sunnuntai 24. maaliskuuta 2013

REVIEW - Captain America and The Avengers | NES | 1991

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: December 1991

Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1941, and he became Marvel's first lead character in a series of his own. The ongoing World War II and Captain America's inspirational themes based around that war made him an extremely popular superhero for a time, right up 'til the war ended. Almost two decades and many tries later, "the Cap" was finally successfully revived as a member and occasional leader of the Marvel ensemble known as The Avengers. Captain America was not the first Marvel superhero to make a break in video games, nor was he ever a very popular choice for a lead character among game developers. Still, a few games with Captain America in a central role have emerged through the years. Probably the most known game in the bunch is Data East's 1991 arcade beat 'em up game Captain America and The Avengers, which got ported to the Sega Genesis, the SNES, Game Boy and the Game Gear. Oh, but before that, Data East also made a whole different game of the same title for the NES. And it ain't good - the little light at the end of the tunnel fades very quick.

Captain America - The Worst Avenger

The Mandarin manages to incapacitate and abduct both Iron Man and The Vision. Captain America and Hawkeye go on a cross-country rescue mission, assisted by Wasp.

First, about my relationship with Captain America. It's easily explained, as there is none. I might dislike DC's Superman, I most definitely dislike Green Lantern, but Marvel has their own rotten egg in Cap U.S.A.. I think that by far the only reason they made that ridiculous Captain America: The First Avenger flick was that they couldn't have an Avengers flick without Cap, and everyone else in that ensemble movie had had their own namesakes made. I think that the original Captain America backstory of a frail young man being shot full of super-serum and becoming a war hero was quite inspirational, especially at those times, but ever since that backstory was somewhat forgotten, Captain America became a waste of perfectly good crayon in my view. Let's not beat around the bush: he's ridiculous. And about that suit Chris Evans wears in the movies... Adam West as Batman, anyone?

In the jungles of Tampa. Yep.
Then, on to some facts. Or at least one. Captain America's popularity as a stand-alone character had pretty much hit rock bottom in the early 90's, not least thanks to the horrible film - not just ridiculous, but horrible - which premiered in late 1990 and has since been forgotten in the mists of time, right up 'til I reminded you of it. Sorry. Despite making his debut game appearance on his own in 1987 in a home computer game called Captain America in the Doom Tube of Dr. Megalomann, it was clear that Captain America had seen better days as far as his popularity went, so they put him in life support by the much more relevant characters of the time. First, there was the ensemble game Spider-Man and Captain America in Doctor Doom's Revenge!, which featured a lot of Marvel's finest in addition to the three draws of the title, and then came the series of games called Captain America and The Avengers, released between 1991 and 1994. Although these games starred Captain America, it was the "Avengers" part of the title and the moderately large cast of characters in the original arcade game which made the sale. Which brings us to the NES game, which pretty much has nothing to celebrate about.

First of all, the game's version of The Avengers consists of five members - Cap, Hawkeye, Wasp, The Vision and Iron Man. The Vision and Iron Man are knocked out in the game's beginning, never to be seen in action - that's two of the best assets in this bunch, gone right away. Wasp only appears between levels, providing some extremely generic advice, and if you didn't know your Marvel Comics, you'd think she's just a frail, little secretary instead of one of the feistiest heroines in the Marvel universe, who could've easily fit in is a third playable character. That leaves us Cap and Hawkeye - the latter overshadows the namesake in both theory AND practice, but isn't nearly enough to save this boring, confusing fuckfest from almost total oblivion.

The graphics are of the basic NES fare of the time. Nothing too special, but colourful and satisfying enough. Something like three or four songs repeat all the time, and they're not good at all.

The green tinted sewers from just about every
third NES game ever made.
Captain America and The Avengers has shades of many popular 8-bit platformers all over it, but the first game I found myself thinking of was RoboCop. It's no wonder, since both games were made by Data East. Even though Cap and Hawkeye can most definitely jump unlike Murphy in the first RoboCop game, and have many moves in their respective arsenals, the game suffers from some of the exact same stiff control quirks as RoboCop, and even Cap's basic stance looks the same as Murphy's aiming stance. And when it comes to those many moves - such as a dash attack, somersault, shield block and whatnot - rest assured, they have no use. Even if they did, they don't work. It's a run-of-the-mill, incomplete platformer if there ever was one, with bad controls as its greatest challenge. Oh, and annoying ambushes by annoying enemies that just don't seem to die - against annoying, confusing, nauseating backgrounds.

What really makes the game confusing on top of being boring and annoying is the way a loss of life always seems to put you in a really random situation. You might switch characters without any good reason between deaths, ambushes which haven't been cleared yet suddenly have, or they've switched places, and you've magically made it through cities you haven't even visited yet - while after another failure, you might be back at the very root of the map, forced to start over. It's all very confusing and inconsistent. At some point, you'll stop caring, and hoping that the next death will bring you to the final threshold of the whole game. I don't know it it's possible, but I wouldn't be surprised. I sincerely don't know if this is a huge error in programming or if there's some ill logic to all of this. Or if I'm just missing something out of boredom.

There's not really much more to say about Captain America and the Avengers for the NES. It's easily summarized as boring trash that rides on the wind of a fairly popular arcade game, a true port of which I'll be taking on next and expecting a more entertaining experience - perhaps not by much, but I think a side-scrolling 16-bit beat 'em up theoretically fits the bill a bit more better than another stiff 8-bit platformer with stock level design. We'll see. Perhaps this one has the potential to please the most hardest of hardcore Marvel fans, but them only and only by its somewhat rare theme.

+ The better shades of better games, such as Bionic Commando
+ Hawkeye's inclusion as a playable character; he's cooler than Cap, he has a better moveset, and finally, a moveset that actually has some use

- Having Captain America as the star of the show ain't a huge draw for me
- The best characters are taken out of the fray right off the bat, and we're left with "Captain America and No Avengers"
- The randomness of death, and the random consequences
- Stiff controls

< 5.3 >

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