Remembering Capcom's Great Nintendo Promise/Betrayal

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

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.

The arrival of the PlayStation in the mid-1990s 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.

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.

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).

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.

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


Comments

    I feel sorry for the gamecube. It was a great console and offered many wonderful games but it's use of the mini-disc is, imo, what caused it's demise. Nintendo were just unfortunate in backing the wrong tech. Although not as severe, Microsoft shared a similar issue with HD-DVD (God knows why since Blu-ray will be outdated long before anyone actually makes proper use of it's capabilities.)

    For me Viewtiful Joe, Killer7 and Resident Evil 4 were major highlights from the GC era. Just today I was listening to the Killer7 soundtrack, hoping (dreaming) that one day we'd get a HD remake.

    I remember at the time being disappointed that we'd lost exclusivity, but it didn't take anything away from how awesome and original each of the titles were.

    Part of the problem of the GameCube - for me anyway - was the lack of support from retailers. So many times I'd wait for a game to be reviewed, then walk down to my local retailer to buy it, to hear they'd only ordered enough to fill the pre-orders. People weren't buying the games, but they were so hard to find because no one was stocking them, which meant they were really hard to buy. That happened for me with the Metal Gear Solid remake and several other fairly big, well reviewed releases. People just didn't seem to want to take a chance on the GC.

    Sure the Capcom 5 didn't go as well as we hoped, but I think the fact that Resident Evil 4 is still being re-made and released on other platforms speaks volumes for its staying power. And without Killer 7, we probably wouldn't have No More Heroes or Shadows of the Damned. I much prefer to ignore the "What could've been" and focus on the what was - three pretty amazing and original games.

    Man, I remember being so hyped for these back in the day. Fanboyism and such in tow :P

    That said, I thought Killer7, Viewtiful Joe and RE4 were all fantastic. PN03 was good but seemed to fall a little short of what it was envisioned to be. Still gotta get around to finishing that, actually. I'd love to see a sequel to it, particularly one that expanded on the idea of someone dancing along to music to kill their enemies. Maybe incorporating some kind of rhythm game into it.

    As a Gamecube fan, I was most certainly not disappointed by what this turned out to be.

    Whilst Viewtiful Joe was easily the weakest of the bunch, it was still a memorable title and its success and Clover's partnership with Capcom led to the eventual creation of Okami, one of the greatest games ever crafted by the hand of mankind!

    P.N.03 was a fantastic take on the shmup genre, nothing really needs to be said for Resident Evil 4 that hasn't already been said, but the crown jewel of the package, in my opinion, was Killer7.

    A humorous, aesthetically gorgeous, highly-addictive and incredibly absorbing masterpiece of a game; SUDA 51 still hasn't outdone himself on this yet.

    Well, Frog Minutes was really, really fantastic.

    Having eschewed RE games for the same reason as I dislike MGS games (stupid controls), even though I only played a little RE4 was the first time I actually enjoyed an RE game. And VJ was a blast.
    GCN is one of my favourite cases for anti-piracy not working. Sure, you could easily pirate PS2/Xbox games, but it didn't turn out to be a major hindrance to sales, profits and market share in the end.

    Don't feel sorry for Nintendo.

    They pulled the plug on the SNES-CD system, pissing off their partner company.

    That project came back to haunt them.

    Their partner company released it as the PLAYSTATION.

    Viewtiful Joe is still my fave cube game. Even ahead of RE4, pikmin, wind waker and prime 2. My favourite beat em up. I'm dying for a 4th beat em up.

    I love Viewtiful Joe.
    One of my favourite Capcom series.

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