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Comix Zone – Genesis

Comix Zone – Genesis

Comix_Zone_CoverartPlatform: Sega Genesis

Developer: Sega Technical Institute

Publisher: Sega

Release Date (NA): August 1995

Genre: Beat’em Up, Action

Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed by NerdBerry

Released at a time when the Sega Genesis was old news and 3D disc-based gaming was a hot ticket item, Comix Zone failed to make waves despite excellent utilization of everything the machine had to offer. By the time late 1995 was upon us, the world was already heavily into Sega Saturn, Sony PlayStation, and awaiting Nintendo’s N64 to hit the market soon. One of the benefits of Comix Zone’s late release in the console’s life was a full understanding, realization, and utilization of the Sega Genesis’ capabilities.  Comix Zone is a combination of multiple genres, namely Beat’Em Up, Action, and Platformer as it leans heavily in all three areas to achieve the uniqueness that Sega was looking for. But no one genre, or three in this matter, can accurately explain the stylistic approach that Comix Zone took.

comix zone 6

Comix Zone is stylized to be like a comic book, hence the name Comix. The setting in the game IS a comic book, and we are playing as Sketch. We play as Sketch and we travel from panel to panel throughout the book until we reach the end of the comic book. One of the true marvelous visual features is the separation of panels and how we can see what is in the next panel before we jump OUT of one panel and INTO the next! It’s unique and unlike anything we had ever seen up to that point. Instead of just being a linear story of a guy in the world in which a comic book was drawn, we are ACTUALLY IN a comic book and we are viewing it as such. Sketch jumps out of the paper, climbs over the little bit of white paper that separates a panel, and swings into the next panel ready to take on whatever awaits him. There are also some moments where you’ll kick a monster so hard he’ll actually fly THROUGH the white strips of paper that separate the panels and tears right through them. Aside from the unique visual style of Comix Zone, we are given a very inventive story.

Sketch Turner is a down-on-his-luck musician and comic artist. While working on his latest comic book, titled Comix Zone, a thunderstorm happening outside of his apartment produces a lightning bolt that strikes the comic sketches and brings the story to life. The main antagonist of the comic, named Mortus, is brought to life by this lightning strike. Mortus manages to escape the panels of the comic book so that he can rule the Earth as well as the comic. Since Mortus cannot kill Sketch in reality, he sends him into the panels of the comic book so that he must fight off the alien invasion of which he has created, freely sketching enemies right before his eyes. Can Sketch escape the alien world in which he has created before he is pushing daisies? Or can Sketch save his life AND his comic creation?

Comix_zone_sega-genesis

What a cool game Comix Zone is. I mean, flat out just cool. The main character sports some serious early-90s garb with a rockin ponytail and buzzed head above the ears. The fingerless gloves are a must-have and the round shades really set the time period as that fashionable choice didn’t last long. Comix Zone tries to be edgy, current, hip, and in with-the-times and they landed it right on the mark. Obviously aimed at teenagers instead of kids (even with a K-A rating), Comix Zone takes a distinctive concept and should have been the posterboy for Sega’s marketing campaign which was built entirely around being “cooler” than every other gaming system out there. But the trendy designs and characters aren’t what make Comix Zone one of the grooviest (wrong time period?) games to appear on the wonderful Sega Genesis. It’s the overall experience of this beat’em up that creates the lasting memories.

Comix Zone 1

Before starting the game, check out the control scheme in the options menu. You’ll notice that Comix Zone is designed to be used with a 6-button controller. One of the coolest features is how you can customize one of the buttons to do whatever feature you want it to do, such as manual blocking, shoulder smash, scissor kick, Shaolin kick, or macho yell. The default setting is manual blocking, so that’s what I’m going to go with. Buttons X, Y, and Z function to use items 1, 2, and 3 respectively (located in the upper right of the screen). Get familiar with this layout so you can avoid giving up any of your much-needed health. Although Comix Zone is semi-short, it is infamously known for its difficulty (which cannot be adjusted). Don’t die or you’ll be slapped with an instant Game Over!

Controls

Sketch brawls his way through his own comic with fists of steel and feet of iron, destroying all of his creations with extreme prejudice. He controls exceptionally well and handles with ease. He is very quick and strong, but many enemies will still require many many hits to die. Even after you’ve cleared an entire screen of enemies, Mortus will sketch one in. Sketch has a plethora of attacks at his disposal including jabs, hooks, upper cuts, flying scissor kicks, upward kicks, shin kicks, and of course his items. Some of the items that can be used are a dagger, grenade, health, a rat (used to find bonus items or passages), and more. Proper use of these items is essential as, again, you only have one life. The controls are spot on and are a true highlight of Comix Zone.

comix zone 4

And the award for the least manly statement of 1995 goes to…

Graphics

The graphics are top-notch for a Sega Genesis title. Masterfully animated sprite movements and a high frame rate of all of Sketch’s attacks really help set the overall speed and feel for Comix Zone. The backgrounds are exceptional and varied. As Sketch jumps from one panel to the next, we are given some very different looking backgrounds which helps tremendously in keeping the monotony low and the engagement high. Bright colors are hard to find in Comix Zone, but the style doesn’t call for bright colors. So the dim and limited shades of purple, green, gray, brown, and more are about as appropriate as possible and helps Comix Zone stay true to its overall approach of being a dark super-hero-comic-book come to life. These dark colors immediately set the tone and maintain a consistent tone throughout.

Sound and Score

The sound effects are stunning and accurate. When Sketch jumps and lands, his feet make a thud on the ground, which is uncommon for most 16-bit games with limited cart space. His punches and kicks all might sound too similar but that doesn’t detract from any of the game one bit. There is plenty of variety in all of the random attacks and moves, most notably within the variety of enemies. The score, however, is what really puts Comix Zone into the higher echelons of the Genesis game library. Masterfully composed, the music is dark and gritty, giving you a sense of urgency and desire to destroy some enemies. While these tunes might not be as catchy as Super Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog 2, they will stay in your head for the remainder of the day. For days now I have been hearing the first level music in my head (maybe because I died a lot and had to start over a lot…….). The score is brilliant and is, well, exceptional.

comix zone 5

Conclusion

Comix Zone has a different tone than most games of the time. The entire game is dark and could never be compared directly with the Mario or Sonic games of the time, which is exactly what Sega was going for. Utilizing as many traditional comic book features as possible, all dialogue is rendered through talk bubbles with typical comic book text font. These comic book features help create a new gaming world unlike any others before it.

Comix Zone 2

A different breed, Comix Zone is harder than hell. With enemies in the first couple of panels taking as many as 8 hits to go down, and sometimes more depending on how many hits they block, it’s no secret that you’re in for a tough game. But sometimes a challenging game is exactly what we need, and that challenge lends a hand to its replayability. Oftentimes, games that start out too easy or stay too easy for too long have low replayability because you have simply mastered that area to the point where it’s not even fun. After you die, the game shows you how much you’ve accomplished with a meter and a percentage. This sets the bar for the next round as you’ll obviously want to beat it!

Comix Zone ending

Comix Zone is one of the shining moments in Sega’s often misguided history. A great selection for Sega and a smart decision, Sega ultimately pulled the trigger too late to really get noticed by the majority of the public. Fortunately, however, a large amount of the public was still able to get their hands on this game and word spread quickly of how good it really was. Not a perfect game by any means, and often lacking in depth, the gameplay is still solid. I would highly recommend Comix Zone to anyone and would be thrilled if a sequel were ever made! Psst: Sega… There’s still time! But please… don’t update the current trends of fucking hipsters and emo kids. Keep it ‘90s.

Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed by Nerdberry

This is a Comix Zone Sega Genesis Review

Written by Nerdberry

Nerdberry

What’s up yall? David “Nerdberry” here! I am the founder of Nerd Bacon and the current co-owner (and CEO) along with partner David “theWatchman!” I hail from North Carolina, hence my love for all things pork! Oh, you’re not familiar with NC? Well I’m not 100% sure, but I am pretty confident that NC and VA lead the nation in pork production. I could be wrong, but even if I am, I still love bacon!

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Top 5 Best Game Consoles of All Time - Nerdberry - Nerd Bacon Reviews

  2. This is THE game apart from Sonic 2 that I think of when I think of the Genesis. Back when Buy Rites and other used places where everywhere and unloading NES/SNES/Genesis carts for next to nothing, this one of the first carts I hunted down remembering how fun it was from my repeated rentals.

    Comix Zone is a real testament to everything that the 16-bit era got right before we got slammed with FMV for the next 3 years.

     

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