When Tatsunoko vs. Capcom was released for the Wii in Japan six months ago, a US release was deemed to be about as likely as a flock of unicorns showing up on your doorstep. The colorful fighter was essentially a new entry in Capcom's long dormant VS. series, which pitted characters from Capcom's beloved stable of fighters against Marvel and SNK characters over various games. But, whereas the previous VS. games saw a stateside release, the licensing issues surrounding the anime characters from anime giant Tatsunoko Production Co. Ltd. appeared to be an insurmountable end boss destined to block the promising fighter from ever seeing the light of day in the US. Fast forward six months past positive critical reception in Japan, as well as the expected fan noisemaking over the game not coming to the states and... Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is announced for a stateside release. The game, now dubbed Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, is slated to hit the Wii this year. We checked in with Capcom to get an updated look at the game and find out what the US game will contain.
If you haven't been following Tastunoko's genesis, we'll offer a brief history lesson. The game began life in Japanese arcades in the latter half of 2008. The fighter was developed in conjunction with Eighting, whose resume includes the latter Bloody Roar games, Naruto, and Bleach fighters, on arcade hardware based on Nintendo's Wii. As we mentioned earlier, the game is a mash-up featuring 11 Capcom characters drawn from the Street Fighter, Mega Man, Darkstalkers, Onimusha, Rival Schools, Lost Planet, and Viewtiful Joe franchises, as well as a Japan-only quiz game called Quiz Nanairo Dreams, and pitting them against 11 characters from nine of Tatsunoko's anime properties. While the bulk of the Tatsunoko roster may not exactly jump out to anyone unfamiliar with anime, two characters might be recognizable to some: Ken the Eagle and Jun the Swan from the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman series, which made its way to the states as Battle of the Planets where they went by the names of Mark and Princess. A home version of the game was released shortly after its official arcade release in December of the same year. In addition to containing a perfect conversion of the arcade game, the Wii game featured a meaty collection of unlockables, ranging from characters and music to more than 20 minigames centered on each fighter.
So how much of that content is making it home? This is where things get interesting because the game is going to differ from its Japanese counterpart. Longtime fans of Capcom's fighters may think they know what to expect based on the minor tweaks that have been made to home versions over the years, but Tatsunoko will be different. Rather than tweak a character name here or there, such as changing Akouma to Gouki or Vega to Bison as we've seen in the past, Tatsunoko is getting some proper work done. First, there will be some slight tweaks to the game's roster. Capcom is still working on finalizing the specifics, but it sounds as though there may be some minor pruning done to the Tatsunoko side of the roster. What that amounts to is still being determined because talks are ongoing. We're pleased to hear that the goal is to keep the roster balanced on both sides, so any pruning done will require some addition to keep things balanced. This could wind up meaning a higher roster count and additional stages for the US game, which is fine by us.
Next is word on the games content. While it's safe to expect most of the modes from the Japanese version of the game to make it over, US fans shouldn't expect a straight dump of the import game. The Japanese game features four main play modes, arcade, versus, survival, time attack, and training that will focus on the game's core fighting. In addition, a separate minigames mode lets up to four players compete in the various character specific unlockable mingame modes. We expect most of these modes to make it in to the US version of the game, but we're more excited about the potential addition of online gameplay to the game for the US. Online play is always a welcome thing to see in a Wii game; but, for a fighter like Tatsunoko, this is mana from heaven for fighting fans. So we're going to cross our fingers that the stars align and this happens.
The most interesting factor in Tatsunoko's US conversion is Capcom's approach to determining how to handle content in the US game. Given the success and general positive reaction to the fan community's feedback throughout Street Fighter IV's development, the publisher is keeping its ear to the ground to hear what its community would like to see in the US version of the game. Obviously, not everything that's asked for will make it in, but we're still going to suggest that the entire Darkstalkers cast be added anyway. And, considering the impact community feedback had on Street Fighter IV, this is a unique opportunity for fans to make themselves heard.
Of course, none of that would matter much if Tatsunoko wasn't fun to play. And, thankfully, it is fun. The game is very much in the same vein as the old VS. games and features a tag system that lets you use two fighters in a match. The fighting system isn't as complex as Street Fighter IV's system and offers a faster paced, flashier experience that is, unsurprisingly, more in line with Marvel vs. Capcom 2. The game features a lean four-button fighting system that breaks down into three attack buttons: light, medium, and heavy. It also features a partner assist button that calls in your second character for a brief attack or switches characters. Fighters have their own set of special moves that you'll perform by doing some combination of a motion on the D pad or analog stick (the Japanese game supports just about every controller combo under the sun for the Wii) and a one- or two-button press. In addition, you'll be able to perform powerful hyper combos if you charge up your character's power meter during battle. Outside of the various attack types, Tatsunoko features a good bit of depth to be mined by mastering various combos and attack cancellations, which touches on just some of the advanced techniques to try out. While it may all sound a little daunting, the game is pretty easy to pick up and play, mastering all of the techniques might take some work.
The solid fighting system is complemented by bright, detailed visuals, which feature an art style that falls somewhere between straight anime and the more finished art style seen in some of the later VS. fighters, such as Capcom vs. SNK. The most striking aspect of the game is its 3D makeover for the various characters. While the gameplay is firmly rooted on the 2D plane, the visuals have a sharp 3D look to them and feature flashy special effects that sell the various over-the-top attack animations. There's a definite anime sensibility to the action that fits nicely with the flashy visuals for which the VS. games are known. We're most impressed with the game's fluid animation and speed, which is in line with the old 2D fighters.
The same anime aesthetic applies to the game's audio, which meshes the various character themes together into bouncy tunes that fit the action. Longtime fans may not find the tunes to be quite as memorable as some of the older games, but they do have charm. The game even has some old-school touches where the music speeds up as the round ends. The voice is, as you'd expect, spot-on in the Japanese version, so we'll hope the US version of Tatsunoko will offer English and Japanese audio options.
Based on this early look, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is shaping up to be the kind of feel-good story we wish we came across more often. The Japanese game was a lot of fun and would have been an excellent addition to the Wii's anemic collection of fighters. The notion of getting a beefed-up version of the game for the US is a most welcome surprise. If you're a Wii owner hungering for some fighting love, you will want to be on the lookout for Tatsunoko vs. Capcom when it ships later this year for the Wii. Look for more on the game on our E3 stage show.