I must admit, despite having a reasonable familiarity with a fair few titles from Capcom’s golden age — primarily through the home computer ports of variable quality they got courtesy of U.S. Gold and their various development partners — one that I’ve never spent much time with is Forgotten Worlds. I think back in the day the marketing’s tendency to focus heavily on its two bare-chested, muscle-bound protagonists rather than the game’s abject weirdness made it less desirable to check out in my mind — but having given it a bit of a go in the first Capcom Arcade Stadium bundle, I can definitely see the appeal.
Forgotten Worlds was originally released in both Japan and North America in May of 1988. It was the first of Capcom’s games to run on their CP System arcade hardware, which would go on to power Street Fighter II and its first two variants Champion Edition and Hyper Fighting, among numerous other titles. As well as being a game that was designed to demonstrate the power of the new hardware, it was also an attempt to make something a little different from conventional scrolling shooters.
It’s another title from the mind of prolific Capcom designer Yoshiki Okamoto, whose work we’ve already seen in this series in the form of 1943 and SonSon — and who, of course, would also go on to make the incredibly successful Final Fight and Street Fighter II series. He wasn’t working alone this time around; also on the design team were Akira Yasuda, Akira Nishitani and Noritaka Funamizu, most of whom would later be involved in the Street Fighter series in various capacities.
Okamoto’s specific intent for Forgotten Worlds was to make something more imaginative than other scrolling shooters — and also something that was noticeably easier than some of Capcom’s earlier titles. To that end, the game incorporated a number of distinctive features that really make it stand out today; sadly, due to the glut of shooters on the market at the time of its 1988 release plus the expenses associated with the new CP System boards, it didn’t prove nearly as financially successful as Capcom hoped.
In Forgotten Worlds, the setting is the 29th century. An evil god named Bios has destroyed the earth, but humanity hasn’t lost hope; the surviving humans use their resources to create two ethnically diverse supersoldiers, who are then tasked with defeating the eight evil gods who serve Bios, then Bios himself.
Gameplay in Forgotten Worlds unfolds as a side-scrolling shooter, with a few notable twists — no pun intended. Most important of these is the fact that you’re not confined to shooting in a single direction; the original arcade cabinet featured a button that could be twisted, allowing you to aim in any of 16 different directions. The Capcom Arcade Stadium version, meanwhile, allows you to rotate your aim left and right using the controller shoulder buttons, or use the right analogue stick to directly pick a direction to face.
Interestingly, the two nameless characters are not identical; the blonde-haired, white-skinned, sunglasses-wearing player 1 character has a long-range automatic rifle by default, while the dark-skinned, mohawked player 2 character begins with a shorter range spread shot.
Both characters are supported by a satellite, which supplements their firepower; if you rotate your character while firing, the satellite will stay where it is, while if you rotate while holding your fire, the satellite will move around your character. This can be useful for blocking bullets.
Most enemies drop Zenny, which astute Capcom enthusiasts will note is a recurring currency used in not only a lot of Capcom arcade games, but also RPGs such as the Breath of Fire series. Here, each level features an item shop where you can spend your Zenny on weapon power-ups for the satellite, healing, extensions to your health bar and various other benefits. Pleasingly, unlike many other shoot ’em ups of the period, your purchased upgrades are not lost upon continuing; the only thing you lose is your score.
Similarly to 1943, Forgotten Worlds eschews a one-hit kill and lives system in favour of giving both characters a health bar; upon running out of health you can continue or walk away from the game. As noted above, this health bar can be extended over the course of the game, once per stage; this gradual increase in power provides a nice light quasi-RPG style experience to the whole thing, and adds to the nice sense of progression that the game already has.
Each stage has a very distinct aesthetic to it. The first stage, for example, resembles a futuristic ruined cityscape and concludes with what can only be described as a giant puckering butthole monster flinging garbage at you. The second sees you flying away from the city over the water, with the skyline gradually fading into the distance as you progress, then culminating in a battle against a large dragon. The third sees you flying over a crater-marked wasteland, and the fourth inexplicably appears to take you to Egypt. In all, there are nine different stages.
The stages are not only different aesthetically, they have quite a different mechanical feel, too. Some have a wide-open traditional shoot ’em up feel, while others almost feel like they have labyrinthine platformer tendencies, despite the fact you can freely fly through the environment. While I perhaps wouldn’t go so far as to describe any of the levels as having “puzzles”, some at least require you to look at the environment and figure out the best or safest way through rather than simply firing away blindly.
Oh, and many of them have some gloriously inappropriate music that you often can’t hear all that well over the sound effects constantly blaring — so do hold your fire occasionally and make an effort to listen out for it. It really gives the game a distinctively… odd feel all of its own.
The bosses, too, are all mechanically quite distinct from one another, and consistently impressive to look at. The aforementioned puckering butthole monster requires that you blast a path through its spinning garbage shield in order to penetrate it with your hot plasma, while later a giant suit of armour requires you to blast various bits off it in order to reveal the tender, squishy and vulnerable godflesh beneath.
Some of the encounters are extremely challenging — particularly following the deceptively straightforward first stage — but the game never feels overly unfair, so long as you’re careful and willing to put a bit of time in to learn the various stages and boss fights. It’s by no means easy, but it certainly feels quite a bit more accessible than many other shoot ’em ups by Capcom — and indeed many other shoot ’em ups from a similar period in arcade game history.
All in all, I kind of regret having slept on Forgotten Worlds until now; it turns out that those seemingly boring muscle-bound meatheads have quite a colourful, chaotic adventure to enjoy — made all the more entertaining by their borderline nonsensical digitised speech quips between each stage. I can see this being a particular blast if you bring a friend along for the ride — so if you’ve held fire on this one until now like I have, I’d encourage you to give it a shot!
Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on them. This is at no additional cost to you and helps support Rice Digital!
- Strider is a setpiece showcase hungry for your pocket change - August 16, 2022
- The real Tower of Fantasy starts here - August 16, 2022
- Six of the best tsunderes in gaming - August 16, 2022