Um, who else wouldve noticed this?
When it comes to nerds, comic book fans may be the most quantifying. They keep track of first appearances, costume changes, how many times a character has died and returned. With all that cataloguing of continuity, youd think a fanboy such as myself would always appreciate when game adaptations recreate every little detail from a comic universe. But sometimes even I think, Was that really necessary?
Im not talking about correctly listing the place where Bruce Waynes parents died, or the real name of Kraven the Hunter - Crime Alley and Sergei Kravinoff respectively. No, I mean tiny bits of continuity that 0.01% of players would even notice, or accurate scenes that actually detract from a games pacing. As much as it pains my geek sensibilities, maybe wed have been better off if games had ignored these moments in comic history.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions strange love for Spider-Man 2099
In 1992, the far off year of 2099 felt like a mystical dream world, a future that deserved to have its own wallcrawler. Spider-Man 2099 was the core title of the short-lived 2099 imprint, and its futuristic hero was virtually unseen after the series was cancelled in 1996. Then, in 2010, the cyberpunk Spidey returned as a co-star of Shattered Dimensions, an incredibly comprehensive Spider-Men team-up. And, despite feeling like Im the only person that read the book back in the day, Shattered Dimensions dedicates a shocking amount of detail to the series' world.
Spider-Man 2099s stages are full of references to evil corporation Alchemax and the totalitarian police force known as the Public Eye, which add some nice flavor but dont have much to do with the cross-dimensional plot. Offhand mentions of losers like Goblin 2099 at best got me to say, Huh, oh yeah, I guess that was a thing in that comic, and move on. Oddest of all is Spidey 2099s voice - the developers made the admirable choice of casting each Spider-Man with a voice actor who previously played Peter Parker. Unfortunately, while Dan (Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends) Gilvezan did a fine job, he still sounds like a guy in his late 50s. That adherence to fanservice left 2099 sounding more like a grandpa than a gritty, sci-fi hero.
Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis got all the facts and none of the fun
Aquaman has been a joke to the world at large for years, though DC has been trying for decades to make the Prince of the Seas into a badass. Years before his makeover as Jason Momoa, Aquaman became a grim and bearded malcontent who had his freaking hand eaten by piranhas. That 90s reboot is certainly a far cry from talking to dolphins, but it was a bit morose for some fans. Battle for Atlantis would go down as one of the worst things ever put on disc, though it shouldve helped the hook-wearing Aquaman cement his legacy. Though you cant say it got the character wrong.
The blandly technological Atlantis of the game matches Aquamans 90s kingdom, right down to the ridiculous underwater cars. Black Manta and Ocean Master are just as lame in the comics as they appear in the games inarticulate cutscenes. And boringly floating around as the super-powered merman feels ripped from the page. The developers clearly put a lot of work into properly recreating Aquaman - if only they spent that energy on making the game playable.
The Incredible Hulk: The Pantheon Saga's random love for demigods
The Hulk is at his best when hes smashing everything in his path, fully embracing the power fantasy thats made him such a memorable character. His greatest game, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, understood that, and the 32-bit era Pantheon Saga gets it on a certain level. The green machine certainly breaks a lot of fuzzy-textured boxes, but not before fighting a half-dozen forgotten X-Men wannabes.
The Pantheon is a group of demigods that Hulk went on to lead, and the group includes Iliad characters like Ulysses, Ajax, and Hector - only now theyre boosted by silly sci-fi weaponry. In both the game and the comics, Hulk beats the crap out of them, then goes on to lead The Pantheon. That means the game is choked with Grecian jerks in place of more compelling villains and heroes. Why punch the gamma-irradiated Abomination or team-up with Iron Man when theres Atalanta and her laser arrows? No wonder the Pantheon hasnt been seen post-1998.
Justice League Heroes rogues gallery is accurate, but in the wrong decade
I miss the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games, because they featured pretty much every notable hero and villain that Marvel ever hosted. DC Comics attempted to do the same with Justice League Heroes, and the one-off couldve been the start of something grand. Superman, Batman, and the rest came together to stop the ultimate embodiment of evil in Darkseid. The only problem is that Darkseid is backed up by a team of villains that were about seven years out of date.
Beginning in 1995, writer Grant Morrison and artist Howard Porter rebooted the JLA in one of the most epic series ever, but was firmly in the past by Justice League Heroes 2006 launch. And yet the game is full of JLA baddies like The Key, Queen Bee, and Prometheus, as opposed to more classic antagonists like Amazo or Despero. Removed from Morrisons genius writing, guys like The General and the White Martians come off as bland bullet-sponges, no matter how important they once were to JLAs legacy. The devs shouldve dug further back in their collections.
Ultimate Spider-Man was actually canonical (briefly)
I dont think any game before or since works has worked nearly as hard to reflect comic book continuity as Ultimate Spider-Man. The 2006 title doesnt just share a name with the Marvel comic book. The game shares the same writer (Brian Michael Bendis), Mark Bagleys distinct artistic style (with added cel-shading flare), and is officially set after the events of Ultimate Spider-Man #71. What a lot of work for Activisions annual Spider-Man release.
If you were a regular reader, references to the Ultimate versions of classic villains and Bendis motormouth dialogue felt right at home. Even though regular readers numbered in the tens of thousands, this major fall release brought the comic to life for millions. But the attempt at continuity was all for naught. Despite advertising that future issues would spin out of the game, it never really happened, and Ultimate Spider-Mans plot eventually got repurposed and rewritten as a storyline three years later.
Scribblenauts Unmasked is part kids game, part Wikipedia
The Scribblenauts games have always been intriguing for their summon anything approach to puzzle-solving. Want to see if a T-rex can fix a car? Write it down and give it a shot. The child-friendly series certainly has its grown-up fans, but Unmasked's dogged devotion to the DC Comics dictionary may be lost on its intended audience. Virtually every DC character ever can join Scribblenauts hero Max on his journey, but how many tykes taking a break from Cartoon Network will notice?
When I first got my hands on the title, I put it to the test and couldnt believe how many oddballs it includes. Goofs like Gnort and Ambush Bug appear alongside every possible alteration of Superman and Batman - including both pirate and caveman varieties. The most obscure I found had to be Funky Flashman, a rarely seen agent of Darkseid that first appeared in a few little-read 1970s issues as a way to mock Marvel mainstay Stan Lee. I love that the game went above and beyond like that, but that all seems like far too niche a market to chase.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 made sure to add Wolverines bone claws
Theres a simple recipe to Wolverines endearing popularity: hes got attitude, hes an unkillable brawler, and he has claws that can cut anything. But from 1993 to 1999, that last key element of the character was missing following Magneto's forcible removal of the adamantium covering Logans bones. For years Wolverines sleek metallic blades were replaced with unsightly bones, but that fact was rarely recognized outside comics. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is the only game that actually bothered to redesign the calcified stabber.
Though Wolvies sprite is mostly similar to how he appeared in Capcoms other fighting games, the devs took care to reanimate the mutant with his current bone claws. And they went farther than that, giving him new attacks and damage properties, including extended reach - I suppose the bones can grow longer without metal? The effort would probably be lost on mainstream fans unaware of the storyline loss of Logans signature weapons, and it sadly came too late. Wolverine got back the adamantium in December 1999, while MvC2 premiered in arcades in early 2000.
The Death and Return of Superman bothered to include the Underworlders
Even just considering big bads like Lex Luthor, Braniac, and Zod, Superman has some of the crappiest bad guys in comic history. Beyond geeks like Toyman or The Prankster, Clark Kent has run afoul of also-ran misfits like the Underworlders. Theyre a pack of freakish experiments gone wrong that live beneath Metropolis, and are about as dangerous to Superman as a marshmallow is to anyone without diabetes. Somehow, those gross idiots ended up in the Kryptonians best game, The Death and Return of Superman.
Unfortunately, being Supermans greatest game still means that its a kinda bad beat em up. The stages follow the comics of the same name chapter for chapter, including an opening where Supes beats the stuffing out of the Underworlders without breaking a sweat. Were it me, Id have skipped straight to Doomsday demolishing the Justice League, but apparently the disposable Superman: Man of Steel #18 is worthy of its own stage in a Final Fight clone. Admittedly, the weirdoes are adequately punchable fodder, but why even waste time raiding their underground lair? Lets hurry it up and kill Superman already!
Those are the games that strive too hard for accuracy, but I'm sure some of my fellow nerds are ready to chime in with 'Actually, in this issue of Spider-Man...' And I welcome that discussion, so share all your factoids in the comments!
But if youd still cant get enough fanboys, be sure to check out 11 M-rated comic book games that deserve to be made or our take on nine great comic book games that dont star superheroes.