It ended with a bang. At the first Capcom Gamers' Day to be held in Europe - our own fair capital of London, to be precise - it looked for ten excruciating seconds like the big reveal of an extremely lengthy press conference really was going to be the announcement of a PS3 version of Lost Planet. But we should have known better.
The stunning trailer for Street Fighter IV was a far more fitting climax. Capcom refused to discuss details or even name formats, mentioning only that the title was in the very early stages of development, and over a year from release. We'd like to believe that those stylised visuals hint at 3D models rendered in a traditional, hand-drawn style, and that the game sticks to the series' traditionally crisp and speedy flat-plane brawling. But that might just be wishful thinking. As a consolation, Capcom did offer the world's press a go on the very beautiful and faithful Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix for PSN and Xbox Live Arcade, and reassured us that it was working hard on that game's network code to ensure a perfect, zero-lag online experience.
But let's rewind a little. The conference began with Nobuyuki Matsushima - deputy head of Capcom's R&D division - stressing Capcom's all-embracing, multi-platform strategy. Of course, in this confusing day and strange age, there's only so multi-platform you can be. What followed demonstrated that he actually meant "multi-platform, apart from Nintendo, which totally has its own thing going on". Fair enough; Capcom showed line-ups of equal, but not total, strength on both sides.
Over in the power-hungry PC, PS3 and 360 corner, the long-awaited return of Bionic Commando burst out of the traps first. It wasn't playable by the press, but was demonstrated in some detail, so watch out for a full preview soon. Note for now that its uninspiringly grimy and derivative third-apocalyptic post-person looks may yet disguise some intriguing, free-swinging thrills.
Another defiantly western third-person actioner making its debut - but more of an unknown quantity at this point - was Dark Void. This will be the first game from Airtight Games, a studio based in Redmond near Seattle, and formed around the team that made well-respected dogfighter Crimson Skies. The trailer hinted at a mystery involving the millennia-old creators of mankind, a vaguely steampunk visual style, and a mix of futuristic aerial combat and on-foot gunplay. The use of a jet-pack to dart around wind-blown, vertigo-inducing sky platforms seemed the most exciting part.
With Resident Evil 5 a long way off and mired in accusations of racism, Capcom didn't even mention it, and banged its Devil May Cry 4 drum pretty hard instead. Capcom legend Hiroyuki Kobayashi was on hand to provide guided tours of the game's OTT combat mechanics, OTT characters, OTT graphics, OTT story and OTT - to the point of being breathtakingly, shamelessly rude - cut-scenes.
Although newcomer Nero is hardly a new Raiden, the return of Dante halfway through the game (and through to its conclusion) looks likely to be far more gratifying. A few truly spectacular special weapons for Dante were revealed: Lucifer fills the air with flower-like patterns of magical swords that can be detonated at will, while Pandora's Box transforms into incredible and seemingly endless permutations of absurd, heavy-duty projectile weaponry. Dante also starred in a magnificent cut-scene, in which he spoke a stream of sexual innuendo while carving a monolithic slab of stone into a love heart, with a rose clenched between his teeth. Balletic, melodramtic demon-smashing mayhem returns on PS3 and 360 in February next year.
This rather samey line-up of third-person actioners was thankfully complemented by Capcom's impressive commitment to download games for XBLA and PSN. Alongside the sumptuous SSFIITHDR (don't make us spell it out again), Commando 3 is a welcome, full-blown update of the nails-hard arcade shooter, with proper modern graphics and everything. We had a blast in our quick hands-on and look forward to three-player online co-op come December. Rocketmen: Axis of Evil was also pretty, but a little too similar to Commando for its own good. The right-thinking nerds in attendance (and let's face it, who wasn't one?) got more excited about a version of the classic fantasy boardgame, Talisman, which will appear on PC as well as the console download services later this year. It'll be the next Catan, mark our words.
Which brings us, at last, to Capcom's offerings for the other half of the world's games brain, the Nintendo half. The big announcement was news of a Wii version of Okami; few details were provided but few were needed, since we already know it's a spell-binding and sprawling adventure whose paintbrush flourishes make it a perfect fit for Nintendo's magic box. It was interesting to note that the conversion is being handled by Ready at Dawn, of Daxter and God of War: Chains of Olympus fame: it can only be good news to see this patently talented developer choosing to learn the Wii ropes.
Of the rest, there was plenty to see, but little of it new. Mega Man ZX Advent on DS is no less than the 43rd 2D platformer to bear the Mega Man name - make of that what you will. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney charmed socks off all over the place with just its character names - Trucy! Klavier Gavin! - and a glimpse of former hero Phoenix Wright wearing a medallion, a beanie and some stubble. On the Wii front, Zack & Wiki still looks like a beguiling and cute puzzle adventure; and we can report that holding the satisfyingly chunky Wii Zapper - boy, does Nintendo ever know how to mould plastic - does not stop Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles from being, frankly, terrible.
Capcom took particular pains to highlight We Love Golf! on the Wii, which, astonishingly, is the company's first ever sports game, due next year. A shame that playing it was so puzzling and disappointing. Developers Camelot (seasoned hands at the tee, having worked on both Mario's and Everybody's Golf games before) have implemented swing controls well, but bogged the game down in needless complication and old-fashioned thinking, tying the swing to a redundant power meter. It plays a decent game but is nothing like as transparent and effortless as the Wii Sports version, and so rather pointless.
Overall, the Gamers' Day showed a Capcom that's eager to keep pace with a changing world; one where PlayStation doesn't rule supreme, where Nintendo has moved the goal-posts, where the Japanese market doesn't have the influence it used to, where downloadable games need to be taken seriously, and where classic franchises are only going to get you so far. On current showing, it's struggling to get it right every time, but it's trying harder than most, which is something.
And that Street Fighter IV trailer is something else. If only it wasn't meaningless. But, what the hell, may as well watch it again anyway...
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