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I'm an IMMENSE fan of the Capcom vs. series (In fact, I called Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 the single greatest fighting game of all time). So when I say that Capcom's latest entry in the vs. series, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is just okay, please believe me when I say it, as this is coming from the very bottom of my heart. Trust me, if it were up to me, I would be throwing garlands at Capcom right now for yet another perfect entry in the vs. series. But the fact of the matter is, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom just isn't all that great. Sure, it’s good and you’ll have quite a bit of fun with it, but it’s not great, and I think that’s what stings the most for me with this game—it’s an overall decent product, but I was expecting greatness.
I’ll get this out the way early by saying that the greatest problem I have with this game is the characters: they’re too different and strange to really be enjoyable. In the Marvel vs. Capcom series, we had familiar faces like Wolverine and, er, bone claw Wolverine. I mean, even with the less popular, but probably more esteemed, Capcom vs. SNK series, we had characters like Terry Bogard and Mai Shiranui from the SNK camp. Sure, Terry and Mai aren’t as recognizable as say, Spiderman or Captain America, but they’re still fairly easy to point out by any American fighting game fan, as what fighting fanatic hasn’t played an SNK fighter (i.e. Samurai Shodown Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, etc) before in their life? A philistine fighter, that’s who!
But with the Tatsunoko franchise, I seriously only know one character out of the entire line-up, and that’s Ken the Eagle, who I only know from seeing in those pretty rad Battle of the Planet comics. In other words, most of these characters are just too FOREIGN for me. I want to like them, but I can’t, I really, really can’t. There’s just something about them that I tend to steer away from like the plague.
Now, before you go and start pegging me as some sort of xenophobic prick, hear me out for a second. I found that many times playing this game, I would be cursing the screen and saying, “What the hell?! Why doesn’t my super work?!” only to find that I was actually using a character named Casshan instead of Polimar, who both seriously look like a character in this game called Ippatsuman. I mean, honestly, who the hell are Polimar and Ippatsuman? Do you know who they are? Have you ever even HEARD of characters named Polimar or Ippatsuman before? Am I even pronouncing Ippatsuman (E-pot-sue-mon? Is that right?) correctly? What the hell is going on here?! What dimension have I seemed to have drifted off into?!
True, my ignorance may be shining brightly right now, but I think a great deal of my problem is that some of the characters in the Tatsunoko universe just aren’t that aesthetically different or appealing. I’m sure if you’re a Tatsunoko otaku, you’ll ardently disagree with me, but when I see a character like the Incredible Hulk, I KNOW I’m The Incredible Hulk and NOT Spiderman or Gambit. Name brand recognition is important for a reason—it allows you to feel comfortable and at home with the brand or product in question. But Tatsunoko doesn’t make me feel comfortable at all. In fact, it makes me feel quite the opposite, as I feel confused and frustrated when I hear the name Tatsunoko and play as these characters, which turns me off instantly as I can’t relate to them.
But, yes, you’re right, enough bitching about the characters in this game. I have yet another, probably even more damning problem with this title and that’s the controls, which are dumbed down to an extreme level. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I know, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 only had four attack buttons—two punches and two kicks, plus, two other buttons to call upon your teammates—so in a way, MvC2 was a dumbing down of the original MvC, which used all six buttons for attacking. But Tatsunoko vs. Capcom takes it a step further by having only THREE attack buttons this time, and this takes some SERIOUS getting used to if you’re accustomed to playing any of the older Capcom vs. titles. I understand what Capcom was trying do here with this Wii-exclusive game—they were trying to maintain the keep-it-simple, stupid, mentality that the Wii thrives on by making it so accessible that pretty much anybody could pick it up and play it. But for a grizzled, fighting game veteran like myself, this title is just TOO dumbed down for my tastes. Playing against my brother, who is no Street Fighter veteran by any stretch of the imagination, he must have beaten me about half the time we played together, and that just shouldn’t be, as I NEVER lose to an amateur with these vs. titles. I’ve been playing too long for any of that crap.
In a way, you know what this game reminds me of? It kind of reminds me of playing the almost perfectly balanced Tekken 3 and then going up against an Eddy Gordo or Hwoarang player, as they just mash the buttons and somehow find their way to victory. Note: Fighting games should NOT be delegated to button mashing. They should be delegated to skill and skill alone, and any game where a player who has never played the game before can just mash all the buttons and still be victorious represents an inferior product to me, and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is inferior to the other Capcom vs. titles in every sort of way, no question about it.
Phew, that’s a whole lot of vitriol, right? I MUST not like this game at all, right? Not so fast, Buckaroo Banzai, as there are actually quite a few features that I DID like about this game, and it keeps the game from being a total disaster in my eyes. For one, as much as I rag on the remedial control scheme, I DID find that I couldn’t put the game down during my playtime with it. Combos, even though you can perform them in like, three button presses, were fun to link with air combos, and they made for some pretty amazing hang time sequences, with tag supers always making for a good time.
Also, while I did have that whole rant before about how some of the characters are just terrible, some of them are actually pretty cool. Viewtiful Joe, Alex (From Street Fighter 3), and even some massive beast named Gold Lightan from the Tatsunoko side, are awesome beyond words, and I had a blast playing with them. Since this is a vs. fighter, you have two characters who you can switch back and forth between (No third fighter, a la, MvC2, though, I’m afraid), and two of the characters, the aforementioned Gold Lightan and Capcom’s own PTX-40A from Lost Planet are SO big that you’re only allowed to use them by themselves and not allowed to pick a second player, which makes for some epic battles against the smaller characters.
I also like the graphics and music, surprisingly. Usually, these vs. titles are just cheesy when it comes to the soundtrack (“I wanna take you for a riiiiide!”” Barf!), but for some reason, the music in this game is actually pretty good, and I like how the Wii handled the visuals, as they’re cartoony but polygonal at the same time, making for some pretty interesting visuals.
So, there you have it. If you REALLY like fighting games, then you’ll just like this game. But if you’re NOT that big a fighting fan, then you’ll probably love this game, because it doesn’t ask that much out of you. Add an extra half point to the score if you’re in the latter category rather than the former.
Players: 2 Player
Platform(s): Nintendo Wii