In the 90’s, comic book games and the beat-em-up genre went together like peanut butter and jelly: X-Men, Spider-Man, The Punisher, Superman, and Batman all got their turn and of course there’s Data East’s Captain America and the Avengers. Though originally a coin-op game, it would make its way to the SNES and Sega Genesis like most other arcade smash hits at the time. For most arcade ports, the differences between the two machines was negligible to the point of pointlessness, your home experience and nostalgia for this game however, may be dependent on what system you had to play it on.
The Red Skull has gathered a group of the worst villains in the Marvel Universe and is threatening the earth with a giant laser cannon on the moon. It’s up to Captain America and his team of Avengers to spring into action to put a stop to this plan, of course, by beating on waves of countless goons and henchman.
Let’s face it, no one ever played these games for the story, and the same applies here. What matters is that you get to play as four of your favorite super heroes and bust some heads. In the roster is of course Captain America, as well as fellow Avengers Iron Man, Hawkeye and The Vision, with special guest appearances by the Wasp, Namor and Quicksilver. The difference between the four is ultimately up to personal preference as each plays exactly the same (punch, jump and shoot a projectile) with the only distinguishing feature being what bullet or object is shot or thrown.
Like most game in the genre, the best way to go up against the Red Skull is with a friend (two players only I’m afraid, not four like in the arcade.) Should you choose to play on your own, Data East did break up the scrolling brawler action with some scrolling shooting segments reminiscent of games like R-Type and Gradius in a variety of environments, including in the sky, underwater, and even outer space.
Of the two, the SNES versions is easily the prettiest with more colors and larger character sprites. The music is also better than the Sega Genesis port, though this was mostly the case for not only multi-platform games, but in general as well in my opinion. Graphics and sound are not the only things that make up a game however, and the true deciding factor is how the two play.
Porting duties to the console were handled by two different companies: Data East handled the Sega conversion duties, while the SNES SKU was handed off to Mindscape. To sum it up, the SNES game is way too broken and unplayable compared to its counterpart on the Sega Genesis. The characters move as if they’re skating with no blades, making it nearly impossible to line up with an enemy to attack them. The bad guys also have a longer invulnerability period than the heroes, stacking the odds in their favor…ON EASY. Seeing anything past level two in this game is a feat in and of itself.
The Sega Genesis port for its technical inadequacies is an exponentially more fun experience, and though it can pose a challenge even on easy, the difficulty is not insurmountable so you can actually see the game through to conclusion. As stated above, this is best done with a fellow Avenger at your side.
Mindscape’s destruction of the Captain America and the Avengers name would not be limited to the SNES, but to the Game Boy as well. You still get to play as all four characters, though this is a solo only affair, but the problems with the SNES game still present themselves: collision detection is loose when attacking and the game is far too difficult. It doesn’t help matters that each of the short stages in the home game are broken up into segments, making them even longer and thus harder on the Game Boy than even on the SNES.
The rule of thumb when it comes to home ports of Captain America and the Avengers is as follows: Data East yay, Mindscape nay. If you’ve only ever played the SNES version of this game and thought to yourself “this game is way too hard and frustrating,” do yourself a favor and pick up a Sega Genesis and its port. That game is an incredibly fun beat-em-up action game with enough variety to keep you entertained through its short campaign. If you see the other 16-bit game either on eBay or at your local retro game shop, I implore you to stay, far, far, FAR away.