I have been a comic book reader for going on 31 years now. Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, it doesn’t matter the publisher; if it is good I’ll read it. Games based on comic books have had a long history, some good, and some bad. Marvel’s X-Men for NES ruined my 11th birthday while Konami’s 6-player arcade game helped me forget that POS. Captain America & the Avengers was exciting when it hit the arcade as it featured a good portion of the comics roster in some capacity. But looking back it was run of the mill at best. The inevitable home ports followed soon after with the Sega version turning out the best. But the best version of a mediocre game is still mediocre.
I remember looking forward to the home versions of Captain America & the Avengers for a number of reasons. As a comic book fan it seemed like the coolest thing in the world. It was also one of the few arcade games I finished with a reasonable amount of money. But by the time they arrived a year or two later better titles in the genre appeared. This is far from a terrible game but is only average in its genre.
You have a choice of four members of the Avengers: Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, and the Vision. By and large they all play nearly identically with the same general move set. The only differences come in how they look and their animation. It would have been pretty cool if say Iron Man or Vision took less damage than the others but oh well. Your options are limited: there is a punch, kick combo, a few jumping attacks, a sliding maneuver, and a projectile. As in most beat em ups there are numerous items lying around that can tossed for extra damage.
While the main cast is small the game makes excellent use of its license in other ways. Plenty of other team members make cameos. Wonder Man will toss the occasional Quinjet for some shooting action while Quicksilver will dispense health. The Wasp functions like an option during the game’s shooter bits. Even the Sub Mariner makes an appearance to…..tell you the Red Skull is under the sea.
The flimsy plot provides a reason why the Avenger’s entire rogue’s gallery shows up. The Red Skull plans on creating a laser cannon on the moon to take over the world. To distract the heroes he uses a mind control device to enslave a who’s who of Marvel super villains. The story is throwaway but its comical due to the game’s bad localization. A typical exchange goes like this:
Captain America: “You won’t escape”
Whirlwind: “You will be the one escaping”
What? And the game is littered with exchanges like this!
Seeing what character will pop up next is about the only excitement to be found as the gameplay is stale. Aside from your limited attacks the game has a shockingly low number of enemies. There are about five or six that are thrown around in different combinations for the length of the game. It wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t stick out so badly. The only respite comes in the few shooting segments. These simple but effective parts are a welcome respite from the generic thugs and robots you’ll face 90% of the time.
Of the four home ports released at the time the Genesis version turned out the best. It has all of the speech samples from the arcade and all of its content. The graphics have been cut down in parts or completely redesigned in others and the game suffers for it. The Sentinel in stage 2 sports a different design entirely. The overall color palette is very dark and the game tends to look ugly as a result. This wasn’t exactly a showstopper in the arcade but the brighter palette made it look presentable. Curiously the same two button setup is used in the home port which is stupid. They could have set the special attack to its own button making the game more intuitive. It’s a minor complaint however.
Captain America & the Avengers was a decent arcade game for its time. Emphasis on for its time. In truth it was simple even in its day and outside of its use of the license average. There are far too many better brawlers on the system to even bother with this subpar effort.