Comic-Con 2011: Capcom Panel Recap

Capcom has a lot coming out in the near future, particularly for fighting fans with Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, Street Fighter x Tekken, and Street Fighter 3: Third Strike: Online Edition. But their panel at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con was focused instead on three very different titles – Dragon’s Dogma, Asura’s Wrath, and Dead Rising 2: Off the Record.

Dragon’s Dogma

Hopefully you’ve already read my hands-on preview of Dragon’s Dogma (it’s okay, you can read it in another tab first, I won’t tell anyone) and found out that I’m not all that impressed with what I’ve seen. Not surprisingly then, spending half of Capcom’s panel discussing Dragon’s Dogma wasn’t terribly stimulating either. But maybe I’m just a cynical DD hata, so here’s everything that was brought up. Anticipate at your own risk.

The goal behind Dragon’s Dogma, according to producer Hioryuki Kobyashi, is to create a “realistic fantasy” world of “sword and sorcery” akin to other successful franchises like the Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Apparently the idea has been growing in director Hideaki Itsuno’s mind since he was in Jr High, but he feels that only now is the technology available to achieve his vision.

Integrating open-world exploration with action-focused combat is what that tech’s for. Kobyashi said that they want to alleviate the boredom of eventless running around and open up the restrictions of tight linear action. “The world in Dragon’s Dogma is big, very big. You’ll go to forests, castles, mountains,  caves… everywhere.”

The game will also run on an internal clock, shifting from day to night depending on when you’re playing. There were no details on the scale of the clock, whether it will be minutes for hours like Majora’s Mask, or direct day and night like the later Pokemon games. Which NPC’s are available to meet and the level of difficulty when encountering monsters were the two greatest draws expressed of the clock system. Future plans seem to be much larger though, “Depending on when in the day you’re playing, the whole world will change dramatically”.

Classes in Dragon’s Dogma are standard fantasy affair. The player can choose between three basics: the heavy swordsman Fighter, the dual wielding Strider, or the magic-based Mage. To spice things up, the player can eventually choose from one of six advanced classes that either further enhance the bases or blend two classes together. They are: the Warrior, a beefed up Fighter; Mystic Knight, purveyor of weapons and magic “for twice the fun in attacking”; Assassin, an advanced Strider that allows you “to do things most other fighters can’t”; Ranger, the Fighter-Strider combo with a big ass bow; Magic Archer, joining Strider archery with Mage magic; and the Sorceror, a single-minded magic user.

Kobyashi also discussed a few of the game’s enemy types. The Goblins are small “really annoying” creatures that attack in droves. Fortunately they can big picked up and thrown like little wimps. The Golem on the other hand is a massive stone creature brought to life by the dark arts and imbued with a powerful laser beam. I don’t remember that part in Jewish mythology. The Griffin is a big ol’ baddie pulled straight from lore who enjoys swooping around the field and knocking over the player. You can turn the tables however by grabbing on and taking the Griffin for a ride. From foe to transportation and all you need is a little distraction. The Chimera is somewhat altered from Greek mythology to add to its creepiness. This beast uses both melee and magic attacks to protect its den. Finally, the Hydra, another mythological staple. This “very, very large” multi-headed monstrosity follows the rules of lore so brush up on your Greek mythology if you need a new strategy.

The last big piece to the Dragon’s Dogma puzzle that was presented at Capcom’s panel was the Pawn system. This is their way of handling party management. Rather than meet specific characters along your journey who then take up arms at your side, the player can access certain stones which allow him or her to summon up to three Pawns. All three can be from any of the three base classes but one of them is a little different. Known as a Key Pawn, this helper can supposedly stick with you throughout much of your journey, though how or why is not yet clear.

I assume the Pawn system is in place to keep the focus of the narrative solely on the protagonist. But by that same notion, the Key Pawn seems to be meant to allow for a relationship between hero and companion. So which is it? Am I alone on this journey, finding odd help here and there, or am I engaging with interesting characters who will help see me through my quests? As of now, it appears Capcom is going for some kind of middle ground, but I don’t see how you can succeed at both. This pessimistic writer is expecting flat bots that tail at my heels while I run through a story that ignores their presence.

Dead Rising 2: Off the Record

Did you play Dead Rising one and hate the save system? What about playing Dead Rising 2 and lamenting the absence of photography? Just miss Frank West’s nonchalant accidental-hero humor? Well you might just like Off the Record.

As someone who had only played a bit of both previous games, I wasn’t terribly interested when Capcom started talking about Off the Record. But between their presentation and a bit of hands-on, I’m starting to change my attitude.

My major complaint with the other games were the controls. I felt overly heavy and unwieldy as I tried to swing all manor of blunt objects. Whether these controls have actually been refined or my taste have since changed I cannot say for certain without direct comparison. But what I do know is that I had a good time with Off the Record and I liked what Capcom has brought to the table.

The project originally began as a Director’s Cut of Dead Rising 2, but the team soon realized (particularly due to player feedback) that they should shift their focus to an entire re-imagining of Fortune City and its story. There’s a lot that Capcom is setting out to improve upon including saves, load times, boss difficulty, new weapons (and combinations), new clothing, new vehicles, and new combat situations.

And if you don’t believe Capcom has an ear to the community, check out one of Off the Record’s newest and coolest weapons – a car battery attached to a sledgehammer, allowing for devastating close-range kills and a powerful AOE electrical discharge – designed by a Dead Rising fan.

Already looking forward to Off the Record before even reading this article? Then there are a few things that you’re especially going to want to check out. Gamers who preorder at GameStop will get the Warrior Cosplay outfit which offers combat bonuses when paired with the Training Sword and Shield. Also be sure to check out the new comic series from Capcom and IDW coming in October. Plus if you load from a previous Dead Rising 2 save, you can dress Mr. West in Chuck’s biker jacket. Pretty snazzy.

Asura’s Wrath

Now this is the little angry man I’ve been wanting to hear more about. Ever since I first read about Asura’s Wrath I’ve waned to know more, more, more. It’s just so clear that this is not Capcom’s big focus and I feel it’s destined to be an under-the-radar hidden gem. The kind that pummels gods with six arms and a lot of angry Japanese words.

For those that haven’t latched this one into their radar, Asura’s Wrath is a super action-oriented game focused on the emotion of rage and drawing its characters from various Eastern mythologies and compositing them into science fiction. It’s almost pointless to try and describe the uniqueness of the art style because even the numerous pictures I had seen before paled in comparison to actually seeing the game in person. I’ll just say that it really is the next step toward translating paintings into interactive movement.

What I didn’t know about Asura’s Wrath, was the structure in which the story would progress. As Producer Kasuhiro Tsuyachiya explained, “[We] wanted to blend action and drama in a new way… to blend cutscenes and drama in a new way”. He explained that the story of Asura’s Wrath actually came before the gameplay, building instead a structure that supported the type of tale they wanted to tell.

The story is of revenge as Asura, a demigod is betrayed by his superiors. His wife is killed and his daughter kidnapped. In their wrath, the gods even slay Asura. But 12,000 years later, the hatred inside Asura has continued to grow within his soul and brought him back to life. Told through episodes of cliffhangers and continues, Asura’s Wrath plays out like an over-the-top action television show, pulling for the player’s anticipation of what will happen next. as Tsuyachiya describes, it’s an “emotional roller coaster serial drama”.

Maybe Asura’s Wrath sounds a little too wacky for you and I wouldn’t blame you in thinking so. But trust me when I say that this is one game you have to play to believe. There’s plenty more to see and I’ll reserve my final judgments until then, but as of now, I can’t wait to bombard some more planet-sized gods with six arms of 12,000 year old fatherly rage.

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