new characters playable, the Comic-Con demo of Ultimate Marvel vs. CAPCOM 3 felt much like the Marvel vs. CAPCOM 3 that many fans bought five months ago. Yet the four of them at least felt right. Strider Hiryu is always a welcome combatant, even if his Ultimate incarnation is a lot like his Marvel vs. CAPCOM 2 one, with a screen-sweeping sword swipe, a summonable army of robotic creatures, and teleport attacks. His win pose is particularly amusing, as he rides off on the back of his mechanical panther. Firebrand, meanwhile, is less exciting to watch: his game includes flying and projectiles, but even his over-the-top supers aren't all that flashy.

On the Marvel side, Hawkeye proves a shockingly good addition, considering how the character is often overshadowed by other Avengers. His projectiles vary from straight shots to snares, and a backward roll can launch all sorts of different assaults. He also had the best high-level super combo of the four new fighters: as Hawkeye draws back his bow, Ant-Man drops onto the arrowhead, flies at the enemy, then turns giant to stomp on them. Ghost Rider, more of a loner, had no surprise references, but his chain strikes formed an apparently solid keep-away barrier.

NAMCO BANDAI FIGHTERS Last year, Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada crashed Yoshinori Ono's Street Fighter panel. This year, he and Soul Calibur producer Hisaharu Tago had their own panel crashed by Hiroshi Matsuyama, president of CyberConnect2. Matsuyama appeared in full Naruto regalia and demanded that he and his company's Naruto fighters be allowed into Harada and Tago's “fight club.” After playing clips from the company's upcoming Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations, Matsuyama was in.

Tago's portion of the panel ran over the latest additions to Soul Calibur V. Though the game's set 17 years after the fourth installment, the dominatrix-esque Ivy is apparently ageless, and she returns with her jointed sword and an outfit slightly less ridiculous than her Soul Calibur IV getup. Tago elaborated on two new fighters: strawberry blonde ninja Natsu seems to replace series regular Taki, while Z.W.E.I. is a masked fighter who grips and whirls a sword by its hilt. Tago had some reassuring words for longtime series fans, as he stated that “eventually Taki will return.”

Much of Harada's showing came from Tekken: Blood Vengeance, Namco's big CG film that hopes to be the first good Tekken movie. Scriptwriter Dai Satō (Cowboy Bebop, Ergo Proxy) was there to describe his motivations in making Xiaoyu and Alisa the lead characters. In his opinion's Xiaoyu symbolizes the older Tekken games, while Alisa's the face of the franchise's future—though the movie's still full of the Mishima family's power struggles. Harada then gave details on Tekken Hybrid, a package deal that includes Blood Vengeance and an HD version of Tekken Tag Tournament. Also in the set is Tekken Tag 2 Prologue, a preview of the upcoming game.

It's perfectly fair to call Konami's Doctor Lautrec and the Forgotten Knights a rip-off of Level-5's Professor Layton series: same genteel 19th-century atmosphere, same emphasis on puzzles, same pairing of a brainy investigator and an eager young assistant. But Doctor Lautrec is at least an engaging rip-off, and Konami's localizing it well.

The game opens with a treasure-nabbing escapade and an animated intro, and every character's wrapped in British charm: Lautrec's a snooty, methodical fellow who disdains all fiction, even Dumas, as nonsense, while his assistant Sophie is a cheerful, questioning counterpoint. The game's opening puzzle involves assembling a gun-shaped projector, and it's handled by placing Tetris-like blocks into certain patterns. The task was made quite hard by the lack of a stylus at Konami's booth, which stymied some of the younger players—who might've been bored by Lautrec's long conversations anyway. Fans of Professor Layton won't be bored, though, and they might find Lautrec a good diversion when CAPCOM and Level-5's Phoenix Wright and Professor Layton crossover stays in Japan.

This is the final installment of The X Button at Comic-Con, so it's time for a few awards.

CAPCOM had a wealth of toys, books, stuffed wolves, and other things for sale at their booth, but this set of Servbot bobbleheads was a pitiable sight for anyone who'd been looking forward to Mega Man Legends 3 for the 3DS.

They're clearly supposed to have adorable expressions, but in the light of CAPCOM canceling Mega Man Legends 3, it's easy to see their faces as the very picture of anguish. Put your ear to the glass, and you can hear squeaky little sobs.

Want to play Gears of War 3?

Well, you'll have to do it under the despondent (but manly!) gaze of Marcus Fenix, who's downcast about the horrors of war. Or the fact that he has all the charisma of a ham rind. Or the fact that his battalion's so underfunded that the woman on the right couldn't get proper sleeves.

Sega put together a rather elaborate show outside of Comic-Con, setting up an arcade of demos and having women in blue wigs to promote it all on the streets. I imagine some of it was put together in a hurry, so I have the utmost sympathy for whoever sketched out this pinball-playing Sonic.

I'll still run a shot of it, of course. We have to maintain awkward Sonic-spotting now that UK Resistance is gone.

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