by April Fuller (Japan Correspondent)
When Japanese videogame journalists from 4gamer, Arcadia, Comptiq, Dengeki Maoh, Game Japan, jin115, Kotaku Japan, Shukan Famitsu, and Newtype were invited to an impromptu CAPCOM press luncheon that included Yoshinori Ono and Tomoaki Ayano, they were expecting an update regarding the new fighting game Ono has been hinting at since June 2013.
Although they did get an exclusive on that eventually (more on that in an upcoming article), they were given something else to chew on during the course of the meal. While waiting for an extra serving of broth for his kitsune udon, Shigatsu Funuke, covering for Game Japan, inadvertently raised the issue by asking Ayano a potentially awkward question.
“So how do you feel about the mixed reception for Decapre?”
Ayano laughed. “It’s a funny thing, actually. Originally, we had no intention of going with Decapre (as the 5th Ultra Streetfighter 4 character). ”
Chopsticks froze in mid-air halfway to open mouths.
“I don’t see why you’re so surprised,” Ayano continued. “I mean, consider her for a moment. A Cammy look-alike with Cammy normals, an air Spiral Arrow, a boss teleport, Honda’s Hundred-Hand Slap, Balrog’s (Vega in the English version – Ed) Bloody High Claw Ultra, and Dhalsim’s Yoga Catastrophe Ultra. She’s practically a patchwork zombie.”
“So, what are you saying exactly?” pipes in Utsuki Tawakemono, feature writer for Arcadia. “You had someone else planned for the 5th character slot?”
At this point Yoshinori Ono returns to the group, grinning ear-to-ear. “Oh, I can’t believe you got Ayano to talk about that,” he says as he cheerfully plops down a 16″ okonomiyaki in the center of the table.
“Actually, you’re the one who’s going to talk about it now,” replied Ayano, smiling while helping himself to a slice of the Osaka delicacy.
Ono settled himself comfortably before continuing. “We’d announced the existence of the 5th character as far back as July of last year, but we didn’t know who he or she was going to be at the time. Work began in parallel, with a programming team adapting Hugo, Poison, Elena, and Rolento (the 4 characters getting ported from Streetfighter x Tekken – Ed) to the SF4 engine straight out, and a research team surreptitiously gathering opinions from series fans online for ‘clues’ on which character would prove most satisfactory to everybody.”
“It was an impossible mission from the start. There was no consensus. Some wanted Mike Haggar from Final Fight, others wanted Alex or Q from SF3, there were those who begged for Karin so she could serve as counterpoint for Sakura, some longed for Eagle, Maki, or Ingrid (all three featured as bonus characters in SF Alpha 3 Max -Ed), heck, I wanted R. Mika.”
Ayano gestured with his chopsticks. “It was clear at that point that picking anyone who’d starred in Street Fighter before would mean alienating fans of yet another pre-existing character. Adding a completely new character was the clear solution to the quandary – no one would feel short-changed, and it would also breathe fresh air into the game.”
“Ahh, but new characters cost money,” piped in Tonda Shinko from Shukan Famitsu, in between mouthfuls.
Ono shook his head, a wry smile on his face. “It’s somewhat amusing that each time we plan an update for the game, Corporate’s been breathing down our necks, saying stuff like: “Are you sure we’ll turn a profit on this?” or “I think it’s time your team worked on something else” or “Explain to me again why we’re setting aside a development budget for this” or “You are beating a dead horse dead!” So to appease them, we have to keep costs down and turn a profit at the same time. But then updates are about new content! How do you create new content without spending money?”
Shoushi Negoto from Newtype had the answer. “They recycled the hell out of everything!”
“Right. You take existing assets and combine them into something new. Hence, Ultra Combo Double, Red Focus, delayed wakeup, and the five ‘new’ characters.”
Shika Rai from Kotaku Japan cut in at this point. “That’s all well and good, but you still haven’t elaborated on how Decapre wasn’t the original 5th character.”
Ono gave Ayano a stern look. “I can’t believe you brought that up.”
Ayano was nonchalant. “…It came up.”
“We agreed that we’d never talk about that. How it’s not good for the game.”
“It came up, I said.”
THE FIFTH ELEMENT
Ono cleared his throat. “So, I was trying my best to keep the community’s interest level up…”
“What, with your announcements announcing announcements?” said Ayano, laughing.
Ono ignored him. “…while the research team was doing their damnedest to narrow down the 5th character candidates so Daigo Ikeno could start on the character sketches and the animation company we’d outsourced to could start with the opening and ending cutscenes and the programming team could pick a suitable body from either the SF4 cast or the SF x Tekken cast to graft the design on.”
“A veritable Shadaloo operation,” said Tawakemono, chuckling.
“Anyway! The release date was getting closer and closer, and the programming team was nearly finished with the Super and Ultra animations for the other 4 characters, and we still hadn’t decided who the 5th character would be!” Ono snickers. “We were down to 3 candidates, and they were all very interesting, when Peter Rosas (that’s Combofiend to the fighting game community) drops by after handing over balance feedback. The conversation went something like this:
Rosas: So, who’s the 5th character gonna be? Man, this is exciting!
Ono: We don’t know yet.
Rosas: Wha – YOU DON’T KNOW YET?! It’s four months ’till April!
Rosas: … Maybe you could put in an animal mascot, like Kuma! (from Tekken – Ed) And name it… Peropero or something.
Ono: …Nice try.
Rosas: Uhh… you could… take a character from the UDON Streetfighter manga!
Ono: That’s not canon, though.
Rosas: Who cares? These guys know their shi… ahh, I mean, their stuff is great! People love it.
Ono: Hmm… you might have a point there…
Rosas: Hey, hey! How about a Bison doll? We could use Julia’s model for Noembelu, or Asuka’s model for Satsuki!
Ono: We already have Luwanda on our shortlist, though… (Luwanda, who is a member of Delta Red, has been part of SF canon since Super Streetfighter 2, as you’ll see in this video clip – Ed)
(At this point,Katsuhiko Ichii, head of Capcom’s R&D Management group, walks by)
Ichii: Ono-chin! Aren’t you done with that yet? I need you for Deep Down.
Ono: Ahehehe… well…
Ichii: So who’s your 5th character? We can’t afford Karin, I’m sure I’ve told you that already.
Ono: You don’t need to repeat that!
Ichii: (walks over to the research team table, picks up the shortlisted designs) These are nice – oh, I love this one – we can’t afford them, though. Save them for SF 5.
Ono: WHAT?! Any of them?! But we’re not starting from scratch, we’re reusing –
Ichii: We lost so much money on Dark Void, Bionic Commando, and Remember Me. You were on the Remember Me team, right?
Ichii: Use a model from SSF4: AE, it’ll be cheaper that way.
Rosas: Well… how about another Shoto? Violent Ken might be interesting. We take Ken’s model, change his hair to frizzy white, speed up his Hadoken and make it purple, give his Shoryuken purple flames, give him a slide kick, Yang’s teleport dash, an air throw, an air-launcher Shippu Jinrai Kyaku Super, a Shout of Earth-like ranged Ultra 1, and a Shinryuken Ultra 2 that vacuums… like Tanden Typhoon!
Ichii: Sounds good. Do that.
Ono: That’s… wow… I don’t know… another Shoto? We already have 7 (Ryu, Ken, Akuma, Oni, Evil Ryu, Dan, and Sakura are all practitioners of the Satsui no Hadou, or variants of it, which is why their special moves are visually similar. Gouken is excluded, since he has shifted to the Chikara no Hadou – Ed), and that’s in the SF4 series alone… that’s not going to go over well…
Ichii: In the beginning. The more you hate, the more you love. It’s always like that.
Ono: I am one of the producers, you know… I think my opinion should count for something…. (pouts)
Ichii: …Okay, I’ll humor you. (riffles through the various printouts, magazines, and manga scattered on the research team’s table). Oh, this is good. No, it’s not good. It’s great. You could do this one (emphatically places a flipped-open manga on Ono’s table).
Rosas: Wow… this could work. She’s Cammy’s twin in every way. Looks, moveset… maybe we could give her some of Claw’s normals and – oh wait, maybe we could make her a charge character!
Ono: We already did Charge Cammy – Juni, remember?
Rosas: But she was popular, right? Well, more popular than Juli, at least –
Ichii: You could get her out before the location tests end.
Ono: …That’s true.
Ichii: Look, you wanted a choice. I gave you one. So it’s either Violent Ken, or (flips through the manga again)… oh, Decapre?
Rosas: It’s Russian for December.
Ichi: It is? Well then, that’s a sign! It’s December, your deadline’s close, here’s Decapre! Genius!
Ono: (grumbles incoherently)
THE WOMAN IN THE IRON MASK
Ayano: What’s up with you?
Ono: Looks like we’re going with this or this. (hands over Violent Ken and Decapre printouts)
Ayano: Oh, Ichii made you scrap the shortlist? Told you you were taking too long with that.
Ayano: If you’d had a working prototype ready you could’ve bulldozed him into going for your 5th.
Ono: Rub it in, will you?
Ayano: I’ll have the programming team do Decapre first. She’s easier, we could finish the prelim work in less than 2 weeks. Just need to brainstorm for Uniques, Specials, Supers and Ultras.
Ono: …Could you… uh… make her terrible? On purpose?
Ono: Make her so broken that even Ichii-san will be forced to admit that she’s bad for the game.
Ayano: Ono-chan playing politics? Your promotion’s making you baad.
Ono: He threw all our work away like it was nothing!
Ayano: (hands up in the air) All right, all right… I won’t make any promises, though…
Negoto interrupted Ono at this point. “So that’s why she was so overpowered when Combofiend revealed her at Final Round 17?”
Ryan Hart (SF4 Sagat) vs. Combofiend (Decapre) at Final Round 17
Ono let out an amused sigh. “Yeah…”
Ayano couldn’t help but laugh in between words. “Ono’s plan backfired on him.”
“You made her too interesting!” Ono cried out. “A Doll with Psycho Power – it just… it made sense somehow!”
Mayakashi Shimei from jin115 spoke up for the first time. “All right, so Luwanda was in the short list. Who were the other two?”
Ono grinned impishly. “Oh, I’m not gonna answer that…”
Ayano stood up to stretch. “2018 is a long time.” (referring to the purported release date for Streetfighter 5 – Ed)
“So that’s a confirm on a Ultra Streetfighter 4 update”, said Shimei, taking out his stylus and scribbling on his tablet. “4 new characters already on the drawing board, Luwanda verified…”
Ono scowled. “I didn’t say anything like that. Ayano, why don’t you shut your mouth for once.”
A mischievous half-smile shaped itself on Ayano’s lips. “It came out.”
Shigatsu Funuke cleared his throat. “So… the original question? How do you feel about the mixed reception to Decapre?”
Ono shrugged his shoulders. “The gap between love and hate is paper-thin. The fanbase will come around – I’m sure of it.”
About the writer: April Fuller splits her time between freelance web journalism (specializing in videogames, anime, and manga) and Japanese translation work. She’s also completely fictitious, as is the information presented in this article. April Fool! (^___^) Hope you enjoyed my piece!