E3 2008: Capcom

Capcom had one very busy showcase room, where Street Fighter IV was definitely the main attraction. But there were some other titles that we had to check out as wellL: Resident Evil 5, Flock, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and Neopets Puzzle Adventure.

Resident Evil 5 (X360, PS3)

Taking place 10 years after Racoon City is bombed, in Resident Evil 5 you play as Chris Redfield, who works for BSAA, an anti-biological terror organization. His goal is to find the roots of the T-cell virus. Chris meets Sheva Alomar, a field agent in Africa, who will become your AI partner.

Both characters have separate inventories that you can manage, you can swap items between them. The usual knife, herbs, pistol, shotgun and ammo make their appearance. Both characters have separate health bars as well. You can use herbs on Sheva, and if she has herbs in her inventory, she will use them to heal you.

You can't control Sheva directly, but she will help you out when you need. Just press the B button to call out for her, say, when you get grabbed. Likewise, she will call for your help as well (the HELP indicator will flash yellow), and if she dies, it's game over.

Friendly fire won't hurt her, so you don't have to worry about shooting her if she gets in your way, which doesn't happen often. Sheva will even go about on her own (but not far) looking for breakable objects such as crates, or piles of fruit, which may contain useful hidden items.

The enemy AI seems to have improved as well, with those crazed infected people coming towards you through windows or jumping over fences. They seem to know where the shortcuts are, which makes them more of a challenge.

It seems like the big downside of RE5 so far is the fairly long loading times. Other than that, it's looking pretty good and aiming at a March 13 2009 release. An online co-op mode will also be included.

Flock! (X360, PS3, PC)

Flock! is a cute little game for XBLA, PSN and PC where you try to herd sheep and other farm animals with a UFO.

You use the tractor beam to move, push and pull obstacles; you can knock down fences, pull trees out of the way, dump hay bales into large holes so the sheep won't fall in. You can use the depressor beam to make crop circles, all in order to create a path for the animals to get to their ship.

Different animals have different reactions to your UFO, so it's up to you to use this factor to your advantage. For example, there is a pink sheep that will make all other sheep fall in love, so they will follow her around everywhere. Instead of worrying about herding all the sheep, you only need to control the pink one.

The levels are presented in a very cute and cuddly hand-made patchwork quilt style. You can see the pieces of terrain stitched together, and everything seems to have a padded look. The level design is clever, with plenty of obstacles all over, like scarecrows that will make your herd scatter, running to the edges and falling into the water. We saw what happens when some sheep die by falling into a hole: a bunch of little bones, chops and some angels will appear. You can actually pick up the chops to use them to distract wolves, another "obstacle" in some levels.

Each level has a timer that shows how long you still have to achieve a particular goal, in order: gold, silver and bronze. The timer counts down like a clock and will change color once the time for achieving a certain goal has passed.

There are over 50 levels in the entire game, plus a level editor with a map server where you can share your levels online, and a two-player online and local co-op gameplay. Except Flock! sometime in December.

Neopets Puzzle Adventure (PC, Wii, DS)

Being a long-time user of Neopets (although msotly innactive for the past 6 months due to lack of time), I had to check out what the little critters are up to now. Colin Ferris walked us through the demo and the game features.

Neopets Puzzle Adventure combines a story mode with a series of puzzle battles that use Reversi mechanics, but with some twists. You begin by picking one of the 12 available Neopets (Scorchio, Yurble and Mynci were some of the ones I noticed). The pet and world artwork is just like what you may know from Neopets.com, but the adventure introduces entire new areas to the world of Neopia.

You move around the world map and in some places you will come across quests to get rid of this or that monster. The cutscenes are presented with still images and dialogs. Battles take place on the puzzle field, where you attempt to occupy as many squares as possible. To help you out, you have petpets, which basically represent your special skills or spells that allow you to bend the rules on the puzzle board. You can also have some equippable items to help you out, one of them being a net that lets you capture petpets when you encounter them.

Petpets can be captured while on the adventure map, and there are about 150 of them to be found. You can only capture them on the puzzle field, and when you do, you can tame them and train them by playing a memory match mini-game.

There are a few other activities you can do, cooking and forging. Both are done by playing Destructomatch either clearing the puzzle field or achieving a high score. There is also a minseweeper game for searching for treasure. On the DS, there are other mini-games such as pattern match and drawing matching shapes.

Neopets Puzzle Adventure has some exclusive secret codes to be found that you can use on the official site to redeem for items. In September, there will be a Burger King kids' meal with promotional goodies, and the game itself will be released in November, with a flash version to be included on the site as well.

Street Fighter IV (X360, PS3)

The many banners and six Japanese arcade machines were the hub of Capcom's showcase room. It was impossible not to have a look, but difficult to sit and play, judging by all the people gathering around.

Street Fighter IV is basically Street Fighter II with new elements. There are 16 playable characters, old favorites (including Blanka, Ken, Ryu, Chun-Li, Dhalsim) and some new ones (Crimson Viper, Abel, Rufus, El Fuerte) with the same basic sets of moves and the same familiar controls. Everything you know from Street Fighter II is in Street Fighter IV. The major upgrade is the game's visuals, with all characters and environments now rendered in full 3D, while the gameplay still uses the same 2D fighting mechanics. There are also some very cool 3D mini-cinematics for special attacks, and several new locations and backgrounds where the fighting will take place.

The new special moves include Focus Attacks that you can do when the energy bar is full (it fills up by doing and dealing damage) and are basically a block/parry which is the more effective the longer you press the buttons. Then there are revenge-powered Super Combos (half-full bar) and Ultra Combos (full bar), which are basically your super super attack, all of them always interesting and entertaining to watch.

At the end of each match, your performance is graded in Offense, Defense and Technique.

Street Fighter IV is launching on arcades in Japan in August. For Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, the release date is expected sometime between this holiday season and Q1 2009.

Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix (PS3, X360)

Originally an arcade game, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix will be making its debut as a downloadable XBLA and PSN sometime this Fall.

The game uses the exact same base code from the original, but gets a complete makeover as far as graphics. All the characters and backgrounds have been redrawn by the same artists responsible for the comics. The HD resolution supports 1080p, with the images being specifically redone for that purpose.

The music has also been redone, but you can choose to have the original tracks playing or the new remixed tunes.

All 17 original Super Street Fighter II Turbo characters are playable. There is a Rebalanced Mode where everything changes, making characters more balanced, so some battles won't seem too overpowered. There's a training mode to help new players get acquainted with the moves, a function to adjust game speed, and a moves list will be included in the final version as well.

One-on-one multiplayer is available locally or online. Online play includes voice chat support, matchmaking options, statistics for your own and friends' performances, and a spectator-based mode (Quarter Match Mode, for 2 fighters and 4 spectators) that lets you use a virtual quarter to jump into the next match.

A beta of the game is available with purchase of Commando 3.