In Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom Ultimate All -Stars, players select from among 26 characters plucked from the universes of Tatsunoko Productions and Capcom to create a tag team to brawl their way through waves of paired-off fighters.
Much has been made of the fan-driven nature of this latest entry in the casual-meets-hardcore Versus fighter franchise. It was the fans who pushed for the original game in Japan. It was fans who demanded the U.S. release. It was fans who helped pick some of the characters.
But it was Capcom and Eighting who ultimately made the game, so let's see how they did.
Roster : Whether you're a fan of animation studio Tatsunoko's decades-worth of creations or not, this fighter's roster offers an appealing collection of delightful characters to pick through. If you are a fan of shows like G-Force, Tekkeman and Yatterman, the loving attention to detail used in giving life to these characters in a fighter won't be lost on you. The game abounds with the sort of minutia that fans will spend weeks picking over.
Simple Depth: I'm a longtime fan of the fighting genre, but Capcom's versus franchise has always been lost on me, mostly because I felt it lacked the subtleties, the strategy of the Street Fighter series. On its surface, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, which uses just three attack buttons and a partner-switch button, has become even more streamlined. There's even a stripped down, button-mashing variant control system for Wii remote players. But the game's partner and combo systems, allowing you to layer attacks between your two characters, pop in and out of a fight and sacrifice health or combo bar to break out of or stream attacks, is a surprisingly deep mechanic. So deep that I'm still working to integrate it into my typical style of play.
Online: The single-player experience for most fighters is little more than an elaborate training system, a way for you to hone your tactics and perfect the moves of your character of choice before taking on other players. While couch play is an important element of these titles, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom without online multiplayer would have been only a partial experience. When the online works, it sings. The play is fluid and the ranking system... well, the ranking system is unique. The best part, after a match you can decide to instantly add an opponent to your foe list without worrying about Friend Codes.
A Wii Fighter: Let's face it. There aren't a lot of solid fighters out there these days. And when you look at the Wii, you cut that number to practically one. This a surprisingly solid, well-crafted fighter for the Wii one that provides the depth I've personally always felt Super Smash Bros. lacked. If you have any interest in fighting games on Nintendo's latest console, fan of Smash Bros. or not, you owe it to yourself to pick this up.
Art: I love the character design for this game. Granted, I'm a huge, longtime fan of Tatsunoko, but I think anyone experienced or not with the animation company will enjoy the colorful look and attacks of these characters. The only thing that detracts from this game's aesthetics are the comparatively bland backdrops, but I'm so enthralled with the 2.5D gameplay that I hardly ever notice.
Co-co-combo Breaker: While this game includes most of the over-the-top bells and whistles fans of the Versus franchise have come to expect, it also manages to pack in a few important new things. Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom now let's you switch characters mid-air, meaning those tag-team combos are no longer stuck on the ground. More importantly, though, is the inclusion of the Mega Crash and the Baroque Cancel.
Mega Crash pops your character loose from attacks at the cost of of some of your life bar and combo meter, while the Baroque Cancel, which also sucks away at your life, coats your character in shimmering rainbows and allows you to string together an obscene number of hyper attacks. Together, these two new moves add some needed depth to what could have been a shallow experience for experienced gamers.
$130 Game: You can play this game with five different control schemes. You can, I can't. Despite offering support for two styles of play on the lone Wii remote, a Remote and Nunchuck combo, and the ability to use the Wii Classic Controller or a GameCube controller, I found the only way I enjoyed playing was with a fight stick. The Remote and Nunchuk system left me feeling disconnected from the game. The Remote's direction pad felt far too mushy and I just couldn't get those huge movements on the GameCube and classic controller thumbsticks to respond quickly enough for me. The fight stick though worked like a dream. An $80 dream.
Offensively Offensive: More than with any other fighting game I have experienced, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom is all about offense. You can get away with blocking when taking on the single player game, but hop online and you better not stop rolling out your attacks. I'm all for a hard-fought battle, but a bit more balance, a bit more weight on defense would have added some depth to the game.
Unlocking: Why do games force you to play through them, jump through hoops to get everything you paid for? To get to all of the goodies found in Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom and to unlock all of those new Wii-specific characters you have to play through the game more than a dozen times. And not just play through it, but play through it in a very particular way, with a very particular cast of characters.
Online: It's great when it works, but when the connection takes a dump there isn't anything saving the online play of Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom. My experience playing online was hit and miss with a good third of my matches slowing to a painful, soul-crushing stutter.
What makes Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars such a pleasure to play isn't the mechanics, it's the cast. It's like a good issue of Marvel Comics' What If? What if the super heroes of Marvel took on the combatants of Street Fighter? What if most famous of Capcom's games were to fight some of the most memorable characters from Tatsunoko's animations? And in this case it's the cast that sells this game.
You can buy Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom because it's a solid enough fighter, or because it expands the fighting genre for the Wii. But you're going to love it because of the cast.
Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars was developed by Eighting and published by Capcom for the Wii on Jan. 26. Retails for $49.99 USD. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Beat the game with numerous characters, played a number of offline and online matches.
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