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History Lesson: Capcom

Born a tiny mewling arcade cabinet manufacturer in 1979, Japan Capsule Computers wasn't to become the Capcom we know and love until the arrival of Kenzo Tsujimoto (he of Irem fame) in 1983.

It's a well known fact that he merged together the Cap and Com of its old name to form Capcom. Less known is the offshoot of the titular remnants, Suleputer (not a joke) - the official home of Capcom merchandising.

Capcom became proud parents to its first game Vulgus - a vertical scrolling space shooter - in 1984, and shouted it from the rooftops. Well, rather it shouted it out fourteen years later from beat 'em up Marvel vs Capcom, when it gave Captain Commando the very odd win quote: "Capcom's first game was Vulgus, made in 1984!" Thanks for that, Cap'n!

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Incidentally, Captain Commando used to be Capcom's mascot until Mega Man's huge success usurped him. In his appearance in Marvel vs Capcom he was known for shouting "Capcom!" at random points in battle. A real (Cap)company man, then.

Vulgus also introduced the Capcom motif of the Yashichi, a health power-up that was to raise its ugly health-replenishing mug in more than thirty (unrelated) further games. It's a small red circle with a pinwheel-esque white cross emblazoned upon it; tracking it down is the gaming equivalent of counting Eddie Stobart lorries. Not that we know anything about that, of course.

This motif is the perfect symbol for Capcom's signature trait - its inability to let go. Its franchises seemingly stretch out for eternity - as over 20 Resident Evil games, 20 main Street Fighter games and over 100 Mega Man titles prove, though the latter has taken a backseat of late - and the characters resurface time and time again. Just look at the Resident Evil, Final Fight, Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, Mega Man and Strider mishmash of a roster that forms the ragtag Capcom half of Marvel vs Capcom.

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For the millions they made between them, both Street Fighter and Mega Man teetered on the edge of non-existence to begin with. Yoshiki Okamoto, creator of Street Fighter in 1987 (a franchise that now has more than 30 million sales under its karate belt), only ended up at Capcom after he was booted out of Konami HQ for developing shooters Gyruss and Time Pilot. But they were great games, weren't they? Of course they were. But they weren't the driving games that Konami tasked Okamoto with making. Whoops.

The rather loopy Okamoto - known for jotting down cruel caricatures of people on the business cards they give him so that he won't forget them - later went on to head up Flagship, an independent studio funded by Capcom, Nintendo and Sega that generated scenarios for other games, such as Onimusha. Flagship also developed the excellent GBC Zelda Oracles pairing and GBA's Minish Cap, though it was sadly closed down in 2007.

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A fellow Street Fighter alumni takes responsibility for Mega Man, or Rockman as he's known back home (he was almost named Rainbowman, due to the seven powers players collected through the game). Keiji Inafune, an illustrator on Street Fighter, took inspiration from rock/paper/scissors and applied it to the end-of-level Robot Masters - each could be easily defeated by only one of the others' weapons.

Rockman's instantly recognisable image was a bit of a design fluke, however. The NES only had a palette of 56 colours to display, the majority of which sported a blue-tint. Thus, the blue suited Rockman was born.

Remember that 100+ figure from above? It almost started and ended here. The original Rockman didn't sell nearly as well as Capcom had hoped, prompting it to pull support and set Inafune the task of designing Professional Baseball Murder Mystery instead. As you'll no doubt notice, there aren't 100 Professional Baseball Murder Mystery games, so you can guess what happened next.

Inafune agreed to the barmy 'death in the diamond' notion on the grounds that he could 'fix' Rockman. And fix it he did. It's a just a shame that while Resident Evil, Street Fighter and the like continue to get love from Capcom, the blue bomber seems to be strangely neglected these days.

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