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Mania Manifesto: Top 8 Comic Book Video Games
Not All Comic Video Games Suck
By Damon Brown
July 08, 2008
Konami's original X-Men arcade game takes the cake.
Each week, Mania special correspondent Damon Brown, author of Porn & Pong: How Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider and Other Sexy Games Changed Modern Pop Culture, offers his unique take on society, entertainment and other issues of critical concern to Maniacs. You can also find Brown writing about technology, sex, music and video games for Playboy and Spin.
#8: Superman (Arcade)
THE SITUATION: Released in conjunction to nothing, Taito’s Superman was a two-player take on the Man of Steel. The side-scrolling game alternated between two sequences: beating up enemies on the ground a la Final Fight and flying above the metropolis shooting laser beams at bad guys. It was a sleeper hit in the late ‘80s.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: Okay, so there are two Supermans, but weren’t there a bunch more in the comics it was based on? Once you get over the red and blue twins, Superman is a kick-ass game with fast-paced flying, chest-caving punches and tough bosses. The bass-heavy sound effects makes it feel like you are really hurting people, er, mutants.
#7: Spider-Man 2 (Home Consoles)
THE SITUATION: Loosely based on the movie, Activision’s Spider-Man 2 has the webslinger protecting New Yorkers from mundane car jackers and muggers as well as from supervillians like Rhino, Calypso and Dr. Octopus. You can take missions in almost any order you wish.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: Released during the height of Grand Theft Auto fever, Spider-Man 2 was the first major game to put a superhero in an open-ended environment. The result? A crazy, breathtaking adventure through a picture-perfect replica of Manhattan. And, like the movies, all attempts before and after Spider-Man 2 paled in comparison (on that note, just avoid Spider-Man 3. Really.).
#6: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade)
THE SITUATION: The avenging turtles set out to destroy Krang, Shredder and other baddies, and save their “love interest” April. It was one of the few four-player games, handled like a fighter and featured colorful graphics straight from the comic.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: Grab three friends and the arcade game becomes a fun romp through the twisted, hilarious TMNT universe. The action is fast, the enemies are tough, but fair, and the visuals were so crisp that it took Konami several years to bring a proper version home. It was so good, gamers loudly complained about the TMNT Nintendo “adventure” title released at the same time, a game that was as frustrating and as clunky as any Superman video game.
#5: City of Heroes (PC)
THE SITUATION: The first major massively multiplayer online role playing game geared towards superheroes, City of Heroes has players protecting Paragon City. Gamers can create their own superhero from scratch.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: After playing City of Heroes, the first question is “Why wasn’t this done before?” The open-world system is great and the continual upgrades, called “issues,” add more dimensions to the storyline.
#4: X-Men Legends 2 (Home Consoles)
THE SITUATION: Half-RPG, half-action game, X-Men Legends 2 takes the character building of the somewhat narrow original and spreads the action across several intergalactic environments. More than a dozen different X-Men (and affiliates) are available for the team.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: From Wolverine’s pathetic offerings to Hulk knockoffs, it’s difficult to find a solid home game based on a comic. The buggy Marvel: Ultimate Alliance comes close, but the learning curve of the new next-gen systems proved too steep. The older X-Men Legends 2 is a great balance of nice graphics, solid controls and fun gameplay.
#3: Marvel Super Heroes (Arcade)
THE SITUATION: Taking a break from Street Fighter II sequels, Capcom reimagined the Marvel universe as a 2D fighter with characters leaping two-to-three stories in the air.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: Capcom simply answered the hypothetical question: Who would win in a battle between Wolverine and Nightcrawler, or between Magneto and Juggernaut? The fighting styles vary greatly, but the basic controls—like a looser version of Street Fighter II’s—are easy to pick up. There was also the rush of leaping up, meeting an enemy in mid-air and slamming him to the ground. Pow!
#2: Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures (PC)
THE SITUATION: Based on the classic comic, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures brings all the gore, sex appeal and treasure lust to a MMORPG. Released in late May, the game has sold more than 700,000 copies.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: Sure, we have World of Warcraft, Everquest and the aforementioned City of Heroes, but we have very few MMORPGs that are actually based on a linage. Eidos took a risk being true to such a gruesome comic – and putting these adult themes into a video game – and, in the process, made a solid RPG with a vast universe.
#1: X-Men (Arcade)
THE SITUATION: X-Men was a beat-‘em-up featuring six characters: Cyclops, Colossus, Dazzler, Nightcrawler, Storm and Wolverine. A side-scroller shown over three connected arcade monitors, it was one of the few six-player video games ever made.
WHY IS THIS ON THE LIST?: Nothing was ever the same after you and five of your friends took on a X-Men video game machine. The graphics and speech effects were wonderful, but the stimulation from watching three different screens and the chaos of taking on literally dozens of enemies with your friends was unparalled. If you happen to see it at an arcade—assuming, ahem, you can find an arcade—drop everything, get $20 worth of quarters and clear your afternoon. It is an awesome reminder of why we need arcades, especially since, almost two decades later, Konami still hasn’t found a way to bring it home.