As Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite comes under scrutiny for its shrinking roster, I can’t help but feel disappointed not in the size of the roster, but in which characters actually made the cut.
Yes, Infinite has four fewer characters than the default version of the previous installment–and 16 fewer characters from the “Ultra” redux–but that’s hardly an issue. 32 playable characters is nothing to sneeze at,
But whereas Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (MvC3) used its roster both to promote cinematic newcomers and provide some fan service, Infinite feels like only the former. Characters such as Taskmaster, Super Skrull, She-Hulk, MODOK, and Shuma-Gorath weren’t just fan-service for some lesser-appreciated books: They were strange shapes, odd fusions of other characters move-sets, or just plain weird for the sake of being weird.
Marvel gave the writer, Frank Tieri, carte blanche with their library of characters for story purposes, while the developers clearly were not shackled, calling it something of a back-and-forth with Marvel.
When DLC was considered for MvC3, and later turned into a standalone package in the form of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, the modus operandi wasn’t apparent in adding to the still-fledgling cinematic universe, though in hindsight we can see it was probably a factor. Consider, for instance, the inclusion of Rocket Raccoon. While Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t officially announced at the time, it was widely hinted at. Hawkeye, a fully fledged Avenger, made the cut, too.
Fast forward to today, and of the 16 Marvel characters, only two aren’t readily apparent key assets in either the Marvel Cinematic Universe or their animated counterpart: Dormmamu and Ghost Rider. The former does belong to the world of Doctor Strange, though, and keeping him front of mind may have utility moving forward. Meanwhile, Ghost Rider’s rights have reverted back to Marvel: While this doesn’t suggest the character is joining the MCU, it does mean Marvel isn’t afraid to promote the character, as they are with, say, the X-Men. Note the lack of Magneto, Storm, Phoenix, Wolverine, Sentinel, and X-23 this time around–a large swath of characters from the last installment–when you look at this roster.
The newcomers to the roster seem only to confirm this suspicion: Another Guardian in Gamora, and the next stand-alone Avengers in Captain Marvel and Black Panther, are low-hanging fruit. Ultron–the antagonist of the last Avengers movie–at least makes sense within the context of a story-oriented character addition, but, come on.
With a month between us and the September 19th launch of Infinite, it’s not a condemnation of the game or even the roster, really. What’s striking is Marvel’s new way of doing business in which everything serves one purpose and one purpose only: Promote the #brand and slash-and-burn all potential for marketing characters whose film or other rights you no longer own.
That’s worth scrutinizing.