The Capcom Test is an old term dating back to the 1990s, though the practice probably dates well into the 1980s when Capcom was becoming an arcade powerhouse. Capcom used to rent yellow arcade boards to arcade operators for a time to test the game among consumers and to encourage the operator to make a full purchase of the arcade title. With consoles, this had to change, especially with the death of rental stores. Now the method is to put out a collection or a limited-budget production title, like the numerous Darkstalkers collections, to see if sales would be generated to ensure a new, higher-budget title. Often the sales number and the revenue these Test games have to make is unrealistically high, as Capcom moved towards a high budget, high-revenue model with their mainline games since the early 2000s. Personally, I would put the shift starting from the original Resident Evil to Devil May Cry 2. DMC2 was developed by an ex-arcade development team that was out of their depth in making a console game of this calibre. It is a lynchpin game, where Capcom would slowly, but surely, move their focus further on bigger-than-life titles with grandiose visuals. By all means, titles like Monster Hunter were part of this, as the franchise had grown bigger and bigger in terms of how grandiose it is despite the play part subdued. Hell, certain elements have been completely excised from Monster Hunter World. There has also been a further focus on the framing story sequences, which have slowed Capcom games down quite a lot. Mega Man is a good indicator of how Capcom sways. Aside from Mega Man 11, things have been very quiet, baiting with nostalgia via licensing.
The very recently announced Capcom Fighting Collection is, by all means, a Capcom Test. Social Media has people asking others to buy the game as it is seen as a Test for Darkstalkers series, a series that has already had more Tests than most other franchises. While yours truly is a fan of the series and would love to see a new entry, I also highly doubt this collection will yield any positive results for the fans. Capcom often has unreasonably high expectations of their titles, as any title is more or less expected to make Resident Evil or Monster Hunter tier revenue. That is not going to happen, as there is a finite amount of money the consumers can shell out and Capcom’s competition is harsh. Street Fighter 6, which got a teaser, too, did not exactly lit the audience. Simply displaying a fujoshi’s wet dream Ryu in RE Engine is not enough to make out what the game will be like. Sure, most people who have been in the arcades or given a glance at the fighting game scene know how a Street Fighter generally functions, but as usual, the core audience wants and needs to see and know more.
Would probably do good to showcase what’s been talked about
This Collection probably is not testing just Darkstalkers in a vacuum. While there is an obligatory Street Fighter II thrown in there, the rest of the titles are peculiar. Warzard/Red Earth is a CPS-3 system game that has not seen a homeport until now. Should’ve included all three Street Fighter III games while they were at it. Cyberbots is a cult game with little to no audience or live scene. Pocket Fighters is mostly a throwaway, it is not going to make any ends or means. What is peculiar about this collection is that it only has 2D fighting games. There is no Rival Schools, Star Gladiator, Power Stone or Tech Romancer. Not even a word is being whispered about Street Fighter EX titles in a collection, and I am sure Arika, as the developer of the games and owner of the series original originals, would be willing to cooperate. The reality probably is that this is a reasonable budget title for Capcom to test waters whether or not there is an audience for a new fighting game to go alongside Street Fighter but yet is distinctly different in visual and style. Darkstalkers still retains a very unique look, with the whole Western cartoon animation thing going on with its Universal Horror monster closet, while Cyberbots is strong mechanical mayhem to a tee. Red Earth is deeply rooted to its character growth system and will offer only a limited interest due to its low number of four playable characters. However, I believe this is the only way we would have ever got Red Earth ported; as a port of a collection.
Nevertheless, the styling is clear; a standard and safe Street Fighter II fair, a horror fighter, an SF mecha fighter, and a fantasy-themed fighter. All titles are going to use rollback netcode, so at least online play should be nice and nippy. If I were somebody at Capcom looking whether or not to greenlight a new project based on one of these games, I would have a line of code that would record how many hours each of the games are played to see what series, and what iteration in case of Darkstalkers, is the most popular and go with that. For better or worse, statistics still rule.
Maybe we’ll get at least a Capcom 3D Fighting Game Collection if this one sells reasonably to justify porting their 3D fighting games to modern platforms. I
The other side of the coin is that we are on Mega Man‘s 35th anniversary year as well. We have yet to see any kind of title being announced. Sure, it’s late February and there is a lot of year left, but there is not much Capcom can do in regards of collections. The latest Collections are not very old and are still in circulation, so putting out a new one wouldn’t be the best move to pull. Sure, something like Mega Man Legends collection would be nifty, but that’d also put the lens on the cancelled Mega Man Legends 3, and that’s something that probably salted the ground with Mega Man quite a lot. Mega Man is the other side of the coin due to how it depicts Capcom’s priorities. The best we can expect is a game during the Blue Bomber’s 40th anniversary. I honestly don’t expect a full-fledged Mega Man game on our shelves in the next five years.
There is no definitive way to say whether or not past Capcom Tests have been successful. When it comes to arcade games, we definitely can see how certain games floated to the top and became the cream of Capcom history. We can mostly point to Darkstalkers as a prime example of how the Capcom Test has flunked a series. I would say that the same can be appointed to the Mega Man series, which is now in the mobile game hell with Mega Man X DiVE. However, looking at a certain lack of titles that have come from Capcom’s collections as of late, chances are that even if the Fighting Game Collection sells, the hopes for new Darkstalkers should not be raised. Vote with your wallet and showcase the game, if you want to make your voice heard.
Though there’s always the question if modern Capcom can actually produce a new fighting game that isn’t a hyper-realistic million-dollar piece. All this sounds nice, but seeing how Capcom is doubling down on making the most Hollywood-like top-tier graphics experience with their RE Engine, the question that has to be asked is whether or not there is anyone who could head a cartoony horror fighter. Darkstalkers is very much a cartoony fighter with bright colours despite its motif. While Darkstalkers themselves are serious things. While the story hardly comes through the games themselves, their background is rich and gives all of the more than just that one shade of blood red. There’s whole mythology you can only see in sourcebooks. While the story and the result of these matches were equally as serious, the animations were always tightly knit to the Tom and Jerry kind of gag animation. You could cut your opponent open mid-fight, but he’d just flip back together and get up. It’s tons of fun, and in my older days, I’ve slowly come to appreciate the craftsmanship the series has in terms of animation over titles like Street Fighter III and King of Fighters XIII. If Capcom would be making a new entry, I hope it’ll be colourful fun, filled with cartoony gore. I hope my fears are crushed and Capcom can actually rip themselves off from sticking to either anime or hyper-realism.
The second bit is that Darkstalkers is known to be a hard as hell game to get into. While the first and the second game are relatively easy and simple, that’s only by comparison to modern mechanics in fighting games. Then you have Darkstalkers 3, or Vampire Saviour, a game that has people who want to get into it, and people who have played it for good two decades or so. There’s very little middle-ground when it comes to skill ceilings. The game’s speed is still unmatched, and the mostly polished mechanics make a game that’s very hard to get into. Sure, there are a few bullshit regulations and rules on how some of the mechanics work and Dark Force is utterly useless with some characters, but those mostly add to the meta-skills the player has to learn. It’s easy to say that Guilty Gear is a poster boy for having a gimmick with each character, but Darkstalkers did that first by having the first character to airdash. One character in the original game’s cast could airdash as we think it nowadays, the others couldn’t. Sure, Morrigan’s forward dash would actually lift her off from the ground, but that’s not the same in function. Other characters have long hops that force them into an aerial state. All this is to say that while the very core basic walking might’ve been shared with all characters, characters would also have different ways to do more advanced movements, like dashing forwards or hopping or just disappearing for a moment while sliding forwards. I take that back, actually. Guilty Gear is still the poster boy for gimmick characters, Darkstalkers has characters that are built around certain unique options only accessible to a single or limited number of characters.
In the modern environment, where eSports is a thing and has to drive sales, I can’t see Capcom putting an effort into making a game that has a high learning curve which is also further affected by each character in a heavier manner than in Street Fighter or King of Fighters. Guilty Gear mostly has bullshit single-character mechanics that might as well be a whole different genre. I can still hear Jack-O playing tower defense in my head. Heavily in-depth and complex fighting games don’t seem to make good sales or nice eSports titles, especially if the game’s emphasis is blitz-speed with no pause of any sort for Super Moves. The cartoony animation has to carry that wow factor. Perhaps it’d be better if Capcom would make a new Cyberbots instead. Their realistic approach could work very well for that game, and there has been a serious lack of quality robot fighting games as of late. Alternatively, a new Red Earth title could emphasize player-build characters through an easy interface with expanded RPG-like growth mechanics and elements thrown in, but that’d be effectively Soul Calibur.
I’ll most likely be picking up this collection on launch day just to be able to play a legitimate copy of Red Earth without resorting to emulation. That’s a sticking point with some, seeing this collection moot because all the titles innit can be played through Fightcade. While an option, emulation doesn’t really showcase Capcom what the customers would like to have as it doesn’t show up in their revenue tape. In a sorted twisted sense, it can also show that people are completely fine playing the old games over and over again. All Capcom needs to do is to release a new collection every decade or so to test the waters. We’ve been through this a few times already. That’s kinda sad innit. Here we are, getting a collection of games we’ve played tons already throughout the years, just to test waters with if Capcom might want to make more money in making a new entry.
Capcom fans are weird beings. On one hand, the fans want new entries for their old games. On another, there’s always a want for something new. It’s just Capcom wants to test first if there are enough existing fans to justify making a new entry. God only knows how the hell Capcom ever manages to produce new IPs, but they really need to get on that boat too in the near future.