During the early ‘90s, as comic-book sales were at an all-time high, both DC and Marvel decided to launch massive “event” storylines featuring "big changes" that couldn't be missed... meaning fans had to buy dozens of comics to keep up with the story. Two storylines were so big that they got games based not just on the characters, but on those specific stories, making them some of the most rigid-to-the-source games ever.
The Death and Return of Superman
Everyone who was alive in 1992 remembers the "death" of Superman (Superman Vol. 2, #75) and the media blitz that followed, mostly because the public felt burned to learn what comic fans have known forever: no one ever stays dead in comics. In fact, Kal-El wasn't even dead; technically, he was in a death-like supercoma which he eventually healed from while entombed in Metropolis. Yeah, we know, lame. Anyway, the insane popularity of the stunt led to a beat 'em-up based on it.
Above: Superman versus his greatest enemies, horned mutants
Even though Superman played like Final Fight character, despite the fact that he is both faster and stronger than God, the Death and Return game ably recreated the storyline. From Supes’ fight with the lame underground mutants and his death on the streets of Metropolis, to playing as each of the four new Supermen, the destruction of Coast City and the renewed Superman's defeat of his cyborg imposter, the only thing missing was an overpriced chromium cover.
Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage
By 1993, Spider-Man comics were symbiote-crazy. Venom was Spidey's most dangerous and popular villain, but was on his way to becoming an anti-hero, while an even-more-evil "son" of the alien suit - named Carnage - surfaced in Amazing Spider-Man #360. The first Carnage story was insanely popular and only three issues long, so obviously a 14-part, three-month-long story would be even better, right? Instead, it proved that for Spider-fans, there can be too much of a good thing.
Above: A pixel recreation of a panel from Spider-Man Unlimited #1
A year later, the gargantuan story got the royal gaming treatment in the form of a brawler by the same name, with the box using art from the comics, including Spider-Man penciller Tom Lyle's work. Inside the distinctive red cartridge, the attention to detail was even closer, as it followed the plot fairly closely. Not only were many of the story interludes scenes taken directly from the pages, but - as you played through with either Spider-Man or Venom, the support characters you could call upon had all appeared in the comic, making this probably the only videogame that will ever featureDeathlok.
The Games of Tomorrow
Just because something hasn’t come out yet doesn't mean comic geeks can't judge its accuracy ahead of time. Here are two upcoming games, which we’ll judge based on what we know so far about them.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2
The long-awaited sequel to the massive Marvel dungeon-crawler is just a month away, and it looks to be a bit closer to the source material than its predecessor. It covers both the Secret War in Latveria that got Nick Fury fired, and the Civil War event, including the disastrous super-fight in Stamford, CT that killed 600 people, which in turn led to the conflict among the heroes. Just like in the comics, players choose whether to work with Captain America and rebel against governmental authority, or work with Iron Man and the law.
Of the announced characters, most fit right in, save for Thor and Hulk. The real Thor was MIA and replaced by a clone, and Hulk was enjoying being ruler of an alien world (really). But with the ability for nearly every character to work on one side or the other, there are bound to be discrepancies with the canonical events in the books. So far, though, it looks like it's on the path to continuity correctness.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
This one has a ton of positive buzz behind it, and the more we hear, the more it sounds like the real deal. But as far as the status quo of the comics is concerned, it couldn't be farther off, the main reason being Bruce Wayne has been dead for months. Well, sort of. The long version is that he was hit with the Omega Sanction by Darkseid in Final Crisis #6, which is not to be confused with the Omega Effect. The Effect is instant destruction, while the Sanction is the "death that is life," as Darkseid describes it. It's more like an unending purgatory wherein the soul is trapped in horrible possible lives, though it does leave a corpse, which is why most believe Bruce Wayne to be dead instead of trapped in a cosmic limbo.
Above: The Omega Sanction at work in Final Crisis #6
So aside from having the undead Batman for a star, it feels a little off from the books in other, smaller ways. Probably because, from what we've seen, the design seems to take the lead less from the comics and more from a small film called The Dark Knight. Bats' costume looks more real and battle ready, like the movie version, and the Joker has the dingier look of his recent film counterpart. What are the developers thinking? Sure, they seem to be making a kickass Batman game, but at what cost, gentlemen? At what cost?
Aug 11, 2009
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