There hasn’t been a better time to make a 2D Fighting game since the halcyon days of Street Fighter 2. After over a decade of relative inactivity, Street Fighter 4 (though I don’t like to admit it) has single-handedly revived the genre: a genre that was thought to be dead by pretty much everyone except the hardcore enthusiasts, who kept it alive via national tournaments. The franchise is now gloriously revered and celebrated worldwide once again.
Now, Capcom is reviving the “Versus” series, which has thus far consisted of Capcom characters fighting against characters from comic publisher Marvel. This time around, though, Capcom’s characters are pitted against characters from the famous anime company Tatsunoko. While less popular in America, Tatsunoko is renowned in Japan, and responsible for many popular animated TV series.
For those who have never played a “Versus” game, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom pits two teams of two characters against each other, tag-team style. Characters can dash, double jump, and air dash all over the place. Weaker normal attacks can chain into stronger attacks, which can be combo-ed into special attacks, and even more powerful super moves. Characters can launch their opponent sky-high and combo them in mid-air. Once both characters on a team have lost all their life, the match is over.
This is, more-or-less, what you’ve missed if you’ve never played a “Versus” game. The new elements of TvC are a few features borrowed from the Guilty Gear series (which, incidentally, borrowed from the original Capcom Versus games). Inspired by Guilty Gear‘s “Burst” mechanic are TvC‘s Mega Crashes. A Mega Crash is a special defensive maneuver that costs two stocks of meter from your super bar and a little bit of your character’s life, but pushes the opponent back, stopping a combo instantly in its tracks. Mega Crashes, contrary to Bursts, are much more crucial, since they can be used more often and have more pressing penalties to consider.
The second innovation is the Baroque system. Inspired by Guilty Gear‘s “Roman Cancels”, Baroques allow a character to use up the recoverable part of their life bar to immediately cancel any attack you’re doing. For example, pretend you were using Street Fighters‘ Chun-Li, and you do her Spinning Bird Kick, the SBK does not naturally recover fast enough for you to continue a combo afterwards.
However, using Baroques, she can now cancel her SBK’s cooldown animation and continue attacking. Unlike Roman Cancels, the damage caused by any moves after a Baroque are stronger, depending on how much recoverable damage (red life on the life bar, which can be gained back while tagged out of battle) is used. This makes Baroques more dynamic than Roman Cancels, since there’s more of a risk/reward situation when using them.
Lastly – and not inspired by Guilty Gear – are the giant characters. Both the Capcom and Tatsunoko character rosters each have one giant character. They are not easy to jump over in battle, they have much higher defense than anyone else, and they can also do a lot more damage than normal characters with fewer moves. The downside to using them, however, is that they cannot play on a team; if you pick a giant character, that’s the only character you’re using.
All of these contribute to the crazy, fast-paced style of Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom; battles appear like an action sequence one might see in a superhero film – or, alternatively, The Matrix. While the game hasn’t been out long enough to say how well-balanced it is, the inclusion of Mega Crashes prevent infinites (never-ending combo loops that can be repeated until the opponent dies) from happening, which already puts the balance leagues ahead of Marvel Vs. Capcom 2.
It goes without saying that Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom is a good game. The game feels very fluid and easy to play, but without going overboard, as Street Fighter 4 did, in my opinion. It’s easy to learn and get into, but is hard to master, and the new gameplay mechanics reward good on-the-spot thinking and judgment – a respectable goal to be achieved by any competitive game.
Yet, I feel myself incredibly annoyed by the execution of the game. There are certain things we still see in console fighting games (and console ports, if we want to get into semantics) that just shouldn’t be happening, and the two worst offenses are seen in Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom.
The first offense lies in unlockable playable characters. I enjoy unlockables, but playable characters need to be ready from the beginning. While this point may or may not be up for debate, the sheer bore factor of unlocking all playable characters is not. There are five characters to be unlocked; four out of five of these characters are unlocked by beating the single player mode with three and six Capcom and Tatsunoko characters, respectively. The final character is unlocked by beating the single player mode with all the unlocked characters.
So, to unlock every character, the single player mode must be completed at least fourteen times. Before taking 4-6 hours to do this, you will be out five characters, which is disappointing if you want to have friends over. To add insult to injury, if you go online to fight someone, your opponent can use any character they’ve unlocked, even if you haven’t, making the playing field a bit uneven.
Speaking of online, the netplay in TvC is downright egregious. Players have no control over who they play; one has to simply “search for matches” and be paired up with an opponent at random – a process which takes several minutes. If you enjoyed playing someone, you can save them on a “rival” list and try to play them again later, but there’s still the matter of sitting around for several minutes before finding an opponent in the first place, making the process of finding good “rivals” unbelievably tedious.
Also, TvC deals with latency by using input delay (Street Fighter 4) instead of rollbacks (Street Fighter 2 HD Remix). This means that playing games with people from too far away is virtually impossible (too far away can be as far as West Coast USA to East Coast). Since players have little-to-no control over who they’ll face, they have no way of assuring they’ll play someone with low latency. Even playing someone near you can result in unplayable input delay unless your Wii is connected to the internet via a LAN cable. So in other words, if you connect to the internet via the Wii’s WiFi, don’t count on being able to play the game online.
Finally, we reach the controller issue. TvC has four important buttons during play: the three attack buttons, and the “partner” button, used in assists and tagging your partner in. These buttons are all accommodated nicely when using the Classic Controller or a Gamecube Controller, but using the Wiimote or the Nunchuck forces the player to use “Easy Operation” mode, where there’s only one attack button, and another button used for quickly and easily executing special moves.
If someone wants to use “Easy Operation” mode, that’s fine; but, there’s enough buttons on the Wiimote and Nunchuck to assign all the attack buttons individually, so why not at least give gamers the option to try? Since there is no such option, the game can’t be enjoyed in its full glory without a Classic Controller or a Gamecube Controller, meaning the player has to make additional purchases right off the bat.
I feel kind of bad to levy these complaints on TvC, since the game itself is really excellent. However, there are some elements of console fighters that need to take a hike; needing to unlock playable characters and having input lag in online play are two such things. With arcades more-or-less dead in America, online play is a key element in the future of fighting games, and it can’t be ignored for much longer.
Ultimately though, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom is an incredibly good fighter; it’s tons of fun and brings a lot of new stuff to the table for casual and competitive fans alike. But I fear that players such as myself, who like to jump into multiplayer straight away and rely on online play for competition, will eventually put it down for more rewarding pursuits. After just one week, I can already hear Street Fighter 2 HD Remix calling my name again.
Cel-Shaded graphics give the game a colorful anime-esque look.
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This is an excellent revival of the "Versus" games; but the unlocking of characters and poor online play have to go.
Generic techno doesn't really get me in the mood to fight: the soundtrack is definitely lacking.
For anyone who has friends, TvC will last forever. If you live far away from anyone who cares about fighters, this game will lose its appeal quickly.
Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is incredible - no joke. But, the message needs to be made clear: needing to unlock playable characters is bad. Bad online lobbies are bad. Input delay is bad. If anything keeps TvC from making waves, it'll be these key issues.