Captivate 2010: Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 and Sengoku Basara Bring Sword and Swinging Action in 2010

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For the last few years, Captivate has been Capcom’s annual showcase of its upcoming titles. It’s been their way to generate some buzz and show off games that are near release or in development before the craziness of E3 hits. This year, Capcom displayed its latest wares in Honolulu. Over the next few days, I’ll be rolling out impressions about what the Japanese publisher of the Mega Man and Resident Evil games showed off.

There was one game I couldn’t stop playing during Captivate week. It wasn’t Dead Rising 2, though I ran through the available demo several times, and it wasn’t Lost Planet 2, despite the fact that open multiplayer sessions were running during the two days of demos. Unexpectedly, a bizarre bit of historical fiction called Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes kept me coming back for more and more mindless beat-em-up action during my spare moments.

The Sengoku Basara franchise boasts a long history in Japan but Samurai Heroes will be its first North American release. The series gives a manga/anime-style spin to the legendary generals who fought in the 16th Century feudal battles that set the stage for Japan’s unification. This means that Tokugawa Ieyasu, the man who became the first shogun, gets recast as a hunky, belly-baring brawler who wears a hoody and his rival Mitsunari Ishida gets a moody makeover as some sort of emo-ninja. Samurai Heroes plays a lot like the Dynasty Warriors games, where a lone player faces off against waves of enemy soldiers. There’s tons of button-mashing and the insane combos–my highest was a 1,023-hit chain– make the game oddly addictive. But it’s the goofy melodramatic voicework that really hooked me. The weird catchphrases and over-the-top dialogue delivery sneeze at any idea that the game should resemble anything in a textbook. Still, the battles that you’ll play through are based on actual pivotal events in Japan’s military history.  One thing that Sengoku Basara gave me–in a way that no Dynasty Warriors game ever has–was a sense that my one-vs.-many scrums were actually changing the tide of battle. Sengoku Basara’s the kind of culturally specific Japanese game that rarely makes it to the States so it’ll be interesting to see how it gets pitched to American audiences when it comes out this year.

On the other end of the cultural spectrum is a sequel to Bionic Commando Rearmed, a downloadable game that American audiences gobbled up last year when it hit the Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. That remake of the old-school Nintendo platformer wowed players with its co-op play, graphical redesign and maddening difficulty. Rearmed 2, despite the fact that it’s now in the hands of developer FatShark, will retain all of that. But, the real news here is that the game’s adding jumping to the BC repertoire for the first time. The Bionic Commando games have been famous for being back-in-the-day platformers that didn’t have a jump ability so this addition may annoy the faithful. Still, it’s a big deal and the trailer plays it up for laughs. Unfortunately, Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 wasn’t available to play. No firm release window was established for but we’ll keep you updated as further news trickles out.