14 September 2017

Capcom Bar | Love-letter or Marketing-ploy?

You can’t get around them, Pop-up Stores are everywhere these days. Small venues that exist for a short period of time to promote an upcoming event, movie or otherwise. These shops often offer small gifts or unique purchases that might be hard to find otherwise. In the heart of Japan these often take the form of singular games such as with Dark Souls - which got a shiny little restaurant to hype up its third release. By doing this via a pop-up variant it allows these places to take advantage of the hype and customize towards that singular event; instead of focusing on the whole Souls series it can focus on one single entry. Yet this is exactly what makes the Capcom Bar, located in Shinjuku, so unique. It is not a pop-up restaurant but is instead a place that has been around for years and continues to thrive.
 
Outside you’ll be surprised to discover that the bar even exists, tucked away in a corner behind other establishments and a reception area. One foot set through the door is enough to notice that it is not quite what you expected from a video-game establishment. It has a slick black coloring going on, there are a few screens and statues but generally the place is clean and peaceful; not at all screaming in tone. Looking around you do start to notice more oddities. Monster Hunter is firmly established in Japan and it shows, statues adorn the edges and posters cover the walls. Screens play trailers for the latest releases, DLCs and season passes but there’s a distinct lack of the old. Outside of one small poster containing some past heroes including Dante and Leon all old classics are omitted. If you’re a fan of Capcom’s past you will not find a lot of love here, the bar is all about the present. Trying to arrange a table can be difficult as none of the staff speaks a word of English, thankfully they managed to call a neighboring bar for help as one of theirs spoke the tongue but it was still a tad surprising to see such an international brand lack such a basic requirement of their staff. Once a table is set however you can sit for two hours; plenty of time to enjoy what’s on offer.
Yet again this is held back. While the bar offers three game-stations, two of these are behind a table. If you aren’t sitting there you won’t be able to play so only one station is generally available. The games on offer are a tad surprising too being Sengoku Basara, Mega Man Collection and Ultra Street Fighter IV - the flagship demon hunter and viewtiful superhero being absent among others. You would expect a special station that emulated or at least made most of the company’s titles playable but this just isn’t the case sadly.

While the amount of fan service may seem lacking the menu changes this all. Going into the bar one would be forgiven for expecting statues everywhere with bright lights and loud game music being pumped out of speakers, paired with a bad menu and even worse food. Instead you are greeted with a menu that is both a joy to look at and a pleasure to eat. Each item has a quote in both English and Japanese next to it, to hit the references home. Drinks and meals surrounding the franchises are a fan’s dream from a spicy Dante Must Die pasta, the iconic Devil May Cry 3 pizza-slice, a Licker's brain from Resident Evil 2, love letters to Megaman and Street Fighter and my absolute favorite: Jackpot, ice cream with chocolate referencing a recurring scene in Dante’s past. Drinks are similarly designed being a great homage. I ended up drinking a Screaming Souls which was a strawberry cocktail containing ice cubes that held little shapes that looked like Red Orbs from Devil May Cry. Not only was it delicious it really felt like a drink from the series. 
While sipping the drink my eyes were drawn to a little corner of books, turns out the bar had a small library that you could browse through. Sadly most books were in very bad shape and did not make for interesting reading material. Though I am a fan, reading a guide for Resident Evil 6 isn’t too exciting. Some artbooks were on offer though like the excellent Graphic Design History of Devil May Cry. I tried to purchase a copy but sadly none of the material was for sale. For a bar with such a big history, not having anything to sell outside of food is surprising. This should be the place where fans could buy material surrounding their passion yet outside of a few keychains this wasn’t possible. Once we got our food we were again taken aback by just how delicious it was. It was just like in the pictures and had a really good combination of flavors without it becoming too confusing - it was all ‘just right’.
As a bar and cafe, the Capcom Bar succeeds without measure. The food is a delight, well cared for and the menu is a great loving nod to the company’s history. Yet the bar itself is too vested in selling you on the current day and wishing you’d buy that new title, instead of paying homage to what made the company so great. The bar should've been a place where fans can relax, play and buy material on what they love: Capcom games. Going in I expected to be entertained and having a bad corny meal, going out I was well fed but disappointed.

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