Wait, what? Wii emulation is a thing?! How long has this been the case? Were the screenshot sessions of my idiot cohort, where they had to literally use their feet to take screenshots, all in vain?! Blimey. Anyway, this is the first time we've elected to use emulation for the Wii, and that's most likely how we'll do things going forward just so we can get the highest-quality screenshots possible (presented here in the system's widescreen format, click to embiggen) but rest assured we'll play Wii games on original hardware first. Probably. We also played this dang thing online with magic, so thanks to Ultra Powerful Pal of Gaming Hell HokutoNoShock for putting up with Parsec's bullshit to make versus play happen, and for reading over this before we published it. Sadly, technical limitations mean that none of today's screenshots come from authentic online fights. What a shame. Also shoutouts to the brother of the writer who also gave this a look (ta, John), plus Frosty Faustings, Combo Breaker and AnimEVO whose tournaments were useful viewing material for this, as well as Terotrous' FAQ and the Shoryuken Wiki for their details of the more intricate mechanics.

The gears of battle turn once more on Gaming Hell, as we have a scuffle on our hands. Violent fighting to return again!

In the blue corner, dating back to 1962 and giving the world Speed Racer, Gatchaman / Battle of the Planets and the Samurai Pizza Cats...
It's the animation studio Tatsunoko Production!

And in the red corner, formed in 1979 and creating the likes of Mega Man, Street Fighter and The Speed Rumbler...
It's Capsule Computers, known to you and me as Capcom!

Anime vs. Video Games! This is gonna be a match to remember! Triumph or die!

In the year 2008, Street Fighter IV was released in Japanese arcades, which set into motion the end of what is sometimes called The Dark Ages of the fighting game genre. Well, they weren't really the Dark Ages, as while this is a debate that's entirely beyond my jurisdiction, there were plenty of good fighters released in the time period leading up to SFIV- Virtua Fighter 5, Tekken 6, Melty Blood, The Rumble Fish 2, and so on. Really, it's more like the Dark Ages of Capcom fighting games, brought on by a variety of factors (Yoshinori Ono, in one interview, pinned it on disinterest from higher-ups, specifically in making a new Street Fighter, although it is common (and funny!) to blame it on Capcom Fighting Jam). What cannot be disputed is that when SFIV made it to home consoles in 2009, it was huge, sparking a renewed interest in the genre as a mainline Street Fighter game would be expected to do (although not always, hello Street Fighter V, how are you doing). At the absolute tail-end of 2008 though, nearby the Capcom-published, Arc System Works-developed Sengoku Basara X, another fighting game would show up in arcades and on the Nintendo Wii, published by Capcom and developed by Eighting of Bloody Roar fame, that brought back another beloved Capcom franchise- the Vs. series.

Capcom's characters have squared off against a few different bunches- Marvel comics heroes, SNK favourites, themselves but smaller in Pocket Fighter- but when we say the Vs. series, it's generally referring to the Marvel vs. Capcom series, because of their tag-based gameplay and ridiculous, over-the-top moves and pacing. At this point dormant since Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes in 2000, Capcom decided to dust the series off when, according to an interview with Ryota Niitsuma, the anime studio Tatsunoko Production approached them about making a fighting game using their characters- it was decided a game in the style of the Vs. series would suit this better than the Street Fighter style. So, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross-Generation of Heroes was born, a 3D revival of the Vs. style of gameplay that would serve as a sort-of preview of the real return of the series, Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. Despite the Japan-centric nature of the company it was crossing over with, the game was given a worldwide release in an upgraded form with extra characters in 2010, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, after fan demand for a localisation (and, apparently, an internal push from Capcom community manager Seth Killian, a big fan of the game). However, its status as a Wii exclusive and being tied to a series of licenses that were difficult enough to obtain the first time around in the West means that while it absolutely has an audience willing to go through the hoops to play at high-levels at tournaments, it doesn't have nearly the same reach of the likes of Marvel. In fact, such is the game's age and niche status that the yearly Frosty Faustings event has switched over to emulation of the game over real hardware because of difficulty getting the right equipment for it. It's a shame, as it's a fascinating fighter, and worthy of more attention. The anime stars of Tatsunoko square off against the video game heroes of Capcom with no real set-up, no story, and even the final boss has little to do with anything (it's Yami, the final boss of Ōkami) so let's just get in there and bust some heads!

As is tradition with our fighting game articles now, let's have a look at the character selection.

Characters from the arcade version first, then that side's giant character, then the Wii exclusive ones.

(Pics cropped from the Shinkiro character art available on Creative Uncut- take a look for art from Cross Generation of Heroes too!)

First, the Tatsunoko roster.

(VA: Katsuji Mori)
from Science Ninja Team Gachaman

(VA: Kazuko Sugiyama)
from Science Ninja Team Gachaman

(VA: Daisuke Ono)
from Neo-Human Casshan

(VA: Katsuji Mori)
from Tekkaman: The Space Knight

(VA: Kunihiko Yasui)
from Hurricane Polimar

(VA: Eri Kitamura)
from Yatterman

(VA: Endo Daichi)
from Karas

(VA: Noriko Ohara)
from Yatterman

(VA: Issei Futamata)
from Golden Warrior Gold Lightan

(VA: Masayuki Katō)
from Gyakuten! Ippatsuman

(VA: Toshiyuki Morikawa)
from Tekkaman Blade

(VA: Isao Sasaki)
from Science Ninja Team Gachaman

(VA: Emiri Katō)
from Yatterman

Now, the Capcom side.

(VA: Hiroki Takahashi)
from Street Fighter

(VA: Fumiko Orikasa)
from Street Fighter II: The World Warrior

(VA: Yayoi Jinguji)
from Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors

(VA: Hiroki Yasumoto)
from Street Fighter III: New Generation

(VA: Nobuyuki Hiyama)
from Rival Schools: United by Fate

(VA: Mayumi Tanaka)
from Mega Man Legends

(VA: Toshiyuki Kusuda)
from Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams

(VA: Hiromi Igarashi)
from Mega Man

(VA: Mechs don't talk, pilots do)
from Lost Planet: Extreme Condition

(VA: Yōko Honna)
from Quiz Nanairo Dreams: Nijiirochō no Kiseki

(VA: Shinji Kawada)
from Viewtiful Joe

(VA: Ryotaro Okiayu)
from Mega Man X

(VA: Peter von Gomm)
from Dead Rising

Before we continue, this is a crossover game, so I think it's fair to natter a little bit about the roster selection just in terms of who made it (we'll get to how they play later). Now, for the Tatsunoko side, I will freely admit I'm not super-familiar with them- according to an interview with Seth Killian, most of these characters were picked based one the staff's memories of watching those shows as kids, which means most of them come from the '70s and '80s, before I was alive so I at least have an excuse. To those unfamiliar with the company's work, there's maybe a bit of a focus on their similar-looking superhero-like characters- Gatchaman, Casshan, Polimar, etc., but once you actually start playing as them, you'll find they all have a lot to differentiate them. As we will find out later, Nurse Witch Komugi almost made the cut and would've probably added a smidgen more variation to this side of the cast, but I get why those picks were made, and there's some nice oddballs here too like Karas, Ippatsuman and Gold Lightan. Additionally, Tekkaman Blade was a smart addition to the Western release, seeing as his show was dubbed for America, albeit as Teknoman. As for the Capcom side, the standards of Ryu, Chun-Li and Morrigan are of course present and correct, but what I love is how wild some of the other choices are. Rival Schools, Onimusha and Lost Planet are franchises that had never had Vs. series representation and would never have it again, there's Saki Omakane from a bloody quiz game (she rules) and even well-worn series like Street Fighter and Mega Man get somewhat different reps for them, specifically Alex and Mega Man Volnutt. It's a nice bit of variety, and as we'll see, the Tatsunoko folks don't slouch in providing variety in playstyles.

Anyway, let's talk about the game itself! Now, there's probably a debate to be had about whether this is really in the proper Vs. series because there isn't a Spidered Man, Wolf Rin or Sigh Lock to be seen around here. However, the fact it takes so many mechanics from previous games (and the ones it added are explicitly listed as 'new' in the manual) and had a definite influence on the direction Marvel vs. Capcom 3 would take means it's fair to view it in that specific context. For a start, this is definitely scaled back in a lot of ways from Marvel vs. Capcom 2, mostly out of necessity. Marvel 2 had the benefit of a 6-year build-up of sprites Capcom could use (including, supposedly, ones scrapped from other games), resulting in a ridiculous roster of over 50 characters smashed together with gaffa tape and hope. In some cases that can lead to a disaster, but, well, hard to argue with the results, a single game discussed and played at high-level for over a decade. Eighting and Capcom had to start completely from scratch for TvC, however- they had a general game template, but no assets to really reuse due to making the move to 3D (alas, the days of reusing Morrigan's original sprite are long gone) and half the cast being completely new to Capcom fighting games. That's a lot of work! Especially since the target console was the Wii (even in the arcade release, that board literally has a Wii powerblock) which, you know, didn't have quite the horsepower of the other major consoles of the time.

So, the ridiculous three-on-three setup of Marvel 2 is gone, and it's back to two-on-two like Marvel 1 and the earlier Vs. games- you always have one character out and have a variety of ways of tagging in your unused character (who slowly recovers any red health while not in action), and a match is over when one team has both their character's health bars emptied, by hook or by crook. Assists are also scaled back to the old way of things, with one (1) set action per character rather than a selection of three. Now personally, I've no problem with this. To tell you the truth, I've always struggled learning to play Marvel 2 and 3 properly because of all the possible assists and how to properly utilise them in addition to the amount of stuff happening on-screen at any one time, so paring things down definitely works for me, and it maintains some of the pace and the chaos of its forefathers while reining things in a little. Perhaps having a choice in what assist action to use may have added a little extra spice to things, but honestly the moves chosen are pretty interesting and absolutely have utility- Doronjo uses a slow-moving projectile (which is normally her taunt), Roll throws water from a bucket which leaves a damaging puddle, and Frank takes a picture to stun the enemy out of whatever action they're doing. If you're like me and find those other Marvels just a little too crazy, then out of the gate this game has something to offer you.

A more drastic change is the button layout- gone are separated punches and kicks, replaced with three attack buttons of Light, Medium and Heavy strengths, plus a multi-purpose Partner button (we'll discuss actual controller options later, always a concern with Wii games). Marvel 2 had already pared things down to buttons for Light and Heavy punches and kicks (Medium is Light twice in that game, remember) plus two Partner buttons, and while a three-button setup like this wasn't unheard of in a Capcom fighter (both of the JoJo's games on CPSIII used it), it's still a little unusual to see. It works very well though, simplifying a few things- the classic Magic Series of moving from Light to Heavy is even simpler to parse now, launchers are always done with the one Heavy button you have, and so on. The moment-to-moment combat is still as fluid and satisfying as ever, and added with the tricks you'll be seeing later, it's definitely one of those fighting games that lead me to take things to training mode not just to learn moves, but to see what the engine would let me get away with- that's a good sign. The one area that did irk me about the control scheme is that the Partner button is maybe relied on a little too much- it's fairly easy to accidentally get an assist when you want to tag out or use one of the other mechanics tied to the button (this something that would be worked on for Marvel 3, at least) but in time you do get better at it.

The last switch-up is the presentation, as this is the first Vs. game to go fully-3D, and this is definitely worth talking about in light of things such as the pasting Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite got for its appearance. By today's standards the character models in this game won't dazzle, especially up-close (poor Frank's model got made fun of a lot) but you know what this game does have? A consistent aesthetic, one with life and vigour to it. Menus and the like have an exciting and bombastic look to them, there's bright colours everywhere (even in the mechanics themselves- Baroque Combos make your character glow all the colours of the rainbow) as well as thick outlines and pronounced shading on characters, damage is counted in billions of points dramatically, and you can even argue that the way static is used to show a knocked-out / unavailable character is a nod to the TV roots of the Tatsunoko crowd. It has a definable look to it, a fun aesthetic and presentation that it commits to, which is something Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite could've learned from. The one area that is a little disappointing in this regard is the soundtrack- for reasons to be explained later, there's no character themes here, and each stage has its own music instead. There's some good stuff in there, for sure- Gesellschaft (Clear Skies) is a definite favourite- but it'd be nice to have those individual character themes burst in when you swap your characters. Oh well.

So that's what's been taken out and changed from previous games, but Tatsunoko vs. Capcom makes up for it with some neat and wild new mechanics, which seem to put a focus on being sure to use your two teammates to their maximum in the playfield rather than assists. As well as bringing back Advancing Guard (push your enemy back when blocking) and Cross-Over / Variable Counters (where your partner jumps in from blockstun and attacks, then takes over as your playable character), there's now Cross-Over / Variable Air Raid, where you can switch characters mid-air combo- this is useful for getting characters in safely, but takes good timing to both land the hit and properly continue attacking without dropping it, letting your opponent take advantage as they'll land before you do. The Mega Crash is also a mechanic I'm a little surprised hasn't been in any of these games before or since- essentially a 'get off me' button similar to the Burst mechanic seen in the likes of Nitroplus Blasterz and Guilty Gear that does an attack that pushes your enemy back at any point (read: in the middle of a combo) with some big caveats, namely taking 2 bars of super and a little health. This can be used for coming back from a walloping (but the life and meter sacrifice, especially if you want to keep meter for other options, prevents you from abusing it too much) and, if you're risky, intentionally giving yourself red health (that's for the next new mechanic) and, honestly, coming from Marvel 3, this is something I wish they'd kept or at least iterated upon- X-Factor can be used if you're blocking but not when you're being directly attacked, and you only get it once per match- because boy, being on the business-end of one of those touch-of-death combos is no fun!

Of the new mechanics introduced, my favourite is by far the Baroque Combo, a weird combination of a comeback mechanic and something that offers a reward at a high risk. By pressing any attack button and Partner at the same time in the middle of almost any attack bar a few specials and all hypers, you'll glow briefly and cancel the animation, allowing you to follow up with whatever attack you like, at the expense of whatever red (recoverable) life you have remaining. The risk is in how much red life you sacrifice- the more you lose doing Baroque, the more damage you'll do while you're glowing (which continues until you drop the combo). There's a lot, a lot of freedom with what you can do with this (compared to Marvel 3's X-Factor, which does let you cancel almost-anything at any point, but you can use it only once per match) and some of the results are silly, amazing, useful, or all three. The obvious utility is extending combos by following attacks up with ones that aren't normally feasible, but some of the wilder examples include using Frank's Giant Swing against one of his zombies then cancelling it once you get in to start a more traditional combo, cancelling Tekkaman Blade's Falchion before the blade comes back to hit the enemy for a mix-up, and extending Roll's Mop Up with a second Mop Up straight afterwards. However, it can also be used for getting out of missed of blocked attack animations quickly to get you right back in the thick of things and removing the recovery after a successful hit too. Putting these into practice is tricky and requires some strong execution, but it's very satisfying to do so and is so much fun to experiment with. This mechanic is also nicely paired with how the more advanced ways of tagging your partner in (beyond Back + Partner) preserve their red health so you can get to use it while also using both your partners.

The final piece is the roster. It's a good size considering all these models had to be made from scratch, but more importantly it's got a lot of variety and really interesting characters to mess around with. The Tatsunoko side in particular has some real oddballs that are super-fun to learn, although they can be tricky- Doronjo relies a lot on her henchman Boyacky and Tonzura to pester the enemy while still fighting directly, Karas has a lot of moves that follow on from one another and has to do one of his hypers from a special move (!), Polimar has a unique mechanic where he needs to earn Polimar Marks with a specific move that lets him cancel specials into other specials and eventually use his Level 3 hyper, and so on. Some of my favourites are Tekkaman Blade (who just oozes '90s 'cool mech design') and Ippatsuman (who summons a giant robot for his Level 3 hyper with a charge-attack that has an absurd charge time) and even if you're not familiar with the source material, there should be someone that appeals to you on this side. The Capcom side does have some familiar faces for crossover fans, but has some equally unique-playing characters like Frank West who has zombie summons that can even hurt him and Mega Man Volnutt with a three-weapon-arm loadout that has to be swapped between mid-fight. There's also the two giants (Gold Lightan on the Tatsunoko side and PTX-40A on the Capcom side) who play completely differently from everyone else- they have to fight on their own so lose access to all partner-related mechanics and are also so huge they scale the camera back and you can't miss hitting them, but have permanent hyper armour so they just soak up damage without flinching (there are certain moves like Tekkaman's grappling hook, command throws and hypers that can break the armour though, and yes, that means Alex can Power Bomb both of them). Some character's hypers even change against them- Frank West can't jump high enough to dunk a Servbot head on these guys, so he uses some rockets and a shotgun instead! They're perhaps a little gimmicky and the camera being so far back when they're present can be jarring, but if nothing else they represent the spirit, the essence of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, that being, "Hell, let's give it a try".

All these elements combine to make a nice, fresh take on the Vs. formula. I imagine some players will miss a few things from Marvel 2, and not just the three-on-three format- Snapbacks are limited to three specific characters in the roster (the two giants and Alex) and I imagine they were toned down because of the greater emphasis on utilising red health, and the lack of multiple selectable assists for each character will definitely feel limiting to some. However, by slowing things down just a smidgen and reining it in, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom reminds me a lot of my personal favourite Marvel game- the first Marvel vs. Capcom. Mostly the two-on-two format, of course- there's plenty of under-the-hood differences between the games- but the small, cosy roster filled with some real oddballs (and not just from the Tatsunoko side- OG Roll? Saki?!), the reduction to two-on-two thus easing the reliance on assists and making things a little easier to parse... Of course, it's not just emulating a favourite, but it also adds in some mechanics I really like, especially the Baroque Combo which is so satisfying to use once you learn where best to apply it and just what you can get away with using it! Add the varied, fun-to-play and wild roster in there as well as the vibrant, over-the-top presentation (again, damage is given in billions) makes this a really fun, wild fighter that definitely deserves its continued patronage at events like Frosty Faustings (seriously, if you have any interest in the game, definitely look at the top 8 from 2020, the first set in particular).

So, where did Tatsunoko vs. Capcom go? It did show up for the EVO 2010 tournament as one of the main games, but it would not show up the next year. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 would be announced a few months after Tatsunoko vs. Capcom's Western launch, and with both Eighting and producer Ryota Niitsuma on board, it shouldn't be a surprise that there's some connective tissue between the two. In a way, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom almost feels like a testing ground of sorts, trying all sorts of new things, some of which would stick around for Marvel like the control scheme, others that would be iterated upon like the Cross Over Air Raid (which morphed into the Team Air Combo and made considerably easier in Marvel 3) and some that were ditched entirely like the Baroque Combo and giant characters. It reminds me of X-Men: Children of the Atom, as both games seemed to be a way for Capcom (and Eighting for TvC) to test new mechanics with wanton abandon (you can tech roll in COTA but it costs meter?) and, of course, this approach lead to some broken things in both games (Yatterman-2's robobuddy super can just interrupt the enemy's combo at random whenever it wants, it's a core part of her strategy) but it's entertainingly so. It's kind of a shame that some of the more interesting mechanics here weren't iterated upon further (or perhaps taken in a direction I would've found more interesting).

I find that these fighting game articles seem to end with me talking about a bit of the experience of playing with a friend- playing with the CPU is fun and all but not really the point- and it's especially important in this case. As I've mentioned before, for the past few years I've been playing all sorts of weird and wonderful fighting games with a like-minded friend (we have had a two hour session of infamous Neo Geo kusoge Fight Fever and are still somehow on speaking terms) and as such, we've been able to find out what fighting games we really click with and which ones we don't. One area that's been a little odd is Capcom's Marvel series. I'm very interested in exploring them, and I'll be the first to admit I like them more than my sparring partner, but we both found it a little difficult to get into Marvel 3 properly. Maybe it's too much stuff happening at once, maybe it's the overwhelming nature of the team possibilities presented to us, but there was something. This is how it is, of course- you can't take to every fighting game, a benefit of being able to explore the genre broadly like this is finding out what's for you, and what you can appreciate from a distance but can't get into playing. When we played Tatsunoko vs. Capcom together though, not only did they really enjoy it, but we went overtime in our session, completely losing track of time. That, if nothing else, is a sign that Tatsunoko vs. Capcom could be just the right Vs. series game for you- if you struggled to get into any of the other ones because they were too outrageous, this one keeps that spirit but is a little more restrained and easy to grasp. Conversely, I imagine Marvel 2 diehards will miss the intricacies of that game (and that ridiculous roster) and if you're expecting that game but even crazier, that's absolutely not what TvC is. If you have the opportunity and a controller you're comfortable with, though, then definitely give this one a look- there's a reason there's still a dedicated community for this game!

For living up to its legacy, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is awarded...

In a sentence, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is...
Good ol' ridiculous anime fisticuffs.

And now, it's that time, folks!

Before we get into anything else, a quick word about controllers and emulation.

One of the obstacles one must overcome to play Tatsunoko vs. Capcom is controlling the damn thing. For the majority of people, your options are going to be the Wii Remote, Wii Remote + Nunchuck, Wii Classic Controller and GameCube pad. Everyone will have their own preference here, but personally the Classic Controller is the way to go- its D-Pad is a little bigger, giving you much better control on fiddly inputs like Dragon Punch motions. The GameCube is also a decent choice primarily for its button layout (you can use B, A and X all in a row for Light, Medium and Heavy, then put the Partner button wherever you desire) but I'm not a fan of that D-Pad for a game like this.

Your other option is, of course, seen above- the officially-licensed Tatsunoko vs. Capcom arcade stick (image yanked from its Amazon page) made by Mad Catz, a company you can find out more about courtesy of Lazy Game Reviews. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert in arcade sticks, but Mad Catz did respectable work with Capcom for their SFIV sticks, and from most of what I've seen, this is a stick fit for its purpose. According to the Wired review, this does not use the Sanwa parts present in the famous SFIV Tournament Edition stick (which makes sense, as this retailed for $80, considerably cheaper than the TE stick) but it would appear it's easily moddable to have the parts you desire. However, it only has a Wii Remote connection and not a GameCube one, so you're out of luck if you want to play Capcom vs. SNK 2 with this thing (however, it will work with Virtual Console games and the like, so you can play Solomon's Key with a stick as Tecmo intended). Needless to say, this is quite the collector's item now and is eye-wateringly expensive, even in the realm of arcade sticks, something exacerbated by the fact that not all GameCube sticks are compatible with the Wii either.

This, of course, leads me to emulation, which presents a solution to the problem. Dolphin runs Tatsunoko vs. Capcom pretty dang well once you've played it for a while- as explained on the Wiki, there are issues where the game will seem to stutter the first time it loads in a new element, like a character model or visual effect, because it has to create a new 'shader' the first time. However, it will eventually settle down and future play won't be interrupted like this. Beyond not having to dig your Wii out, you also have the advantage of being able to use whatever damn controller you like for it! I myself used the trusty SFIV Tournament Edition stick and it felt fantastic for me. Let it be known: Gaming Hell does not care how you choose to play your games, be it via emulation, on originaly hardware, with an arcade stick, using the Dreamcast fishing rod, while on a plane, in the rec room of your castle or whatever, and so please play TvC however you so choose. If you would like an easier and more convenient way to play with an arcade stick, however, definitely consider emulation. Then you can start using Parsec and fight your friends online (or slyly load up Twinkle Queen while they're not looking, you rascal).

Obviously, most of what we've written about here pertains to the international, upgraded version, Ultimate All-Stars.

However, there's also the original arcade version and the vanilla Japanese Wii release, Cross Generation of Heroes, so let's have a quick look at those.

There's not much to say about the arcade version- released late in 2008, it runs on Wii-based hardware as explained on System 16 (no other game was ever made for this hardware) and so there's apparently no real differences between this and the home release in terms of porting accuracy, but it's probably worth noting that the arcade version has none of the characters marked as unlockable in the Wii release, so that's a total of just 18 playable characters. The version that eventually released in the West had a total of 26, which isn't a bad roster expansion! There's two mysteries about it though, as noted by Arcade Otaku Wiki- a 'Password' option in the service menu that allows you to enter a password to 'control game elements' which no-one has figured out, and... An SD card slot?! The hardware will scan the SD card if one is imported, but again, no-one knows what the intention was here. Above you can see a video of this version running on a Viewlix cabinet, including a look at the very odd board- check out that Wii power supply!

Anyway, the Wii version of Cross Generation of Heroes also released late in 2008 in Japan, and the best place to start is probably the roster. This release adds some unlockable characters, with Saki Omokane and Viewitful Joe joining the Capcom side, and the Tatsunoko side receiving Ippatsuman and... Hakushon Daimaou, from the show of the same name, also known as The Genie Family in Europe. A genie who could be summoned from a bottle by sneezing, he's notable on the Tatsunoko side for being the only non-giant there who can perform a Snapback (Alex has this distinction on the Capcom side). You didn't see him in the lineup in the main article, and that's because he was removed from all versions of Ultimate All-Stars due to undisclosed licensing problems (although GameFAQs speculates it was the rights holders in Italy). That's why Ultimate All-Stars has three unlockable Tatsunoko characters- to make up for the absence of Daimaou. In case you're wondering, he's not in the Japanese version of Ultimate All-Stars either, and according to Seth Killian on MTV Multiplayer, of all places, this is at least partly because he wasn't very popular with players in Japan. Oh well.

There's a lot of other changes made to Ultimate All-Stars too, with some tied to character and mechanical balance and others being more aesthetic. To start with the changes under the hood, you can read a list of those on the SRK forums and there's also insight about the giant characters from TheKeits on Twitter who was consulted by Capcom for balance notes, so you can peruse those at your leisure (it seems many points were to remove infinites, although Frank kept the Mahvel flag flying in their stead). I wouldn't be able to tell you much about that sort of thing because of my general unfamiliarity with Cross Generation of Heroes- I don't own a physical copy simply because I got the localised version first- but it's good that the FGC documented this sort of thing so meticulously, even when the vanilla edition was import-only. Bless their hearts.

Now aesthetics and extra features, I can tell you about with gusto. The soundtrack has mostly been replaced for Ultimate All-Stars, with all-new music tracks playing on specific stages rather than the character-specific themes of Cross Generation of Heroes. Again, this is down to licensing- most of the Tatsunoko characters used intro or ending songs from their respective shows, and licensing that music for use overseas is often a bigger headache than even licensing the characters. It's a real shame because some of the Capcom remixes, like Batsu. are excellent and the Tatsunoko theme renditions are great! Also gone are ending movies animated by Tatsunoko Production themselves- these were replaced by text endings accompanied by still images made by UDON, a common Capcom collaborator, and while some keep the general premise (Morrigan is gaming, Doronjo meets Princess Devilotte de Death Satan IX) others are completely different.

Finally, Cross Generation of Heroes had little minigames, one per character, that you unlocked individually by beating the Arcade Mode with each character, and these too are gone. These were very small extras and not a huge loss- Batsu's game was just Simon Says, Morrigan's was a simple timing game) but they had a cute menu as you can see above! Instead, PTX-40A's minigame was expanded upon and turned into Ultimate All-Stars Shooter, unlocked by collecting all the letters that spell 'Thank You For Playing' during the end credits of Arcade Mode. This version of the minigame lets you play with up to four players as Ryu, PTX-40A, Ken the Eagle and Tekkaman Blade, fighting Akrid across E.D.N. III on multiple stages... And, well, originally this article simply didn't include any info or screenshots because it's not worth writing home about. Now imagine one such minigame for each character on the roster and you can see why they were cut. On the plus side, as well as those extra characters, Ultimate All-Stars adds an extra stage- the Training Stage, for use in Training and Versus- and a big feature, online play!... Although, well, the netcode was not especially great outside Japan.

One last thing, there was of course a Japanese release of Ultimate All-Stars, although that was not what was originally planned! According to Hidetoshi Ishizawa, Ultimate All-Stars was meant to be released only in the West, but fan demand lead to it being released domestically. As a result, the Japanese version of Ultimate All-Stars is more like one of those 'International' versions you'd see in the PS1 era like for Final Fantasy VII. I say that because some of the things changed for the English audience- specifically, the English versions of the intro song Across the Border and Roll's theme song, Kaze yo Tsutaete (which was translated as Where the Wind Blows, and given an all-new backing track)- are kept as they were in the International game for the Japanese release, as you can see here. Everything else, like character names and endings, are translated, of course. The one real alteration between the two is with the music for the Training Stage- the Western release has some chill beats to train to but the Japanese version has an amazing English rap that genuinely includes the words "I'M SHORYUCAN'T TOUCH THIS SKILL". Amazing.

Finally, oh boy, we have to talk about characters who didn't make it into the game or were never in the running.

There's some confusion about this. If you just load up Wikipedia like a fool then there's a whole bunch of characters mentioned that didn't make the cut, but it never really gets specific on whether there was work done on them or if they were just considered- the Smash Bros. series has a similar problem. I don't like things being vague like that, it angries up the blood! So, I did some poking about with the sources cited on Wikipedia as a starting point, and came up with a few concrete sources for characters considered for the game, characters with more work put into them but ultimately scrapped, and characters who never had a chance to begin with.

Our first source is the producer of the game, Ryota Niitsuma, who published a blog post about the original version of the game that gave a list of characters who were considered for inclusion but ruled out for reasons including copyright and license problems, maintaining the balance of things like gender on the roster, and just plain old preference. The NeoGAF thread and Siliconera article concerning this blog post were useful for identifying most of these characters, so here is that list of eventual no-hopers.

Berg Katse
from Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, 1972
from Ghosts n' Goblins / Makaimura, 1985
Braiking Boss
from Neo-Human Casshan, 1973
M. Bison / Vega (Dictator)
from Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, 1991
from Yattodetaman, 1981
Charlie Nash
from Street Fighter Alpha: Warrior's Dreams / Street Fighter Zero, 1995
J. J.
from Red Photon Zillion, 1987
Hsien-Ko / Lei-Lei
from Vampire Hunter / Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge, 1995
Shurato Hidaka
from Legend of Heavenly Sphere Shurato, 1989
Tyrant, unspecified type
from Resident Evil / Bio Hazard, 1996
Tekkaman Evil
from Tekkaman Blade, 1992
from Star Gladiator Episode:I Final Crusade, 1996
Kyosuke Date / The SoulTaker
from The SoulTaker, 2001
from Street Fighter III: New Generation, 1997
Komugi Nakahara
from The SoulTaker & Nurse Witch Komugi, 2002
Zero-Akuma / Zero-Gouki
from Saturn / PS1 Cyberbots: Fullmetal Madness, 1997
Hinata Wakaba
from Rival Schools: United by Fate / Shiritsu Justice Gakuen: Legion of Heroes, 1997
Leon S. Kennedy
from Resident Evil 2 / Biohazard 2, 1998
from Power Stone, 1999
Princess Tiara
from Gaia Master: Kamigami no Board Game, 2000
Date Masamune
from Sengoku Basara, 2005
from Devil May Cry 4, 2008

I intentionally left two names out of the Tatsunoko list- Joe the Condor and Yatterman 2- because they would, eventually, make it to Ultimate All-Stars.

Interestingly, several of these considered characters- Berg Katse, Braiking Boss and Tekkaman Evil on the Tatsunoko side, M. Bison and Tyrant on the Capcom side- are villains.

In the final roster, Doronjo and unplayable final boss Yami would be the only antagonist player characters in the game.

The other source talks about characters that at least had some kind of work done on them. The photo above is of the Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars Secret File, a little pamphlet that came with e-capcom shop orders of the Ultimate All-Stars special edition and was an homage to the Secret Files that Capcom used to produce for their arcade releases like X-Men Vs. Street Fighter and Strider 2 in the late '90s, usually full of concept art and weird elaborate jokes such as paper dolls to cut out and keep. The one for Ultimate All-Stars sticks with these traditions, and even includes a look at some cut content, and so Twitter user sarasiru posted a photo, seen above, of the double-page spread in the Secret File entitled Frank West's Scoop Rush!, which outlined five cut elements. The two cut Tatsunoko characters shown are Nakahara Komugi from Nurse Witch Komugi (who was also on Ryouta Niizuma's list, and according to this Dengeki Online interview, a choice had to be made between adding Tekkaman Blade or Komugi for Ultimate All-Stars) in art form, and the title character of Muteking, The Dashing Warrior with a character model being shown. The cut Capcom characters shown are Ingrid from Capcom Fighting Jam actually in-game (although I can't be sure, it seems that previously-linked Dengeki Online interview explains Ingrid may have been just used as a test model during development) and Phoenix Wright from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney in concept art form (that Dengeki Online interview jokes about giving him a desk with tyres, given he's never seen elsewhere in his home games). The last scoop is a scrapped stage based on the Ghosts n' Goblins series.

Finally, some odds and ends. There were two series that Tatsunoko specifically denied Capcom usage of, as mentioned in this article from Kotaku. Those series were Genesis Climber MOSPEADA / Kikō Sōseiki MOSPEADA and Cat Ninja Legend Teyandee / Kyatto Ninden Teyandee... That second one is better known in the West as Samurai Pizza Cats. Wow. Purely speculation on my part, but MOSPEADA is a part of the legal kerfuffle that is Robotech, so maybe Tatsunoko didn't want anyone touching that one, but the Samurai Pizza Cats would've ruled! There's also something else although it seems more like an off-the-cuff suggestion rather than anything concrete- NGamer Issue #40 (October 2009) had a section entitled "Fighting Talk with Ryota Niitsuma, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom's Producer" with a question posed by the NGamer team as to why there's no Phoenix Wright representation in the game. Niitsuma answered with 'R&D actually really wanted to include these characters, especially Phoenix Wright and Franziska von Karma because she's got a whip which would be easy to implement' suggesting that Franziska was at least briefly considered for the roster at one point, but then he focuses all his attention on why Phoenix Wright never made it that far (the length of 'Igiari' versus 'Objection', which is something they eventually sorted out). I wonder if they didn't want to include a Phoenix Wright villain without the man himself? It's possible, but this is the only mention of her consideration for the game.

What's especially interesting about these lists are that several of the Capcom characters shown here- Arthur, Hsien-Ko and Phoenix Wright- did eventually make it to the Vs. series in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (although Phoenix had to wait until Ultimate), as did a Ghouls n' Ghosts stage. That's kind of a happy ending, right?

Stay salty, Morrigan.