As a seasoned fighting game aficionado, I was hesitant about Marvel Contest of Champions when I first heard about it. I've been spoiled on the Capcom library of Marvel fighting games, first with X-Men: Children of the Atom and all the way down the line to 2011's Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. Because what I saw from Contest of Champions did not fit into my preconceived "what makes a Marvel fighting game great" notions, I didn't pay it much mind.

Then I found myself playing a demo of this new game, and while it certainly doesn't fit into my preconceived notions, it's still a really fun game for Marvel enthusiasts. For those unaware, Contest of Champions sees The Collector kidnap a group of Marvel's finest warriors and use them to settle an argument with Kang the Conqueror, who comes bearing Marvel personalities of his own. It's up to me to ensure that The Collector is victorious, and I do so by pounding my opponents into the dirt.


Contest of Champions wears two distinct masks: one of an RPG and one of classic 2D fighting games. The RPG portion sends me through a map filled with treasure chests and opponents, allowing me to build and level up a team of three heroes while finding more heroes on the playing field. Before I launch into battle I have to choose one of those three heroes, and another RPG staple comes into play: classes. Classes match up against each other in a rock-paper-scissors style, where the winning class boosts that character's stats, but the game clearly tells me when I'm at an disadvantage so I can adjust accordingly.

Battles follow a simple 2D fighting scheme where one half of the touchscreen attacks and the other half defends. Tapping the attack portion initiates a combo, swiping gives me a stronger attack, and filling up a special meter at the bottom lets me launch a punishing super move. These moves are not as flashy as Capcom's Proton Cannon, but in the heat of battle they do pack a wallop. On the other side of the screen I can tap to defend or swipe to dodge backward, allowing for some defensive-minded strategy as well.


Most impressive is the graphics style, which is something I previously never thought possible on a mobile device. Everything in the game pops with color, from the board game-esque world map to the highly-detailed fighters themselves. Bouts between heroes are crisp and clean with fast combat and very little frame rate drop issues even during the most insane action sequences. I had zero issues with game performance during my demo, making me wonder if this game would have worked on Vita or 3DS as well as the mobile market.

While it isn't the same Marvel 2D fighting game I've been enjoying for years, Marvel Contest of Champions is definitely worth the time for Marvel and fighting game fans alike. There are ton of Marvel faces to find and references to enjoy, while the fighting system is intuitive and smart for the tablet scene. We only have to wait a couple of months to get this contest going, but once it does don't be surprised if you're tapping and swiping away for days.

Marvel Contest of Champions will be launching December 2014 for tablets and smartphones.