Side Story

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. They often offer small or unique purchases that might be hard to find otherwise. In the heart of Japan they 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 as a pop-up restaurant it can take advantage of the hype and focus on that one release instead of focusing on the whole Souls series. Yet this is exactly what makes the Capcom Bar, located in Shinjuku (新宿区) Japan, so unique. It is not a pop-up restaurant. Instead it is a place that aims to focus on the whole line-up of this classic Japanese video game developer and publisher.

Outside you’ll be forgiven for being ignorant of the bar’s existance, it being 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, there are a few screens and statues, but generally the restaurant is clean and peaceful and 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, downloadable content 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 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 English. Thankfully in our case they managed to call a neighboring bar’s staff to help translate. Still, it was 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, them 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 isn’t the case sadly.

While the amount of fan service so far may seem lacking, the menu changes this. 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’re greeted with a menu that is both a joy to look at and a pleasure to eat.

Most items have 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 adventures. Drinks are similarly great homages. 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 Red Orbs my eyes were drawn to a little corner of books, turns out the bar had a small library that you could browse through. Most of the books weren’t in good shape I’m sad to say and did not make for interesting reading material. Some artbooks were on offer though like the excellent Graphic Design History of Devil May Cry. I tried to purchase a copy but none of the material was for sale.

For a bar who’s foundation contains so much gaming culture and 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. This was quickly forgiven once we got our food however, as 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 game, 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.

Sadly, as of the 25th of February 2018, the Capcom Bar was closed down. Making place for the Hunters Bar, for all the Monster Hunter fans. So this article exists as a time-capsule, to forever remember just what was and what could have been.

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