Tatsunoko vs. Capcom Review
It’s staggering how many Japanese games there are that never make it to America. This is understandable in part: many of these games are poorly made, or are otherwise totally incomprehensible for American audiences (case in point, Sega’s Sukeban Shachou Rena, about a cat who has to run a Japanese business. Wearing a cat suit). Then again, some of them just don't seem like they would find a very receptive audience with Western gamers (Sukeban is one of the worst selling Wii games to date, even inside Japan). Although only import gamers could say for sure, most of the time this seems like a fairly accurate assumption.
Tatsunoko Production seems to be a good example of this phenomenon. This famed Japanese animation studio has had a huge cultural presence in its native country since the 1960s, but virtually no one has heard of them in America, at least not by name. You may be familiar with some the properties it’s brought to U.S. shores—G-Force, Samurai Pizza Cats, Robotech and Neon Genesis Evangelion being a few—but probably haven’t been as aware of the studio itself (as compared to, say, Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli). This is exactly why I never, ever thought Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, the latest in Capcom’s quirky “Vs.” series, would ever reach the West. How the hell could Capcom possibly sell a game where roughly half the roster was made up of anime characters most Western gamers had never even heard of? The legal issues involved with the licenses for the various Tatsunoko IPs present in the game made its chances of localization slim, to say the least.
And yet, Capcom has not only proved me wrong, but for the most part, done us all one better: the U.S. release of Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom has been re-tuned and re-polished, with new characters and online play added exclusively for the international release. I don’t know what kind of deal Capcom had to strike to get this one out to the rest of the world, but thank god they did, because this easily the most fun I’ve had with a fighting game in a long time. Nothing against Street Fighter IV (which is one of the best balanced fighting games to come along in years, minus the inclusion of Seth) or its superlative younger sibling that’s supposed to hit this April, but I’ve always preferred the less-technical, more insane feeling of the Vs. series. Thankfully, Tatsunoko is easier to digest than more ‘hardcore’ fighters, though it has a few tricks up its sleeve for the more fighting-savvy. It’s also may be the goofiest entry in the Vs. series, particularly thanks to the relative unknowns representing Tatsunoko.
Take Gold Lightan, for example. He’s a 25-foot tall gold-plated lighter. Casshan has a giant robot dog that breathes fire, among other things. Doronjo has her two henchmen, Boyacky and Tonzura, take care of almost all her fighting for her, ordering them to drop crap from the sky and cause other comic mischief. I haven’t seen such a ridiculous and obscure cast since Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and thankfully this time the art isn’t creepy. Actually, the obscurity of the Tatsunoko characters only helps add to the game’s charm. One need only discover the game’s credit sequence, with Dorojo and her cronies pedaling a three-person bicycle in silhouette to an upbeat version of Offenbach’s “Can-Can”, to see that - and leaving their voicework in its un-translated native Japanese also helps. Even if you don’t know who these characters are, you’ll quickly grow close to many of them.
On the Capcom side, Frank West can summon zombies in shopping carts and will blind his enemy by putting a Servbot mask on his head before sending him into a horde of undead, for instance. And while most of the rest of the Capcom crew is a little more serious, the bizarre additions to their half of the roster are crazy enough as is, with Onimusha’s Soki, the aforementioned Frank, Viewtiful Joe, Rival Schools’ Batsu and Lost Planet’s star VS, PTX-40A (among others), all ready to put up their dukes. Even more funny cameos and guest appearances appear in the game’s various stages (you gotta love the Geschellcraft stage from Mega Man Legends) as well as many of the character endings, newly drawn up from the folks at Udon. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Vs. entry without being over-the-top as well, and damn near everyone in Tatsunoko has attacks that capture the chaotic feeling the series has become known for—basically, the game’s infectious personality is readily apparent everywhere.
Gameplay wise, fans of the Vs. series should be right at home with this one. It basically plays like Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, but with two-on-two tagged matches (vs. MvC2’s three-on-three) and a streamlined control scheme that uses three regular attacks and one partner button used to tag the other character on your two-man team in and out (unless you’re playing as Gold Lightan or PTX-40A). Tatsunoko still has all the requisite cancels and tagging (mid-air or grounded), super combos, counters and defensive breakaways you would expect, it’s just easier to handle. If you can perform a quarter or half-circle, (basically if you can land a hadoken with Ryu) you’ll probably do just fine here. As in other Vs. titles, special attacks can be performed solo or with both characters on the team. For the more dedicated players, there’s also baroque mode, which sacrifices some of your red health bar (i.e. the part that would regenerate if you tagged your character out) to cancel your current move mid-way (not unlike SFIV’s EX moves), allowing for some truly insane combo chains. So, whether you’re a seasoned vet or a novice fighting game fan, chances are you’ll be able to enjoy Tatsunoko. I would strongly recommend playing the game with either the classic controller or Mad Catz’ own incredibly solid Tatsunoko-branded fighting stick over the Wiimote and Nunchuk-combo, however.
I do have a couple of complaints about U.S. release of the game, but they are minor. First, the character roster: having 26 characters is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s nothing compared to the overkill madness that was MvC2’s 50-something strong army of fighters. Capcom, if you’re reading this, I would have loved to see Resident Evil’s Jill come back for another round, or Ameratsu, Dante or the bionic-armed Nathan Spencer show up. And if the game had Dino Crisis’s Regina fighting with both dinos and maybe a third energy weapon of some kind? That would be amazing. Considering how fast the Tatsunoko characters grew on me, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them, as well—Tatsunoko’s producer has hinted at the possibility of seeing new fighters coming down the pike as DLC, so maybe, just maybe, some of these characters might actually be considered.
Second, and more importantly, the Japanese release of the game had 22 mini-games—one for each character. We get one: PTX-40A’s top down Lost Planet shooter. This is awesome, but it would’ve been even better if the rest of them had made it stateside (I guess the addition of a great online mode helps to offset this oversight a little). But honestly, for a game that caters so much to fan service, it just seems wrong that these mini-games would be cut. Please, Capcom, can we have the rest of them back?
Aside from these small issues, though, Tatsunoko’s one of the best you’re going to find as far as current fighting games go, and is without question the best available for the Wii. If you like fighters you shouldn’t hesitate to go get it, if only because it’s further approval of Capcom’s great track record for Wii support. That, and it’s great to see the kids from G-Force kicking ass again.