Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, Capcom's latest in the famed vs. series, is coming to the west. But just what the hell is Tatsunoko anyway? It's an anime, actually, one that's hugely popular in Japan, but on these shores it's about as famous as a stray dog. So, to shed some light on just what Wii owners can expect from the game, we caught up with producer Ryota Niitsuma for a few games (I won) and an interview.
VideoGamer.com: Tell me about yourself and your work on the game.
Ryota Niitsuma: I've been involved primarily on fighting genre titles, including ones that haven't made it to the western market on PS2, because of licensing problems. Recently I was a Street Fighter IV assistant producer for the arcade version. I have shifted to being a producer for Tatsunoko vs. Capcom.
VideoGamer.com: Most people in the west aren't aware of Tatsunoko the brand. With that in mind, why have you decided to release the game in the west?
RN: Although Tatsunoko might not be so known in the western market it's a very popular franchise in Japan. Most adults have grown up with Tatsunoko anime. It made sense in Japan to merge Tatsunoko because all the characters have a very high affinity to fighting games. They all have their special moves and they're all superheroes. As for bringing it to the west, as we released Tatsunoko vs. Capcom in Japan, it was highly acclaimed and there was high demand for the game to go to the western market, so we are going to release it there. Perhaps this could be the opportunity for the western users to acknowledge the attractiveness of Tatsunoko characters.
VideoGamer.com: Has the popularity of Street Fighter IV paved the way for the release of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom in the west? If Street Fighter IV hadn't proved so popular do you think we would be seeing the release of this game over here?
RN: Actually, in the R&D team, development of the two games started at about the same time, in the hopes of Capcom bringing back the fighting genre into the mainstream market. So these two have actually been going on in parallel, one as a serious fighting game for very hardcore fans, and another with a slightly lowered barrier to entry.
VideoGamer.com: I meant in terms of bringing the game to the west, in that the popularity of Street Fighter IV in the west has caused a heightened interest in fighting games generally in 2009, and perhaps that paved the way for Tatsunoko vs. Capcom's release in the west.
RN: That's definitely a point. Because of Street Fighter IV there are heightened expectations in the western market. Capcom as a company thought that it would be a good idea to bring back the Capcom vs. series onto the mainstream as well.
VideoGamer.com: Will there be any differences between the western version and the Japanese version?
RN: Quite a lot actually. The biggest feature would be the addition of new characters, but we will also be tweaking the design of the interfaces. We will be changing some sounds. We will be re-recording voiceovers, we will be recalibrating game balance given the responses we had from the Japanese users, obviously minor bug fixes, and we will also be changing the content of the mini-games that were in the Japanese version.
VideoGamer.com: Can you tell me about any of the new characters you're adding?
RN: I'm really sorry but you'll have to wait just a little bit more. We'll be giving out the news soon!
VideoGamer.com: You mentioned you'll be fixing some things in terms of balance. Would it be fair to say that the western version of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom will be the 'Director's Cut', or the definitive version of the game?
RN: I think you're right. The game will be a much better integrated version. By balancing we mean that when R&D had made all of the characters they were meant to be equal, but obviously as people play they find out things that even the team didn't know about. There is a tier system somewhere, so we are going to re-balance that and make sure there will be no weakest character or strongest character. Also, we are trying to implement an online network mode, so people can play online against each other. In order for that to happen we have to carefully rebalance the character strength because we don't want to see the same characters fighting over and over again.
VideoGamer.com: Why is it important to incorporate online into the western release?
RN: As you might have noticed just by playing a few games now, fighting games are so much better when played with others. It is designed so that you can play on your own, but ideally you want to play with others. For most players geographically speaking it's not possible, so I feel that it's important for us to implement online systems so people can play with everyone, even internationally across borders. We are trying to develop the online mode as we speak. The R&D team are doing this work quite sleeplessly.
VideoGamer.com: Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is coming out for the Wii, but we've seen fighting games prove successful on the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Did you ever discuss releasing the game as downloadable titles on XBLA and PSN in the west, or was it always going to be a Wii game? Is there any chance that the game might be released on Xbox 360 and PS3 in the future?
RN: Currently, no, but we would like to see the reaction of the western market when we release the game on Wii. The other problem is the game is optimised for the Wii system, especially the graphics features, so if we were to port it to PS3 or Xbox 360 we would have to make the game from scratch, and in that case we might as well just make a sequel of the series on those consoles rather than porting it.
VideoGamer.com: We recently interviewed the producer of Tekken 6, who said that character unlocking is "outdated". In Street Fighter IV you have to unlock certain characters - Akuma, Gouken and Seth. What's your opinion on the character unlocking debate?
RN: Personally speaking I quite like the idea of rewarding the players for what they've put into the game. Often the unlocked characters are quite tricky ones. If you were to start playing with that character from the start you might not really like it so much, so I quite like letting the players play with basic characters and learn the basics first, and then move on when they've reached a certain level to more tricky characters.
VideoGamer.com: Will you have to unlock characters in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars?
RN: We are probably going to unlock all the characters in the Japanese version, but the new additional characters that we're going to put into the western SKU will be locked.
VideoGamer.com: Who is your favourite character on the Capcom side and why, and who is your favourite character on the Tatsunoko side and why?
RN: It's a difficult choice! It's hard to pick because I've put so much time and effort into every single one of them. From Capcom's side, I might have said my favourite otherwise someone else, but at this moment it's Roll, because she's a crazy character. She's the only one who can heal. She fights with a mop and a bucket. Anything she does is fun. She also has a theme song. It probably won't make it to the western market, but she has a Japanese lyric vocal song. Her theme song is the only one with actual voices in it. Everything about her is unusual. From Tatsunoko's side it would have to be Ken the Eagle, because he's the basic character. We based all of the other models on him. I worked on him the most. From both series, Ken the Eagle and Jun the Swan, they're from the same franchise. Those two are my favourite from Tatsunoko.
VideoGamer.com: You mentioned you worked on Street Fighter IV. Looking back, is there any character you feel is over-powered?
RN: Well first of all I might have to apologise! Does he involve being slightly blinded and scarred [laughs]?
VideoGamer.com: I agree!
RN: Yes, Seth and perhaps Sagat might have turned out a little bit stronger than we expected. But then again a good player of another character can always beat a good Sagat player or a good Seth player. I don't think it's too out of proportion, but we do acknowledge that they turned out a bit more powerful than we expected.
Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is due out exclusively for the Wii. A release date has yet to be set.