Right now you're reading a review for a game that shouldn't have ever existed outside of Japan. Mainstream gamers -- and most hardcore gamers, at that -- don't know the Tatsunoko brand. With very little promise of a commercial success, Capcom would be crazy to bring the latest in the Capcom Vs. series to U.S. shores, right?
Not necessarily, no. You're reading about a "dark horse" game, no doubt. But you're also reading a review for one of the best games on the Wii.
If you're anything like me, you didn't know the Tatsunoko brand before you started seeing shots of some super hero dudes locking it up with the likes of Ryu and Chun Li in the Street Fighter arena. If you take one thing away from this review though, it's that it simply doesn't matter. Any way you slice it -- be it the modes, balance, character diversity, depth, or ease of entry into the game itself -- Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is one of the best fighters we've seen since Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and it's a testament to good, old-fashioned 2D ass-kickery.
A quick note on Tatsunoko, as most people will want to at least understand what they're looking at before making a purchase. As always, Capcom's "Vs." series is out to pair with a strong accompanying license. Tatsunoko Publishing is extremely well-known in Japan as the brand that brought some of the best anime and characters to the region. Franchises like Yatterman, Gatchaman, and Tekkaman Blade may not be known here, but these are the granddaddys of modern anime. Franchises like Gatchaman paved the way for heroic squad-based shows, as stars like Ken the Eagle and Joe the Condor can be likened to guys like Jason and Tommy from the stateside-popular Power Rangers series.
While players might not know the Tatsunoko brand outright, they can have faith in the brand to deliver unique characters, each with their own style, swagger, and strengths. It's a shame there's no real history section within Tatsunoko vs. Capcom's shop/collection system, but even without much backstory, the game is strong enough on its own to inspire fans to read up on the characters after going a few dozen rounds.
Capcom's goal with Street Figher IV was to rebirth the fighting world, bringing in new players by going back to what's truly fun about 2D fighters. After taking both games through the paces though, I've had a much more rewarding and downright entertaining time with Tatsunoko vs. Capcom than I ever did with Street Fighter IV. Street Fighter IV is without a doubt a top-tier fighter, and the true rebirth of 2D arcade fighting. But I'd argue that Wii fans are getting the true "return to excellence" with Tatsunoko, as the game offers more instant appeal and pure entertainment value than its more serious Street Fighter counterpart.
Wii fans may bicker and complain that they don't have Street Fighter IV in Nintendo's library, but fighting fans that cut their teeth and dropped a fortune on Marvel vs. Capcom 2 back in the arcades might -- just might -- consider Wii's exclusive fighter to be the true ace up the sleeve. The similarities between Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Capcom's latest fighter are pretty impossible to ignore, and that's a very good thing. Bottom line: Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is just downright fun, and an amazing catch for the U.S. market.
Obviously people are going to come from different camps as to what they want from a fighter, but as a guy that takes comfort in the high-speed, juggle-centric gameplay of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Street Fighter Alpha 3, I found myself instantly enjoying what Tatsunoko has to offer. At its core, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is a three button fighter, mixing all basic moves up by allowing each attack button (light, medium, and heavy) to pull off different techniques with the same motion. Sometimes the change is minimal, like having different speeds for Ryu's fireball based on what button you use.
Okay... that's been around since, well, forever. Look at other characters, however, and you'll find a lot of hidden depth. Casshan's "Friender Call" sends out his robotic wolf to attack his opponent, but each button used to execute the technique will pull off a different move. Friender will come in and attack with a quick physical pounce, jump to mid-field and spit a flamethrower attack, or even latch onto Casshan's opponent and hold them in place for an easy combo. That's one move, executed with three different buttons.
The basic tag format of previous versus games still applies, so players will bring in two fighters from either the Capcom side, Tatsunoko side, or a mix. Tags can happen at any time and there's a short recharge period after assist attacks or switches so that players can't just spam the tag button over and over. All the combined super combos you'd expect are alive and well. You can cash in your super meter for single-fighter attacks or you can stack them so that you and your tag partner jump in at the tail end of each other's supers and leapfrog from gigantic attack to gigantic attack (assuming you've got the super meter filled enough to do it). When tagged out, fighters also slowly heal themselves, refilling the red part of their damage meter over time.
The combat is simple enough to get you playing and having fun from the first match, but after a short time the more hardcore players out there will discover the barouque combos, crossover combos, air crosses, mega crushes, and other higher level techniques. What's nice: those aren't required to enjoy the game, and overall Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is extremely intuitive and "newbie friendly," without sacrificing depth.
What this ultimately comes down to is that Tatsunoko vs. Capcom can achieve all the openness and intuitive gameplay found in a basic fighter, but then stack an immense amount of hidden depth in there as well. If you only want the basics, hammering on a "light, medium, heavy" combo will instantly chain attacks together in a cinematic display. Attacking down at an angle while on the ground with a heavy attack will pop any character up into the air, even making things more simple for those that use the Wii-mote and nunchuk combination.
Classic controller and GameCube support is easily the best way to play the game -- unless you're one of those people that don't mind dropping the cash for the amazingly sick MadCatz stick. It really is exceptional -- but if you have a younger gamer in the family or simply want to make combat extremely casual, the default Wii Remote/nunchuk setup is perfect. The three buttons become one universal attack button with A, pop-ups automatically follow up into the air for players, and supers are in turn much easier to pull off. If you're in my camp -- those that swear by the likes of MVC2, Alpha 3, and yes, the all-awesome Capcom vs. SNK on Neo Pocket -- you'll want to grab a more traditional controller and really sink into the intricacies of the game.
All the basic modes you'd expect are included in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. You've got arcade mode (of course), time attack, survival, and vs. play, but there's also online, a training dojo that's absolutely essential, and a secret little bonus game that'll have some players sinking serious time into unexpected areas of the package. Most of the modes work as you'd expect, and there are a few characters on both the Capcom and Tatsunoko side that are unlocked by continuously beating arcade mode with their own specific brand side, but it goes extremely fast.
Frank West, for example, is unlocked by winning arcade mode four times, having a Capcom fighter land the last blow before the end credits roll. Win another four times and you'll unlock Zero. There are a few that are more intricate, but when you can rip through a basic round of arcade in a matter of six or seven minutes it really won't take long to get the characters you want, and there are plenty to find.
Another amazing way to get new players engrossed in the game is TVC's move list, which is extremely intuitive and absolutely essential in creating a user-friendly environment. Not only can you go in and enable the list while in training, but players that hate spending time beating on a AI-less dummy can actually head on into any mode (arcade preferably, since you're unlocking fighters as you play) and enable the command list mid-battle. Rather than pausing, looking at a few moves, and then unpausing, players can keep the command list as a half-screen window at the top of the battlefield, scrolling through the moves with the Z1 and Z2 buttons on the classic controller and actually play through the selected mode with the commands on-screen.
Rather than being intimidated and picking only the few fighters you know, you can actually grab a few unknown guys on the roster, scale down the difficulty (if you so choose), bring up the command list during battles, and learn the game while still unlocking and enjoying the different modes.
You're reading the final review, so the game obviously made it outside of Japan, but what most people might not realize until diving into the game is just how much Capcom added for their dedicated worldwide fanbase. Not only do you have new characters -- Frank West, Zero, Yatterman 2, and so on -- but also a well-executed online mode and the aforementioned bonus game. I had a chance to jump into the online arena for a few hours, and while I had some varying results, it held its own much stronger than something like Smash Bros. and is really going to come down to your own personal connection.
My internet speeds are far from ideal, and I still managed to have a few matches with almost no lag. If you've already set up your net for other consoles, do a lot of online gaming, and experience great results from those games, TVC will be a very rewarding online experience. Not only is there random battle across region and worldwide matchmaking, but the ability to add friends via code (or add a rival you played previously with no code necessary) is also included. There's both rank-free and full-on ranked matches, having a similar "win point" system to Mario Kart that awards you points for climbing the ladder against tougher opponents. The friend roster is easy to manage, a simplified tag system is included so you can change your name and icon, and an elemental-themed rating system gives you quick insight to how your opponent is going to play, showing an ice icon if they play defensive, fire icon if they are big into offense, or lighting if they base battle on faster combos and lighter attacks. Pretty cool.
The bonus game -- Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Shooters -- is also a neat addition, minus a few small annoyances. It's four player co-op, and plays identical to old school Capcom games like Commando, making use of one shoot button that can be tapped for all-direction firing, or held for strafing around the top-view battlefield. It would have been a bit more intuitive and "current-gen" had Capcom made it a twin stick shooter, but that would have required use of classic controllers or GCN controllers, so Capcom opted to go with a retro style instead. The game is themed within the Lost Planet world, having huge bosses, branching paths, and a full-on ranking system when you beat the game, and it could have easily been its own 800 point WiiWare game.
The only major gripe outside of wishing it had a more updated control set is the audio design, which has three of the four players (Ken the Eagle, Ryu, and Tekkaman Blade) shouting every time they fire. Thankfully PTX-40A (the playable mech from Lost Planet) has no such voiceiver, and that instantly makes him the player of choice. Any minor gripes aside though, Capcom delivered a full-on bonus game within Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, and it's robust. Branching paths, four player support -- it's a great unlockable.
In the end though, it isn't the bonus modes or added content that makes Tatsunoko vs. Capcom a truly amazing offering on Wii. It's the execution of the core game. The visuals are very impressive, mixing in an immense amount of fluid animation, while staying easy enough to see and react to in the heat of battle. Both English and Japanese audio tracks are included, and the overall sound design is simply awesome. The announcer is over-the-top, the supers have serious audio/visual girth behind them, and the entire game is a not only technically sound, but a full-on spectacle.
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