Tag Archives: acclaim

FGC #436 The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare

SIMPSONS DID ITWhy do I keep this website going? Why write about videogames? Because even the most innocuous of videogames contain magnitudes.

Today’s title is The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare, a game I rented and played more times than Ralph Wiggum could ever hope to count. I didn’t actually own the cartridge until very late in the SNES’s lifespan (a glorious time of liquidations and sales), but I rented it repeatedly because A. I loved The Simpsons, and B. I couldn’t hope to beat it. The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare is a surprisingly difficult game, and, given my childhood OCD habits, I couldn’t exist as a human being knowing I had not completed such a challenge. If I could conquer Bart vs. The Space Mutants, I could certainly handle Indiana Bart.

And, while I did eventually win the day (very eventually), it took a wee Goggle Bob many a rental to finally see Bart earn an A+. Why? Well, mostly because The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare is kind of a mess of seven different games sewn together. We’ve got Bart tomb raiding, and it’s primarily a puzzle situation with some very unusual offensive controls. We’ve got Bart vs. Itchy and Scratchy, an action game with extremely deadly traps and tricks. Bart-Man flying through the skies is, conversely, a very forgiving shoot ‘em up. Bart in his own bloodstream playing Dig-Dug with viruses and collecting nuclear cowboys defies any basic kind of genre or logic. And Big Bartzilla plays pretty close to a rhythm-challenged portion of Rhythm Heaven, while Lil’ Bartzilla is a… climbing simulator? Regardless, neither version of Bartzilla is just straight up Rampage, and that’s a shame. All of this is tied together by a “hub world” that is about CRUSH!80% action, 20% adventure. You have to think the tiniest bit! As you can see, that’s a lot of different games all rolled into one, and, while mastering one or two might be doable, it takes a lot of practice (and heartbreak) to overcome the entirety of Bart’s Nightmare. I did it when I was a kid. I was proud of it when I was a kid.

Playing Bart’s Nightmare as an adult, though? Now I can safely say that Bart’s Nightmare sucks.

Look, there’s a lot of game here. There are a lot of interesting ideas. But practically every one of these ideas is 100% half-baked. Bart dodging grenades in his own bloodstream sounds like a fever dream to begin with, but the actual mechanics of that level are never satisfying. There are two enemies: one can only ever bother you, while the other employs a persistent instant death attack. And the only way to immediately tell the difference is to check out their hats. And that gets a little… insane when they start swarming the screen. And the objective of that level is to grab a randomly spawning mascot (that had appeared in a whole four episodes at this point… he’s at six now), and your success is usually determined by whether or not he/it happened to appear anywhere near your poor, difficult to control Bart. And that’s just one of the games! I could spend literally the entire rest of this article recounting the Weeeeemany, many issues in practically every segment of this title. Do you want to hear about how difficult it is to master the timing for defeating Homer Kong/King Homer? Because I could tell you stories…

And, looking at Bart’s Nightmare as an enlightened, completely objective adult (that is also handsome and super smrt), I can see exactly what went wrong: it’s not good enough. Like… uh… objectively! Bart’s Nightmare has a lot of interesting ideas, but no single portion of the game is fully-realized. It’s a collection of mini-games that do not add up to one single good game because each individual piece needs a few more hours (days… months?) of playtesting and tweaking. There’s a skeleton of an excellent game here, but the flesh is weak and pasty. A little more time, and Bart’s Nightmare could have been one of the greats of the 16-bit era.

And it also would have been nice if Bart’s Nightmare didn’t force someone to retire from making videogames entirely.

Let’s talk about Bill Williams. Bill Williams was born in 1960, and was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis early in life. He learned at the age of 12 that he was unlikely to live past 13. He died at 38 (okay, technically 37, but it was a day before his birthday, so we’re going to call that close enough). Bill Williams was one of the earliest videogame designers, apparently getting into the field in the early 80’s because he saw the Atari and Amiga as the future (back when systems were simply “the future” and not just “the future of gaming”). And Williams wound up responsible for some seriously weird titles of the time. Salmon Run, his first title, was basically Frogger but with some manner of fish (probably a trout?). Necromancer was the story of a Geomancer growing an army of trees to battle the titular Necromancer and his undead army (and, yes, this remains one of the few games to even reference the historical rivalry between sentient forests and ogres). Mind Walker, one of the first Amiga 1000 titles, defies description in every possible way. It’s… uh… it’s kind of like Lawnmower Man? And the selectable characters are a body builder, nymph, wizard, or alien. And you can play with Sigmund Freud’s pipe. Move alongIt’s… uh… something. Regardless, Williams was responsible for many different games, and many of his games were solely his creation: he was responsible for graphics, sound, concept, and programming these titles. Yes, that was a lot easier back in the day of “green dot is actually a dragon”, but take a look at some of his creations, and you’ll realize this guy really knew how to push those pixels to the limit.

As the world moved on to bigger and more Mega Man-based systems, Bill Williams stuck around to work on some more licensed titles. Monopoly for the NES was a Bill Williams joint. And so was The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare. And, incidentally, The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare made Bill Williams quit the entire industry.

If there is more information on exactly what happened during Bart’s Nightmare’s development, I haven’t found it. However, it isn’t too hard to see what happened here. Bart’s Nightmare is a game teeming with interesting ideas. Take the hub world: there are a variety of different enemies, from Lisa the Fairy to Principal Skinner to Jimbo and the Bullies to “Grandma”. However, they all work in a sort of ecosystem where one “threat” is actually helpful when Bart is beset by another monster. Grandma’s kiss causes Bart to stop and lose points, but when Lisa turns Bart into a helpless frog, Granny’s kiss will restore his human form. And being a frog sucks, but if Bart is captured by the bullies, it is Lisa that will transform them into harmless rats. Principal Skinner’s suit will disable Bart’s offensive capabilities (though kind of make him invincible), but jumping into the normally aggravating puddle of mud will retire the suit. There’s even a unique take on the “lifebar” and how performing different feats, like controlling bubblegum bubbles or skateboarding, will extend Bart’s dream existence in curious ways. In short, there are a hundred fascinating ideas in just one area of Bart’s Nightmare, and an entire game with this much creativity on display could have revolutionized gaming for 1992.

What is evening happening?But Bart’s Nightmare did not wind up a revolutionary game. Bart’s Nightmare, in its final incarnation, is not particularly fun. There are a lot of exciting ideas on display, but they are not implemented well or completely. It is very easy to see how an additional few months could have refined Bart’s Nightmare to be something that is truly classic, but this was another random bit of Simpsons merchandise. Reading between the lines… and a few interviews with Bill Williams… and you can easily see how Bart’s Nightmare was rushed out the door the minute it was passable. The age of the videogame orator was over, and Williams was forced to release an unfinished product for the exclusive purpose of sopping up some Simpsons cash. Thus did Bill Williams retire from gaming, and began writing a series of meditations on being a Christian living with an incurable disease, ultimately a return to a field where he could again be a sole author of his work. He passed away six years after Bart’s Nightmare, living just long enough to see the rise of the JRPG and titles that were a little more narratively interesting than “Bart has a dream”. However, whether he was even still looking at the industry he once loved so much is unknown. Considering what he did with the meager Amiga, we can only imagine what could have been possible if he got his hands on a Playstation dev kit.

But it’s for people like Bill Williams that I keep the FGC going. The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare is not a good game, but it is inexorably linked to a much greater story. Videogames are art, and every piece tells a story, regardless of whether or not “Bart as Indiana Jones” is the least fun experience anyone could ever imagine. Every plastic cartridge, every disc contains volumes that extend far beyond their credits roll. Whether it be a game that is eternally tied to childhood memories or the actions of a man that was remarkable for his place in the industry, every game has the potential to be important to the great tapestry of human achievement. Every videogame can have a lesson.

And let Bart’s Nightmare be a lesson to you, sweeties. Never love anything.

FGC #436 The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare

  • DespicableSystem: Super Nintendo Chalmers, but also ported to Lisa Genesis.
  • Number of players: Don’t have a two player mode, man.
  • Casual Racism: Apu’s only appearance is zooming by on a flying carpet to dispense squishies. Get it!? He’s Indian! Everybody laugh at that silly foreigner!
  • Is Bart, at any point during his sleep, a Viking? Sadly, no.
  • Favorite Dream: I think I will always have a soft spot for the Bartman segment, as it was the first stage/level/dream/whatever that I was actually good at. I really want to like the Bartzilla segments… but they kinda suck. Can you just let me stomp around as a kaiju in peace!?
  • So, did you beat it: I did! Once (without savestates)! And it took so many in-game tries, I think I maxed out the score counter. I probably played that game continuously for so many uninterrupted hours, it’s a wonder my SNES didn’t explode.
  • I did the Iggy: The final boss of the Itchy & Scratchy segment is… a furnace. That’s it. Just a furnace. And this was before that one Treehouse of Horror where a furnace was relevant for like thirty seconds. To say the least, this was an odd choice.
  • Did you know? There’s a Simpsons short from the Tracey Ullman days titled “Bart’s Nightmare”. It’s mainly about Bart stealing cookies (what a bad boy), and the only whimsy involved is a brief bit where Bart is shrunk down to tiny size. As “tiny” isn’t the premise of a single level in the game, I’m going to go ahead and say the existence of the short is merely a coincidence.
  • Would I play again: Bart’s Nightmare has a weird and interesting place in gaming history. And that’s cool! Unfortunately, that doesn’t make the title any more fun to play. I’ll pass on a replay until I get extremely nostalgic.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Princess Peach for the Nintendo DS. Peachy! Please look forward to it!

Good Job!
Like Bart cares about getting an A.

FGC #228 Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

Here he comes!I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around Turok: Dinosaur Hunter since ROB chose the dang game, and now you’re going to have to read my meandering thoughts.

First of all, if I hadn’t already written that Goldeneye article, this one would be almost exactly what you see there. I have never been “into” FPSs, and, frankly, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter never did that genre any favors. I guess it was the first unique FPS on a Nintendo platform? If we’re not including Faceball? Look, I’m not a FPSologist (I’m still trying to work out the plural of “FPS” here), but I can tell you that Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was a big deal with people that would care about such a thing. It’s like Doom! But for the home consoles! Think of the inevitable rage wars to come! And, honestly, before I played the game, I was kind of excited about Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. I mean, seriously, you can’t go too wrong with dinosaur hunting, and I want to say I was still riding a wave of dinosaur excitement from Jurassic Park, the movie that reaffirmed everyone’s longstanding belief that T-Rexes are cool. Oh, and it’s one of those games that has every weapon from bow ‘n arrows to grenade launcher. I’m always happy to see that.

And then it occurred to me: the only reason I knew about Turok’s better points before it was actually in my hands was Nintendo Power. As I’ve mentioned before, I read that magazine from cover to cover on a remarkably frequent basis (I can probably quote Counselor’s Corner more accurately than my own mother), and if some game made it into that elusive (re: not at all elusive) cover spot, then you better believe I was on board (Well, except Ken Griffey Baseball, I’m not one for the sports). And Nintendo Power spoke of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter in the same excited tones as other N64 hits like Mario 64 or Killer Instinct Gold, so obviously there must be some meat on these dinosaur bones.

GET EMSo I got Turok: Dinosaur Hunter for Christmas and, spoilers, it sucked. It’s not my genre, I know that, but I’ve made it past the first level in a few other “not my thing” games. I’ve never been a big fan of the pre-RE4 Resident Evil games, but I always gave the ol’ college try on those zombie ‘em ups. That didn’t happen with Turok. And, yes, I have to add the caveat that maybe Turok gets better after its introductory stage, and maybe the raptors stop running into my bullets, and maybe any opponent with heavy weaponry doesn’t instantly kill Turok, and maybe, just maybe, the jumping improves from the absolute horror show that inevitably leads to a mountain of Turok corpses…. But I don’t have much hope. I have (had?) friends that were into Turok back in the day, and, as far as I remember, not a one ever mentioned, “Oh it gets so much better after it turns out the whole thing is taking place in primitive Middle Earth, and you’re secretly King of the Dwarfs”.

Suffice it to say, I did not hold out much hope for the ROB-mandated half hour of Turok that preceded writing this article. “Let’s get this over with” was my primary thought on the matter. And then I actually played Turok for the first time in… wow, the game turns twenty this March? Yeesh. Anyway, I played Turok and…

Well, it still sucks.

But I can see where they were going with this. There are arrowheads that, like coins in Mario, lead Turok forward. There are initial “weak” enemies, and then a progression of stronger critters. Initial “sub bosses” and such seem to be easy to take down even if you suffer a few hits. And, while it is still absolutely annoying, the first major “jumping area” is over a shallow lake that forgives misses, and doesn’t instantly lead to total Turok death. There are some… passable concessions to “is this your first FPS?” in the opening areas of Turok, and, given its placement in the grand timeline of videogames, that seems completely reasonable. Turok is still awful, but the opening “soft tutorial areas” seem less… militant about it.

And then I realized what I wanted all along: I needed a straight-up Nintendo produced FPS.

Hot hot hotSay what you will about tutorial stages and golden guide blocks and whatever, but Nintendo is great at “is this your first videogame? Well, we’re here to help!” World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. and Miyamoto’s “I design world 2 first, then I go back and make the baby training levels” design philosophy have been analyzed repeatedly by smarter men than I, but it seems that you can point to nearly any Nintendo game in existence and see the similar thinking. Star Fox? This is how you play a shoot ‘em up, and, by the way, if you’re feeling saucy, trying flying through those arches, and see what happens. Wii Fit? Let’s start with basic standing, and eventually you’ll be twisting yourself into a pretzel and balancing perfectly. Mario Kart? Assuming you don’t start time trialing Rainbow Road right out of the box, those opening tracks and the 50cc are there specifically so you can learn the ropes and maybe win a trophy while you’re doing it. And that same guiding hand even seems to have been applied to “second party” games, like Pokémon or Donkey Kong Country. Pokémon is the most beloved JRPG series worldwide, and part of that must be because of its general… gentleness in poking the player forward. That, and the sheer adorableness of Hypno.

WeeeAnd now I kinda feel like the entire reason I missed out on enjoying so many FPSs along the way is because Nintendo never made its big “this is the FPS from Nintendo” franchise. Before and after Turok, it was a long time before I played anything that even looked like a FPS that took the time to “train” the player for the hard parts, and, without that base level of skill, I never got into the genre. It’s not Acclaim’s fault. It’s not Id Software’s fault. It’s Nintendo’s fault! You failed me, Nintendo! Where’s the whacky, cartoon FPS that gets me into understanding the genre? Help me get good at death matches, Nintendo!

Anyway, I feel like washing the stink of Turok out of my brain with some Splatoon, so if anyone wants to hop on later, let me know.

FGC #228 Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

  • System: N64 and PC. And I guess there was a remake recently for modern systems? I’m not even going to address that concept.
  • Number of players: Just one. The days of mandatory death matches were still a few months away.
  • Hey, wait, you cited Donkey Kong Country as an example, shouldn’t Goldeneye count, too? Let’s claim Rare was well on its way out at that point, and was taking fewer notes from Nintendo. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
  • ARGHRelics of a bygone age: Oh, my controller pak isn’t saving data properly? I am shocked by this information.
  • Say something nice: Turok climbs vines/ladders/etc like a boss. So fast! A certain Hyrulian Hero could learn a thing or two from this guy.
  • Dirty Rotten Cheater: Like GTA, this is yet another game that is enhanced by its extensive cheat list. Disco Mode? Yes please.
  • So, did you beat it: Actually, I lied in the article. I did play levels other than Level 1, as I cheated forward quite a few times to see what was going on. I was not impressed. I do think I cheated straight to the credits one time, though?
  • Did you know? Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was actually basically a promotional game for the Turok: Dinosaur Hunter comic published by Acclaim Comics. Acclaim Comics came about when Acclaim purchased Voyager Communications (founded by Jim Shooter) back during the 90’s comics crash, and then Acclaim Comics became simply Valiant when Acclaim went bankrupt. Look, what’s important is that Ivar, Time Walker is in the same universe as Turok… or… something?
  • Would I play again: Not even if it meant I could win my own pet T-Rex. And I really want a T-Rex.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Wrath of the Black Manta for the NES! Look out, Crocodile Hunters, the Black Manta is coming to town! Please look forward to it!

Noice

FGC #127 The Itchy & Scratchy Game

They fight and bite!The Simpsons premiered when I was in second grade, and, honestly, I didn’t really consider all of its “pieces” until I was in college (about when the DVD collections started being released, incidentally). Until I really started analyzing The Simpsons, every random bit of the show seemed perfectly mundane, and, in some cases, much more original than I thought. Even when The Simpsons called out its own foibles, I never noticed characters like Chief Wiggum or Fat Tony were archetypes at best and blatant rip-offs at worse. It’s similar to the “Nintendo Age” syndrome I described in regards to Rygar: when you’re a kid, everything is pure and “natural”, so of course there are four fingered yellow guys running around, and they’re simultaneously completely original and generationally established. Dad probably watched something just like The Simpsons when he was a kid.

That is true… kinda. The Simpsons is often compared to The Flintstones, a cartoon sitcom that premiered almost exactly thirty years before The Simpsons. The Flintstones was an unrivaled hit, and existed, in either spinoff or syndicated format, right up through The Simpsons’ premiere. It’s no wonder the two shows were compared to each other, as both defined cartoon sitcoms for a generation.

But The Simpsons was a little different, because it brought friends. While there were a number of just plain cash-in imitators to The Simpsons’ throne, there have also been a number of true “Simpsons heirs” in the last (nearly) thirty years. Between The Flintstones and The Simpsons, there was like one other well received animated sitcom (The Jetsons). Now, in that same time period, there has been The Critic, Family Guy, American Dad, South Park, Futurama, and Bob’s Burgers. All of those shows have become hallmarks of television history (“Everything stinks.”), and that list is even ignoring the fringe, “limited” programs like Duckman, The fought and bitClerks: The Animated Series, or Comedy Central’s repeated animated sacrifices. Oh, and the entire Adult Swim network. In short, The Simpsons ushered in a new wave of “Animation Domination”, and now “cartoons” well and truly aren’t just for kids.

But that’s not the world that birthed The Simpsons. The Simpsons premiered as an animated short on a sketch comedy show, because who would make an animated sitcom? Cartoons feature Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. Sure, they’re funny, but they’re madcap funny. Nobody is ever going to have an emotional moment when a cartoon person is talking about a cartoon dog, and the concept of Taz the Tasmanian Devil having a family with relatable situations? Preposterous. Cartoons are for Tom and Jerry… and The Simpsons remembered that.

Ichy and Scratchy is a part of The Simpsons. In the beginning, Itchy and Scratchy seemed to be an excuse for The Simpsons writers to goof off and lampoon The Simpsons’ violent cartoon ancestors. By the second season, Itchy and Scratchy was a stand-in for The Simpsons itself: The Simpsons was a source of controversy when it was young (hard to believe now), so the episode Ichy & Scratchy & Marge featured the Simpson matriarch protesting violent, immoral cartoons (… like The Simpsons). By Season 4, Itchy and Scratchy was an excuse for Bart and Lisa to go “behind the scenes” of the animation world, and mock The Simpsons’ production with some inside baseball cracks. From about that point on, Itchy and Scratchy continued to be a sendup of the entire world of animation, transcending its roots as a parody of olde tyme cartoons and becoming something much more modernly meta. While Itchy and Scratchy has dropped off the radar more and more in recent years (Seasons 17 & 18 didn’t do the Iggy at all), it still pops up from time to time, What is even happening?usually as a lazy parody of some random pop culture trend (see “The Social Petwork” from Season 23).

Now, I could easily make some jape about modern The Simpsons episodes being comprised of only “lazy parodies of some random pop culture trend” anyway, but, with Itchy and Scratchy, that is and has always been the point. Itchy and Scratchy was always meant by the Yalies in The Simpsons writing room as some kind of affectionate insult to everything that had come before in the animation world. The Simpsons is new and different, and here’s a reminder of the bad old days. Even when Itchy and Scratchy sunk into the meta bog, it still maintained the “ain’t we cool” veneer of “this is what the other guys do”. Even now, painting the Griffins into the typical Itchy and Scratchy short would create a (slightly) more violent Family Guy cutaway.

In short, Itchy and Scratchy is, and always has been, a parody.

The Itchy & Scratchy Game, thus, could have some potential. It was released in 1995, the rough pinnacle of the 16-bit era (when was Chrono Trigger released? There, that’s the pinnacle). It was also a time that the gaming universe seemed to grow a little more aware of itself. We were still a few years from Conker lambasting fifteen years of gaming tropes, but… well… someone had to notice that they made a video game out of friggen Home Improvement, right? That really deserved some mockery in its own medium. What’s more, there had even been a pretty alright Itchy & Scratchy segment in The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare. Yes, it was a deeply flawed experience, but it did approximate a basic Itchy and Scratchy “feel”. Three years had passed since Bart’s Nightmare, and that was more than enough time to flesh out a fully-realized Itchy and Scratchy game…

Spoiler alert: it didn’t happen. The Itchy & Scratchy Game really sucks.

Right?It’s one of those… aggressively bad SNES platformers. You control Itchy, and you have to defeat Scratchy in a boring, haphazardly designed 2-D environment. You’ve got a mallet, and there’s a variety of better weapons around… but you only get one or two opportunities per level to actually acquire those weapons, so… what’s the point? And then each level ends with a boss fight against Scratchy in some kind of vehicle. Couple slippery as hell controls with boss fights that often subscribe to “stand here to not die” thinking and you don’t get a fun time. Basically, the tiniest good ideas in this terrible package are instantly obliterated by extremely bad ideas. This is the day the violence died.

And it’s a shame, because even a terrible Itchy and Scratchy game could have had at least something to say. For instance, each level is a different, wildly lame “era”. You’ve got Prehistoric, Medieval, Pirate, Atlantis, Western, Modern Construction Site, and Future. Right there, the game could use these environments to comment on gaming tropes or… nope, just boring excuses for slightly different weapons. Oh boy, a bow and arrow in Dinosaur Level, and mace in Knights Level! This… is every generic video game ever.

So that’s what we’re left with. The Itchy & Scratchy Game is everything The Simpsons ever mocked: it’s a cheap, fast, cash-in. It’s thirty years of cheap Hannah Barbara cartoons. It doesn’t stand for anything, it’s just “Hey Hey I’m talking Krusty”. There was promise here, but now it’s a mere cat skull that was devoured by ants.

… But at least there’s no Poochy.

FGC #127 The Itchy & Scratchy Game

  • System: Available for Super Nintendo and Game Gear. Oddly, there was supposed to be a Sega Genesis version, but someone caught a case of the s’pose’das, and it was never released.
  • Number of Players: You are Itchy. You may not be anyone else.
  • SpoooookyPort o’ Call: The Game Gear version is just like its console big brother, but it drops the boss stages. Considering the boss stages are terrible, I have a hard time seeing this as a bad thing.
  • It’s a spectrum: There is a difficulty slider for the game, from Easy to Normal to Hard. All it seems to do is modify the damage values for you (easy = more health) and your opponent (hard = more health). This is the absolute laziest way to incorporate difficulty settings… but at least it makes the game more tolerable.
  • Just play the gig man: The music for this game is… something. Presumably to avoid paying royalties to a random writer, the actual Itchy and Scratchy theme is not included. Boo. That said, the rest of the music always seems to be erring just shy of becoming something copyrighted, but then pulls back. For instance, Theme from Juracid Bath gets really close to being The Flintstones theme enough times that I’m sure GiIvaSunner would be proud.
  • Favorite Level: They’re all so nonspecific! I guess the Pirate Stage, aka Mutilation on the Bounty. It’s the best stage, because that’s where I turned that damn thing off.
  • Did you know? In The Simpsons (and certainly not this voiceless game) Itchy is voiced by Dan Castellaneta and Scratchy is voiced by Harry Shearer. Within The Simpsons universe, both characters are voiced by June Bellamy, a parody of real-life actress June Foray, but voiced by Tress MacNeille. June Foray did actually guest in The Simpsons Season 1 finale as random receptionist. The world is a complicated place.
  • Would I play again: “Well, Simpson, I must say once you’ve been through something like that [with a game], you never want to see that [game] again.”

What’s next: Random ROB has chosen… Metroid Fusion for the Gameboy Advance. Looks like dem wily metroids are at it again, and dis here bounty hunter’s gotta go rustle ‘em up. Please look forward to it!

Or not?

FGC #068 Spider-Man and X-Men Arcade’s Revenge

Here comes a special boyCrossovers are a gigantic part of modern comics. From Superman teaming up with Batman to Howard the Duck pissing off Swamp Thing, if there’s a possibility two super heroes or super hero groups exist in the same omniverse, it’s exploited. This has, overtime, bled into the world of video games, giving us such amazing modern examples of gaming like Angry Birds Star Wars, Angry Birds Transformers, and Namco X Angry Birds. It is truly a wondrous time to be alive.

But this was not always the case. Back in the late twentieth century, crossovers were few and far between, and we’d rarely see something like a game featuring Marvel’s greatest heroes fighting for their lives against insurmountable odds using their amazing super powers. The game I speak of, featuring Marvelous exploits and every bad guy under the sun was inevitably a gigantic hit, with amazing gameplay to boot.

That was Marvel vs. Capcom.

This is Spider-Man and the X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge, for the SNES.

And it blows web fluid.

The theory behind this game is sound. Arcade is a super crazy mad genius in the Marvel Universe who designs “murderworlds”, areas not unlike theme parks; but unlike theme parks, clowns aren’t the only things trying to stab you. Murderworlds are supposed to be custom built (by, one would assume, Arcade’s non-union construction workers of doom, though they do still get 15 minute destruction breaks) to their captive’s anti-specifications. If Arcade was trapping DC’s Superman, he’d build the whole place out of kryptonite, Flash would face a world of molasses, and Aquaman… well… anything at all. Maybe fluffy pillows. At any rate, Arcade has, as of the game’s start, constructed five Murderworlds for four x-men and one Spider-Man, and gives said heroes the sporting chance of attempting to escape their worst nightmares. Spider-Man’s worst nightmare, for instance, involves battling hordes of very similar robots. Conversely, Cyclops’ worst nightmare involves battling hordes of very similar robots.

Before we go any further, I feel I should point out this game was made by Acclaim, a company known for claiming to be “Masters of the Game” while producing such quality titles as Turok: Rage Wars, Swing is the thingBMX XXX, and the complete Simpsons line of Nintendo and Gameboy games, including The Simpsons: Bart and the Beanstalk. Basically, Acclaim had the amazing ability to take a concept that, by all rights, should be completely mind-blowingly awesome (dinosaur hunting, naked bicycle riding, buying a cow), and turn it into a gigantic turd-storm. Never played an Acclaim game? Then you’ve probably had a better life than mine. I’ve beaten Playstation’s Fantastic Four.

Back in the game, the X-Men and Spider-Man are trapped, in more ways than one, in Arcade’s revenge. Though it’s never stated what Arcade is taking revenge for, given he’s a hit man, I really doubt he’s got a grudge against these dorks. I think Acclaim just made the whole thing up when they realized Arcade was actually another Marvel character and not an excuse to make a game where Wolverine blows all his quarters attempting to get the high score on Space Invaders. Oh man, you ever try to grab a joystick with gigantic claws sticking out of your wrists? The fun is over before it begins. It’s actually how Wolverine got that hairstyle, it was in his Origins book, I swear. What was I talking about again?
Oh, right, crappy game. It’s a lousy, hop-around-like-an-idiot platforming action game with a few mutants and their super powers. The only reason anyone would even touch this game is for its all-star cast, so I suppose you would like to hear about the amazing traps and devious creations Arcade has unleashed upon our favorite Marvelites.

Spider-Man is stuck in a half constructed cityscape. Basically there’s a lot of asbestos and girders kind of haphazardly slapped together. I think Arcade didn’t so much create a maze here as get drunk and flail around a map editor. Actually, according to the (sparse) storyline, Spider-Man was the last of the gang to stop by Arcade’s place, and was only captured at the last second while attempting to rescue Gambit of all people. I suppose his precognitive spider sense, his singular trademark mentioned in nearly every pop culture reference, was on the fritz. So Spidey must make amends for his capture by battling random robots and, finally, the Shocker and Rhino, two Marvel villains so low on the totem pole that they didn’t see the big screen until Spider-Man 5: Spider Five. Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin, Lizard, Venom, no, they all had better agents, Spider-Man gets to take out the F-string for his climatic battles. Boo. Carnage also kind of shows up, but he’s portrayed as a weird leaping red thing, so there are about equal odds that “Carnage” is actually a red yoshi.

Enjoy yourself, bubWolverine must face circus midgets. He’s the best at what he does, and what he does is very colorful! He just runs around and tears clowns and toy soldiers to pieces. It’s probably not so much his worst nightmare as a cathartic little attack on Toys R Us. When Wolverine gets to take a break from the killer clowns, he takes out two big Marvel baddies, Apocalypse and Juggernaut. Apocalypse is a rather pathetic little boss battle where the ultimate mutant trades his demigod status for a Dhalsim impression, and Juggernaut is best defeated by dropping inappropriately placed anvils on the big lug’s head. I’m still trying to figure out how Acclaim turned a battle between two of the most serious, gritty mutants in all of X-Men into a Looney Tunes episode.

Scott “Cyclops” Summers actually does meet his worst nightmare in the form of a mine that is not only filled with gems that reflect his optic blasts, but also grime. Yes, that’s right, Scotty boy, you have to actually get dirty on this mission. Oh no! Filth on your shiny X-Men leader’s uniform! Jean will never love you now! Er, anyway, Cyclops also fulfills the 16-bit era’s requirement of “one mine cart level per game”, with some CYCLOPS KICKof the absolute worst mine carting seen in a… anything. Cyc does get to stare down a few sentinels, and then their big daddy, Master Mold, but this version of Master Mold doesn’t appear to have any weapons, except for missiles that shoot from its nipples and flame blasts from its crotch. Master Mold is a crazy party animal, and is currently scouring the internet for KOS-MOS’s number.

Storm, almighty weather witch of the X-Men, is stuck in a dunk tank. Storm, being a woman in a video game, has no offensive capabilities past her mutant powers, so she uses her abilities to shoot lightning bolts at her enemies. While completely submerged in water. The X-Men are mutants, not science teachers. At least Storm is the one character who gets a little (physics defying) variety, in that she’s not just stuck in a lousy platformer, she’s stuck in a lousy platformer’s underwater level. And, instead of a life bar, she’s got an “air bar” that depletes when she’s attacked or stays underwater for longer than a millisecond. And Storm, who is still burdened with a vagina and is thus far too weak to battle a real Marvel villain, gets to clash with a series of BOLTslightly different robot/trap things for her freedom. I can’t tell if it’s Arcade or Acclaim that has something against the poor girl.

Gambit, the hard-drinking, hard-gambling, hard-rocking Cajun with a hard-on for Rogue, is separated from the object of his lust and thrown into an auto-scrolling hell. Being a master of kendo-style martial arts and various forms of unarmed combat, Gambit is naturally limited to finite ammunition in the form of a deck of cards, and, upon using up his deck, is left completely defenseless. Gambit, in the comics, once turned a wad of chewing gum into a lethal weapon, but now Acclaim says he’s as useful in a pinch as Dolphigan (the X-Men with the mutant power to arouse dolphins). The wildly defenseless scumbag is stuck outrunning either an auto-scrolling spiked ball or an auto-scrolling collapsing tower (I’m assuming that’s the premise of his second level, the danger is off-screen, as is the deal with most auto-scrolling levels, so it could be a giant mutant brine shrimp for all I know), and, in either situation, must avoid or attack various deadly chess pieces. It’s a well known piece of logic that dictates that someone who enjoys playing cards is afraid of chess. It makes perfect sense! It all makes perfect sense! And Gambit’s bosses are all playing card manifestations. PERFECT SENSE!

Upon completion of each of the hero’s individual levels, the party teams up to separate again in five mini levels. While four of the mutants pretty much get rehashes of their previous fun-lands, Storm does at least get to ''Something Cajun sounding''hop out of the water, and manifests her flying abilities in a really floaty jump. Of course, she’s still prone to falling in bottomless pits, so maybe her flying powers need a little more work. Maybe her costume is too wet? Maybe chere is thinking of Gambit, n’est pas? And at the end of each of these individual levels, each X-Man gets captured, again, while Spider-Man finally uses that super power of his I keep hearing about and saves his own hide for the final boss battle. Guess that’s why he got top billing.

The final boss is a big robo clown that goes through a few different forms in a manner not unlike the final robo Burns fight of The Simpsons Arcade Game. Funny, that. Oddly, this boss battle is actually a lot easier than a lot of boss battles from earlier in the game (Juggernaut can cause a few headaches), and the X-Men imprisoned around the room actually aide Spider-Man in his otherwise solitary battle. Note to super villains, when you tie up the guy with eye lasers, who is named for the fact that he has eye lasers, maybe, just maybe, try to do something about hampering those eye lasers. Or not, it’s your choice. And after robo clown goes down, guess what’s next? That’s right! More robots! And they’re ridiculously easy and have no reason for existing because none of the robots turn out to be the real Ginger jerkbad guy anyway. And, yes, you beat all the damn robots, escape, and find the big bad Arcade has already escaped and the super heroes don’t even get remote revenge on their captor. Yay job satisfaction!

Acclaim managed to take a very, very cool concept (Super powered heroes vs. their own custom built worst nightmares) and turn it into a game somehow even less interesting than a Pitfall revival. However, it could be argued that Arcade is the greatest winner of all. By game’s end (which, for the record, doesn’t include a credit sequence, which speaks for itself), Arcade has escaped unscathed, and claims to have tortured everyone involved. I don’t know about our mighty mutants, but I know that by the end of this particular Murderland, I was feeling very tortured. Think Acclaim may have been run by a malevolent red head?

FGC #68 Spider-Man and X-Men Arcade’s Revenge

  • System: Super Nintendo was the version featured here, but there’s also a Sega Genesis version, and, phew, also Gameboy and Game Gear? Wow, those have to be horrible.
  • Number of Players: Five heroes, one player. I suppose it would go against the theme of the game to allow simultaneous play, but, oh, maybe Spider-Man could swing into each X-Men stage and help out? That’d be cool.
  • Favorite Stage: Wolverine versus clowns. Wolverine versus clowns times infinity forever.
  • Development Guessing: I refuse to believe this game happened by anything other than accident. Aside from the obvious lack of credits, the way the game can’t even retain a consistent life meter between stages seems to indicate that this thing was pulled together from disparate pieces and slapped into a final product. Storm and Gambit are basically trapped in entirely different genres.
  • Canon? Technically, the game is based on a run of X-Men comics (specifically starting at #123… easy to remember), but the original story included Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Banshee, but no Gambit. That said, there’s really no reason this game couldn’t be canon, as all the “villains” fought, including Arcade, are just Weird jump timesrobot doubles, and nothing plot-y happens to set this group of captured X-Men anywhere in the timeline. So remember kids, all those cool, fun franchise video games are just imaginary stories, but this butt side of an ass is the real deal.
  • Did you know? Oh… an opportunity to show off some ridiculous X-Men trivia. Let’s see here… Ah, here’s a fun one. Scott Summers is often considered the everyman of the X-Men, as he’s the most “normal” of the original lineup, and has a power that is the typical Marvel “curse and blessing”. Cyclops also has a dad who is a space pirate, a half brother who was a literal king of space, a son from the future who is older than him, a clone of the previously mentioned son, a daughter from the future who runs around in her mom’s old clothes, a dead wife who obliterated a star system and can come back from the dead, a current wife who can turn to diamond, and a younger version of himself from the past who is here exclusively to remind him how much he’s screwed up. Cyclops is highly relatable.
  • Would I play again: The first level is repellant. The most interesting level (Wolverine vs. Juggernaut) is bafflingly difficult. Spider-Man’s web swing controls like a ton of bricks. Most stages are difficult beyond reason. At what point should I just stop and say, “No?”

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers for the Sega Genesis. ROB, you on a 90’s Fox Kids kick all of a sudden? I knew I shouldn’t have gotten you that Netflix subscription. Oh well, guess it’s morphin’ time. Please look forward to it!