It was a sad, sad day when Clover Studio was unceremoniously disbanded. Honestly, when you look at Clover’s body of work, there’s not much to it: a pile of Viewtiful Joe games, Okami, God Hand, and…well, that’s pretty much it. Still, when Capcom decided that Clover’s time had come and gone (probably due to the fact that God Hand sold something like 53 copies, total), it was like a punch to the gut for gamers who had already come to look forward to the development studio’s unique, wonderfully independent approach to making games.
Okami, of course, is the big name in Clover’s history. Okami actually managed to take some of the wind out of the sails of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess upon that game’s release, offering a play dynamic that was quite similar to that of Zelda, but with a thumbstick painting dynamic combined with an art style which together created an experience that felt unique and utterly unprecedented. The game sold pretty well, but was of course ultimately overshadowed by the impressive pedigree of its Triforce-adorned counterpart (of course, the ultimate slap in regard to Okami was the removal of the Clover team’s names from the newly-released Wii port).
God Hand, for its part, was a unique take on the God of War-meets-Double Dragon genre, focusing on combos and an ultra-violent (thought bloodless) style that was utterly unique in its style (again) and its execution (again). Indeed, Clover to this point had been masters of taking established genres and twisting them in completely unexpected ways.
Clover’s God Hand
It’s been just over a year since Clover went the way of Moonlight, but those of us who mourned Clover’s departure now have reason to celebrate.
Hot on the heels of the announcement of an exclusive publishing deal with Sega (Sega!), the ashes of Clover have made themselves known as PlatinumGames, which could logically be called the evolution of Clover (it’s basically Clover with a few extra developers added on for good measure). We haven’t seen much of PlatinumGames to date, and it’s going to be a while before we actually get to play any of their games, but given what they have allowed us to see so far, they’re picking up right where Clover left off.
There’s Bayonetta, which is being described loosely as a Devil May Cry-like game, and at the very least, it features a character who uses a pistol as a stiletto heel. It’s not exactly a chainsaw gun, I suppose, but it’s pretty freakin’ cool nonetheless, and the nigh-unintelligible action style hinted at in the short trailer (which I have helpfully appended to this post) looks like an utter trip. That one’s for the Xbox and the PS3, but to these eyes, it’s the PlatinumGames Wii offering that looks like the true winner. Think Sin City meets The Evil Dead, in video game form. MADWORLD features a protagonist with a chainsaw for a right hand, and an art style that features only three colors: black, white, and red. You see, red only appears when someone is bleeding, which happens, apparently, a lot.
Again, on the surface, it’s not really a unique idea for a game, in that you’re basically going to be walking around ripping baddies open with your chainsaw hand. Still, style counts for a lot, and MADWORLD looks to have style bleeding out its ears.
There’s even a DS RPG called Infinite Line that’s going to be showing up along the way as well. They certainly seem to have the platforms covered, anyway.
In any case, the rebirth of Clover as PlatinumGames is an excellent thing on so many levels. For one, and perhaps most importantly, it’s excellent for the developers themselves, as it seems that they have not had to sacrifice their vision of what makes a great game. It’s a great thing for Sega, as a publisher whose name has suffered under the weight of countless subpar Sonic franchise offerings and a lack of other universally-known IPs gets to bask in the credibility that comes with the admiration of hardcore gamers for whom the PlatinumGames/Sega deal means something. Finally, of course, this is great news for us, the gamers, the ones who died a little when Clover disbanded, the ones who believe that games can be art and appreciate the developers who make a concerted effort to make sure it is seen as such. We won’t get to see the fruits of PlatinumGames’ labor until next year, but for this, I’ll wait.
I’ll wait patiently, and try to not let the anticipation kill me.
UPDATE: The MADWORLD trailer is out. Hide the kids: