Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Capcom’

Of course this game will be awesome. He looks like the frickin' Rocketeer!

Just like last year, this Christmas’ new games slate went lighter than planned, as quite a few high priority games’ release dates slipped into the first quarter of next year.  Hardly anyone wants to delay a project release, especially when you consider how long the development cycle on current gen games can get.  But sometimes a game could benefit from a few more months of polishing, as was the case with this year’s GOTY contender Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Other times, a real juggernaut hits retail, and it makes more sense for a publisher to hold back a release until it can find more room in headlines and on shelves.  Modern Warfare 2 and New Super Mario Brothers Wii in particular sucked all the air out of the room this year.

It’s been fascinating to watch what Capcom’s community team and developer Airtight Games have been doing with the extra time until the release of their delayed title, Dark Void. Of course, they’ve checked all the necessary boxes: a fan site, a Facebook page, and a Twitter feed. Their Twitter community manager is really committed to speaking as the character of a survivor from within the Void, and ties in the game’s fiction nicely with even routine things like giveaway contests.

And this is where it gets really cool.  Last week Capcom announced Dark Void Zero, an 8-bit “prequel” to their soon-to-be-released current gen game.  Retro lightning already struck twice for Capcom, with Mega Man 9 and the outstanding Bionic Commando: Rearmed, so why not try for a third?  But Mega Man and Bionic Commando really are established, well-loved franchises with all the history and nostalgia that entails. 

Dark Void’s a completely new IP.  And it’s been hard out there for a pimp new property lately.  Just ask EA!  On top of developing an impressive fiction to serve the current-gen Dark Void game and the fan community, AND developing a fun 8-bit game to expand that universe and generate buzz, big C also developed a suitable backstory for the 8-bit game, as if the property had existed during that era.

All this attention to detail in the pre-release period has elevated Dark Void from a title I was merely interested in to pretty much a must-buy on day 1.  I’ll probably download Dark Void Zero to boot.  Well played, Capcom.

Read Full Post »

ctown fair sign 2Last week, yours truly was called upon to protect the city and county of New York from the forces of evil.  Luckily, jurors get a whopping 2 hours for lunch and my local Hall of Justice is a few shorts blocks away from one of NYC’s truly hidden gems – Chinatown Fair.  Once famous for its dancing, tic-tac-toe playing chicken, Chinatown Fair is the city’s last bastion of the smoke filled, dimly lit arcade scene that bore nerd havens in malls and boardwalks around the country throughout the 80s and mid 90s.

I had last been in a proper arcade sometime in college (Pinball Pete’s represent!), but arcades had begun a quick and steady descent into obsolescence in this country some years before that.  Starting with the earliest consoles, each generation inched closer and closer to delivering a true arcade experience.

The Playstation/Saturn era finally delivered parity, but the home experience still came up short in perhaps the most critical area: competition.  This generation’s online matchmaking took care of that, and now  just about the closest thing you can find to an arcade in the States is some kind “Chuck E. Cheese for adults” nightmare with lots of bad food and fairly lame out-of-home-attraction type games.

SFIV

CF's networked SFIV cabinets - the only ones in NYC?

Chinatown Fair is unapologetic in its lineup and old-school decor.  The place is lined wall-to-wall with Capcom, SNK and Namco fighters.  A few big cabinet driving games, light-gun shooters, shmups and the obligatory Dance Dance Revolution machines round out the collection.

The latest additions to CF are all imports, as the scene’s still vibrant across the Pacific.  It was a good opportunity for me to see how arcade companies are adapting their hardware to suit more casual play styles, just like in console games.

A few driving and rhythm games at CF feature a proprietary card system that tracks players’ progress, much like a players’ club card in a casino.  So after a one-time nominal purchase on the actual game cabinet – for example, a racer based on the anime Initial D – the player can insert their card into any Initial D cabinet they encounter in any arcade in the world, and they’ll be able to use the car they’ve customized on the tracks they’ve unlocked progressing through the game.  It’s like having a savegame file that’s always with you, or an Xbox LIVE account that works in the arcade.

I thoroughly dug my visit to Chinatown Fair.  It feels like one of the divier spots from my time in Japan.   And I mean that as a huge compliment.  I can understand how the arcade business model got phased out, but it’s kind of a shame that there are so few of them left for younger gamers to experience.  If you happen to know of a particular good spot in your town, be sure and leave it in the comments.

I'm such a baller

Read Full Post »

Last week, LucasArts announced they’d blow the dust off their venerable adventure games catalog, offering an ongoing selection of hits via Steam.  Of course, gamers everywhere rejoiced, and the immediate questions were all positive: ‘what other platfroms will these be available on?’ and ‘what other classics will they release next?’

The announcement came on top of Major Nelson’s release of this summer’s Xbox LIVE Arcade schedule.  They’re mining some classics as well, with remakes of LucasArts’ own Secret of Monkey Island and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time as well as a re-release of Marvel vs. Capcom 2.

These announcements, and the fanfare surrounding them, show what a compelling revenue stream a publisher’s back catalog can make.  And it makes very good sense.  It takes a much smaller team and significantly less expense to prep an old, critically acclaimed gem for re-rerelease on a new system, even in the case of a full refresh like this week’s stellar Secret of Monkey Island remake.  Gamers that might just be discovering that IP through Telltale’s new episodic Tales of Monkey Island series can go back to the original and see what made these characters and the whole SCUMM system so endearing.  

Publishers don’t need to put any expense or energy into packaging these titles and bringing them to retail.  When the games are strong enough, as is the case with LucasArts’ catalog, they don’t even really need to market them very much.  The enthusiast community will do it for them.  Essentially, a rerelease of a true masterpiece is a pure profit play for a publisher that put in all the years of hard work building a great library.

As long as publishers don’t turn the valve too far and just start releasing every piece of crap title they’ve ever produced, I hope to see a lot more classics coming down the pipe.  In this still very sequel-heavy business, re-releasing the early gems from a series a few months ahead of a new installment could be a very wise marketing spend.  For instance, Ico  and Shadow of the Colossus should hit the PSN store a few weeks before The Last Guardian hits the shelves.

Read Full Post »

The NPD report for February came out last Thursday, and if the industry keeps up this pace, I may have to issue a teary, self-depricating apology for my New Year’s rant about release scheduling.  The first quarter of the year has always been pin-drop quiet, even during some of the industry’s best years.  It gave gamers, retailers, and developers a much needed breath after the holidays.  This year?  Not so much.

On a recent visit to GameStop, I had to choose from perennial favorite MLB The Show, the long-awaited Peggle: Dual Shot, the better than expected GTA: Chinatown Wars, and Street Fighter IV.  Of course, Resident Evil 5 just dropped, and Gears 2, Little Big Planet and the rock-out-with-your-plastic-axes-out games continue to get killer DLC on an a regular basis.  It’s unlikely that such a bountiful first quarter was 100% intentional.  Holiday release schedules get ambitious, marketing budgets get slashed, and before you know it, a locked-in holiday blockbuster gets shuffled into the following year.

However, I’m willing to give Capcom the benefit of the doubt with Street Fighter IV.  All along, they’ve been favoring a hardcore gamer audience in marketing this title, with a steady flow of info from their Capcom-Unity blog and Twitter feed.  And their down ‘n dirty “Fight Club” event was just about the only pre-launch promotion this year that I really, really wished I had worked on.  At the end of the day, this title exists for that hardcore, multi-system owning gamer that purchases over a dozen games a year.  Capcom was refreshingly unapologetic about it, and I’m glad to see they were rewarded for it.

Nintendo juggernauts like Wii Fit, Wii Play, and the Mario Kart titles will (very deservedly) continue to consume the best-seller list month in and month out, because there’s a new casual gamer born every minute.  I hope third parties continue to use different parts of the year and inspired, innovative promo to show their biggest fans how much they still care.

Read Full Post »

One element of appeal I completely missed in my Mega Man 9 post was the cost factor.  As I said before, I applaud the aesthetic direction Capcom’s taking this one.  But I hadn’t really considered what that lo-fi design choice could mean for the bottom line, until I read Chris Kohler’s great piece on Koji Igarashi and the latest installment in the Castlevania franchise.

There’s already quite a bit of negative press surrounding Castlevania Judgement, and with very good reason.  How the hell does a head-to-head fighter fit in the Castlevania universe?  Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood were terrific recent entries in the series, so it’s not like Konami forgot how to make a good vampire-slaying game starring the Belmont clan.

The fighting game approach it just feels like Konami’s blatantly going back to the well to take advantage of die-hard Castlevania fans, and sullying their sturdiest franchise in the process.  And it gets so much sadder when you realize Igarashi couldn’t get the budget for a true followup, so the Konami braintrust’s next move is “toe-to-toe brawler.”

And that’s why Capcom’s decision to go 8-bit is so brilliant.  Mega Man 9 will feel like a true followup in the series, probably even more so than Mega Man 7 and 8.  It can be cranked out by a tiny staff (compared to most current-gen development teams), and delivered via Wiiware for what EA probably spent on snacks on bottled water for the Madden ’09 build cycle.  And, they can bench test a bunch of new, fresh-out-of-school designers before dropping them into more heavy-duty design teams for the next Resident Evil or Lost Planet games.

I hope Konami thinks about taking Castlevania back to its roots in similar fashion.  Of course, a new  Zombies ate my Neighbors wouldn’t hurt while they’re at it.

Read Full Post »

E3 is once again upon us (albeit in its retooled, min-E3 format).  I won’t cover every single announcement here – there are plenty of up-to-the-minute industry news sites on the blogroll at right, so set your RSS reader and fire away.  But a week like this always has a few thought-provoking surprises, and presents a good opportunity to take the industry’s pulse.  It’s like halftime, leading up to the holiday season endgame.

There’s a lot to be excited about in Capcom’s lineup this year, with Street Fighter IV promising a return to form in offense-geared, fast paced brawling along with a hot new 3D presentation.  It’s a big, big development for Street Fighter fans, but I’m actually more excited about the return of the true blue bomber in Mega Man 9 on the Virtual Console and PSN.

For this installment, Capcom went back to the series’ roots and opted for the graphics and sounds of a classic NES game.  In an industry that’s constantly pushing the hardware for higher frame rates and jaw-dropping visuals, it’s a breath of fresh air to see someone opt for the look and feel that just plain fits the character best.  Mega Man 7 (on the SNES) and 8 (on the original PlayStation) were both good games in their own right, but just didn’t have that classic Mega Man charm, as anyone that played through Mega Man 2 would attest.

The decision from a big studio to go lo-fi for the latest entry in their flagship franshise is a subtle, but important development.  It’s an artistic choice, to create a similar experience and evoke the same feelings as we had playing through the glory days of the series.

This is the second awesome videogame quilt picture I've run.  Please send more.

This is the second awesome videogame quilt picture I've run. Please send more.

I’d love to see future installments of classic franchises explore what made them great in the first place.  And while we’re at, why not breathe new life into the classics we’ve already played through a million times by adding more content?  Wouldn’t it be cool to pick up a Double Dragon game where part 3 left off?  Or play through the NES port of Maniac Mansion, with running commentary from the (reunited) original development team?

Read Full Post »