Hello all! Last week, we revisited the world of a popular anime series.
Before we start, I'd like to say: Happy Birthday, Sega Dreamcast! The beloved console turns 15 today. It still finds itself hooked up to my TV from time.
Today's game isn't a Dreamcast title, but it is the first Sega Genesis title in this GOTW series. And it's a good (and difficult) one.
Comix Zone was a quirky title that came out in 1995, very late in the life of the Genesis (the Saturn had been out in North America for three months by then, and the Playstation was but a month away). As such, it was largely ignored at release, but it's got a bit of a cult following.
You play as Sketch Turner, a comic book artist who is working on is latest comic called "Comix Zone." (Hmm.) When lightning strikes the comic, the book's main villian, Mortus, comes to life and traps Sketch in the pages of his own comic. Sketch must escape the comic as Mortus draws new enemies and traps to kill him.
Sums it up...
You can see how innovative the game is-even today-from the first, um, panel. Each level is broken up into panels like a comic, with Sketch leaping off the page into the next panel as he traverses the environments. Mortus' hand comes on screen to draw new enemies sometimes. They really ran with the comic book aesthetic, and the end result is awesome.
Comix Zone plays like a standard side-scrolling brawler of the 90's. You can punch, kick, and block, and there's a light selection of items to pick up, including dynamite, Sketch's pet rat Roadkill, and a fist icon that turns Sketch into Super Sketch and destroys all enemies on screen. In other words, par for the course regarding a game like this.
One thing, though, that sets this game apart, is the absolutely soul-crushing difficulty.
While you'll generally never fight large groups of enemies at a time, the enemies that you do fight can be relentless. When hit, Sketch takes damage whether he's blocking or not. Punching a blocking enemy damages you. Punching boxes and sewer caps damages you. There's a funny, cool move where Sketch rips some paper from the background and makes a paper airplane out of it; he throws it at enemies for high damage. Doing this hurts you too.
So you're basically taking damage throughout like 80% of the time.
Not to mention the limited amount of lives; you end up getting an extra life for beating the first and second levels, but generally, it's die and you lose. Despite all that, though, it's almost like Dark Souls a bit, in that it's an extreme, but usually fair, level of challenge. Comix Zone is beyond tough, but it never cheats against you.
But really, it's more about the looks. As I said, Comix Zone very much nails the look the developers were going for. It looks and feels like a comic come to life. There's a real 90's comic look to the proceedings; people who read anything by, say, Image, or any number of independent comics from back then will recognize the grungy art style. Sketch himself has a fun retro design, with round shades and a vest with shorts. And ponytail. (Ah, the 90's...) Enemy design is varied and practically screams Todd McFarlane. Take from that what you will.
The music is notably composed by Howard Drossin, who is a film composer, but who also did the music for games like Sonic Spinball and the expansion to Baldur's Gate II. It's mostly rock-oriented, and it's definitely got that "Genesis sound." I like the soundtrack; it's catchy, but it doesn't get in the way.
Sadly, Comix Zone is rather short, assuming you're good enough at it to see the end. There's really only three levels consisting of two "pages" each. But it's highly memorable due to the fact that there really aren't a lot of games, even today, that run with this idea. Comic Jumper is a recent, and really only, game that comes to mind. Not that I'm calling for more games that take place in comics, mind you. Who even calls for that? But still, check out Comix Zone if you never have. Matter of fact, play it on either Sega Genesis Collection on Playstation 2 or Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection on 360/PS3. Those come with a great selection of games besides Comix Zone, so...yeah. Check it out; the gameplay is a bit basic, but it's really unlike anything else aesthetically.
Thanks for reading! Hit the comments section! Suggest future games for this series! And Tweet me @WingZero351
Next week, I cover a sequel to a game I wrote about a way back. Think slow-mo and tons of painkillers.