After being initially in Japanese arcades and the Wii in late 2008, the domestic prospects of Tatsunoko VS Capcom, the latest game in Capcom’s famed VS series, were unlikely indeed. There were simply too many hurdles perceived over licensing rights for the myriad of Tatsunoko characters that any effort seemed impossible. Convinced of this unfortunate reality, many Wii owners took to importing the game or softmodding their consoles to play it. Then came Capcom’s announcement of 2 mysterious games in 2009. One of these turned out to be a localization of this very game, much to the delight of this reviewer and other fans of Capcom’s superlative and varied fighting games.
Seth Killian, Capcom's Community Manager, personally led the way to overcome the licensing hurdles and the Japanese developers even promised additional content for the US release, taking the form of additional characters, new bonus modes, and new character endings, sketched by Udon Entertainment, the same comic book group responsible for Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix.
It is not surprising that the background story of this game’s development would be longer than the game’s actual story, given that this is a VS series games. These games are not exactly known for their stories, which oft serve as little more than flimsy pretexts to show why these characters are doing in the same game, let along the same universe. Anyway, an evil force is distorting reality and the fighters of Tatsunoko and Capcom have come together to deal with the threat. Functional, and certainly better than the threadbare story of Marvel VS Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes. Rubyheart the hero and Abyss the villain? Lame.
Graphics in this game are similar to Street Fighter IV 2.5 D style. This style sometimes confused me as to what exactly counts as 2.5 D, but it works just fine. Anytime a game using any combination of 3D and 2D, that counts as 2.5 D. The backgrounds are traditional 2D while the characters are 3D with a slight hint of cel shading, making this game look ever bit as good as the latest fighting games like BlazBlue and Street Fighter IV. More than anything else, I was very happy to see new renderings of many of the classic Capcom characters from Ryu to Alex. Best of all was Morrigan, who hasn’t seen a new design since 1994’s Darkstalkers (It’s about frickin’ time!).
Being unfamiliar with the Tatsunoko characters beforehand, I had to do some research and was pleased to find out that they are rather faithful to Tatsuo Yoshida’s original works. They have a suitably retro look to them (Golden Lightan) with enough flair to stand side by side with any of the new Capcom visuals. My favorite are Jun the Swan and Ken the Eagle, mostly due to their unique attacks and super combos.
Speaking of super combos, I actually think many look better than the same move in SF IV, like Ryu’s Shinkuu Hadoken. Now it might be the greater emphasis on over-the-top visuals due to the tendencies of the VS series, but it is still noteworthy to see a comparatively unpowered system like the Wii crank out 2D bliss just as well as the black and white colossuses the PS3 and Xbox 360. Just look at Frank West or Roll’s super combos to see some visual insanity! I love it!
Music was rather lacking in the last VS game MVC2, due to its odd choice to use jazz and lounge type music for the stages. The character select music and lack of announcer didn’t fare much better. It was a real disappointment as the previous VS entries had some great remixes of Street Fighter and Capcom themes as well as some very neat original music. The latter returns in spades in Tatsunoko. While I didn’t recognize any remixes, there are many great pieces from the generic rock music of the Fire Stage to the electronica/trance crossover of the MegaMan Legends and other stages. A big improvement that I was happy to see.
Sound effects are excellent as well and a fine accompaniment to the game’s visual style. The player is bombarded with auditory overload with the super combos and special attacks alike. My favorites are the Shinkuu Hadoken and the super combos of Frank West, which have as much audio power as their often-hilarious visuals.
Gameplay is the classic system established in the first VS game, X-Men VS Street Fighter, with some new additions to make this game unique. We have our standard 2 on 2 fighting with the ability to switch out characters by pressing back and the partner button. Each character has their own lifebar and the battle is over once a player loses both their characters. There are 3 attack buttons and pressing up or down affects the type of strike that is used. For example, Ryu does a light punch if light attack is pressed and a light kick if light+down is pressed. As you land blows, you accumulate energy for use with Super Combos. These multi-hit moves are done with the same motions as each move with an added attack button. In Arcade Mode, you fight through several of these rounds until you get to the final boss, who is as suitably epic as the Versus series is known for. Defeat the final boss and you get an ending dependant on which character landed the final blow.
New to the series are Mega Crashes and Baroque Cancels. Baroque Cancels allow you to continue combos for longer than normal at the exchange of some lost health that could otherwise be recovered by tagging that character out; and Mega Crashes, which can stop a combo dead in its tracks at the exchange of some hyper combo energy and health. My favorite addition is the Crashes as they can prevent jugglers from doing the same combo over and over again!
Another new addition is the ability to have your special move input visible on the screen at any time; this is very helpful for those who are looking to learn how to better play the game and don’t want to go to training mode all the time.
When it comes to challenge, this game has adjustable difficulty as well as a damage setup, allowing matches to last much longer if you find yourself getting beaten down too quickly. There are also easier control setups for those new to the series. The Wiimote and Wiimote with Nunchaku make doing special attacks and super combos much easier, as they only require pressing buttons in tandem. I appreciate the multiple control options, both for approachability and variety. You can also use a classic controller, making the game much like similar fighting game fare on consoles. Of course, the truly hardcore will invest in an arcade stick for true arcade control at home. I am also happy to report that Capcom doesn’t want people to think that they will only be buying an arcade stick for one Wii game, as they plan to make updates to this series, especially if a lot of arcade sticks are sold.
There is a lot of replay value in this game, with multiple characters to unlock with new entries from both franchises. There is also a bonus game that works like an homage to U.N. Squadron and other Capcom 2D shumps. It is harder than it looks to unlock though.
Not having a lot of friends who enjoy fighting games makes me glad that there are individual character endings once again. It might seem odd, but endings in the Versus series were always amusing and worth watching; and that are better than ever in this game. Online play naturally makes replay value go skyhigh; if you have a good connection and some solid players, it will be a long time before you put this game down.
In summation, Tatsunoko VS Capcom is a great fighting game and probably the best entry in the VS series ever. The character selection is solid without too many doppelgangers; so you wouldn’t find yourself ignoring weaker characters. A curveball is also thrown at you in the from of G. Lightan and the giant robot from Lost Planet. Due to their massive size, they can’t have tag partners, so in essence, a whole new type of player has the potential to emerge. This is to be the kind of player that is very skilled at this slow but powerful behemoths. One could say it is like the next evolution of the slow less scrub friendly fighting game character. As a person who likes to play Zangief, Hugo, and Q, I look forward to the possibilities. It was a long time coming, but Capcom’s VS Series is back and the fighting game fans couldn’t be happier for its arrival!
- Ugly Bob