Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Ultimate All Stars (TvC) marks Capcom's seventh entry in the Vs. series of fighting that began back in 1996 with X-Men vs. Street Fighter. The series made its name by pitting Capcom's all-so familiar line of characters up against other well known entities from the likes of both comic books and other fighting games. Back in 2008, when Capcom announced that the next installment would pit their characters against the roster of Tatsunoko cartoon alumni, 99.9% of gamers outside of Japan all replied "who?".
It was considered by many to be a bold move. While Japan would surely recognize these characters which had been staples in the anime culture, some for close to 40 years, the rest of the world had no clue as to who they were. Surely the game was destined to fail outside of the Land of the Rising Sun, if it ever even made it out to other territories. Later that year, Capcom released the game as an exclusive for the Nintendo Wii to rave reviews from fighting fans in Japan. The rest of the world started getting curious as to what all of the fuss was about and raised enough of their voices that Capcom decided to begin the arduous process of navigating the licensing issues necessary to make it happen. Now, more than a year later... the game is finally seeing a worldwide release.
TvC is everything that you would expect from a Capcom fighting game; Capcom is the king of the genre after all. The system that you are familiar with from the previous Vs. games is completely intact. Gamers will select 2 characters from the roster, or 1 if they choose one of the game's 2 giant characters, and switch back and forth between them during a match to defeat their opponent(s). There was nothing broken with the team based system so the developer did not attempt to alter it in any manner. This is the first area where Capcom succeeded in a big way: they didn't didn't fix what wasn't broken. The premise already works, they knew that they just needed to plug in some of other components into it and let it run its course.
While the game sounds simple enough, there is a depth included in the various gameplay mechanics for those gamers who choose to explore it enough. This is the type of game that anyone can play and enjoy; you can pick it up and play it even if you have never played a fighting game before and hardened veterans of the genre will study it and replay it endlessly for years. TvC offers the best to both worlds in that manner. The first hint of accessibility is given with the control schemes that are utilized in the game. First off, Capcom does not shoe horn in mandatory motion controls just because the game is on the Nintendo Wii. This is a mistake that many game developers make and they often pay for it in the end with the reception of their game(s).
TvC supports almost every type of input device that is available on the system: Wiimote, Wiimote and Nunchuk, Classic Controller, Gamecube controller, and third party joysticks. While fighting games, over the years, have slowly increased the number of buttons available and required to play them, TvC chooses to actually scale them back. Gone are the 6-8 attack buttons, all of which would do varying kicks and punches and which could be linked in various combinations to do different things. All of that has been tossed out the window in favor of three simple attack buttons: light, medium, and hard and a button to tag in your partner. The game uses, what I like to refer as a "context sensitive" (thank you Conker) gameplay system for the attacks. Pressing the strong attack button by itself will produce a different strike depending on how your character is situated. If you are right next to the opponent, it may throw them... if you are a step away it will punch them... in the air it may kick. The game attacks the opponent as necessary given the situation of the characters on the screen. While it may sound over simplified, it works really well in the grand scheme of things and I am not sure that I want to go back to the old way of controlling my Street Fighters.
This may all sound like the game is nothing more than a button masher's fantasy but that isn't exactly true. The game can be played, with some success, by people who know how to do nothing more than simply pound on the buttons... but those who take the time to look into the depth that I previously mentioned will easily be able to thwart them. Those simplistic controls are simply what sucks a player into the game, it's the detailed fighting system that lies underneath the surface that will grab and hold them there. Digging deeper will lead you into the world of cross-over attacks and air raids, chain combos, Baroque combos, air combos, advancing guards, mega crashes, assists, and team cross-overs and hyper combos. There is a ton there to learn and none of it is easily explained in writing. This is a review after all, and not a strategy guide, so I urge those of you interested in learning more about those systems to check out Capcom's official website
for the game as they have some extremely handy video tutorials explaining all of them.
There are plenty of options for how you will be fighting included in the TvC package. The game includes the standard arcade mode expected in most fighting games; completing this mode will allow you to view a newly designed manga-style ending scenes drawn exclusively for the game from the folks over at Udon Entertainment. This is honestly where you will spend the least of your time; players will want to spend some time here though because the Arcade mode is the key to unlocking the game's 5 hidden characters. You also have the option of playing through practice, survival, time attack, and various online modes. Note that we are talking about a Nintendo Wii game and I did say online modes.
Capcom has added full online support for this version of TvC, something that the original Japanese release lacked. Even though the dreaded friend codes to rear their ugly head(s), gamers do have access to ranked, unranked, and friend / rival battles through the Nintendo Wifi Connection. Unranked and friend / rival battles are just as they sound, but ranked battles allow gamers to earn "Battle Points" which will increase their online ranking and allow them to be matched with tougher opponents in future games. This is the exact same Battle Point and ranking system that is used in Street Fighter 4's online modes, complete with title and icon selection for your profile(s) as well. The online offering is sufficient but is definitely an area that both Nintendo and Capcom can improve on in the future.
The matchmaking process can be a little lengthy at times, though that may be resolved now as more people are getting their hands on the game. I will have to check back in later in order to accurately chime in on that aspecgt. The overall performance online though is about as good as any fighting game that I have seen. I am looking forward to spending a lot more time online with TvC, but thus far I have played about 20 matches online. Of those 20, 16 were perfect, lag free experiences. The matches where I did notice lag was more than playable and didn't really hamper the experience in any noticeable fashion... and of course there was the one match where it lagged so bad that I deemed it unplayable. I can deal with these sorts of numbers, I just hope that they continually strive to improve the performance as time goes on.
TvC takes a lot from its most successful predecessor, that being Marvel vs. Capcom 2 for the Sega Dreamcast, and institutes a lot of extras for the players to strive towards. Playing any of the modes in the game will allow the player to earn an in game currency called "Zenny". You can earn Zenny in a number of ways, playing a match, completing the game, even "participating" in the credits, which I will leave for you to discover on your own. That money can then be used to purchase items from an in game shop which includes things like art for the art gallery, character profiles, stage profiles, and alternate colors for all playable characters.
While the Japanese version required you to purchase the hidden characters in the game, the new version does not. You will simply need to fulfill some varying requirements in the Arcade mode to unlock them and make them immediately playable. Players will have to unlock their profiles and additional outfit colors though. Even though it isn't a ground breaking edition, this is a tried and true feature that keeps gamers coming back for more with a purpose. There is also an additional shooter / adventure game that can be unlocked as well. All of this adds to both the longevity of the game and offers a change of pace, all of which is welcome by the gamer.
Now, aside from the technical aspects of the game lets look at the most important part of any fighting game: the roster. I think that the roster that Capcom has included in TvC may be the best fighting game roster ever assembled. It is very apparent that Capcom was going for quality over quantity here at the final tally ended up with "only" 26 characters. I use the term "only" because some of the Vs. games in the past had upwards of 50-60 characters. Having a large roster such is those is a nice feature and looks good on the surface, but it is all for nothing if the roster isn't balanced and diverse. Look at the Mortal Kombat series for example. Sure some of the games had 30 characters, but that often included 2-3 sets of palette swapped characters which ultimately eliminated any diversity in the game. That is not a problem that TvC has to worry about. While there are a couple of characters, namely on the Tatsunoko side, which resemble and are based off of one another, they all control and play drastically different.
Every character included in this game plays and controls drastically different for that matter. On the Tatsunoko side of things, it is pretty much all new faces because most people are not familiar with these characters. You will see assorted characters ranging from a girl using a yo-yo as a weapon (Jun the Swan) to highly powered android robots with guns and lasers (Tekkaman and Casshan). To call the roster diverse is really an understatement. Capcom also made a very smart decision on their side of the roster too as half of the characters are new to the 2 dimensional fighting world. The traditional fighting staples are here like Ryu and Chun Li, but they also throw in the likes of Kaijin from the Onimusha series, Batsu from Rival Schools (making a 2 dimensional debut), and Viewtiful Joe. It really gives the game a truly refreshing feel when about 20 of the game's 26 characters (including hidden fighters) are completely new and playable in the hands of the players for the first time.
It may sound like I don't have anything bad to say about the game... well, honestly I don't. There are a few things that I do take issue with, such as the lengthy matchmaking process and the simplified control option available for Wiimote and Nunchuk users, but these aren't things that fundamentally break the game. I have faith in Capcom's ability to resolve the online issue(s) and I just don't use the control scheme that I spoke of... out of sight, out of mind.