31. Marvel Super Heroes
Publisher: Virgin Interactive
Format: Saturn, Arcade, PlayStation
Another game where almost more of my memories are tied up in waiting for it than actually playing it. MSH, the second instalment in a loosely connected series of Capcom-developed, Marvel Comics-themed fighting games that would eventually find some sort of focus in the Marvel vs. Capcom series, was probably my most-anticipated game of all time.
For months on end I’d read the lavishly screenshotted previews, features and showcases in Sega Saturn Magazine, idly dreaming of the day when the game would be in my hands. To be honest, I’m not 100% sure why it captured my imagination to the degree it did. Marvel was largely out of my knowledge base beyond the X-Men (and watching the Spider-Man cartoon on Live and Kicking), and the game was never anything beyond a 2D beat-‘em-up, a genre that was very familiar by this point. But then I’ve always had a fondness for beat-‘em-ups, SSM was very good at hyping a game before its release, and it just looked so pretty.
And then, of course, it never came out.
I can’t remember exactly what happened, but as far as my memory serves it was due to come out in about October 1997 and eventually limped into shops in February 1998. So these unexpected extra couple of months of waiting sent me wildly over the edge of frothing excitement. And this was in the days before everyone had the Internet, remember; to find out when it was out I basically had to get my dad to take me over to Aldershot every so often to ask the guy at Software Plus, my nearest game shop. (When it did come out I deliberately left the price label on the box as a memento – something I never do – which is the only reason I can even remember the name of Software Plus.)
But finally, it was in. And it was in my clutches. And it was glorious.
I’ve always loved beat-‘em-ups, but never been that good at them. So I tend to prefer a more basic, friendly, knockabout title, which is MSH to a tee. It’s a Capcom fighter, so the subtleties are certainly there, but as a rule you can ignore them and enjoy the spectacle.
And what spectacle! As a game based on Marvel comics – mid-‘90s Marvel comics, no less, which is about as shamelessly over-the-top visually as you can get – it needed to look impressive, and it did. At the time, it really felt like playing a comic. The gigantic sprites and ridiculous attacks (Iron Man’s Proton Cannon super attack is the all-time classic) were jaw-dropping. And the sheer verve of it all was infectious – it’s one of those games where you have a ball even if you have no idea what you’re doing.
MAGIC MOMENT: Spider-Man’s background, set on a window cleaner’s cradle scaling the Daily Bugle building, is a riot of amusing incidental detail.