MARVEL VIDEO GAMES ENDGAMES: WORTH THE HYPE?

This week the world turns its collective attention to Marvel Avengers: Endgame, a film that will conclude over a decade of films in the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe and reveal the fate of those affected by The Snap at the conclusion of Marvel Avengers: Infinity War. Throughout the years there have been many Marvel video games that share a connecting thread, either by having numbers in their title or by being spiritual successors with shared design ideas. Some have left players who have been along for the journey on a satisfying note, while others left them wishing they would just get one more chapter to bow out on a high note.

For the purposes of this feature, a series will be any that has either a number, is from the same publisher and has no rumored new entry in the pipeline. What this means is that Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer don’t count as they’re from different publishers – Activision and 2K respectively – and Marvel Ultimate Alliance won’t be included as it has a full numbered sequel coming. Each series will be graded on whether they ended on a “High” or “Low” point unless there’s some extenuating circumstances.

 

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (GAME BOY)

ENDGAME: SPIDER-MAN 3: INVASION OF THE SPIDER-SLAYERS

HIGH OR LOW NOTE: LOW

Rare’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the Game Boy was one of the better earlier Spider-Man games with great opening and between level character art, terrific music, and a decent representation of the title character and his gallery of rogues. Unfortunately Rare would not work on the sequels, with them being handed off to Bits Studio who crafted Spider-Man’s debut for the NES: Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six. None of the games by Bits would meet the standard set by Rare’s first outing with the immediate problem being that every game developed by Bits flipped jump and attack from what players were used to. Spider-Man 3: Invasion of the Spider-Slayers, which concluded one of the few Marvel video game trilogies not tied to a film, would end up better than the difficult to control and navigate Spider-Man 2, but would still fall short of Rare’s first outing, due in large part to clumsy controls and unfair platforming as early as the third stage.

 

X-MEN (SEGA GENESIS)

ENDGAME: X-MEN 2: CLONE WARS

HIGH OR LOW NOTE: HIGH

X-Men for the Sega Genesis is one of those games you would see commercials for on TV back in the ’90’-s and immediately be envious of those who owned a Sega Genesis. For how well it looked on commercials though, X-Men is a brutally tough game that is probably most remembered today for its gimmick at the end that required the player to hit the reset button on their console to complete it. Still, it sold very well and was followed by a sequel, X-Men 2: Clone Wars. If you’ve played X-Men, got frustrated with not being able to get past the first level and passed on the sequel, you should rectify that immediately as Clone Wars can be ranked with the best that the Genesis has to offer. It’s tough, but fair, looks great and even lets you play as Magneto. Sega’s X-Men series was set to have a third entry that would’ve starred the female members of the X-Family but it never came together as seen in a recent video on the Panels to Pixels YouTube channel. Whether or not it would have better than Clone Wars is difficult to say, but X-Men 2 is easily one of the best X-Men game released and a great send off for the teams time on the Genesis.

 

X-MEN (GAME GEAR)

ENDGAME: X-MEN: MOJO’S WORLD

HIGH OR LOW NOTE: LOW

Sega had plans to make a third 16-bit X-Men game as well as a spin-off for their 32X add-on but neither made it to market. Oddly enough the device that the X-Men made it to the coveted third entry in a series was on Sega’s Game Gear handheld. Released in 1996, X-Men: Mojo’s World wouldn’t be as well received by the press by the last entry in the series, 1995’s X-Men: Gamemaster’s Legacy with publications like EGM throwing out scores like 4.5/10 and GamePro saying things like “above average”. By the time Mojo’s World arrived, interest in the Game Gear was waning and it did little to get people to either pick up their Game Gear again if they owned one or buy one in the first place. Besides, Sega had already released the Nomad by that point which allowed you play Genesis games on the go, including the far superior Clone Wars.

 

SPIDER-MAN/VENOM: MAXIMUM CARNAGE (MULTI)

ENDGAME: VENOM/SPIDER-MAN: SEPARATION ANXIETY

HIGH OR LOW NOTE: LOW

Maximum Carnage is still even today one of the best Spider-Man games thanks to its great soundtrack, tight, brawler gameplay and use of digitized panels from the event series to tell its story. As great as it was though, it was missing a few things that go hand-in-hand in the beat ’em up genre, namely co-op, which was introduced in its sequel Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety. If you enjoyed taking to the streets and pounding on generic goons as either Spider-Man or his sometimes enemy, sometimes ally Venom, chances are you’ll enjoy Separation Anxiety – especially if you have a friend along for the ride – but it’s missing those things that made Maximum Carnage so special. The levels go on for too long, there’s very little work put into the presentation with its story told via screens with just a character on them and some yellow text and you would be hard pressed to remember any of the background music, save those that came back from Maximum Carnage. Separation Anxiety isn’t bad, it’s just a bad follow-up to Maximum Carnage.

 

X-MEN: MUTANT APOCALYPSE (SNES)

ENDGAME: MARVEL SUPER HEROES IN WAR OF THE GAMES

HIGH OR LOW NOTE: HIGH

1994’s X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse finally gave X-Men loving SNES fans something to brag about to their Sega Genesis friends in their school yard debates. Developed and published by Capcom, Mutant Apocalypse can best be described as X-Men meets Street Fighter with a sprinkle of Mega Man thrown in for good measure. Starting out you pick from one of five X-Men: Beast, Cyclops, Gambit, Psylocke and Wolverine, each with their own stage that must be completed before the game opens up and lets you pick whatever character you wish. Mutant Apocalypse didn’t get a numbered sequel, but 1996’s Marvel Super Heroes in War of the Gems is very much the second chapter of what Capcom did in their debut X-Men game. One character, Wolverine, would return, accompanied by Marvel heavy hitters like Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man and Spider-Man. Unlike Mutant Apocalypse, you could pick whatever character you wanted to accomplish a level with certain paths in stages opening up depending on whether or not you had certain characters. It’s both shorter and easier than Mutant Apocalypse, but War of the Gems is still a highly enjoyable game with an amazing soundtrack and well before its time given its plot revolving around the recovery of the Infinity Stones and final confrontation with the Mad Titan, Thanos.

 

CAPCOM’S MARVEL FIGHTING GAMES (MULTI)

ENDGAME: MARVEL VS. CAPCOM: INFINITE

HIGH OR LOW: HIGH

In late 1994 in Japan, Capcom would debut the one-on-one fighting game X-Men: Children of the Atom, a game that would eventually lead into the beloved crossover fighting series Marvel vs. Capcom. Capcom’s Marvel games would evolve into two-on-two fighters before upping the roster to three-on-three with the most popular entry in the series to date, Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes. From the mid-to-late 90’s Capcom’s Marvel fighters would release at a steady rate, but they took a long hiatus at the start of the new millennium before the series returned in 2011 with Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds and its Ultimate upgrade. The series would go dormant once again for many years after that, returning in 2017 with Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. Infinite is a game with many problems, from its roster that X-cludes any mutants, lack of modes and a far from loved artistic direction, but it’s still a masterfully crafted fighting game that is worthy to be part of the MvC legacy. This is mostly because of how well the game feels once you play it with concessions added to fighting game new-comers and veterans alike. If you have an Xbox One, you can download it now as part of the Game Pass program.

 

SPIDER-MAN (SONY PLAYSTATION)

ENDGAME: SPIDER-MAN 2: ENTER ELECTRO

HIGH OR LOW: HIGH

Neversoft’s Spider-Man, released in 2000, is seen by many as one of the first great superhero games, managing to capture the feel of playing as Spider-Man – for the first time in 3-D no less – while also telling a story that organically weaves in iconic villains like Scorpion, Rhino, Venom, Carnage and Doctor Octopus. It would debut on the PlayStation before getting ported to other platforms like the PC, Nintendo 64 and Sega Dreamcast, but its first and only sequel, 2001’s Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro, would remain a PlayStation exclusive. Taken on its own, Enter Electro is nowhere near as polished as its predecessor and features mostly B and C list villains that were leftover from the first game. When played together with Spider-Man (2000) though, Enter Electro manages to feel like a respectable extension and conclusion to this short saga before publisher Activision moved on to making mostly movie tie-in games.

 

SPIDER-MAN (GAME BOY COLOR)

ENDGAME: SPIDER-MAN 2: THE SINISTER SIX

HIGH OR LOW: HIGH

Spider-Man (2000) arrived on every console it possibly could at the time and it was the same game everywhere except on the Game Boy Color. The Game Boy Color game had the same plot more or less as its bigger sibling, but it was a side-scrolling action game and the best Spider-Man game on a portable device since The Amazing Spider-Man from Rare. About the only thing keeping it from being great was that it had an ambitious, open design where you were free to swing around a small, 2-D New York but it was easy to get lost sometimes, especially in a few of the stricter linear areas. It’s also a difficult game that will punish you if you don’t grind experience on low level enemies to make yourself stronger. Barely a few months later, a sequel would arrive from a new developer, Torus Games who took over from Vicarious Visions in Spider-Man 2: The Sinister Six which fixed all of the first games problems. Areas were linear, but also still open enough to explore and the challenge was reduced significantly. This was a good send off for the character before the release of the Game Boy Advance a few months later.

 

X-MEN: MUTANT ACADEMY (SONY PLAYSTATION)

ENDGAME: X-MEN: NEXT DIMENSIONS

HIGH OR LOW: HIGH

Debuting close to the teams feature film debut, X-Men: Mutant Academy is a respectable 2-D fighter that managed to justify its existence against Capcom’s own X-Men games thanks to some decent 3-D models, number of modes and unlockables. Like Spider-Man (2000) before it, it would get a quickly turned around sequel, X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 which offered more of the same but added new characters like Nightcrawler and Havok. Unlike Spider-Man, the Mutant Academy series would get a third chance in the next generation with the release of X-Men: Next Dimension from series developer Paradox. Its art direction would change to more reflect that of the films and the comics of the era – meaning less colorful outfits, more leather – but it would gain a story mode before studios like NetherRealm would try them with their most recent fighting games that served as a pseudo-sequel to the comic event Operation: Zero Tolerance. Oh, and its lead animator was a little known person named Cory Barlog.

 

SPIDER-MAN (2002) (MULTI)

ENDGAME: SPIDER-MAN 3

HIGH OR LOW: IT DEPENDS

People normally frown on movie games, but with their Spider-Man film tie-ins, Activision and developer Treyarch built upon the foundation of the PlayStation Spider-Man games before setting the bar that needed to be topped with the 2004 open world game Spider-Man 2, a game that until last year was at the very top of people’s favorite Spider-Man games of all time list. 2007’s Spider-Man 3 was a different story though, at least on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, as it managed to be one of the worst reviewed Spider-Man games from Activision with its over use of quick-time events, odd character models and worse feeling web-swinging mechanics despite being on more advanced hardware. Spider-Man 3 on other devices like the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS were better than the versions that had come before them though, in particular Spider-Man 3 on the DS with its brilliant touch-screen controls.

 

X-MEN LEGENDS (MULTI)

ENDGAME: X-MEN LEGENDS 2: RISE OF APOCALYPSE

HIGH OR LOW: HIGH

Activision’s trio of X-Men fighting games were fine, but what players really wanted was a larger adventure starring the team which is what they got with the 2004 action-RPG X-Men Legends. Played either solo or with up to four-players in co-op, Legends allowed players to build a team of their favorite X-Men characters, develop them as they wished in a plot that saw the X-Men battle Magneto’s Brotherhood. A year later, developer Raven released a follow-up that was even better, allowing you to make teams made up of both the X-Men as well as Magneto and his Brotherhood. Costumes in the first Legends were designed after the more uniform design of the Ultimate Universe, but Rise of Apocalypse allowed you to switch out into more familiar outfits that gave each member of your team far more personality. X-Men Legends 2 set itself up for a sequel that never happened, however the structure of the game would morph into the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series that, like the transition from Mutant Apocalypse to War of the Gems, brought in character from all corners of the Marvel Universe.

 

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN (NINTENDO DS AND GAME BOY ADVANCE)

ENDGAME: SPIDER-MAN: BATTLE FOR NEW YORK

HIGH OR LOW: LOW

2005’s Ultimate Spider-Man was the first attempt to make something inspired by the Spider-Man comics line instead of the films since 2000’s Spider-Man. Developer Treyarch moved onto Spider-Man 3 so Ultimate Spider-Man, at least on consoles, didn’t get any type of sequel. On handhelds though, Ultimate Spider-Man was followed by the uninspired  Spider-Man: Battle for New York. The events of Ultimate Spider-Man aren’t mentioned in Battle for New York’s narrative, but everything about its design, from its graphics, controls, and character designs make this a direct sequel follow-up to Ultimate Spider-Man from developer Vicarious Visions. Torus Games would take over from Vicarious Visions on Battle for New York and follow its blue print closely in everywhere but the controls where it perhaps mattered most. Whether on the Game Boy Advance and the DS, it’s clumsy to play as either Spider-Man or Ultimate Green Goblin in both games where even the first level can stump you because of how bad the collision detection is. The Game Boy Advance version of Battle for New York fares better than its DS counterpart, however both fail to live up to Ultimate Spider-Man.

 

IRON MAN (MULTI)

ENDGAME: IRON MAN 2

HIGH OR LOW: LOW

There had to have been more than a fair share of people who left a theater in 2008 and wanted to suit up as Iron Man in a video game, but Iron Man from Sega was not the game they wanted to do that in. The DS game was an enjoyable twin-stick shooter, but the at the time next-generation console game, the one most people wanted to get their hands on, offered more frustration than thrills. Sega had the opportunity to fix their mistakes with the 2010 release of Iron Man 2, a game that they claimed would make up for the first game but instead was worse overall. Whereas the original game featured big areas to fly around and explore, Iron Man 2 was largely linear and could be beaten in just a few hours. The game of the same name on the DS was a decent side-scroller that played up the dual character selling point of the Iron Man 2 video game project, but it felt less clever overall than the ambitious first DS game.

 

SPIDER-MAN: SHATTERED DIMENSIONS (MULTI)

ENDGAME: SPIDER-MAN: EDGE OF TIME

HIGH OR LOW: LOW

Marking a departure from the open-world Spider-Man games Activision had been producing since 2004, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions from developer Beenox returned to the linear outings of the PlayStation days in a fan-favorite adventure that spanned four universes, each with their own Spider-Man. Given its success, a sequel was commissioned and released barely a year later: Spider-Man: Edge of Time. There’s a lot to like about Edge of Time, in particular its story and performances, but it comes across as a poor expansion to Shattered Dimensions unlike Enter Electro which also was a downgrade but also a great companion piece. Everything in Edge of Time feels smaller, starting with its cast of two Spider-Man, down from four in the first game. It takes place in one location, the Alchemax corporation facility in both the past and future, but neither period offers any memorable scenery or chance to really be Spider-Man. The cast of villains is also non-existent with only Anti-Venom and Black Cat making appearances.

The DS version would see more bad guys for each Spider-Man to tussle with, but like the console game, it’s nowhere near as enjoyable. Shattered Dimensions on the DS is an excellent Metroid-Vania game with an easy to understand map, whereas Edge of Time has a similar design but is crafted in such a way that you’re constantly lost and have no idea where to go next.

 

MARVEL SUPER HERO SQUAD (MULTI)

ENDGAME: MARVEL SUPER HERO SQUAD: COMIC COMBAT

HIGH OR LOW: LOW

The first Marvel Super Hero Squad game from THQ was clearly designed with a younger demographic in mind, just like the animated series in which it took inspiration from, and mostly had you following linear paths and beating up brain-dead foes. Its sequel though, The Infinity Gauntlet from developer Griptonite was a fun  proto-LEGO game where, like the long running series from TT Games, two characters solve simple puzzles using their unique abilities. There was even a freeplay mode where you could return to find items with character abilities you didn’t have access to in the main story mode, furthering the LEGO game comparison. The final game in the Marvel Super Hero Squad series, Comic Combat, was tied to the poorly selling uDraw tablet which meant that it was more or less doomed before it was even released. Comic Combat has some unique controls where you have to draw on the tablet, but such ideas would have been far better suited to either the DS or 3DS platform.

 

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012 (MULTI)

ENDGAME: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014)

HIGH OR LOW: LOW

When Beenox took over the Spider-Man franchise in 2010, they did so by going back a linear structure like Spider-Man’s first ever 3-D outing. For their debut movie game, 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, they produced their first ever open-world outing with the character and it was a respectable one. The web-swinging was far less technical – you didn’t need to anchor your webs to buildings – but there was a large world to explore and collect comic covers in, the combat was solid albeit derivative of the Arkham series and there was plenty to keep you occupied.There was every reason to hope that should Beenox get a second opportunity to make a game like this again, it could be better, but like Edge of Time, that wasn’t the case. The web-swinging in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) was more technical for those who were let down by the simplicity of the first game, but a new morality system in which you had to keep doing mundane side-quests in order to keep your swinging routes clear from obstacles and enemy swarms sapped the fun out of it altogether. The story too was also nonsensical, though that was hardly the fault of the game as the film had the same problem.

 

LEGO MARVEL SUPER HEROES (MULTI)

ENDGAME: LEGO MARVEL SUPER HEROES 2 

HIGH OR LOW: LOW

2013’s LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is simply one of the best Marvel games ever produced, weaving in characters from every corner of the Marvel Universe and doing so while putting a huge smile on your face. The fifteen mission campaign sends you to the Baxter Building, Oscorp, the X-Mansion and Asgard among many other iconic locations. When you’re done with the story mode, you then have a giant New York City playground in which to explore in search of new characters and side-missions. When it was announced there was going to be a LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, there was reason to be excited because of the quality of the first game, but the final product was sadly nowhere near as memorable. There’s a lot to do in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, and a creative new open area to journey through made up of different universes and points in time, but it’s hard not to notice the lack of characters from either the X-Men or Fantastic Four camps present. The voice acting for the characters, a victim of an actors strike, just isn’t quite as good either and a lot of the jokes fall flat. Like a few other sequels on this list, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is by no means bad, it’s just that the original game was such a tough act to follow.

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One thought on “MARVEL VIDEO GAMES ENDGAMES: WORTH THE HYPE?

  1. Pingback: COULD THERE BE AN X-MEN 3 AND CHAKAN 2 IN OUR FUTURE? | Comic Gamers Assemble

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