Otaku USA Magazine
Comic-Con ’08 Capcom Takeover

Typically when I go to San Diego Comic-Con, and this year was theoretically no exception, I expect to buy a lot of useless junk and see some early clips from next year’s big genre flicks (aside: Watchmen is going to be incredible). What I didn’t expect this year was the overwhelming presence of videogames; much more than any year past, and spanning a wider variety of publishers and titles. Every company wanted a piece of the 125,000 attendees, but ask pretty much anyone and I guarantee they’ll spin a long yarn about the way Capcom made them forget about almost anything else in that impossibly large exhibition hall.

Capcom’s presence didn’t just have to do with the size of their booth(s), either. They had a ton of playable demos while other companies were busy showing off their big games in non-playable form, walking the audience through some of the big upcoming titles (which was a shame, because I was dying to actually get my hands on both Mirror’s Edge and Prince of Persia, which both looked amazing).

One of the first titles that caught my eye at Capcom’s area was Dark Void, a third person shooter developed by Airtight Games. If you haven’t seen the game in action, think Gears of War meets The Rocketeer. Thanks to the comparison to Gears, picking up the game and tearing into it was a snap. Based heavily around environmental cover, what was playable had me blasting away robotic baddies while scaling an outpost that ran along a very steep Cliffside.

Having a rocket pack should make this a cinch, but aside from certain sections, it appears you’ll be limited to leaping and hovering down (this could all change, of course). Controls and combat were tight, even if the framerate was still rough, but the game really started to shine when the only way to progress was by flinging yourself up a sheer cliff, all the while shooting enemies or grabbing them and tossing them to their plummeting doom. This made the action play out like a vertical Gears, holding on with one hand and using the underside of the rock ledges as cover.

I probably would have spent more time with Dark Void, but it had the misfortune of being positioned directly across from something I’ve been anticipating highly since the first announcement: Mega Man 9. Two levels were playable here, one of which belonged to Plug Man, even though his name was nowhere to be seen on the demo. It was easy to figure out, though, because he’s already becoming infamous as the Robot Master whose stage is home to the infamous disappearing blocks. Yes, these classic platforming annoyances confounded many a convention attendee, though I made it a personal goal to persevere. However, even making it past those phantom bastards, death was not far behind me.

That’s because, SURPRISE, Mega Man 9 is really hard! Mega mastermind Keiji Inafune has made sure to that, and it’s just one of the things that makes 9 so true to the original NES series. The graphics are 8-bit from head to toe, as well, and the music beeps and boops from the speakers just like it did when you were eating Cocoa Puffs and wiping your nose on the sleeve of your pajamas. I can’t wait for this game to come out.

Keeping with the classic motif we had going at this point, I made my way to the curtain-sealed Bionic Commando room, which did its best to make sure no one under 16 was allowed into the showcase for both Bionic Commando and Bionic Commando Rearmed. And really, what person under 16 would even be able to appreciate this one-two punch revival of the arcade and NES Capcom classic? None, say I.

I made it a point to check out the new Bionic Commando first, since it called me like a siren with its fast 3D action the moment I stepped inside. Despite the understandable reservations we’ve all held thanks to the dreadlocked mess known as Nathan Spencer, the game itself seems to be shaping up nicely. The biggest obstacle to overcome when first playing is definitely the use of the bionic arm—which can grapple and swing on objects when its reticule turns blue—but it didn’t take long to start using it in concert with the jump button to cross unfathomable canyons and tug myself toward enemies to deliver a vicious kick to the face.

Still, death was a regular occurrence, as swimming is made impossible thanks to the huge chunk of metal Spencer calls an arm. Making way for those in line behind me, now seemed like as good a time as any to check out their stab at breathing life into the classic with Bionic Commando Rearmed. Smartly, not much was tampered with in this one, at least not in any way that would have long-time fans swearing off of Capcom’s products for good. Rearmed is basically Bionic Commando with gorgeous HD visuals and some really, really fun co-op added into the mix. After just a few seconds, playing with a friend seems a natural addition to the formula, even though online play isn’t going to be a reality; at least not in this iteration• let’s hope it sells well.

I know what everyone that didn’t attend is asking at this point. Surely, after making way too many news posts about it, Joseph sat down with Street Fighter IV, right? Hell, it was hard not to! Capcom gave their highly anticipated fighter a huge push at Comic-Con, and even producer Yoshinori Ono was amazed at the reception. Situated atop a mock wrestling ring, around which hundreds of people lined up to play, were a decent-sized collection of SFIV cabinets that probably didn’t stop seeing action until the doors finally closed on Sunday.

It’s easy to see why, too. Street Fighter IV is a total blast. With gameplay that feels like a beefed-up version of II with a twist, matches are fast and fluid, and screenshots don’t really do justice to some of the visuals. Capcom would let people up to the ring either by themselves or in pairs of your own choosing, so you could spend the whole weekend playing with friends, unless you were playing in one of the daily tournaments. On day one, a friend of ours managed to win the tourney and was rewarded with a Chun-Li bust and a match with Ono. Amazingly, our buddy’s Zangief took Ono straight to the mat, but there were no hard feelings, and I think even the producer was blown away by the thrill of being beaten at his own game.

The rest of the weekend continued along the same lines. It was really hard to avoid queuing up for another round of IV, even if it meant taking an hour or two out of your day just for waiting (which is really what Comic-Con is all about). This was the year of Capcom at SDCC and, judging from the jubilant cheers and applause that echoed from their booth at any given moment, 2009 will probably be an even bigger year for games at Comic-Con.

Photographs: Joe Shieh

Screens: Capcom