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Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars

The lineup is amazing. Not because of its size, but its variety. Most folks will recognize Ryu, Chun Li, and Morrigan; those three represent some of the most popular series in the fighting genre. More experienced gamers will be delighted with the appearance of Alex and Batsu, the heroes of Street Fighter III and Rival Schools respectively. Or surprised, in the case of Roll and that huge mech from Lost Planet. Longtime fans will drool over the protagonists of Viewtiful Joe, Mega Man Legends, and Dead Rising. They should, too. Some (but certainly not all) of Capcom’s finest are richly represented in this lineup. But once the nostalgia rush wears off, you’ll scroll to the other half of the selection screen and utter:

“Who are these people?!”

You’ve never seen them before. They don’t look like the kinds of characters you’d expect in a fighting game (though after Guilty Gear, one should know better); they’re all decked out in helmets and capes. Well, almost all of them. Tekkaman looks like a cross between a Gundam and a Power Ranger. There’s a giant robot made of solid gold, too. A kid is sporting a jumpsuit and some goofy-looking goggles. They might not seem too impressive, but these fighters represent some of the oldest and most influential anime series ever made. Stuff like Gatchaman, Casshern, Hurricane Polymar, and Yatterman. Considering that they were shown almost exclusively in Japan during the 70’s and 80’s, you‘ve probably never heard of them. Since the game doesn’t bother explaining anyone’s background stories, you’ll be left to do the research yourself.

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That’s a pretty glaring omission, considering how it hinders Western audiences from understanding the significance of all the references, stages, and unlockables. Aside from new costume colors and a few bonus movies, you’ll be able to access each fighter’s profile. There’s nothing particularly impressive about them; models, concept art, and voice acting are all present and accounted for. You’ll probably find the characters’ endings more entertaining; the story is practically non-existent, but both franchises take the opportunity to have their characters interact in unusual ways. You’ll see Ippatsuman mimicking Ryu’s classic waterfall training scene, Chun Li taking down Shadaloo with her new friends, and everyone’s take on Viewtiful Joe. Not to mention all of the crossovers into games that didn’t make the cut; hardcore fans will be treated to cameos from Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, Star Gladiator, Cyberbots, and a handful of others. Unless you’re familiar with the Tatsunoko characters, however, a lot of the endings won’t be nearly as interesting.

It doesn’t matter, though. Regardless if you’re well-versed in Tatsunoko lore, you’ll find these unknown rivals to be more than a match for the fighters you’re used to. Each character can perform weak, normal, and strong attacks depending on what buttons you press. It’s pretty standard fare in terms of basic combat mechanics, but the game spices things up by altering moves depending on the way you push the directional pad. A quick punch might turn into a low-sweeping kick, and a sword slash could become an uppercut. That goes for special moves, too; depending on the command, Casshan’s dog might incinerate your enemy or just do a few quick hits. The trick is learning how to chain all of these attacks into lengthy combos and maximize the amount of damage you inflict. It’s not as hard as it looks; a lot of the moves have enough strength and speed to lead into follow-up attacks. It might take a few fights, but you’ll get used to the game’s quick pace soon enough.

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Actually mastering the mechanics, however, is another story. Tatsunoko VS Capcom has some of the most intricate and technical gameplay seen in recent fighting games. With each successful attack you perform, the energy meters at the bottom of the screen will charge up. If you fill them enough, you’ll be able to unleash a wide variety of supermoves. You can summon stuff like Ryu’s screen-filling Hadoken, giant robots, missile strikes, tidal waves, fiery columns, and tons of other signature attacks. The supers are fun and easy to perform, but hardly vital to your success. Instead, you’ll probably spend more time switching between characters. You’ll be able to control two fighters tag-team style; when someone gets pummeled too much, you can switch them out to regain health and have their partner replace them. But if you want to deal out more damage, you can temporarily summon your second character for supplemental attacks. Each fighter has their own move; they could zoom across the screen, fire projectiles, or simply throw in a few extra hits. If you have enough energy stored up, you can even chain supermoves together. If you get the timing down perfectly, you can dish out some truly devastating combos.

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But if that’s not demanding enough, the Baroque Combo system provides even more depth. Whenever you take damage, part of your life meter will turn red. That little section shows how much of your health you could regain if you switch out of battle. It works well if you’re playing conservatively. The Baroque system, on the other hand, lets you utilize that spare energy more productively. By performing the right command, you can sacrifice that potential health (your character will turn rainbow-colored in the process) and use it to cancel your current combo and begin a completely new one. You could go from a mere punch and kick into a jab, thrust, low kick, roundhouse, uppercut, aerial, and supermove in the blink of an eye. If you’re on the receiving end of such an onslaught, you won’t be out of options. The Mega Crash maneuver allows you to push your opponents back while sacrificing your supercombo energy and some of your health. It’s stuff like this that makes Tatsunoko VS Capcom so interesting. It’s not just a matter of chaining attacks together, but letting you choose how to balance your offensive and defensive strategies accordingly.

Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?

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Don’t let it scare you. The game is more than technical enough to keep seasoned fighting game fans entertained, but that doesn’t mean it’s unplayable for everyone else. One of Tatsunoko VS Capcom’s biggest strengths is its accessibility. If you don’t feel like spending hours in the Practice Mode, you can have your character’s command list be displayed onscreen as you’re fighting through the regular game. That’s far less tedious than having to pause, bring up the right menu, and memorize the right inputs before restarting. A lot of the movesets are designed to make simple combos a breeze to perform – Street Fighter vets will be stunned at how smoothly and fluidly their favorite characters can move – which means you don’t need perfect timing to beat the computer on its default settings. The controls make things easy as well; you can use the Wiimote, the Nunchuck and Classic Controller attachments, and even your old Gamecube controller. Choosing among them is just a matter of playing style. Newcomers will love with the Wiimote or the Nunchuck due to the simplified button configuration. More experienced gamers, however, will likely stick with the Classic and Gamecube controls because their layouts allow for more fine-tuned and intricate commands. Regardless of your skill level, you won’t have much trouble getting into the game.

Playing competitively, on the other hand…Well, you’ll probably get your ass kicked at first. The Time Attack and Survival challenges pose little difficulty, but you’ll get your money’s worth when you play other people. The online multiplayer works surprisingly well, though that has more to do with your router than anything else. Poor connectivity makes for slower fighting, which means you’ll want to optimize your settings as much as possible. It pays off, too; the gameplay isn’t quite as smooth as BlazBlue, but it’s hardly the worst you’ll ever see. Aside from the obligatory friend code system, you can maintain a list of rival gamers and search for random opponents. Everyone is ranked based on their victories and defeats, which makes things even more competitive. It’s not nearly as frantic and chaotic as the likes of Brawl, but it offers the kind of quality online experience that the Wii sorely lacks.

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It’s amazing how well it all came together. The sheer variety of characters must have made this a serious undertaking to create, but they managed to pull it off. 26 fighters hailing from Capcom and Tatsunoko’s greatest franchises, all with their signature moves and references. It’s a shame that more effort wasn’t put into developing a more structured story and background information, but it hardly matters. The combat offers an intricate system of combos, supermoves, tag-team action, and fluid animation. It’s easy for newcomers to get into, but deep enough to keep more experienced players interested. The control setups make things as simple or complex as your skill level requires. The multiplayer makes it even better; the competitive online gameplay is among the best on the Wii. It doesn’t really matter if you know only half the cast; Tatsunoko VS Capcom is one of the best fighters out there.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

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