Of all the franchises Nintendo could have picked to bring back from the grave they picked the one that has a character named “Ulysses S. Claw” in it.
When I was a kid I played the absolute hell out of the original Marvel Ultimate Alliance (I never played 2. Fuck Civil War). I remember exploring the dungeon-like levels and staying up all night with a friend to beat it. That game meant a lot to me so seeing Nintendo teaming up with Team Ninja to bring the series back had me very excited….if a little surprised. Ultimate Alliance never seemed like the kind of thing Nintendo would be interested in (Though Link and Samus were considered to be guest characters in the original) but hey I’m not complaining. It’s always nice to see a Marvel game that isn’t tied to the MCU outside of a few designs.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is an action-adventure/beat ’em up with a focus on multiplayer, much like the last two games. The gameplay is basic as basic can get as each character can only do light/heavy attacks and 4 character-specific abilities but no one in this LARGE cast of characters feel the same. Every character has their own little quirks that make them fun to use such as Spider-Man’s binding attacks and how all of Elsa Bloodstone’s light attacks are projectiles. While nothing special I honestly found it to be immensely satisfying. Every attack feels great to perform and it’s just…fun to hit buttons, man. It really is. It’s so much fun to just beat the snot out of enemy grunts. You can also combine certain characters abilities to add extra damage and open up new areas for collectibles, the former of which is necessary to get the most out of fighting larger enemies and bosses. While the game never gets super difficult you do need to keep your wits about you and make sure that you properly level up your characters and give them the right equipment because once you unlock hard mode, the game starts ramping up the enemy hordes and enemy types.
In terms of content, the game is actually very beefy with the number of things you can do. First off is story mode which is where you unlock the majority of characters and it’s a pretty lengthy and entertaining romp. Like I said earlier it doesn’t pull much inspiration from anything outside of general comic lore so as long as you have a basic idea of who these characters are, you’ll feel right at home with the story. Lasting at around 6-12 hours the story may seem deceptively short but after your first playthrough, you unlock “Superior” difficulty which is this games Hard mode. This essentially acts as a new game plus with extra challenges and more enemies. These extra challenges also tie into the games “Infinity Mode” which are even MORE difficult challenges and where the majority of the games extra content lies. While I didn’t get the chance to play this with another person (Couldn’t really get the online going) I had a blast just going through the campaign and extra game modes.
Now while the game isn’t the greatest the Switch has to offer visually, I absolutely adored the art style and direction for this game. Every environment and character model is so vibrant and full of personality that it had me hooked from start to finish. The character designs were easily my favorite aspect of the visuals because Team Ninja did such a great job capturing the spirit of each Marvel character giving their own bit of flair to them. Even though I love the art direction I gotta say that on a technical level, this game is kind of a mess.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 runs at around 30 frames and while that isn’t necessarily bad, there are constant frame drops and cases of slow down when things get too crazy and it can make it difficult to keep track of what’s going on ESPECIALLY in the later Infinity challenges. The camera also gets trapped behind foreground objects a lot and there are times when it gets so far zoomed out that you can barely see any of the projectiles coming out you. This is mainly a problem in handheld mode as with certain boss fights you can barely even see your characters with all the projectiles and AOE attacks flying over the battlefield. There IS an extra camera option that zooms it in but it’s so close to the characters that it just becomes claustrophobic. Truthfully all of these issues coupled with some admittedly poor quality environmental textures make this feel like a mid-era PS3/360 game. While I grew accustomed to many of the game’s quirks it’s still worth noting since I can see these things bothering a lot of people.
One other thing that irked me a bit, and keep in mind this is a personal thing, the unlockable costumes you get for playing on hard mode/Infinity trials are PATHETIC. Each character has a selectable costume by completing certain objectives but all of them are just basic pallet swaps with no personality to them. Ultimate Alliance 1 had a bunch of costumes for each character and many of them changed the model entirely. Even the sequel from what I saw had ENTIRELY new models as extra costumes. Again, this doesn’t detract from the game in any real way, I just think they could have gone the extra mile by making the costumes cooler since many of them take a large amount of effort to obtain.
Overall while Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 has it’s technical issues and problems with being overly simplistic, it’s still a ton of fun to mess around with. Again, while I can’t exactly speak for how it is in multiplayer, I can assure you that this game is immensely entertaining if you’re playing by yourself. I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of older school beat ’em ups or if you’re a Marvel fan…which I’m sure there are a lot of considering the movies are just never going away.
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