Tag Archives: marvel

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 #219 X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse

Here come the X-DorksThere has been an evolution in established property licensed games over the console generations.

In the beginning, the best we could hope for from the genre was a “random adventure” that did its best to get the character out the door and into your gaming console. Wolverine fought Magneto for some reason, Fester had his quest, and Batman generically battled Firefly. I’m not sure if it was the belief that videogames were a fad (so get your licensed property to generate some quick cash while you can), or simply that nobody had any idea what they were doing (Superman likes the Statue of Liberty, right?), but, ultimately, most licensed games of the NES era were fairly lacking in anything but “now you get to control a real life superhero (or Fester)”.

By the 16-bit era, we were at least getting plots that seemed more “built” for videogames. Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge is a terrible game, but its “Arcade built a brand new Murderworld” story adapts instantly to the eclectic stages you usually see in a SNES game. Similarly, X-Men for the Sega Genesis and its “malfunctioning Danger Room” allows for all sorts of interesting vistas from X-Men history, and also leaves room for a “real” plot (and some really confused X-Men). This was also the era that started to adapt current stories, so we saw a Justice League fighting game featuring exclusively Grant Morrison’s JLA, and The Death and Return of Superman: The Game. You too can finally play as an alien that is completely doomed!

WeeeeeThe Playstation hosted a fair few “random” licensed games (Spider-Man springs immediately to mind, and that Star Wars fighting game? Yeesh), but things were already starting to go in the direction of licensed games endorsing “something” in addition to just the featured licensed character. For instance, it’s often overlooked that the atrocious Superman 64 is based on Superman: The Animated Series. I suppose monolithic companies finally acknowledged that videogames were here to stay, and, if you’ve got a property to advertise, why not use videogames to do it? Why simply promote Spider-Man when you can promote Spider-Man: The Movie, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, or Spider-Man: Whatever Stupid Thing We’re Doing in the Comics This Week? Who knew Maximum Carnage was such a trendsetter?

This brings us to today’s featured game, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse. XML2RoA is yet another X-Men videogame, and, at first blush, it appears to be another “random” X-Men adventure. This time, mutant maniac Apocalypse is trying to take over the world (well, he’s always trying to take over the world, just it’s not somebody else trying this week), and the X-Men and The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants must team up to put a stop to Apocalypse’s plan to steal the mutant powers of Jubilee or whatever the hell is going on. The main appeal of the game is that you may now play as a great many villains as well as the heroes, so Cyclops, Wolverine, and Jean Grey can fight alongside Magneto, Juggernaut, and Gambit (okay, he’s not a bad guy, but he is a bad guy). This is all pretty basic “X-Men stuff”, and, come to think of it, it wasn’t even the first time most of this roster had come together in one game (and where’s the petition to get Bishop in Marvel vs. Capcom?).

But the Nightcrawler’s in the details, so let’s look at the blatant “signs of the times” in this X-Men licensed game.

Ultimate X-Men

NerdsThis is probably the most anachronistic item for any modern X-Fan to see in this PS2/Xbox/Gamecube title. While it’s not as “in your face” as some of their appearances, it’s pretty clear that Marvel’s Ultimate X-Men are the featured heroes (and villains) of the game. Okay, I suppose there’s a lot of “original” (Uncanny?) X-Men DNA in the story, too, but that mainly seems to serve as an excuse to get some old school villains to plump up the boss roster. Everything else: the costumes, characterizations, and character’s general ages all seem to point to “this is the Marvel Ultimate Universe”.

This makes a lot of sense, as, at the time, Marvel was trying very hard to promote its new “Ultimate” line of comics, a shared universe where all the superheroes were “new”, and nobody was bogged down with a collective forty years of continuity. It was a good idea! Nobody wants to read another story where they have to be reminded Black Tom ever existed, so let’s reduce the Juggernaut that palled around with Dazzler for some reason back to his basic, “nothing stops the Juggernaut” form. The Ultimate Universe was a good idea, and we should be happy to see it immortalized here.

Because it ain’t around no more.

Marvel should have seen this coming: The Ultimate Universe was great at its outset because it wasn’t drowning in the continuity that had existed before most of the audience was born. But that didn’t last, because modern comics gather continuity snarls like Final Fantasy heroes horde megalixers. In no time at all, the Ultimate X-Men became an endless knot of nonsense where Cable was somehow Wolverine (but from the future), Beast had died and come back and died again, and Colossus was on drugs because his skin was too heavy. Also, an X-Man had cybersex with The Blob. You don’t come back from that.

So the Ultimate Marvel Universe had… I want to say there were three apocalypses. The first one was pretty floody and bloody, then Super Galactus ate New Jersey, and then the Ultimate Universe smashed into the Regular Universe. The Regular (616, nerds) Universe had better sales, so Ultimate ejected its Spider-Man and called it a day. No more Ultimate X-Men.

So it’s funny to be reminded they existed at all in this lil’ Marvel time capsule. Speaking of which…

Age of Apocalypse

Check out the tongue“Age of Apocalypse” was a 1995 X-Men Crossover “Summer Event”. The basic concept was that Professor X had been accidently murdered by a time traveler, and, whoops, that time traveler was his kid, so paradox time, son. The Marvel Timeline convulsed and reconfigured itself until a new universe was born where Apocalypse ruled the world, the X-Men were led by Magneto, and Cyclops was actually pretty cool (and appropriately named). This crossover only lasted a few months, but it left an indelible mark on the X-Men for years, as readers just plain liked a story where half the heroes were villains and pretty much everybody died. Jamie Madrox died like a hundred times!

So Marvel, never one to let a success rest, went back to that well again and again, usually reviving the Apocalypse universe (kinda literally) every two or three years or so. There was the time that AoA turned out to be bright and sunny outside of Apocalypse’s rule, there was the time it was so crappy that someone ate a baby, and there was an entire miniseries where all the mutants were humans and I think top hats could eat people or something. None of these revivals ever seemed to stick around for longer than a few issues, but why not try to milk a little more cash out of that one successful crossover from twenty years ago?

X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse isn’t a straight retelling of Age of Apocalypse by any means, but it is the annual excuse to use all your favorite AoA characters (like Sugarman! Everybody loves Sugarman!), and even pigeonhole a few good guys into their AoA bad guy roles (Hey, Beast, you’re evil now, don’t ask why). It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty clear that Marvel used this game as a way to remind everyone of that one thing they liked that one time. Kills time before releasing the movie a decade later.

And speaking of movies…

Special Guests: Deadpool and Iron Man (before they were famous)

Big scary dudeXML2:RoA was released three years before Iron Man, the movie that officially launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s possible that Iron Man was included in this game with that event in mind… but it was probably just an excuse to promote Marvel Ultimate Alliance (coming soon!). Iron Man winds up as a “hidden character” that must be unlocked through random scavenger hunt nonsense. I guess that’s appropriate, it’s not like he’s a mutant (most of the time). Similarly, Deadpool is unlocked after completing the game, and… yeah. Can you imagine saving Deadpool for a “hidden character” slot in today’s environment? He’s had more games than Cyclops at this point! And there was the best superhero movie of 2016 somewhere in there, too. You can’t stop the ‘pool!

But here are Iron Man and Deadpool, slumming it in the reserve section so you can play as such amazing X-stars as Sunfire, X-Man (PSP only, to be fair), and friggen Toad. Yes, I know Toad was in the X-Men movie of 2000, but he was also involved in the single worst line-read in cinema history, so I don’t think he should be involved in anything. Get Deadpool back in there! He has teleporting powers for some reason! Bodyslide by fun!

Let’s punch dinosaurs in the Savage Land

Oh, that’s perennial. Licensed games or no, some things are always going to be entertaining.

FGC #219 X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse

  • System: Playstation 2, Xbox, Gamecube, PC, PSP, and… N-Gage? Seriously? Okay. For the purpose of this review (“review”), I played the Gamecube version, which I bought initially because…
  • Number of players: Four! This game is basically Gauntlet with X-Men, and that’s a thing I never knew I needed so badly before X-Men Legends (1).
  • Think about itSo, got played a lot? So much. Everything is unlocked, and I think most of the characters are at some “max level” stats. This is mainly because my friends and I played this almost as much as Smash Bros (this is a lie, but the hyperbole rings true), and good times were had by all. Just watch it when someone chooses Nightcrawler while cackling loudly (full disclosure: I am that someone).
  • Favorite Character: I liked Deadpool before he was cool, dammit. Also, quick-run Professor Xavier is hilarious. Of the characters that are more easily available, I guess Juggernaut saw a lot of play, but that’s mainly thanks to a residual love for Marvel vs. Capcom 2.
  • Port-o-Call: The PSP version contained extra characters, like Cable, but made multiplayer more of a bear, so screw that noise. The PC version also included Pyro and Sabertooth… so I couldn’t care less. There was also a phone-based version of the game that was a beat ‘em up. That actually sounds like it might be interesting.
  • Did you know? The Age of Apocalypse version of Sunfire’s “costume” is still the best thing that ever happened to that character.
  • Would I play again? I have a lot of affection for this game, but, man is it rough to come back to after a decade of gaming innovations. I can barely read the HUD! Love ya, XML2:RoA, but I’ve got some modern X-ventures to play.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Mega Man X2! Or maybe he didn’t choose it, and I’m on a run of X-Mas games. Who can say? Anyway, please look forward to it!

AHH

FGC #215 The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

Get ready to smash!The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction might be one of the most inadvertently clever games in all of gaming.

There have been a number of Incredible Hulk videogames over the years, and even more games that simply involve the big green meanie. This makes a certain kind of sense, as, even more than his superhero contemporaries, Hulk is pretty much made for the videogame arena. Which would you rather play? A game where Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans, must make careful, measured decisions about the fate of his people while maintaining complete silence, or do you want to smash tanks with a massive maniac? Even Hulk’s basic skillset reads like an NES instruction manual: Hulk runs, jumps, and punches. Collect powerups to get angrier! Press the “smash” button to clear the screen!

But, alas, Hulk doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to videogames. In general, while a God of War style rage-romp through the entire Marvel Universe would fit Hulk like some stretchy purple pants, we have yet to see such a gaming event. When Hulk appears beside his fellow heroes, he simply becomes the random “strong guy”, and can be relied on to be slightly more powerful than Iron Man, but not as fast as Spider-Man (well, except in that one stupid game where he only appeared as Bruce Banner… damn copyrights…). Similarly, in fighting games, Hulk is just there to be the “balanced” strong guy, because, inevitably, there’s a Juggernaut or Sentinel to be the “real” big guy. Hulk can’t catch a break! And even in his starring adventures, Hulk has a tendency to be fairly generic. Come to think of it, maybe his “straightforward” powerset naturally makes Hulk fairly indistinguishable from other videogame heroes. I think Lester the Unlikely had a more complex set of abilities in the 16-bit era than Doc Green.

WeeeeeeBut the open world renaissance of the early 21st Century (aka that time everyone was trying to ape Grand Theft Auto 3) led to possibly the greatest expression of that genre. The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is a game where, finally, you get to experience what it is to be the Hulk.

The most overt appeal of TIH:UD is, of course, a Hulk that can finally do something. Hulk smash, and Hulk jump, but this is also a Hulk that can run up buildings, launch missiles, and perform piledrivers. Hulk can even use some of that puny Banner’s smarts to transform cars into metal boxing gloves. Think about it: the Hulk can now equip Hulk Hands! We live in the best of all possible worlds! And, while those skills are primarily focused on destroying your nearest soldier, tank, or giant mecha, it all adapts very well to the traversal of an open world game. You don’t need a car, Hulk can run. You don’t need a plane, Hulk jump good. Even the concept of “fast travel” is perfectly masked by the Hulk’s random ability to jump cross country in a single bound. These are all skills we’ve seen utilized in other videogames, but rarely to the point that we see them in TIH:UD. Remember how C.J. jumped? Hulk is the one with the ups.

And, as one might expect, all these skills are put to the test during the plot-mandated missions. General Ross and Abomination are out for Hulk’s gamma-irradiated blood, but Hulk is the strongest one there is, so let’s beat down everything wearing a uniform within sixty miles. And, while the missions might not be as fun as running around the city, they do have a tendency to introduce new gameplay mechanics (re: ways to hit things, things to hit), and the plot is expected Hulk fair. Green behemoths wreaking up the place is kind of the draw of the game, and missions are how you get there.

Except… Well, this is where you really get to be the Hulk.

Public transportation sucks!The Hulk has been around for over fifty years, so there have been a lot of interpretations of Robert Bruce Banner. He’s been shrunk down to become the warlord of a micro world, ejected into space to become a warlord of an entire planet, and there was that time he went to Vegas and inexplicably did not become a warlord of any kind. Though many adventures, he’s fought practically every member of his supporting cast (his Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Lex Luthor have all been gamma monsters at some point [occasionally simultaneously]), joined the Avengers, and even temporarily became Lou Ferrigno. But, when Hulk is at his most Hulk, he sticks to two mantras: “Hulk is the strongest one there is”, and “Hulk just wants to be left alone”.

And, when playing an open-world, GTA-style game, don’t we all just want to be left alone?

It is fun to be the Hulk. It is fun to run around the city smashing whatever unfortunate object wanders into Hulk’s path. And, what’s more, it’s fun to be as damn unbeatable as the Hulk, and to not really have to worry about anything the “police” of the game toss in Hulk’s general direction. It is very easy to dash around the city collecting enough health to survive practically any “random” onslaught. Heck, come to think of it, it almost feels good to take a hit. Hulk was just shot with a missile, and it did the tiniest sliver of damage. I’m invincible! Bwa ha ha!

PILEDRIVERAnd then there are the missions. The missions can be fun, but they’re also Hulk’s homework. They’re balanced to actually be something of a challenge, and, thus, they can be demanding. Hulk can fail. Hulk can be captured. Yes, the missions have to have some difficulty, because otherwise what’s even the point of playing the game, but… It’s never fun to see a game over. It’s never fun to be “stuck” on some particularly intensive boss, and find out you either have to get your skills or experience up. There’s nothing fun about roadblocks. Hulk is supposed to smash puny roadblocks.

But you can ignore the missions! You can just roam around the city at your leisure… and still be reminded by markers, subtitles, and the general plot that it’s time to stop having fun now and get back to the “real” game. Stop running around smashing indiscriminately, player, you should be getting back to business now. Are you ready yet? How about now? Don’t you want to fight the Abomination? He’s right there in the trailer for a reason, player. Come on, stop roaming.

But player doesn’t want to go back to the mission. Player just wants to be left alone.

Look, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, stop pestering me. You’re making me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

FGC #215 The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

  • System: Playstation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube. Aw, remember when licensed games were on Nintendo systems?
  • Number of players: Red Hulk, Blue Hulk, Gray Hulk, and Orange Hulk do not appear in this game. You’re stuck with one Green Hulk.
  • Temptation to write this article in all caps and use zero pronouns: HIGH.
  • HERE WE GOBest Superhero game? Technically the best superhero game will always be something in the Marvel vs. Capcom line, but this game might be the most true to the character. You spend all of the Arkham series watching Batman beat people to death (and occasionally use a tank and electricity gun), Superman is never as super as he’s supposed to be, and videogame Spider-Man is able to spend more than five minutes outside of a guilt-inflicted fetal position. Hulk gets to be Hulk in his game. That’s commendable.
  • Sequel Time: I understand the movie-based Playstation 3 The Incredible Hulk was similar to this adventure, but I dodged that game, as the Superman Returns tie-in game pretty much soured me on licensed superhero movie videogames forever. The hurt runs deep.
  • Did you know? According to at least one Marvel Comic, no innocent people have ever died in a single Hulk rampage, because if Bruce Banner knew he was a murderer, he’d commit suicide immediately to permanently cage the Hulk. Even if we take this completely insane factoid as true, then the ol’ super scientist is still ignoring the economic ramifications of a Hulk storm and how many people are likely doomed to die in poverty thanks to destroyed homes and ludicrous medical bills. There, I just justified the Marvel Illuminati.
  • Would I play again: I might fire it up again to experience glorious Hulk-o-Vision again, but I’d really prefer a modern day sequel where you can actually completely level a city, Rampage style. Yes, an entire city would have to respawn every time you changed areas, but, man, I would play that game every day until the end of time.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Code of Princess for the Nintendo 3DS! Anime hijinks and a whole lot of dragons to stab? I’m there! Please look forward to it!

Nice

FGC #212 The Tick

SPOON!I blame The Tick for my entire generation.

I like superheroes. I know I’m not alone in this, because I’m pretty sure any film starring Robert Downey Jr. is currently making more money than every single human in Macedonia combined (and a few of the particularly skilled dogs, too). It’s reached the point that, even on this very blog, when I’m talking about “comics”, I mean “the big two companies publishing superhero comics”, and not, say, some graphic novel about taking care of elderly relatives or scoring blankets in the Middle East or whatever is cool in the indie scene right now. I like my weekly comics to be about one thing: grown men punching each other for the slightest of reasons. And, again, I know I’m not the only one, because I just watched a movie where a magic man puts on a super cape and turns an angry German to dust. That doesn’t happen outside of superhero comics and/or Harry Potter novels (or comic books about Harry Potter novels).

Given I am clearly an adult child, you might be under the mistaken impression that I’ve been reading comic books as long as I’ve been able to decipher a thought bubble. And, while it’s true that I’ve been reading comics of various kinds for years, I actually never had a subscription or frequent exposure to the big Marvel or DC titles when I was a wee Goggle Bob. This was because, predominantly, the only comic book shop in the area was filled with sweaty nerds, and even I, a proto-sweaty nerd, found the place to be rather… repellant. As a result, I rarely ever had any new comics, and predominantly only saw an issue when my family went on vacation, and I was gifted an issue of X-Men for the long car ride. Do you know how long it takes to drive from Jersey to Florida? Longer than it takes to read one comic book, dad.

But you may be asking, “Hey, wait a tick. If you never got any comic books, then how did you know you wanted an X-Men comic? Was that the only comic book at the supermarket checkout line, and that’s just what your dad happened to buy?” The answer to that is a resounding “yes”, but what’s important is that I gladly accepted that supermarket comic book because I loved the X-Men. And why did I love the X-Men? Because of television, of course.

BEWARESimilar to how toddlers today may love Rocket Raccoon despite not being old enough to read a single one of his adventures, the Marvel machine was churning out a number of licensed shows for their key demographic back in the 90’s. X-Men and Spider-Man were the big ones of the Fox Kids line-up, but there were also Iron Man (which was basically stealth Avengers) and The Fantastic Four programs that no one seems to remember. Stan Lee introduced each Fantastic Four episode! He spoke Skrull! It was important! And on the DC Comics side of the aisle, we had the show that seemingly started it all: Batman: The Animated Series. I might have to turn in my nerd card for this, but B:TAS was not my favorite superhero show of the time, simply because it didn’t have nearly enough mutants with laserbeam eyes. I recognized the show was good, but give me some crazy nonsense with bright colors and dudes with four arms over “another Don Falcone episode” any day. The Adventures of Superman and the eventual Justice League series whet that whistle nicely, though.

And then there were the other superhero shows…

He has a TV show now!I suppose it started with the Disney Afternoon. The life and times of Scrooge McDuck and rescue rodents always got my attention, so when Darkwing Duck was introduced, I was 100% on board. As previously mentioned, I’m a sucker for bright colors and random “mutant” powers, so a purple-clad duck battling a fearful fiveful of elemental based bad guys (water, lightning, plant, dark, and… laughter?) may as well have pasted my eyeballs right to the ‘tube. Darkwing Duck, despite being ostensibly a comedy, was still very adventure-based, and it perfectly scratched those “hero” and “hilarity” itches. There was an episode where a scientist became a dinosaur! What more could I ask for?

And then Batman: The Animated Series hit the airwaves, and I was introduced to Batman for the first time. I was dimly aware of Batman before the show, but B:TAS was the “real” way I learned about Joker, The Waynes, and Alfred. Everything else had come from movie commercials or the NES game. Maybe I saw a Batman comic once before. Maybe.

So, in short, I watched Darkwing Duck, the obvious Batman parody, before I ever learned the details of “straight” Batman. Before I saw The Joker, I saw Quackerjack. Before I saw Batman go blind and fight Penguin, I saw Darkwing lose his sight and battle Megavolt. Years before I even heard of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, I saw a future Darkwing Duck ride around a dystopian St. Canard in a tank and enforce unrelenting vigilante justice. I saw all the parodies before I saw everything else.

And then there was The Tick.

CarefulThe Tick is amazing. Comic book, animated series, live action series: whatever. It’s all good. Ben Edlund’s parody of superhero comics is spot-on, and without The Tick (in whatever form) we might not have The Venture Brothers or Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog or the other amazing superhero parodies of today. Hell, you can even see Edlund’s impact in more “normie” programs that have greatly influenced modern media, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, where the superhero formula is stretched and distorted, but you can still pick out your “capes” and “big bads”. … Alright, I might be cheating because Edlund worked on all those shows, but I’m pretty sure my point still stands. The Tick was funny and innovative on its own, but its greater impact on media at large seems disproportionate to the idea that most people only know the character from one Fox Kids show from the 90’s.

But it was that Fox Kids animated series that everyone in my generation (that was cool enough… yeah, that’s the ticket) watched. Batman was on every weekday, but Die Fledermaus appeared every Saturday. Superheroes had sidekicks, right? Like Arthur, the pudgy moth-rabbit man that had previously held a pretty good job in accounting. The Tick was invincible! Like Superman! He was also kind of dumb as a post, and his crime fighting catchphrase (“Spoon!”) wasn’t exactly “Avengers Assemble”. There was an episode where a scientist became a dinosaur! And who can forget the villainous The Human Ton and Handy? I mean, he’s no Chairface Chippendale, but who is?

Just superBut “Who is?” is the question.

Batman The Animated Series was a show for kids, but it was “serious” in that it took its Bruce Wayne and his many trials completely seriously. Spider-Man weaved the tale of Peter Parker and his many loves turned victims and/or supervillains earnestly. The X-Men lived in a world that hated and feared them, complete with at least one main character spending a season in jail as an example of peaceful protest. X-Men compared its big, blue champion to Ghandi! The Tick compared its similarly shaded hero to… a nitwit.

Darkwing Duck was a hero, but it was always front and center that he was primarily fueled by his ego. The Tick was indestructible, but, as Arthur often reminded us, his endless drive to save The City seemed to be (literally) crazy. The Tick’s superhero contemporaries seemed to be similarly… off… and I don’t think anyone wanted to grow up to be Sewer Urchin, hero or not.

So my entire generation (of nerds) watched Batman solemnly save the city, and then, a half hour later, The Tick did the same thing, but mocked the very idea of taking such a thing seriously. Week after week, rerun after rerun, we saw the hero rescue the world, and then we got a hero that laughed at that first hero. The moral, over and over again, was simple: caring about stuff is lame.

Dance alongAnd it’s funny, because it’s pretty clear that the creators and writers of these shows loved superheroes. As Mel Brooks has proven repeatedly, you can’t parody something effectively unless you know the source material, and love is the quickest route to knowledge. The writers of Darkwing Duck may have vehemently hated continuity, but that’s likely only because they lived through The Phoenix Saga (that X-Men will be running through on their show this week). The Tick seems to be “Superman, but an idiot”, but you only get to write that after seeing Superman barbecue Jimmy Olsen’s favorite sweater. These parodies came from a loving place… but the cynicism that was conveyed to a virgin audience is palatable. Without the base, without coming to these shows as fans first, well, it all gets a little muddled.

And then, twenty years later, we’ve got an entire generation of people that don’t seem to believe in anything, and can barely distinguish between an elderly lady that can’t understand her email and a raging racist.

I blame The Tick.

FGC #212 The Tick

  • System: Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, the usual suspects. Sega Genesis version for this “review”, technically.
  • Number of players: Just one Tick. Arthur is a summonable “weapon”, at least.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: It’s a beat ‘em up. There seem to be a few interesting ideas in the opening areas, like rooftop hopping or optional mini bosses, but around the second level, it becomes an endless gauntlet of the exact same multi-colored ninja. Spoon?There’s a glimmer of a neat idea in “back-to-back” hero-buddy summoning, but even that gets real old, real fast (and that particular power-up always seems to note the 2/3s point in the stage, so just seeing it means you have a ways to go).
  • But is it a “The Tick” game? Yes. The Tick has some amusing animations like leaping “gracefully” across rooftops and a finishing attack that is a finger flick. And some of the stars of the comic/show are here, like Chairface and The Idea Men. And occasionally The Human Bullet drops in and accidently causes damage to heroes and villains alike. There is, basically, a subtle undercurrent of “amusing” to the game.
  • But? But it’s still a tepid beat ‘em up, and you can only fight the same three ninja over and over again so many times.
  • Is The Tick at least “invincible”? You can toggle the continues and lives at will, and any defeat will lead to a restart right where you failed, so, actually, yeah. If you pump up The Tick’s lives count, you can probably easily make it to the end… but the boredom will stop you first.
  • Favorite Tick Supporting Character: Sewer Urchin. No contest. Definitely the best. Definitely.
  • Did you know? This game was apparently released very close to the Fox Kids premiere of The Tick. Likely as a result, there are a lot more characters in this that are comic-based than the “usual stable” of the animated series. It’s not like it’s a comics Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vs. animated TMNT situation, but you still see easy (lazy) parodies like Oedipus the Electra clone more than, say, American Maid.
  • Would I play again: I’ll watch The Tick over and over again until I die. I will not touch this game ever again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Blazblue Central Fiction. Hey, drawing from the end of the deck for once, robot? Is this a good thing? I guess we’ll find out. Please look forward to it!

Maaaaaan