Although I am a Street Fighter fanatic, I have enjoyed many other games over the years, from Pokemon to Metal Gear Solid. Every game I’ve played has a place in my own heart, from the good (Final Fantasy 6) to the bad (Shadow Madness). However, there is one game series I don’t talk about very much, not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I’ve never had an opportunity to talk about it until now. You saw the title of this theory, so you already know what it is: Twisted Metal.
I’ve loved the lore and personalities of the drivers since Twisted Metal II, and the endings for some of these characters have stuck with me for years (Warthog’s ending in II especially). My favorite game in the series, though? Twisted Metal: Black. It cranked up the darkness factor to 11 in every possible way, and gave us the most interesting versions of some of its characters, like Sweet Tooth, Mr. Grimm, Axel, and Calypso. The lore of Twisted Metal is odd and disjointed, as the game series as a whole does not follow any sort of continuity. Most of the drivers don’t return to subsequent installments, even though their cars might. Despite this, there are enough familiar elements between games, whether it’s lore, design choices, weapons, or other things, to keep long time fans invested and to introduce new players into the story. (Also, I’m aware many of the games take place in stand-alone universes. There are still many concepts that are the same between them.)
Strangely enough, despite Twisted Metal being a vehicular combat game, it borrows many elements from the Street Fighter series. David Jaffe, lead developer of both Twisted Metal and God of War, is a Capcom fan, and has outright stated that he is inspired by Capcom’s games. God of War was heavily influenced by Onimusha: “In an interview for Eurogamer, he said while the idea for God of War was his own, the concept owed a debt to Capcom because he had played Onimusha and said “let’s do that with Greek Mythology”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_War_(2005_video_game)
The same thing happened with Twisted Metal: Black as it borrowed from Street Fighter as well. In fact, David Jaffe did an interview with Kill Screen saying as much. Unfortunately, as of the time of this writing, I can not prove this, since the interview has since been taken down, leaving only the original URL that leads to an error screen. Here’s the URL for those who are inclined to find it. https://killscreen.com/articles/interview-david-jaffe/
However, Jaffe did say in a video interview for GT.TV about what the concept of Twisted Metal was right from the very first game:
“The biggest thing is Twisted Metal has always been to us like a fighting game with vehicles. There’s a lot of people that see the surface of Twisted Metal and say, “Oh, it’s noisy and it’s brash and it’s loud and it’s arcadian and it’s all absolutely true. At the surface level it’s get in and have a great time. But at the depth of it… if you’re a player that understands it and we do a good job of communicating that… it’s almost like Street Fighter II. It’s the equivalent of a sort of arena combat game but it just has a lot of meat on the bones.” https://youtu.be/JQxfHc5RaRo?t=151
In other words, from the beginning, David Jaffe wanted to make a Street Fighter game, and ended up creating one of Sony’s longest running game series. And in a sense, he did create Street Fighter all over again, not just with the game as a whole, but at times, with the characters as well. Certainly, there are mostly original characters, with Sweet Tooth the most prominent, but Twisted Metal has at times borrowed elements from certain characters. Calypso is an obvious parallel to M. Bison as both are evil warlords who hold a tournament of combat primarily for their own amusement, but both have different agendas: M. Bison seeks out powerful warriors to kidnap and experiment on and Calypso grants the winner of his tournament one wish, one that he usually corrupts in some way unless the wish is for revenge. The original version of Marcus Kane can also be seen as a parallel to Ryu, both fighting their dark sides and wandering the world to find answers.
There is one character that may as well be a straight-up rip from Street Fighter, though: Twisted Metal II’s Ken Masters. The driver of Spectre, this Ken Masters wants his face known around the world, and in his ending, for better or worse, he gets exactly what he wants. https://twistedmetal.fandom.com/wiki/Ken_Masters
Both Street Fighter’s and Twisted Metal’s versions of Ken Masters share one very prominent trait: egocentricity. Street Fighter’s Ken has a tendency of being cocky with his opponents before and after his matches, and this is brought out in his flamboyant fighting style. Twisted Metal’s Ken thinks of himself as a loser, and wants to become a popular star with Calypso’s help. The only real difference, besides appearance and types of combat they participate in, is their lifestyles: Street Fighter’s Ken is rich and can do pretty much whatever he wants and Twisted Metal’s Ken is down on his luck.
In other words, it’s pretty clear that David Jaffe likes Street Fighter a lot, and his most prominent works are influenced by Capcom games. In fact, even when he’s not developing games, he still thinks about playing Capcom games. Here’s an article from Destructoid highlighting a tweet he made in 2012 about how he would have fixed Resident Evil 6: https://www.destructoid.com/how-david-jaffe-would-fix-resident-evil-6-236183.phtml
And here’s the original tweet: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/jhrvg1
“Ok,” you say. “David Jaffe is a huge Capcom fan, and you proved it. But a lot of other developers are Capcom fans, too. So why is this unusual?” That’s actually a very good question, reader. Because one thing I realized in my research is that the possibility exists that the reverse is possible too: Capcom, and the Street Fighter development team in particular, are influenced by David Jaffe and Twisted Metal.
The parallels all begin with a game I mentioned earlier – Twisted Metal: Black. In my research, I realized that most of the characters in TM:B corresponded to characters you could find in Street Fighter V. The strongest link is between Cage, driver of Warthog, from TM:B and Kage from SFV. Aside from very similar names, both are consumed with killing. Cage wanted to become the greatest serial killer of all time, and Kage, being the living embodiment of the Satsui no Hado, wants to kill everything and everyone.
With this link established, we begin to see more links appear. Juri is a parallel of Mr. Grimm, and while Necalli has Mr. Grimm’s ravenous hunger for souls/human flesh, Juri deals with people-eating in a more seductive and cerebral way and actually has a motorcycle. The enigmatic Preacher, driver of Brimstone, in TM:B associates very strongly with the mysterious G in SFV, as both believe they are being called by a higher power, Preacher through God and G through the Earth. No-Face, driver of Crazy 8, matches Alex to a tee, from the New York dialect to the occupation “in the ring” (No-Face is a boxer and Alex is a professional wrestler) to the facial scars that were caused by a crazed doctor/scientist (although No-Face is far worse off). Decapre is an expy of Dollface, both trapped in their respective masks and controlled by a man with a lust for power. Even Chun-Li has an association with a character – Bloody Mary, TM:B’s Spectre. Any guesses as to why?
“Wait!,” you say. “These are just common tropes! If you’re around as long as Street Fighter/Twisted Metal has, you’re going to have similar themes to other games eventually!” This is true, which is why we need to look for proof that Capcom has borrowed elements from other games.
Or in this case, just borrowed an entire game.
Back in 2011, Capcom released the video game MaXplosion, which immediately drew cries of plagiarism, as there was a game released in 2009 called ‘Splosion Man with identical gameplay and mechanics. Capcom’s statement on the matter was… surprisingly honest:
“MaXplosion was developed independently by Capcom Mobile. Nonetheless, we are saddened by this situation and hope to rebuild the trust of our fans and friends in the gaming community.” https://www.pocketgamer.com/articles/026680/capcom-defends-maxplosion-against-mounting-criticism/
They pretty much acknowledged that the game was a clone, and worked to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. As far as I was able to find, it didn’t. However, this leads back to my main point: developers tend to borrow ideas from other games in order to make their games better. It’s pretty much how games have always been made. In my theory “The Truth About Ryu’s Parents”, I even pointed out that Capcom had ripped several of their stages from pop culture for Street Fighter II. That turned out pretty well for them.
So, yes, it’s likely Capcom has not only played Twisted Metal, but used it as as a reference! “But Capcom’s a Japanese company!,” you say, pointing to solid evidence. “Twisted Metal was never big in Japan! The last one released there was Twisted Metal 2 (known as Twisted Metal EX in Japan)! How could they possibly….?”
Seth Killian was a long time employee at Capcom before being picked up by Sony’s Santa Monica Studios back in 2012 as a Fighting Game Advisor, working on another fighting game: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. What characters were prominently featured in that game? Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal and Kratos from God of War, both David Jaffe creations.
In other words, it all came full circle: David Jaffe borrows ideas from Capcom, Capcom borrows ideas from David Jaffe.
But there’s one more thing to show you: the icing on the cake.
As Twisted Metal is a car combat game series and Street Fighter is a fighting game series, you wouldn’t expect there to be much crossover. However, if you’ve played any of the Street Fighter games, you’ll know car combat is an iconic part of it. That’s right: I’m talking about the car bonus stages.
In nearly every iteration of the primary Street Fighter series, there appears some form of car bonus stage, where you have to destroy an entire car within a set period of time. Capcom did not invent car combat games, but with SFII they did improve on the idea and introduced a unique-for-its-time concept. As a result, people associate cars and Street Fighter, and this ended up being a marketing boon for Capcom.
How? Simple: car and insurance companies can pay a lot of money. Capcom has licensed their characters and ideas to many brands, but there have been not one, not two, but THREE ads involving cars in some way. Two of these you can find at The Onion’s AV Club, the third at a different YouTube link than their article provides:
In other words, even though Twisted Metal is an extremely dark game, it actually fits into Street Fighter’s entire strategy extremely well. We may not see Street Fighter vs Mortal Kombat, but we may someday see Ryu vs Axel, M. Bison vs Calypso, and Sakura vs Sweet Tooth.
It’s not as bizarre as you’d think.