The year was 1997, and things were a lot different in the fighting game landscape then they are today. These were the days before online Battle Lounges and Ranked Matches. The Evo tournament was but an unknown whisper within the fighting game community. Those who craved competition were forced into the dank corners of musty arcades, placing hopeful quarters on arcade cabinets for a shot at immortality.
Future online warriors were forced to battle face to face back then, risking humiliation amongst your peers if your turn at the sticks led to a mediocre performance, or the dreaded PERFECT defeat. So it was a most joyous occasion when the Holy Trinity of Marvel, Sony, and Capcom released the arcade port of Marvel Super Heroes for the Playstation console in late 1997. Now not only could we settle the age old debate of who would win a brawl between Magneto and the unstoppable Juggernaut, but we could do so in my Mom’s basement!
Marvel Super Heroes was a key cog in Capcom’s burgeoning Marvel Vs. series. Begetting the 2 vs 2 tag concept introduced in X-Men Vs Street Fighter a year earlier, the game borrowed heavily from its forebear, X-Men Children of the Atom. Of course, there were a few key updates that set Marvel a step above its predecessor; a simplified super meter, easier combos, well-known characters, and the Infinity Gems. (Yes I call them Infinity Gems, NOT Infinity Stones ‘cause I’m Old School!)
While X-Men CotA’s combos felt choppy and hard to execute, pulling off combos in Marvel felt easier. Chain combos became important to your repertoire, and linking those low and medium attacks into your powerful Hyper Combo was a guaranteed on screen spectacle. The satisfaction of hitting your opponent with Iron Man’s Upward Kick, and then materializing that huge Proton Cannon out of thin air for an insane 30+ hit combo on some scrub was uncanny!
Marvel Super Heroes was the first game that let us truly brawl out our differences behind the fists of our favorite Super-Heroes and Super-Villains. While it was awesome to brawl with the likes of the Silver Samurai, Rogue, and Omega Red in X-Men CotA, a good portion of the roster was only familiar to fans of the comic books. But Marvel’s roster was stacked with iconic characters. Anyone seeing the likes of the Incredible Hulk duking it out with Dr. Doom knew in an instant who they wanted to root for! And if you idolized a character, it made the fight a bit more personal.
Marvel Super Heroes was so good it could lead to fights as fast as it could bring us together. If you have never bared witness to a heated argument between friends contesting who ate the least amount of FINAL JUSTICE Hyper Combos from Captain America, then you haven’t had yourself a proper Basement Kumite, brother. I even had a friend named Logan, who insisted on playing with Wolverine every time he got the stick, because how could he not pick his namesake?! And if he lost, like his ‘hairy little fireplug’ namesake he was quick to remind his opponents that this was just a game, but could you whoop him in real life?
The Infinity Gems were a fun novelty, giving their user augmented abilities based on the gem type. A powerful comeback mechanic, they were mainly useful for the single player campaign. There were long nights spent with my buddies taking turns while we fought our way through the arcade ladder, collecting a different gem with each victory. Even so, Dr. Doom was an exceptional secondary boss, while Thanos was a jerk and stole all of your gems at the onset of your match. Capcom was wise to give us the ability to disable the gems in Vs mode, as they made Vs matches unbalanced and not very fun.
Suffice to say, Marvel Super Heroes was our dream fighting game at the time. Of course, X-Men Vs Street Fighter would soon be released, followed by Marvel Vs Capcom and its stellar sequel. But Marvel Super Heroes started the ball rolling on a series that still thrives today, with the 2017 release of Marvel Vs Capcom Infinite continuing its legacy. I think it would be cool to see a resurgence of great titles such as Marvel Super Heroes, it could be a huge step towards making the Basement Kumite great again!
Do you have fond memories of Marvel Super Heroes? Get it off of your chest in the comments below!