I’m tired of being a Negative Nancy when it comes to Capcom, but it’s just giving me so many reasons to these days. Traditionally, I’ve loved the company and nearly every game its turned out, but something has changed in this seventh generation.
Its world class game designers have hit the road. It outsources most of its games to B-level Western studios. This 7th generation of consoles has morphed the company into a new entity, leaving many fans from the classic days behind.
I’m going to look past my recent grumblings for the remainder of this editorial and recall a few Capcom games from this era that remind me of why I am such a super fan and why I keep coming back expecting this cycle of mediocrity to eventually come to an end.
Street Fighter IV
I don’t think there is any question as to what the best Capcom game of this generation is. Street Fighter IV is a masterpiece nearly a decade in the making. Seriously, there were 10 years between Street Fighter III and Street Fighter IV, and who knows how many spin-offs and re-releases in-between.
However, that was not a decade that went to waste. Street Fighter IV has the experience and quality under its belt, proving that it was developed by people who knew what they were doing. Not only that, but it did away with most of the throwaway characters from Street Fighter III and brought back the charismatic bunch from Street Fighter II.
Blanka, Dhalsim, Zangief, Chun Li. All the faces you grew up with after the deluge of Street Fighter II home releases. Don’t disregard the new characters either, all of whom left a bigger mark on the series than half the forgettable ones over the years. I’ve been into Luchadors as of late, so El Fuerte was my favorite.
Street Fighter IV leads the pack in the only area Capcom really leads the market anymore, the fighting genre. Behind it stands other fun games like Marvel vs Capcom 3, Street Fighter X Tekken, and the underrated Capcom vs Tatsunoko for the Wii. It’s just a shame fighting games aren’t as huge in America as they are in Japan, or Capcom would be all set.
This is the best Capcom game it didn’t release outside of Japan. Import gems are a rare commodity these days as just about everything worth experiencing is localized, with a few exceptions. E.X. Troopers is the biggest exception of them all.
Capcom created E.X. Troopers as a side entry in the Lost Planet series to address the vastly different approach to shooters between the U.S. and Japanese audiences. It believed that larger, open-world experiences were all the rage in America, which they are, and outsourced Lost Planet 3 to Spark Unlimited to create it as such.
As for Japan, they prefer quick bursts of action revolving more around cooperation than competition. Capcom’s mega-popular series Monster Hunter is built around this idea, so E.X. Troopers was modeled to recreate that with another IP.
The only problem is that they did too good of a job, and American fans of course noticed. They wanted an English version, but were denied since the Japanese language was hard-coded into the game’s art, or some kind of ridiculous excuse like that. Basically, they couldn’t figure out how to sell the neon-colored anime styled game to Americans, and just didn’t bother.
It’s a shame too, because this game is everything I miss about Capcom. It’s risky, it has a lot of heart and style, it blends well with the main series but does enough to make it a great stand alone game. Plus, this is also the closest we’ll ever come to Mega Man Legends 3, so fans can find solace in that.
If you haven’t imported E.X. Troopers yet, be sure to do so. Japanese is not necessary to fully enjoy the game, and it’s just a great little minor shooter designed to take small chunks out of your life here and there. Wonderful game. Should have been localized.
Bionic Commando ReArmed
I was trying to stick to games internally developed at Capcom, but if Western outsourcing is a permanent fixture of the company’s business plans, then I have no problem putting this minor masterpiece on this list.
Bionic Commando ReArmed is how every classic remake should end up. The game is instantly recognizable as being a straight up mirror of the NES original. Similar music, similar enemies, similar mechanics, it’s all there with a fresh coat of HD paint and a crazy new electric look.
Take another deep stare, though, and you will notice extra things that improve upon the experience and do absolutely nothing to hinder it. Boss fights are better and require more thought. Exploration has been given a significant overhaul with secret areas. Radd Spencer’s arsenal is larger and weapons can even be upgraded.
The music score has the same tunes, but the effort put into matching it with the new visuals is picture perfect spot on. These songs could not happen in any other game.
The NES Bionic Commando has stood the test of time as a genuine classic, and I’ve got nothing but respect for any studio who was able to come so close to recreating that excitement we felt 25 years ago. Bionic Commando ReArmed is one of the best 2D platformers of this generation, and everyone should enjoy it.
Bionic Commando‘s brief resurgence does not stop with this title. Both the huge budget Bionic Commando and Bionic Commando ReArmed 2 were widely panned by critics when they were released, but I’m gonna put my foot down and kill those thoughts. Both are fine games and should not be dismissed as inferior simply because Spencer has dreadlocks or he can jump.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Phoenix Wright was an obvious choice for this list, but then I remembered that the games are actually GBA releases and should be considered 6th generation games. Not to mention that the games made specifically for the DS have failed to live up to the high standards of the first tree.
Luckily writer Shu Takumi had another little gem up his sleeves which allows you to see the gruesome murders as they occur rather than solving the mysteries after the fact.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is graced with a gorgeous presentation from beginning to end. The slick character art backs up with rotoscoping animation style, and Shu Takumi is once again, much like the Phoenix Wright games, able to throw some endlessly entertaining characters into the fray.
This isn’t just a funny game, though. There is an emotional heart to solving this quest and making sure everyone ends up happy by the end. Speaking of the ending, this game has a twist that knocks it out of the park. It’s one of those perfect twist endings that seems ridiculous and cheap at first, but more and more genius as you begin to recall all the subtle hints.
It’s nice to see that someone at Capcom could stick take risks and get a game like this made. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective has great core mechanics and an emotional center which pushes the boundaries of video game narrative. Shu Takumi has my attention as the most talented guy at Capcom these days.
I’m going to have to really stretch the definition of “love” for this last entry. Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil Revelations were solid choices, but I guess I only “like” them relatively compared to how much I “LOVE” Resident Evil 4.
Instead, I decided to go with a game that I didn’t love playing but I at least love what it stands for.
Dragon’s Dogma is far from perfect, a frustrating game designed to bring a classic sense of Capcom action to the Western style open-world RPG. It’s a great idea to be sure, but the problem is that the developers don’t seem to understand how to streamline these open-worlds, making them less painful to travel.
Clunky menus, difficult navigation, respawning enemies, no fast travel. No thanks.
I won’t be too hard on it since it was a fledgling game in a new genre for the company. If anything, it proves Capcom can still make risky original IPs that can unexpectedly sell one million copies in this day and age, and it can do so without anyone’s help.
Director Hideaki Itsuno is by no means the same caliber game designer as Hideki Kamiya or Shinji Mikami, but he has shown progress with each passing Devil May Cry sequel, enough so to land him his own franchise.
This is the future of Capcom, the only way they can pull themselves from the rut. Groom a new generation of world class talent to make games from within their own halls and give them franchises which let them express their beliefs in games.
Leaning on outside help is only a band-aid on a broken leg that will last long enough to give these other talented guys a shot to expand and grow.
Dragon’s Dogma, Capcom! Study it! Learn from it! This is the future!
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