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FGC #426 Spider-Man: The Video Game

Spidey!Spider-Man: The Video Game is important precisely because it is forgettable.

Spider-Man: The Video Game is an arcade title that never made its way to consoles. It’s part beat ‘em up, part 2-D platformer, and all general Sega lunacy. Released a year after Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin, this title sees Spider-Man gain a few amazing friends, fight almost the exact same roster of villains, and eventually save the day/planet through the very Spider-Man solution of “punch everything ever”. Webs are used exclusively as concussive projectiles, a swinging kick is the most Spidey-esque move available, and I’m pretty sure ol’ Webhead kills Dr. Curt Connors. Twice. It’s a Spider-Man game, but it’s so loosely a Spider-Man product, it may as well be a malfunctioning Malibu Stacy doll.

But, hey, it was a fun time for 1992.

Spider-Man: The Video Game is not Final Fight. In fact, SM:TVG was released a solid three years after Final Fight and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the arcade game). We had also seen Streets of Rage a year prior. The Simpsons (the arcade game) was released a year earlier, too. X-Men (the arcade game) was released the same year. In short, SM:TVG was not only already one of many Spider-Man videogames, but it was also yet another beat ‘em up in an already crowded beat ‘em up market. What did it do to set itself apart from the pack? Well, unfortunately, not much: Once a level, the perspective changes to a 2-D plane, and features almost Contra-esque run ‘n shoot action. Unfortunately, this was at a time when 2-D was starting to become passé, so lil’ dorky dudes shooting grappling hooks at a ridiculously scaled Venom sprite wasn’t going to impress anyone when Blanka’s screams were already beckoning from elsewhere in the arcade. So, yes, when a beat ‘em up needed every advantage it could find to be the next Double Dragon and not a Double Dragon 3, SM:TVG decided to go in possibly the worst direction. At least it didn’t include a boss on the second level that is virtually impossible due to a severe lack of available aerial attacks…

GOBLIN!

Oh. Oh dang.

But wait! Spider-Man: The Video Game is still fun! It’s a lot of fun! Or… at least I remember it being a fun. Maybe I just need to play it again? Sure! That sounds like a great idea! I’ll just pop it right in my…

Oh, right. SM:TVG was only available in arcades, and it sure as heck isn’t in any arcades anymore… Assuming you can find an arcade at all… This is going to get difficult.

But it does bring us to a prime reason videogame preservation is important: Videogame popularity is wildly capricious and ephemeral.

Get 'emThe beat ‘em up genre featured some of the biggest names of the time. Many people were first exposed to The X-Men not through a comic book, but through an arcade game (and we’re still trying to figure out why Dazzler isn’t more popular…). Mike Haggar was just a mayor who rarely wore a shirt, but the humble beat ‘em up made him a mainstay of gaming for generations. And the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? The Simpsons? They were already everywhere, so it made sense they’d be gobbling up your quarters, too. When the beat ‘em up genre ruled the arcade, it well and truly owned gaming itself, and the consoles of the time were desperate to catch up to their coin-op brethren. It was cool to be a beat ‘em up, and everything that was cool wound up walking left-to-right and pummeling every random punk in their path.

But popularity ebbs and flows. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons are still a “thing” (The Simpsons is currently entering its ∞th season), but they’re nowhere near the popularity they experienced in the late 80’s/early 90’s. In the meanwhile, The X-Men became the hottest super-hero franchise on the silver screen… and then fell to the wayside the minute that Spider-Man conquered the multiplex. And now Spider-Man is riding high again, but is nowhere near the popularity of some of his contemporaries in The Avengers. Oh Lord! Hawk Guy might be the most popular character in Spider-Man: The Video Game! What horrible future has our misdeeds wrought!?

THWANGAnd if you’re saying that Spider-Man: The Video Game (featuring Clint Barton) would do well today because of the popularity of its attached property: congratulations! You’re right! And if we had The Avengers palling around on the big screen back in 1992, then this mediocre beat ‘em up would likely be just as popular as the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Simpsons. And that would carry it forward to the future: some company (I guess Disney Interactive? Or… Capcom? Nintendo is publishing Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3? Maybe them?) would find it profitable enough to hit Sega up for its old code, and we’d see this arcade title ported to a virtual console or two. Or maybe it would have already happened, and we’d be able to buy it on Xbox Live because it was a promotion for Spider-Man: That One Where The Lizard Looks Like a Ninja Turtle. Or maybe it would have been enough of an arcade hit that it got ported to the Sega Genesis. Or Sega Saturn. Or Sega Dreamcast. Or Game Gear? I’m really not picky.

But, in its moment, Spider-Man wasn’t all that popular. We were still two years away from the massive popularity of the Spider-Man animated series, and the Spidey fans of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends were a decade past caring about videogames. Tobey Maguire may as well have been an eternity from popularizing battling a Green Goblin or two. While it seems hard to believe in the age of Avengers Endgame, there was a time when Spider-Man was just some random comic book character, and his masked mug was never going to grab more quarters than Michelangelo traveling through time.

And so history forgot Spider-Man: The Video Game. It is now impossible to play a videogame featuring Spider-Man and Hawkeye battling The Kingpin and Doctor Doom. There may be other similar experiences out there, but this one is lost forever. And all because Spider-Man wasn’t the hottest property available that month, but still a popular enough franchise to require licensing. It’s gone forever simply because of a quirk of timing.

This seems dangerousSpider-Man: The Video Game isn’t the best Spider-Man game out there. It didn’t define the genre, it didn’t show us all what it meant to be Spider-Man, and it suffered from the unfortunate handicap of including Namor. But it was a fun game, and future generations deserve an opportunity to play it.

Videogame preservation is important not only for the best and most unique games, but also the unexceptional titles. It might not be the most exciting game in the world, but what kid doesn’t want to play a Spider-Man game?

FGC #426 Spider-Man: The Video Game

  • System: Arcade exclusively. That’s the problem!
  • Number of players: Four! And it was one of those arcade cabinets where you’re not tied to a character according to which joystick you grab, so us lefties aren’t stuck with Leonardo just because we wanted some elbow room.
  • Favorite Character: I very much want to say that Black Cat is my favorite character, as she is one of my favorite, overlooked Marvel heroines… but she kind of sucks in this game. A grappling hook swing special attack? Lame. But Namor, who can shoot friggen lightning bolts from his hands and toss random baddies far into the air? That’s the stuff. Imperious Rex, baby!
  • Other Influences: Namor walking around nearly naked with the abs of Hercules? His sprite reminds me of another Sega title.
  • Battle!The Spider that Walks like a Man: Spider-Man is an interesting character to animate, because his comic origins don’t really grant him an animated “walk”, but given his speed and super-powers, you could go in a lot of different directions with how a man blessed by a radioactive Spider God might wander around the place. Somehow, this led to Spider-Man of this title possessing a walking animation that makes Peter Parker appear to be… bored. And kind of slouchy? Look, what’s important is that Spider-Man really needs to visit a chiropractor.
  • So Close: Black Cat’s catchphrase for the game seems to be, “Jackpot!” You might have been thinking of a different lady in Spider-Man’s life, Sega…
  • Last known photo: I last saw this arcade cabinet at a festival in 2012. That is a lot more recent than I would expect, but I assume it was just a matter of some random carnival barker getting a deal on a game with a recognizable name. And one of the joysticks didn’t work. Lame.
  • Did you know? Scorpion and Venom appear as a sort of tandem boss in the first level. In the comics, years later, Mac Gargan (aka Scorpion) would eventually obtain the Venom symbiote as part of the Dark Reign event. Also: I am a gigantic nerd.
  • Would I play again: This is a fun beat ‘em up, and the 2-D sections are an excellent change of pace from the usual beat ‘em up “same three guys” gameplay. It’s just a shame I technically can’t play the game anymore…

What’s next? Spider-Man is always popular, but what happens when a game is released in one region, and then never leaves because its hero is… a penguin? With a weight problem? Our next lost forever title is Yume Penguin Monogatari. Please look forward to it!

So iconic

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…

The Gaming 5 #4 Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3

The main man!Why is it on this list?

So far, all the games I’ve used to define gaming have been predominantly single player experiences. Yes, Gitaroo-Man had a two player mode, and, technically, you could consider the “score” elements (item acquisition percentage, speed involved, damage incurred) of the previous games to be competitive, but, by and large, these are games meant to be enjoyed by a solitary person gradually being absorbed by a hungry couch. Sometimes, though, that couch hungers for more souls, and two player games are there to sate that desire. Pong, widely believed to be the first video game, was a two player competitive experience, and it’s only natural that much of its progeny follows the same template. Man versus man is going to be more interesting than man vs. machine most days, and what better way to highlight that fact than with a homicidal raccoon versus a hulking zombie?

Can’t I just compete through Ultimate Frisbee instead?

In the man v. man world of competition, video games are, at their core, just a complex set of rules for a game. Consider the difference between a “complex” board game like Monopoly and your average Mario Party installment: both are, at their core, the same kind of “game”, but one allows for so much more complicated (and fun!) distractions. There’s no way you could ever play a game of Risk where you settled disputes by springing up and organizing an impromptu round of finger football, but that’s basically what you do every round in Rampart. Video games, with the programmer working as inventor, organizer, and referee all in one, allow for much more I think comics are coolcomplex play experiences than anything available in the real world (unless you have amazingly cooperative friends).

You could toss on some gloves and box with your buddy, or get into a fistfight if everybody is receptive to the whole “losing a few teeth” thing, but you’re still going to get a more interesting experience when you’re pitting the Master of Magnetism against the Reploid. This is a fighting game, but that genre left behind the trappings of a simple fist to the face right around the time that dude in the bandana starting hurling chi balls across the dojo. And that’s even before you get into the fact that a significant chunk of the cast isn’t even human. Yes, it’s not as fun as growing wings of you own and assaulting a colleague with a dive bomb attack of your own devising, but until genetic manipulation finally grants us dominance over birds, it will have to do.

So why this game? Why not Ultimate Frisbee Pro 2099?

The most obvious example of a competitive video game for a lot of people would be a simple, actual sports game. People understand sports, and people understand grandslamming that puck past the three-point line and into the endzone (did I get that right?). But video game sports, try as they might, aren’t anywhere near the actual experience they’re emulating. No, I’m not lamenting the lack of body odor involved in (most) video games, or that special runner’s high you can only get from towing a basketball the proper number of meters (not really a sports guy, sorry); what I’m talking about is that, by definition, a video game is merely an abstraction of a real physical activity. You’re not throwing a football, you’re pressing the X button. Hell, you’re not even just pressing the X button, you’re pressing the X button at the right time, the right number of times, and while aiming the analog stick in the right direction. This is what video games are, and I’m not disparaging sports games for being sports games, They look so friendlysimply stating that turning a simple throwing motion into a series of rigidly defined button presses is maybe not the best way to endear someone to the medium.

And, incidentally, this is what made Wii Sports such a perennial hit: a “bowling motion” actually allowed you to bowl, as opposed to having to properly line up some abstract meter. And Wii Sports would be a great introduction to gaming if only another game in the last decade actually emulated what was so great about it. Alas.

Like proper sports games (fighting is a sport!), Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is an abstraction of a real dog god battling an intergalactic murderess. You can no more throw a punch in reality and get a reaction from your digital avatar than slap a puck at your television and expect your virtual goalie to move accordingly. But here, with the pomp and craziness of the UMvC3 universe, you’re already in a “weird” environment, so it’s a lot more conducive to learning the “new” controls demanded of you. You can easily throw a ball in real life, but you can’t hurl a fireball, so there’s less of a disparity between the “advantages” of reality and the video game universe.

But you’ve still gotta learn all those super moves, right?

And that leads to the other reason I chose Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3: it’s kinda easy. No, I don’t mean it’s easier to beat an AI opponent than any other fighting game, what I mean is that about 90% of the roster has super moves based on variations on a simple quarter circle controller movement, or, put simply, “the fireball motion”. Punch, kick, jump, it’s all in your mind and at the push of a button; but with a little extra effort (but not too much effort), you can summon punishing lightning showers or unflinching zombie hordes. Dinner time!And the combos, an essential piece of any fighting game, are not as demanding as some franchises, but are still spectacular to behold. With just a little practice, the average player can graduate from frantic button mashing to more nuanced combat techniques. It won’t happen immediately, but video games are about improving, and UMvC3 is here to provide a plethora of “easy to learn, fun to master” options.

Aren’t there other “simple” fighting games out there?

Probably, but they don’t have Tron Bonne fighting Iron Fist. Yes, half the roster was birthed of Capcom video game hits, but the other half should be very familiar to anyone that has opened their eyes in the last decade. Let’s see here… including upcoming features, it appears that the only heroes on the Marvel side that haven’t hit the big screen are… Nova, She-Hulk, and X-23. So if you ever watched Thor, Iron Man, or Wolverine, and thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to be that guy?” Then congratulations, your wish is granted, and you can be all three at the same time.

This is not to discount the Capcom side, though, as half the fun of those guys is seeing someone interesting and then being inspired to explore their origins. Zero already appeared in one Gaming Five entry, but the rest of the gang are eclectic beyond belief, and you will get a very different experience between exploring the origins of Frank West or Mike Haggar. If part of the qualifications for these games is to create a desire to play more video games, Victory!you really can’t go wrong with a game that dares you to discover Trish’s deal.

It’s a fighting game, it’s a history of Capcom, it’s a perfect game for beginners, and it’s a wonderful way to battle it out with your friends. It’s not just a good choice for someone to learn about video games, it’s one of the Ultimates.

The Gaming 5 #4 Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3

  • System: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Vita. But it’s not available digitally, because licensing is a scourge.
  • Number of players: Two. That… was kind of the point.
  • What about One Player Mode: It’s a great way to practice against an AI opponent, and you do have to do it at least once to battle the one and only Galactus. It’s kind of amazing that this is the only game where I feel like his might was properly utilized (Marvel: Ultimate Alliance is second place… and then nothing). Galactus is a gigantic purple clad “man” in a skirt who wants to devour the Earth: how is he not the final boss of every Marvel game?
  • It can’t be all good: Oh, so, despite having a team of three, every run through One Player Mode only unlocks one character’s ending? And it’s just the character that landed the final blow, so if Phoenix got chumped on a bad hit, I’m out of luck? Thanks a lot, guys.
  • Dinner time!Favorite Character: The fact that Tron Bonne made it back into the fold made my bitter, twisted heart grow three sizes. I missed Mega Man Legends on its initial release, so Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was my first introduction to Ms. Tron and her adorable servbots. I still remember a friend and I trying to figure out her deal from her moveset. She throws a rock… is she related to Guts Man?
  • Did you know? Of the original, pre-Ultimate MvC3 lineup, the only character without any form of action figure/model merchandise was Mike Hagger (if you consider Sir Arthur and Maximo to be the same character… which I do for merch). With the Ultimate crowd added, there’s Red Arremer/Firebrand and, I believe, Frank West. Amusingly enough, Strider had an action figure for… Mavel vs. Capcom (he fought Spider-Man!).
  • Would I play again: Yes. Granted, I’ve logged more hours in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 by virtue of existing longer, but UMvC3 is my go-to for fighting games with friends, so it sees play pretty often. Incidentally, MvC2 might have made this list if it wasn’t balanced about as poorly as a match between a towering mutant hunter and a kitty cat.

What’s next? Mother’s Day. Please look forward to it!

Go read Hawkeye!