Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, the latest in Capcom’s wacky-yet-honored Vs. series, arrives as the perfect palette cleanser between installments of the chess-like, rage-inducing Street Fighter IV. Like Nintendo’s fanservice-friendly Smash Bros. Brawl, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom relies on easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master gameplay and a heaping helping of nostalgia. Already familiar with Capcom’s stable of characters — Ryu, Chun-Li, Morrigan, Soki from Onimusha, Mega Man (in helmet-less Legends attire) and Viewtiful Joe (most likely in his last game appearance), etc. — it’s tough to get wistful over the Tatsunoko side, represented by a bizarre cast from the anime production company most famous over here for Macross, Speed Racer, and Samurai Pizza Cats. Sadly, characters from those properties aren’t in the game. Hopefully they’ll appear in a sequel?
Regardless, the anime characters — Ken the Eagle and Jun the Swan from Gatchaman, Doronjo and Yatterman-1 from Yatterman, Karas, a giant robot named Gold Lightan (?!) to name a few — blend in with the Capcom crew seamlessly. Heck, they’re all cut from the same melodramatic manga cloth anyway! And they all manage to endear themselves rather quickly despite knowing nothing about them beyond a few Wikipedia skims, and any cultural disconnect doesn’t matter once you see the crazy, funny, cool shit these characters can do. And hey … some of them are so … attractive …
AHEM UHHH WHERE WAS I
Oh, the art is fantastic. I don’t think Ryu and the gang looked better. The Tatsunoko designs are genuinely interesting from the sleek Japanese superheroes of the Gatchaman team to the masked allure of, uh, Doronjo up there, it’s nice to latch onto to characters I had no idea about before playing this. The actual in-game graphics are similar to Street Fighter IV — 3D polygons on a 2D plane — and they’re mostly very good, though several characters do not live up to their official art. Frank West, who covered wars and lawnmowered zombies in Dead Rising, looks nothing like his character art which I suppose doesn’t matter anyway considering he’s just a bland guy in a coat. Next to all these masked cyber warriors he sure stands out, right?
The game plays like an evolved, more focused form of Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Restricted to only two characters this time you can tag characters in and out of battle as well as have them assist. Similar to previous Vs. games you can charge up a Hyper Combo gauge to unleash devastating special attacks, juggle your opponent in the air and switch in your partner mid-combo. It’s all very showy and fun just as a Capcom Vs. game should be. It’s not quite as fast and frantic as MvC2, but it’s definitely faster than MvC1 and far better balanced than either of them. No Sentinel/Magneto/Storm bullshit here. At least, so far. The game’s only been out a few weeks, so there’s still plenty of time to discover gamebreaking baloney. So far though it’s as fair and balanced as a fighting game like this can get. Feel free to correct me in the comments if the game’s turned to Ken Fighter IV: The Fight of the Ken Masters or Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! or Zangief’s Lariat Over and Over or whatever.
Since it’s on the Wii Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars uses a few different control schemes. Playing with a GameCube or Classic Controller is like playing your usual fighting game, albeit significantly (and thankfully!) streamlined. Only three buttons deliver punches and kicks, which makes the game way easier to play. Using the Wiimote and Nunchuk combo makes things even easier, almost Smash Bros.-like in execution with only two attack buttons. Hit a direction and a button at the same time and execute a move. You can also waggle the Wiimote to do a damaging Hyper Combo which makes it very newb friendly and, I’m not afraid to admit, my preferred way to play. Finally a game besides Smash Bros. to play with my pals who have no patience for quarter circles, charge attacks and multi-button combos.
The music is way better than MvC2 even if it is bland club/techno music. Maybe it will grow on me, but what happened to the character themes? For a game that takes hints from Smash Bros. Brawl and focuses almost entirely on nostalgia and fanservice it seems ridiculous that the character-specific theme tunes are excluded. One of the best things about Brawl was cherry-picking the music you could play for each stage. It was a blast playing Green Hill Zone while listening to “Sonic Boom” from Sonic CD. “Roll’s Theme” should be in here. “Ryu’s Theme” should be in here! But they’re mysteriously absent. Watching gameplay of the Japanese version character themes chime in when you tag that player in. Tag Chun-Li in, her theme music plays. That’s a great touch. The game’s already got personality up the exhaust shaft — giant robots fill the screen and rainbows fly out of Roll’s broom — but excising the music out of the American version just hurts.
Apparently there are a bunch of character-specific minigames we’re missing out on as well. If all this is due to licensing issues, I just want to rip my hair out and scream. Pay the money, Capcom. You’re a multi-millionaire company are you not? Just pay the damn money so U.S. players can enjoy the music and minigames of the Japanese original.
Unfortunately, Capcom still has it in their dang heads that you have to unlock characters in their fighting games, which means slogging through the Arcade mode over and over. To make things more of a nuisance you need to make sure the last boss suffers defeat by certain characters. To unlock Zero from Mega Man X you need a Capcom fighter to kill the boss, for Joe the Condor, a Gatchaman hero, a Tatsunoko person has to do it. Fighting games are for multiplayer, guys, not for grinding through a rote campaign alone. Though, of course, I guess it could also be a decent way to practice or switch off the controller with friends. Still.
Online mode works like a charm, with some nice improvement over SF4′s online multiplayer. You can’t see what characters your opponent chooses, so no one’s waiting around to see who chooses who and then basing the choice on that. During the short time I’ve spent online I’ve experienced little lag or frameskipping. Time will tell how TvC’s online mode endures – Ken Fighter IV and all that. There’s still no lobby system but given this is the Nintendo Wii here we’re lucky to even have an online component this advanced, and so far, I’m happy with it. When there’s no one around to play with it’s fun to jump online for a few rounds.
As bad as I feel about the music, I guess it’s really not that big a deal. I’ve been burned by MvC2′s stupid acid jazz music for a whole decade, I hoped this one would restore some aural balance. I’ve loved Capcom and video game music in general forever, you see. If you don’t care, i.e. you’re normal, then go for Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars. It’s fun, friendly and charming to boot.
At least until Super Street Fighter IV boils our bottoms.