When Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes hit Japan in late 2008, I soft-modded my Wii for the express purpose of importing it. No, Capcom assured us, this cross-company fighter (with the rights to its Tatsunoko Production-owned anime characters divided amongst numerous overseas licensees) would never see the light of day outside its native country. That’s half-true, I suppose; the version that did wind up in the Western hemisphere, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, is a handy upgrade — the Street Fighter II: Champion Edition to the original TvC’s Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, if I may so brazenly display my nerd card.
That’s an awkward comparison, though. As fighting games go, TvC owes the entirety of its existence to one Marvel vs. Capcom 2, whose decade-long competitive lifespan has rendered it equivalent to an animated corpse. In simplistic terms, TvC is a two-on-two tag-team fighting game that features approximately 800 colors (half of which are probably out to kill you) flying across the screen at all times as its warriors soar through the air like agents out of the Matrix, dishing damage in the billions (arbitrary, yes… but the game revels in its own over-the-top spectacle). In a way, it’s “MvC2 Lite” — halve the cast, replace the Marvel crew with a few nigh-unrecognizable anime icons, and tack an online mode onto the thing, and voila! You have TvC.
That’s not a bad thing, though. In contrast to some evolutions (like, one assumes, the upcoming Super Street Fighter IV), TvC manages to sanitize a formerly insane set of options. It culls the cast to a relatively manageable 26-character roster, divided up between Capcom’s regulars (Ryu, Chun-Li, Morrigan, Mega Man, and a few oddballs like Mega Man’s Roll and Dead Rising’s Frank West) and Tatsunoko’s anime properties (the trio of Gatchaman characters are the only ones I even half-recognize). The bloat normally associated with Capcom’s Versus fighters gets jettisoned here, leaving a selection of (mostly) viable characters. The lineup isn’t quite as familiar to us ‘mericans as Marvel’s myriad comic icons — TvC was undoubtedly developed for a Japanese audience, without so much as an English voice option in sight — but once you acclimate to the cast, it’s easy to see just how handily this game puts the undead MvC2 out of its misery.
The Versus games have always marched to a distinctly different beat, too — Street Fighter, TvC ain’t. If footsies, tick throws, and machine-gun fireball wars are your thing, TvC will leave you lost. Granted, those things do exist here — they just aren’t always the most important things in the world when you’re getting assist-juggled into a midair dual-super combo for 10 seconds straight. And hey, if you don’t know what the hell any of that means, TvC’s another flashy fighter to play with your friends (just try to keep it face-to-face — the online matchmaking’s all over the map in terms of latency, a far cry from the consistently butter-smooth online play of other modern fighters like BlazBlue).
Speaking of, you’d think Capcom might realize — after roughly two decades of making these sorts of games — that fighting games are for multiplayer. Unlocking all the characters requires beating the single-player arcade mode no less than 16 times, a mind-numbing chore that borders on Super Smash Bros. levels of grind-ness. And if that’s not enough, the arcade mode is the most efficient way of earning the currency needed to purchase extra colors and other bells ‘n’ whistles in the game’s shop. It’s presumably not the only way, though; TvC includes a top-down mini-game called Ultimate All-Shooter. I’m told it’s a lot of fun, but I wouldn’t know: The requirements to unlock it (i.e. perfect play in a throwaway mini-game only accessible during the arcade mode’s end credits) have managed to roadblock me for 48 straight clears. Good thing I’ve already unlocked every last item in the shop, and even better that I’ve come to the conclusion that none of that stuff matters anyway, Capcom.