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Marvel Super Heroes in War of the Gems – SNES

Marvel Super Heroes in War of the Gems – SNES

Marvel Super Heroes War of the GemsPlatform:  Super Nintendo

Developer:  Capcom

Publisher:  Capcom

Release Date (NA):  November 1996

Genre:  Action, Platformer

Nerd Rating:  6.5 out of 10

Marvel Super Heroes War of the GemsOld Super Nintendo games are becoming among some of the most valuable games out there.  The big franchises like Mario, Zelda, Mega Man, and Metroid are fetching more than they cost originally, at least when in perfect condition.  But another subset that seems to be quickly rising in value is video games based on comic book characters.  From about the mid 80’s through the mid 90’s, we had a fascination with super heroes.  The X-Men were plastered everywhere, cartoons of Spiderman and Batman were at their peak of popularity, trading cards could be found virtually anywhere, and action figures of even the most minor characters were being manufactured by the thousands.  And then something happened: popular culture began subverting itself, almost overnight.  Now we have the shallow, self-referential, pastiche-of-a-pastiche mindset that dominates today’s cutting edge of pop culture where young adults thoroughly masticate an era of the past, regurgitate it under the label of post-irony, rinse and repeat.

Marvel Super Heroes War of the GemsI’m tempted to take a stroll through the rise and fall and then resurrection of the super hero, but in the interest of staying on topic, I’ll sum it up by asserting that sometime in the late 90’s, the public began to lose their interest in conventional notions of the super hero.  For the last few years, we’ve seen a growing resurgence thanks to the film industry, and it has undoubtedly fueled nostalgia and generated new interest as well.  So we look back on a bygone era of comic book adaptations, and though these sorts of games may not be groundbreaking, they do tend to be well-made and perfectly capture the time period when comic books first began breaking into the mainstream as a serious creative commodity.

Marvel Super Heroes War of the Gems

War of the Gems is based on Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity War mini-series.  Five super heroes go up against the antagonists of the storylines as well as various doppelgangers that serve as cannon fodder.  Adam Warlock recruits Captain America, Iron Man, Spiderman, The Hulk, and Wolverine to recover the 6 Infinity Gems, scattered somewhere on Earth.

The player starts out with a choice of 4 levels, plus the Avengers training facility to practice in.  The first 4 levels can be played in any order, and one may choose which hero to play as before each level begins.  Two Infinity Gems are randomly granted at the end but all 4 must be completed.  A mandatory stage is then played and ends with a battle with The Magus where the third gem is recovered.  Afterwards, another 4 levels are selectable, again with 2 gems, followed by the final showdown with Nebula, Blackheart, and Thanos.  Lives aren’t measured in the traditional sense; instead, one has all 5 heroes at his or her disposal but once one runs out of energy, they’re done for and can only be revived with a particularly difficult to find item.

Marvel Super Heroes War of the Gems

Marvel Super Heroes War of the GemsThe gameplay in War of the Gems is what helps to set it apart.  Although I suppose it does technically fall under the loose umbrella of “action games,” it plays like a cross between a conventional fighting game and a mindless beat ’em up.  Goons fill up the screen but take a little more than 1 or 2 hits to permanently drop while bosses and other singular enemies of note have an energy bar much like the player.  Only 2 functions are used despite the 6 buttons of the SNES controller, one to attack and the other to jump.  However, Capcom has done some interesting things with a mere attack button.  By pressing repeatedly, or pressing with a direction, or even entering in sequences like Forward, Forward, Y will result in different moves.  Each hero responds differently, giving them all a unique style.  It takes a while to get used to stringing more together than Y Y Y Y Y, but it’s a very fluid system even if greatly simplified from the usual fighting game.

The differences between our 5 heroes are fleshed out well with each having their particular attributes.  Spidey and Wolvie can climb walls, Iron Man can double jump, the Hulk packs the most attack power, and so on.  Besides their specialties, they’re also different sizes and adopt different stances (making maneuvering easier or more difficult), attack with different speeds, deal varying amounts of damage, and string together combos in different ways.  Captain America can pull off combo attacks while in mid-air, while Spiderman can deliver a quick 5-hit barrage.  The Hulk can grab an enemy, throw him, and in the process deal damage to other enemies in the way.

Marvel Super Heroes War of the GemsJumping plays a secondary role to the beat ’em up elements.  There aren’t any really difficult sequences but the level layouts resemble easy platformers.  Most levels have a distinct feel to them and incorporate different elements like lava, underwater areas where the hero has limited air, and a fun section where the character rides on a Silver Surfer-like board avoiding fireballs and knocking Silver Surfer doppelgangers off their boards.  Game progression is pretty linear so there’s no risk of getting lost or confused, though it is kept a little more interesting than a simple straight path.

Once the player chooses his or her character prior to the start of a level, one has a chance to equip the hero with certain objects found during gameplay.  Energy boosts and “special gem supermoves” are included among other things.  In addition, each gem has a certain power once collected and can be equipped based on both the level and the character’s strengths and weaknesses.  One gem allows higher jumps, another increases attack strength, and another increases the physical speed of the character’s movements.  We never get to see what the sixth gem does since the game ends, but I found myself using the speed gem as soon as I got it, replacing it with the power gem when I could and sticking with the increased strength in order to finish off opponents quickly.  Although the game may seem a little simplistic at a glance, there’s actually quite a bit of room to accommodate any number of playing styles.  If finishing the game with one method is too difficult, try another.

Marvel Super Heroes War of the GemsAll told, War of the Gems is fairly easy.  Dodging enemy attacks while landing your own is all but effortless aside from the bosses, and most of the stages don’t pose too many hazardous obstacles.  Enhancements gained from the gems compensate for the increase in difficulty during later levels, though the last 3 bosses will pose a serious threat.  Best to act fast and user your power gem to pummel them as quickly as possible.

The graphics are vibrant and colorful as one would expect from such a late release for the console.  It has a cartoon-ish but also nicely detailed look to it, and the characters look  just like we all remember them, back when Wolverine wore yellow.  Background artwork is probably a bit overused in the levels themselves but there is a good amount of variety across the entire game.  Most importantly, all objects and entities are clear and obvious.  There’s no mistaking what is and isn’t a platform or what is and isn’t an enemy.  The visuals may not blow anyone away, but they serve their purpose perfectly.

Marvel Super Heroes War of the GemsWar of the Gems could’ve been a little longer or more in-depth, but it manages to stand on its own as a leisurely game well enough.  With great eye candy for Marvel fans and an above-average combat system it’s a solid if otherwise forgettable SNES title.  This is one of the more enjoyable old school comic book adaptations that I’ve played in recent memory, so if you’re itching to squeeze in quality combat with a few Marvel characters without having to resort to a strict fighting game (I’m looking at you Marvel vs. Capcom)War of the Gems just may do the trick.

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

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  1. FrozenMallet says:

    I haven’t played this game in years. I rented it from Blockbuster and had it for the weekend. Don’t think I ever finished it though. Thinking it might be time to revisit this one.

    • I had a good time with it. May not be worth the $24 price tag (although I saw it all the way up at $30 at a different store this weekend) but still decent. These comic book video game adaptations have caught my eye recently for some reason, so this’ll probably be the first of many. I’m having to balance out my grueling dead-to-the-world Castlevania binges with something a little less demanding!


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