In bringing Tatsunoko vs. Capcom to the US, the latter company is taking a pretty big risk -- but fighting game fans get an even bigger reward. Even if you've never heard of half of the characters in it, or don't really care about the amount of resources put into releasing it stateside -- complete with new characters, modes and online play -- you can't help but appreciate this oddball fighter because it's just so damn good.
Looking at its roster and the fact that it's on the Wii, it would be easy to dismiss Tatsunoko vs. Capcom as a gimmicky fighting game, but it's an honest-to-goodness hardcore entry that is among the very best Capcom has made in recent years. It's easy to get into, yet surprisingly deep and steeped in fan service. It's also one of the nicest looking games (so far) on Nintendo's console.
Fans of Capcom's previous "versus series" fighters (Marvel vs. Capcom 2 being the most comparable) should have a good idea of what to expect: Two-on-two "tag team" matches with team-up moves, insane mid-air combos and screen-filling super moves. Screens and movies of the game can easily make it look like an incomprehensible, button-mashing mess, but the truth is that it has one of the lowest barriers of entry of any Capcom fighter, along with having a very balanced (if unfamiliar) cast of characters. If you've played Street Fighter IV, you're going to hit the ground running; but even if you haven't picked up a fighting game in years, the play is almost immediately satisfying, thanks in no small part to an on-screen moves list available in any of the game's modes.
It's a simple, elegant control scheme (three attack buttons and a "partner" button) and many of its characters' special moves are performed using the same motions and button combinations, but each character still has a very unique feel. This is on top of an underlying fighting system that is incredibly snappy, reminiscent of the best-playing 2D fighters with none of the weird hesitation or floatiness of other, earlier efforts such as the Street Fighter EX games.
The "arcade mode" of modern fighting games is usually just something you slog though to unlock new characters -- and, yes, that's how you get at the likes of Dead Rising's Frank West -- but the game's AI is good enough to actually make Tatsunoko vs. Capcom's a bona fide mode you actually want to play through repeatedly. Of course, versus mode and online play are sure to get far more action -- the latter featuring many of the trappings of Street Fighter IV, such as player profiles and a rank-based matchmaking system for finding a fairly balanced fight.
Fan service isn't just found in the character roster and stages in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom -- the "shop" where you can spend fight earnings (in the form of Capcom's classic currency, the "zenny") is filled with unlockable artwork and character profiles, yet another reason to keep going back to the Arcade and Time Attack modes.
If you've been following this game since its announcement as I was, you're going to be very, very happy; it's everything I could have asked for, and a real standout on Wii. For everyone else who's been curious what all the fuss is about, I can say without reservation that if you like fighting games, you will love Tatsunoko vs. Capcom -- no two ways about it. And, hey, you might just find some new favorite characters that'll have you wishing for spin-off games.
Editors' note: This review is based on the retail of the game provided by Capcom.