For more than a decade, Capcom’s “Vs.” series has been an indispensable part of the 2-D fighting landscape. With its trademark tag-team brawls, fast pace, easy special moves, and ultra-damaging super moves, it has let players experience their favorite characters from various franchises in a whole new light.
In America, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All Stars is a bit of a departure, because virtually no one here is familiar with the first part of the game’s name. Tatsunoko is a half-century-old Japanese animation studio. Its many anime series are popular in its home country, but they’re basically unknown elsewhere. Thus, about half the game’s roster will be foreign to stateside fighter fans.
That shouldn’t be too much of a problem, however, because Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is quite possibly the best new fighting game available for the Wii. Its many strengths, including its balance, smooth learning curve, and frantic pace, completely outweigh its few weaknesses. For those who want a game that they can pick up and a play immediately, but that takes weeks to master, Tatsunoko is the perfect buy.
The first thing newcomers will notice is that it’s remarkably easy to learn this game. There’s a training mode, but it’s completely unnecessary, because you can display your characters’ move lists during the single-player campaign. We recommend dialing down the difficulty, picking some random characters, and displaying the moves list. You can make progress toward unlocking everything while you’re learning. What’s more, the game’s fast pace makes it just plain fun to play, right from the beginning, even against a computer opponent.
There are only three attack buttons (light, medium, heavy), and pulling off special moves is a breeze; they rarely require anything more complicated than a fireball or dragon-punch motion. Usually, the attack changes slightly depending on which attack button you use. A fourth button brings in your other character, either to help out for a second or to step in while your current character regains some health. The truly unskilled can use the Wii-mote and do special moves with the push of a button, but that makes combos harder, so we recommend the Classic Controller or a fightstick.
As you give and receive damage, you build up a meter for Hyper moves. These moves are also easy to execute (a simple motion followed by two attack buttons pressed simultaneously), but the most damaging ones are tough to connect with. Hyper moves trigger multicolored graphical displays that are both amusing and impressive on the Wii.
As players get the hang of the game, they see how much complexity is hidden just beneath the surface. As with any fighting game, you can learn how to time each player’s moves, and how to assemble long, drawn-out combos (the latter is especially important in this game, because the moves don’t do much damage by themselves and it’s relatively easy to juggle an opponent). There are specific techniques to master as well; you can “break away” from attacks, for example. Also, when you take damage, part of your energy bar turns red rather than disappearing completely; you can recharge this energy by tagging the character out, or you can use it to perform a “baroque cancel,” ending an animation prematurely to extend a combo and briefly making your character more powerful.
The roster here is a great blend of the familiar and the unfamiliar. On the Capcom side, some of the characters are old favorites; Ryu and Chun Li feel a little bit more nimble than they do in the Street Fighter games, but their fans won’t have any trouble mastering their move lists. Other characters come from non-fighting franchises, including Lost Planet, Viewtiful Joe, and Mega Man. The Tatsunoko characters are all unfamiliar, of course, but they offer a lot of personality. Tekkaman is an armored “space knight” with medieval weaponry. Roll is a small girl who fights with a broom and a mop bucket full of scalding water (by the way, what are the child-labor laws in Japan?).
The roster also offers a variety of fighting styles. G. Lightman and Lost Planet’s PTX-40A are huge (more than twice the height of most other characters) and slow, and they’re so powerful they don’t get partners. Roll is fast and furious, but due to her small stature, her basic moves have almost comically short reach and she can’t jump very high. Tekkaman has great reach, but he’s a big target for long-range attacks. Viewtiful Joe fights pretty much the way he does in his own games; a lot of button mashing, combined with a little timing and some style, will get you a long way.
Of course, many to most fighting-game fans are in it for the multiplayer, and Tatsunoko delivers in spades. The game plays very well locally, and we expect countless friends and siblings to spend a lot of summer afternoons beating the virtual tar out of each other. The online mode isn’t flawless (we experienced lag here and there), but it certainly works, and the matchmaking system is great for everyone who hates dealing with friend codes. It even punishes players who quit fights whenever they’re losing (by matching them up to each other). You’ll encounter some fireball spammers, and some players abuse the big characters, but we haven’t found anything game-breaking yet.
The presentation here is top-notch. Though the fighting is 2-D, the characters are rendered in three dimensions, and the backgrounds and animations look as good as anything else on the Wii. The sound effects can grate when you’re losing, but they’re up there with Capcom’s best work, and the music creates an arcade feel without being annoying. The story is lame, but that’s to be expected, and you can skip it anyway.
We have few complaints about the game, but here’s a big one: unlocking everything is a royal pain. You have to beat the single-player game with 16 different characters (eight Capcom and eight Tatsunoko), meaning that 16 different characters must deliver the final blow to the boss, not just be on your tag team. This goes on much longer than it should, especially for those itching to dig in to the multiplayer action.
Also hidden is an arcade-style shooting game. The developers have played it up as worthwhile in its own right and, aside from the obnoxious sound effects, they’re right to. The problem is, unlocking it requires you to play a mini-game during the end credits perfectly, which is nearly impossible. It becomes easier if you beat the game with Roll or wait until you’ve unlocked everything else, but every time you fail, you have to beat the whole game again to get another chance. It’s infuriating and time-consuming, and frankly, we can’t believe it never occurred to the developers to make the credits an unlockable game in themselves.
Even with this significant problem, however, Tatsunoko remains a must-buy for fighting fans. Its balance, variety, accessibility, and depth are unmatched on the Wii, and it gives even fighters on other consoles a run for their money.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.7 Graphics
Some of the best visuals available on the Wii. 4.9 Control
The simple four-button control scheme is a breeze to master, allowing you to concentrate on the game’s tougher aspects. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects are up to Capcom’s standards, and the music has an arcade feel without being annoying. 4.6
Unlocking everything is a royal pain, but this game is instantly fun to play and takes a lot of practice to master.
4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.