San Diego Comic-Con 2011
The X Button at Comic Con: Friday, July 22

by Todd Ciolek,

CAPCOM's Resident Evil panel at the San Diego Comic Con made much of the franchise's 15th anniversary, and if there's no genuine Resident Evil 6 to celebrate it, there's a wealth of spin-offs and side-games. Resident Evil Code Veronica and Resident Evil 4 are scheduled to hit the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in downloadable HD form, and CAPCOM dropped release dates: September 20 for Resident Evil 4 and September 27 for Code Veronica X. The latter will also receive a few enhancements: a “more dynamic” camera and better lighting.

Resident Evil: Raccoon City Chronicles spins the series into a squad-based shooter, set during the zombie-aided downfall of Raccoon City as seen in Resident Evil 2 and 3. The game's six playable Umbrella agents have unique attacks and reflect the usual roles of squad shooters, though at least one of them breaks into new territory: Foureyes, a scientist, can manipulate the zombies and lead them off-track—or into the Umbrella team's rivals.

CAPCOM producer Mike McDougal singled out Resident Evil Revelations as a “true Resident Evil game.” Set between Resident Evil 4 and 5, Revelations finds Jill Valentine and her portly BSAA ally Parker Luciani on a wrecked cruise ship that's naturally full of zombies. According to McDougal, the game returns to the survival-horror elements of older Resident Evils, with puzzles, slower-paced shooters, and deliberate references to Jill's mastery of unlocking. CAPCOM made have improved Resident Evil's voice acting and translation since the original, but they clearly remember where the series came from.

Many tersely described Asura's Wrath as an Eastern tribute to God of War upon its debut, but one can't help but wonder if CAPCOM and CyberConnect2 meant it as a parody. The demo shown at the San-Diego Comic-Con is a cavalcade of machismo excess, as the six-armed, spiky-haired deity Asura takes down an obese rival god named Wyzen by punching, screaming, glowing, and prompting a lot of quick-time button mashing.

The game sampled in the demo gives Asura basic attacks: standard and heavy strikes, plus a flurry of punch-projectiles that he tossed off like a Fist of the North Star hero. Everything has the slightly exaggerated, polished look of Ninja Theory's Heavenly Sword, and it clearly grasps the need for spectacle: during the demo, Asura throws Wyzen off a cliff only to see him return as a stone-skinned giant. So Asura launches his foe into space, prompting Wyzen to turn into an even bigger giant and crush Asura with a finger the size of a subcontinent. Then Asura punches him even more. Sadly, most of this is carried out by selective hit-this-button prompts that let Asura easily toss back missiles or hammer away at Wyzen's enormous finger. It may be an unfair glimpse of CyberConnect2's first big-budget action extravaganza, as CAPCOM's trailers for the game show a multitude of intense combat scenes. One can hope that Asura's Wrath will have more substance in its final incarnation.

CAPCOM was rather creative in promoting the game as well. So prominent was Asura's screaming that CAPCOM even set up a sound booth where attendees could shriek their hearts out. The highest scorers were entered in a raffle, and anyone who broke a 90 on the sound meter earned a headband and shock of spiky white Asura hair.

Dragon's Dogma draws from many sources. Producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi admits to borrowing the game's down-to-earth visions of medieval civilizations and and weapons from The Lord of the Rings and A Game of Thrones. From their own Devil May Cry offerings, the developers have taken the rapid violence of an action game. From Monster Hunter there's a variety of large creatures to hunt and grab—and that's done quite literally as players command a party of characters in real-time combat.

Dragon's Dogma doesn't look particularly sharp at a glance. Latching onto beasts is a welcome feature, particularly when you can throw smaller ones around, but there's little else that stands out in this demo. Perhaps it's more rewarding in the long run. The party-based play mechanics allow the player to develop a main sidekick along with two lesser pawn allies, and they can borrow from different classes as they go along. Though they'll start the game with three basic types, they can advance to six new classes that combine, say, skills from mages with combat-based striders—think Aragorn, not Hiryu. In fact, that's good advice for the whole of the game. Even if it improves, don't expect CAPCOM's typical flash.

Sega set up an off-site arcade for this year's Comic Con, and their best offering was hidden in a back room: the XBox Live version of Guardian Heroes.

The game remains largely unchanged from its Sega Saturn incarnation, though the wider screen and hi-res graphics help the visual style. The dialogue's also retranslated, with both gains and losses in that category. It's now closer to a medieval-fantasy novel than a Saturday morning cartoon, but some possibly translator-embellished details from the Saturn version are lost (Randy no longer hits on Serena, for one thing). That aside, it's the same as it always was: an intense, highly replayable brawler that stands between a genuine fighting game and a hectic side-scroller. And that's more than enough.

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