Capcom's collaborations with external studios are, at best, a roll of the dice where luck will get you a Dead Rising 2 and a bad roll will get you a Bionic Commando.
Its work with Japanese studio DIMPS saw Street Fighter return to greatness but its work with Airtight resulted in the muddled Dark Void; teaming with a small baseball game developer on Dead Rising saw the Canadian studio become a new powerhouse, but teaming with GRIN killed Bionic Commando as a viable brand for another twenty years. Lost Planet 3 is Capcom rolling that dice one more time, and betting on the least likely result imaginable.
Spark Unlimited is responsible for Legendary: The Box and Turning Point: Fall of Liberty - two games scraping such low scores on Metacritic they'd barely hit an eighty if you added them together. It's absolutely the last studio you'd turn to if you were after a guaranteed critical and commercial hit; it's also the developer of Lost Planet 3. Spark is yet another developer the world has counted out, but it's all going to work out just fine says Capcom's Japan-based Producer Andrew Szymanski.
"Spark really had the passion and the ability to work with us to make [Lost Planet creator] Mr. Oguro's vision a reality," he explains. "I'll tell you - Lost Planet 3 has been a collaboration from day one. Myself and several other members of the teams that made the first two games were literally there from the first minute, working on the concept and working with Spark to achieve that concept.
"We know we can't just take a game and throw it West and say 'hey go run with it.' It has to come from Capcom; it has to unmistakably be a Capcom game and it has to do justice to the franchise. Even though we're taking it in a new direction, Lost Planet 3 feels like a Lost Planet game.
"That couldn't happen without very heavy involvement from the Japanese staff, from the creative direction from Mr. Oguro, and also from the design help and art direction coming out of Japan. Spark are taking this shared vision and turning it into reality, into software, and I think our demo proves they're doing a great job."
So, onto that demo. Lost Planet 3 is set in EDN III's distant past, long before the events of Lost Planet and the thaw which turned the ice world hot for Lost Planet 2. It's also a massive change in direction, dumping Lost Planet 2's co-op focused and grind-heavy campaign for a story-driven adventure in colossal open hubs where you'll talk to NPCs, uncover side quests, upgrade your gear, and build your own bipedal mech Rig from custom parts you'll unlock over the course of the campaign.
"It's very different," says Lost Planet boss Kenji Oguro. "Lost Planet 2 focused on online and multiplayer but Lost Planet 3 has a very strong narrative focus. I've had a lot of ideas about the series that I haven't been able to realise until now - in particular how I can make the player perform a certain action or make them feel a certain way. These are the kinds of things I put a lot of thought into realising the third Lost Planet. In that regard, it kind of makes good on a lot the lingering ideas we had for the series in general."
Jim, a common working fella, is among the first human colonists on EDN III, mining the planet down to its core and sending the minerals home to Earth where his family is awaiting his return. Jim has overcome his handicap of having Nicholas Cage's face by being a loving father, a hard worker, and a dependable Rig pilot for mining corporation NEVEC. The predecessor of Lost Planet's militarised VS mechs, NEVEC's basic Rig stands around thirty feet tall and is equipped with a drill arm and a claw arm, though even early in the game you'll overhear Jim's colleagues making demands for mounted weapons to combat the indigenous Akrid.