Features

Comic Book Games: The Best and Worst

A thing I wrote for my other job at http://www.theaveragegamer.com. Check it out!

Over the years comic book licences have brought a….mixture of fortunes to the world of video games. There are as many treasures as there are turds. Here I try to offer 3 of the best and worst for you to experience and avoid at your leisure.

3 of the best:

These are all games I have played, not just read about on notoriety. I’ve stuck to games based on comic books and their characters only, not game adaptations of movies adaptations of comic books.

Spider-Man & the X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge (SNES)

Everything an old school comic book based video game needs:-

  • Team-Ups!
  • Amazing characters!
  • Cool theme music!
  • Faithful comic book menace!
  • Unfathomably difficult!
  • No continues!

Maybe not the last two so much, but Spider-Man & the X-Men is very challenging indeed. Once lives are all used up, that’s it; there are no saves or passwords. Sounds ominous, but this is a great SNES title, and a must for any comic fan.

The theme song sounds like a 70’s US cop show theme, with a very catchy accompanying soundtrack. Spider-Man & the X-Men is essentially a standard left to right plat-former. It does offer slight variation with each of the character-designated stages; Spider-Man, Cyclops, Wolverine, Gambit and Storm. Although one hell of a tough game, it’s highly playable, faithful to the character’s appearances of the time, and a very rewarding achievement should you complete it.

Marvel Super Heroes (Arcade)

Ever since Capcom made the genius of move snapping up the Marvel license, the characters were pitted against one another in Capcom’s genre of choice – beat-em ups. There have been no less than eight different iterations, the first in X-Men: Children of the Atom, to the latest, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. For me, It was the second of such titles – Marvel Super Heroes – that captured the comic book essence most of all. It also happens to be an amazing one on one beat em up.

There are ten characters available, covering different angles of the Marvel Universe. Fan favourites Wolverine and Psylocke were retained, as well as the chance to be the final boss Magneto, all from Children of the Atom. Add Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Juggernaut and The Hulk into the mix, and there is a truly great selection of Marvel characters on offer here. With great boss characters in Doctor Doom and Thanos to back up the fantastic roster, it’s a fan boy/girl’s dream.

What separates Marvel Super Heroes from the crowd is the gems system. Loosely based on the Thanos-related Infinity Gems storyline, five of the six gems can be obtained during combat. Each gem (Power, Time, Space, Reality, and Soul) holds different results. For example, if Juggernaut uses the Space gem, his armour turns silver, and will not flinch/fall after being attacked, for a short time. These might sound off-putting or skill-quashing, but they occur infrequently, and through special conditions, such as first attack, etc. Although the Marvel vs. Capcom series has since massively expanded the series, Marvel Super Heroes is a true gem (pun intended).

Batman Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)

The arrival of Batman Arkham Asylum exorcised a couple of superhero/video game demons:

  • Firstly, it had been years since a decent comic book related video game had finally been developed.
  • The second? It was so damn good it still stands up with some of the best third-person action/adventure games of this current generation, something unheard of for a comic book license.

Batman Arkham Asylum is a superb video game. It is a perfect homage to the comic to which it is based (Arkham Asylum), and to the excellent 90’s animated series, with its quality voice acting. A clever and intuitive fighting system allows you to take on swarms of enemies at once, to spectacular effect. Batman’s vast array of gadgets is gathered as the adventure progresses, such as the grappling hook, Batarang’s, and so on. Detective mode may have a bit of a naff name, but is a necessity for success; following vapour trails, footprints and clues that would be otherwise unseen. You really feel like you are Batman.

3 of the worst:

Straight off the bat, I am compelled to mention Superman 64. It is widely regarded as not only the worst superhero game, but the worst game for the Nintendo 64. Just to confirm, it is not one of my picks, as I have never played it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

When this, the first TMNT video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, was released, many flocked to it, particularly kids. I was one of them. I was not going to pass up the chance to be one of my new-found cartoon heroes. Having sampled the fun but brief arcade scrolling beat em up, hopes were high.

Oh dear. A few minutes in, it becomes clear that despite the license, this is a travesty of a video game. Adopting a more platform approach, the gameplay is hideous, and then some. Jumping is so unnecessarily high that small gaps are just near impossible to make, attacks are sluggish and take forever to complete. The visuals barely have more colours than a ZX Spectrum, with lots of flicker and slowdown. The swimming sections will have you wishing your ‘heroes’ were once again pet turtles, just to navigate them successfully. I loved it as a kid, being only eight at the time, and was one of the first NES games I ever played. Unfortunately, TMNT is not one even for the nostalgic, as the video below explains with more subtlety.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (Xbox 360/PS3)

I’ll admit I was excited for this one. What a comedown it was.

Nope, I’ve no idea what’s going on here either.

I’ve always been a fan of scrolling beat em ups, which Ultimate Alliance 2 is a variation of. But the action itself is a nonstop, repetitive, button bashing hell. You lose as much health as you gain, and most of the time you are not aware of it even happening.

With tedious levels, repetitive bosses, terrible voice acting, it’s difficult to want to be one of your favourite Marvel heroes in this one. Indeed, that’s Ultimate Alliance 2’s only saving graces; the vast amount of playable characters on offer, and the plot, borrowed from the successful ‘Civil War’ storyline. But considering the arduous task Ultimate Alliance 2 is to play, I wouldn’t bother.

X-Men: Children of the Atom (PS1)

Ok, so it’s not one of the worst games, but it is an awful conversion of an arcade classic.

The lying bastards.

The pros:

  • A home conversion of a classic. We all welcome that.
  • Its X-Men, therefore cool in my book.
  • That’s about it.

The cons:

  • The frame rate is shocking. 30 FPS in fact.
  • Slow down and intermittent mid game flickering
  • Much slower than even the Saturn version, never mind the arcade
  • Ending has been removed (!)
  • Capcom didn’t develop this version.

PS1 versions of Capcom fighters were generally slower but never this bad. Children of the Atom also arrived 4 years too late to the home market, leaving it a very redundant release.

So these are my picks, but how do yours differ? Any stinkers you feel need reporting, or classics that need addressing? Comments below, please.

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