By Michael Mygind
When you hear the brands Marvel & Capcom used in the same sentence, you automatically insert a “VS” between the two and think of fighting games. However, because of that, a collaboration between the two that is often overshadowed is Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems, released for the Super Nintendo and Super Famicom in 1996. While on the surface it looks like just a beat-em-up, it goes a lot deeper than that. It is indeed a side scrolling beat-em-up, but with a lot of platforming and varied move sets that you’d find in fighting games. This is where Capcom has truly left their mark on the game. Each character has an attack button and a jump button, as expected. However, once you incorporate the d-pad, Captain America can throw his shield, Iron Man can shoot a repulsor beam and so on. Each character has at least 7 different attacks, 3 combos and 1 special move.
As for the story, the Marvel Universe is in a race to obtain all of the Inifinity Gems which have fallen to earth. Tying in with the Infinity Gauntlet storyline, Thanos is collecting all of the gems in a plot to rule the universe. Five heroes have assembled to find these gems: Captain America, Iron Man, Spiderman, Wolverine and the Hulk. While the different move set of each character is a high point, so is the fan service that this game provides. Characters from many different corners of the Marvel universe are shown as bosses and evil doppelgangers, including characters from X-Men, the Avengers, Alpha Flight, Fantastic Four, Guardians of the Galaxy and more. Marvel’s Galactic Universe plays a big role in the game as well with the gems, Thanos’s race to retrieve them, boss battles with Magus and Nebula, and the inclusion of Adam Warlock, who calls on the heroes to find the gems while guiding them to each location.
The gameplay itself is quite challenging. One such instance is on the Amazon level, where you are taking on a quartet of Hawkeye doppelgangers that are also shooting arrows at you from various platforms at once. This is where it is crucial to learn the moves of each character to get an upper hand. The game is laid out across 9 stages with a final boss stage, and can be beat in under an hour if your skills are up to par. A training level is available to practice fighting bosses. Any hero can be used on any stage, but once you have drained your health, that character is no longer available until you find an item to revive them. Once you retrieve a gem, you are granted a special move and a perk such as increased strength.
The game boasts a 21-track soundtrack that is very drum heavy, with a lot of complex rolls and fills that sometimes sound as if Neil Pert from Rush was asked to come in and help write. Like most soundtracks that come from Capcom, it won’t disappoint and has just the right tempo to fit the action of each respective stage or boss fight.
Overall, this is a great game that doesn’t get too much attention, likely due to Marvel and Capcom’s later releases. If you’re a fan of Capcom’s style, Marvel Comics, beat-em-ups or fighting games, this is a must play. It was only released on the Super Nintendo/Famicom. If you would like to forego emulation and pick up a physical copy of the game, it can currently be found at the time of this review for about $40.00 online.