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Marvel: Contest of Champions Arcade Impressions

Hey, everybody! I know it’s been a while since my last post, but it’s mostly because I’ve been hard at work on my coin-op route. However, while I can’t promise super-duper regular posts throughout this month, I can promise there will be...posts. What can I say? I’m a busy, busy boy.

Back in February, I wrote an article detailing my tentative anticipation for the Raw Thrills/Kabam Dave and Buster’s-exclusive arcade game Marvel: Contest of Champions. While the title looked very similar to Raw Thrills’ earlier card-collecting one-on-one fighter Injustice Arcade, I hoped that what we would receive would be a much deeper, more “traditional” brawling experience.

Flash forward to March, where I’ve had the chance to try out Contest of Champions, and I’ve got some mixed-to-positive feelings on it. Let’s discuss.

The most important aspect of any video game is, of course, the gameplay. In that regard, this arcade fighter is a little shaky. Unlike Injustice Arcade, which was entirely button-based (having combat essentially simplified to nothing but timing), Contest of Champions features a joystick for increased control. That’s good, right?

Unfortunately, the joystick felt almost entirely superfluous. I tried to use it to jump, but as far as I could tell, nothing happened. As for horizontal movement, the joystick did, in fact, serve a real purpose, but only when characters were separated by substantial distances. Movement speed, too, was so lightning quick that player-controlled movement lapsed within mere moments.

I also attempted to utilize the eight-way joystick to alter my attacks, but I’m fairly certain that it did not affect what was happening on-screen. The joystick, while a cool and welcome addition, didn’t do nearly as much as would be expected from any other fighting game. In short, this ain’t Tekken 7, folks.

Combat, though not as wildly deep as other titles, is also not as streamlined as movement, making for some fun back-and-forth skirmishes. There are three normal attack buttons—light, heavy, and heavy—as well one big button for supers. It’s certainly not a bad control scheme or layout, and I was able to perform some simple combos. Plus, the supers were all pretty wicked.

One of my biggest issues with the entire experience would have to be the exceedingly short duration of gametime. Players are only allotted 45 seconds per round—no joke!—and each match is over in a heartbeat. To add insult to injury, I certainly wasn’t rewarded for success. There is no “Winner stays; loser pays.” Everybody pays per match, regardless of skill, because Dave and Buster’s needs their sweet, sweet ROI.

In case you’re wondering, there’s not a single-player “story mode” either. Unlike the vast majority of fighting games, which provide lone contenders with five-match ladders to climb to achieve the ending sequence, this game has no such equivalent. If you’re playing solo, there’s nothing to do but And as mentioned above, if you do win a match, you’ll still have to insert another credit to continue.

Everything adds up to a fun but, admittedly, less than perfect fighting game offering. However, it seems that many of my qualms could be directly linked to the prize-vending aspect. After each match, players are awarded a collectible character card that can be scanned and used in another battle. (And in true Dave and Buster’s fashion, you can purchase a card without any gameplay for the same price.)

This unfortunately means that profit on merchandise is a major consideration, and I truly believe it harms the quality of the software. While I really enjoyed the card-vending aspect and don’t mind it as a supplementary bonus, I do think the game should have provided a deeper play experience at the same time.

At the end of the day, I did have some fun with Contest of Champions as a rather basic brawler/prize-merchandising machine. Is it the truest of all fighters? Absolutely not, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of value. While I can’t say I fully recommend it from a gameplay perspective, I’d say it’s worth a few plays during your next visit to the ol’ D&B.

Go in with tempered expectations, as well. Contest of Champions is slightly better than Injustice Arcade, but it isn’t exactly Street Fighter. Player movement is extremely limited; gametime is oppressively short; and there’s not a ton of replay value if you don’t care for the cards. I hate to say it, but the software feels implicitly designed to get players on and off the machine as quickly as possible.

Marvel: Contest of Champions is a neat experience for casual play but not greatly compelling for avid gaming. And since I didn’t spend a huge chunk of time with the title, that’s about all I can relay.

Until next time, I’m out. Keep it real, kiddos.


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