Guest Blog by Kevin K @Agent_Prince
Over the years comic book licences have brought a….mixture of fortunes to the world of video games. Not just in the world of video games but throughout the eclectic geeky culture of Comic Cons, Comic Book movies, Comic Book inspired clothing and more. Back when I was a kid it was not cool to be caught reading a comic and it was certainly not cool to walk around with Marvel characters plastered across your T-shirt and socks. No! In fact it was almost Taboo. How times have changed though right?! Nowadays you cannot walk down the stress without seeing a cluster of people with something Comic Book related. A pin badge of Wolverine pinned to the bag of a college student, a T-shirt, hearing a ringtone from a DC Cartoon - Comic Book culture has risen to become an integral part of geek and more mainstream culture. Why is this? We could argue that Hollywood's interpretations of various Comic Book franchises has a lot to do with it but we are not here to talk about that. We are here to talk about some of the best and worst Comic Book licensed Video Games from over the years. Here I try to offer 3 of the best and worst for you to experience and avoid at your leisure.
3 of the Best
Spider-Man & the X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge (SNES)
Everything an old school comic book based video game needs:-
· 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 classic, 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 actually complete it. I've managed it just once.
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 sound a bit naff, 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 admit 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’ve always been a fan of scrolling beat em ups, which Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (Xbox 360/PS3) is a variation of. I was excited for this one. But what a comedown it was. 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 as you’re too busy mashing buttons!
With tedious levels, repetitive bosses and 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.
· A home conversion of a classic. We all welcome that.
· Its X-Men, therefore cool in my book.
· That’s about it.
· 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? Drop a comment below and tell me your best and worst.
Guest Blogger: Kevin K @Agent_Prince
Guest Blog by Justin @JQWits
DuckTales was easily one of my favorite NES titles growing up as a kid in the 90’s. It was a game that I played so often that I literally have multiple images of it burned into my brain like some old, beaten up arcade cabinet from that same era. And even though I owned the physical cartridge for DuckTales, it remained a game that I had never beaten until just recently; over twenty years later. Remember when games were next to impossible to beat? Well I do (mostly because I wasn’t very good at them), and although I was never able to defeat the final boss in DuckTales as a child, there was still something about this game that made it stand out from the mostly mediocre titles that plagued the NES during the console’s lifespan. But what really makes DuckTales such a great game? Why was it so much better than the majority of games available at the time? Well, for starters the soundtrack is one of the best to ever grace the Nintendo Entertainment System; a bold statement if I do say so myself.
Or maybe it was because the game had characters we all knew and loved due to the popular DuckTales television show of the time. (Who didn’t come home after a long day at school to find Scrooge McDuck diving into his money pit, swimming around like a kid in a candy store)? Or maybe it was because the game was made by Capcom, and how basically everything that Capcom released on the NES in the late 80’s - early 90’s was nothing short of spectacular (see: Little Nemo: Dream Master, Ghost ‘n Goblins, or Strider). Or maybe it was the striking resemblance DuckTales had to the Mega Man series (another insanely popular Capcom franchise at the time). Whatever it was, it's more than just nostalgia that has kept me coming back to this wonderful game, time and time again.
In fact, this game was so popular that in 2013 it was remade into what can only be described as an abomination against video gamers everywhere and should never be mentioned again, like that strange bird-man from the Harry Potter movies...but, I digress. It's often said that if you want your happy childhood memories to remain...well happy, then you shouldn't go back and try to re-live them (because it won’t go well, like some pathetic high school graduate going back to school to party with the new freshman). And sometimes this can be true, like in the case with DuckTales: Remastered. But luckily for myself and for NES enthusiasts all around the world, this couldn't be further from the reality when it comes to DuckTales for the NES. Because when it comes down to it, a great game is a great game no matter how much time has passed since it was released, and nothing, not even some sub-par remake, will ever change that.
Guest Blog by Ell Dee @Every Gamer Review
All of the Role Playing Games (RPGs) that I've played are pretty much unconventional so far...well mostly The Mother series. I've been wanting to play normal RPGs for a while and I got my eyes on Dragon Quest because Akira Toriyama (I love Dragon Ball Z). So this was a game I was waiting to play because I couldn’t get it on Wii Virtual Console but I don't have the Wii. So last year I asked Santa for this game on Wii U Virtual Console and Santa gave me it...on Christmas Eve. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (スーパーマリオＲＰＧ Sūpā Mario Āru Pī Jī), developed by Square (now Square Enix) and published by Nintendo (for the Super Nintendo) and was released in 1996 in Japan and in the US. Somehow Europe missed out on this. Why? Because of our PAL technology, it was considered far too difficult to convert it to PAL. Another reason is that it would have taken far too long to translate it to different languages. Didn't stop Harvest Moon and Secret of Mana stopping by so what's their excuse? Oh, the graphics.
So what's the story behind Super Mario RPG? Bowser kidnaps Peach and Mario goes to save her and the world revolves around a golden sun but suddenly, a giant sword crashes down on Bowser's castle and sends Mario, Peach and Bowser flying in different directions. When Mario goes back to the castle, he finds the sword who is called Smithy, as he’s unleashed his gang to cause havoc. So Mario has to go and stop the Smithy gang with the help of some friends he meets on the way, including Mallow, a cloud boy who thinks he's a Tadpole, Geno...DA BOSS! Bowser and Peach. This is when Geno comes into play. Due to the devious plots of the Smithy Gang, the Star Road has been broken so Mario and his friends must collect seven pieces of the star pieces to fix the road. Overall story is simple; it's a Super Mario game after all. It also has humour and I giggled at a few, though the majority of the humour is mostly kid-friendly but good enough for that demographic.
You remember those games back in the day where you felt mesmorised by the vibrancy of colour on classic Amiga titles like Putty or Lemmings or by the moving sprites on your Sinclair ZX Spectrum? I do! Fortunately, those moments and memories have become immortalised by Sam Dyer's Bitmap Books collections; notably with the Commodore 64: A Visual Compendium, Commodore Amiga: A Visual Compendium and Sinclair ZX Spectrum: A Visual Compendium. Each book packs a ton of stunning artwork from our favourite Retro Games as far back as the early 1980s. Of late, Bitmap Books have published Artcade: The book of classic Arcade Gamer Artwork by Tim Nicholls, Generation 64 and are about to release The Super Famicom Collection. It's looking very rosy over at Bitmap HQ but I wanted to know a little bit more about Sam and what we can expect to see from Bitmap Book's in the future.
Guest Blog by Kevin K @Agent_Prince
Ghostbusters is one of my most, if not the most, favourite franchises. Beginning with the first movie in 1984, it went onto spawn The Real Ghostbusters, a massively popular cartoon series that continued the timeline, the successful movie sequel Ghostbusters II and successful comic book series by IDW Publishing. It's fair to say that Ghostbusters have spent a credible amount of times in the video games industry. With releases on the Commodore 64, Gameboy and Xbox 360; the Ghostbusters Video Game franchise has grown up alongside many of us. In 2016 with the impending release of the currently fan-diversifying Paul Feig reboot, has the video game industry done this fantastic license justice over the years?
Let’s look at some of the highlights.
Ghostbusters (Amstrad, Commodore 64, Spectrum, others) 1984
Fondly remembered for me as one of the first video games I ever laid eyes on, this movie tie-in was actually originally developed at the same time as the original box-office hit, albeit as a different title to begin with: ‘Car Wars’. The version I had was for the Sinclair Spectrum, which is unfortunately inferior to the Commodore version, in particular the graphics, colours and sound. But still a fine game.
The plot was the same as the movie, but a large majority of the game took place driving from job to job with a close top-down view, sucking up any ghosts that came across the screen. From what I remember, control responses were capable but not great, and the sections were mostly very long and quite tedious. Nonetheless, these sections were also engaging and necessary to raise cash for more equipment. It did somewhat improve with the ‘busting’ portions of the game which followed.
Upon reaching your destination you’d control two Ghostbusters attempting to catch the little bugger with your proton streams and then trap it. So it was a case of tactically placing the heroes in order to make the shots count. This was by far the most fun section of the game; quite challenging and the controls were intuitive, too. If the ghost got away, or a trap attempt was missed, the ghost would then proceed to knock over one of your heroes, which in turn triggered the soundbyte ‘He slimed me’, direct from the movie.
On the Spectrum it sounded more like someone throwing up, but hey, this was 1984! Touches like this are great for fans, as was the whole game. For the faithfulness alone, this should definitely be considered a classic.
Guest Blog by Todd M @The Top Loader
Cowabunga! Too soon right? Well before talking video games let me first take you back in time so I can paint you a picture of my childhood, even without the help of any renaissance painters. If you look up close you will see images of four pizza eating turtles carrying around a half shell - oh and did I mention - they have a splash of green. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were walking talking ninja stars and it was turtle-mania as they defined my generation's pop culture. Sure there have been other properties that have come and gone in and out of our screens over the years, even the likes of the still popular Pokemon came out of the wild to take a good shot to reach the same heights of the turtles at their peak popularity.. but slightly missed, maybe they should've equipped the X accuracy. Their faces were everywhere as they left their turtle tracks behind for generations to follow in the years to come. It's hard to explain to anyone that wasn't there how big they were at the time. For me personally the turtle effect was unmatched, I had the lunch box, I collected the coins, the cards, and even had the costume, I ate their strange tasting ice cream and I vowed never to take shredders advice and dine on turtle soup, I had the board game - that broke - bought the figurines and of course the video games. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time on the SNES is one of the pinnacle Super Nintendo titles.
Sit down, turn off your turtle-comm and eat a celebratory jelly bean pizza - no wonder they were green - and let's kick shell as the Tm-N-T explode onto the scene like their Dynamite. But there's more explosions than that to look out for since Krang straight away has his eyes set on you and he is beaming, and so am I because I am playing Turtles In Time. There were games before and after this one but for me this is what I come back to the most. Playing in the back yard was one thing but playing the arcade game made me feel like I was right there in the action with them. Many of my favourite characters from the cartoon made the jump into sixteen bits as it includes Leatherhead, Metalhead and lets not forget ol' tin faced Shred head himself, but lets not get too far ahead of ourselves as there are many minor characters to get in the way in your travels as The Foot were made for walking and that's just what they will do, so be careful as they were built to come right after you.
Waggle that stick and press my buttons as these mousers have a mind like a steal trap but I certainly don't have any Alley Cat Blues because, man I love being a turtle. April's evening news shows us that The Statue of Liberty is at stake as Krang the bloated bean bag swiftly comes in and fly's away with it. A class in action is called as we are dropped at the very top of a construction building swatting fly's that bother me as Baxter tries to terminate the turtles but, since he blows we continue working our way down through the streets but can't seem to catch a break even when surfin' those sewers. The Rat King is hiding out at the back of the sewer and luckily for Splinter himself he is only to be seen making a cameo as he encourages you to hurry up and attack a case of some killer pizzas turned monsters, sounds like a plot from an old 50's movie but this is the New York city sewer after all who knows what lies beneath as you keep digging because eventually you will stumble across the Technodrome.
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As my Youtube Channel was built around my love for retro gaming I decided that it was time to honour that passion through blogging. Here I review anything from the retro gaming world.
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