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 Capcomís finest are richly represented in this lineup. But once the nostalgia rush wears off, youíll scroll to the other half of the selection screen and utter:
ďWho are these people?!Ē
Youíve never seen them before. They donít look like the kinds of characters youíd expect in a fighting game (though after Guilty Gear, one should know better); theyíre all decked out in helmets and capes. Well, almost all of them. Tekkaman looks like a cross between a Gundam and a Power Ranger. Thereís 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 70ís and 80ís, youĎve probably never heard of them. Since the game doesnít bother explaining anyoneís background stories, youíll be left to do the research yourself.
Thatís 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, youíll be able to access each fighterís profile. Thereís nothing particularly impressive about them; models, concept art, and voice acting are all present and accounted for. Youíll probably find the charactersí endings more entertaining; the story is practically non-existent, but both franchises take the opportunity to have their characters interact in unusual ways. Youíll see Ippatsuman mimicking Ryuís classic waterfall training scene, Chun Li taking down Shadaloo with her new friends, and everyoneís take on Viewtiful Joe. Not to mention all of the crossovers into games that didnít make the cut; hardcore fans will be treated to cameos from Super Ghouls ĎN Ghosts, Star Gladiator, Cyberbots, and a handful of others. Unless youíre familiar with the Tatsunoko characters, however, a lot of the endings wonít be nearly as interesting.
It doesnít matter, though. Regardless if youíre well-versed in Tatsunoko lore, youíll find these unknown rivals to be more than a match for the fighters youíre used to. Each character can perform weak, normal, and strong attacks depending on what buttons you press. Itís 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, Casshanís 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. Itís 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 youíll get used to the gameís quick pace soon enough.
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, youíll be able to unleash a wide variety of supermoves. You can summon stuff like Ryuís 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, youíll probably spend more time switching between characters. Youíll 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.
But if thatís 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 youíre 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 youíre on the receiving end of such an onslaught, you wonít 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. Itís stuff like this that makes Tatsunoko VS Capcom so interesting. Itís not just a matter of chaining attacks together, but letting you choose how to balance your offensive and defensive strategies accordingly.
Sounds complicated, doesnít it?
Donít let it scare you. The game is more than technical enough to keep seasoned fighting game fans entertained, but that doesnít mean itís unplayable for everyone else. One of Tatsunoko VS Capcomís biggest strengths is its accessibility. If you donít feel like spending hours in the Practice Mode, you can have your characterís command list be displayed onscreen as youíre fighting through the regular game. Thatís 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 donít 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 wonít have much trouble getting into the game.
Playing competitively, on the other handÖWell, youíll probably get your ass kicked at first. The Time Attack and Survival challenges pose little difficulty, but youíll get your moneyís 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 youíll want to optimize your settings as much as possible. It pays off, too; the gameplay isnít quite as smooth as BlazBlue, but itís hardly the worst youíll 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. Itís 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.
Itís 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 Tatsunokoís greatest franchises, all with their signature moves and references. Itís a shame that more effort wasnít 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. Itís 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 doesnít really matter if you know only half the cast; Tatsunoko VS Capcom is one of the best fighters out there.
Nine out of ten
- The diverse character roster covers a several of both companies' most famous franchises.
- Tons of cameos and references for the fans.
- The combat is fluid and fast-paced, no matter how chaotic things get.
- The gameplay mechanics are more than complex enough to keep more seasoned gamers satisfied.
- The wide selection of controller setups make the game easy to get into, regardless of your skill level.
- The online multiplayer is surprisingly decent.
- There's no information provided about the characters, which will hinder gamers from understanding the significance of some of the fighters, stages, and endings.