[ Editor’s Note: This feature was commissioned as part of the RetroPitch 2017 event. ]
Swan Song is a feature that takes a look back at older game companies, and the final game they created before taking their exit from the game industry. For the first entry of this feature, we’re going to take a look at Clover Studio.
Clover Studio was a rather short-lived studio for Capcom. Created in July of 2004, Clover didn’t quite make it even three years before the studio was dissolved in March of 2007. Originally created to help the development along for Viewiful Joe 2, the studio’s shorter lifespan may not be a huge surprise, but once Viewiful Joe 2 was completed the team tried to move onto other projects.
However, Clover Studio was only able to add two non-Viewtiful Joe games to its portfolio before Capcom pulled the plug on them. The first, Okami, is a well-known adventure title released in 2006. Okami was supposed to be the defining moment for Clover Studio, and help the studio stand out from the game development crowd. Despite critical acclaim, however, Okami did not meet Capcom’s lofty sales expectations. This did little to help the morale of Clover Studio, and is often cited as one of the main reasons that led to Clover’s eventual closure.
While Okami’s sales are often cited as a reason for Clover’s closure, that’s not Clover Studio’s final title before exiting the industry. Clover’s Swan Song instead is God Hand, a far more niche game that had seemingly everything working against it when it released in September (JP) and October (NA) of 2006.
God Hand is, to put it bluntly, a strange game. It’s a character action game, but it’s a little less similar to the likes of Devil May Cry and a bit closer to a 3D beat-em-up title. You have a literal God Hand to beat people senseless with, and the game does not really take itself either. God Hand’s theme song is this, after all:
However, critic reception for God Hand was divided at release. While the game did eventually become a cult hit, that did not help the action game’s sales at the time. God Hand sold worse than Okami for that and other reasons (the game was late in the console’s lifecycle) and did little to help the studio’s reputation within Capcom.
God Hand’s poor sales and not quite hot reception didn’t seem to bother Capcom or Clover Studios that much, though. It seems as though Clover’s fate was already set in stone before God Hand got a chance to influence anything for the studio. In addition to Okami’s disappointing sales, by this time there were already rumors of several key members leaving the studio to do their own thing in the game development industry. This would be the final nail in the coffin for the studio, as without the key talent there was no reason to keep Clover separated from Capcom’s other development projects.
So, you might ask, what happened to those key players? As you might already know, many of the talent from Clover Studio, including Atsushi Inaba, Hideki Kamiya and Shinji Mikami went to create their own team, PlatinumGames. Platinum is, of course, still going strong today, and is most well known for its character action titles such as Bayonetta… which seems fitting as God Hand feels quite similar to many of Platinum’s most popular titles.
While we no longer have Clover Studio, it seems all went well for the talent at the studio. Without having to worry about Capcom’s sales projections, Platinum has thrived and made quite a name for itself with the company’s character action titles. It’s a shame that Okami appears to be regulated to HD re-releases and God Hand to obscurity, but unfortunately that’s just the way copyrighting goes. What we can say, however, is that many ex-Clover members fared better than most in the game development industry.
Elizabeth Henges has a portfolio at gaiages.com.