2009 was a bit of a disappointment for fighting games here in North America. Street Fighter IV was good, but nowhere up to the level of previous Capcom titles, a point made abundantly clear with the re-release of Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, which in itself was a bare-bones release compared to the original Dreamcast version, lacking all the thrill of unlocking things for oneself. BlazBlue was good for what it was, but it didn’t impress me. King of Fighters XII was so craptastic I refused to review it and I’m a dyed in the wool SNK fan. Chuck Platt and Mark B. both hated it though. What does it say about 2009 when the two best fighters released were King of Fighters ’98 Ultimate Match and Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves, both of which were RE-RELEASES from a decade (or more) ago? The other good fighting games of 2009 were either PC exclusives like Zeno Clash or never made it stateside like the latest Melty Blood game. Still, although there was no truly GREAT new fighters released in 2009 here in North America, we did see the return to prominence for a genre I’ve been enchanted with since the beginning of the genre itself, although this was mainly done through the re-release of three of the best games in the history of the genre.
As you may imagine, I was ecstatic to hear about Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom when it was first mentioned in Japan, but like many people, I thought this had about as much chance of making it to the US as Dream Mix TV: World Fighters did – none. So I was shocked and full of boundless optimism when I heard Capcom was taking the chance and bringing it stateside. I was a little hesitant when I heard it was Wii exclusive, but then I’ve enjoyed my time with fighting games on the Wii, be it new titles like Castlevania: Judgment or VC releases like The King of Fighters ’94 or Eternal Champions thanks to my Neo Geo Stick 2 and/or my Hori made Wii fighting stick, so I know a fighting game can work (and work well) on the Wii. The only question left was, would Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom be one of them?
There really isn’t a lot of story here. It’s Capcom characters versus Tatsunoko characters. Tatsunoko is a pretty big anime company now owned by Takara TOMY and although its most famous character in America (Speed Racer) isn’t in the game, there are some pretty well known characters in this game, albeit in Americanized form. You might recognize the three Gatchaman characters from G-Force or Battle of the Planets. Gatchaman became Eagle Riders and Tekkaman Blade became Technoman here in the late 1990′s. Karas is pretty much the only Tatsunoko property in the video game that wasn’t drastically changed in name or tone for US audiences.
There are other anime series Tatsunoko was involved in which Westerners will probably recognize easier such as Samurai Pizza Cats, Neon Genesis Evangelion , Serial Experiments Lain, Beyblade and provided financial backing for Macross/Robotech, but unfortunately, none of those characters appear in the game, as it probably would have helped to have one Tatsunoko character that was recognizable to the under 30 crowd in North America. But I digress. Basically the reality of the two universes have merged somehow and everyone is fighting for survival until you get to the End Boss and we learn a Bakugan is behind it all. The plot is pretty non-existent, but each character has their own individual ending and each one is pretty awesome. For my money, Morrigan has the best (and funniest) ending, although I am pretty biased towards Darkstalkers.
The various play modes give you a nice variety of experiences. There’s the standard Arcade Mode, which is eight stages of fighting goodness. Versus mode is a two player local battle. Training is self-explanatory and a great way to test out various control schemes to see what works best for each character. Survival is where your team of two characters keeps fighting until you finally die. Time Attack is trying to beat the game in the quickest time you can. Shop is where you can spend Zenny Points on unlockable movies, artwork, and extra costumes, but oddly, no clips of any of the Tatsunoko animes. Gallery is where you can view your unlocked items, and then there is the on-line play component. This is a pretty standard list for any fighting game these days, but wait – there’s more.
When you beat the game, press one of the number buttons immediately. This starts a simple platformer game featuring Doronjo and her two sidekicks on a bicycle. You press the number buttons to jump up and collect letters from the credits. Each of these letters is worth Zenny and playing this game through the credits can double or even triple your Zenny output. This goes a long way in terms of unlocking things. As well, if you catch the gold letters than eventually spell out “Thank You For Playing,” you’ll unlock yet another mode known as “Extra Game” which is an awesome four player co-op traditional Shoot ‘Em Up game. Holy hell, is this awesome.
Needless to say, I was pretty impressed with everything Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom had to offer. The game features some of the best (and most lucid) endings in a non-Darkstalkers Capcom made fighter and I loved the two hidden modes and all of the options TvC contained. Simply put, Capcom put a lot of passion and love into this game, and it shows.
Story/Modes Rating: Great
I have to admit the visuals are an acquired taste, but after a while I really grew to enjoy them save Morrigan’s finishing pose as there is some blurring and the model just looks deformed. Insert your joke about a new Darkstalker sprite still not being as good as the other characters here. Shades of Capcom vs. SNK. I do love all the background visuals. These are some really nice stages and they add a lot of character to the game.
The ending graphics were by far the best in the game, even though they were static illustrated images by UDON. It doesn’t matter though as the art is so awesome, you’ll wish Capcom would find away to animate these into a game. I also really liked the character portraits. The art is very reminiscent of the styles used in the Capcom Vs. SNK portraits and I really liked seeing that make a comeback. I’m pretty sure it’s the same Ryu and Chun-Li, albeit touched up though.
There’s no slowdown in this game at all, which is key for a fighter, especially a tag-based one. Everything is so fluid and precise with movements. My only complaint is that sometimes, the animation for a Hyper Combo is so jarring from what was actually on the screen a second ago, it throws you for a loop. This really only applies to the Hyper Combos that require three bars of the HC gauge though.
Overall, the visuals for the game are quite nice once you get used to them. They aren’t amazing, and it’s by no means the best looking game on the Wii, but Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom has a style all its own and an enjoyable one at that.
Graphics Rating: Good
I really enjoy the score for every stage in the game. Each track fits the location nicely and I’ll occasionally get one stuck in my head. The voice acting is awesome, although Zero sounds like Demitri from Darkstalkers , but that’s probably a plus. Frank West might be my favourite character in terms of speech, but that’s only because his lines are so out of place it’s nearly Engrish. It’s just some strange Dead Rising choices that I love for the cheesiness of it all. Especially, “What the hell?” when he wins. The rest of the voice acting is just as good and although almost all of it is in Japanese, I can’t imagine any of these characters in English besides Frank West and POSSIBLY Tekkaman Blade since I own the Teknoman anime.
Sound effects are also well done and it’s almost as much fun to listen to the game as it is to play it. I’m rather surprised that Capcom didn’t consider doing a soundtrack with this game, but I guess they were taking enough of a chance releasing it in the US in the first place. Top notch audio all around.
Sound Rating: Great
4. Control and Gameplay
I’ll be doing a feature next week on all seven different controllers I used with this game, but for now I’ll sum it up like this: You don’t need to purchase the $80 Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom official fight stick from MadCatz as it’s the most expensive. I picked it up because I was able to get it for $27, but there are many other ways to play the game and all are cheaper. Hell, the MadCatz fight stick is $30 more expensive than the HORI stick and HORI is pretty much the gold standard for fight sticks. So there you go.
The Wiimote only control scheme actually works really well and can actually be quite fun, even for those of us who insist on a proper fight stick with eight-point digital inputs instead of analog ones, or the other intricacies that can make or break a fighting game experience. For those of you who aren’t that anal retentive with fighting games, it’s akin to why swimmers shave their heads before sectionals or state. Those few seconds saved by removing the drag of hair can win (or cost if you don’t) the race. So too can be said about a normal joystick (especially the default pieces of crap that come with your Xbox and Playstation systems). The Wiimote scheme is almost akin to SNK Vs. Capcom for the Neo*Geo Pocket Colour, but with some updates. It’s a great way to learn fighting games or for people who love them but can’t manually pull off Super Combos or find themselves doing a Dragon Punch instead of a Hadoken. The downside is that you can’t choose between light, medium, and fierce attacks, so in a PvP setting, some able to use all three attacks individually will have an advantage, especially if they know what they are doing. The Wiimote only way is actually a pretty fresh and fun way to play and although you end up losing the ability to do some moves, the ones you can do can be pulled off easily and flawlessly. Again, this will really help newcomers to the genre.
The Wiimote-Nunchuk mode is god awful, if only because you are stuck using the nunchuk’s control stick for inputting commands and doing moves. AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
The Classic Controller and GameCube controls are both pretty tight; just remember to use the D-Pad instead of the sticks and you’ll have a better chance of pulling off the moves seamlessly. I find the Classic Controller to be the better of the two just due to the shape of the GameCube controller and the default button choice. As you can change things around, the button layouts don’t matter much though.
The sticks are great. Out of the three sticks, I do feel the official stick for the game is the weakest of the three due to the internal parts. Madcatz has improved a lot over the past year or two, but it’s still not as good as either the Neo*Geo or the Hori controller, both of which are cheaper. Control-wise it’s all minor things having to do with interior parts and stuff I won’t bored the majority of you with. Basically just remember you can get a better stick for about $30 bucks less than the official stick, so obviously that’s the better choice.
Regardless which controller scheme you go for (save the Wiimote-Nunchuk choice), everything works exceptionally well and inputting commands are both solid and tight. I never had a mix-up entering manual commands or any delay between the command and my character doing it. Even with the Wiimote only controls I could enter manual commands as I would with a normal fighting control scheme and the game took them just fine.
Like most fighters you have a super gauge in the corner of your side of the screen. This fills by doing and/or taking damage. Once you have at least one ball you can do Hyper Combos which are powered-up versions of your special moves. There are also extremely powerful Hyper Combos that require three bars of the gauge to be filled before they can be executed. You can have up to five bars at a time.
The other usual aspect of TvC is actually pretty common for Capcom Vs. style games, which involves tag team commands. You’ll play as one fighter at a time, but you can tag out to the back-up player or call them in for a double team move. You can also use your partner for a counter, an air combo, and two different variations of a team Hyper Combo.
There are two unique things to TvC. The first is the Mega Crash. This move uses two bars from your gauge and a little bit of life. The return is a barrier that hurtles your opponent back if they touch it. There is also something called a “Baroque Combo” which involves sacrificing the red part of your life bar in exchange for new and extended combos and extra damage.
Overall I was pretty impressed with the controls and how solid they were. I actually found the game to be a better overall experience than SFIV and I really enjoyed the creativity with the different schemes.
Tastunoko Vs. Capcom is one of the best fighters Capcom has put out in years. Different controllers give you a very different experience and it’s fun to try out all the different ways one can play this game.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Great
With five characters to unlock, along with the shooter mini-game and a ton of extras to buy in the TvC store, you can spend a lot of time trying to get everything in this game. Sure, there’s not as much as we could find in Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 or Capcom Vs. SNK, but there is still a lot to do here. When you factor in online play, the multiple control schemes and the fact this is easily the best fighting game on the Wii, you have a game that you can easily come back to countless times and always have a different experience. Online play can be a little off if you’re playing Wired vs. Wireless, but there’s no real way to tell which your opponent has until you’re into a match. Just a head’s up.
Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom is packed to the brim with enough to keep even the most ardent fighting gamer busy for some time. The extra games like the platformer and shooter are just gravy on top of that.
Replayability Rating: Great
There are two ways to talk about balance in this game: Computer AI and Character Tiers. In terms of Computer AI, you have five difficulty settings as well as time options, damage levels, and how many Hyper Combo bars you start off with in your gauge. All of these are quite adjustable and guarantees any gamer will be able to set TvC’s AI to a challenge that is tough but not unbeatable for their skill level. The lowest setting is pretty easy, with the first round team just letting you “perfect” them. The three stage end boss can still kill you with certain combos pretty easily though, so you’ll still have to remember to block. The highest end difficulty is just that and I had to beat it with characters I knew by heart like Ryu, Morrigan, and Chun-Li before I went to the other characters. Overall balance here is amazing and I was really impressed by how noticeably different each level was.
Then there are the tiers. The game has been drastically overhauled from the original Japanese version (Both arcade and console). Character infinites are gone and everyone’s been tweaked so that the game is far more balanced that what Japan has. This really impressed me and it was interesting to see which characters. I ended up going 40-0 in PVP matches before stopping. My main character? Morrigan. My secondary switched between Ryu, Chun-Li, Tekkaman Blade, Zero, Frank West, Karas, and Alex. Ryu, Batsu. and Zero are the most common characters I played against. Tatsunoko really isn’t getting a lot of play online, but then most Americans have no idea who most of these characters are.
I mainly use Morrigan because a lot of gamers don’t know her unless you’re a big fighting game fan. I love Darkstalkers (although I’d rather have Donovan, Talbain, or Lord Raptor) and her Valkyrie Turn Hyper Combo is insanely powerful against the end boss and the two giant characters. Plus she’s nicely balanced. I definitely wouldn’t have put Morrigan in top tier with the Arcade or Japanese TvC, but she’s improved rather nicely here. This is just one example of how characters have been balanced quite nicely. There are definitely characters that are weaker than others. I find Mega Man and Doronjo to be pretty inferior to the rest of the cast for example (MM’s Hyper Combos can be nasty though). Still, this is one of the most balanced Capcom fighters I’ve ever played, which is pretty impressive.
The important thing to note is that there are no joke characters – merely funny ones. The game is laugh out loud amusing at times, but every character is quite good, as long as you spend time with them. I could make a case for Roll being a top tier character as easily as I could Chun-Li or Tekkaman. Besides Mega Man and Doronjo (who I could just be BAD with), the giants have a bit of handicap due to their size, lack of speed, and inability to have a tag partner. That just means it requires some thought and skill to make them works.
To sum it up. Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom is one of the most balanced fighting games I’ve ever played and I’ve loving every minute of it. THIS is what SFIV should have been like in terms of balance and engine quality (Save for the online lag). This is what KoF XII should have been like. This, my friends, is a fighting game done right and I love this thing so very, very much.
Balance Rating: Great
For all intents and purposes this is Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 but with Tatsunoko characters instead of Captain America and Doctor Doom. I like the new additions to the tag style gameplay and I’ve very happy with the balance and character list, even though I could think of half a dozen characters to add to each side of the game (Racer X and the Lich from Dungeons and Dragons: The Arcade Game for example would make me happy). The end boss is similar in style to the MvC2 boss as well, with its three stages, but it’s also a lot easier.
I loved the Platformer during the credits but the Super Smash Bros. series did something similar in Melee but as a shooter. The four player co-op shoot ‘em up is pretty original and highly enjoyable and might be the most creative aspect of the game.
Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom definitely has the trappings of Capcom’s Vs. series that has been going strong for over a decade now, but it also managed to stand out from the back thanks to a distinctive art style, a new franchise to couple with, new gameplay strategies and some extra modes of play. It’s not going to win any games for originality, but compared to a lot of fighters over the past few years, TvC feels like a breath of fresh air.
Originality Rating: Decent
I unlocked everything in the game my very first day with the title. That doesn’t mean the game is short – it means I couldn’t put my controller down. I went through two sets of rechargeable batteries in my wireless sensor bar because I played so much. I beat the game with Morrigan, then Ryu, then Alex, than Roll, then Mega Man Volnutt, then Frank West, and then Zero before I went to get some liquids in me and then went for the same pattern with seven Tatsunoko characters so I could unlock the three characters from their side. Then I spent several hours slaughtering competition online, and then I went back to unlocking everyone else that I could. Then once I had finally beat the arcade mode with all 26 characters, I called it a night. I was obsessed and I could barely take a break. I wanted to see all the endings, the hyper combos, and see what my eventual highest scoring team would be. Oddly enough it was with Mega Man and Roll, even though I don’t think Mega Man (or myself playing as) is very good. Surprise!
Tatsunoko is a hard game to put down. I loved it whether I was playing Wiimote only, or honking around with one of my stick against friends I know that are tournament level players as well. It was fun like I haven’t had with a fighter, or on the Wii, for quite some time. This is a definite permanent addition to my collection and the great thing is, no matter what your skill level is, you’ll be able to embrace this game with equal fervor.
Addictiveness Rating: Unparalleled
9. Appeal Factor
A couple of years ago I would have said fighting games had fallen from the biggest genre we had in the early 1990′s to a small niche genre populated mainly by longtime SNK zealots. However, with games like SFIV, Tekken 6, Mortal Kombat Vs. DCU, and several other games all having very public releases, along with strong critical and consumer reactions, we may be seeing the fighting game genre’s return to a new golden age. Of course, I’m probably being optimistic, but with games like TvC, it’s hard not to be. Pretty much every long time fighting game fan, regardless of whether their favourite title is Aggressors of Dark Kombat or Clay Fighter, they will like, if not outright love Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom.
For people that generally don’t like fighting games, or simply aren’t very good at them, the different control schemes will really help one out here. You can even further simplify controls in the Options menu, which allows games of varying skills play together with at least SOME degree of challenge. I love this. None of my face-to-face friends play fighting games unless they are desperately pressing buttons and it’s no fun for me or them to play a game where I perfect them in ten seconds. That won’t happen with TvC because they’ll finally be able to do all the cool moves they used to see people to in the arcade with a single button and/or D-pad press instead of trying to figuring out exactly how I’m wiggling that fight stick. This my friends is the game to get people of all ages, genders, skill levels and genre preferences into fighting games. It may not be the GREATEST fighting game ever made, but it’s one that anyone can play and fall in love with and that just might be more important. Not just for enjoyment’s sake, but for keeping the genre alive.
Appeal Factor: Good
As you can no doubt tell after 4,000 words and eight full pages of my praising this game, I think Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is pretty hunky dory. I love the cast, although I’d have loved a few more characters, but I suppose that’s what DLC is for if the rumours are true. I love the different control schemes and how easy this game is for newcomers or people that tend to suck as fighters. I can’t stress enough how excited people are when they can finally pull off a Shoryuken for the first time. Even longtime fighting vets like myself will be able to enjoy the Wiimote only controls as a change of pace from using a fight stick. There are a ton of unlockables and best of all, the game opens up people to experience Tosunoko anime characters for the first time, which may in turn lead to them purchased (or Netflix’ing) the series that are available here in the US. I know it made me want to dust off Teknoman or put the Karas films in my Netflix queue. Best of all this game reminds me why I fell in love with fighters and why my Sega Saturn and Dreamcast collections are packed with fighters ranging from X-Men Vs. Street Fighter to umm…Battle Monsters.. What? I said I like the genre, didn’t I?
Basically Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom is everything I wished either Street Fighter IV or KoFXII had been. It’s fun, frantic, well balanced, eats up a ton of my time, and never fails to bring a smile to my face. 2010 is shaping up to be an amazing year for gaming and Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom is going to be remembered as one of the best titles to hit US shores when the year is said and done.
Miscellaneous Rating: Unparalleled
Control and Gameplay: Great
Appeal Factor: Good
FINAL SCORE: GREAT GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom is easily the best fighting game Capcom has released in years. It’s exceptionally well balanced, has a diverse cast list that doesn’t suffer from “fireball bros. syndrome”, and is both visually and aurally enjoyable. The game also boasts five different controller set-ups for a gamer to use, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Although I’ll probably stick to my Hori or Neo*Geo sticks, the Wiimote only control scheme is so different from anything I’ve played before (save SNK Vs. Capcom on the NGPC) that I find it charming and a nice change of pace. This is one of those rare games that does everything exceptionally well (except maybe the online lag that can sometimes occur) and it’s accessible to all gamers, whether they’re an SNK frame counter or their fighting game skills only extend to Super Smash Bros. I’m still a bit shocked Tatsunoko vs. Capcom made it stateside, but I’m overjoyed that it has. This is amazing game that deserves to be experienced by everyone. If you have a Wii, you owe it to yourself to pick this up, not only for the sheer amount of fun awaiting you, but to help convince Capcom and Eighting that we need a sequel!