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Namco × Capcom

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by Kurt Kalata - 2004/2005

Namco × Capcom (ナムコ クロス カプコン) - Playstation 2 (2005)

Japanese Cover

The concept of crossovers has to be almost as old as writing itself - undoubtedly there were little Austen fans back in Victorian England concocting meetings of Eliza Bennett and Emma Woodhouse. But as much as literary nerds may love to see Sherlock Holmes and James Bond face off to see who's the real man's man, the particular kind of dreaming wasn't subject to official approval, and thus lived solely in the minds of fans.

Thankfully, the comic book industry takes itself far less seriously, and had no problem thrusting one characters into another's universe and have them fight to the death or team up to save the world from some menace. Somewhere along the line, video game developers realized that fans this same loopy zest to see characters from one game meet another, and thus sprung games like Konami's Wai Wai World for the Famicom or, more recently, Nintendo's Super Smash Bros Melee for the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube. But it's even more incredible when characters from two completely different companies face off, one of the first being Capcom vs SNK series of fighters.

But that was only the start. Both Capcom and Namco have been making games since the golden years of the arcade, and both have an impeccable knack at creating memorable characters and worlds. So when it was unveiled that the two companies would have a crossover title, gamers everywhere were extremely excited. Except unlike previous games with Capcom, which were fighting games, the new Namco × Capcom would be a strategy RPG. And with any modern RPG comes a sprawling plot.

Namco × Capcom

This is not an entirely new idea - Namco × Capcom (pronounced "Namco Cross Capcom") is technically the sequel to an obscure Wonderswan game called Namco Super Wars, which has unfortunately not been dumped for play on an emulator. But that only featured a variety of Namco characters - Namco × Capcom comes up with the craziest excuses to combine characters from completely disparate universes and put them into some kind of coherent situation. I can't say much for the overall plot, but the writers tried to at least tried to combine some thematic elements - it makes sense that the demon world of Darkstalkers would be heavily influenced by Ghouls 'n Ghosts, and you'll fight the Japanese monsters of Genpei Toumaden with the samurai/ninja pair of Mitsurugi and Taki from Soul Calibur. There are even some other clever ways of tying things together - the boat from Resident Evil: Dead Aim looks suspiciously similar to the one in Ken's background from Super Street Fighter II. Amidst all of this, there are some ridiculous clashes - just what the hell does Klonoa have to do with the Tower of Druaga? - but the attempts to tie everything together are pretty admirable.

The game is of course far more rewarding if you're familiar with the characters and their plotlines. In the first stage, your characters will come across bad guys that are transparent and can't be hurt. Lo and behold, out of pretty much nowhere, comes Shion, MOMO and KOS-MOS of Xenosaga, who come to the conclusion that they are fighting the Gnosis and do their little magic to make the enemies vulnerable to attacks. Then Chun-Li shows up and tussles a bit with Shadoloo ruffians Juli and Juni before the stage ends. Nonsensical? Absolutely. Amusing? Damn straight. There are a few new characters, who are technically the protagonists of the game - Reiji, a gun wielding Dante-clone; Xiaomu, whose stylist evidently had a thing for Pikachu; and Saya, who's teamed up with Vega/M. Bison and other villains to unleash some kind of nastiness.

Beneath this monumental clash of corporations is the actual game. The isometric viewpoint makes the game easily comparable to Banpresto's Super Robot Wars, although it should be familiar to anyone remotely familiar with other SRPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics, Shining Force or Disgaea. It's when the fighting occurs there Namco × Capcom truly stands out, as the battle system is somewhat reminiscent of the PSOne classic Valkyrie Profile. Attacking will bring up an enlarged sideview of the characters, letting you attack with a variety of different moves, activated with the d-pad and the O button. You're given a limited number of attacks to do as much damage as possible. Like many RPGs, certain attacks have certain affinities, and a convenient screen before each battle will show you what attacks are most effective. While you can just button mash through most of these and end up doing pretty well, the key, like many fighting games, is to air juggle your foes. If you're familiar with attacks, you can keep landing attacks on them before they hit the ground, which will net you bonuses like additional attacks, stat bonuses or damage modifiers. In another system borrowed from fighting games, you have a power meter that builds up as you attack or take damage. When this hits maximum, you can unleash a special attack with the triangle button. Additionally, if you perform one of each type of attack in battle, some of your HP or MP will be restored. It's not overly complicated, but it's fun, and the detailed character sprites and flashy moves provide plenty of entertainment. There are also special team-up attacks that related characters can use if they're close enough - characters like Ryu and Ken are separate units, but can execute a Multiple Assault to pull off even bigger damage.

Namco × Capcom

When you're attacked by an enemy, you're allowed a few different options to defend - the regular option zooms to the close-up battle sequence again, where you play a little Simon Says minigame while getting beaten up by an enemy. Doing well will usually give you bonus AP, allowing that character's turn to come up quicker. Additionally, you can expend some AP to absorb some of the damage, or use up part of your special attack meter to just take the damage and avoid having to go into a battle sequence. Although the latter option speeds up battle, it's not to your advantage to overuse this, because the AP you'd gain in battle is most definitely useful. Certain characters also have counter moves or dodges.

Unfortunately, that's about as deep as the game gets. As far as strategy RPGs go, this is pretty basic stuff. Just move up to an enemy and attack. Don't let a single character get overwhelmed, remember to heal when necessary, and you're pretty much set. The stages provide almost no challenge - even when it seems like you're outnumbered, more of your characters will pop up to help, and too much of the game feels scripted as a result. There is almost no character customization, and very little point in leveling up your characters - it feels like all of these statistics are little more than window dressing. Certain characters team up and only fight as a duo - it would've been nice to separate them, or at least get a choice of who you want fighting side by side. Additionally, the battle system tends to drag down the pace of the game. Even the tiny maps take over half an hour to complete, sometimes longer if you don't skip the story scenes. With over fifty stages, it's questionable the game has the appeal to last that long, because you're really just keep playing to see new characters and new crazy bits of plot. The practical upshot of this simplicity is that it makes it very easy for non-Japanese players to understand - once you understand the "fight", "move" and "end turn" commands, you're pretty much set.

The overall presentation is somewhat lackluster - the opening movie, done by noted animation studio Production IG, is superb, and the abundant character portraits that appear in gameplay are pretty impressive. But the terrains are awfully boring, and the character sprites don't even animate on the map: they just kind of bounce up and down. It's definitely no worse than any Nippon Ichi strategy game, but you'd figure that a game like this would have a bigger budget behind it. Similarly, the voice acting is incredibly inconsistent, because some characters have spoken dialogue and others don't. Still, the soundtrack is excellent - most characters have their own unique theme from their respective game, and with such a large cast, that means a HUGE variety of music, varying from the orchestral battle theme from Xenosaga to the techno songs of the Tekken characters.

Namco × Capcom

Obviously, this is a game for the fans - it may have been written and programmed in the basement of some uber otaku who really, REALLY wanted to see Jin and Ryu face off. If you look at the cover and don't recognize any of the faces, you'd probably just be better off skipping the game altogether. In fact, one of the reasons why Namco is reluctant to localize this is how obscure some of the characters are. Most fans should be familiar with the Capcom characters, but who in America has heard of Yokai Dochuuki? I would bet even most Japanese video gamers would scratch their heads at that one. A lot of the games did indeed make it to the West (such as Samurai Ghost, Burning Force, Legend of Valkyrie and Baraduke), but they've either appeared only on Namco arcade collections or were long forgotten in the cloud of other Genesis and Turbografx games from ages ago. And while the character selection is generally spot on, featuring lots of favorites, there are a bunch of bizarre omissions - why did they choose Bruce and Fong Ling from Resident Evil: Dead Aim while ignoring obvious choices like Leon Kennedy or Jill Valentine? Where are Viewtiful Joe or Dante or even Pac-Man, who has only shown up as a statue in the background? Still, it does leave some speculation for a sequel - I'd love to see Rick from Splatterhouse or the King of Cosmos from Katamari Damacy show up.

So Namco × Capcom is all about fan service. If the concept sounds even remotely appealing, you'll love it. You'll squeal with delight when you meet your favorite characters, when their theme music flares up, and when they execute some badass 30 hit combos for several thousand HP of damage. Just beware that once the novelty wears off, what's underneath is remarkably shallow and simplistic for a strategy RPG. It was released only in Japan, but awesome translation group TransGen has released an English patch, allowing you to play it on a modded PS2.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Monolith Soft

Publisher:

Namco

Genre:

Strategy

Themes:

2D Sprites over Polygons
Parallel Worlds
So Anime it Hurts
Wacky / Over the Top


Namco × Capcom (PS2)

Namco × Capcom (PS2)

Namco × Capcom (PS2)

Namco × Capcom (PS2)

Namco × Capcom (PS2)

Namco × Capcom (PS2)

Namco × Capcom (PS2)

Namco × Capcom (PS2)

Namco × Capcom (PS2)

Namco × Capcom (PS2)


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Namco × Capcom

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