I’ve been on a big Capcom kick lately. From finally playing the Resident Evil 3 remake to falling back into the Monster Hunter grind to finishing Devil May Cry 5 just a few nights ago, it’s been a very Capcom filled couple of months. After finishing DMC 5, I was met with a familiar scene, a sort of Capcom special, a long list of costume unlocks, new difficulty modes, and perks for starting up another playthrough of the game. Replayability always comes to mind when I think of a Capcom game. They seem to specialize in shorter games that incentive players to play through them multiple times. This can be seen in all of their major series, but most interesting is how each one offers a different reason to replay a game. So here’s a breakdown of four of Capcom’s most well known series and what they offer for players who just want to keep on playing them.
Megaman / Megaman X
The Megaman series debuted on the NES and was one of Capcom’s first console games successes. This is due, in no small part, to the introduction of the level select screen. In the days of linear platformers like Super Mario Bros and Castlevania, being able to choose the order you completed levels in was a very innovative idea. It’s a small amount of freedom to the player, but it helped the series standout so much from other games on the system. Add to it the fact that defeating a boss grants you their weapon, which other bosses will be weak or resistant to, and you have a system that encourages experimentation from the player. You could go with the recommended order for the easiest time, or you could go your own way and see what you can discover.
When the SNES came out, Capcom reimagined the Megaman series as the Megaman X series. While the bones of the X series are the same skeleton of the classic series, the more serious tone of the game and some new additions breathed fresh air in the games’ lungs. The level select screen was back, but with the addition of armor parts, subtanks, and health upgrades (some of which you need the boss weapon from another level to grab) the player has more reason than ever to experiment with the order they complete levels. In the first X game, beating some bosses even create ripple effects on other levels, making them easier to traverse and beat.
Capcom helped Sony introduce the original Playstation with a brand new IP: Resident Evil—a foundational game in the survival-horror genre. I’ve been a fan of the series ever since playing Resident Evil 4 a few years ago and that was my first real taste of Capcom’s recipe for replayability. After beating the main story, you will unlock Mercenaries mode, a more arcade-like horde shooter, and the Separate Ways campaign, a shorter play-through as Ada Wong who’s story parallels Leon’s throughout the game. Complete these unlocks characters for Mercenaries mode and outfits and weapons to be used in the main campaign like the suit of armor that makes Ashley invincible to enemies and the Chicago Typewriter, a tommy gun with infinite ammo.
But RE4 wasn’t where the series focus on replayability started, it’s just the first in the series I played. Additional customs and weapons to use during the main campaign have been offered in every game since the first installment, but the earlier games offered more than that to encourage players to play the games again. Both Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2 offered two different characters to play as, both with different attributes and scenarios that happen in the story. While the overall games’ structure and story remains the same, it’s a nice little incentive to do another playthrough since things won’t be exactly the same and can offer a different experience.
Devil May Cry
The Devil May Cry series’ approach to replayability is a lot like Resident Evil’s, but instead of unlocking new costumes and weapons, you unlock higher difficulties to play the game on. This works well because the combat in the DMC games is very intricate, varied, and very open to expression. The player is rated at the end of each chapter based on how well they played, which encourages practitioning and replaying in itself, and players who push themselves to get better at the game will welcome the higher difficulties unlock to test their skill. Starting with DMC 3, Capcom created a difficulty mode named Heaven or Hell where Dante will die in a single hit, but so will every enemy. This is such an interesting take on difficulty because it’s such a high risk/high reward style of gameplay. Later games would introduce a variant on this mode called Hell or Hell for the truly masochistic players, where the player character dies in one hit, but enemies take normal damage.
Lastly we come to the Monster Hunter series, which is probably my favorite series of Capcom’s. The Monster Hunter game shares some DNA with the Devil May Cry series in the sense that the combat is extremely deep and nuanced. On top of that, there are over a dozen weapons in Monster Hunter World and Generations Ultimate (the two newest games in the series and the ones I have the most experience with) and all of them play very differently. A player could spend countless hours learning the differences and intricacies of each weapon type.
But by far the biggest reason a Monster Hunter game is such a replayable one is because the core gameplay loop is such an iterative one. Any game in the series is about getting a little better after each and every hunt. The core loop is simple: fight giant dragons and dinosaurs to get item drops to make into better gear and weapons so you can fight even bigger monsters. Since there is no leveling system in the game, acquiring new gear is the only way to increase your attack and defense stats. But the only true way to get better at a game in the series, however, is to just learn it. Things like the correct items to bring on a hunt, a monster’s attack patterns, what needs to be broken to get certain item drops, all need to be learned by the player and this is the real reason why the series is so replayable. It rewards the player based on how much they themselves put into it.
These are just the Capcom series I’m familiar with too. I hear they have some fun incentives to replay games in the Onimusha series, but I haven’t completed any of those, and they also make the Street Fighter series which, similar to Monster Hunter, has many characters and extremely deep combat that takes forever to learn and master. Capcom’s focus on shorter, but more replayable titles seems to be a core focus of the company and it’s one I respect and appreciate highly. As I grow older, my time becomes more and more limited, so the longer a game is, the less eager I am to replay it—even games like Breath of the Wild and Persona 5, which I absolutely love, paralyze me when I think of replaying them. But a short campaign like the Resident Evil 2 remake or a game broken in bite size chunks like Monster Hunter are much easier to run through again. There’s a strength in offering a shorter, more concise experience and earning the closure of finishing a game quickly over an arduous journey spanning dozens to hundreds of hours sometimes.