As seen in: Section Z (Arcade)
Also in: Captain Commando (Arcade)
Distinguishing feature: Spacesuit; bidirectional weaponry.
Strengths: Can face backward.
Weaknesses: Sisyphean predilection for repeating grueling tasks.
Profile by Jeremy Parish | January 1, 2010
Revisionism is a dirty thing. No one likes to admit their mistakes, and no one likes facing up to failure. Yet the problem with whitewashing the past is that perfectly innocent people end up slighted in the process. Victims are vandalized, heroes diminished. It's a dirty thing.
Take, for instance, the case of Captain Commando. Once, he was a hero of the highest order; videogame publisher Capcom named itself in his honor. He was their star. But now, 20 years later, they'd be just as happy to forget he ever existed. Dig up info on the company's history and you'll find the curious claim that "Capcom" has always been short for "Capsule Computer"; the publisher even launched a sublabel to corroborate the lie: Suleputer, whose moniker is said to have been assembled from the leftover scraps of "Capsule Computer" that didn't make the "Capcom" cut.
But it's a lie.
Captain Commando served the cause of humanity for years in far-flung corners of the galaxy, battling in a singular struggle to hold back the forces of L-Brain, a hyper-intelligent entity from beyond the edge of the galaxy. Capcom chose to name itself after this noble hero in an effort to inspire its employees, to lift up their spirits. "Because this man fights tirelessly for your freedom," it says, "you have the luxury of making a living by designing these silly, frivolous videogames."
Unsurprisingly, Capcom chose to commemorate this hero in one of the company's earliest game creations, entitled Section Z. Like so many of the games of the era, Section Z was a forced-scrolling horizontal shooter that thrust players inexorably forward. But a few features set Capcom's memorial creation apart from its peers—features designed to play up the captain's legendary skills. Where most shooters put players in control of a spaceship, Section Z played up the captain's incredible prowess by giving him nothing more than a suit and a jetpack. Where others shooters limited their heroes to facing perpetually forward, Section Z allowed the captain to turn and face foes attacking from behind as well. And rather than send Captain Commando through a rigid series of missions, Section Z allowed him to guide his own destiny by choosing his course at the end of each stage.
In this way, Capcom quietly proclaimed its hero's greatness. Yet so secret was the captain's clandestine mission that no one outside the company understood the game's documentary nature, and it was only a modest success at best. Frustrated, the company spruced up the sequel to Section Z and eventually rebranded it as a different product altogether; meanwhile, they tried again to canonize the captain's exploits by placing him as the hero of an eponymous brawler. Despite this being a sensible move -- brawlers were hugely popular at the time -- the game suffered from the embellishments of a young design team who didn't properly appreciate the gravitas of the subject. As a result, the Captain Commando game was burdened by inexplicable and inappropriate additions such as a warrior baby in a robot suit who fought alongside the captain as his equal. It was, tragically, a disgrace.
While the captain has appeared from time to time in Capcom's works, each iteration takes him further and further away from the truth of the man. Meanwhile, the company has washed its hands of its inspiration, obfuscating the origins of its own name.
As for the captain himself, no one really knows what's become of him. Some say he died while locked in mortal combat with L-Brain; others believe he fights on for mankind across time and space. Whatever the case, he deserves better. He deserves the truth.