The worlds of Marvel and Capcom have collided several times over the last 20 years, with each encounter bringing with it a host of new characters and varying gameplay elements to set them apart from one another. As the latest entry in the long-running series, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite has a great burden to bear in catering to longtime players while being completely accessible to those who are only just getting into the franchise. For the most part, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite succeeds in merging those two ideas well. In fact, Infinite might just be the most welcoming fighting game in the series since 1998.

The entire control scheme for Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite was reworked from the last entry, Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Each character now only has two different attacks for punches and kicks, both of which are mapped to the face buttons, with the teammate swap being linked to the right shoulder button. It makes playing with an actual console controller a lot easier, as you don't have to consider that many buttons to get the most out of your characters. While the streamlined button inputs make the control scheme welcoming to newbies, seasoned vets who prefer arcade-style setups will still be able to gain an advantage.

Capcom

Where Infinite takes that simplification even further is in giving players "instant" combos that can be strung together with just four presses of those attack buttons. All of the depth of previous installments is still there for those who are more advanced and able to string together brutal, life-bar-draining combos from memory, but this new combo system also gives lapsed or more casual players the feeling of accomplishment without all that dedication. Just by hitting the buttons in order of increasing strength, you can whip together a quick combo with any character on the roster.

Yes, more advanced players will spot it coming and will be able to get out of harm's way, but giving beginners that feel of success is important to keep them playing. Knowing you can pull off some good moves early on certainly provides an impetus for continuing to learn more.

Once you do have the basics down, either by playing through Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite's story mode or training mode, there's the added benefit of the Infinity Stones to consider. Each of the Infinity Stones allows your team two different bonus powers depending on how charged up the meter is during a match. Like your hyper ability meter, the Infinity Stone meter builds slowly as the fight progresses, with each of the gems needing to reach its threshold to unleash its full power.

Capcom

For example, the Space Stone can draw enemies towards you with its "weak" attack, known as the Infinity Surge. With the strong attack, Infinity Storm, the Space Stone locks a given opponent in a box they cannot escape until the meter burns out. You can attack them at will, but they have a very limited amount of space with which to block or counter any offense you may throw at them. Learning which of the jewels gives you the best advantage in combat takes some time, as does figuring out which two characters on the roster can get the greatest use out of the additional power. Again, it's another element that hardcore players will learn to exploit to the maximum potential, but also gives less experienced players a way to even the playing field when used correctly.

Curiously, the places where you'll do the most learning on the fly when it comes to the Infinity Stones and learning which characters complement each other best are the arcade and versus modes. Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite's story mode spends little time delving into the strategies and uses of the Infinity Stones, and mixes up the characters so often, it's hard to get a bead on how well all 30 of the fighters work with one another. You will get to experiment with just about every fighter on the roster, and you'll get a good feel for what kind of characters you not only like, but can find success with, but it's very hard during to get a grasp on team chemistry during the story.

Capcom

It's also occasionally a challenge to win with characters you don't particularly excel with, as Infinite's story has dedicated characters you'll have to fight with during the campaign. It can be frustrating battling the same encounter over and over, and it might leave some players a bit burned out. You can adjust the difficulty during these bouts if you find yourself failing one too many times, but unlike the easy-to-learn combo attacks, dropping the difficulty seems like a more artificial path to success. The balance could have been better to start with, but that's just not the case, leaving players to adjust the difficulty curve themselves.

The story is also very, very strange. Infinite's narrative picks up some three months after a merging of the Marvel and Capcom universes, with Ultron Sigma seeking the remaining Infinity Stones to rule over all time and space for eternity. On the surface, it sounds like exactly the kind of epic comic story you'd want from a game like this. In execution, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite takes itself way too seriously, and doesn't seem interested in having much fun with the idea that these two worlds have mashed some of their greatest elements together. Because the overall story is so self-absorbed, the moments of humor that come from bad one-liners and awkward jokes fall incredibly flat. There's more cringing during dialogue here than in just about any other game we played this year.

Capcom

It's good then that so much of Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite is a joy to behold when in action. All the story quirks aside, Infinite is a gorgeous game in action. Not all of the character designs are equal what's up with those capes, Capcom? but in motion, Infinite is one of the most eye-popping fighting games of the current console generation. This series has always been home to some of the most elaborate and beautiful super moves and combos, but Infinite takes those things to a whole new level with stunning lighting effects, whiplash-inducing movement speed, and incredible animations. Even though not every character looks fantastic standing still, it's hard to argue with the results during an actual match.

Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite has a lot of history to live up to, and while it doesn't surpass any of the previous entries, Infinite does make a strong case for being the most accessible game in the franchise. Fights are a visual spectacle, the roster has some great new faces to balance out the returning icons, and the Infinity Stones add another layer of strategy missing from the series. Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite is a great entry point into the fighting franchise, and does its best to not alienate devoted fans by dumbing the formula down for the sake of accessibility.

This review was completed with a digital copy of Marvel vs Capcom Infinite provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.