Boy, Capcom really went to town today on the news and media, didn’t they? It’s a damn shame, then, that none of it involved the company’s original mascot - and my all-time favourite Capcom hero - Captain Commando.
Just like Sega, in the 1980s Capcom felt the need to create a mascot for itself, to help promote the company and its games. Only, instead of using an existing character from an existing game, Capcom built one from the ground-up, made entirely of blonde hair, sunglasses and 100% pure awesome.
That character was Captain Commando. A take on the company’s name (CAPtain COMmando), he made his first appearances not in video games, but on the box art of Capcom’s NES range, spending the years between 1986 and 1989 serving as a company mascot on the back cover art of games like 1942, Commando, Mega Man and Strider, and even congratulating players on their purchase.
With a space suit, blonde hair, a sci-fi setting and some laser guns, he was Tom Cruise’s Maverick meets Dolph Lundgren’s He-Man. He was Captain America meets Flash Gordon. He was Duke Nukem in space, sans the misogyny. He was, basically, the greatest male video game character of the time. And he wasn’t even really in a video game.
He made his partial game debut in 1987's platformer Section Z. While the character in the title looks nothing like Captain Commando, and the original Japanese version makes no mention of the mascot, the English localization’s manual says the playable character’s name is Captain Commando. Though really, this quirk aside, that doesn’t really count.
Captain Commando made his genuine, bonafide debut in 1991, as the star of his own side-scrolling arcade beat-em-up, Captain Commando. Alongside a memorable cast, including a mummy, a ninja and a baby driving a giant mech, Captain Commando may not have been much of a success, but its iconic characters and classic beat-em-up gameplay made it my favourite game of the time, and my favourite arcade brawler of all time.
Sadly, not too many others shared my love of the character or the game, and when Captain Commando’s arcade release and subsequent console ports failed to turn the character into a household name, he was quietly shelved. He would no longer serve as Capcom’s mascot, he would no longer congratulate kids on buying Capcom games and he would no longer be the star of his own video games.
Truth be told, he wasn’t really missed. Capcom is home to perhaps more popular video game characters than even Nintendo, so with Mega Man, Street Fighter and Resident Evil on-hand to promote games, Captain Commando’s services were no longer required.
Thankfully, you can’t keep a good character down - especially when it belongs to Capcom - as the onset of fighting games in the late 90's gave him the perfect avenue for a comeback. He returned as a playable character in 1998's Marvel vs Capcom, and has since appeared in other games like Marvel vs Capcom 2, Namco x Capcom and the SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters series.
Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.