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Remembering Capcom's Great Nintendo Promise / Betrayal

Illustration for article titled Remembering Capcoms Great Nintendo Promise / Betrayal
Total RecallTotal RecallTotal Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

Capcom and Nintendo have always had a rather close relationship. In 2002, though, the pair became blood brothers. Or so people thought.

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That was the year the infamous "Capcom Five" were announced by the Osaka-based publisher, a range of titles seemingly designed to give Nintendo's fledgling GameCube a shot in the arm, and which ended up doing nothing of the sort.

From Mega Man being one of the stars of the NES to Capcom's development of a few Zelda titles for the Game Boy, the Japanese giants had for years enjoyed a fruitful partnership. By the time Nintendo came to release its GameCube console, however, things weren't quite so cosy.

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The arrival of the PlayStation in the mid-90's had seen Capcom shift much of its attention to Nintendo's rival, with games like Resident Evil helping put Sony's console on the map. Perhaps seeking to address this, and to help swing a little hardcore gaming attention back towards Nintendo's console, in 2002 Capcom announced the "Capcom Five".

This was a deal that would see five games, all developed and published by Capcom's finest talent, land exclusively on the GameCube. Those five games were:

- P.N.03
- Killer7
- Dead Phoenix
- Resident Evil 4
- Viewtiful Joe

It was seemingly a huge coup for Nintendo, as among the five games was a true Resident Evil sequel, while other titles would be led by stars like Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami and Devil May Cry's Hideki Kamiya.

Turns out, though, that Nintendo's white knight was the result of some PR miscommunication, and not an act of corporate benevolence. Although announced by Capcom in December 2002 as being five titles to be released exclusively for the Nintendo GameCube, only a month later the publisher was forced to backpedal and say that it was only Resident Evil 4 that would be a GameCube exclusive. The other four titles, while definitely slated to appear on Nintendo's console, were also up for grabs if anyone else wanted them.

If that didn't take the wind out of Nintendo fanboy's sails, what was to come certainly would.

The first Capcom Five game released was P.N.03, an action title with a female lead and a clean sci-fi aesthetic. While appreciated now as being a little ahead of its time, P.N.03 was both a critical and commercial disappointment, especially given the fact it had led the charge of the Capcom Five. Next up was Viewtiful Joe, and again, while earning praise for its quirky looks and interesting time mechanics, it failed to set the world on fire.

Dead Phoenix should have been the next game, but it was cancelled after it failed to make an appearance at E3 2003, and cancelled so early in development nobody really even knows what the game was about. With three of the five games now accounted for, reality was having a very hard time keeping up with expectations.

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It would be almost two years until the fourth of the Capcom Five games were released, and finally, it was one worth the wait. Resident Evil 4 hit shelves in 2005, and as one of the greatest games ever made, ensured that even if the other four titles faded into history, at least one of the Capcom Five had made its mark, not just for its parent company, but for the GameCube it had provided some much-needed street cred for.

The fifth and final game, 2005's Killer7, is perhaps the most memorable of Grasshopper boss Goichi Suda's works, and while the twisted, murderous plot and unique graphics of the game earned it a cult following, it divided critics and failed to resonate with a wide audience.

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Of the five games, then, one was cancelled. P.N.03, Viewtiful Joe and Killer7 did...OK. And Dead Phoenix never even saw the light of day. For GameCube owners, the Capcom Five thus ended up a bit of a disappointment, as aside from Resident Evil 4 many were hoping for a little more given the development talent involved in the titles.

Beyond GameCube owners, though, Nintendo fans were even more disappointed, as what had once been promised as a series of exclusive titles ended up being anything but. While P.N.03 remained a GameCube exclusive, Viewtiful Joe and Killer7 both found their way to the PlayStation 2, and in both instances even featured a little extra content not available in the GameCube versions (though to be fair both games were slightly inferior ports on the PS2).

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Most distressing, though, was the fate of Resident Evil 4. The only game of the Capcom Five truly heralded as a Nintendo exclusive, it not only found its way to the PlayStation 2, but has since turned up on other non-Nintendo systems like the PC and iPhone, and will later this year also be released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

In the end, though, did it really matter? It's not like any of them could have saved the GameCube, whose problems (lack of DVD playback and support from other third party publishers just for starters) were too numerous for five magical Capcom titles to fix.

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And as for those strange Nintendo fans outraged at the PS2 version of Resient Evil 4, you still got the game, got it first and got the better version. That's a lot more than impartial bystanders would have expected from the GameCube in 2005.

Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

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DISCUSSION

I feel like there is a missing factor to this whole story Luke, and that is the big shake up at Capcom that happened around the time of the Capcom Five Announcement. This would lead to a Resident Evil 4 we will never see, to the incredible Resident Evil 4 we now have.

Both P.N.03 and Devil May Cry 2 came out at around the same time, both were incredible failures because they were sighted with bad control schemes. Not to mention several other Capcom titles would come out around this time, either a year before, or year after, with similar gripes... Maximo, Killer7, Onimusha, Mega Man X6 and X7, Steel Battalion and it's $300 controller, SNK vs Capcom... all these games were meant for something greater and they just bombed sales wise or easily became forgotten. The only semi-successful game during this time was Resident Evil Re-birth, but even with gold star reviews, it didn't sell well. But Devil May Cry 2 and the P.N.03 were the big shocks, the ones that should have sold like crazy but didn't, not to mention Resident Evil 0, which was supposed to be another huge success, and wasn't.

This made Capcom completely drop the original Resident Evil 4 project, the one where Leon gets infected by whatever virus was hinted in RE0 and had classic RE perspectives... and they got rid of the games original director, Hiroshi Shibata, and replaced him with Shinji Mikami, the creator of Resident Evil.

I just remember this so well cause Capcom really disappointed me in 2002, I remember reserving Devil May Cry 2, being excited to play it, and returning it THE VERY NEXT DAY. It was horrible and was looking forward to P.N.03 as well until I read horrible reviews for it. I was really worried about RE4 until I heard it was scrapped and started over from scratch, Resident Evil 4 got me confident in Capcom again... but have to admit, nowadays I'm a little iffy about them... alot of their best talent and designers have left for Grasshopper.

I like following the creators, not the company... which is why I can't fathom all this Modern Warfare 3 hype... it's not even Infinity Ward... and even if it was, most the talent left for Respawn Entertainment. It's like when everyone was excited for Perfect Dark Zero, they were so excite care Rare was making a new Perfect Dark, and it was crap. Why? Cause most the good designers in Rare left and made the Timesplitters games.

I also think this story of Capcom is somewhat what Square Enix is experiencing now. They are in the middle of a huge reorganization cause most their supposed AAA titles are failing horribly, like Final Fantasy XIV, or get lukewarm reviews like Final Fantasy XIII. Hopefully one day, they will bring back their top talent and get us some good games back.

P.S. I really would like P.N.03 as a franchise to be given another chance as a futuristic DMC style game. I think there's still some life left in that sexy beast named Vanessa.