From Ada Wong to Zero
[Update: The book is currently on-sale for just over $8]
The people running the show at Capcom have been irritating fans and employees alike for years now -- burning bridges, nickel and diming consumers, canceling games, landlocking games, and basically carrying on like Tron Bonne on a Servbot kicking spree. Beneath these managers and directors are legions of Capcom employees that are madly in love with Capcom's pantheon of iconic characters and genre-defining intellectual properties. I'm betting it was one of these passionate Servbots that put the Capcom 30th Anniversary Character Encyclopedia into motion.
It's not a perfect collection, but it's still quite impressive. The attention to detail and inclusion of some of Capcom's most obscure characters speaks to the genuine love that went into this tome. Even the longtime Capcom fans will find some fun new facts to bone up on.
Capcom 30th Anniversary Character Encyclopedia
First, the technical stuff. The paper stock is thick and glossy, the hard cover is sturdy enough to withstand sitting in my bathroom for over a month, and the magazine size of the anthology is just big enough to look important, but not so large that it looks unwieldy on a coffee table or toilet tank. The artwork ranges from classic Bengus/Akiman illustrations, character renders, and newer artwork created to promote Capcom's various re-releases of classic titles. Most profiles get two pieces of artwork each, usually one smaller piece of classic art to show the character's roots and a larger, newer piece of art taking up the majority of the page.
Sadly, there are no big licensed Western properties here like Dungeons and Dragons or Aliens Vs. Predator (we miss you Lynn Kurosawa). Beyond those omissions, just about every major Capcom release in the company's history is represented here. The book does a nice job of tracing all of the canonical appearances character scattered characters like Super Joe (Commando, Mercs, Bionic Commando), and even digs back to obscure classics that only sold in the thousands like Chaos Legion, One Piece Mansion, Killer 7, 3 Wonders, Dino Crisis 3, P.N. 03 and Under the Skin, as well as more recent cult favorites like Remember Me, Asura's Wrath, Dragon's Dogma, and Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes. This is all on top of the prerequisite Street Fighter, Mega Man, Resident Evil, Breath of Fire, and classic Capcom arcade titles that you'd expect to see front and center in a Capcom encyclopedia.
Weirdly enough, the only black man in the book is Balrog, which speaks to both Capcom's lack of black men in their games, and the potential preferences of the book's publisher. I love Rival Schools as much of the next guy, but to see nearly every major character from that now-dead fighting game series get attention here while Dudley, Josh Stone, and... that other black guy who was playable in a Capcom game once left unrepresented feels a little weird.
Folks may also take issue with Morrigan's profile (which seems to have been written by a sentient erection) and Poison's write-up (which describes the character as "seemingly female") as off-putting. Maybe this kind of stuff doesn't annoy you at all, in which case, you are likely annoyed at me for pointing it out. If so, then we have now entered a game of internet annoyance tag, and you are now it.
Beyond those editorial issues, there are a few typos and inaccuracies (how could they forget Strider 2: Journey From Darkness: Strider Returns?) that may rub you the wrong way, though none of them are deal breakers. On the whole, it's a heartfelt, thorough tribute to one of gaming's most prolific and influential publishers. Lets just hope Capcom survives long enough for them to give us a Super Turbo Ultra Capcom XXth Anniversary Character Encyclopedia sometime down the line.