Novel Graphics: The Five Best Comic Book Video Games
Swinging Spidey, timely Turtles and batty battles
By: Brian Walton
Two mediums absolutely tailor-made to cohabitate are comic books and video games. Who doesn’t want to take control of their favorite superhero or mutant thing and beat up thugs, monsters and supervillains? For almost as long as panels could be pixelated, capes and cartridges have paired like white wine and fish (tasty and sophisticated). There have been many such games over the decades, but we’ve got five that get our mojo rising most.
Spider-Man 2 – This has the rare distinction of being a trifecta: a game based on a movie based on a comic book. It’s widely accepted that most movie tie-in games leave a lot to be desired (namely, everything), but this game, based on the 2004 film of the same name, bucks the trend in style. You take control of New York’s favorite wall-crawler as he traverses the basic plot of its big screen counterpart, but you’re also able to just swing around the city and beat up random burglars and things at your leisure. It really gives you the feeling of being Peter Parker out on patrol. It’s not the hardest game in the world, but its quality is head and shoulders above what you might expect. Plus, it has Doctor Octopus – ‘Nuff said.
X-Men: The Arcade Game – In early 1992, about eight months prior to the premiere of the seminal Saturday morning cartoon, a game based on the 1989 TV production, “Pryde of the X-Men,” hit arcades. Super good timing, that. An oddity for arcades, there could be up to six simultaneous players, making for one of the most crowded gaming experiences of the era. In addition to characters everybody likes, one could also play as Dazzler, who was created in 1980 to capitalize on the disco craze, which was not at all dead, despite what people on Earth said. A version of this game was ported over to Xbox Live and Playstation Network in 2010, but without retaining the weird mirror-screen necessary for six-person playing, not to mention infinite “quarters,” it really loses a bit of its charm and appeal.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time – Arcade games were all the rage in the early 90s and so were Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; putting the two together was only a matter of… time? Taking the basic concept of the first game and adding better controls and a time-travel plot made this game the one we spent the bulk of our time and hard-earned quarters on. On top of all the villains from the cartoon series, Turtles in Time also featured Tokka and Rahzar from the at-the-time-new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. We still lament the fact that the game didn’t give us a video game version of Vanilla Ice. Even as a face on a punching bag.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 – One of the best fighting game series in history hit its apex in 2000 with its fourth installment: Marvel vs Capcom 2. Yes, the fourth game is number two; its awesomeness defies math. The list of combatants was raised to a whopping 28 on either side and this allowed players to concoct the matches they’ve always wanted to see: Iron Man vs Mega Man; Magneto vs M. Bison; and Rogue vs. Jill Valentine (don’t pretend you haven’t thought about it). Whole days have been lost playing this game and anyone who doesn’t walk away saying “Berserker Barrage!” at full volume has neither a soul nor the ability to feel happiness.
Batman: Arkham City (and Asylum) – If there is one franchise that has best captured the look, feel, and tone of the Batman comic books, it’s Rocksteady and Warner’s Arkham series. We didn’t think the superhero game could get any better than Arkham Asylum in 2009 and then Arkham City came out two years later. They have everything you could want from such a vast universe as the Caped Crusader’s: tons of characters and villains, enormous maps, scripts by Paul Dini and voice work by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. There is nothing more satisfying than sneaking up behind an unwitting thug and silently dispatching him in the shadows and nothing more frustrating than not finding that one lousy Riddler trophy. The only game in the world that can cause us for weeks to respond to everything with “I’m the God Damn Batman.”