Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Marvelous Duo Meets the Fantastic Four - Ultimate Alliance 3 Epilogue

At long last, our Disney/Marvel overlords have seen fit to deliver new campaign content to Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 3 in the form of the game's final planned update for the Expansion Pass. This time, instead of a series of challenges, we have an almost two hour long campaign that takes place after the events of the main story.

As always, my Marvelous Duo teammate Acharky joins me for one more adventure.

While we discussed this in the episode, it's a big deal to see characters like Doctor Doom and the Fantastic Four make a return to Marvel video games, much like it was to see X-Men make their return. At the time, I find it difficult to celebrate that because the Disney copyright monopoly is both the reason they came back and the reason they all but disappeared in the first place.

Many of you know the story, but for those who don't: Back when Marvel was still independent, they needed a quick injection of cash to avoid closing down completely, so they sold off the rights to a lot of their Intellectual Properties to any studio who was willing to buy. This kicked off the period of pre-MCU superhero movies my generation is most familiar with, featuring Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man from Sony Pictures and the X-Men movie series from 20th Century Fox.

After Disney purchased them for over $4 billion in 2009, and the first Iron Man film was released in 2008 to start off the MCU, all of the content Marvel published started to revolve around the Cinematic Universe they were concocting. Since characters like the Fantastic Four and the X-Men were owned by other studios, and thus couldn't become part of the MCU, Marvel began to deemphasize them. Fighting game fans might mark this as the time when mainstay characters like Magneto, Storm, and Wolverine were suspiciously absent from Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite. They even went to the lengths of removing the Fantastic Four emblem from the Bombastic Bag-Man outfit from a Spider-man mobile game.

It is only now, that Disney has purchased 21st Century Fox for over $71 billion in 2019, and Marvel has the rights to use those characters again (presumably in whatever upcoming plans exist for the MCU), we're starting to them crop up once more in places like Ultimate Alliance 3 and the comics (when they were absent from 2015-2018). After spending so much time trying to erase the Fantastic Four, we're starting to see a resurgence.

Though I am annoyed and enraged at the Disney corporate machine continuing to acquire more and more of the cultural landscape so that no works may ever again reach the public domain, I must admit that there is a form of catharsis in seeing these characters finally get that much needed breathing room they deserve. Since Doctor Doom was also the big villain in the very first Ultimate Alliance game, it doubles as a nod to the prior entries and a bookend to the series, even if it very clearly sets up for a sequel.

It's great to see everyone together again. I just wish it didn't come at the expense of broadening Disney's cultural control.

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