Before they cancelled Mega Man Legends 3, before they ignored Wii Pointer controls in Monster Hunter Tri, before they rewarded Resident Evil fans with rail shooters, before Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop could handle 6 zombies at once, before they announce Resident Evil: Revelations including the free Mercenaries HD for PS Vita launching simultaneously with the 3DS version (hi-ho 2012 release date) – Capcom presented… THE FIVE.
Never one to forget 3rd Party achievements, I put this little post together to help last generation’s players and this gen’s newcomers remember the pain for years to come. Actually, before rambling about the quintet’s history that everyone’s heard before, I want to bring attention to the titles as they were announced: by sharing nice-quality versions of their debut trailers (well, 4 out of 5 of them). If we’ll remember ANY of it, let’s at least see clean copies of them; one last face-to-face before closing the casket. I know you can search for the moldy Flash videos originating from Matt C.’s IGN, but try to have some respect for the departed. Those videos came from a time when magazine, internet, and even Nintendo’s own coverage made “good” GameCube games look crappy.
Tracking down known copies of these trailers a couple years ago took some time and $rupees$. My search was narrowed to a couple auctions for rare promo DVDs from Japan, eventually making some sellers very happy. In addition, I managed to gather almost all the promo videos for these games since their announcement. One last step (took forever), each video was processed piece by piece – deinterlacing, cropping out blank borders, scaling the frames for consistency – whenever reasonable, trying to help them look their best. It’s only these past couple months that I seriously sat down to finish converting this junk. When hobbies start to feel like work… I tend to avoid them. Recently feeling an urgent sense of justice, I could delay no more.
So here’s what I got: a few custom screencaps, my personal thoughts/description of each game at inconsistent degrees of relevance, and links to the DivX-formatted media on my homepage. But seriously, I went overboard, so don’t read all of it.
This first one up was the first one to go down…
It’s DEAD, ALL RIGHT. All that’s left: the remains of a once-proud bird, now a cooked goose. Dead Phoenix bears a unique status as the only member of the THE FIVE to never see release.
After a good look at the video, you could sum up this concept as Kid Icarus meets Rogue Squadron meets Pikmin meets Monster Hunter = NEVER HAPPENING.
Legacy: The more I looked at it, the less interesting it was (cuz it looks like Monster Hunter). There’s even some evidence of auto-aim (WHY?). The cancellation itself wasn’t a huge deal to me; I don’t care for Icarus (rumored or not) anyway. This is how you mark the beginning of a new era in Nintendo 3rd Party support.
Oh, but a Jill Valentine tekno-ballerina was right up my alley.
UNFORTUNATELY this is the one trailer I don’t have. Capcom didn’t include this trailer with the others (the DVD had a RE Zero trailer instead; the Capcom 5.1?); they, maybe director Shinji Mikami, might’ve had some strong feelings about the game’s sterile contents in its early stages. I remember her awkward flips and dodges and robot-blasting with her Storm Trooper zapper; it wasn’t terribly exciting, but the stage/costume design was interesting at the time (during that era of WWII shooters).
On the upside, P.N.03 was the first of the bunch to see release, and I happened to enjoy it. I used to flip-flop between liking this or Viewtiful Joe more than the other; I simply appreciate them for different reasons.
Up close, Vanessa looked very similar to JILL SANDWICH from the RE Remake, and it was delicious. Like the REmake characters, her facial appearance had a notable photorealistic quality that wasn’t seen on other platforms (nice try, all you drab Silent Hill women on PS2) back then, nor in any game since (I’m serious). Today, many would-be-awesome polygon people are ruined by the excessive and distasteful use of “advanced” shaders and texturing, expelling them from the realm of pleasant photorealism, forever fixing them into that greasy, latexy, “gamey” aesthetic. “High-rez FACE guy” clashing with a bump-mapped-to-Hell environment just doesn’t cut it. It’s kind of pathetic: today’s games continue to look like games, while certain last-gen games sometimes didn’t feel like a game, doing something relatively special. Why did Capcom get it right a decade ago, but suddenly stop at the turn of the generation? Ugh, this industry.
The gameplay was, uhhh, unique; it definitely did not line up with the conventions gamers immediately associated with “sci-fi action shooty” visuals. See, gamers sometimes have trouble identifying gameplay without being distracted by the graphics (it’s natural to want to play the graphics rather than follow the gameplay that’s established), and they continue to have trouble relating back to history. To analyze gameplay, try to DISCARD THE GRAPHICS…? Whether or not players would enjoy P.N.03’s mechanics/objectives was a different matter.
Just below the surface, Ass Rock Shooter is reminiscent of the arcade classic, Space Invaders, with enemies generally distant from the character, character bound to the back/bottom of the scene, and primary movements restricted to your sides. I know it might’ve been hard to accept this at first, since Vanessa appears to be a human and not an effing spacecraft (moves like a tank, tho). It wasn’t quite Gradius or 1942 because you can’t conveniently zip around the playing field: Vanessa is part of Mikami’s family of Tank People. She runs forward a lot, steers a little, and the camera stays firmly on her behind.
The action isn’t “out there” with the enemy; it’s “back here” with Vanessa. The enemy is generally in control of the field (showering it with blasto fire), while you initially stand back and stylishly respond to the projectiles that come your way (or spend time behind cover). Shooting is easy, while dodging is harder and necessary to keep up a pace and look like a proper robot hunter. It is my joy to measure the actions in my surroundings and slip away from danger in that critical split-second (surround sound is very helpful when you’re daring). Dodging fire by just a hair and purposely trying to get away with it all the time is a theme I don’t see emphasized in many games. Yeah, it’s easier said than done, but satisfying, because it’s a legitimate challenge.
Anyway, you typically weave around projectiles and wear the enemy down with unlimited Palm Shots, or pull off a fancy-finish special move (providing brief invulnerability) at the cost of weapon energy. Since dodging is as important as shooting, I used the alternate control scheme where the side-steps were mapped to X & Y, treating them as primary thumb actions. I think that’s extent of my “advanced” gameplay approach.
Why can’t she move and shoot at the same time? I don’t know; maybe moving around interferes with her auto-aim; maybe it’s totally not her style to jog/walk; maybe it doesn’t make sense to shoot during CARTWHEELS. Strafing, spamming shots from anywhere – gamers are so spoiled with their modern games and false merits (developers are also guilty for cultivating weakness). I remember reading about Devil May Cry 2’s gunplay rendering most of Dante’s moves unnecessary; spam-to-win broke the game? In any case, some kind of lock-strafe-shoot would break the current “Space Invaders” relationship with P.N.03’s enemies, stepping into Metroid Prime territory. I still can’t imagine Vanessa casually strutting around targets (tho strangely works for Onechanbara); you might as well make a whole new game, and call it Riqa 64.
Legacy: Hey, P.N.03’s combo counter/timer showed up in RE4’s “The Mercenaries” mini-game. Also, I do believe P.N.03 gave Mikami & friends extra practice with action gameplay, leading into RE4: more time to think about his tank controls with shooting mechanics; what worked; what DIDN’T work. And Vanquish… ahahaha flop.
Media and extras: No debut trailer; sorry. I did throw some gameplay clips together (above) to show the kinds of moments I enjoyed in the game. I also prefer this oddball “dancing” Vanessa over her gun-wielding debut version. In the link, you can download the ending scenes that show her wearing the Papillon Suit (but not enough of the angles you want).
Development on this guy was at a fairly advanced stage by the time it was announced. Unlike the others, VJ looked like it had gone thru the least changes between debut and release. Good job staying on track, Team Viewtiful. Aside from the HUD and other on-screen distractions, the previewed gameplay, stages, and characters smoothly transferred to the finished product – and the results were phenomenal.
When my order arrived, about a month following P.N.03, my roommate at the time was having a blast with it before I could (I had class that day) and described it as “Mega Man on acid”. It was hysterical at first: classical gameplay mechanics fused with mind-blowing ideas; gave lots of cool surprises along the way. We made sure to pickup pieces of brain in the back of the living room.
VJ’s concept was a little easier to describe than P.N.03 (thus an easier sell?): a 2.5D platforming beat ‘em up. The spiritual opposite of Viewtiful Vanessa, Joe took the action to the enemy, violating their personal space with Viewtiful moves. It had tight platformer controls, clever combat-integrated puzzles, a funky yet slick presentation, unique bosses and strategies (that still used the fundamental puzzle mechanics), and some new takes on classic game moments (like an incredibly rad doppelganger boss; we’ve had some since the NES days, but not like that).
Joe’s attacks were quick and deliberate: no long-winded preset combo animations to tie you up. It was easy to cancel most actions by doing something else; break away, be fluid, be agile, and adapt. Having a screen full of enemies and bouncing from place to place to sustain combos was feast for the… I don’t know. It was badass. Whether using the “Slow” or “Mach Speed” techniques, you had options to cause mayhem across the whole screen.
Despite the “Kids” setting, many still found the game difficulty overwhelming. I don’t get it. “Adults” was great the first time thru – no time to rest, gotta stay sharp.
A Dr. Wily-style boss gauntlet with no saves in between? What an EXCELLENT way to kill a half hour every afternoon. A good single player experience is not a one-time deal; I enjoy going thru some motions again and again if a certain level of challenge is always there; not only to hone my skills, but deliver a performance that pleases my own senses.
From the beat ’em up basics to the character-filled credits, VJ provided a sense of “game completion satisfaction” that’s been dying since Nintendo started making rush-job fetch-quest GameCube adventures (with lame, lifeless credits sequences). In contrast, VJ demanded my hard work to the very end and showed me that credits are still worth watching. I appreciate that VJ excelled at being itself, not watering-down or overdoing certain elements to illogically “widen its appeal”.
Legacy: WHAT A WASTE. Viewtiful Joe 2 was an unbalanced rush-job mess. Capcom caught the EA bug and squeezed out a sequel in just a year, going overboard (and underwhelming) on every aspect. Too much random shit was drawn on the screen; enemy pacing and routines were getting overcomplicated and/or cheap; puzzles surprisingly made less sense; minibosses were borderline unfair, yet MAIN bosses were inexplicably EASY. I struggled with some minibosses (“Adults” setting is no piece of cake), but I could get Triple-V ratings on main bosses on the second try (I didn’t believe how easy the first try was, so I started over) – they just became harmless with Mega Man levels of pattern stupidity that didn’t exist in the first game. Completely ridiculous; I can’t even remember the music; the experience was annoying and forgettable; I think I quit ¾ of the way in; Viewtiful Joe 2 was broken.
Worse, the GameCube version had frequent and unexplained frame rate drops, probably resulting from un-optimized rush-job PS2 co-development. How dare they fuck with the solid 60fps everyone appreciated in the first game; VJ2 needed another half year of development, especially to trim the BS.
The remaining games in the franchise were less interesting spin-offs. They didn’t correct the previous disaster (like following DMC2 with a legitimate DMC3 adventure); just made spin-offs (which Onimusha and Resident Evil also suffered). My personal reaction was, “Don’t bother with any more VJ, Capcom. You have no clue what to do with it anymore.”
Capcom took one of the finest “first tries” in their history and killed its potential as quickly as it appeared. Another gem digested into a turd. Enjoy sharing the franchise trash bin with Mega Man (ahaha). Welcome to the New Capcom.
Media and extras: Above is the spoiler-filled boss fight with Fire Leo, the initially punishing finale to the boss gauntlet. The source video is actually an experiment with 60fps video I worked on years ago. I included here as some kind of “fond memory” of the game. As for Fire Leo, I found him to be the EASIEST boss of the group (after practice, on “Adults” difficulty). His pattern turns out to be extremely rigid (almost like the Mega Man X bosses), yielding the results in the previous screenshot. It annoyed me when some players expressed how they “gave up” on the game, unable to beat this part. He’s not that hard – the true challenge/surprise/solution of the fight is simply solving Fire Leo’s puzzle (again, part of the game’s wicked design; granted, the previous bosses seemed much easier because their puzzles weren’t mandatory for success, but definitely helpful). The 60fps version of the fight is in the link.
Additionally, you’ll notice the second full-length trailer is very similar to the debut trailer, reiterating the minimal changes the project went thru. The lovely credits and that bizarre “Viewtiful World” music video are also provided.
Resident Evil 4
I think we know this one pretty well. I’m also tired of writing. This debut showed a couple of those Umbrella environments we never got to check out, but some of the others transformed into parts of the Church and the Castle that are famously familiar to everyone by now. Some of that moody shadowing and flowing curtains would’ve been nice to have in the final release. There’s also a quick perspective switch to first-person – probably the beginning of MANY interface changes. Note the fuzziness of Leon’s original leather jacket that just screams Rocky IV (give me a training montage, somebody). Lastly, give a shout out to that groovy Progenitor Virus, which we know almost nothing about. Thanks for mentioning this USELESS VIRUS AGAIN.
The biggest tragedy of the project’s multiple revisions was arguably the would-be ongoing story of our heroes’ efforts to contact Umbrella Customer Service. IT IS FOREVER GONE AND WE’LL NEVER FIND OUT ABOUT THE VIRUS.
I don’t really care about that ridiculous Umbrella/Wesker saga (and where they’re taking it). I care about Lisa Trevor and how her presence provided insight to the origins of the original games, especially the iconic “mansion incident” (and not the zombie apocalypse garbage in subsequent games). I also care about Barry. I once suggested an RE4-class remake of Resident Evil Gaiden starring the hero of Raccoon City, Barry Burton.
Legacy: Elements of this game have been endlessly, distastefully emulated so much in the name of big-budget high-price unshaven-dudebro blockbuster action gaming that it makes me sick.
Even after Capcom makes a badass game better (RE4:Wii), this cowardly industry continues to avoid making a game that follows its practical achievements. Instead, we’re baited with misguided copycats that continue to make gunplay look sloppy and unrealistic as it was 15 years ago. Give me a refined RE4-inspired experience (RE4:Wii), give me refined shooting controls (RE4:Wii), and I shall taste that genuine, timeless feeling of aiming anywhere on a crazy non-villager and making him “dance”. Capcom gets FREE MONEY selling this GameCube port, yet they didn’t have the common sense to make a new, legitimate action-adventure Wii title in the same mold. Where the fuck did things go wrong? Crap, this was supposed to be a GameCube article. Too bad the game’s legacy ends here. Shinji Mikami abandoned a sinking ship; good for him.
The Barry Gaiden REmake I wished for was replaced by this cruddy boat on 3DS that’s set to lose all decency if it excludes “gyro” aiming controls. Chris and Jill are also has-beens that have been around way too long, and after The Umbrella Chronicles, they look absolutely terrible. The series is dead. Go home, everyone.
Media and extras: RE4: Wii Edition plays so well (above) – and we still have nothing else that measures close to it. Curse this industry.
Capcom Five trailer? Check. Hook Man demo video? Check. The other “indoors” demo video that seemed to have one zombie? No clue; seems like that one wasn’t released to anyone outside the press (bummer!). All 4 official trailers since the game’s redesign should be accounted for, plus a few gameplay videos of a sillier variety. Lastly, I have both “making of” DVD specials from the Japanese and North American launches – in case you haven’t had enough RE4 outside of RE4.
My intellectual and romantic favorite of the bunch… Killer7 was the last to release and maybe the furthest behind schedule during the announcement. This pre-rendered concept footage suggested that a working game didn’t exist at that point – their original “Winter 2003” target was going to be way off. On the bright side, it again showed that Capcom had something “unique” in store for us.
The actual video is short, but there’s lots of interesting details. We get to see some, not all, of the Smith Syndicate, with their initial character designs (Garcian! Whoa!) and other individuals/ideas that didn’t make the cut. It didn’t even have the lovable Heaven Smiles – only people shooting people (hmm, could this be a spoiler?)! While the daring choice of cel-shaded violence was obvious, we’re not shown what the game plays like. The transformation to the final game gradually appeared throughout the trailers that followed.
Director/Writer Goichi Suda and Producer/Co-Writer Shinji Mikami were at the peak of their collaborative “creativity” on this one. The game manages to be serious without pretending to be important/artistic/sophisticated/(insert modern gaming nonsense) nor drawing the player in to do/be something special. It’s set in a fucked-up world that doesn’t treat you like a hero who’s expected to make a difference. And it spends very little time holding your hand to sort out details to cook up digestible conclusions – no cutscene speeches that over-explain what you really wanted to know. The whole package was a mysterious kind of crazy that kept me intrigued: to find meaning in this reality, on my own, became my mission as the player.
On the surface, Harman Smith and his meddling kids are hired to clean out laughing exploding zombie “terrorists” amidst political tensions between a couple nations bent on blowing each other up. But the “real” heart of the story actually takes place within… [well, play the game].
The back of the box says: “Step into the mind of an assassin!” This line was practically meaningless at first. By the end of the game, I looked at the box again and realized part of the truth was always there. I said “wow”.
Killer7’s gameplay was probably a whining point for people who didn’t really understand how video games can play just fine despite being a little different. Whenever these gamers are pulled far enough from existing conventions, they panic, and their mental capacity to articulate web comments flushes down the toilette (I’ve seen this somewhere before…).
We’re given two basic functions: moving and shooting. Moving was initially strange: hold one button to run forward (isn’t this what driving games do? ha ha ha!); press another to turn around. Just follow set lines thru corridors, pausing at junctions to pick a direction – it’s like the old adventure games, minus the cursor – what’s so foreign about that? You can’t run around with the control stick because – I believe – there’s no reason to, and that’s fine (so get over it).
Combat is as old as the archery in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: stop to shoot (huh? strafing? GTFO). While light gun games usually depend on rapid firing and a high volume of bullets, Old White and the Seven Smiths favors accuracy, taking advantage of enemy weak points that help you collect the most blood for upgrading your characters (yes, that sounds right). The Smith arsenal varies in firepower and application, including secondary/charge shots for added punch. Stand your ground, take aim, and take care of business – you can’t free-run if you wanted to. You can turn around and retreat if you need the extra space, but running around frantically like typical games just doesn’t have a place here. As a last resort, a context-sensitive close-range kill is available.
So is it “on-rails”? Why, NO, IT’S NOT. Whoever chose those buzzwords might’ve had a hard time finding words to begin with (yay, gaming journalists), but it’s terribly misleading. You can proceed or stop at will, or backtrack, and you’re never shoved around as an automatic shooting gallery. It isn’t on-rails; it’s… an adventure game with free-aim?
Here’s how I see it: Killer7’s gameplay is an alternative – really, a solution – to the classic Resident Evil “tank control” approach (we’ve seen the other solution already: RE4). It’s not a simple coincidence that the producer is also the RE series creator; Killer7’s approach was likely derived from Mikami’s experience. Between this and classic RE, the core objectives are same: traverse narrow and branching corridors to pick up clues and items to solve puzzles and unlock doors, regularly fighting zombie things that casually close-in on you. Killer7 even borrows the aim+shoot button configuration. However, RE’s functionality and presentation falls apart in practice, regardless of players being generously tolerant over the years. 1) The gunplay made little sense. 2) Tank controls make the characters look awfully stupid (running into walls within pretty backgrounds), and graphics don’t limit us to static angles anymore (reducing the need for tank controls).
1) Classic gunplay problem: Pointing a weapon in general directions, with almost no influence over accuracy, wasn’t really engaging nor effective. Worse, clever players figured out that dodging and avoiding zombies paid off much more than fighting it out; tons of ammo was saved for unsuspecting bosses that just wanted to thrive in Umbrella facilities peacefully – in other words, the gunplay was becoming meaningless. To prevent that, let’s make the gunplay essential and engaging: provide manual aim and make it necessary to kill Heaven Smiles in your path (they’ll explode at close range AND there’s no free-running allowed).
2) Classic movement problem: Old RE stage design often hides shit in lame places, expecting/training MILLIONS of gamers to hump every bookshelf and cabinet to read every “there’s nothing here” message. How much of this garbage do you really want to retain as “gameplay”? OK then, let’s scale that back by highlighting items of interest as junction selections: you’ll notice the option to look as you walk by, so the effort you might’ve spent running against walls and furniture will never be necessary.
Killer7 was very consistent about that, having varied puzzles and locations to keep you occupied without relying on “searching for crap”. Futhermore, the Smiths don’t need any “ammo” or “supplies”, so there’s nothing to routinely pick up. At the cost of some traditional exploration, we’re provided a cohesive third-person presentation that’s surprisingly fluid, letting the camera follow you in fancy ways that feels a world apart from the traditional RE environment.
In the end, I enjoyed a remarkably smooth and cerebral experience. Go where I need to, shoot what I need to, and let my mind absorb all the weird stuff. I haven’t played a game like it before or since. I want more.
Legacy: I have difficulty taking most “mature, etc.” games seriously, especially after Killer7. Those stories and storytelling that are often praised as selling points tend to be rooted or executed with nonsense, and/or the gameplay doesn’t live up to the presentation – like there’s a huge gap between your in-game mechanics and all the amazing shit you see in the cutscenes (or maybe the game is ALL cutscenes, ffs). I’m supposed to accept cutscenes as the exciting parts of the experience? And if it’s not that, it’s the scripted setpiece hand-holding in these dime-a-dozen Hollywood imitation games: “Let’s make sure these realistically-drawn enemies pose no danger to your hero guy – they’re no match for your twin-stick controls and regenerating health” (oops, getting off-topic again). Count me out.
Killer7 wasn’t a hit for Capcom (the shameful PS2 version wasn’t any help), but it was a relative success for Grasshopper Manufacture that helped them deliver a new action experience in No More Heroes for Wii, published by Marvelous Entertainment. NMH took the form of a beat ‘em up, used a slightly different cel-shaded visual style, and presented a relatively fun-loving tone compared to Killer7’s unhappy future. NMH became another favorite of mine, and performed well enough at retail to receive a sequel 2 years later – a first for Suda 51.
And hot damn, Killer7’s gameplay would’ve been a great fit for the Wii Remote – a legitimate Wiimote-only adventure instead of those REmake/Zero ports Capcom tried to sneak onto store shelves. A 3DS version would be even more incredible: eye-popping cel-shading with gyro aiming? It’ll never happen.
Media and extras: Not sure if it was poor marketing or if Grasshopper/Capcom intentionally prevented people from getting a sense of the plot (or both). The trailers never gave a comfortable indication on what the hell was going on. I could only pickup bits and pieces back then, but the info was fragmented enough to not actually spoil anything. I’m thankful in hindsight, cuz it ensured that I’d consume the game raw. Check them out.
Along those same lines, the “Tama Tama Mix” DVD trailer didn’t help, either. I’ve no damn clue what this was about. The song isn’t in the game, and it’s not nearly as interesting as the rest of the music. The video itself is a mess of promo art and low-quality footage copied from the previous trailers. Some parts of the song do remind me of the music used in the debut trailer, if anything.
THE NAME’S… ANDREI ULMEYDA
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Looks like this ended up being more than some “top 5” clickbait. MY BAD.
What have the Capcom Five taught us?
(in no particular order)
1. Capcom used to have guts.
2. Capcom used to have amazing talent.
3. Capcom loves to sabotage its games.
4. Capcom has killed multiple franchises.
5. Capcom has forged a legacy of betrayal.
Our relationship is history.
Welcome to the New Capcom.
Same as the Old Capcom.
Note: Screens were taken from compressed videos.