Still Street Fighting After All These YearsHero Worship
Capcom might have an army of powerful brand name mascots and endless regiments of game franchises standing in tight formation on game store shelves the world over, but it wasn't always so. Twenty years ago, the closest approximation to any kind of recognizable character was a weak pun on the company name called Captain Commando.
CAPtain COMmando - do you get it? Some advertising intern must have been promoted to tea boy for that one.
The Captain may have been a shallow attempt to compete with Mario, but he was fortunate enough to be cast as the main character in a trilogy of games that have had a massive impact on Capcom for over 20 years. Now, unlike many a defining moment in a developer's history, this one has gone somewhat unmarked, and didn't really influence so much as inspire, but even today Capcom's early experiments with the Jet Pack Hero trilogy is very noticeable - if you know where to look.
Capcom clearly knows what it achieved during those embryonic years, as it's shaped the company's personality in a very particular way. Maybe developers at Capcom today don't worship before a Jet Pack Heroes altar, or light three joss sticks and stand them in a bowl of rice in front of an effigy of Captain Commando on their way into work, but the subtle intricacies first seen in Section-Z, Side Arms: Hyper Dyne and Forgotten Worlds are so ingrained in the company's creative process that the old trilogy has become a natural jumping off point every time the market demands something new and adventurous.
In 1985, the arcades were graced with an unusual space-based shooter called Section-Z. Colorful, boisterous, sci-fi inspired coin-ops were in high demand, and although Section-Z was, to some degree, camouflaged by the incessant white-noise of game development gone mad, it united a cult of followers who still remain disturbingly loyal. Other games would come along very soon afterward and do everything Section-Z did - and do it better - but Capcom, at least, can lean back in its chair and, with hands behind an indifferent head, say, "We did that first."
By the mid '80s, game developers were well aware that each title needed a recognizable identity just as much as the company did, and with powerful brands like Mario and Pac-Man becoming household names, Capcom can be forgiven (to a degree) for rushing into the mascot race and creating something of an action-man clich