Thursday, August 27, 2015

Video Game Successors/Sequels with Different Names: Part 2 Marvel Edition

Author: Zachary Latour

Successors/Sequels with Different Names: Part 1

Marvel has had a pretty nice run throughout their career. They’ve had great success with comics, toys, T.V. shows, movies and even video games. There are Marvel characters in games from as far back as Spider-Man on the Atari 2600, and they continue to be used in current generation consoles. Just name a console and more than likely there has been a game released on it that included a character from the gigantic Marvel Universe. Though some of the games have been lackluster, others were excellent and have become classics; my personal favorite being X-Men 2 on the Sega Genesis.

Some of these Marvel games are sequels to other Marvel games, but you wouldn't know it just by reading the title. Below are three Marvel sequels with different names.

Separation Anxiety (SNES/GEN) – Sequel to: Maximum Carnage

Maximum Carnage is a Beat ‘Em Up released by L.J.N. in 1994. The first thing you notice is that this game nails the comic book appearance right from the start. With vibrant colors and hand drawn sprites, the stages and enemies look like part of the source material. The onomatopoeia is great too; there’s just something satisfying about seeing words like ‘THWAK’ and ‘SMASH’ popping out on the screen in large comic print while you’re beating down baddies. I’m not going to say this game pulls off the comic book look better than Comix Zone, but it does a very nice job with it.

Although this game allows you to play as both Spider-Man and Venom, it is actually only 1-player and the different stages dictate when you play as each of the characters. That said, the game provides a number of interesting abilities for the characters. You can button-mash punch and kick like normal, but you can also pick people or objects up and throw them at other enemies. Or, you can grab two nearby enemies at once and smash them into each other. Two different approaches to fighting, and both are very satisfying.

Apart from combat capabilities, the characters are also able to climb on and move freely about the walls. In fact, in some stages you must exclusively climb up or down walls while avoiding hazards. These segments do break up the repetitiveness, but there really isn’t much point to them and they could’ve easily been left out.

One thing I like about this game is that it doesn’t just scroll from left to right. When you reach the end of some of the stages, you actually have go back the way you came, beating up more enemies along the way. You can look at this as being lazy, as one only has to design half of a level and then repeat it to make the gameplay seem twice as long. To me, however, it really breaks up monotony of just walking to the right all the time.

In Separation Anxiety the game finally becomes a 2-player Beat ‘Em Up, with one person playing as Spider-Man and the second player as Venom. Despite this improvement, the game still has problems. One of the biggest nuisances with ‘Separation Anxiety’ is the constant occurrence of objects in the foreground that block part of the screen. Sometimes it’s something small like a lamppost being in the way, but there are times when over 50% of the screen is covered by objects in the foreground. I don’t recall any game with effective use of foreground objects, and this game is no exception.

Another annoyance is the continue system used in ‘Separation Anxiety’. During a 2-player game if one person loses all of their lives, they are done playing until the other character dies. Then both players will start again together. It would have been nice if you could use your continues on the spot, like in Turtles in Time, or at least steal lives from the other player so that both can continue playing the game together. The way it’s done here just seems prehistoric to me.

‘Separation Anxiety’ is definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to being a co-op instead of a single player game, but it is still slightly off from being perfect.

One nice small feature in both of these games is that the enemy’s name is shown next to their life bar as your beat them up. Sometimes you might be fighting someone named ‘Andy’ or ‘Lizzie’, but when you’re fighting a boss, like ‘Doppelganger’ or ‘Shriek’, you learn the names of the villains who are a part of the Spider-Man universe.

The music in both of these games is excellent. Just listen to the theme songs on the title menus for both games to hear the outstanding quality. Although I could listen to both for hours, the Sega Genesis version of the ‘Separation Anxiety’ theme is just epic.

I also love the game over screen for ‘Separation Anxiety’. The four characters on it look particularly badass, and it’s much better than the bland game over screen from ‘Maximum Carnage’.

‘Maximum Carnage’ has no problem standing on its own, but the addition of the 2 player mode is the reason I would always pick ‘Separation Anxiety’ over ‘Maximum Carnage’.

Marvel Super Heroes (SAT/PS1) – Spiritual Successor to: X-Men: Children of the Atom

Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 has become a staple in the Fighting game scene. The massive rosters, great sprite animation, and over-the-top 3 on 3 fights will definitely take you for a ride. Before the Marvel Vs. Capcom series there was a different series that included games like Street Fighter Vs. X-Men and Marvel Super Heroes Vs. Street Fighter. But even before that we had two games that started the line: ‘X-Men: Children of the Atom’ and ‘Marvel Super Heroes’.

These games started in arcades before being ported to home consoles. One great thing about this series is that each new game incorporated not only brand new characters, but characters from the previous installments as well. This continued over the years, culminating with Marvel Vs. Capcom 2’s massive 56 character roster, which included pretty much every character from earlier games and then some.

X-Men: Children of the Atom is the first fighting game that focused on the X-men universe. The playable characters include Colossus, Cyclops, Iceman, Psylocke, Storm, Wolverine, Omega Red, Sentinel, Silver Samurai, Spiral, Juggernaut, and Magneto. The roster might be small, but all of the characters look great and play smoothly. I also love that the matches don’t always take place in one environment. Like in multiple Mortal Kombat games, it is possible to break through the bottom of the screen into a different area, which can really keep matches fresh.

‘Marvel Super Heroes’ differs from ‘X-Men: Children of the Atom’ by having a roster that incorporates different groups in the Marvel Universe, not just the X-Men section. It includes characters like Captain America, Doctor Doom, The Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Shuma-Gorath, and Thanos. (Not so crazy to see where the inspiration for ‘Marvel Super Heroes Vs. X-Men’ came from now).

One nice addition to this game is the inclusion of the Infinity Gems. A player acquires one of the six gems (Power, Time, Space, Reality, Soul, and Mind) by walking over it, doing something special, or beating it out of the enemy. Then, the gems can be used as a power-up bonus for things like power increase, defense increase, quicker speed, health recovery, etc. This is a great addition to the game, providing boost in the fight and the entertainment value from beating the gems out of your opponent.

I’m not going to say either of these games is better that the other. Both of the games came out when Capcom was king, and it is definitely apparent in the games. The inclusion of the power-up mechanic from the Infinity Gems is a welcome addition to ‘Marvel Super Heroes’, but it doesn’t make ‘Marvel Super Heroes’ a better game than its precursor.

You can’t go wrong playing any game in the long running series of ‘Vs.’ games. The cool thing about mash ups games like these is that, like Super Smash Bros., they really create a means to settle arguments between fans pertaining to who would win in fictional character battles. Fights like Wolverine vs. Doctor Doom and Juggernaut Vs. Colossus can all be seen here. When you get into later titles you can see fights like Captain Commando Vs. Roll, Servbot Vs. Storm, and Jill Valentine Vs. Akuma. This is fan service done right. Play either of these games for the vibrant visuals, smooth controls, great characters, and tons of fun.

War of the Gems (SNES) - Spiritual Successor to: X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse

X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse is a side scrolling Platformer/Beat ‘Em Up. The game focuses around five characters (Gambit, Psylocke, Cyclops, Wolverine, and Beast) as the group is infiltrating the island of Genosha in order to liberate mutants in captivity. You start the game with a choice of the five characters. Each has their own stages to be completed and you can play the stages in any order which is convenient, but unfortunately, the stages are tied to specific characters.

I understand that the different stages are supposed to be happening simultaneously, which is actually a cool plot design, but not being able to be your favorite character throughout the game just doesn’t sit well with me. Since one single character is tied to a specific stage, if that character loses all their lives then no other characters are able to play that level and the game is over.

The graphics, music, and control of ‘X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse’ are all top notch

War of the Gems is also a side-scrolling Platformer/Beat ‘Em Up, but this time the game focuses on Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, and The Hulk attempting to recover all six of the Infinity Gems.

Just like the previous game you start with a choice of five characters, but this time the characters are not tied to specific stages. If Iron Man is your favorite character, you are able to use him through the entire game, or at least until he runs out of lives. The difference here is that even if a character dies, you can continue playing the game as one of the other four characters. Also, you can collect items that will allow you to heal, execute special moves, and even revive slain characters.

Although this game came out later, it doesn’t seem to have the same amount of care put into it as its predecessor: the stage selection screen is boring; the music isn’t up to par; cheap hits are in abundance; and for some reason when Spider-Man shoots his web at enemies, they just stand there frozen for a second, rather than showing an animation of them being wrapped in the web.

One thing I love about both of these games is that in addition to the normal action buttons there are button combinations to pull off other attacks. The button combinations are very similar to those of Street Fighter (the roll characters not the charge characters), which makes sense because Capcom was in charge of both games.

Since button combinations are used for special moves in these games, it would have been nice to have the move set inputs shown in the pause menu as an easy reference. Unfortunately, this is not a feature in the game. However, if you are one of the lucky people who still owns the manuals to these games, inside you can find lists of the characters’ special moves and how to pull them off.

When I was younger and I played ‘War of the Gems’, I liked it a lot more than ‘X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse’. After playing them again back to back just a few weeks ago, it is clear that ‘X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse’, despite its flaws, holds up much better.

Still, I deduct points from both of these games for being 1-Player Beat ‘Em Ups. Neither of these two games came out anywhere near the launch of the system they reside on, so there are no excuses for not allowing a second player. While both games allow you to play as at least one of your favorite mainstream superheroes, ‘X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse’ is the better game.

And, to the artist who drew the art for Psylocke’s butt animation when she’s doing a crouching leg sweep, you are my favorite superhero.



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