TOKYO--We've been fiending to play more of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom ever since we got word of the crazy fighter mashup earlier this year. For those unfamiliar with the game, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom pits characters from various Capcom titles against characters from anime giant Tatsunoko Production Co. Ltd. The end result is a Marvel vs. Capcom 2-style brawler that features over-the-top visuals married to tight gameplay. Originally announced only as an arcade title, the game has since been confirmed for the Wii. Capcom had an early, work-in-progress version of the game running on the Wii at this year's Tokyo Game Show, so we naturally had to get our hands on it to see how it was coming along.
The playable demo was your basic versus mode that pitted you against AI opponents on randomly selected stages. The modest battle selection was buffed out with a roster of eight selectable characters from both Capcom and Tatsunoko universes. The Capcom side featured Street Fighters Ryu, Chun Li, and Alex from Third Strike, Morrigan from DarkStalkers, Batsu from Rival Schools, Soki from Onimusha Dawn of Dreams, Rock Vonutt from Mega Man Legends (basically Mega Man), and PTX-40A from Lost Planet (one of the vital suits from the game). The Tatsunoko side of things featured a mix of characters who may not be familiar to everyone in the states. Arguably the best-known character is Ken the eagle from Gatchaman (better known as G-Force in the US). The others, as best as we can tell, are Casshern, Tekkaman, Yatterman, Hurrican Polymer, Doronjo, Karas, and Golden Lightan. The demo let you pick a team of two fighters to use in battle.
Each of the characters has an array of special and super attacks that you'll pull off via a mix of D pad motions and button combos. A fair chunk of the moves follow the standard Street Fighter model of quarter- and half-circle motions and button presses, with some charge moves thrown into the mix as well. Super attacks require your super meter to have at least one charge on it as well as a more involved controller input. Once you get the hang of the timing you'll also be able to stack supers and do team supers for maximum onscreen craziness.
Tatsunoko's basic combat system uses a four button system that breaks down into light medium and fierce attacks as well as a partner assist button that calls in your teammate for a quick attack or lets you swap fighters entirely. You'll be able to dash by double-tapping forward or backward and perform a super jump by tapping up and down on the D pad quickly. Speaking of the D pad and the game's control scheme, the game is playable with either the remote and Nunchuk or the classic controller. We tried the remote and Nunchuk combo briefly and, while it's entirely possible to play with that control option, we reckon fighting fans will be reaching for the classic controller just as we did. While the classic controller isn't a replacement for a proper arcade stick, it's a more comfortable fit.
The visuals in the game are almost arcade-perfect from the look of things, which isn't too surprising considering the arcade hardware it runs on is based on the Wii. The characters sport a fair amount of detail and make the most of their modest polygon counts. The same holds true of the environments, which feature a nice array of detail and moving objects. The rest of the game's polygon budget gets lavishly spent on the super moves, which are over-the-top, eyeball-spinning light shows of madness. Much like the old 2D Versus games, Tatsunoko's supers feature over-the-top visuals. Ryu's super fireball is a massive screen-filling blast, while Morrigan's Darkness Illusion features a host of visual fireworks as she pummels her target. At the moment our favorite super is probably Ken from Gatchaman, as it involves slamming his opponent with the fiery phoenix seen in the anime. Finally, we have to call out the good dose of crazy--in the form of some of the larger characters such as Gold Lightan and PTX-40A--being tossed into the mix. Gold Lightan was actually playable on occasion in our demo when we picked our fighters through random select. When Lightan came up we didn't get a partner to use in battle, which was fine since Lightan literally takes up an entire screen.
The game's audio is definitely in the same spiritual family as the Marvel vs. Capcom games and gets a lot of mileage out of the familiar themes from the different properties. You'll hear the various character's theme songs weave in and out of the battle tunes. Better still are the various sound effects that serve as pitch-perfect complements to the goofiness. This is especially true during the over-the-top super attacks.
Based on what we played, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is a winning sign that Capcom's developers are well on their way to finding a new 3D groove. The game is fast, fun to play, and looks great. While it may lack the high-gloss sheen of Street Fighter IV, the game more than makes up for it with its lively personality. Anyone who's been hankering for another Capcom "versus" title in the vein of Marvel vs. Capcom or Marvel vs. Street Fighter needs to keep an eye out for Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. The horrible twist to all this is that anyone interested in the game will want to keep an eye out for the import release of the title, which is set to hit Japan this December. From the sound of things, the odds of the game being released stateside fall somewhere in between "slim" and "none" due to the licensing briar patch caused by all the Tatsunoko characters. That said, we can't think of a better reason to import a Wii in 2008. Look for more on Tatsunoko vs. Capcom in the months to come.