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"Captain America: Super Soldier" (Nintendo DS) Review

Captain America: Super Soldier (DS)

Publisher: Sega

Developer: Griptonite Games

Captain America: Super Soldier for the Nintendo DS is an interesting mix of surprise and disappointment. While the game is better than it has any right to be, it drops the ball after the final boss battle. 


Features:

  • Single Player
  • Finding Dossiers unlocks additional story
  • Finding power-ups increases shield abilities and life bar
  • Freeing captured soldiers unlocks costumes
  • Several of the film’s actors return to reprise their character’s voices in this game

Story:

In Captain America: Super Soldier for the Nintendo DS we follow Cap as he embarks on a mission to infiltrate what was formerly Baron Zemo’s castle and is now Hydra’s base of operations in order to halt the construction of a super weapon. The story was written by Kenneth Brown, Les Milton and Christos Gage. It’s serviceable for a portable game that’s very clearly aimed for a younger audience. Cap is larger than life and all of the dialogue is delightfully cliché. Your goals change as you progress and new plot elements are revealed.


Unfortunately, the game stumbles terribly at the finish line, where instead of ending with the defeat of Armin Zola’s Robot or a fight against the Red Skull, you disarm a rocket by solving a few puzzles. Yes. That’s it. You disarm the rocket, watch a short cut scene that involves the Red Skull and then the credits scroll. What? It would have made more sense to either not involve the Red Skull at all or to have used him as the final villain. The multi-stage final boss is a go-to convention for a reason. 

The dossiers that Cap collects throughout the game contain unnecessary, but vaguely interesting additional story content revealed through letters between Armin Zola and Baron Zemo, Zemo and Madame Hydra and a journal kept by an American soldier captured and experimented upon by Hydra. Some of the letters are more subversive than I thought they would be for a game in this demographic as Madame Hydra references a rendezvous between she and Zemo, his appetite for carnal activities his view of women as ultimately disposable. The dossiers are an enjoyable diversion, but ultimately add nothing to the actual gaming experience.



Gameplay: 

This is a fairly standard side-scrolling beat-em-up, but they managed to keep the pacing of the fights tight for most of the game. To vary the user experience levels include puzzle solving in addition to fighting, others have Cap running non-stop while you must make him leap over or dash through enemies while collecting medals and there are other levels still where Cap must sneak through without being caught. 

 

The game is super-forgiving in some areas and merciless in others. Your game never actually ends. You’re allowed to start at your last save point every single time you die or are caught. Sometimes that’s at the beginning of the level, other times they allow you to start at a mid-level checkpoint. The problem is you’ll die a lot. It is entirely unforgiving during the levels that require sneaking require impeccable timing or chance. Some of the cycles the security cameras or platforms run on aren’t consistent between each lost life. It’s both horribly frustrating and invigorating in that merciless, NES Ninja Gaiden series way. It’ll exercise your OCD muscles thorougly. 

  

Just as you would expect with a Captain America game, there’s heavy reliance on the use of his shield to solve puzzles and get out of tight situations. I didn’t find his shield to be as useful in your standard thug battles, though it can be used to keep soldiers that are at a distance down while you take care of more immediate threats. Simple button mashing wasn’t enough to get through every fight. Unlike many other games of this genre, combos were actually helpful in getting out of tight situations. The one major flaw in the fights reared its head when Cap was surrounded by enemies on both sides. It was sometimes impossible to jump over them due to the rate at which they were punching Cap and as a result of that, he died a lot.

The game also features a Serum mode in which Cap will either run off screen and his shield will take out all normal enemies, or he’ll become even more powerful for a short while. It’s useful in situations where Cap is surrounded by many enemies or during boss battles. With the exception of the fight with Armin Zola’s Robot, most of the boss battles aren’t overly challenging. The fight with Zola’s robot, however, does require the memorization of patterns, quick reflexes and a little luck. Unless you, yourself, are something more than human you’ll probably die more than a few times before making your way through it. 

 

The way in which Super Soldier handles level accessibility is flawed. You would think that a game with collectibles would allow you to go back through the main menu to retry each individual level at your leisure. Nope. Completionists will have to play through the entire game again. It was equally odd that you could not access your collectibles through the main screen of the game. Instead, you must start your game, pause it and access them through the menu that appears there.

Graphics:

3D models are used within the game. Those in-game character designs are unattractive. Cap’s model seems to lack a chin of any sort. Both he and his enemies do move very nicely though and remind me of the vaguely of the fluidity seen in Out of This World or Flashback. Cap’s speed contributes to maintaining the fast pace of the game. There is nothing sluggish in his running, leaping, bouncing off of walls, tossing his shield. The enemies he faces move with equal fluidity. The illustrations used as avatars for the conversations that take place between the characters are more attractive, but only very slightly. Someone really liked Haley Atwell as Peggy Carter, because she is by far the best illustrated avatar in the game. 


The backgrounds seem to have had more time allotted for the details. While this is a side-scroller, the backgrounds are 3D. They move and change perspective as the camera follows Cap. The effect does give each level depth and you can tell they added as much detail was allowed within the constraints of the hardware. None of it looks amazing, but the detail ranges from adequate to more than you would have thought you’d get out of a licensed game on the DS.

Play Controls:

Captain America’s basic moves involve punching, jumping, crouching, grappling and throwing your shield. Using button combinations you’ll be able to dash, pull off punching combos while on the ground and in the air, knock enemies away, hit them while they’re down and thrust them into the air. Some of the results of the button combinations change when you’re in Serum mode. The controls were fairly responsive. Nothing unusual happened in this facet of the game.

Sound:

The music is bombastic, it lets you know that you’ve entered a Captain America game and you’re going to be kicking some Hydra tail. You couldn’t possibly fit more synthetic drums, swelling strings and horns into the game without it becoming cacophonous. You would probably never want to listen to this soundtrack outside of the game, but it does suit the game it is accompanying well. 


I seem to be using the word “serviceable” or synonyms thereof more often than I thought I would. I expected more of the vocal performances considering they brought in the acting talent from the film to do most of the major characters and some of the minor ones. Unfortunately, none of the good guys deliver their lines with any panache. They instead do very straightforward readings with barely perceptible emotion. Conversely, the bad guys deliver their lines in an over the top manner that you would expect from a game this silly. 


Overall:
All of the other flaws within Captain America: Super Soldier are forgivable because the game really is a lot of fun. The ending, however, is extremely disappointing. If you’re looking for a silly, mildly addictive side-scrolling beat-em-up and don’t mind that it lacks a big climactic finish, then this one’s for you.

Score: 6.1
Graphics: 4.5
Play Control: 6.5
Gameplay: 7.0
Satisfaction: 7.5
Sound: 5.0

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