Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Vita import preview - getting hype with the full Japanese game

The PlayStation Vita doesn’t arrive in North America and Europe for another two months, but we’re way too excited and impatient to wait that long. Thanks to the earlier Japanese launch, we've already got a system in office and we’re already diving into our most anticipated PS Vita games. Visit GamesRadar all this week for updated hands-on impressions with the full imported versions, but note that these may not be the final versions you play in February.

When one of the sharpest looking games on console gets ported to a handheld system we expect some sacrifices. When the port ends up looking just as good and throws in some additional features to boot, well color us impressed.

What is it? A snazzy port of its updated console cousin, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a fighting game nerdgasm that aims to capture the chaotic essence of what made MVC2 a classic. The Vita version features all the same characters, levels, moves and features as the console and even some new additional stuff.

What’s new in the PS Vita version? Touch controls, tradeable costumes and DLC with your PS3, a new announcer voice, world wide wi-fi battles, and for the hardcore, replays featuring visible hitboxes for every move.

How do the PS Vita controls work? While the Vita UMVC3 allows for touch controls, they’re incorporated in a somewhat odd fashion. Unlike Capcom’s iOS version of Street Fighter IV, which was severely truncated to help integrate the touch controls smoothly, UMVC3 is the full game. From what we gathered, when using touch mode the game auto blocks for you, while tapping your opponent makes your character dash towards them. Once they’re in range they start swinging, and any hit that connects can be extended by repeated tapping. Usually the game defaults to a simple ground combo into launcher that ends with a hyper combo if you have the meter available.

Tapping the meter bar also allows for automatic hyper combo attacks, though it seems like it only allows the use of one at a time. Some other commands are possible, though the d-pad, sticks and buttons are still usable while playing in Touch mode. We’re not entirely sure, but it felt like the game was attempting to be intuitive in touch mode, automatically performing moves it deemed to be appropriate; our character seemingly shot a volley of perfectly aimed arrows across the screen when an opponent tagged in.

The best parts so far: We were a little shocked at just how good UMVC3 looks. Aided in large part by the Vita’s crisp display, the game’s animation is ultra smooth and the only graphical hit it’s taken is in some slightly reduced particle effects on some of the more extravagant moves. There was no slowdown of any kind, and all of the moves and attacks appeared to have the exact same hitboxes, damage and timing as the console version. The complete set of additional content is also nice, Mission mode, Heroes and Heralds mode, online, and Gallery are all here.

The not-so great parts: As is the issue with most portable fighting games, the control options are liable to irritate serious players. The PS Vita’s tiny face buttons make lightning attack (ATK+S) inputs somewhat awkward and are even more irksome when you try to use them for context sensitive hyper combos like Taskmaster’s angled Legion Arrows. The touch screen controls are also pretty befuddling, and the fact the game recognizes inputs on both the front and rear makes it far too easy to waste meter or whiff moves randomlly.

When can you play it for yourself? UMVC3 will be a launch title for the Vita on February 15th 2012.

Is it import friendly? UMVC3 offers menus that are 90% English, so navigating the game is a breeze. The announcer's voice is also available in English and features brand new commentary. The only part you might have some difficulty with is switching your gameplay settings in training mode. You'll also have to deal with primarily Japanese menus for online interactions.

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