Sitting Centerstage: The “Jerkyll & Hyde” history of Capcom

Hey young world, I’m back again with another open mic soliloquy. If the last one was a little strong for you, it’s all right... this one’s more introspective than flying off the hinge. Over the past month, a few big events have happened that've caused me reflect a lot.

On a personal level, I turned a year older and moved out of an apartment that I lived in for about 13 years, which is enough reflection to “Enter the Dragon”. For us gamers, the highlight was the Konami/Kojima split amongst other video game related topics similar to that situation. Coming full circle, that reminded me of an old, pertaining observation that I’ve only brought up to a couple of friends. To date myself, I’m as old as Street Fighter II and watched over the activities as much as a little kid can to a franchise then the company itself afterwards. As a fighting game lifer, I’m curious to see if anyone else in the FGC has paid attention & noticed the highs of Capcom and the lows as the scornfully dubbed Crapcom.

Good ol’ Capcom, the forefront of the FGC and pioneering grandfather of all fighting games (with all due respect to the other longstanding franchises). These days, it’s hard to see that through all the struggles and criticism the company’s been shelled with. Although, to be fair, a good portion of it is much deserved. For my fanboy readers lighting your torches right now & new faces to our beloved Crapcom, please understand that through the good and bad this is NOT the best era for the company. What’s the difference between the two-faces? THIS is Capcom. If you still don’t get it, that simple jingle is a Pavlov trigger for everyone from my generation and back. Every game that started off with that logo, you knew instantly it was pure gold or at the very least, genuinely entertaining. I’m not saying they were all winners, but from the 80s-90s it was a sure shot! The Capcom OGs I can hear already crying out “Those days are long gone! What went wrong?! EVERYTHING WENT WRONG!” Actually, that was only me... sorry. I’m still not trying to elevate your sodium levels. What I’m saying is this decline, slump or whatever you would call it has happened before.

Picture our FGC roots back in the 90s: arcades resurrected thanks to Street Fighter II kicking it off, every copycat trying to cash in on the wave crashing before reaching the shore with only the likes of Mortal Kombat, Tekken and SNK making the cut. Subsequently, home consoles really start to take off followed by the movement towards online play with Dreamcast giving us a glimpse. Within that span, Capcom gave us double digit Street Fighter games (although most of them were the first DLCs), an adored Darkstalkers trilogy, brought our heroes to life with Marvel, cult classics like Cyberbots, Rival Schools... the list goes on. Like I said before, they couldn’t miss. It’s why we’re here playing, competing & even reading a random article on Kick-Punch-Block! For the 90s, it was pure mania and the drop off was felt after Capcom vs. SNK 2.

I remember coming across someone saying that with an oversaturated market of fighters, much of it Capcom’s own doing, they ‘self-cannibalized.’ In other words, the dollars that raised them to prominence weren’t coming in like it once were. Perhaps it was just a company decision to move in a different direction or, with an expired Marvel license and dried well of Street Fighter, they had no direction. Despite what we can speculate and believe, Capcom’s hiatus ushered in what the FGC refers to as the "dark ages". Seems kind of contrary to call the 2000s the dark ages with FGC legends making their mark during this time and well, we did have fighting games released still.

From a technological advancement standpoint, expanding the realm of fighters into 3D would be logical and, sure enough, we've seen Tekken carry on pumping new blood into the genre with Mortal Kombat, Soul Blade (I’m throwback, remember?), Virtua Fighter and Dead or Alive following suit. If you craved the meta of 2D, the pickings were slim. King of Fighters kept on almost annually with entries and there was this one game that was underground (even for FGC standards) throughout this entire time... maybe you heard of it: Guilty Gear. That’s a treasure trove of games, but they all lacked the right mix of bringing the casual audience along with the FGC. On one side, you had the mechanics & competitive edge (Soulcalibur II), but not enough pop culture appeal to ring in an unassuming casual gamer. Even Tekken is still foreign to us; Mortal Kombat has that level of recognition, but the 3D era of MK was truly the dark ages for balanced mechanics. Suffice it to say, the throne was empty and we all felt it to the point that the question of “Is the fighting genre an out of style fad from yesteryear?” came about. Ono-san had something to say about that; in 2009, it was the return of the king.

Although it is extremely badass, "Sol Badguy" isn't a household name for a protagonist.

Although it is extremely badass, "Sol Badguy" just isn't a household name for a protagonist.

As I write this, it’s baffling that it has been six years since the complete hype and pent up anticipation that met with Street Fighter IV. The pre-launch selling point was it looked and felt like SF2. We as the FGC were back in full force with a new generation of players and games. Remember the euphoria back in 2010? We get a Super update, Marvel was coming back (reread that line for emphasis) and a Street Fighter X Tekken reveal! Capcom was back and everything was right in the world… or so we thought. Fast forward to mid-2012, SF4 starts to lose the appeal towards casual players, which further distances the skill gap between average to advanced. Everyone had a gripe with any sort of update; there were horror stories circling around that AE Yun made people quit the game. UMVC3 started to take shape as the broken game that it is and once again fell victim to licensing issues, leaving the players with the present day endless salt factory. Then, ugh… SFxT. They botched our dream game…  FREAKIN’ CRAPCOM! To their credit, they try to throw the FGC a bone with the SF4 patches and the v2013 overhaul (only a handful of us care that it’s a good game now), but they’re back peddling and scrambling around in desperation. It looks bleak and it reminds me of how it was ten years ago; the uncertainty of if and when will we see Capcom again. History does repeat itself, but in what way?

Here we are again, with games like MKX, SM4SH and GGXrd as what’s fresh for fighters, while Capcom titles are showing some wrinkle marks. However, that won’t be the case for long. I admit that I didn’t see Street Fighter V coming to us so soon. With the given history and state of the company, I thought we were looking at the earliest 2017 for another entry. Up until the leak back in December, I figured that the next gen for Capcom fighters were a little later in date, but as profound in impact as SF4. Now, this can be viewed in two ways: 1) The restart of the Capcom/Crapcom cycle or (since we’re in a decade span still) 2) this can be the second coming of 3rd Strike in that the company’s a little exhausted, comes out the tail end of the cycle, but definitely fits the bill. Sony is assisting on this one and from the little bit that I’ve seen, I like it. Also, it has been mentioned that there’s a SF3 aura to it as well.

These are just parallels & hopeful outcomes from my own personal observations, it’s not a theory. I acknowledge that this time around, it’s direr because there are other factors plaguing Crapcom. Even though 10-15 years ago was a drought for Capcom fighters, the company itself was doing peachy with its other trademark franchises. Couple that with the aforementioned problems with the fighters, we suffered a global recession that hit a lot of countries and businesses hard. They’ve been striking out on most of the original IPs recently put out. The series we thought were untouchable like Mega Man, Resident Evil and Devil May Cry are MIA, shaky and divided in fan base, respectively. It’s not a good look and a crap fest all around, but there was a time when we all thought we would never see another Street Fighter game. Last month, Capcom stated they were fine with doing HD remasters of their classics for a steady cash flow. They have willing producers that would work on their cult classics like Darkstalkers & Rival Schools. It’s a matter of can they get their stuff together, refocus on what’s brought them success in the past and how to go about it. Easier said than done, of course, but I think this is a pattern waiting to be repeated for the better.

Street Fighter V is on the horizon... the ball is in CAPCOM’s court.

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