When Capcom’s Versus series burst into arcades in 1996 it was a refreshing change of pace after the seemingly endless stream of copycat brawlers and tired sequels. X-Men vs. Street Fighter also marked a significant new attitude for the veteran developer; it was willing to let its most famous characters duke it out with some of the comic book world’s leading lights, and such a heady combination predictably resulted in plenty of success, both in arcades and at home.
We’ve seen several other match-ups over the years – including an unlikely contest with arch-rival SNK – but Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is the first crossover title to hit the market in almost a decade. It’s also possibly the most obscure instalment in the franchise – unless you’re Japanese, or are incredibly clued-up about Japanese anime.
Tatsunoko Production Co, Ltd is one of the most famous animation firms in Japan and has had a hand in countless epic series, including Speed Racer, Super Dimension Fortress Macross (later localised for Western markets as Robotech), Samurai Pizza Cats and Gatchaman. Many of the titles Tatsunoko has been involved with will mean nothing to English-speaking gamers, and that’s one of the reasons why the release of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom in the West is such a significant event.
Back when the title made its Japanese debut in 2008, hardcore Capcom fans took a deep breath and mentally compiled a cost list for importing Japanese Wii hardware whilst at the same time tried to work out how much they’d get for one of their kidneys. Even Capcom itself seemed to lack confidence in the game ever making it out of its native homeland, but thanks to fan-pressure the impossible has become possible and after a year of anxious waiting we’ve been bestowed with a version of the game which is possibly even better than the Japanese original.
As has been the case with previous Versus games, the Capcom portion of the roster contains the usual fan favourites such as Ryu, Chun Li and Morrigan. However, Capcom has also gifted us with some less familiar combatants. Alex from Street Fighter III makes a rare appearance and is just as demanding a character to master as he ever was; the inclusion of Rival Schools’ brooding Batsu is also very welcome, especially when you consider how under-appreciated that particular series has been. Elsewhere we have characters from Lost Planet, Dead Rising, Mega Man, Viewtiful Joe and even the ultra-obscure Quiz Nanairo Dreams - Nijiirochō no Kiseki.
The Tatsunoko side of things is obviously going to be less recognisable to Western eyes, but keen anime enthusiasts will spot Ken the Eagle from Gatchaman (better know as Battle of the Planets or G-Force in the West), Casshan and Tekkaman. While it’s naturally harder to feel any degree of warmth towards these fighters if you have no knowledge of the anime franchises that spawned them, as individual characters they’re just as intriguing as the Capcom contingent; you might even argue that they’re actually more interesting, given their gloriously overpowered superhero-style abilities.
While the depth of cast never quite comes close to that of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 – which showcased a staggering 56 characters – the roster contains very little in the way of filler. Every one of these fighters is worth experimenting with and mastering, which makes a change from its aforementioned predecessor that featured a worrying number of dead-end characters within its artificially-swelled ranks. Like the titles which have preceded it, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom calls for you to select not one but two characters to fight with. These can be switched at any point during the match, with your reserve fighter also being able to chip in with occasional Cross-Over Assist attacks.
Visually Tatsunoko vs. Capcom breaks from tradition by being entirely rendered in 3D. While Marvel vs. Capcom 2 had gorgeous 3D backgrounds, the characters were resolutely 2D creations, expressing all of the trademark silky animation that made Capcom’s ‘90s output so aesthetically pleasing, but at the expense of clarity; when placed against the lush backgrounds the flat and pixellated combatants looked strangely out of place. With that in mind, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is definitely a step forward and even the most die-hard 2D purist will eventually be won over by the sumptuous on-screen activity.
In fact, there’s rarely a moment when the playing area isn’t awash with multicoloured destruction as you battle it out with your rival for pugilistic supremacy. Even the most basic of attacks triggers a pyrotechnic display that wouldn’t look out of place on New Years Eve and the ridiculously ostentatious Hyper Combo manoeuvres distort the screen and send shock waves rippling across your TV’s display. It may lack the stunning high-resolution clarity of Street Fighter IV, but Tatsunoko vs. Capcom could be considered a more visually arresting title, thanks largely to the total lack of restraint went it comes to special effects.
It’s a similar story when it comes to the combat system; while Street Fighter IV calls for the player to adopt a methodical approach, teasing out mistakes from their opponent and capitalising on the tiniest of errors in order to trigger a devastating chain of blows, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is all about mid-air juggles, hilariously over-the-top double-team offensives and unpredictable Cross-Over Combination attacks, where both of your characters pool their collective might in a awe-inspiring torrent of apocalyptic energy.
Given that the Wii’s default control configuration is woefully unsuited to fighting games, interface was always going to be an issue with this title. While Capcom has included pretty much every possible option under the sun – including GameCube pad support – you simply cannot beat a proper arcade stick for this type of game. At the very least you should invest in a Classic Controller or Classic Controller Pro; there really is little point in playing this with the Wii Remote. It’s certainly something you should bear in mind before making a purchase.
The control system itself has been scaled back from the tried-and-tested Street Fighter template, with the iconic 6-button layout being jettisoned in favour of a 3-button setup (weak, medium, strong); combinations of these buttons grant access to the various special attacks and Cross-Over commands. This simplified arrangement allows you access to a wide range of attacks while using relatively few button presses; this might seem like something of a compromise to dedicated players but in all honesty it doesn’t have a negative effect on the complexity of the game. As approachable as Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is, you’ll find that a competent player will always crush a button-bashing newbie.
Thanks to the considerable delay between the Japanese release and this Western localisation, the game has been augmented by some particularly fetching additions, the most obvious being the opportunity to square up against friends online using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Lag can sometimes be an issue in matches, but no more so than any other Wi-Fi Connection-enabled title and the chance to play both ranked matches and fight with friends is a bonus. When you take into account that Xbox 360 owners are paying through the nose for connectivity like this, it’s hard to grumble too much about the odd dip in stability.
Another neat embellishment is the Ultimate All-Shooters mini-game, which allows four players to participate in some good old-fashion top-down shooting action. While it’s hardly likely to keep your attention for very long, it’s a welcome extra nonetheless.
Given the groundswell of anticipation that has preceded the Western release of this title, there’s a good chance that you’ve already made your mind up about committing to a purchase. After all, it’s fan-power which convinced Capcom to take the plunge and tool-up the game for a Western release in the first place, so common sense would dictate that a fairly sizable market is out there, waiting patiently for their chance to crush some skulls. Regardless of this almost blind fervour, there’s no denying that Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is a remarkable piece of software and without a shadow of a doubt the finest fighting title currently available on the Wii. Unashamedly old-school in its approach, it nevertheless manages to feel as fresh and exciting as X-Men vs. Street Fighter did all those years ago. Dust off that under-appreciated Classic Controller you have stored at the back of your cupboard and buy this as soon as possible.