tiistai 30. heinäkuuta 2013

REVIEW - Ultimate Spider-Man | GBA | 2005

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: September 19, 2005
DEVELOPER(S): Vicarious Visions
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

Reboot's been the word for years, and I don't believe anyone even remembers when and where the trend began. It's most risky to reboot a comic book franchise that's been around for decades - there's always a group of nerds that won't appreciate any new direction or a rewritten storyline. Marvel Comics set up the Ultimate Marvel universe in 2000 with the first publications of Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men. Although the Ultimate series was a reimagining of the whole Marvel universe, it was never intended to take its place, and perhaps thus, these Ultimate "sidestories" turned out pretty popular... but there still was this group of stubborn nerds that wouldn't accept it, and I've got to admit that if I was a comic book fan at the time, I probably would've stood with them - I'm just that kind of traditional, old-fashioned geezer. In September 2005, a major video game based on Ultimate Spider-Man was released, and as per usual, it was accompanied by a stripped counterpart for both of Nintendo's handhelds. I guess it's time for me to accept Ultimate Spider-Man - as well as the fact that this game is not even near the console version, instead it's just another short, simple, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man game for the Advance. Nothing more, nothing less.

Every Spider-Man game ever = Ultimate Spider-Man?

Why do I have such a familiar feeling in my
Peter Parker meets up with his childhood friend Eddie Brock; Peter and Eddie's fathers used to work together on a cure for cancer until they both died in a plane accident. As Spider-Man, Peter breaks into Trask Industries to steal the "cure" - a mysterious, formless black substance - only to get consumed by its dark, parasitic power. Peter manages to escape the parasite, but it finds a new host in the embittered Eddie, and transforms him into the monstrous Spider-Man clone Venom, controlling his mind and forcing him to murder. While Spider-Man is out catching bad guys, Eddie roams the streets trying to cope with his recently split personality.

So the bottom line is this: it's always cool to reboot a game franchise. It's risky, but very often worth it - and ALWAYS exciting. It's a bit riskier to reboot a movie franchise. The ghost of Hollywood's future tends to destroy the purity and thrill of an old movie; many superhero movies, ironically, have turned out the complete opposite. Spider-Man has been rebooted _twice_ in cinema during the last 15 years, and on both occasions, the result's been great - and on both occasions, Ultimate Spider-Man's been a very influential series, even moreso when it comes to The Amazing Spider-Man, it seems. Ultimate Spider-Man itself was a reboot - the riskiest of all, a comic book reboot - not appreciated by everyone, although it wasn't nearly as radical change in direction as, say, the animated series Batman Beyond was for the Batman franchise. It kinda had the same storyline as ever, just a few changes were made to make it feel a little more emotional and visceral than the typical, straightforward "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man vs. supervillain of the month" comic book that it had mostly been about up 'til that point. Like Eddie's introduction as Peter's childhood friend instead of a rival colleague, and the Green Goblin being a real Hulk-like monster instead of a crazy scientist in a suit. To many people, the final straw was Peter Parker's death in the final issue of the original Ultimate Spider-Man, at the hands of the Green Goblin, and Spider-Man's "resurrection" with the 13-year old Miles Morales inheriting the alter ego. If you ask me, there's a certain line to shock value and with this twist, Marvel took a huge leap over that line. But, I digress; that was well after this game's time, and Ultimate Spider-Man is a decent take on a Venom origin story, Ultimate style. A bit pointless, I guess, but a solid game I think you'll appreciate if you liked any of the previous Spider-Man games on the Game Boy(s), and are able to forget all that was left out of this version of the game license.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for this guy's
There's really not much to say about the gameplay anymore, if you've read any of the reviews relating to Spider-Man games on the Game Boy Advance. The gameplay's almost identical to Spider-Man 3 which came out a few years later, just the level design's a bit more of a mess and gameplay as Venom is absolutely horrible. By default, Venom can't even swing, he's just a black blob essentially capable of doing two things: punching the shit out of people and feeding on them to regain health. He gains more abilities on the go, but those first few levels with Venom as the lead character come very close of ruining the experience in a point way too early. It's an origin story, yeah, but some things are just not necessary for video game adaptation - nor recommendable. Spider-Man plays out the same as always, although there are some minor upgrades to his abilities available as well. The graphics are decent enough - the character animation's superb and the cutscenes look quite all right, but the backgrounds are surprisingly and disappointingly scruffy and one-dimensional. The music's boring - this monotonic, fast techno/electronica sounds like the sped-up soundtrack of a puzzle game.

...I wish I'd enjoy playing as him as much as
I usually do.
The main point of criticism here is the Game Boy Advance stripdown from every other version of the game. Usually, these things are handled pretty nicely - although Advance games always get this sort of treatment, which is only natural, sacrifices on this scale are not usually made. First of all, the thing that unites each and every version of the game is that it doesn't really have a point, or a solid plot. It's just like two standard stories of the month in one, without a real ending or a real cliffhanger, at that; the Game Boy Advance is the worst in this context, it feels outright pointless. Secondly, and most of all, the "real" game features a whole cavalcade of friends, foes and everyone in between as bosses, including: Wolverine, Human Torch, Rhino, Electro, Beetle, Green Goblin, and last but not least, Carnage. Well, Carnage is in this version too, but the only real boss besides him is Silver Sable. Shocker's talked about a lot, but you never really fight the guy. It's like Vicarious Visions made it all up on the go and just lost interest in the detailed values of the Advance game at some point, to be able to deliver with the DS version. I'd ask why they made it, then, but I think we all know the answer: because $pider-Man.

Well, despite all of its shortcomings, Ultimate Spider-Man is basically just as entertaining as the next Game Boy Advance game starring Spider-Man; absolutely no more, and not much less. It retains the most basic values of an entertaining 2D superhero side-scroller.

+ Good controls
+ Like I once said, Venom's always a plus...

- ...It's just too bad he (looks and) plays out like pudding in the beginning
- Not much to go on when it comes to a solid storyline
- One-dimensional graphics and irritating music
- Misses out on a lot more things than Game Boy Advance adaptations usually do
- Somewhat boring level design

< 7.4 >

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