Saturday, June 03, 2023
If you have just made Resident Evil 4, what do you do next? The answer, according to Shinji Mikami, is God Hand, a game as devoutly weird as he could muster, courting weak sales and a cult audience. Another answer, mooted by Capcom in 2023, in the wake of the remade Resident Evil 4, is: Street Fighter 6. I dare say that the latter strategy is more likely to please the company’s accountants; there is nothing like a Hadouken to stoke a publisher’s quarterly earnings into a blaze. However, this is not to say that Capcom is no longer willing to get strange. Next month, we have Exoprimal, a game about dinosaurs clawing holes in the fabric of space-time, leaping through the vacuum of extinction, and swarming our major cities. When you’ve already rejuvenated one fossil – from the dusty coasts of 2005 – why not go for broke?
Broke, of course, is not where Capcom will go. Whether or not Exoprimal sells well, the good times refuse to cease rolling. This year, the company posted record profits, revved up by the likes of Resident Evil 4 and Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak. Last year, the company posted record profits, thanks to Resident Evil Village, and boosted by persistent sales of Monster Hunter World: Iceborne and Resident Evil VII: Biohazard. The year before that, the company posted record profits, driven by Resident Evil 3 and Monster Hunter Rise, with steady sales from Resident Evil 2 and Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition. Note the role of Resident Evil – not just its beefy annual sales, but its insistence, year on year, of remaining fiscally undead.
No other studio is quite so adept at reviving its own corpus. We have a line of Resident Evil remakes, embalming the originals with graphical lustre. There are the lesser-celebrated efforts, such as Ghosts ’n Goblins Resurrection, a valiant retelling of the first two games in that series. It had a storybook look: perfect for the pulp of its subject matter, but also a cutting little joke about how foxed and dusty our memories can get. Then, there are collections. Back in April, there was Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection, a bundle of Game Boy Advance platformers. In 2022, we had Capcom Fighting Collection and Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium. These bundles are published with such regularity and gusto that any charges of cynical cashing-in (the ones that tend to stick and stain, when Nintendo does it) seem to slide off. The fact there is a new way for you to pay for Street Fighter II on a near-annual basis is, somehow, a source of comfort – a sign that the universe is in proper health.
It’s an approach that Konami has looked to for inspiration. Hence the Castlevania Anniversary Collection and the Castlevania Advance Collection, as though to transfuse its ailing reputation with a fresh stream of old glories. (Hence, too, the upcoming remake of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.) It’s worth noting that Capcom has a couple of advantages, the first being sheer financial oomph. The breadth of its output means that we often forget its missteps. Scouring a list of recent releases, I was shocked to discover that Resident Evil Re:Verse had staggered out last October, dead on arrival. I remember hearing about that game – another attempt to splice Resident Evil with a strain of multiplayer – and thinking how much it seemed to scrape against Capcom’s usual mode of business. You can hardly blame a studio for wanting to try something new, but Capcom has, in part, thrived by resisting the pull of trends.
No battle royales. No free-to-play online-athons. And no team-focussed, season-fed shooters that lure you in with a thin lacquer of flash but whose value has to be added, and mined, over the course of months: call it games as a surface. (How sad it was, this week, to read about Redfall, which was, reportedly, conceived as a single-player immersive sim, before being remoulded for multiplayer.) Capcom has followed its own conservative star, and that faith – in old, established traditions – has gilded some of its games with an unexpected rarity. The Resident Evil 4 remake was, whatever else you make of it, a single-player, blockbuster third-person shooter. What stays with you, after the credits roll and the island base is blown to rubble, is how scarce that increasingly seems. Other than the Resident Evil remakes, you have to go back to 2019, to the likes of Control and Gears 5, to get your fix.
Game developers have golden runs. Publishers fall out of favour. Capcom has relished the kind of success that many companies dream about by defying prevailing wisdom. Indeed, in the face of wisdom, Capcom prevails. Electronic Arts – whose recent history has been marred by an over-reliance on multiplayer and micro-transactions – has cottoned on. Look at the likes of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and its sequel, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor; at the Dead Space remake; and at Wild Hearts. A couple of single-player action-adventures, a reimagining of a horror hit, and a spirited Monster Hunter wannabe. You can hardly blame the effort. With any luck, Capcom’s simple approach, its fidelity to its own back catalogue, and its focus on cherished series and luxe, single-player thrills, will start a Triple-A trend. In the games industry, Capcom may be something of a dinosaur, but it is proving that the old ways are far from extinct.
Saturday, June 03, 2023 @ 06:01 PM
Tuesday, June 06, 2023 @ 12:09 PM