There's a good chance that you haven't heard of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. For one, it's a game that was never destined for release outside of Japan, and there's also the fact that the names Yatterman and Hurricane Polymar probably hold little meaning for you. But even if you're still scratching your head as to why Ryu is wailing up on a guy dressed as a bird, know that the game is latest in a long line of Capcom fighting hits, and what you don't know may end up surprising you.
Not unlike Capcom's previous soirees with Marvel, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom embodies the versus game heritage with a heaping handful of crazy characters, mind-boggling combos, and intense fighting.
If it's been too long since your last hyper variable combination, you can hit up the practice mode and take the 20-plus characters for a spin. With settings for health bars, super meters, and dummy behaviors, the mode is pretty much in line with the norm, but an option that lets you scroll through a character's move list without having to go to a pause menu is a nice addition-especially when it comes to learning the zany new Tatsunoko brawlers.
When you're ready for some actual field experience, arcade mode provides a gauntlet of foes leading up to three-part boss battle at the end. Whether you exchange blows here, survival mode, or time trial mode, you're awarded points that go towards unlocking a number of bonuses in the gallery mode. The prizes are mostly fluff, coming in the form of extra costume colors, character portraits, and stage dioramas.
With so many of Japan's prize fighters gathered in one place, it's taken quite some time for the game to battle its way out of licensing limbo. The English version lacks one of Tatsunoko's own, Hakushon Daimao, but in return, we've got two new characters on both teams, a goofy but fun four-player shooter mini-game, as well as new endings sketched up by Canadian comic creators Udon Entertainment, who some may remember for their work on HD remix.
Perhaps most significant out of all the new additions, however, is the inclusion of online play, which takes advantage of Nintendo's WiFi network. Matchmaking is handled similarly to Brawl: you can square up against random opponents online, or exchange friend codes to set up scrimmages with people you know. Extras, like Street Fighter IV style player icons, add a thoughtful touch to the package, while in-depth leader boards bring the game's online stat tracking up to par with what you'd expect from the best. The netcode, though, tends to scale drastically depending on your connection. At its best, it's smooth sailing, though the farther away in location your opponent is, the more input lag you're likely to experience. You can set a domestic filter to help secure an ideal connection, but if you're a stickler for pinpoint precise commands, consider this a fair warning.
Where other games in Capcom's stable of fighters rely on a more precise and purposeful style of play, the versus series has always prided itself on one thing: sheer insanity. Players well aware of this fact will be pleased to know that TvC doesn't disappoint, bringing the series' frantic brand of two-on-two, or, more recently, giant-sized action, to the Wii.
In terms of controls, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom supports all possible control schemes for play, but if you opt for a Wii remote, the experience is dumbed down significantly. To get the most out of the game's expansive list of characters and mechanics, a classic,
Gamecube, or arcade controller is ideal.
As you dig in, you'll immediately come in contact with some familiar game mechanics like super jumps, chain combos, and super moves, as well as partner-oriented maneuvers like assists and delayed super cancels. Vets who've cut their teeth on past versus games will immediately take to the functions that Tatsunoko vs. Capcom brings back to the forefront, but there are also a few new systems to take note of.
First up is the baroque cancel. By sacrificing whatever excess life is currently regenerating on your character, you can extend combos past their normal limits and deliver impressively long strings of damage. Though it seems fairly straightforward, the implications are twofold: characters who use a baroque cancel will permanently lose a bit of life, but depending on how much life is used in the process, the recipient of the combo takes that much more damage. Invoking a baroque cancel involves a certain amount of risk, but when used correctly, it provides some ultimately rewarding results.
Then there's the mega crash, a defensive maneuver that interrupts combos mid-string. It's a powerful "get out of jail free" card that can help you survive moments of extreme punishment, but at the cost of two super bars and a sliver of life, it's not something to be used on a whim.
Tatsunoko vs. Capcom's tweaks to the formula bring some interesting new dynamics to the fight. But perhaps more reassuring is that the English version features balance tweaks that help level out some of the more exploitable aspects, like infinites, for each character.
As for the characters themselves, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom pulls from a diverse stock of personalities from both sides of the fence. Capcom regulars like Ryu, Chun-li, and Morrigan play similarly to how they have in the past, while newcomers like Viewtiful Joe and the daunting PTX-40A add some welcome faces to the roster. Tatsunoko, on the other hand, features the headlining stars of each of their most popular series. You won't recognize each individual fighter at first glance, but when it comes to being well designed characters with a spread of unique abilities and playstyles, these old school anime heroes have definitely got it down pat.
Whoever you decide to roll with, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom provides a satisfying fighting experience that puts plenty of tools in your hands. Whether you choose to abuse them or go with what simply feels right, you can be sure that a frantic fight is sure to follow.
Right on the heels of games like Street Fighter IV, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom features slick-looking 3D graphics produced in the publisher's now signature 2.5D style. The end result is maybe a little less impressive by comparison, but with flashy super moves packed with all sorts of visual glitter, the game certainly isn't lacking on personality. From a distance, the visuals achieve a cel-shaded look that certainly falls in line with Tatsunoko's anime vibe.
When it comes down to it, your enjoyment of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom won't hinge on your knowledge of obscure Japanese animes. It's a solid fighter in its own right, bolstered by a provision of new content and features exclusively on the U.S. port. If beating up on Mario has lost some of its punch, definitely give the game a try; you may find that a venture into the unknown can have some pleasing results.
Reviewed on Nintendo Wii.