By all rights, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is a game that should never have been released here in the West. In Japan, the characters from the Tatsunoko Productions side of things are classics: Ken the Eagle, Yatterman and the rest are the grandfathers of modern anime heroes of the sort found in Shonen Jump today. If you can imagine a hypothetical Hanna-Barbera vs. Capcom where Fred Flintstone and Yogi Bear threw down with Jill Valentine and Guile, that’s kind of like what Tatsunoko is like on the other side of the Pacific.
Here in the West, though, a mention of the decades-old Tatsunoko name won’t get you fond nostalgia – rather, you’re more likely to get blank looks and “Who the hell is this Tatsunoko guy?”
That’s a shame, because Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is a great 2D fighter, and a worthy heir to Capcom’s “Vs. Capcom” series in its own right, even if you don’t know who the hell half of the characters are.
It’s odd that the character roster can be one of the strongest selling points in a game where half of the cast is virtually unrecognizable to most people in the West, but that’s the case nonetheless. On the Tatsunoko side of things, you’ll get tons of brightly colored superheroes – and a villain or two – in masks and helmets with some bizarre choice in weaponry (ball toys, yo-yos and conductor batons are strangely effective in combat).
When it comes to Capcom, though, we get the most varied roster seen in a Versus title yet. Gone are the fifteen different Street Fighters – only Ryu, Chun-Li, and SF3‘s Alex make the cut – and in their place are characters like Dead Rising‘s Frank West, Viewtiful goddamn Joe, and even one of the girls from Quiz Nanairo Dreams, a quiz-game/dating sim released only in Japan in the mid-90s. It’s really a refreshing mix, and if you don’t find something inherently cool about Mega Man‘s Zero crossing swords with the ex-Yakuza superhero from Karas, then … um, you should.
Behind the awesome-as-balls character roster lies a surprisingly robust combat system. It’s standard Versus fare, in a way – you’ve got two characters who can tag out in the middle of a fight to heal up some damage, or who can be called in for an Assist to make a combo hit that much harder. You’ve got juggle attacks, you’ve got supers and specials, and then some more advanced systems like the game’s Baroque combos that provide additional depth for players who are willing to take the game seriously.
If you aren’t a hardcore fighter fan, though, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is surprisingly accessible, blending its Marvel vs. Capcom 2 core with a dab of Super Smash Bros‘ ease of use. When played with the Wii Remote & Nunchuck, there is only one Attack button and one Special button: Ryu’s trademark Hadoken changes from “quarter-circle-forward, punch” to “press the Special button.” It means that younger or less experienced gamers can still start pulling off combos and super attacks with the best of them – but if you’re going to be playing Tatsunoko seriously, the Wii Remote is no substitute for a good controller or arcade stick.
It’s fun, it’s easy to pick up and play, but there’s also more meat to Tatsunoko to sink your teeth into if that’s what you’re looking for. It might not have as much depth to it as, say, Street Fighter IV or BlazBlue, but it’s a solid, flashy face-breaker that’s entertaining on a bunch of different levels. Tatsunoko looks pretty sharp for a Wii title, with all of the characters rendered smartly in cel-shaded 3D, and the screen bursting with colorful visual effects, though the limits of the console are obvious (and it would have been nice to see this in full high-definition glory).
But 360 and PS3 owners shouldn’t just hope for a port because the game would look nice in high-definition, they should hope for a port because Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is a worthy successor to the Marvel throne, a great fighter standing on its own merits, and one of the best games released on the Wii in a very long time. You can appreciate it if you’re a hardcore fighter, you can appreciate it if you’re a button-masher, you can appreciate it if you’re a diehard Japanophile, and you can appreciate it if you’ve never heard of Tatsunoko before in your lives.
And let’s face it, that last one is probably you.
Bottom Line: Tatsunoko vs. Capcom looks great on the Wii, is fun to play for virtual kung-fu masters and frantic button-thumpers alike, and contains the best roster we’ve seen in a Versus title in years. It’s a genuine – and well-deserved – follow-up to the classic Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and a blast and a half, even if you don’t recognize any of the Tatsunoko characters (and you won’t).
Recommendation: If you have a Wii and have ever enjoyed a fighting game before in your life, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is worth a rent at the very least.
John Funk would totally rock the hell out of Hanna-Barbera vs. Capcom. Yabba-dabba-douken!