So Marvel’s Ultimate Alliance 3 for the Nintendo Switch just came out. This is the third installment to the Ultimate Alliance series that started over a decade ago. The last game, Ultimate Alliance 2 was back in 2009. So it’s still been a decade since even that. Finally, we now have Ultimate Alliance 3, but was it worth the wait?
I’ll start this review by just addressing the elephant in the room. Are people really happy that Marvel’s Ultimate Alliance 3 is only available on the Nintendo Switch? Honestly, no, not at all. The announcement felt like a kick in the d*** to most fans who played the original games. Especially because there was no reason for the game to be a Nintendo Switch exclusive. The way it worked mechanically, it could have been on any setup. I’m not saying don’t put it on the Switch, but at least don’t make it an exclusive. It’s a good way to market the Switch more but you’ve simultaneously locked out so many fans with PlayStations or Xboxes. Even the game’s been limited in graphical capability of the Nintendo Switch.
That being said, the game doesn’t exactly charge players in any post-retail purchases. Yep, there aren’t any microtransactions in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. You can be happy about that part at least. It’s a trope we can barely avoid in video games nowadays. So I’ll give Nintendo and Team Ninja credit for that part. Now that we have the formalities out of the way, let’s get down to the game.
Like both its predecessors, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is an isometric dungeon crawler video game. One which pits Earth’s Mightiest heroes against a grave threat of epic proportions. If you played Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2, you’ll already find yourself familiar with how the game works.
I guess that’s both a good thing and a bad thing for me. On one hand, it’s good to have the feels of the old games back. Entering a field you’re already in touch with. A dash of nostalgia and all if you will. But at the same time, this game doesn’t do anything new. There are new characters and a couple of story arcs. Nothing else though, at least not notably.
I’ll commend Ultimate Alliance 3 for the customization. Not in the way of appearances, but how your team functions. The way you can modify your team’s stats and performance is insane. Every little attribute can be tweaked. Similarly, you can upgrade every character the way you’d like. The game has individual skill trees and experience curves for each character. Meaning if you want a full roster to be strong, you need to switch heroes often.
The game starts with friendly and mighty difficulties. They don’t change much besides a boost to enemy damage and nerf to how much players can hurt. Upon completion of the game, you unlock the superior difficulty. One that now starts with the level cap of 40. This means you’ll need to try and dedicate a full playthrough to one consistent character if you want to go into Superior immediately.
The combo super attacks from Ultimate Alliance 2 return in 3. They don’t exactly have the original unique fashion of each move in 2 though. Rather it’s just characters combining their ultimates instead of making a new one through fusion. While that part of it is boring, I do love the way it’s presented in 3. With the character icon flashing across the screen persona style, getting joined by whoever takes part in the ultimate. A whole team combo can wipe out the beefiest of foes.
Like it’s predecessors and any dungeon crawler really, the game’s loaded with boss-fights. I won’t get into too much detail about who the bosses are to avoid spoilers. What I will say is that they go from being classic beat em up boss fights to puzzle-gimmick fights, much like the original 2 games. Some of the bosses occasionally even turn into allies, like Spider-Man Friend or Foe.
The bosses share a common mechanic though of having 2 bars. One bar represents their constitution of sorts. How much damage they can take without losing health. Complete loss of that bar puts them in a “staggered” state. This is when they can be attacked with all your combined ultimates for massive health loss. The bar can either be defeated by straight up going pugilist on them or solving their boss puzzle. Think of how it was fighting Arcade in Ultimate Alliance 1.
The game also has a revive system that allows you to indefinitely revive your allies as long as everybody isn’t down. A bit of a curve in the easy side regarding difficulty. Seeing as how Ultimate Alliance 1 only allowed revives at Shield points while 2 had revive tokens.
Finally, characters do have more diversity in their fighting styles than they had in previous games. Such as Star-Lord being all about long-distance engagements with his combos being ranged attacks. The mobility perks are also featured in this game. Some characters can fly while others can web swing. You can also unlock loads of alternate costumes through performing mini-tasks to earn one of the multiple currencies in game.
I do have an issue with the camera sometimes. It can get stuck around a corner or repeatedly spinning from a wall in a disorienting fashion. Sometimes the real boss fight is the camera itself.
The multiplayer can be done locally or online. As always, Ultimate Alliance is a great couch co-op game. The multiplayer is also one where players can drop in and out of as they wish.
Story and Characters
Back when Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2 came out, the MCU wasn’t established. The games were purely made and based on the comic books to appeal to the geek audience. As such, the stories and plotlines were also derived from older issues. Ultimate Alliance 2 being the Civil War arc for example.
Cut to ten years later, the whole world is familiar with these characters and this universe, thanks to the MCU’s success. That’s evident in Ultimate Alliance 3 as the game revolves around Thanos and the infinity stones. To sum up the game’s story, it’s quite literally all the events in the MCU related to Thanos compressed into one experience.
The MCU inspiration is very evident in the game besides just the storyline. A lot of characters, both voice wise and personality-wise are based on their movie counterparts. The MCU also brought more awareness to characters from the comics that were fairly under the radar. Characters like Groot for example. The voice acting is also pretty good and relays each character’s personality well.
I also like the way the characters interact based on who you’ve selected. Such as Miles and Ms Marvel having differently interactive lines while Venom and Spider-Man have others. The writing in terms of dialogue is pretty good. Each line fits the character saying it. The writing that’s to do with the story? Kinda meh.
It’s a bit disappointing to see a recycled plot be used again. The classic Infinity stones struggle has been in the comics and recently, all 15 years of the MCU were based on the same story. I would’ve preferred something new. Then again, even Ultimate Alliance 2 was just the Civil War. Only 1 had originality in the story as it mixed and matched several different environments and stories. The plot here doesn’t surprise you at any point either. Only character appearances are something to look forward to.
Each appearance is made by a dramatic entrance, followed by a freeze-frame, title card, and tag line. I never got tired of the trope due to how well it was executed. Every tag-line also had the corny Marvel humor I adore.
As I mentioned earlier, making the game a Nintendo Switch exclusive was a big crutch to graphical capability. Graphics are a major way to showcase how a game has progressed since its last one. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, a game from 2009, still holds up strong with how it looks.
Ultimate Alliance 3? I’ll be frank, it looks like a mobile game. The graphics are in the same bracket as their Strike force and future fight games. For a game that’s succeeded a beloved series after ten years, it’s quite the let down visually. The fact that framerates drop during flashy special attacks is even more annoying.