Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars
- January 25, 2010 08:49 AM PST
An outrageous, colorful and addictive brawler, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom offers up a diverse cast of characters and more than enough bonus content to keep both Tatsunoko and Capcom die-hards satisfied.
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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Reviewing a fighting game is a difficult process because they're akin to gourmet cheeses: their quality is best assessed after they've aged for a while. Fighting game fans are incredibly devoted to their craft and they essentially "break down" games, digging deep into the core of the fighting engine to eke out every little nuance and detail. If a game-breaking technique or move is discovered after the game's release and it completely saps the joy out of versus play, the appeal of a fighting game can take a huge hit. Unfortunately, due to tight deadlines and long leads, reviewers do not have benefit of such thorough analysis, so let me preface this review of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom by saying that it only reflects my experience with the single-player mode and off-line versus matches against members of the GamePro staff. My impressions of the online multiplayer mode will be posted to GamePro.com after the game has released.
As the first new "Versus" title to be released in a decade, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom has quite a legacy to live up to. While the Street Fighter franchise is the stallion in Capcom's fighting stable, the Versus series has its own dedicated fanbase, owed in large part to the success of the Marvel branded titles. Tatsunoko is an interesting title, however, because it represents a rather large gamble on Capcom's behalf: for one, it abandons the now familiar three-on-three matches in favor of the two-on-two tag-team formula of earlier titles, and perhaps most significantly, it features an intelluctal property partnership with Japanese animation studio Tatsunoko whose assorted heroes are popular overseas but lack the cultural cachet of Marvel's spandex squad here in the States. You also cannot discount the fact that the game is exclusive to the Wii, a console that isn't exactly known for fighting titles.
Those used to the frenetic pace of Marvel vs. Capcom will also find that Tatsunoko is considerably more subdued. The two character limit dramatically cuts down on the amount of chaos that appears on the screen but the quick tempo and the superpowered scale of the attacks still makes it cosiderably faster than Street Fighter IV, which is to Tatsunoko what Monopoly is to Hungry Hungry Hippos. The pace doesn't make the game more difficult, however: much like the other Versus titles, combos and special/super move links are much easier to pull off, making it a novice friendly fighting experience. In fact, because of the Wii Remote's relatively simplistic nature, the controls have become incredibly streamlined, making it even easier to pick up and play. Rather than distinguishing between discrete punches and kicks, Tatsunoko simply has a light, medium, and hard attack, along with a "Partner Call" button. Techniques seen in the previous Versus titles also make a comeback, including partner support attacks and team-up supers, but there are some new twists, including the "Baroque" skill that eliminates recovery time from attacks and a "Mega Crush" that can stop a lengthy combo dead in its tracks.
Tatsunoko really benefits from the long running nature of the franchise; Capcom's had enough time to perfect its technique and their expertise really shines through here. But I found myself enjoying Tatsunoko considerably more than the recently released Marvel vs. Capcom for one reason in particular: the characters and their skills. Every character in Tatsunoko has a "hook" that makes them interesting, be it Doronjo's ability to keep striking while her henchmen execute her special moves or the massive PTX-40A's un-staggerability and sheer attack power. Unlike Marvel vs. Capcom 2's "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" roster of fighters, every combatant in Tatsunoko feels carefully designed to be unique, intriguing, and most importantly, worth investing time into mastering.
Unfortunately, the relative unfamiliarity of the characters will no doubt be a sticking point for some. Even the Capcom characters are oddities if only because they're brand-new to the world of fighting; characters like Frank West from Dead Rising and Zero from Mega Man are immediately familiar but they've always existed in a context that has nothing to do with 2D fighting, and there's sure to be a moment of disconnect, no matter how brief, as gamers acclimate to their new roles. I was also disappointed that the game forces you to unlock some of the characters by "beating" the single-player mode multiple times, an unnecessary hurdle that requires a fair bit of grinding to get over.
Also, while the game does have a lot to offer, it simply doesn't display the same level of depth and strategy as some of Capcom's other offerings -- the pared-down movesets for each character means there aren't as many offensive or defensive options available as in, say, Street Fighter IV. That has a lot to do with the simplified fighting engine which in turn was no doubt influenced by the Wii's control scheme. The standard Wii Remote just isn't suited to fighting games due to its lack of buttons and their disjointed placement. You can use the Classic Controller, a GameCube controller or a Wii/Gamecube joystick for "tournament standard" controls seen in other 2D fighters, but these options require an additional purchase and will really only make sense to gamers who plan on investing copious amounts of time in the game. There is also a "simplified" control scheme that uses either the Wii Remote by itself or a Wii Remote/Nunchuk combination -- executing special moves becomes as easy as holding the d-pad in a single direction and hitting a "special attack" button, for instance -- but this dumbed down scheme feels awkward and restrictive. Despite its relative ease and economy, it's hard to create advanced combos and I can't imagine it would appeal to anyone, not even novice players. As with any fighting game, Tatsunoko will no doubt work best if it's used in conjunction with a quality fighting stick.
While Tatsunoko vs. Capcom isn't nearly as deep or as "technical" as Capcom's other offerings, it's still an excellent fighting experience, especially for Wii fighting game fans that don't have a wealth of options available to them. I found the game to be fun and enjoyable, and the variety found in the roster of fighters is definitely a highlight. I will be eager to play with friends for quite some time and I'm happy it's getting a State-side release. I hope other genre fans will pick it up and enjoy it as well: My Morrigan and Yatterman-1 team is itching for some competition.
PROS: Diverse roster of characters; fast and fun combat; lots of bonus content and fan service on both sides
CONS: Wii Remote/nunchuk controls feel very awkward, many unfamiliar characters, fan favorite characters require unlocking