This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Capcom Five.
Let's all laugh at an industry that never learns anything, tee, hee, hee.
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retarded Special Moments in Gaming History
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Capcom, far from being a website for people with an interest in cloth headwear, is a global game developer and publisher and massive, massive slut. If Capcom ever promises your console an exclusive game, make sure to hose down the marital bed with delousing agent, 'cause it will be out with sailor boys every night catching a fresh dose of blistering barnacles. Just recently, two of its hottest properties, Resident Evil 4 and Dead Rising, spread their already barely acquainted legs a little further apart to accommodate a few more console ports. And both of them were at one point pledged as exclusive titles, hilariously enough.
But how did Capcom first follow the philosophy of philandering fair-weather friendship? Today, the Zero Punctuation occasional guide to differently-able moments in gaming history examines the curious case of the Capcom Five - not quite as many as The Magnificent Seven, but remade about as much.
The Capcom Skive
The year was the delightfully palindromic 2002, and in the days before Nintendo heard the siren call of motion controls and started naming their consoles after things little piggies have been known to do all the way home, their GameCube was struggling to find a decent market share. Nintendo's days of being king shit of all the lands of gaming had made them complacent and caused them to pick up a few bad habits, one of which had apparently been a tendency to use bathroom disinfectant as a drinks mixer. That being the only explanation I can think of for why the Nintendo 64 was a cartridge console when disc-based media was available. Developing for cartridge at that time was like an animation studio having to paint each frame onto the side of a frightened piglet.
So third-party developers buggered off in droves to the eager arms of the PlayStation. That particular wake-up call led meanderingly to the GameCube, which had more powerful hardware than its competitors - the PS2 and Xbox- as well as a disc drive, although I guess there was still some of that bathroom disinfectant left over because it only ran novelty tiny baby discs whose main benefit that I could see was that you could use them to convince someone that their hands have mysteriously doubled in size. As such, the GameCube was failing to lure developers back, and so Nintendo turned to its old comrade, Capcom, whose Mega Man games made for such a profitable partnership before 256 colours ruined everything.
The relationship was already troubled, since Capcom had jumped ship with everyone else to make Resident Evil for the PlayStation. But all seemed forgiven, as Capcom announced in late 2002 five new titles to revitalize the GameCube: P.N.03, Dead Phoenix, Viewtiful Joe, Killer7, and most notably, the aforementioned Resident Evil 4, all to be overseen by proven director Shinji Mikami. Things were looking immediately rosier for Nintendo as a representative of Capcom USA claimed that these would all be exclusive to GameCube as he adjusted his Stetson and fired his revolvers into the air. But then the fiasco began, as there were a few moments of angry muttering behind the curtains and Capcom USA came back out to say that there had been a communication cock-up and only Resident Evil 4 was confirmed to be exclusive at that time.
Now, us mighty spacemen of the future year 2016 can look back on that with a knowing smile, because at time of writing, Resident Evil 4 has been ported to 11 different gaming platforms and at least one kitchen appliance, because it is - in academic terms - fucking sweet. I won't say Resident Evil 4 breathed new life into its franchise, because to even associate it with the other Resident Evils is like adding David Bowie to the lineup of S Club 7. The writing was as atrocious as ever, but with a self-aware B-movie edge that made all the difference. The completely retooled gameplay was a major influence on 3rd-person shooters still to this day, and the graphics tech was practically next-gen, that is to say, mostly brown. It wasn't so much Resident Evil getting back on its feet, as a landmark title in the entire history of the medium, which I do not say lightly, because I just ate an entire fruitcake. But the point is, that it alone may well have saved the GameCube, if it had been an exclusive. But as we all know, that turned into a pretty big "if". So here's a smaller "if": maybe everything would have still been lovely for Nintendo if Capcom had kept their mouth shut and hadn't announced the PS2 port two months before the GameCube release. Consequently, Resident Evil 4 sold 1.6 million on the GameCube and 2 million on the PS2. What should have been the laying down of a winning hand became the laying of a cruel fist upon the goolies.
As for the rest of the Capcom Five, the funny thing was that it had no middle ground. They were all either great or great balls of shite. Viewtiful Joe was a smart and sexy side-on cartoon brawler that reviewed well and sold perfectly satisfactorily, but Capcom did a PS2 port anyway, as far as I can tell to just rub Nintendo's nose in it. Killer7 was the game that put legendary auteur Suda51 on the map, but to call it slightly unconventional would be like calling a swift knee in the bollocks a slightly inappropriate response to a question at a presidential debate, and it was destined for cult stardom only, which is a nice way of saying, "reviewed well, sold like shit".
And then you have the other side of the coin. One of the 5 was never even released. Dead Phoenix was supposed to be some Panzer Dragoon affair, but was cancelled in August 2003, which must have been an easy time to be a videogame website headline writer. "'Dead Phoenix is dead.' Bam. That deserves an early lunch!"
The final game was P.N.03 - a 3rd-person shooter about a lady who dressed like a MacBook trying to disguise itself as kitchen appliance, and constantly moved like she was busting for a piss. Critics and audiences panned it alike, and so naturally it was the only one of the five to remain a GameCube exclusive. Here's your consolation prize, Nintendo. It's a bag of lawn clippings and dead wasps!
The end result of the Capcom Five was that what should have been a boost for the GameCube turned into one broadcast after another that Capcom had zero faith in the console, and Nintendo wouldn't forget. In fact, rumour has it that the whole debacle is why there weren't any Capcom characters in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. And if it's true, then that's the most pathetic attempt at revenge I've ever heard of. It's like telling the bloke who murdered your family and stole all your money that you've expelled him from your best friend's treehouse club.
The Lessons Nobody Learned
I think it's pretty clear that Nintendo remain steadfast in their blindness to the lessons of history by, even after all these years, having no idea what they're doing when it comes to third-party development. After all, they released Metroid Prime: Federation Force instead of selling the entire stock to hot air balloon pilots for use as inexpensive ballast. Still, they remain the kings of awkward hardware and ruthless exclusivity, despite exclusivity being an utterly anti-consumer practice that a sensible games industry would've thrown out with the fucking oscilloscopes.
I'm glad that Capcom maintained the policy of keeping their options and their legs open. So when I call them a great big whore, I want to make it clear that it's not meant as a criticism - quite the opposite. Some of my best friends are whores, as long as I keep up the payments.
- Five bob for the full package: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- You've got to be careful putting Suda51 on the map because he might leave a stain
- Lawn clippings and dead wasps coming soon for digital download