Retro Reads: Capcom 30th Anniversary Character Encyclopedia

2013-10-21

The Capcom 30th Anniversary Character Encyclopedia is a 208 page hardcover that was released on Oct 21, 2013.

It is the latest in a long line of Capcom themed publications usually created and released by Udon Entertainment. In this case the book was authored by BradyGames and published by DK (Dorling Kindersley). The change in authorship and publisher have some pros and cons for fans. The big benefit is that the book is a great value, it's a nice sized hardcover with full color that generally would have costed much more than the MSRP of $16.99 if published by a smaller publisher. The big drawback is that the content loses the quality it gets from dedicated fans of the material like those that work at Udon.

The book features 200 characters from various Capcom titles over the past 30 years. Only characters owned by the company are included, so don't expect any details on Marvel or Disney characters. Each character gets an entire page in the book dedicated to them which includes a quick biography, a single piece of art, and some quick stats including first and most recent appearances.

Nearly every Capcom owned franchise is included and there's a ton of retro content, there's everything from Commando and Gun.Smoke all the way up to Dragon's Dogma and Asura's Wrath. There are also several fairly obscure characters included. All characters are listed in alphabetical order by character name.

The book does a good job of trying to include the main characters from each franchise, but some series are under-represented. The one that stood out to me was Onimusha, which had only one character despite the series running for 6 games. Other single game franchises such as Captain Commando featured 3 characters, so while the book is a good overview, don't expect it to cover all the characters you love.

Overall the content is pretty baseline, which is the real downfall of the book. Aside from the character information there is only a 2 paragraph generic introduction. I would have preferred a more in depth intro, and maybe even an appendix of Capcom game releases over the last 30 years with page numbers for the characters from those titles.

The biography paragraphs are cool and sometimes informative, but pretty limiting. Having only a single piece of artwork for each character is also a bit of a let down. I could have done with some original concept art as well, and would have really appreciated the name of each character's designer and a quote from them about each their creations.

I'm not sure what the demographic for this book is. It seems like the kind of thing that would only interest hardcore fans, but it's more of a coffee table book than a collector's item. In order to cater to that buyer I would have expected much more information about the characters.

Ask any hardcore Capcom fan and you'll learn that the company is in a pretty unique state right now. They are increasingly annoying they fan base by doing things like basically killing off the Mega Man franchise, and running Resident Evil into the ground. But they used to be a powerhouse in the industry and this book is a nice reminder of everything great they did. For the price it's worth picking up, just don't expect too much from it.