Comix Zone review
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NOTE: This review is based off of what I played on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, so if there are any differences between it and the original Genesis version written and you're going "wait what that ain't true", well, now you know to watch for those instances.
Too little, too late.
Upon release, Comix Zone was a game that didn't really receive the recognition that it ended up getting once appearing on Genesis compilation discs on PS2/PSP and PS3/360. Why? I mean, it took an all too familiar gameplay style and added some stuff to the mix and gave it some pizazz. I'll tell you why - 3D gaming was on its way! Comix Zone was released in 1995... too little too late, guys. The Genesis was practically on its deathbed by that time and the Playstation was getting played by people everywhere! Thankfully, it was on the back of their minds and, thanks to some compilation discs, it got its turn in the spotlight with the Sonic and Golden Axe games. Does it really deserve it, though? Yes, it does. Although it's three levels long, these three levels will be some of the best you'll experience on the Sega Genesis.
Every comic book nerd's wet dream.
A comic book artist by the name of Sketch Turner is finishing up a page one stormy night when the bad guy from the comic book comes to life and zaps him inside the comic book. He meets up with General Alissa Cyan, who believes him to be a superhero that will save the world from Mortus and the evil aliens. Turns out, the bad guy's power grows stronger as Sketch remains in the comic book. It's nothing by today's standards, but by the standards set in the mid 90s, it's fairly trippy, in the sense that it doesn't exactly make much sense. How does that shit work? But then again, it's an older game, and you don't exactly play them for Shakespearean stories now, do you?
insert comic book expression here
Comix Zone, at face value, plays like a one-planed beat em up, not unlike Altered Beast or Kung Fu. Sketch only moves across one plane, and beats the shit out of enemies while walking to the next bit. The basics work out finely and despite being set on one plane - which is actually outdated, given that other beat em ups of the time are set on an xyz axis and not just an x axis - the game hardly ever feels redundant. The enemies can be block-heavy, but persistence always pounds them into the ground.
One thing that's pretty cool is how Sketch attacks differently depending on how you're holding the d-pad, like up-right and A does a tornado kick, and up and A does an uppercut. Switching up your attacks can help in fighting off block-heavy enemies, and it's a nice control quirk after playing through other beat em ups, where you just do one sort of attack with the A or B button. Seriously, this makes those games seem boring...
Sketch can find items throughout his travels to either heal him, or to blow up/imaple some enemies. The one item you'll find yourself using more than anything is Sketch's pet rat, Roadkill. He'll snuff out some hidden powerups inside little holes and electrocute enemies with his shocking tail. The other items, you'll only need in certain situations, like bombs when you're getting ganged on one side, or some iced tea to replenish your health. Useful shit.
As Sketch is trapped inside a comic book, progression is a bit different from the likes of Kung Fu and Golden Axe. Instead of simply moving from left to right, you have to go along adjacent panels of varying sizes up until you get to the bottom right panel, which is typically the last one on any page of a comic book, and then you simply move to the next page, and repeat the process until you beat the level.
One thing to keep in mind - you have one life. You die, and it's game over. No second chances, no extra lives, no insurance - make it last! This can make things rather tricky, because you often think in beat em ups that you can just waste lives away, because you usually have a few continues here and there, and beat em ups are usually 6-9 levels long. Here, it's 3 levels long, with 2 sections each, so I guess Sega wanted the players to be more conservative and wanted the players to bring skill with them - touche, Sega, touche...
Man, it's like reading a living comic book!
Utilizing the Genesis's processors to their maximum potential, Comix Zone manages to look pretty *bleep*ing awesome. Much like a typical comic book, the enemies have that over the top feeling to them, like they're trying to be menacing, but it just comes off as cheesy. The animations are very smooth, like a lot of attention was carefully paid to detail. Above all else, it has pastel colors due to the Genesis's hardware not being able to process heaps of colors, but it uses it well to its advantage - from the dark looking intro with those contrasting colors, to the backgrounds that somehow stick to your brain like glue. Oh, and seeing classic words like "BAM" and "CRASH!!" - easily the tip of the iceberg.
Ooh yeah, crank that!
Just like the graphics, the soundtrack manages to utilize the full potential of the hardware. Through its upbeat techno music, it manages to add another layer of awesome that most Genesis soundtracks can't seem to do on account of a weak sound chip. It not only makes you want to recolor the foes "ass whooped red", but it also makes for some sweet dance tunes. If only remixers and rap artists got a good look at the soundtrack...
Superman, or Biclops?
Comix Zone is a damn fine beat em up. When games in this genre were a dime a dozen, this came by and changed a fair amount. Pity that it was released very late into the Genesis's generation, or it would've been lauded as one of the greatest games to hit the system... oh wait, it is, thanks to the Sega compilation discs on the PS2, PSP, 360 and PS3, and the Wii Virtual Console. Thank god Sega remembered, or most people wouldn't even hear of this amazing game.
Might be cliche by today's standards, but it still makes for some rather trippy shit (seriously, the longer the good guy remains, the stronger the bad guy gets?).
A nice twist to a genre that was common during the early 90s, and all in all, it makes for a fun experience, not to mention different. Also makes you feel like you're actually in a comic!
Tight, responsive and easy to get the hang of. There's a nice little quirk that makes it feel more interesting.
Definitely gives you the feeling of being inside a comic book, with some nice pastel-ish colors and such.
Gritty and overly memorable soundtrack, and some pretty realistic human sound effects to boot.