Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars Review
Don't let the obscure character list turn you off: this deep yet accessible fighter is a welcome addition to the Wii's meagre fighting game stocks.
- Varied roster and characters
- Tight and satisfying fighting mechanics
- Extremely accessible controls
- Great looking
- Smooth online play.
- Poor online matchmaking options
- Bare bones single-player modes.
Complexity is in the DNA of most modern fighting games, and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is no exception. The game's hefty character list, intricate mechanics, and hyperkinetic presentation could easily spook fighting first-timers, potentially sending them running from the room when they see terms like "advancing guard," "crossover air raid," or "baroque combo" flash across the screen. But while fighting veterans will revel in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom's deeply satisfying combat, the game is without a doubt one of the easiest in the genre to jump into, thanks to control schemes that cater to everyone from brawling neophytes to air combo aficionados. Some character balance issues and a more-difficult-than-necessary online experience hold it back, but if you're a Wii owner and you've been itching for a fight, then Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is a great sparring partner no matter what your starting skill level.
Last year's Street Fighter revival reinvigorated the fighting genre, but don't expect the same type of experience from Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. Tatsunoko is far more fast-paced than Street Fighter IV and is more akin to Capcom's classic Vs. title, Marvel vs. Capcom 2. This 2.5D fighter (3D characters on a 2D plane) lets you choose two playable characters, and you'll be able to switch between them at almost any time during a match. Just as in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, smart switching is vital, not only because a newly switched character is momentarily open to attack, but also because "resting" characters slowly regain a portion of their lost health. Swapping characters also plays strongly into offensive and defensive strategies, with tag-ins used to lengthen combos or disrupt enemy attacks.
The basic control scheme in Tatsunoko has been simplified from previous Vs. titles to now feature only four buttons: three for attacks (light, medium, and strong) and one dedicated for calling in your partner to assist. Special moves are performed using a variety of quarter-circle, half-circle, charge, and button combos, while the game's flashy hyper combo attacks are similarly done using D pad/stick movements in conjunction with button presses. These over-the-top hypers vary in effectiveness, but they do share the common trait of being visually spectacular. They range from the functional (Ryu's shinku hadoken) to the brutal (Polimar's multihit illusion destructive fist) and even include the comical (Roll's tsunami-from-a-bucket finisher called Oh. No. You. Didn't.).
The game may seem less complex because it uses fewer buttons, but this simplicity belies the depth of each character's move set. Combining D pad/stick direction with button presses changes the nature of an attack; pressing strong while standing, for example, performs an uppercut, while pressing the same button while holding down on the D pad results in a sweep. The same applies to special moves; the attack button you use determines the direction or effect of an attack or, in some cases, changes a move entirely. There's plenty of intricacy to be found in Tatsunoko, and it will take some serious play time with the game's rock-solid mechanics to get the nuances of each character down pat.
Whatever character you choose, offence is the key, and the game lets you--skill permitting--notch ground and air hit combos well into the double digits. You can add even more destruction thanks to the ability to string together hyper combos, release two at once, or even unleash ultrapowerful hypers that can take serious chunks out of any health bar. A lot of the fun in Tatsunoko comes from finding and experimenting with new combos, a joy that's topped only by the satisfaction you feel when you successfully carry out a devastating multihit attack on your opponents. Your defensive options are similarly varied. Pressing the three attack buttons at once while blocking pushes an opponent back, giving you more room to manoeuvre away, while pressing all four buttons will perform a mega crash which will disrupt opponents mid-combo and throw them across the screen (although this uses up two hyper combo meters). You can also sacrifice any red health you have--the portion of a character's lost health that would normally recover over time when not in battle--for a momentary boost in power. Called a baroque combo, this can be used to extend combos and can be particularly devastating in expert hands because of the increase in damage temporarily bestowed.
This might all sound rather complex, but the game's different control schemes do an outstanding job of making it accessible to everyone, from absolute newcomers to frame-counting fighting veterans. Experienced players will naturally gravitate to using a Classic Controller or GameCube controller (if not a fight stick), with the Classic's D pad proving to be responsive and thoroughly dependable. The game also has two simpler setups: one using the Wii Remote solely and the other using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. Both of these condense the controls even further, assigning one button for all attacks and one button for all special moves (with the move you bust out dependent on the direction of the D pad/control stick). It sounds limiting, and for those serious about their fighting games, it is. But these simple control schemes are surprisingly robust, allowing you to pull off hypers, most special moves, and some basic combos. The simplified control schemes make playing a rewarding experience for novices, allowing them to become instantly competitive against more practiced players, as well as letting them pull off flashy sequences normally reserved for experts. Tatsunoko also gives you the option of having your character's move list appear on the top third of the screen at all times, eliminating the need to pause the game, check a move, and then unpause. If you've shied away from fighting games for fear of being unable to do a simple fireball, then Tatsunoko is the game for you.