14 March 2010
"Like going to a Japanimation convention while drunk"
- The Author
Even being the Nintendo chump that I am, I had regrets about owning a Gamecube rather than an X-box or a PS2. The biggest of these was missing out on the Marvel vs. Capcom games. Megaman, the Street Fighters, even Jill from Resident Evil squaring off against the best characters out of Marvel Comics (with the notable exclusion of Ghost Rider). It’s the type of battle royal that’s normally only discussed in comics shops by overweight bearded guys.
Better late than never the Capcom Vs. series finally makes it to Nintendo with Tatsunoko vs. Capcom for the Wii. Wait a minute… Tatsunoko? To save you the trouble of Wikipediaing it yourself I’ll summarize. Founded in 1962 and mainly focused on producing animated television series, Tatsunoko is pretty much the Japanese Hanna-Barbara. Had anyone made a game where Yogi Bear and Chun-Li could steal pick-a-nik baskets from Dr. Wiley it couldn’t possibly be any stranger than this one.
The most normal characters Tatsunoko has to offer look like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers if they’d been designed during the Kennedy Administration. Sliding further into the madness that is Japanese childrens television are two separate fighters with attacks using robot dogs and a masked femme fatale whose henchmen pop out of underground tunnels to assault you with exploding palm trees. My favorite of the Tatsunoko roster is the gold Zippo lighter that transforms into a giant robot. You can guess how little Tatsunoko cares about subtlety by his name, Gold Lightan.
Cheek to jowl with this motley crew Capcom has seemingly delighted in offering up a parade of its second string properties. Sure, you can pick Ryu or Zero but why would you want to when you could play as Megaman’s sister, the star of a zombie survival game that IS NOT Resident Evil or some girl originally out of a Japanese dating simulation quiz game. What the hell is a Japanese dating quiz simulation game? Also pulled from Capcom’s freak stable is the game’s final boss which appears to be some type of demonic Faberge Egg.
Gameplay is no less bewildering with a plethora of flashing power bars, a complex move/counter attack system and the lightest punch doing several billion points of damage. Once I recovered from sensory overload and learned a few basics I was struck that if anyone devoted enough time to plumbing this game’s secrets they could become really good. No, not good like good at a normal video game. Crazy good. Line around the arcade good. I doubt I’ll ever get the opportunity but I’d be very interested to see two master players facing off, artfully trading combos and counters like a game of neon chess clocked to the nanosecond.
For those of us who don’t care about humiliating alpha nerds and obsessive teenagers at whatever multiplex or Chucky Cheese still has arcade machines the designers added a feature far more satisfying than an “easy” mode. In addition to being able to play the game with the multi-button “classic” controller, there is a simplified control scheme usable with the Wii remote turned sideways. Playing this way, with one button each for attack, special attack and call partner, the controls become as simple as those for Super Smash Brothers. While I’m sure if I’d fought an experienced player with the Wiimote method I’m sure one of us would have felt cheated it was perfectly fair for matches against the computer or my equally clueless friends.
The game’s crowning insanity is that it, taken as a whole, actually works really well. Regardless of where they came from the characters are colorful and entertaining with highly individual fighting styles. The simplified control system made the game playable without giving me the feeling that I was just mashing buttons. There’s an ocean of depth to Tatsunoko vs. Capcom if you want it but pains have been taken to ensure the game is not frustrating to the casual gamer. It’s a rare title that manages that balancing act successfully. Personally, I’m never going to Netflix the first 8 seasons of “Gatchmen” or learn the button sequence that performs a “baroque cancel” but I just may keep the game rented for a few longer days than I intended to.
By M. Jacob Alvarez