I cannot say enough about the first impression that I got from this game as a kid. The moment I picked up the box and saw the cover art, portraying a beautiful painting style combat scene of the characters in the game, I got pumped up to have an amazing, adrenaline filled experience. I managed to get past the title screen and was met with my four options of playable characters. Captain America, Ironman, Hawkeye and Vision were all fantastically spread out in front of me and rendered in awesome 16 bit form. Naturally I selected Ironman and was met with the little bit of story that these games usually possess. While an arcade beat –em up is not generally known for its Shakespearean style of narrative, it was nice to see the presentation that was put into what was actually there. Comic book style panels flowed before me and really set the tone of the subject matter. Unfortunately readers, this is where the positives end because after that the game actually began and it’s all downhill from there.
Before I get into the parts of the game that really displeased me I would like to comment on a few things that while not bad, were just a little awkward. I have played many games of this genre in the past and this is the only time that I can remember the character health pool being represented in a percentage and not in bar form. The developers clearly acknowledged the use of health bars as the bosses in the game have them but it’s just odd to not see them for my own character. Secondly, why is this game called “Captain America and the Avengers”? My first reaction was to select Ironman and to my knowledge he is just as popular of a character as Captain America, maybe that wasn’t the case in the 90’s but I have no idea. There is no reason that they couldn’t have just called the game “The Avengers” as in my time spent doing research for the title I was unable to find a instance where that title was already taken. Lastly, while I appreciate the use of some minor characters in the game for cameos and power ups, the use of Quicksilver completely astounds me. He runs by the background of the screen, moving at a pace slower than that of your player character, and drops a shield which recovers your health. There is no plausible reason for Quicksilver to drop a shield for you and even less reason for that shield to give you some health back other than to say “oh hey, Quicksilver is in this game.”
Now let’s take a look at the gameplay because that is where things really start to suffer. Games of this genre don’t often show the most innovation but can at least hang their hats on solid mechanics. The controls in this game are stiff and lack any semblance of smooth responses. Couple this bad control with inconsistent hit boxes and you will find yourself dying a lot, not because of a lack of skill but due to an unsureness of what the game will and won’t allow you to do. The enemies in the game are the same variety of robots essentially from the start of the game but with different color palettes or perhaps a shield in hand. Despite their similarity in looks they can sometimes be hit from certain distances and angles and sometimes not. I guess this type of difficulty would need to be in the game in order to add some longevity as there are only 5 stages in the game. They do try to mix it up with a couple of segments in two of the levels that change the gameplay to that of a 2D self-scrolling shooting level. While this attempt at innovation is welcome, the result is a portion of the level that is entirely too easy despite the bad hit and is over before it really has an impact on your overall level of enjoyment.
With two different play styles, both being below mediocre, the only time that you get a feeling of variety is against the stage bosses. This also becomes perplexing as, with only 5 stages and a rich lore available for The Avengers, the villains they have in the game don’t make sense to me. Yes, the final confrontation is against Red Skull and you do go toe to toe with mainstays like The Mandarin and Ultron but having boss fights against a Sentinel and the Juggernaut, were there no other options. Don’t get me wrong, I know that both appeared in Avengers comics in the past but they weren’t prominent by any means and really are X-Men villains in most people’s minds. The battles themselves were as fine as the controls allowed them to be but with only 5 levels it couldn’t have been that tough to find actual Avengers villains?
I really wanted to like this game and I really want to say that I can recommend it to as least the die-hard Avengers fans out there. Perhaps if it controlled better I could say that it would be a decent way to spend an afternoon in couch co-op, if for no reason but for the cameos by the other heroes and villains, but that’s simply not possible. It’s rare that I say this but get the Sega version if you own a Genesis, at least that version was made by Data East who made the original arcade game. If you own an SNES however, this game should only be owned to complete your collection and to have the awesome looking box on display but never have the cartridge actually taken out of it.