The last time we reviewed Capcom’s latest entry in the crazed, seizure-inducing ‘Vs’ series it was the year 2008, and severe licensing challenges threatened to keep Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes an importers delight. But the fans apparently spoke up, as both Capcom and Tatsunoko were able to sort through the necessary paperwork and help make dreams come true. Modern gamers should count their blessings that such a thing is possible in today’s market, as we now have the pleasure of picking up and enjoying a fully translated, improved, and online multiplayer enhanced version of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars!
In keeping with previous games in the ‘Vs’ series, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is a manic mash-up of popular characters from both videogame developer Capcom and Japanese animation giant Tatsunoko, and is the first to feature full 3D, cell-shaded graphics. Included are standard Arcade, Versus, Time Attack, and Survival modes for those who like to keep the action local, as well as new online multiplayer to test your skills against the world. Just as with past ‘Vs’ games, the action takes place on a fully 2D plane, with teams of two (or with the screen-filling giants, just one) fighters pummeling each other with attacks and powers that light the screen in brilliant flashes of devastating firepower and comic absurdity.
The control scheme has been whittled down to just four-buttons, including just three attack buttons (light, medium, strong), and one partner-assist button, meaning special moves and powers are now determined on which direction the player is facing and how fast they can tap the attack buttons. Players can choose practically any control method they like, as the game supports the Wiimote + Nunchunk, Wiimote only, Classic Controller, Gamecube, as well as third-party arcade sticks (such as Mad Catz’s companion FightStick), which is your best bet if you plan on being competitive anytime soon. The super-simplified single remote gameplay is a thoughtful addition, but like previous attempts to make fighting games more accessible (Easy Operation, anyone?) most will probably ignore it completely.
Compared to previous titles the gameplay relies squarely on instant gratification throwing technicality aside with 2-on-2 tag-team execution but manages to keep things interesting for everyone thanks to instantly-pleasing Air Combos, Variable Hyper Combos, and even the logic-defying barrages of “Baroque” counters and combo-stopping “Mega Crushes”. This is clearly a compromise in regards to the classic fighting game, but with knee-high costumed heroes and a two-story mech qualifying as the norm, anything goes (and often does).
The roster is a bizarre mix of 26 different characters that span both Capcom and Tatsunoko’s vast line-up, from favorites like Chun-Li to Ken the Eagle of “Gatchaman” fame there’s an equally good chance you’ll end up scratching your head at some of the choices. The majority of the original release is accounted for and a few new characters are available to liven up the already colorful cast, chief among them Zero of Mega Man X and photojournalist Frank West from Dead Rising, who need to be unlocked before becoming playable. Unfortunately for Tatsunoko fans, Hakushon Daimaō apparently wasn’t able to secure his Visa and didn’t make the cut this time around.
There’s an good chance you’ll end up scratching your head at some of the choices here, but given the mad-mix of little girls, robot dogs, and giant gold robots, nothing makes much sense. But what would you expect from a game that measures points in the billions?
By far the most significant (and welcome) addition to this recast fighter is the addition of true online multiplayer, a must for any serious fighting game in today’s market. The promise of online matchmaking is probably why most will be picking up the game, and for the most part, Capcom doesn’t disappoint in bringing this feature to the Wii. Included are full Ranked, Free Play, Friends, and Rival challenges to battle it out on Nintendo’s sorely underused WiFi network. Ranked is much like that found in Street Fighter IV, with accumulating Battle Points (BP) and promotions for that extra bit of gloating glory, and a clever system that monitors playing strategies and determines the best match and how many times you quit a game early.
Friend Codes and their 12-digit glory return, but these frustrations are alleviated somewhat with the inclusion of the new Rival system, which allows you to immediately add players to your favorite players queue. This is a good compromise for those not used to having to endear Nintendo’s arcane friend system, as well as keeping tabs on players with good connections. Another nice addition is the ability to immediately play against your opponent instead of going through the hassle of the matchmaking process.
It goes without saying that matches will strictly depend on network consistency where strong connections are absolutely ideal and weaker signals that occur more often than not will have you wishing for a better latency method. There are reports of some players improving their network performance by switching from WiFi to wired connections (via available USB LAN adapters), which is probably what the most dedicated fighters will opt for.
There’s also a host of extra goodies for dedicated fans, many of which can be unlocked by accumulating the in-game money system (Capcom’s recurring “zenny”) to buy new outfits, unlock artwork, and even character profiles. There’s even a wacky top-down shooter called “Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Shooters” that features the cast in an equally-crazy shooter that’s a nice touch to an already stuffed package.
Also worth noting is the new artwork by frequent Capcom-contributor Udon that grace individual characters endings. If you like their particular flavor of artwork, you’ll probably be happy with their work here. It would have been nice if Capcom had left the original animated endings, at least as an option, however.
The true fighting spirit of the ‘Vs’ series is alive and well in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, which has somehow managed to make the impossible journey from Japan and right into our hearts. With its right balance of accessible gameplay, finger-mashing combos, and online multiplayer battles, this is definitely the best fighting game experience available on the Wii. While it may lack the complexity and technical dexterity of other games in the series, the sheer joy of mixing Capcom’s familiar faces with Tatsunoko’s relatively obscure (outside of Japan) troupe more than makes up for the loss. Its a seizure-inducing experience that’s worth your time, as only Capcom can deliver.