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Tatsunoko Vs Capcom : Cross Generation of Heroes

by Greg Leahy - February 10, 2009, 4:53 pm PST
Total comments: 9

8.5

It's Ryu vs Ken, just not as we know it, in this spirited revival of the character cross-over arcade fighter series.

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes renews the publisher's tradition of putting its all-stars up against another stable of characters in a two vs. two tag team fighting competition. This occasion sees the likes of Ryu and Morrigan butting heads with the creations of the storied anime studio Tatsunoko Production. While many of the characters will not resonate very strongly with Western gamers, they still prove to be an excellent fit for the gloriously over-the-top style of the Vs. games. More importantly, developer Eighting has succeeded in tweaking the Vs. fighting formula to make it more accessible while maintaining a suitable degree of strategic depth, resulting in an outstanding traditional fighting experience on Wii.

Before beginning the review in earnest, it should be noted that I am a somewhat lapsed gamer with respect to the fighting genre. It all gets rather fuzzy from the late nineties onwards, and thus I am not directly familiar with the conventions and intricacies of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom's more recent forebears.

As a vehicle for the return of the Vs. series—most famous for pitting Capcom's finest against the likes of Spider-Man and Wolverine in the Marvel vs. Capcom games—the use of Tatsunoko Production is inevitably a curious choice to Western gamers. Headlined by Ken the Eagle from the 1970s Gatchaman anime series (brought to the West as Battle of the Planets and G-Force), the Tatsunoko roster is unlikely to rouse many fond memories from people reading this review, and at a glance can seem a little homogeneous thanks to a preponderance of guys wearing white headgear and visors.

However, there are some appealing, unique Tatsunoko designs that blend in rather nicely with Capcom's line-up, which itself seems somewhat deliberately obscure. The game includes the gun-toting Saki Omokane, who hails from a quiz game, yet Resident Evil is not represented at all. What's more, the Tatsunoko characters' anime roots are very well-exploited in their Super and Hyper combo attacks, employing plenty of giant robots and sudden explosions of energy to dazzling and often hilarious effect, and so in time they come to feel like quite a natural fit for the series.

In contrast, neither side's properties are used well in the stage backgrounds, which sometimes seem generic and not directly inspired by anything in particular. There are a few exceptions, such as the Mega Man Legends airship overrun by Servbots, or the glowing, villainous hideout from Gatchaman, but then there's utterly plain locales such as an urban Japanese landscape and a rural Japanese landscape.

Every character brings his or her own musical theme and voice work, and you'll be hearing quite a lot of them if you have a favourite character as their fanfare is used whenever they enter the fray . The quality of the instrumentation used for the music is generally a little weak, and the repetition makes it easy for some of the voices and/or music to become grating. However, there's good audio work in here too (the arrangement of Chun-Li's Street Fighter II stage theme, for instance), and the constant cries, shifts in musical theme, and excellent sound effects come together to help heighten the sense of frenetic action taking place.

Obscure anime characters aside, veterans of Capcom's previous Vs. fighters should find Tatsunoko vs. Capcom comfortably familiar, but some changes have been made to the template. Once again, teams of two characters duke it out against each other along a 2D plane, only now the fighters and environments are polygonal models as opposed to hand-drawn sprites. This allows for very fluid animation and some effective, dynamic camera work, while the attractive cel-shaded aesthetic helps keep things consistent with the visual styles of the characters' source materials. Some rough edges are visible when viewing the action on a big screen TV, but the visuals still benefit greatly from a widescreen presentation thanks to the vibrant colours and many luminous special effects on show.

Any concerns over the polygonal graphics affecting gameplay are quickly dismissed, as the action is fast (though not the fastest in the Vs. series), the controls highly responsive, and the hit detection impeccable. Where Tatsunoko vs. Capcom departs from its predecessors is in its control scheme, which has been significantly streamlined. Separate punch and kick attack buttons have been collapsed down into three general attack inputs (weak-medium-strong), and when added to the partner button, this makes the scheme a perfect fit for the Wii Classic Controller's four face buttons. Fighters retain a broad range of standard attacks, so the decision to make the control scheme more inviting for players unaccustomed to (or out of practice with) the seven button layout is certainly a worthy one, and there's something to be said of the less convoluted control scheme, irrespective of a player's experience level.

The D-pad/control stick inputs required to perform special moves and even the Super combos are largely uncomplicated, consisting mostly of quarter-circle motions or variants thereof. This relative uniformity makes each character quite easy to use straight off the bat without having to consult the command list (which conveniently is always accessible from the pause menu), though this similarity makes individual move sets somewhat forgettable. More importantly, it is all too easy to inadvertently execute one special attack while intending to perform another when using the small D-pad of the GameCube controller. However, with a little practice or the greater precision of the Classic Controller (or for true fighting aficionados, an arcade stick), this shouldn't be a significant issue.

Eighting has also included Wii Remote control schemes (with or without a Nunchuk) that simplify things further by primarily using only two buttons: one each for standard and special attacks, and both together for Super combos, with no control stick/D-pad motions necessary. This level of simplification does begin to compromise the depth of the game, but it is a surprisingly functional setup that serves well as an entry-level scheme for newcomers to have fun learning the basics with a friend on a more level playing field.

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom benefits from the Vs. series tag team concept, which brings welcome dynamism to the contests as well as strategic possibilities. As damage is inflicted, a portion of the fighter's life bar is drained altogether, while some is turned red. By tagging that character out, the red section of the life bar can be regained over time, but whatever red remains when the character tags back in is lost. This creates some interesting scenarios with one player stalling to let a preferred character heal, while the other tries to press the advantage by forcing a quick change.

This health management aspect is enhanced by the new Baroque mechanic, which offers the possibility for devastating combos at the price of sacrificing the red portion of a character's life bar. Activated by pressing the partner button and an attack button simultaneously, this technique allows fighters to extend their combos while also boosting the damage inflicted (proportionally to the amount of red life expended), but the effect only lasts as long as the combo is sustained. This risk-reward design creates some real high-stakes scenarios, and leaves open the possibility for dramatic comebacks by sufficiently skilled players.

Even more so than usual for the Vs. series, the Super meter is an absolutely integral part of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. Building up as fighters both take and inflict damage (though more quickly in the latter case), this meter firstly powers Super combos. Each Super combo costs one notch from the Super meter. These are performed much in the same way as special moves, except two attack buttons are used rather than one, and the results are of course very much more damaging and spectacular.

Hyper combos require three Super levels to activate (the maximum that can be accumulated is five), and are far from guaranteed to connect with the target, but can totally annihilate foes in amusingly outrageous fashion when they do. Expect to see tidal waves, mushroom clouds, and of course plenty of giant robots getting involved, as Tatsunoko vs. Capcom uses these occasions to revel in epic absurdity, providing satisfaction whether as a potentially game-changing move or simply a laugh-out-loud funny sequence.

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom adds a new feature to the Vs. formula that brings the Super meter into defensive play as well, making its overall management a more strategic affair. The Mega Crash, performed by pressing all four buttons at once, creates a field around fighters that pushes opponents back, allowing them to escape from a combo at the price of two Super levels. Against advanced opponents this is an extremely important resource to have, and cavalier offensive use of the Super meter can be severely punished by a Baroque-powered string of attacks without the opportunity to Mega Crash out of it. In this way, the Mega Crash effectively dissuades Super-spamming.

Not everything is successfully balanced by the game's design though; given the many attacks with a wide damage radius flying around, the larger characters (such as Alex from Street Fighter III) are inevitably at a disadvantage. This issue is somewhat mitigated by the sheer power of the heavyweights' attacks, and a number of them can perform Snap Backs (which force a character swap) that can help make quick work of opponents. In many cases they're simply a lot of fun to play as, too, and like much of the line-up, they all bring something unique to the table. Still, some may be put off by their slow speed and innate vulnerability to a lot of the Supers and Hypers in the game.

With so much good work having gone into the visuals and fighting mechanics for the game, it is regrettable that Tatsunoko vs. Capcom comes up short in providing avenues to explore its depths. Firstly, there is no online multiplayer support, which significantly limits opportunities for players to test their skills against human opponents. This leaves single players with only an insubstantial standard arcade mode (consisting of a few fights before reaching a very cool final boss) as well as survival and time attack challenges to keep them occupied. A vast range of unlockables is available to discover, most notably four Wii-exclusive characters (one of which is Viewtiful Joe). There are also extra character colours, artwork, music, and Wii Remote-controlled mini-games. However, the main way to acquire these rewards is to simply keep playing those same three single player modes over and over again to earn in-game currency.

The Wii Remote-based mini-games are mostly inconsequential Track and Field-type button-mashing/Remote-flailing affairs, but there are a few notable ones, including a top-down shooter recreation of Lost Planet, complete with power-ups and boss fights. Up to four players can participate, but the mini-games are likely to remain no more than a mildly amusing diversion between bouts of the main game. Trying out these games is rewarded with more in-game currency, and this approach really should have been extended to versus fights to encourage continued play of the multiplayer mode with friends to slowly amass the many unlockables available.

It is a shame that the accessibility of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom's gameplay is somewhat negated by the unlikelihood that it will see a release outside of Japan, but those willing to brave the obscurity (and expense) of the import scene can rest assured that the language barrier is not a particular problem. Indeed, despite its relative obscurity, this game feels almost tailor-made for anyone eager to reconnect with the kind of fighting experience that's been in short supply on Nintendo consoles since the end of the 16-bit era. The outrageously fun but equally well-conceived fighting won't disappoint, and if you have friends you've just been longing to beat up with a giant transforming golden cigarette lighter robot, then Tatsunoko vs. Capcom carries the highest of recommendations.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
9 7 8.5 9 7 8.5
Graphics
9

Using polygonal models but in a striking cel-shaded style, Tatusnoko vs. Capcom's graphics are impressive and attractive while remaining totally functional for the demands of a traditional fighting game. The 3D graphics also allow for some slick dynamic camera work that accentuates the action effectively while recalling the game's anime inspirations.

Sound
7

The musical themes are not outstanding, and are sure to prove hit-and-miss with most players. Conversely, whether it's a simple punch to the body or an overweight genie spinning in mid-air, the sound effects complement every aspect of the action wonderfully, adding to the authenticity of the anime feel.

Control
8.5

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom makes many good decisions in the control area, both in its support of several different controllers and its streamlined button configurations. The Classic Controller is the preferred method, as it performs very well for a console controller (certainly much better than the GameCube pad), and there's always the arcade stick option for the truly dedicated fighting fan.

Gameplay
9

It's the same over-the-top take on traditional 2D fighting that many will remember from previous Vs. games, but the new controls alongside some clever additions to the fighting mechanics enhance its playability for novices and experts alike. The more modest speed compared with some Vs. instalments may disappoint a few veterans, but it's a satisfying pace overall.

Lastability
7

With a design that allows fighting to be enjoyed on multiple levels as players improve and learn the nuances of the mechanics, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom has the potential to become a competitive multiplayer mainstay. However, the weak single player content, poor incentive scheme, and lack of online support could just as easily render it only a short-lived bit of fun.

Final
8.5

Despite a veneer that might suggest that it is strictly for the most devoted fighting game and anime fans, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom has much greater appeal. Its stylish visuals and fluid gameplay walk the line between accessibility and depth more skilfully than many of its kind. At least one regular sparring partner is unquestionably required to enjoy the game to its fullest in the long-run, but the low barrier to entry, along with the spectacular buffoonery of its action, should make finding one not all that hard. They won't be sorry they joined in.

Summary

Pros
  • Carefully streamlined controls
  • Smooth and striking graphics
  • Well thought-out fighting mechanics
  • Wonderfully over-the-top action
Cons
  • Ineffective incentives for unlockables
  • No online multiplayer
  • Some generic backgrounds
  • Thin single player content
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

TJ SpykeFebruary 11, 2009

I know Capcom said they are looking into it, but I doubt this will ever get released outside of Japan due to the licensing issues (the Tatsunoko characters are licensed to multiple different companies, it's the same reason we never got Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars). I recently installed the Homebrew Channel though, so at least I can import it if I decide to buy it.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusFebruary 11, 2009

I appreciate the in-depth review here Greg. As a fan of the versus series, it seems from your description that the series has continued strongly with TvC. As such, I'll definitely have to look into (eventually) importing and playing through the use of the Homebrew Channel as mentioned by TJ Spyke above.

MarioIsFrenchFebruary 11, 2009

I have to mention tho, i find it peculiar that Capcom would make a VS game with Tatsunoko. It feels as if they developed this game strictly for Japan. I haven't heard any of these Tatsunoko characters except for tekkaman and i only know him because i play alot of Super Robot Wars. In contrast, the series in the other VS games have some international fame at the very least: X men, King of Fighters, namco, etc.

TJ SpykeFebruary 11, 2009

Tastsunoko approached Capcom and asked them to make the game, that's probably why. It's not like Capcom went to them and asked to use the characters. I think they knew it wasn't likely to be released outside of Japan, but the Tatsunoko characters are really popular in Japan.

Quote from: TJ

Tastsunoko approached Capcom and asked them to make the game, that's probably why. It's not like Capcom went to them and asked to use the characters. I think they knew it wasn't likely to be released outside of Japan, but the Tatsunoko characters are really popular in Japan.

It's funny, in this day and age of Japan's game industry in decline, that Capcom would greenlight a game that's so Japan-centric.

S-U-P-E-RTy Shughart, Staff AlumnusFebruary 15, 2009

As a doctor of fighting games who has had this game since it came out, I thought I'd drop by and basically agree with the review. No scrubbery escapes my eye, however:

Quote:

Not everything is successfully balanced by the game's design though; given the many attacks with a wide damage radius flying around, the larger characters (such as Alex from Street Fighter III) are inevitably at a disadvantage.

On the contrary, Alex is actually pretty good, or at least not bad - his grabs have huge range and speed, and he has some decent tools to get in close (airdashing, his dive canceled to command throw, crossing up with the stomp). Also, Alex's level 3, lols. Especially since DHCs exist.

As usual, my eyes/ears glaze over when Ty starts talking about fighters.  No idea what that analysis could mean.

Ty's comment is high praise indeed. Excellent work, Greg!

YoshidiousGreg Leahy, Staff AlumnusFebruary 15, 2009

Quote from: S-U-P-E-R

On the contrary, Alex is actually pretty good, or at least not bad - his grabs have huge range and speed, and he has some decent tools to get in close (airdashing, his dive canceled to command throw, crossing up with the stomp). Also, Alex's level 3, lols. Especially since DHCs exist.

I like Alex and use him quite frequently, he's a lot of fun to play with and I agree he's pretty useful too--he was used as an example more for just being a better known big character rather than one who I found to be particularly ineffective or anything.

As I noted in the review, I also like the fact that he (and a number of the other large characters) can do a Snap Back to instantly wipe out someone's red health, as that levels the playing field somewhat. However, I still think the bigger characters generally are at something of a fundamental disadvantage because they are so much more likely to get caught in/suffer chip damage from the area-of-effect moves (of which there are obviously many, including some really devastating Level 3s), and so a lot of people may be put off by that, which is something of a shame because a few of them are really fun to play with and certainly not useless by any means.

The game design makes a decent attempt at balancing the character types out but ultimately with the kind of game it is I just can't quite manage it completely.

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Wii

Game Profile

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All Stars Box Art

Genre Fighting
Developer Eighting
Players1 - 2

Worldwide Releases

na: Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All Stars
Release Jan 26, 2010
PublisherCapcom
RatingTeen
jpn: Tatsunoko Vs Capcom : Cross Generation of Heroes
Release Dec 11, 2008
PublisherCapcom
eu: Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All Stars
Release Jan 29, 2010
PublisherCapcom
Rating12+
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