Capcom vs. SNK: An oral historical past

The late ’90s weren’t variety to arcade combating video games.

When Avenue Fighter director Takashi Nishiyama left Capcom for SNK within the late ’80s, he set in movement a sequence of occasions that constructed the combating recreation style and gave a much-needed jolt to the amusement trade. For a number of years, everybody forgot concerning the enterprise’s gradual downward trajectory, due to video games like Avenue Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat.

By the late ’90s, although, the trade’s momentum caught as much as it. Whereas video games like Tekken 3 and Marvel vs. Capcom saved up appearances, the enterprise was altering. Console video games had been exploding, the combating recreation increase was over, and Capcom and SNK’s arcade divisions had been left making an attempt to scrape the final items of sweet out of the piñata.

Fortuitously for Capcom, it had managed to develop its console recreation division within the meantime, discovering success with the Resident Evil sequence, amongst others.

SNK failed to seek out the identical degree of success exterior of combating video games, making an attempt its hand at a CD model of its Neo Geo dwelling console, new 3D arcade {hardware}, and a Neo Geo Pocket sequence of transportable recreation machines. Nishiyama, who served as the pinnacle of SNK’s growth group, says this marked a troublesome time for him personally, partially as a result of he was against the discharge of the Neo Geo Pocket, which SNK invested in closely.

Quickly after, SNK received acquired and filed for chapter, and Nishiyama left and began his personal unbiased studio. However earlier than departing, he left behind a parting present — one which neatly tied a bow on his previous decade.

Five screenshots show a variety of SNK and Capcom crossover games

The Capcom/SNK crossover resulted in eight video games between 1999 and 2007, not counting ports or the second of the Pokémon-style twin variations of SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Conflict.
Graphic: James Bareham/Polygon | Supply pictures: SNK by way of MobyGames

Mending fences

Usually pleasant. Sometimes contentious. Rooted in government frustration but resembling a playground flirtation, the rivalry between Capcom and SNK performed out in lots of kinds all through the ’80s and ’90s. Privately, many spoke of a feud between Capcom CEO Kenzo Tsujimoto and SNK founder Eikichi Kawasaki, whereas publicly, followers noticed the businesses making an attempt to prime each other whereas always referencing one another of their video games.

“Capcom and SNK spent the ’90s in a sort of call-and-response dance,” says veteran combating recreation developer Seth Killian. “Capcom had Ryu, so SNK made Ryo,” he says. “Avenue Fighter added a parry; SNK launched the Simply Defend. You bought T. Hawk? We received a Tizoc.”

Nishiyama sat in the course of this, having developed the unique Avenue Fighter at Capcom earlier than becoming a member of SNK and overseeing the Deadly Fury and King of Fighters sequence. Whereas he didn’t immediately take part a lot within the back-and-forth, he couldn’t assist however discover it. And within the late ’90s, he hatched an concept to deliver his franchises collectively: What if the 2 corporations put all this historical past to good use?

Noritaka Funamizu
(basic producer, Capcom Japan)

The best way the concept got here as much as start with was as a result of Nishiyama — I believe he and [Capcom head of development Yoshiki] Okamoto had lunch or dinner collectively at some point, after which out of the blue, Nishiyama all of a sudden stated, “Yeah. Why do not we make a ‘versus SNK’ recreation?”

Takashi Nishiyama
(head of growth group, SNK Japan)

The best way this happened was, Okamoto had develop into the highest of Capcom’s growth division and I had been the highest of SNK’s growth division, and we ended up assembly at some point. We talked about placing the previous behind us, and the concept got here up of mixing our forces and utilizing every of our corporations’ characters in a collaborative mission. And Okamoto thought that the concept was very attention-grabbing. So I informed Okamoto to persuade Tsujimoto to make that occur. I might persuade Kawasaki to make it occur. I believe this dialogue occurred proper earlier than I ended up quitting SNK. […]

Really, it wasn’t that tough to persuade Kawasaki. […] I believe you might say they’d put the previous behind them. Kawasaki was a businessman, so I believe he realized there was numerous potential to learn from this type of collaboration.

Matt Atwood
(Capcom vs. SNK public relations supervisor, Capcom USA)

I keep in mind pondering, like, Actually? SNK? I at all times thought it was loopy that these two rivals had been really working collectively.

Toyohisa Tanabe
(Capcom vs. SNK pixel artwork supervisor, SNK Japan)

I used to be extraordinarily stunned but additionally extraordinarily completely satisfied.

Takayuki Nakayama
(Avenue Fighter 5 director, Capcom Japan)

I used to be undoubtedly stunned! [Capcom’s first crossover game] got here out previous to me becoming a member of the corporate, however I used to be excited after I noticed the announcement the place characters like Terry and Kyo Kusanagi had been introduced in Capcom’s pixel artwork type. I’ve heard that each Capcom and SNK’s graphic artists had been in contact previous to the discharge of the sport.

Noritaka Funamizu
(basic producer, Capcom Japan)

Earlier than we began speaking with SNK a few mission, Tanabe, [planner Hideaki] Itsuno, and I had began hanging out collectively. And it was a number of months later that the entire SNK vs. Capcom factor got here up. So yeah, I believe we had been getting alongside fairly effectively by then.

Toyohisa Tanabe
(Capcom vs. SNK pixel artwork supervisor, SNK Japan)

On the time, it isn’t as if SNK and Capcom by no means talked to one another or something, however I had the impression that there was some dangerous blood between the 2. Once I heard Capcom and SNK can be collaborating, it felt like, Ah! Spring is right here! Like there was a thawing of relations between the 2 corporations. For me personally, it beforehand felt sort of tough to method individuals at Capcom, however due to that collaboration, I received to know the individuals there. {Our relationships} improved, and we might exit ingesting collectively and stuff. We used to do these Capcom vs. SNK ingesting events collectively. […]

Apart from ingesting, the cardboard recreation Yu-Gi-Oh!, proper? That was really fairly widespread again within the day, and there have been lots of people at SNK who cherished taking part in it. They’d play throughout their lunch breaks, for instance. It turned on the market had been Yu-Gi-Oh! followers at Capcom as effectively, so we ended up throwing Capcom vs. SNK Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments.

Matt Atwood
(Capcom vs. SNK public relations supervisor, Capcom USA)

I believe it was a very good alternative for [SNK because] they had been beginning to settle down some, the place Capcom had been in a position to maintain its personal and do sequence behind Avenue Fighter. And actually, SNK was actually beginning to slide. […] You had the arcade people who had been like, Yeah, in fact we keep in mind SNK video games. We love them. However broader attraction? They did not know these characters.

Toyohisa Tanabe
(Capcom vs. SNK pixel artwork supervisor, SNK Japan)

I wasn’t immediately concerned within the negotiations or the method that led to them collaborating, so I do not know something about it for positive […] however I believe it may need been the discharge of the Neo Geo Pocket that led to the 2 corporations initially collaborating. When SNK determined that they had been going to launch the hand-held system, they approached varied corporations to see if anybody would develop video games for it, and I believe the corporate spoke with Capcom on the time. I believe it was these conversations which sparked the concept to create a recreation with licensed characters from each Capcom and SNK. So on the SNK aspect, there was SNK vs. Capcom on the Neo Geo Pocket, which was a card recreation. And on the Capcom aspect, there was Capcom vs. SNK, which was the combating recreation. I am unsure however I believe that is the way it all received began.

Takashi Nishiyama
(head of growth group, SNK Japan)

I do not suppose all the pieces was essentially determined in that preliminary settlement. It proceeded extra steadily, step-by-step. It was like build up a brand new enterprise, and we had to determine exactly who would do what.

Capcom vs. SNK

With an preliminary settlement in place, each corporations deliberate out their crossover video games.

SNK kicked issues off in 1999 with two titles for its Neo Geo Pocket Colour: card recreation SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Conflict and combating recreation SNK vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium. Each earned important acclaim and fleshed out the transportable console’s library to assist it compete with that of Nintendo’s Recreation Boy, although some gamers puzzled why SNK didn’t initially produce an arcade combating recreation. In 2001, SNK adopted with a Card Fighters Conflict sequel, which ended up being the ultimate Neo Geo Pocket Colour recreation, as SNK gave up its transportable console ambitions.

Capcom, in the meantime, went straight to its bread and butter in 2000 with Capcom vs. SNK — a 2D arcade combating recreation operating on the identical {hardware} as Capcom’s hit Marvel vs. Capcom 2. The idea proved widespread round Capcom’s places of work, with some workers like planner Itsuno begging to work on it. To accommodate a number of types of play, Capcom developed a ratio system — the place gamers may construct a staff of fighters of various strengths — and a groove system, the place gamers may select between Avenue Fighter and King of Fighters playstyles.

It was the sport followers anticipated from the Capcom/SNK collaboration, with a number of caveats.

Noritaka Funamizu
(basic producer, Capcom Japan)

I had heard of King of Fighters, and simply from the title, I had my very own impression of what sort of recreation it could be. It sounded actually cool. The Neo Geo had all these totally different combating video games, , so would not or not it’s nice in case you blended all their strengths collectively in a single single recreation? That is what I imagined King of Fighters to be. However after I really performed it, it turned out to be completely totally different. So after we had been making Capcom vs. SNK, I needed to make it extra just like the King of Fighters I had imagined in my head.

Seiji Okada
(Capcom vs. SNK sequence programmer, Capcom Japan)

I really had by no means performed an SNK recreation earlier than, so I had no information about something, and even the names of the characters within the recreation, so I needed to do numerous analysis for that. At first impression, the best way the video games performed felt completely totally different from Capcom’s combating video games, which was refreshing.

James Chen
(Capcom vs. SNK sequence FAQ author)

[Capcom vs. SNK] undoubtedly felt prefer it was extra Avenue Fighter [than King of Fighters], as a result of though there was the SNK groove, it wasn’t excellent. […] For essentially the most half, it felt just like the SNK characters had been put right into a Avenue Fighter recreation.

Stephen Frost
(Avenue Fighter: 30th Anniversary Assortment and SNK 40th Anniversary Assortment producer, Digital Eclipse)

I believe [the SNK characters] performed higher [than they had in previous games], in case you can say that, proper? I believe that they dealt with a bit higher. They felt a bit bit extra responsive compared to [how they had] prior to now. So I believed they blended in effectively, and I believed [the developers] discovered a pleasant center floor between matching Avenue Fighter and the SNK stuff.

Toyohisa Tanabe
(Capcom vs. SNK pixel artwork supervisor, SNK Japan)

I believed Capcom’s workers preferred SNK’s characters and dealt with them with nice care. I felt they poured numerous love into the pixel work they did for them. In keeping with what I heard, once they had been making Capcom vs. SNK, the Capcom designers had been all vying for the chance to design sure characters. “Let me design Iori Yagami!” “Give me Mai Shiranui!” So no, I would not say that it was laborious to mix collectively or something. I believe SNK felt snug placing these characters within the palms of the Capcom designers.

James Chen
(Capcom vs. SNK sequence FAQ author)

Man, the SNK characters [looked] superior. It was refreshing to see the characters look so cool. It was additionally simply actually superior that it was really made. That this lastly [happened], this dream match, [after all the Dan jokes] and the Yuri clapbacks from SNK. And it was actually simply cool to see these two corporations that had this rivalry lastly coming collectively and making a recreation like this.

Toyohisa Tanabe
(Capcom vs. SNK pixel artwork supervisor, SNK Japan)

I had labored on the King of Fighters video games at SNK, and people had been sort of the large social gathering titles the place a bunch of various characters got here collectively, however Capcom vs. SNK took that festive social gathering environment to the following degree by transcending the corporate’s boundaries. In some ways it was like a dream recreation for me. It was so good seeing the characters that we had designed get reinterpreted by the individuals at Capcom. And as a recreation, too, I actually cherished it. On the time, it felt like the one method we may ever prime this may be if we made a very Olympic-scale combating recreation … one thing loopy like Sega versus Namco versus SNK versus Capcom.

[Ed. note: Prior to Capcom and SNK collaborating, Tanabe says he and other team members at SNK liked the idea of a crossover game so much that they developed one themselves — as a limited internal hobbyist project.]

Toyohisa Tanabe
(Capcom vs. SNK pixel artwork supervisor, SNK Japan)

I’ve a secret to let you know, and I do not know if that is one thing I actually needs to be saying, however: […] Two years earlier than Capcom vs. SNK got here out, we made King of Fighters ’98, and we really had a bit little bit of time after we completed growth. So the staff ended up making a construct of the sport with Ryu and Ken in it. This is not one thing that lots of people know — I believe solely the builders learn about it, and I’ve by no means informed anybody myself — however yeah, only for enjoyable, earlier than Capcom vs. SNK was a factor, I used to be taking part in as Ryu and Ken in King of Fighters ’98. […]

I doubt [a version of it still exists anywhere]. We did this on the event {hardware}, so in fact it was by no means on a bodily cartridge. Additionally, I am simply remembering this now, nevertheless it wasn’t solely Ryu and Ken that we ended up taking part in round with. We put in Dragon Ball characters, like Son Goku, as effectively.

[Ed. note: While Capcom vs. SNK made headlines for its concept and Capcom released a upgraded version, Capcom vs. SNK Pro, many say the series wasn’t fully realized until Capcom released Capcom vs. SNK 2 a year later. Featuring an expanded roster and more variety and polish, Capcom vs. SNK 2 marked the series’ turning point from a novelty to a tournament staple.]

James Chen
(Capcom vs. SNK sequence FAQ author)

When [Capcom vs. SNK 2] got here out, that to me felt like this was the following nice Avenue Fighter recreation, as a result of they added all of the grooves. CvS1, if individuals do not keep in mind, [put player attacks on] 4 buttons. And that did not really feel very Avenue Fighter-y, and I do know lots of people did not like that.

And so when CvS2 got here out and it went again to 6 buttons — I imply, I wrote [FAQs] for each of these video games, and you’ll sort of see it in my FAQ for CvS2. I simply preserve speaking about the truth that it is six buttons once more, and the way great it’s. I used to be so completely satisfied that it was six buttons, and the graphics had been so good. The gameplay was actually strong in it. It actually felt, to me, like, That is the place Avenue Fighter must go. […]

Within the FAQ itself, I am like, You have to play this recreation. Please play this recreation as a result of it is so good. Let’s make this recreation widespread, ? I am virtually begging readers to play the sport as a result of I used to be so enamored with it on the time and I simply thought it was going to be the following large factor.

Seth Killian
(Avenue Fighter 4 particular fight advisor, Capcom USA)

In comparison with earlier video games, CvS1 did provide an enormous forged and numerous system selections, however many of the choices introduced had been simply dangerous selections. As gamers realized this, the end result was lengthy matches between low-powered characters, crammed with as many as *7* breaks between rounds. CvS1 was not a foul recreation, however its gradual, low-stakes type created a black gap the place hype went to die.

CvS2 felt like a recreation that stated “sure” to just about each dumb concept that designers prompt, and but in some way [made] all of it work. It was concurrently conventional and wild — a return to traditional 2D Avenue Fighter-style fight, however with an enormous roster, the widest and wildest system mechanics in Capcom historical past, plus the prospect to combine all of them to style.

A return to the Capcom-style six-button controls added a necessary dose of additional strikes. The match movement received tightened up, limiting gamers to a few characters per staff, however the system mechanics went bananas, providing gamers a selection of six fully totally different flavors (C, A, and P grooves, in addition to S, N, and Okay choices) for every of their favourite characters. Grooves did not simply swap tremendous strikes; they modified all the pieces from defensive choices on all the way down to core motion mechanics. Mix that quantity of selection with 48 characters, and you have an enormous area for gamers to experiment and discover.

[Ed. note: Between CvS1, CvS Pro, and CvS2, Capcom released three crossover games in the span of a year. Former sales manager Drew Maniscalco estimates that Capcom sold 400 arcade kits of Capcom vs. SNK in the U.S. — just above Street Fighter 3, as he recalls. Capcom vs. SNK 2 went on to become a hardcore favorite, appearing in tournaments well over a decade after its release. At the time, it sold well enough to justify a sequel.]

Hideaki Itsuno
(Capcom vs. SNK 2 director, Capcom Japan)

Shortly after we completed Capcom vs. SNK 2, we began engaged on a 3D model of Capcom vs. SNK Three for the PS2. CvS3 was meant to be the final [2D fighting game], however then it ended up turning into a 3D recreation alongside the best way, after which SNK folded and that mission received canceled too.

[Ed. note: In 2003, following an acquisition and bankruptcy filing, a new incarnation of SNK — under the name Playmore — finally released its take on the crossover arcade fighting game concept: SVC Chaos. The game redrew many of Capcom’s characters in the King of Fighters style and featured a deep roster (including Dan from the Street Fighter Alpha series, who was originally designed to parody two of SNK’s characters), but reviewed poorly and arrived too late to capitalize on the crossover buzz. In 2007, the company — by then, SNK Playmore — followed with SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters DS, which also disappointed critics. Nishiyama left SNK well before either of those games released, but when asked about the overall success of the crossover series, he sums it up as a modest success.]

Takashi Nishiyama
(head of growth group, SNK Japan)

I do not suppose we failed in any regard, however I do suppose that possibly the sequence wasn’t fairly as profitable as I imagined it may very well be. I noticed that SNK followers and Capcom followers haven’t got a excessive degree of crossover. Capcom followers have their very own preferences; SNK followers have their very own preferences. And it did not fairly pan out the best way I imagined it could. I do not suppose it was a failure, although.

Four screenshots show Capcom and SNK characters fighting one another

Although early rumors prompt in any other case, a Capcom/SNK crossover didn’t arrive on Neo Geo arcade {hardware} till SVC Chaos (above) in 2003.
Graphic: James Bareham/Polygon | Supply pictures: SNK Playmore by way of MobyGames

Capcom Combating All-Stars

As SNK went by means of modifications within the early 2000s, its workers unfold all through the trade. Some began new groups, like Nishiyama, who fashioned growth studio Dimps. A gaggle even joined Capcom, bringing issues full circle from when Nishiyama and the Avenue Fighter staff had gone to SNK a decade earlier.

Toyohisa Tanabe
(Capcom Combating All-Stars director, Capcom Japan)

Principally what occurred was, across the 12 months 2000, SNK encountered monetary losses, and there was a time when it grew to become a subsidiary of [a pachinko company named] Aruze. So we ended up going to Aruze, however after a few 12 months, Aruze determined that they had been going to desert online game growth. So, unable to see any future with Aruze, I ended up transferring to Capcom due to the assistance of a lot of individuals round me. Somebody I knew put me in touch with Yoshiki Okamoto, the pinnacle of growth at Capcom, and because of each of their efforts, Capcom took me in. […]

It was a staff of about 20 those who ended up going to Capcom on the similar time. There have been extra individuals than that on the staff at SNK, however sadly, Capcom could not deliver everyone over, so the quantity needed to be whittled down. So the 20 of us joined Capcom as a single staff. […]

I am unable to deny that there was a few of that feeling [of it being a bit strange]. When the 20 of us joined Capcom, I believe there have been individuals who thought effectively of it, however there may have been individuals who seemed askance and thought, Who the heck are these guys? For our half, as a staff, we hadn’t but confirmed ourselves or completed something, so there was a way of hysteria about how effectively we might slot in and what we would be able to obtain there. Itsuno was actually good to us then. I do not get the prospect to speak with him a lot these days, however he handled us very effectively, and the presence of individuals like him at Capcom was an enormous assist for us.

[Ed. note: The team’s first and only project under its new roof was Capcom Fighting All-Stars, a 3D fighting game that brought together characters from multiple internal franchises including Street Fighter, Rival Schools, and Strider. Capcom ended up canceling the project before Tanabe’s team finished it.]

Toyohisa Tanabe
(Capcom Combating All-Stars director, Capcom Japan)

There was lots happening there. […] Once we joined Capcom, there have been two plans put ahead for the sort of recreation we may develop. We had lots of people on our staff with expertise growing combating video games, so our first concept was to make our personal combating recreation. Nonetheless, making a combating recreation from scratch, with a brand new gameplay system, would have been very time-consuming, and as a brand new staff at Capcom, we felt we needed to contribute one thing to the corporate as rapidly as attainable.

So as an alternative, we went with our second concept, which was to make use of Capcom’s pre-existing property as the muse for a brand new mission. And that recreation, effectively, I am unable to actually speak about an excessive amount of, however … that is how Capcom Combating All-Stars’ growth started. Sadly, we simply weren’t in a position to work it up into one thing attention-grabbing. Partly on account of my very own inexperience, in the long run, though our workers did their greatest, the sport by no means made it to launch.

James Chen
(Avenue Fighter sequence commentator)

I imply, everyone noticed the footage of Capcom Combating All-Stars, and it was sort of — though it was their first official try and go 3D [as an internally developed game using Street Fighter characters] — lots of people checked out it and [were disappointed]. I believe that sort of contributed to the entire feeling that Capcom wasn’t actually going to make numerous high quality combating video games at that time limit, and folks had been simply sort of resigned to say, “Yeah, OK, no matter.” Capcom wasn’t one of the best anymore at making combating video games. They only weren’t, and that expectation wasn’t there.

I keep in mind when Capcom Combating All-Stars first began displaying up with footage from recreation magazines and Japanese recreation websites. Individuals simply checked out it and had been like, This appears sort of dangerous, ? And so when it was canceled, I nonetheless sort of keep in mind individuals simply being like, Yeah, it is most likely for the higher.

Toyohisa Tanabe
(Capcom Combating All-Stars director, Capcom Japan)

Proper after the time Capcom Combating All-Stars was canceled, Capcom, as an entire, underwent an organizational change, and I ended up leaving Capcom and becoming a member of its subsidiary Flagship [a scenario and development team that Okamoto started]. I labored at Flagship for a number of years. I wasn’t concerned with combating video games. I used to be concerned with different titles that had been in growth within the studio on the time.

Shifting on

By the point it canceled Capcom Combating All-Stars in 2003, Capcom had been slowing its combating recreation output for years, dropping its customized CPS-Three {hardware}, canceling video games similar to a fourth entry within the Avenue Fighter Three sequence, and pulling sources away from its arcade division. It continued to port present titles to consoles, and snuck out a few new video games with Hyper Avenue Fighter 2 and Capcom Combating Jam — each constructed to capitalize on present video games and property — however the style was on borrowed time.

All through the ’90s, Capcom had pushed its arcade combating recreation ideas into practically each conceivable format. It had outlined the style. Spun off upgrades. Gone again in time. Created new worlds. Negotiated key licenses. Employed exterior studios. Tried new artwork types. Shifted {hardware}. Mixed franchises. Twisted its franchises into different genres. Joined forces with its enemies. And constructed a few of the greatest video video games of the last decade.

At a sure level, it was time to say goodbye.

Akira Yasuda
(Avenue Fighter sequence illustrator, Capcom Japan)

I believe across the 12 months 2000, Funamizu informed individuals who had been engaged on combating video games to mainly cease engaged on combating video games: “Let’s make one thing authentic, and it does not matter if it sells or not. We should always do it anyway.” That is clearly discuss from a very long time in the past, however Resident Evil, proper? Tokuro Fujiwara, who had made Resident Evil, had on the similar time additionally made a bunch of different comparatively uninteresting video games. However I believe the explanation why these video games had been made was as a result of Fujiwara needed to problem his workers. I believe Funamizu needed to do one thing comparable. Now that the previous method of doing issues was not working, I believe he needed to discover a new type, a brand new method ahead, by difficult his workers. And it did present some hints to the corporate’s course, in a lot of other ways.

I believe there have been additionally individuals within the decrease ranges of the workers saying that “Avenue Fighter is not promoting, so we wish to make one thing else that is not a combating recreation.” The Avenue Fighter Alpha sequence had been happening for awhile and everybody was bored of that — and it did not promote very effectively both — so I believe this felt just like the second to strive one thing new, and go after a brand new problem. Funamizu was additionally an enormous fan of Animal Crossing, so I believe he needed to make one thing just like Animal Crossing, which a way or one other ended up turning into Monster Hunter.

Noritaka Funamizu
(basic producer, Capcom Japan)

I do not know if I wish to speak about it … By [the late ’90s], I used to be in command of the arcade recreation division, however we knew there actually wasn’t a future in it going ahead. And mainly, it was only a query of: How viable may this enterprise stay within the foreseeable future? When you in contrast Capcom to Sega, Namco, and Taito, we had been smaller than them, and so they had different associated companies. They had been main arcade recreation makers, however we had been just about only a online game firm at that time. So it felt like there was no future there.

However then we heard concerning the Sega Dreamcast and the NAOMI board, and we received together with the oldsters at Sega surprisingly effectively. And we at Capcom, too, needed to deal with shopper video games. With the Dreamcast and NAOMI, you might develop the arcade recreation and the console port concurrently — you might full a console port in only one month, amazingly. So nearly all of our tasks grew to become joint arcade/console tasks, and steadily our growth focus shifted to console-friendly video games.

Hideaki Itsuno
(Capcom vs. SNK 2 director, Capcom Japan)

By way of the setting on the time, the arcade enterprise was beginning to shrink. By way of know-how, the arcade model of a recreation had at all times been the upper kind, the extra technologically superior model. However round this time, the roles began to get reversed, and the know-how on dwelling console video games began to surpass that of arcade video games. So there was much less of a have to deal with arcade video games. We additionally had the emergence of platforms just like the Dreamcast, the place we wanted to concurrently launch the sport on each dwelling console and arcade. So, the mix led to the dwindling of the dominance of arcade video games.

And on prime that, you had Resident Evil promoting extremely effectively; it was an enormous success, and so it was a mix of, this is a nonfighting recreation that is extremely profitable, after which you’ve gotten the arcade setting shrinking — there’s not as a lot demand for it — all of that mixed sort of created this shift. There wasn’t as a lot of a requirement or a lot of a enterprise profit simply specializing in combating video games. There was extra of a shift that was like, We should always unfold ourselves out and check the waters elsewhere.

Toyohisa Tanabe
(Capcom Combating All-Stars director, Capcom Japan)

I believe combating video games had slowly developed into one thing for superior gamers and execs. It felt like the way forward for combating video games had develop into very unsure. And Capcom saved placing out video games like Monster Hunter and Resident Evil, video games that did not rely upon Capcom’s combating recreation franchises. So yeah, we received the sense that the instances had been altering. One thing comparable had occurred earlier than with taking pictures video games, which grew to become increasingly more tough to the purpose that solely superior gamers may take pleasure in them. It felt like we had been at a turning level with combating video games, too.

Shinichiro Obata
(Avenue Fighter 3 planner, Capcom Japan)

I believe the explanation why combating video games stopped popping out round that point is as a result of they beautiful a lot stopped promoting and even the arcade market itself had declined to an extent. I believe additionally it had one thing to do with the truth that [former Mega Man producer Keiji] Inafune grew to become essentially the most prestigious producer within the firm, and it was below his course that the corporate centered extra on console video games like Resident Evil and Mega Man. Of the arcade video games Capcom developed, solely the Gundam video games had been hits, and that is why they saved making these. All of the arcade builders had been informed to hitch the worthwhile console strains — video games like Monster Hunter, Resident Evil, and Mega Man. Monster Hunter continues to be an enormous hit even as we speak, however that recreation was created by individuals from the arcade recreation division.

Matt Atwood
(public relations supervisor, Capcom USA)

To some extent, you’ll be able to’t inform the arcade story with out speaking about what else was happening at Capcom, and there was numerous experimentation. Auto Modellista was utterly out of the blue. […] You had stuff like Metal Battalion and Onimusha and Dino Disaster, and so they had been stepping into bass [fishing] video games. Satan Could Cry was one that will have signified — so, it is attention-grabbing, as a result of Satan Could Cry and its success could have kind of cemented the concept that the course needs to be on different issues. I believe that was the primary time they noticed one thing past Res. Evil that was like, Oh my god, that is actually totally different and we have now the power to create [things that are] so trendy and so totally different. I believe all the inner studios took discover, and I believe that the sources had been shifted there.

James Chen
(Avenue Fighter sequence commentator)

At that time limit, it was simply a type of issues that, as a fan of the video games, you simply sort of accepted that it was useless. I keep in mind when Capcom Combating Jam first confirmed up at E3, lots of people had been stunned. They’re like, Wow, they’re making a brand new recreation? After which everybody checked out me. I used to be like, Why does this recreation look so darn ugly?

And that was such a prevailing feeling. Capcom Combating Jam got here out and was at E3, and everyone was like, Oh. Even then, no person appeared like they had been actually hype about it. It simply did not really feel like there was any hype for it. I simply do not recall anybody seeing Capcom Combating Jam and being like, Oh my god, I am unable to wait to go to the arcade and do this out, and all that stuff. Actually, I simply suppose everyone was like, No matter. At this level, we had all sort of simply given up on hoping for extra high quality Capcom combating video games, actually.

Toyohisa Tanabe
(Capcom Combating All-Stars director, Capcom Japan)

I do not know if I might use the phrase “disillusioned” to explain that generational change. However when it comes to the sentiments that I skilled on the time, with combating video games slowly winding down, I puzzled, would the sport trade itself start to vary over time? And the way would we, as combating recreation builders, climate this transformation? There was a way of hazard, but additionally of pleasure. I additionally acknowledged that you may’t anticipate a style to proceed on in the identical method perpetually, proper? However as somebody who had skilled the power and pleasure of the combating recreation increase firsthand, which gamers of all ability ranges took half in, I did suppose it was a bit unhappy that it was lastly winding down.

Hideaki Itsuno
(Capcom vs. SNK 2 director, Capcom Japan)

I wasn’t unhappy in any respect. I felt like I did all the pieces that I needed to do within the 2D area. And then you definately had the emergence of recent video games like Monster Hunter, Auto Modellista, Satan Could Cry 2, the JoJo video games, and Resident Evil Outbreak. I used to be personally engaged on an RPG that finally grew to become Dragon’s Dogma. I used to be excited to be engaged on an motion RPG. [… I also was] in a position to take all the information that I had constructed up within the combating recreation area and throw it into Satan Could Cry 3. I noticed that each one the information I had constructed up may very well be expanded into the motion recreation style as effectively.

Three screenshots show Capcom’s Monster Hunter World — the company’s most successful single game to date

Capcom’s early-2000s shift away from combating video games occurred shortly earlier than the departures of two of the important thing figures chargeable for its combating recreation output: Yoshiki Okamoto and Noritaka Funamizu. Funamizu says he left partially due to administration skepticism over the event of the unique Monster Hunter. Monster Hunter went on to develop into certainly one of Capcom’s most profitable franchises, with 2018’s Monster Hunter: World (above) promoting greater than 16 million copies — greater than twice as many as Capcom’s second most profitable particular person recreation.
Graphic: James Bareham/Polygon | Supply pictures: Capcom

The longer term is now

The mid-2000s marked the tip of an period for Capcom combating video games. Priorities had shifted. Key figures like Okamoto and Funamizu left Capcom and began their very own studios. Capcom Japan bought the Avenue Fighter IP to Capcom USA.

It marked a clear break, at the very least till 2008, when Capcom rebooted the sequence with Avenue Fighter 4 — developed by Nishiyama’s staff at Dimps.

Within the decade-plus since then, Capcom has produced combating video games at a measured tempo and primarily centered on recognized portions: mainline Avenue Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom entries, and ports of previous video games. However for Itsuno, who presently works as certainly one of Capcom’s most profitable administrators, that doesn’t imply we gained’t see the rest sooner or later.

Hideaki Itsuno
(Satan Could Cry sequence director, Capcom Japan)

I have not retired simply but! There’s undoubtedly part of me that is like, I might like to finally make Capcom vs. SNK 3. […] I even have two concepts for one-on-one combating video games nonetheless lingering in my thoughts. It is extra of only a matter of getting the chance to take action, so if there’s anybody that is prepared to provide me a growth staff and a pleasant funds, I am greater than prepared to pay attention. [laughs]

[Ed. note: Asked how likely it is he thinks he will return to work on another fighting game, given Capcom’s current trajectory, Itsuno says he thinks there’s a decent but far from confirmed chance.]

Hideaki Itsuno
(Satan Could Cry sequence director, Capcom Japan)

Each time I submit new ideas for creating a brand new recreation, there’s at all times a combating recreation in these ideas. It simply so occurs it is by no means been chosen. However I want to make at the very least another combating recreation earlier than I retire. I do not know — when it comes to percentages, possibly 30-50%? One thing like that.

We’ve modified sure recreation titles and character names all through this sequence to replicate their English variations and cut back confusion. Job titles replicate previous roles related to the subjects mentioned.

Japanese interview interpretation: Alex Aniel

Submit-interview retranslation: Alex Highsmith

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