Growing weary of slugging it out against Wolverine and his merry band of Marvel cohorts, Capcom has elected to use the seventh instalment of their frenetic fighting franchise to pit its horde of videogame icons against the creations of Japanese animation powerhouse Tatsunoko.
Where other fighting games concern themselves with twenty-button combos and the presence of at least three separate special attack meters, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom: Ultimate All Stars opts for a more simplified approach that places bombast and spectacle above technical pugilism.
Undoubtedly, a great deal of the game’s appeal is its sizable catalogue of combatants who are drawn from both companies’ respective legacies. The Capcom roster sees the return of just a handful of characters from previous entries into the series, including ubiquitous stalwarts Ryu and Chun Li, Darkstalker’s Morrigan, and Mega Man (albeit in his Legends incarnation).
Though you may bemoan the loss of your favourite fighters, there are plenty of new characters to choose from. These have been plucked from previously unrepresented franchises such as Onimusha and Viewtiful Joe, as well as more recent releases such as Dead Rising and Lost Planet that will prove more familiar to a western audience
However, the involvement of Tatsunoko is indicative that the game was initially envisioned as a Japanese exclusive; whilst great reverence is held for the studio in its home country, it possesses only a cult following in the west. This is reflected in the relative obscurity of the Tatsunoko roster. Aside from the featured cast of Gatchaman (that’s Battle Of The Planets to you and me) or Casshan (who featured in the effects-laden 2004 feature film Casshern), it’s unlikely that you’ll have encountered characters such as Gold Lightan or Ippatsuman before. Still, they’re an eclectic and esoteric bunch who mesh well with the more familiar crew of Capcom misfits.
Whilst the number of selectable characters is certainly healthy (not to mention comparable to most contemporary fighters), it’s hard not to feel short changed in contrast to Marvel Vs. Capcom 2′s swollen ranks, which we were reminded of during its recent Xbox Live Arcade release.
The fighting system itself is typical of previous games in the Vs. series, consisting of weak, medium and strong attacks which can be strung together to perform combos, counters and aerial assaults, as well as devastating and incredible-looking Mega Crash attacks.
Another returning feature is the presence of a tag-team mechanic, where players select two characters that can be switched between during battle. The non-active combatant can also be called upon for a rapid secondary strike, as well as incorporated into combos and Mega Crash attacks.
Although Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom lacks the depth of something like Street Fighter IV, it more than makes up for it with speed, enthusiasm and sheer grandiose. It’s also instantly more accessible than other recent entries into the genre. Button mashing will get you surprisingly far, and it’s often possible to do something completely amazing by accident.
The game really comes into its own when all four characters are on screen at the same time, performing their most powerful assaults and counters whilst the background explodes into a technicolour star field. The controls are pleasingly responsive and, thankfully, sidestep any kind of inane remote waggling. In fact, the game is so resolute in its use of traditional controls that it provides a wealth of alternative input options, ranging from GameCube controllers to a sideways remote.
Although the action is strictly limited to a 2D plane, all of the characters and their environments are brought to life in 3D and complimented by an attractive cel-shaded aesthetic which nods to the hand-drawn traditions of the series. The impressive visuals are almost enough to make you forget that the Wii is often criticised for its lack of graphical horsepower, though a few of the backdrops betray this illusion. However, you’ll be too busy working out where each stage takes place rather than being preoccupied by their imperfections; anyone who spent time hacking up zombies in Dead Rising will appreciate inclusion of the Willamette Parkview Mall, despite the two-framed animation of its undead audience.
Console releases of even the best fighting games often fail to provide a meaningful single player experience. Sadly, it comes as no surprise that Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom does little to break this convention, offering little outside of the obligatory Arcade, Survival and Training modes. Arcade mode presents the most significant amount of content, and sees you battling through several rounds before facing off against Okami’s Yami in a three-tiered boss fight. Claiming victory rewards you with some illustrations of the triumphant fighter accompanied by some text which hints at an underlying story, but proves more of a puzzling non sequitur.
Competing against other people is where the best experiences of the game undoubtedly emerge, and whilst an online battle mode is present, its limited population will leave you relying more on the local Versus mode and whoever can be lured to the sofa with the sound of hadoukens.
There are some superficial attempts to add longevity to the game through a shop where Zenny (Capcom’s recurrent fictional currency) accumulated throughout various modes can be used to purchase additional costumes, stages and artwork. It’s also possible to unlock several mini games for up to four players, but these ultimately prove limp and disposable.
It’s easy to overlook some of Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom’s shallower aspects, not only because of its tight controls, streamlined fighting system and appealing cast of competitors, but also its sheer bravado.
Even if you don’t recognise any of the Tatsunoko characters or some of the more obscure additions to the Capcom roster, it’s a delight to watch them trade blow after increasingly ridiculous blow and revel in the bombastic absurdity of the action. This is not only a highly enjoyable fighting game in its own right and a worthy addition to the Vs. series, but one of the finest examples of the genre found on Nintendo’s console.
Tatsunoko Vs Capcom: Ultimate All Stars is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.