While its user-friendly controls should prove appealing for the majority, Tatsunoko's 26-strong roster is less of a draw card, at least initially. Both sides have some pretty big names on the list: Capcom has Ryu, Chun Li, and Alex from Street Fighter; two Mega Man incarnations; and Morrigan from Darkstalkers. Famous anime studio Tatsunoko brings in three Gatchaman heroes (also known as Battle of the Planets in the West) and Casshan (otherwise know as Casshern). But while the rest is made up of Capcom stars who mainly haven't appeared in anything recently or anime characters little known outside of Japan, each of the pugilists plays uniquely. Even characters who look like they could be the same model but with different skins--such as Tekkaman and Tekkaman Blade, and the two Yattermans--have totally different move sets. While this makes the transfer of learned skills from one character to another difficult, it does make for a varied fighting game with plenty of depth and replayability.
Gold Lightan can be a tough assignment.
There are also two playable "giant" characters on the roster, and due to their sheer screen-filling bulk, they appear solo only and never as part of a team. On the Capcom side, there's the PTX-40A mech from Lost Planet, while Tatsunoko has the gigantic lighter known as Gold Lightan (seriously). While they're slow, each of these behemoths deals serious damage even with basic attacks, although as single fighters they do have the disadvantage of not being able to recover any health. Despite this handicap, PTX-40A and Lightan can throw off the balance of the game. Experienced players will have no trouble getting past them, but inexperienced to average gamers may find them tough hurdles to overcome, even if they're being controlled by only moderately skilled human opponents.
If you don't have a human opponent to challenge, then Tatsunoko vs. Capcom comes with four standard single-player modes: Arcade, Survival, Time Attack, and Training. There's no separate Story mode, although finishing the game in Arcade mode will give you a simple ending made up of text and still images for the character who dealt the finishing blow on the final boss. There are also two minigames: one is an extremely simple collect-all-the-letters activity during the end credits, and the other is a more fully featured four-player shoot-'em-up that can be unlocked only after a certain condition is fulfilled. The rest of the game's offline component is pretty bare-bones--being able to purchase new costume colours, stage backgrounds, and movies from the in-game store is the only other extra.
While there may not be a slew of wacky minigames, there is online play in Tatsunoko, and it works quite smoothly. Both ranked and unranked matches are available, with wins in ranked matches earning you points and title promotions. Strong connections will result in practically seamless matches, and even games with opponents from the other side of the globe can run hassle-free. Most of the hassle in online comes from the bare-bones matchmaking process and the convoluted method of adding to your friends list. Apart from being able to filter for local or global matches, there's no option to see the available games when you're trying to find a game online; you're automatically paired up, so those finicky about playing against only opponents with good connections will have to try their luck. You can add anyone you come across with a good connection to a rivals list, which is a significantly easier thing to do than adding a friend to your friends list. To add a friend, you both need to exchange a unique 12-digit code found within Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. This process, of course, has more to do with how the Wii handles its online side and is not the fault of the game, but it's annoying nonetheless.
Frank West is still American, but his voice has changed since Dead Rising.
Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is easily one of the most impressive-looking games to grace the Wii to date. All of the characters are animated beautifully, and while stage backgrounds are a little plain, all of the various specials and hypers are presented with vibrant colours and particle-laden effects. Tatsunoko is a dynamic and pretty game to watch, and this is matched by great audio ranging from convincing battle effects to catchy music, with the highlight (or lowlight, depending on your taste) being a couple of upbeat J-pop tunes. And Japanophiles will be pleased that the original voices for all of the characters have made it across to the Western release of Tatsunoko, although Dead Rising protagonist Frank West does speak his lines in English.
That Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is even getting a Western release is a major positive, considering the relative obscurity of some of the characters on offer. While the characters may not be popular, the game itself deserves to be, thanks to its top looks, tight gameplay, and deep mechanics, all covered in a layer of accessibility few fighting games can boast. While some balance issues and its lack of online options hold it back, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is still not only one of the best fighting games on the Wii, but also one of the best available on any current-gen system.