A new video from YouTube channel People Make Games explores Capcom‘s bizarre version of Red Dead Revolver.
Yes, in case you didn’t know, Capcom was the original publisher of Red Dead Revolver. Initially developed by a studio named Angel Studios, Red Dead Revolver was supposed to be released as a Capcom title. That plan hit a bit of a snag in 2002 when Take-Two Interactive acquired Angel Studios and renamed them Rockstar San Diego. It seems that the initial plan was for Rockstar and Capcom to work together on the project. However, Capcom decided to “cancel” the game in 2003 following what they felt was a lack of progress. Rockstar Games then acquired the rights to the Red Dead Revolver series in order to publish it under the Rockstar label.
It seems that Capcom’s Red Dead actually started as a project called SWAT. That game utilized a four-person split-screen that allowed you to control four members of a S.W.A.T. team at once. As the video noted, the project bore a strange resemblance to a game known as Hired Guns which was developed by DMA Design; the studio that would go on to make the Grand Theft Auto series and become known as Rockstar North.
The story goes that a Capcom executive decided to abandon that project after he watched a western movie starring Ringo Starr (yes, that Ringo Starr) and became enthusiastic about making a western game. SWAT soon stood for “Spaghetti Western Action Title” (slow clap), was eventually renamed Red Dead Revolver, and work on the project’s new direction began right away.
According to Dominic Craig, a former Rockstar designer who worked on Red Dead Revolver, the original version of the game wasn’t very fun. He describes it as being somewhere between Panzer Dragoon and “the really bad Japanese action games that were coming out in the early 2000s.” Craig seems to suggest that the biggest problem with the project at the time was its awful control scheme and dated feel.
Actually, the whole project sounded like a bit of a mess at that time. Characters were basically inside jokes meant to represent people within the studio. The game’s story was little more than an homage to old westerns that had little to say on its own account. In fact, the original version of the protagonist was basically a ghost who was looking for revenge against its killers (which was based on High Plains Drifter). That’s kind of a cool idea, but the problem was that there were a lot of cool and weird ideas being tossed around for the game that nobody could seem to make work when it came time to polish the final product. That led to numerous delays.
Eventually, Capcom agreed to let Rockstar pick-up the project under the condition that Capcom was allowed to publish the game in Japan if it was ever finished. It’s been suggested that Capcom was also trying to secure the rights to publish Grand Theft Auto in Japan as part of this deal. Once Rockstar had the game, they requested that Rockstar San Diego tone some of the game’s more absurd elements (even though the final game was still pretty crazy). Rockstar San Diego also took that time to give the game a much stronger overall narrative and fix its originally loathsome controls. That’s how we ended up with the Red Dead Revolver we eventually played.
While most of Red Dead Revolver was scrapped when it came time for Rockstar to develop Red Dead Redemption, that wasn’t the original plan. Initially, Redemption was supposed to be a sequel to Revolver that followed the protagonist from the first game (Nate Harlow) as he and his son are forced to abandon their quiet life as they run from men who want to kill Harlow for murdering the Governor. Aspects of that story did eventually make their way into Red Dead Redemption.
Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014.