Across the ring: Capcom. Ryu, Chun-Li, Dante, Chris Redfield.
You're forgiven for asking: Who?
But while Capcom's characters don't have the Hollywood star power of Marvel's superheroes, they have anchored long-running video game franchises like "Devil May Cry" and "Resident Evil." And Ryu and Chun-Li, the headliners of the "Street Fighter" series, proved long ago they can hold their own against the likes of Magneto and Doctor Doom.
"Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds" (Capcom, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $59.99) brings all these icons together for the first time since 2000. Their goal: to pound the living daylights out of each other. If you need to ask why, you're probably not a fan of this genre; like most fighting games, "MvC3" provides the barest thread of a plot to hang all its mayhem on.
Instead, it delivers plenty of the flashy, frenetic fisticuffs that "Street Fighter" fans have come to expect. Each brawl is a three-on-three tag team affair, and you can mix characters from both universes. You can start with some swordplay from Dante, have Thor deliver the thunder, and finish off your foes with some brute force from the Hulk.
With more than 30 characters to recruit, you could spend months experimenting with teams. You could spend even more time mastering each brawler's individual moves. Fighting fanatics will enjoy discovering all the attacks unleashed by each combination of different button presses.
Newcomers aren't so lucky; the slender training mode in "MvC3" is more confusing than helpful. Fortunately, the game includes a "simple" control scheme that lets you execute complex attacks with a single button. It levels the field between experts and rookies, and makes the game more accessible for party play.
The more the merrier, because the single-player action is a drag. Each character gets a story line that's little more than a series of battles; run the gantlet and you're rewarded with a half-hearted collection of still frames. The developers could have at least explained why Marvel and Capcom are so mad at each other.
Still, admirers of either company - as well as fighting games in general - will find much to like. On the Marvel side, the big shots like Spidey are complemented by some lesser known characters, like killing machine M.O.D.O.K. and Wolverine clone X-23. Capcom's roster has a few surprises, too, like Amaterasu, the wolf goddess from "Okami," and Arthur, the hapless knight from "Ghosts 'n Goblins."
It's a solid piece of fan service, delivered in vibrant, two-dimensional graphics that look like they're ripped out of a comic book. I wish it was more ambitious and offered more variety, but gamers who have been waiting 11 years for this sequel will be satisfied. Two stars out of four.