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July 20, 2017

I feel really bad for Capcom right now.


*sigh*

You know what, though?  I feel like I’ve got no one to blame but myself.



So it looks like Street Fighter V’s newest character is Abigail, a long-absent returnee from Final Fight rejiggered for a modern release.  He’s a member of the Mad Gear gang -- and SF’s first Canadian fighter -- known for his monstrous size and strength (and he’s still growing, apparently).  Reportedly, his story mode will have him on a search for his perfect monster truck; gameplay-wise, he’s…uh…a grappler who…uh…uh…uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

All right, look.  I’m on record of saying -- and I quote -- “grapplers are hype incarnate”.  I stand by that.  Logically, I should be on-board with Abigail.  And to be clear, it’s not as if I’ve completely written him off; I had a pretty pained reaction upon seeing his reveal for the first time, but now I’ve made peace with his presence and can say “Hey, maybe he won’t be so bad.”  But should I really have to qualify a new character like that if the developers are firing on all cylinders?  Probably not.  And there’s still the fact that I had that initial, negative reaction -- one in which the only nice thing I could say about him in a conversation was “I like his theme song, at least.”  Except the song in the reveal trailer actually wasn’t his theme song (which I partly suspected/feared).  His actual theme song is…a theme song.


There’s so much about Abigail that ranges from “yeah, okay, I guess” to “this is dire” that I won’t fault anyone for feeling indifferent, disappointed, or outright disgusted by this new entry.  Maybe things will go better once people actually have a chance to play as him, but first impressions are important.  I’m a fan of grapplers and/or big-bodied heavy hitters (and I’m no stranger to disproportionate ones like Potemkin), but for me what slaughtered my hype and interest in the character was his intro.  Pretending to drive a car and acting like a pea-brained brute was, and still is, too much for me to bear.  Potemkin, at least, has class.  Abigail does not.  Hell, even Birdie’s looking downright distinguished compared to him.

I wanted to believe, though.  In fact, I actually had a secret hope in mind -- one that gave Capcom WAY too much credit.  It was known well before the fact that Abigail would be the next character in line thanks to tireless probing of Capcom’s assets (or is it simply because Capcom doesn’t have good enough security to keep a secret?  The mind boggles).  Even so, no one actually knew what he looked like; most assumed that it’d just be something along the lines of his semi-recent concept art, but a part of me believed it was all a work on Capcom’s part.  They intentionally leaked Abigail’s presence, but not his appearance -- which made me wonder if he would be a she.  Maybe the devs would take a bold step and introduce a big-bodied female grappler, since I’d imagine the genre is sorely lacking in them.

Also, Abigail IS from the same franchise that baffled the world with Poison.  What better time than now to flip the script?


Okay, sure, I wanted a big female grappler to burst onto the scene, but I could live with anything else.  I expected anything else, including -- and especially -- the safe, obvious choice.  Now we’ve all seen what Capcom had planned, and now it’s a safe bet that they’re suffering for it.  Abigail has his fans, to be sure -- and they’re not wrong for it -- and again, I’d think that things will get better once people actually start playing as him in real matches.  That does make me wonder how he’ll do performance- or tier-wise once the meta absorbs him; Hugo didn’t do so hot in USF4, Zangief had some serious issues in Season 1 of SFV, and nobody is chomping at the bit to play Birdie (except me, I guess).  Even now, I can see how Abigail might be a monster in theory, but a pile of mincemeat in practice.

But there’s no sense in playing armchair strategist right now.  The real issue is much more pressing -- and pressing down on Capcom with enough force to break bones.  It’s a matter of timing, you see.  The original assumption was that we’d be getting a Season 2 DLC character every couple of months -- well, as long as you don’t question Capcom’s punctuality given how they delayed Ibuki’s release without so much as a peep until basically the end of her target month (and didn’t even put out an Alex trailer until way late in his month, to the point where a fan made one out of stitched-together gameplay).  In any case, I’ve heard that the idea was to delay Abigail’s announcement until EVO to generate as much hype as possible, and breathe new life into a controversial entry in the SF franchise.  Makes sense.

Then EVO 2017 happened.  And now I feel really bad for Capcom.


Okay.  So let me walk you through my thought process after learning about BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle.  I originally heard the news by checking out the announcement via Twitter on my phone.  No trailer, no screenshots, nothing -- just an image featuring Ragna, Yu, Hyde, and Ruby as featured in the teaser.  At first I thought, “Wait, what?  Huh?”  And then ten seconds later I thought, “Huh.  Okay, that’s pretty cool.”  And then I started driving home.

Then after five minutes I started thinking, “Wait, hold on.  A new crossover game?  With the Persona crew?  And the Under-Night crew?  And characters from BlazBlue and RWBY?  Man, that’s nuts.”  Minutes after that, I started getting a huge smile on my face.  “Oh, wait, hold on.  That means I can play as best girl Blake Belladonna.  That’s awesome.  That’s rad.  That’s super-rad!”  And then “No, wait!  This might mean we’ll have Mitsuru and Orie in the same game!”  “Oh crap -- a two-man team with Azrael and Hakumen?!”  “Jesus!  It’s a crossover between four different universes -- and one of them is RWBY!” 


It’s a wonder I didn’t crash and burn what with all the blinding hype I felt.

And yet, somehow, that wasn’t all the hype to be had that day.  EVO is supposed to be about the fighting game fans -- from the battle-tested pros to the cheering onlookers -- coming together for the big brawls on the main stage.  Even so, fighting game companies have taken to using it as a way to promote their latest and greatest wares.  So Arc System Works?  They were definitely doing work this year with their new crossover title, on top of finally pushing out Jubei for BlazBlue, on top of the reveal of Future Trunks for Dragonball FighterZ.  (And then a couple of days later, they confirmed -- as obvious as it was -- that Krillin and the most correct choice Piccolo would join the fight.)  Meanwhile, Bandai Namco comes out swinging with the reveal of Fatal Fury’s/King of Fighters’ Geese Howard as a playable guest character for Tekken 7 -- and to say he looks glorious would be an understatement the size of one of the gas giants.  Hell, even Arika is getting back in the action with their own fighting game, featuring Skullomania after years of hanging on the sidelines.  Everybody in attendance was swinging for the fences.

Except, of course, for Capcom.  Sure, new stages were announced, which is…okay.  And they’re finally delivering on some of the nostalgic costumes they promised a while back, which is…fine, I guess.  Jedah and Gamora were shown off in-game for Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, and…yeah, that’s all right (which only helps confirm the credibility -- and ominousness -- of that disappointing leak list).  And of course there was the crowner, Abigail.

I feel really, really bad for Capcom.  I might be the only one, though.


I want to say “How did we get here?”  But you know what?  That question doesn’t really feel appropriate -- because the more I think about it, the more I realize that we’ve been here for a while.  Capcom has only been focusing on a handful of properties recently -- SF, Resident Evil, Monster Hunter, and Dead Rising -- even if it means eschewing all of their beloved properties save for the occasional HD remaster.  By extension, the house that Mega Man built is one of the most infamous when it comes to fighting games.  SF put them on the map, but they’ve had plenty of others.  And they will have others in the future, given that Marvel Infinite is on the way.  Even so, I don’t think anyone will fight me when I say that they’ve had their problems.

Support for Street Fighter X Tekken withered into oblivion despite a 2013 overhaul, unable to shake the stigma of in-disc DLC and a disdain-inducing gem system among other gameplay issues.  Marvel 3 came out in 2011 to the delight of many, only to have an updated rerelease a mere nine months later.  Iteration after iteration of SFIV crawled out from the depths, and the PS4 version -- which was supposed to be the definitive edition -- brought with it a cornucopia of bugs.  SFV has taken, and continues to take, heat to this very moment, even without the royal graces of Abigail.  The less said about Marvel Infinite until release day, the better -- though to be sure, I’m chomping my fingers down to the bone in fear of the issues that might bring.


It’s not as if people have suddenly jumped on the Capcom hate train.  The grievances have piled up for weeks, and months, and years; EVO 2017 (and to a lesser extent E3 2017) just so happened to bathe that train in light from engine to caboose.  Abigail’s due out in less than a week, but his punches in the trailer don’t even properly connect with Ed’s body.  Meanwhile, Dragonball FighterZ is somewhere around the 20% mark for completion, but -- barring the occasional beta build glitch and player inexperience -- it looks ready for the main stage at EVO 2018.  The difference in ability and quality is getting pretty stark. 

I’d think that Arc System Works has never been a popular or well-known company (even though Guilty Gear Xrd has been out for a few years, I ran into a guy not too long ago who didn’t even know what Guilty Gear was).  But setting aside their less-than-ideal practices -- high-priced DLC characters and constant SFII-level rereleases -- they do honest work and put out strong fighters.  Now that they’re waving the torch of the DBZ brand, they’ve garnered tons of attention.  Now people are likely starting to notice that there are more fighting game options besides SF.  Same goes for KoF fans, I bet; they’re probably still sitting pretty with KoFXIV, but the diehards might start eyeing Tekken for the chance to fire off a Reppuken in full 3D environments.  How many RWBY fans have taken a sudden interest in fighting games now that they’ll likely have a chance to unload brutal combos with Yang Xiao Long or Weiss Schnee? 

The long and short of it: Capcom might rule the fighting game roost, but that’s partly because of the legacy and branding.  If it keeps stumbling -- and by all accounts, it will -- then it’s primed to get laughed and booed off the throne.  If it hasn’t already.


The transition won’t happen immediately, of course; it’s not as if the next EVO will dump SFV from the competition lineup wholesale.  But there’s an air of resentment swirling around Capcom that’s getting harder and harder to mask into oblivion with gallons of perfume.  It’s been scribbled all over the internet by gamers up and down the ladder, from casual fans to intrepid journalists -- not to mention the pros with a huge stake in those properties.  There’s no telling how many people have been hurt or frustrated by subpar offerings, but have stayed silent on the matter.  And yes, everyone is allowed to have their opinions -- positive or negative, based on evidence or on emotion -- but the fact that we even have those bitter opinions tells me that something is wrong here.

To be clear: I like SFV.  I always have, and I still do.  I think that a lot of the music is top-notch, the gameplay is solid, and the art style, on average, is good.  I can think of a number of things I’d like to change about it, of course (irrespective of missing characters), but I’m at peace with it as-is.  Yet even though I enjoy it, I can’t say that I’m actively supporting it right now.  I haven’t even played it in months.  The most I’ve done is try and learn how to play as Chun-Li, but gave up that endeavor when I kept getting thrown into lag-laden matches with players in Mexico.


The real warning sign, for me, is that my brother is in much the same position.  He’s an absolute fighting game maniac, having bought every version of SFIV, sometimes across multiple consoles and on PC.  There have been knights where I’d get woken up at 3 in the morning because he ate a Raging Demon and lost the match.  But these days?  I haven’t seen him touch SFV in months, nor have I heard him play it at any time of day.  I haven’t seen him mess around with it on PC (even though he has that version), and most damningly, he hasn’t asked to go a few rounds (read: several hours at a time) with me.  For him, it’s all about Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2, or Tekken 7, or even Injustice 2

We both saw the Marvel Infinite trailer for E3, and we both had the same reaction upon seeing Chun-Li’s face (and to a lesser extent Gamora’s).  I got to try the story demo first; I wasn’t very impressed by that snippet of the story [citation needed], but I thought that the gameplay would be king.  Not being the expert on fighters between the two of us, I told him to give the demo a try and see if he could offer up some conclusive thoughts.  But he didn’t try it.  I asked him again, and again, and again if he tried it, but every time he said no -- and at one point admitted that he didn’t want to try it because he thought it would be disappointing.

To this day, I haven’t asked him if he tried it.  All I know is that the demo mysteriously vanished from the PS4 -- for what reason, I fear I already know.


This whole situation sucks.  I don’t want to feel bad for Capcom.  I don’t want the company to be a laughing stock or a hate sink.  I don’t want their games to suffer and leave themselves ready -- and begging -- for ridicule.  I want them to succeed by making good games.  Not because of branding, and not because “they were here first”; I want them to prove that they have the chops to earn fan trust and praise, and the same cheers that made EVO moment 37 into a legend.  But so far -- for years now -- they haven’t.  It’s been a cascade of failure, with the waves rising higher and higher.  We’ve had to deal with messy visuals and sketchy rosters; unfinished features and peddled DLC; cringe-inducing communication and missing communication; the list goes on, and on, and on.

It shouldn’t be this way.  Capcom shouldn’t be able to coast based on brand recognition, or the fact that gamers -- especially the pros -- have to buy in or else they’re missing out on the competitive edge.  But some days, that’s what it seems like they’re doing.  On days like today, following the scorched-earth bombing by seemingly every other fighting game company out there, that seems like the most viable explanation for their current MO.  Weather the storm and plug up the holes in the ship with stopgap measures.  It’s a strategy, I’ll grant them, but it’s not a good strategy.

I hope it doesn’t last.  It probably won’t last because Capcom will figure out what they need to do.  But just in case?  Capcom, if you’re listening?  I have some words of advice for you.

Come back.  Please.


Also, add in Shin Dee Jay.

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