It just got weirder.
Capcom sure took its time putting out a new game in the long running "Vs." series anywhere outside of Japan. About a year after its release, however, against all odds, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom makes its way to the States - and the rest of the world, for that matter.
[image1]Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars pits Capcom's most popular characters against a cast of cartoon heroes (and villains) from the venerable Tatsunoko Production Co., known for more than fifty years of animé. While the choice on characters might seem weird (on both sides), TvC is a worthy addition to anyone's Wii game library.
I'd be lying if I told you all of the Tatsunoko characters are complete strangers to the Western public. We do get three of the Gatchman members, also known as Battle of the Planets or G-Force, but the rest of the cast is relatively unknown to those of us outside of the otaku crowds. The same can be said about some of the characters on Capcom's side as well, which includes not only the obvious Street Fighters, Darkstalkers, and Rival School students, but also from sources you wouldn't expect to associate in any way, shape, or form to a fighting game, like Dead Rising, Onimusha, and Lost Planet. If you thought the inclusion of Megaman was weird back in the Marvel vs. Capcom days, get ready to be boggled even further with characters like Frank West, Kaijin No Soki, and a giant mech suit. Thankfully, all of these new additions have their own style and techniques, making for some interesting two-person team combinations.
The main attraction to Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, besides its colorful and varied cast of selectable characters is how approachable it is to fighting game newcomers, thanks to the many control options available right off the bat. These options don't limit themselves to alternate button configurations, however, as each works for a specific style of play. The limited number of buttons on the Wii-mote make it by far the friendliest option for newcomers. Special moves are mapped to a single button, in conjunction with the directional pad. By plugging in the Classic Controller, you'll have a much more flexible and varied button configuration, which works well if you are already into fighting games and know your way around. (Or just get a fight stick.)
No matter which control style you pick, things are simpler this time around. You don't have a specific high/low punch/kick buttons like in other fighting games. Each attack button triggers a different action depending on your fighter. You get the normal set of special moves that you've grown to love in the "Vs." series triggered by a combo gauge that fills up as you attack. Higher tiers, maxing out at level 5, represent a stronger set of special attacks, with most being variations to the classic fireball or dragon punch moves.
[image2]If you are a player who looks for something more to sink their teeth into than spamming a screen-clearing move, there's plenty more to master. There's an underlying complexity found in advanced techniques, such as the baroque system that chips a part of your character's health to add a few more hits in a combo, and the advanced guard which works similar to Mark of the Wolves' Perfect Defense system by allowing you to save some of your health points and immediately letting you counter an enemy's attack.
This game wouldn't be a true "Vs." family member if it didn't have a ridiculously cheap arcade mode, and boy, does it deliver. After a grueling seven part two-on-two standard tournament, you're greeted by Yami, the game's final boss. Keeping with tradition, facing off against Okami's villain is more like playing a multi-form platforming game boss than actually fighting. The over-the-top cheapness is on par with past "Vs." games, since Yami's attacks usually take out most of your health bar and are very difficult to avoid. To top it off, your special moves don't stagger or interrupt the boss, meaning that if it happens to start its own special attack during yours, you are left open to be pummeled.
Be prepared to play through arcade mode a lot just to unlock all of secret characters; you'll have to complete it at least twelve different times before your roster is filled. Most of the secret characters are fun to play: Frank West, Zero from the Megaman X series, and Tekkaman Blade. Frank West feels like a Jill Valentine re-skin (from Marvel vs. Capcom 2) by how most of his moves are based upon using zombies, but even so, he's an amusing inclusion to the roster. Given that we also get a maid robot who fights with a broom as a selectable character, a photo-journalist (who's covered wars, you know) fits right in.
Unlocking characters, although annoying, works to the game's benefit due to how slim the single-player modes are. Besides getting new characters, playing through arcade mode nets you points which can be spent in a gallery shop for extra palette options and character bios. There's also a four-player shoot-'em-up mini-game that can be unlocked by beating a secret mini-game during the arcade mode credits. Good luck, though, finding four people to play that instead of the actual fighting game.
[image3]One reason Tatsunoko vs. Capcom took so long to leave Japan is the inclusion of an online mode, which tries to circumvent the Wii's online limitations in creative ways. You can build a list of rivals to fight against in other modes which can then be used to call grudge matches. This is probably the closest we'll ever get to a multiplayer friends list on the Wii, even though it's very stiff and random to use, since you can't really communicate with your opponent to set up matches. (The same can be done with friends through Wii friends codes, too.)
By playing the online ranked mode, you accumulate points which then work as measure for the matchmaking system. Sadly, due to how easy it is to erase your online stats, don't be surprised if you find a very skilled fighter with a 0-0 record who's ready to punch you to oblivion. But for what's it's worth, playing online is a relatively lag-free experience, and with the slim pickings of online multiplayer on the Wii, it's by far one of the best on a Nintendo console.
But as much as was put into it, some features have been pulled out. Character-specific ending videos found in the original Japanese version have been replaced by still frames penciled by UDON, the official art house for Capcom. Also, due to licensing issues, one of the Tatsunoko characters had to be taken out of the game. These are minor issues - an online mode is a welcome trade for videos I'd probably only watch once and probably wouldn't make a lot of sense anyway. On the other hand, what could have been expected from a game that measures damage in Billions of health points?
Even though it could have done with a few more options for the lone wolf player, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars has a lot of replayability online and is quite simply the best fighting game offering on the Wii. Okay, that's not saying much, considering the competition, but in terms of a quality 2D fighting game, we couldn't have asked for a bigger and better-looking game than this. Just don't try to make any sense out of it.