Tag Archives: comics

FGC #359 The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin

Catches flies... or somethingThis game was my first exposure to Spider-Man.

Okay, that’s not 100% accurate. Growing up, I had a “read along” children’s book featuring Spider-Man at the circus. I think he fought a clown? I’m moderately certain elephants were involved. Additionally, I might have seen an episode or two of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, which apparently ended its original run shortly after I was born, but there may have been a rerun or two bumping around when I was a kid. But! That’s it! I never received current comics as a kid (see the bullet points section for more details on that), the Spider-Man animated series was still four years away, and, when The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin was released on Sega Genesis, Tobey Maguire was 16 (Tom Holland was, of course, negative six).

So, while I had a general mental image of Spider-Man (red/blue pajamas, spins a web, any size), I didn’t have a clue about all the things that make the man a spider. Peter Parker? First I heard of him. Daily Bugle? Oh, so he’s a newspaper guy like Superman, I guess. And the entire rogues gallery? First I’m hearing of them.

In other words, everything I ever needed to know about Spider-Man, I learned from a Sega Genesis game. See, Stan Lee, it’s not only any issue that might be a reader’s first, it could be a videogame, too!

With that in mind, we’re going to look at the main players of Spider-Man’s big Genesis adventure, and compare their impressions within the game to their current place in Marvel comics continuity. Let’s find a new way to learn about Spider-Man!

The Kingpin

Initial Impression: Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin, is responsible for everything in this game, so it’s only natural to assume he’s Spider-Man’s prime villain. In short order, Kingpin…

    Nice suit

  • Hijacks a television station
  • Plants a mega-bomb somewhere in New York
  • Frames Spider-Man for said mega-bomb
  • Offers a huge reward for the head of Spider-Man
  • Commands every other villain to mess with Spider-Man
  • Orders Venom to kidnap Mary Jane
  • Camps out in his scary base five feet from the mega-bomb

Aside from that last blunder (when you plant a mega-bomb in a city, you leave the city), it’s clear that Kingpin is a genius and the head honcho of crime in Spider-Man’s New York. Could you even conceive of a villain more frightening than a monster that accidentally kidnaps your wife as part of a master plan?

Real Continuity: Kingpin is a big, scary villain… but he’s not really Spider-Man’s villain. Kingpin has drifted away from Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, and has been primarily a Daredevil villain for… I want to say as long as I’ve been alive. This makes sense, as Kingpin is generally responsible for the death of Daredevil’s Daredaddy, and the greatest rivalry between Spidey and Kingpin is merely an ongoing discussion regarding Slimfast. Though Kingpin now has a more mundane adversary (Daredevil’s super power is “can see, but only kinda”), he has gotten up to the more ridiculous supervillainy on occasion, as there was a not insignificant run there where he commanded a legion of immortal ninja. Basically, Kingpin is every bit the badass he is in this game, he’s just not Spider-Man’s badass.

Doctor Octopus

Swings a leg, regular sizeInitial Impression: Doc Ock is a pushover in this game. Literally! He’s balancing on his long, noodley octo-arms, and, a few jump kicks to the face later, he’ll be toppled over like a turtle. And then Spider-Man webs him up, and gets him to rat out every one of his cohorts. He’s a first level boss! With a bowl cut! He never had a chance.

Real Continuity: Doctor Octopus is, depending on the week, either Spider-Man’s greatest or second greatest villain. On one tentacle, he’s never been responsible for anything so traumatic as the death of any given Spider-Girlfriend; on the other pseudopod, he did straight up kill Spider-Man once, take over his body/life, and…. Earn Peter Parker a doctorate. It… probably sounded more villainous at the time. Even before all of that, Doctor Octopus was a constant thorn in Spider-Man’s side, capable of matching the wit and knowledge of Spidey in a way that Hammerhead, the man with a flat head, couldn’t even touch. Oh, and he tried to marry Aunt May one time. That had to be a huge hassle.

Point is that videogame Doctor Octopus got robbed.

The Lizard

Rock outInitial Impression: A mutant reptile that lives in the sewers? Gee, where have I heard that one before?

Real Continuity: It’s hard to sneak nuance into a Genesis game, but would it have killed anybody to have Dr. Curt Connors revert back to human form and apologize? The Lizard is yet another Jekyll/Hyde character for the Marvel pantheon (see also: Hulk, The), and his greatest tales always revolve around a man trying to make himself whole again (and then accidentally turning into a lizard). Granted, this does make Connors the dumbest scientist in the Marvel universe (“Maybe this time I won’t turn into… Nope, looks like I’m eating rats again.”), but his heart is in the right place. He might just be a stooge in this game, but The Lizard is worth one or two good stories in the real continuity.

Electro

ZAPInitial Impression: Here’s some loser with electric powers.

Real Continuity: Here’s some loser with electric powers. Seriously. For having starred in a movie and possessing nigh unlimited power usage potential (electricity is pretty important, y’all), Electro seems relegated to Rhino Tier with the other nobodies that occasionally pop up for an annual every other year or so. In fact, he accidentally got his girlfriend fried, she came back to life with his powers, and somehow she wound up being a more interesting character than OG Electro. That makes Electro even worse than The Scorpion, and you don’t want to be lower on the totem pole than a dude whose only power is “has a tail”.

Sandman

Dust in the windInitial Impression: Technopop apparently wanted to include one puzzle boss in this adventure, so Sandman winds up being nearly invincible. After Spidey has to fight an escaped gorilla in Central Park (hey, Circus Caper!), Sandman attacks, and he is completely invulnerable to Spider-Man’s webs and spider strength. The solution is to lure Sandman across the entire stage to a random fire hydrant, punch said hydrant, and then soak the man made of sand into inanimate mud. Even when you win, however, victory is fleeting, as you are informed Sandman is the first villain to escape Spider-Man’s web. Sandman must be some kind of super-super villain!

Real Continuity: He’s a jobber in a stupid sweater. Sandman did lead a long and varied life at some point in the comics (he was an Avenger! It happened!), but he’s been stuck in a generic supervillain loop of depression, loneliness, and bankrobbing for the entirety of the 21st century. I think he recently got a new suit? Yeah, that’s useful when you’re a pile of sand. For having nearly godlike (or at least Green Lantern-like) powers and virtual immortality, Sandman has been slotted into the little leagues with Paste Pot Pete and that guy from Wings.

Hobgoblin

WeeeeeInitial Impression: Spider-Man, unable to find his next villain to trounce, determines that since Kingpin put a price on his head, he could just walk around in broad daylight, see who shows up, and then it’s clobberin’ time. This miraculously works, as Hobgoblin shows up about twenty feet outside the Daily Bugle. And then Spider-Man whacks the goblin right off his dumb glider. The end.

Real Continuity: There was a magical time in Marvel Comics when a villain could stay dead for longer than a week, so Hobgoblin is clearly subbing for the then-deceased Green Goblin. This is Hobgoblin’s lot in life, as anyone in that costume is meant to be a stand-in for Spider-Man’s greatest/greenest foe, and… can you name the secret identity of even one Hobgoblin? Kingsley? Does that sound right? Doesn’t matter. He’s a knockoff, and it doesn’t matter if he gets his own sewer gang, he’s never going to be an inadvertent Trump analogue like Osborn.

Venom

We are VenomInitial Impression: Who is this guy? He looks scary enough, but he seems to be everybody’s sidekick. Play the game on hard mode, and Venom shows up as a secondary threat during any given boss fight. And… he just kinda jumps around like a monkey. That whole “unsettling black alien” thing is menacing, but that gorilla from the park was more threatening.

Real Continuity: Venom has become one of Spider-Man’s most aggressive and iconic foes, but he had only been around comics for a solid two years before his Master System debut. It’s no wonder no one really had any idea where he would “officially” fit into the Spider-Mythos at that point. He doesn’t even showcase his super rad tongue! But that tongue has been featured ad nauseam in the intervening thirty years, and now Venom has been everything from an intergalactic military vet to a tyrannosaurus. There was even a recent special wherein Venoms from different universes all banded together to fight Kinda-Venoms from other, more different universes. That’s right! Venom rips off everything about Spider-Man, all the time. But back in 1990, he barely even got web shooters.

Mary Jane Watson

Secret CrushInitial Impression: She’s stated to be Spider-Man’s wife (“your friend Peter Parker’s wife”), and she’s kidnapped by a Kingpin/Venom combo (not the cool kind of Kingpin/Venom combo, they’re just working together) in time for the final stage. During the ultimate, vaguely impossible boss fight, she is slowly lowered into a vat of acid while Spider-Man and Fat-Man duel. If you win, Spider-Man is happy to be reunited with the redhead; if you lose, Kingpin escapes, and Spider-Man gets really depressed. So she’s Spider-Man’s Princess Peach. Got it.

Real Continuity: Mary Jane Watson is the Lois Lane of DC Comics. Thanks to a million writers over a billion years, MJ is simultaneously a strong, interesting character in her own right, and a damsel that must be rescued at all times. It depends on the week. As of this writing, she’s recently been an assistant to a mostly comatose Tony Stark… which sounds like a pretty cushy job. On the other hand, she had her entire marriage mystically annulled because her husband wanted to rewrite all of reality on a whim, so that probably detracts from her agency just a tweak. Also, like practically all women in comics not continually wearing spandex, when she isn’t dating a hero, her appearances are rare (see One More Day for a fine example). So, despite the fact that she could totally carry another Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series, she’s hasn’t seen as much exposure since she cut the (spider-)man out of her life. So, yep, she is Spider-Man’s princess.

Way to go, The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin, you’re a pretty good introduction to Universe 616 after all.

FGC #359 The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin

  • System: Sega Genesis was the big one, but the Master System version was released a year earlier. There’s also a Game Gear version that was based on the Master System version, and a Sega CD version based on the Sega Genesis version. Got all that? I could make a chart.
  • Number of players: Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can. Alone.
  • Dumb monkeyPort-o-Call: Dr. Strange appears for no reason in the Master System/Game Gear version. The Sega CD version adds two new levels/bosses, and cutscenes that are… very strangely animated. Peter Parker and Mary Jane kiss during the intro and… it’s the least romantic cartoon ever.
  • Goggle Bob Fact: So my parents had a friend that worked at an antique shop. Any time he would wind up with “dollar comics”, they would be donated to the Wee Goggle Bob Needs Something to Do fund. Thus, I had a number of disjointed, completely random comics as a kid. While this did nothing for me learning the wonders of Marvel continuity, I did wind up being exposed to Silver Surfer Mœbius comics from a young age, and that may have had an influence on my imagination
  • Continue? The plot dictates that any time Spider-Man gets a game over, he is captured by the local constabulary.

    Right in the kisser

    This leads to the most NWA continue screen of the 16-bit era.

  • Threat or Menace: The other cool thing about this title is that it encourages you to take pictures as Spider-Man, and use the cash to earn web fluid refills. On one hand, this is amazing, and kind of a big deal innovation in light of every damn hero having a camera nowadays. On the other hand, web fluid refills are generously scattered about any given stage, so it’s kind of unnecessary. Oh well, at least J.J. will be happy.
  • Did you know? In the main continuity of Marvel 616, the Venom symbiote has possessed Peter Parker, Eddie Brock, Flash Thompson, Carol Danvers, Groot, and Mr. Fantastic. And some dinosaurs. And at least one dog. That thing gets around.
  • Would I play again: Did I not mention that I love this game? It’s a pain in the ass by modern standards, but I played it for pretty much a solid year when I was a kid, so it is good stuff. Forget all those later games that were all about flying through the city on webs, I’ll take Spider-Man awkwardly stumbling through the sewers any day.


What’s next?
Random ROB has chosen… Monster Rancher for the Playstation! Gonna raise up some eyeballs to fight dragons! Please look forward to it!

Grrrr

FGC #333 Ex-Mutants

Here come these dorks!This game is filled with hate… and it might be accidental.

Ex-Mutants is a 16-bit videogame for the Sega Genesis. Right off the bat, you’d probably assume this is some manner of Donkey Kong to X-Men’s King Kong. The videogame industry has a long and storied history of committing light plagiarism on the way to making an extra buck, and for every Enter the Dragon there are about six hundred videogame “homages” (and, oh yeah, the entire fighting game genre). It wouldn’t surprise anybody that, in an effort to get a chunk of that Fox Kids pie, someone cut off a slice of the X-Men, and renamed the thing to be just confusing enough to trick grandma into a purchase. Little Timmy really enjoys those Ex-Mutants, right? Better get this game featuring Gambo, Jaguar, and One-Eyed.

But the Ex-Mutants were not created to rip off the X-Men for videogame gains. No, the Ex-Mutants were created to rip off the X-Men for comic book cash. Back in 1986, Ex-Mutants was created to be, basically, a parody of the X-Men franchise. This was a sort of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles situation, wherein the original premise is kind of reversed or otherwise distorted (reminder: TMNT is a Daredevil parody that took on a life of its own), and a completely different animal emerges from the… mutation. In this particular case, in a world of mutants, five “genetically pure” humans are cloned and released into the wild. The humans are supposed to bring a message of hope and humanity… but with four women and one man, it winds up being a sort of goofy Tenchi Muyo-esque affair with an excuse for Ron Lim to draw pretty ladies every other page. What’s important is that the tone isn’t all that serious, and it wasn’t really meant as a “competitor” for the X-franchise any more than any other comic book. Oh, also, there were like ten issues, total, so it didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Away we goBut then came the ridiculous comics boom of the early 90’s. For reasons no one has ever quite understood, comic books suddenly became collector’s items for a period of about seventy minutes, and the entire industry made a mad dash to publish any old crap and slap sixteen holofoil covers on said crap. Malibu picked up Ex-Mutants, and then the series ran for a solid eighteen issues (over a year!), before being cancelled forever. In case you’re curious, this Genesis game was based on the Malibu incarnation.

At this point, I’d like to describe the Malibu Ex-Mutants series for you… but, for some reason, there is a dearth of information available on the net regarding that particular failed franchise. Basically, every description of Ex-Mutants I can find is focused exclusively on the original series, and I guess nobody cares about the Malibu incarnation. This… may be for the best. From what I can tell, Malibu Ex-Mutants was much more of a dedicated X-Men/Gen 13 affair, and featured an even division of men and women. But don’t worry, Ex-Mutants did remember its roots, as the cover of issue 2 was already leaning pretty heavily into the cheesecake…

Let’s put this behind a NSFW link…

Of course, without some helpful Ex-Mutants wiki, those kinds of covers are all we have to go on for this series. It… looks serious? I mean… could it be when their prime villain is a giant slug named Sluggo? But these covers are practically indistinguishable from the X-Men 2099 line, and those were the most serious comics that ever happened. Oh, Ex-Mutants, we hardly knew ye.

But perhaps looking to the Genesis tie-in game will provide some answers. The Genesis X-Men games were some of the best on the system, and, for those of us that didn’t read comics, were an excellent introduction to the series. This is Gambit, these are his powers, and check out his rad stick. Here’s Wolverine, he’s got claws, and aren’t they cool? Ex-Mutants could do the same for its parent franchise, and the game does do a great job of introducing the premise right off the bat. Here’s a fun fact: the Ex-Mutants are racist!

The future is pale

Okay, this might be a problem with being a dedicated X-Men fan for decades, but when the concept is that mutants have “polluted our gene pool” and only “pure” humans should be the future… Like, that’s something the nefarious Senator Robert Kelly says before he’s proven to be a sentinel plant, right? This is exactly what Magneto was afraid of, and he’s usually right when he’s not secretly Hitler. But X-bias aside, there is the little matter that the “genetically pure” examples of the human race are… a little pale. The guys are certainly all white guys, and… I think we maybe have one Asian woman? Other than that, we have tan-white and super-white. I realize that this was kind of a standard for the 90’s (including “maybe Asian”, this is technically a gang that is actually more diverse than the cast of Friends), but it becomes something else when you’re talking about “genetic purity” and “the future of the human race”. The original Ex-Mutants included an African-American (… does that term still apply to ex-mutants of the future?) woman, I’m not sure why her and her entire race got ditched for the reboot.

Are you from the future?But, fine, let’s just chalk that one up to white defaulting and move on. Ex-Mutants for Genesis lamely chooses to follow the Battletoads route to success: there’s a full team of six Ex-Mutants, but all but Player 1 and Player 2 have been captured, because there is only so much sprite budget to go around. This is forgivable, but it does the franchise no favors, as we have no idea if the other Ex-Mutants are unique and beautiful humans (Princess Daisy) or just professional kidnap victims (Princess Peach). Then again, all we learn about the two playable characters are that Ackroyd has an axe, and Shannon has an ass. Not exactly a great way to get a neophyte into the franchise (unless you’re Sir Mix-a-Lot).

But we do get some information on Sluggy the super villain and Professor Kildare, the leader of the Ex-Mutants. Sluggo is a giant slug mutant… and that’s all we need to know about that. But Professor Kildare, now there’s a character! He’s a brilliant scientist and a cyborg! Who apparently runs on batteries! And, since he’s your boss, you have to find a fresh battery for him somewhere in every level, or you must repeat the stage! But it’s worth it! Because if you didn’t have Professor Kildare around, you wouldn’t have his great tips… on where to find his batteries. … This is cyborg slavery!

But don’t worry, the fun doesn’t end there! Ex-Mutants plays very similarly to the Genesis X-Men titles, but, while those could be generally difficult (or marginally impossible) because they were built to be difficult, Ex-Mutants is a pain in the ex-butt because of various places where the traps are ambiguously impossible. Alternating disappearing platforms are just fine in Mega Man because they’re precisely timed, in Ex-Mutants, you’re likely to jump around like an idiot because it will take a solid thirty seconds before all the platforms actually line up properly… and then you’re greeted with a deadly buzzsaw! Bosses, naturally, are no better, as they have long, long periods of invincibility or patterns wherein it’s impossible to even approach their general proximity without taking a hit. And, just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, there’s a mine cart stage! And it goes without saying that you get absolutely no invincibility frames after being hit.

BUZZ BUZZThis all adds up to… a less than enjoyable experience. Maybe Ex-Mutants started as a parody. Maybe the Malibu Ex-Mutants videogame was supposed to be an amusing spoof of similar videogames. Maybe this game was supposed to popularize the Ex-Mutants for the 16-bit generation. Maybe the game was supposed to be, in some tiny way, actually fun. Unfortunately, Ex-Mutants fails on all these points, and all that is left is a lousy platforming/action game that kinda looks like an X-Men title if you squint really hard. If you don’t squint, though, all you’ll see is hate. Hate for the player, hate for the franchise, and hate for the poor schlub that thought that was Scott Summers on the cover, and not some dork with an axe.

Ex-Mutants is hate for your Sega Genesis.

FGC #333 Ex-Mutants

  • System: Sega Genesis. It’s the most Ex-system.
  • Number of players: Just one. You have your choice of Ex-Mutant, though.
  • Preferred Ex-Mutant: Between Ackroyd and Shannon, I’ll take Shannon. Ackroyd seems to do more damage, but Shannon is faster, and, like in other games, speed is king. Come to think of it, is that why the platforming bits were so difficult? Because Shannon moves faster than the “default” character? This is another reason this game is hate.
  • Because you Suck: Or maybe I just don’t like this game because it actively insults you for losing.
    Really?

    Thanks, playable character! Cram it!
  • 16-Bit Geography: As far as I can tell, this game takes place in a city, The Amazon Rain Forest, and then another city. Either that, or Central Park has gotten really overgrown in the future.
  • Did you know? The original Ex-Mutants protagonist was named Belushi. The second incarnation featured the heroic Ackroyd in the leading role. I’ll let you figure that one out.
  • Would I play again: Not for all the Ex-Mutants merchandise in the world.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… NBA Jam Tournament Edition for the Super Nintendo! Way to go, ROB! You’re on fire! Please look forward to it!

SLUGGO!

FGC #332 Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite

Note: This article may contain general spoilers for the story mode of Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite. Nothing heavy, but you have been warned.

Gonna take you for a ride?I once claimed that Street Fighter V was the most disappointing game of 2016, and I stand by that statement. Street Fighter V at launch wasn’t a bad game, and it certainly was another Street Fighter game, just… Like the unenviable musk that lingers around anyone that stands downwind of Zangief, there was an unmistaken stench of exploitation surrounding the entire enterprise. Arcade mode was gone, survival mode was boring (could you please use random select for opponents? Please?), and online versus seemed built for someone that had already picked out a “main” (on day one, apparently). Eventually, we received a full story mode, new fighters (and a few old ones), and at least one character that apparently snuck in from a certain other game. Street Fighter V still comes off as disappointing, but now it at least feels like a complete game (albeit one still made for the more hardcore fans).

When I first started playing Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite while waiting for the complete download to finish, I was already noting why MvCI would inevitably be my most disappointing game of 2017. Admittedly, for my tastes, MvCI had an uphill battle, as Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is one of my top games of all time. And, if that game didn’t exist, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 would fill that same space. I’ve loved the Vs. series since Akuma first smacked around Cyclops, and the later entries that seem to include every character ever (except Daredevil) hit every neuron in my brain’s pleasure center like an epileptic Ping-Pong ball. I have videogame attention deficit disorder, and all I want to do is play as every character in every other round. I’m not certain I’ve ever picked the same team in MvC2 twice (except when trying to beat Abyss, then it’s Cable/Mega Man/Cyclops all the way). And MvC3 felt like a game that was built by people that played MvC2 for a decade, made a mental list of everything they’d add if they could, and then did. Zero! Thor! She-Hulk! Give or take an X-Man or two, that roster is perfect, and the gameplay matches it. And it’s even fairly balanced! No more Sentinel/Magneto/Storm defeating everybody! Most of the time!

Pew pewConversely, Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite feels like it was designed by committee. There is not a single Marvel character that did not appear in a movie (or, in Captain Marvel’s case, is about to appear in a movie). The Capcom side isn’t much better, and features three stubbly white guys that have nearly identical facial portraits. We’re chasing power stones, where are the crazy anime characters of Power Stone? Where are my ghost tricks? Where is Ryu (the dragon, not the other one)? Heck, we don’t even have a single Street Fighter that was introduced after 1991. Akuma and Wolverine practically started this franchise, but they’re left behind because I guess the new, edgy version of Bionic Commando is a bigger draw (but not the new, edgy version of Dante, that guy sucks). And, while I know I’m railing at corporate overlords that only deign to make such a game because they have the spare cash from all the successes that are featured in this title (Avengers: The Movie made more money than the GOP of most countries, and I’m sure at least six people bought Dead Rising 4), I’m still more than a little annoyed at how… cheap this all appears. This feels like the most low-rent and recycled the franchise has ever been, and that’s even considering one of the best entries was about 80% recycled content.

And, oh yeah, the graphics suck. They, like, just do. I can’t explain Captain Marvel’s face. I… I don’t want to look at it anymore.

Lady Marvel

Dammit! Now I’ll never read this article again.

So I was all ready to hate on MvCI as the biggest letdown of the year when, after 40 gigs and 4 hours, the download finally completed (note: despite apparently having downloaded nearly 2 TB of games to my Playstation 4, I still only kill time with Sonic Mania. I will play that game until my eyes fall out of my skull). I could already play with the complete roster in versus mode, but now story and arcade modes were available. Fun fact: arcade mode is nothing, but it at least exists, so it has a leg up over Street Fighter V. And then there was story mode. I wasn’t expecting much, but, since I more or less bought the game “for the story” (it certainly wasn’t just so I could play as Rocket Raccoon [again]), I decided to give it a try.

And damned if that didn’t justify the entire endeavor.

Looks different, tooSaid it before, and I’ll say it again: There is no way to please fans of a crossover series. “Heroes” are meant to be the heroes of their own stories, and when you group a bunch of main characters together, everyone gets reduced to their component parts. A character that previously led an entire adventure is condensed to being “the smart one” because they solved like one problem without punching in the original tale. And, inevitably, your favorite character is reduced to being practically a sidekick to whoever is arbitrarily chosen as the “real” hero of the piece, and, ugh, did you see how Sora was able to defeat Power Trident Ursula with a stupid lightning spell? Totally non-canon. That would never happen.

And this is all utterly true of Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite…

FGC #316 Injustice 2

This is a bit of a mismatchInjustice: Gods Among Us was a pretty rad fighting game for a couple of reasons. First, obviously, it was a fun game that allowed the player to live out the ultimate DC Comics dream matches, and finally answer the question of who would win a fight: Lobo or Killer Frost? But that’s to be expected of a fighting game. What was completely unprecedented was that Injustice included a story mode that was both fighting game good and comic book good. Using common tropes from both genres, Injustice wove a story that was not only interesting (what happens when Superman stops being polite and starts getting real) but also very appropriate for the medium. Mirror matches have been a staple of fighting games since the early days of Mortal Kombat, and most fighting games go in some very bizarre directions to justify “oh, Ryu has to fight Ryu now because… uh… raisins”. So why not just have a bad guy universe and a good guy universe? Green Lantern can fight himself all he wants, and it makes perfect sense! Want to make the final boss Superman versus Superman? Sure! It works really well here!

So it’s kind of a shame Injustice 2 forsook all of that for a generic alien invasion plot. We’ve still got a good game here, and the roster/gameplay satisfies, but the plot and story mode are… fairly boring. It’s the next day (or whatever), alien(s) invasion, and former rivals have to work together to stop a threat bigger than both of ‘em. That… has been done. Granted, “alternate universe doppelgangers” has been done, too, but that plot fit the format, whereas this is indistinguishable from a CW crossover of the same year. This is the biggest “sequel where uneasy superheroes fight a super smart robot dude” disappointment since Avengers 2.

But I suppose it’s to be expected, because “let’s punch Brainiac” stories are always boring. He’s super smart! He’s got a robot army! He’s built a body that is just stronger than everybody, oh my gosh, how are we ever going to punch him harder than ever before? And then somebody, I don’t know, does that, and we move on to the next threat. Maybe Superman’s dad dies? It’s been done, who cares?

Let’s move on. Let’s look to the future, and in the interest of Injustice 3 being actually fun, here are a few suggestions for the next adventure:

Injustice 3: Blackest Night

Orange you glad I didn't say green?This one has the greatest odds of actually happening, so may as well tackle this first. For those that haven’t been reading comics for the last decade, the Blackest Night event was a time in the DC Universe when basically every dead hero and villain came back as a murderous zombie powered by a black ring provided by Necron, a death god. So right off the bat, you’ve got an opportunity for dead characters to return (Lex Luthor, Joker) and even some superpowered “normals” (Black Ring Powered Lois Lane, please) to join the cast. Then there’s the other side of Blackest Night: everybody gets a power ring for no reason. Big Angry Dictator Superman powered by a red ring of rage? Go for it. Scarecrow manipulating the fear spectrum? Slam dunk. And we have to throw one random dude in there… Roy G Bivolo aka The Rainbow Rider? I’d buy that DLC. Heck, you could get an entire subsystem going on all the characters using different special moves to “fuel” their magical wishing rings. In brightest day, in blackest night, let’s all get ready for a fight!

The Good: Ring Zombies allow for basically any character, living or dead. Evil Zombie Lincoln wouldn’t be out of place. Also, the promise of power rings for every character spices up the move sets of everyone from Flash to Harley Quinn. And we might even see the sensational character find of 2008, Larfleeze!

The Bad: The Blackest Night plot is pretty boring once you get past the cameos. Hey, here are a bunch of zombies and their zombie boss, how are we ever going to work together to defeat this threat? I know it’s the plot of most comic books anyway, but this one relies almost exclusively on characters reacting poorly to revived loved ones, and that won’t translate well to a fighting game.

And The Batman: Batman is the DC headliner, so he has to be featured in every possible Injustice story. While Batman was dead for the comics Blackest Night event (yet somehow still became a focal point), he could certainly be alive here, and equipped with any number of Lantern rings. Batman loves justice so much, he’s a Star Stapphire? I’d be down with that.

Injustice 3: Clash of the Titans: The Sidekick Showdown

Boo-ya!DC Comics has never held the same grip on the teen market/characters as Marvel and its X-Men, but there has always been a proud group of sidekicks in the DC Universe. And, for whatever reason, the animated divisions have been trying to exploit this superhero subset for decades, so we’ve seen everything from Teen Titans to Young Justice to Teen Titans Go. We’ve got a pretty healthy stable of super powered teens as a result, so why not let them all fight for superiority? Claim there’s an opening in the Justice League or something, and there’s a fighting tournament to determine the latest member. Inevitably, it turns out one of the entrants is a spy or replicant or whatever, and the final boss is somebody completely outside of the teen weight class. Let’s say Darkseid? It’s always Darkseid.

The Good: Who doesn’t want to see every single Robin fight? And the whole “good teens” thing would allow for a story where best friends are fighting thanks to a friendly rivalry and not mind control or whatever excuse pops up every time Black Canary and Aquaman have to fight. And the Teen Titans Go models could be unlockable joke characters! There’s room for humor in the DC Universe, I swear!

The Bad: I suppose it is kind of hard to go back to the sidekicks when you’ve already played with the main events. Supergirl is only more interesting than Superman on the CW, and there’s no way anyone would pick Speedy over Green Arrow. Though I do think Static beats Black Lightning. Also, while I may get excited at such a prospect, no one is going to wig out at a trailer for Greta “Secret” Hayes.

And The Batman: Time travel is always an option, and a “mysterious newcomer” who turns out to be a young Bruce Wayne would be an interesting twist. Oh! He could be disguised as a Robin, and there is some sort of Sins of Youth age swap, and…. Oh nevermind. It’s never going to happen.

Injustice 3: Legion of Superheroes

All together nowSpeaking of teenagers and time traveling, where is the Legion of Superheroes fighting game? The Legion of Superheroes have two rules: you must be a teenager, and you must have at least one superpower. That’s basically the entry rules for every anime fighter ever! You’re guaranteed an interesting moveset when you’ve got a girl that can manipulate gravity, or a boy that can bounce better than a tigger. And don’t worry about dropping the entire Injustice roster: there are enough overlapping superpowers that Polar Boy can adopt Captain Cold moves while Lightning Lass pulls a Black Adam. And, if you’re worried about the Legion being too nice for the Injustice universe, that means you just have to call Geoff Johns. His ideas for the Legion are… disarming.

The Good: Matter-Eater Lad.

The Bad: Matter-Eater Lad.

And The Batman: Hey, if Superman can travel to the future to hang out with his old buds, Batman can follow along, too. Actually, that can be the hook: Bad Superman flees to the future for reinforcements, and Batman trails him through time. Cue Batman having to fight everybody.

Injustice 3: World War 3

I bet they're saying something coolIn this case, we’re not going to focus on the multiple World War 3s of the DC Universe, but instead toward the opposite end of the sidekick spectrum: the old men. DC Comics has a number of characters that fought in World War 2, and, depending on the continuity du jour, sometimes those heroes got caught in a never ending Ragnarök version of World War 2. So, why not let the Injustice cast dip their feet in those waters and fight alongside the old guard against a never-ending siege of Nazis? Throw in a few Nazi supermen, and you’ve got excuses for Star Man, Doc Midnight, and Jay Garrick to punch Nazis all day long. There is nothing videogames should endorse more than punching Nazis.

The Good: An interesting excuse to have “shiny happy” 1940’s DC heroes be a little annoyed and Injustice-y. And a fine excuse for Sgt. Rock to yell at Superman for being a whiny, namby pamby dictator while we’re at it. Also, another game where the finale can be exploding Hitler’s head.

The Bad: If a fighting game includes Nazis, there are good odds you can play as Nazis… and I can’t see that ending well. There are enough Hitler420LOL Miis in the universe to have another online platform where even subtle Nazi overtones can sneak into posts. Then again, if we could all focus on how Nazis are completely terrible, it might all work out.

And The Batman: Batman fucking hates Nazis.

Damn Nazis

Injustice 3: Multiversity

NerdGo nuts, Injustice! Two parallel worlds are fine, but how about every damn parallel world ever. Superman vs. Captain Carrot. Joker vs. The Jokester. Zatanna vs. That One Version of Fate That Just Kicks People in the Balls (Hey, Presto!). Squeeze Pharmaduke in there! And don’t just give me an endless selection of lame variants, make some actually varied movesets for the inevitable Batman vs. Vampire Batman vs. Dark Knight Batman. This would also be a fine excuse to get some people of color in the cast, as we need that one version of Superman that was based on Obama yesterday. And, in this case, the plot really doesn’t matter. The universe is crumbling, everyone has to fight and then work together, and the final boss is Darkseid The Gentry. That sounds scary, right? Bah, it’ll just be the Anti-Monitor anyway.

The Good: An unlimited variety of fighters available from the near-century’s worth of DC characters. Even the most hokiest of characters would work with a serious character’s disgruntled reaction (“I’ve gotta stop drinking before fights”). And there’s even the opportunity for trite characters like Catwoman to use new and fun abilities thanks to multiversal variants.

The Bad: With an unlimited roster, everyone is inevitably going to be disappointed. Sure, this includes every variant of Superman ever committed to paper, but why can’t I fight as a Jimmy Olsen as The Giant Turtle Man? The message board debates would rage for years.

And The Batman: Considering how many times he’s starred in Elseworld tales, Batman could fill up an entire roster just by his lonesome. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s a storyline that’s happening at DC comics as I write this. And that gives me an idea…

Injustice 3: The Brave and the Bold

He is the nightScrew it. Batman is the headliner, right? He’s the focus of every story, and the reason DC Comics still has a few dimes to rub together, correct? Let’s just make a 2v2 fighting game ala Marvel vs. Capcom, but the partner character is always Batman. Think of the possibilities! Batman & Superman vs. Batman & Green Lantern. Batman & Robin vs. Batman & Joker. Batman & Gorilla Grodd vs. Batman & General Zod. And you’ve got to have Batman & Batman vs. Batman & Knuckles. This is the fighting game we’ve all been waiting for!

The Good: The most batmaningest game to ever batman would batman over to your batman, with even batmanner graphics than you ever thought batman. Oh, and it would be a fine excuse to revive the Batusi.

The Bad: I suppose it would be disappointing to see Batman team up with villains and then fight just as hard. Maybe that’s an alternate universe Batman? Yeah, that’s the ticket.

And The Batman: There is no way fighting Batman over and over again is any less boring than fighting Brainiac.

FGC #316 Injustice 2

  • System: Playstation 4 and Xbone. … There isn’t a PC version? Huh.
  • Number of players: However many people it takes to fight. Two? That sounds right.
  • Favorite Character: Conceptually, I love that Swamp Thing made the cut at all… but I kind of hate playing as the guy. Same for orange-variant Green Lantern. But I actually enjoy playing as Blue Beetle, so that’s another time Jaime Reyes made a videogame great. It probably helps that he’s basically Mega Man, though.
  • That's gotta hurtRandom Select: The big new “feature” of Injustice 2 is the acquisition of equipment that will allow you to “kit out” your preferred hero or villain. Unfortunately, in practice, this system is basically a slot machine, and, while all you want is that staff that lets Robin play as Nightwing, no, you’re going to get a thousand new masks for Bane instead. This is the opposite of fun.
  • Future Proof: ROB chose this game before all the DLC was released, so if you’re reading this in the future, and we already got Captain Carrot as DLC, please use the nearest available time machine to send an email back to August 2017 Goggle Bob and blow his mind.
  • New Law: Jeffrey Combs should be responsible for voicing all super-smart villains from this point on. Thank you.
  • It’s the little things: Sub-Zero is now in a superhero universe, so naturally he’s acquired a cape. It was meant to be.
  • Did you know? There’s a tie-in comic for the Injustice universe, and its continuity is… dubious. For instance, during various character intros in Injustice 2, characters make distinct references to events from the comics (like the last time a character got stomped into paste). However, the comics have also noticeably killed characters that reappeared in Injustice 2, so… your multiverse may vary?
  • Would I play again: This is a fun game! I have to ignore the fact that it has a built-in casino, but just fighting around with DC characters is always going to be fun (unless it’s that one Genesis game). So, yes, I might get Batman to fight Batman again sometime in the near future.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Press Your Luck 2010 Edition for the Nintendo Wii! That’s a game I certainly own, apparently! Please look forward to it!

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