CELEBRATING THE CANADIAN DEVELOPERS OF COMIC BOOK GAMES ON CANADA’S 150TH BIRHTDAY

Canada, the country in which I call home, is celebrating a milestone birthday today. July 1st, 2017 marks the 150th birthday of the day that the country known as Canada came into existence. Video game fans owe a lot to the country of Canada, for without it and the talented people who live in it, we wouldn’t have games like Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon or franchises like Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed as well as Splinter Cell and the continuation of series like Far Cry and Prince of Persia. Canada has also given us a fair share of comic book and super hero games as well.

My home province of Newfoundland is home to Other Ocean Interactive who just recently launched the VR title Giant Cop: Justice Above All and the mobile title Super Samurai Rampage. In 2011 they were responsible for the handheld versions of two beloved Marvel franchises that in turn had console games also developed by Canadian companies: Spider-Man: Edge of Time as well as X-Men: Destiny. The primary version Edge of Time was developed by Quebec based Beenox, who were stewards of the Spider-Man franchise from 2010 to 2014, making four unique titles across many consoles and platforms including the beloved Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, as well as Spider-Man: Edge of Time and the two games in the The Amazing Spider-Man movie series. Other Ocean would also be the ones in charge of the DS SKU of the last Spider-Man DS game, The Amazing Spider-Man. X-Men: Destiny was the final game from St. Catherines, Ontario Silicon Knights who are best known for the GameCube exclusives Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requim and Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes among others.

Perhaps the best known Canadian video game company is Ubisoft with studios in the provinces of Nova Scotia, Quebec as well as Ontario. Before they were known for franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell, they made games based on Batman: The Animated Series in 2001’s Batman: Vengeance and its sequel, 2003’s Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu. The trilogy that put Ubisoft’s Montreal studio on the map was the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time series of games, and a lot of the mechanics of that series made their way into the game based off of the 2007 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles CGI-animated feature, simply titled TMNT. The last comic book game in which Ubisoft has produced was the Kinect only/Wii U title Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth, which was the only video game released in 2012 on a console in the same year that Marvel’s The Avengers broke box-office records.

Ubisoft was not the only Canadian team to work on DC’s coveted Batman franchise. The newly formed WB Games Montreal made the only original console Arkham title to date with the 2013 prequel title Batman: Arkham Origins. The team also worked on the largest expansion of 2015’s Batman: Arkham Knight in the downloadable expansion Batgirl: A Matter of the Family which was the first time the character of Batgirl was playable in the Arkham series. Eric Holmes, who’s no longer with WB Games Montreal but worked on Batman: Arkham Origins, used to work at now defunct Vancouver, British Columbia developer Radical Entertainment who crafted the 2003 title Hulk based off the Ang Lee directed film of the same name as well as the Hulk game that has yet to be topped since 2005, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Another sadly closed Vancouver based company, United Front Games, who only closed last year, helped work on the toys-to-life game Disney Infinity, most importantly worked on the Power Stone inspired playset Marvel Battlegrounds. Another Marvel fighting game, the mobile exclusive Marvel Contest of Champions is similarly developed by another Vancouver based developer, Kabam.

July 1st is a day to celebrate Canada, but it’s funny to think that the best game released starring the Star Spangled Avenger, Captain America, was made in Canada. Next Level Games, also based in Vancouver, were the ones who made the best Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One tie-in title the Sega published Captain America: Super Soldier which was heavily influenced by the Arkham series of games. Before going on to working with a little company known you might have heard of called Nintendo where they made the Punch-Out!! reboot for the Wii as well as Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for the 3DS, Next Level got their start making the co-op brawler Spider-Man: Friend or Foe that featured characters inspired by the Sam Raimi developed Spider-Man trilogy. The DS and PSP versions of that game were made by Artificial Mind and Movement, abbreviated to A2M, but now known as Behavior Interactive who made three Teen Titans games: One for PS2 as well as GameCube and two on Game Boy Advance, and every version of the first Iron Man movie tie-in game save the one on PS3 and Xbox 360.

One of the best titles released in the first year that the PS3 was on market was a first-person shooter developed by Starbreeze (The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay) based on the Image/Top Cow series, The Darkness. Starbreeze didn’t return for the first and only sequel based on that game, The Darkness II, instead duties were handed off to London, Ontario based Digital Extremes. While far more linear than its open predecessor, The Darkness II was a worthy follow-up to the 2007 original and was one of the best early games to release in 2012.

Whether you realized it or not, you wouldn’t be playing some of your favorite games or series, including those based off of comic book properties, if not for Canada and the wonderful Canadians that live within it. Whether you live in this country or not, today’s a day to celebrate among other things the great pieces of software this country has given us over the years. Happy birthday, Canada, here’s to many more to come and of course more great video games.

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