Last week I talked about the Battletoads Double Dragon crossover video game and about how the awful game play killed the crossover novelty of the title. Well, this week I’m reviewing a game that teams up two comic book super powers in one game to create one of the most epic crossover games I have ever played, Iron Man XO Manowar in Heavy Metal for the Sega Saturn. This game was panned by critics back in the day, and while one or two complaints are legit, I have no idea why. It’s time to give this game another chance.
Heavy Metal was released to the masses back in 1996. It was developed by Realtime Associates and published by Acclaim Entertainment. Realtime Associates is no stranger to video game adaptations of comic book story lines. Back in 1991, they teamed up with Data East to develop Captain America and the Avengers for the arcades and several home consoles. With Heavy Metal though, they ventured outside the Marvel universe and created one of the first comic book crossover video games.
Realtime Associates took Iron Man from the Marvel Comics universe and paired him up with XO Manowar from the Valiant Comics universe. As I understand it, it’s a big deal when two different comic book worlds collide in one piece of work. The fact that these two were allied with one another instead of fighting each other only makes this pairing up more special. Another thing that makes this combining of comic book universes interesting is that the creators of the XO Manowar comic were once with Marvel Comics. So, there’s a lot more to this game than just the video game part of it, there’s some deeper comic history to this title as well. Check out Planet Arbitrary’s Comic Book Logic to learn more about the world of comics.
The game follows Iron Man and Manowar as they try to stop a group of super villains from collecting fragments of the Cosmic Cube. The Cosmic Cube is a device that was created by the terrorist group, A.I.M. or Advanced Idea Mechanics. It comes from the Marvel Universe and serves as Iron Man’s plot line in the game. XO Manowar battles against the space aliens that he stole his XO Manowar armor from. Whether you’re playing as Iron Man or Manowar, the story never changes, they’re both trying to accomplish the same thing.
Iron Man XO Manowar in Heavy Metal Game Play for Sega Saturn
The game lets you play as Iron Man or XO Manowar during the game. Both of these characters are crazy powerful so you’re not really gaining any strategic advantage by choosing one over the other. This is a 2D side scroller that doesn’t just move from left to right, but right to left and up and down. Both characters can fly for a short amount of time which makes traversing a level in any direction possible. Each character has a punch and kick attack and can even perform more powerful punches and kicks when done while running. Also, each character has a main upgradable laser burst with unlimited ammo that they can fire out of their hands. The laser bursts can be fired in any direction and they can even be fired while you’re flying. The only downside to the laser is that you can’t hold down the fire button to shoot continuously. One strange thing, the laser bursts can be weaker than punch and kick attacks against end bosses. So if you’re not making a dent in an end bosses power bar, try punching or kicking.
In addition to the laser bursts, each character has a large one-off attack that they can fire a limited number of times. Additional power-ups can be picked up in each level to gain more of the larger attacks. If you power-up your larger attacks enough, you can fire off an even larger weapon in the form of an EMP. This EMP will clear the screen killing enemies in front of you and killing enemies in the background. Yes, at some points in this game enemies appear in the background but then jump to the foreground where you can attack them head on. Enemies in the background can still attack you in the foreground so don’t ignore them when they appear. Pressing UP,UP, Fire will make your character turn and face the background while firing at the same time. Using this function will not only allow you to kill enemies in the background but it will also allow you to destroy objects in the background as well.
Heavy Metal uses password saving to save your progress through the game. This is one thing I have a problem with. The passwords are 26 characters long! Seriously, I found myself writing down passwords and having to flip over the piece of paper I was writing them on just to finish taking down one password. Also, this game can be fairly difficult in spots so religiously taking down passwords is a must later in the game.
The game play is one of the things that earned this game such poor marks back in the day and I don’t understand why. It’s really not that bad, actually, it’s pretty damn good. The controls can be a little sluggish at times and the game does suffer from slowdowns from time to time but none of this is bad enough to actually interfere with the game play and cause a problem. There’s lots of parts in this game where I found myself saying “This game is fucking awesome!” while I was playing it.
This is the other thing that critics had a problem with. They said that while the game looks good, it doesn’t look as good as it should for a 32-bit title. I partially agree with them since the graphics are a bit muddy, meaning that the overall appearance of the game lacks detail. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like the game is a big blurry mess on the screen, the game just lacks a deeper and crisper look. Had the graphics been sharpened up just a bit it would’ve really put this game over the top. With all that being said, the game looks good enough to make out what’s happening on the screen and you can easily see that you are in fact, playing as Iron Man or XO Manowar.
The game sounds and music in this game are awesome, flat out awesome. Game sounds are detailed, crisp, and clean and never get old to listen to. The music soundtrack is great as well as it’s filled with catchy but generic heavy metal tunes that play throughout the entire game. Play this game with the big speakers on.
Collectibility – Sought After
This game isn’t as collectible as say a first edition issue of an actual Iron Man or XO Manowar comic book but it is sought after. This games collectibility has probably been given a boost by all of the recent Marvel action movies released recently so take advantage of it while you can. Also, this is just a really fun game to play so if you see it at your local game shop or flea market, pick it up.
Average Value – $4 loose, $35 New in Box
Rarity – Sought After with a 42% rating on Rarityguide.com
Happy Gaming and Happy Collecting!
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