Still Street Fighting After All These YearsVision Doesn't Sell CopiesStill Street Fighting After All These Years - RSS 2.0
Founded in the midst of a Capcom shake-up in 2004, Clover Studios was a development group formed to "bring more originality to [Capcom's] products, thus leading to higher profits and better brand recognition." Clover's team was a deep well of talent that represented the best titles in Capcom's arsenal, from CEO Atsushi Inaba (Devil May Cry, Steel Battalion, Viewtiful Joe) to Shinji Mikami, best known for his work on Resident Evil, and Hideki Kamiya, a director on Devil May Cry. This talented team put together three original, cutting-edge games and, for their troubles, the studio was shuttered and the team dispersed. While most tales of talented developers that collapse involve big promises and little delivery, the fall of Clover is more tragic, largely because they accomplished their goals, furthering the budding Viewtiful Joe franchise and releasing two startlingly original games, Okami and God Hand.
Viewtiful Joe is a side-scrolling brawler on speed, the gaming equivalent of sitting down with a bowl of cereal on Saturday morning and watching brainless cartoons with flashing lights while sugar and bad translations rot your brain. In other words, it's visceral fun unhindered by any notion of seriousness. The Clover-produced sequel, Viewtiful Joe 2, continued that formula and piled on more madness than any action movie fan could handle. Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble continued the series' run on the GameCube, and Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble brought the franchise onto the Nintendo DS. Reviews for all of the games ranged from good to great, earning the series praise for its old-school action and sense of humor. The DS title won an Editor's Choice award from IGN, and Clover was quickly making a name for itself.
Their second project, Okami, was much more ambitious. Okami took players through a Japanese fantasy world that popped with color. The quirky storyline featured Amaterasu - the Okami - a sun goddess in the form of a white wolf. Amaterasu travels the world fighting creatures from Japanese myth to recover "brush techniques" that grant her the power to challenge the evil spirits plaguing the world. These techniques are the game's real standout, as players actually use a Celestial Brush to draw on the screen and influence the course of the gameplay. Instead of mashing a button for a special attack, Okami lets players draw simple symbols. If they're successful, the result shows up in the game world - a bomb to blow up a wall, a sword strike to defeat a foe, or even the sun itself, which brings the world to magnificent life.
Okami garnered a tremendous number of awards, including Game of the Year, Adventure Game of the Year, Best Artistic Design, Best Story and Most Innovative Design from IGN; a Game of the Year award from PlayStation Magazine; and Game of the Month awards from Game Informer and Electronic Gaming Monthly. Okami amassed an impressive Metacritic score of 93 and ranked 21st overall in Metacrtic's Best PlayStation 2 Games category, behind the likes of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence and ahead of Final Fantasy XII, not bad company for the fledgling studio.
Finally, in 2006, Clover released God Hand, the quirkiest game in their lineup. God Hand was a bizarre beat-'em-up with a weird sense of humor, a very original style and a very high level of difficulty. Critical reaction was mixed, but most praised the game's nifty style and action, and for fans, it featured more in-crowd references than a Tarantino movie, though this was more about classic fighting anime and games than about Quentin's film collection.