Justice League: Task Force – DC vs. itself

by Pat B on April 11, 2013

Hello Everyone!
In honor of the upcoming C2E2 Comic and Entertainment Expo later this month in Chicago, I’m going to review another game based on the world of comic books. Last week was Marvel’s turn with my review of X-Men: Children of the Atom. Now it’s DC’s turn as I review Acclaim’s Justice League: Task Force for the Sega Genesis. Come on, Genesis! Don’t let me down!

Justice League: Task Force - Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo

Justice League: Task Force – Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo

Justice League: Task Force was released back in 1995 for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. The Sega version was developed by Sunsoft and Condor, Inc. Sunsoft also developed the Super Nintendo version but worked with Blizzard Entertainment as a co-developer instead of Condor. Shortly after Justice League: Task Force hit store shelves, Blizzard bought Condor, Inc. and renamed it Blizzard North. The purchase came just six months before Condor was to release a PC game they had been working on called “Diablo”.
As for the comic book history behind Justice League: Task Force, it’s based on the league as it was in the early 90’s. I actually had to confer with Planet Arbitrary’s in-house comic book expert, Joe, of Comic Book Logic, to sort out the timeline of the comics compared to the one in the video game. Turns out, the video game doesn’t follow the true timeline of the comics at all. The game simply throws a bunch of super heroes into a video game that were members of the Justice League at one point in time but not when the game was actually released. This makes the game more of a Justice League All-Stars game rather than a video game adaptation of an actual story line from the comics.
Game Play
Just like X-Men: Children of the Atom, Justice League: Task Force is a 2-D side scrolling tournament fighter. Normally, I make the standard Street Fighter comparison with games like this but Justice League is closer to the fighting style found in King of Monsters. It’s a game where you’re simply trying to hit your opponent more times than he hits you before time runs out, there’s no strategy or fighting style you can employ to dominate your opponent.

Justice League: Task Force Game Play for the Sega Genesis

There’s three different game modes you can play: Hero mode, which is the single player story mode, Player vs. CPU, which lets the player fight the CPU in exhibition fights, and Player vs. Player, which is just two-player mode. There is an options menu that lets you change the difficulty and speed of the game. The speed can be set to slow, normal, fast, and fastest, which is a completely useless feature for the kind of combat found in this game, I’ll explain in a minute.
Earlier I said this game lacks a combo system. What I mean by that is that you can’t link attacks together to form multi-hit combos that lead to bigger and more powerful attacks. This game is a straight-on kick and punch game with a small variety of special attacks that can be performed to chip away at your opponents health. The combat is frantic and very random which becomes less enjoyable the more you speed it up in the options menu. The faster the game goes, the more the game play breaks down.

The computer spams special moves a lot without shame.

The computer shamelessly spams special moves.

And while we’re talking about non-enjoyable game play, if you don’t have a friend to play against in this game, you’re going to have a bad time. The difficulty of the CPU players is goddamn ridiculous. Even setting the difficulty to “easy” doesn’t help. The computer is relentless in it’s attacks which made me feel like I was 12 years old again and getting my ass kicked by my older brother seeking an easy win in Street Fighter. There were times I wanted to yell “Mom, the Sega won’t let me win!”
Get used to seeing this...a lot.

Get used to seeing this…a lot.

The final nail in the coffin for the game play is the poor controls and hit detection. There’s significant button press lag which is so bad, it gives your opponent a window to attack in. There’s light, medium, and fierce kick and punch attacks you can use but any attack stronger than “light” is so slow you’ll never land a hit. As for the hit detection, player attacks have a large reach meaning you’ll take damage from punches and kicks that never actually touch your character sprite on the screen. Now, this goes both ways so if you think you’re out of range for an attack, go ahead and throw that punch or kick because it’ll most likely damage your opponent even though it never actually touches them.
This is the video game equivalent of "flopping".  Bogus hits like this are rampant throughout the game.

This is the video game equivalent of “flopping”. Bogus hits like this are rampant throughout the game.

Overall, this is the worst comic book fighting game crossover I’ve ever played. Even the generic and very lame story of “Hero Mode” does nothing to save it. What’s even worse is that the story, including ALL dialog, is exactly the same for every character with the only difference being which character is displayed on the screen as the story plays out.
This is actually one area where the game gets good marks. Games based on comic books usually look pretty good since the artwork is two dimensional. The cartridge based game consoles, especially the 16-bit ones, didn’t have to work too hard to display a good looking comic book game. It basically came down to recreating all of the colors found in the comics which, for the Genesis, was more difficult to do but managed to pull it off in this game.
Characters and backgrounds are colorful and detailed and almost have an arcade quality to them. Seriously, the game looks good for a Genesis effort as you can make out things like Superman’s ridiculous mullet or Aquaman’s overall lameness. What really steals the show is the individual backgrounds for each character. To Metropolis, to Gotham, to Aquaman’s under water lair, each one has details that can distract from the horrible game play in front of you.
The Genesis scores again as the game sounds and music aren’t that bad. The Genesis is notorious for extremely poor sound processing but there’s some good stuff to be heard in this game. While the sound effects are the usual Genesis thuds and grunts, things like the creepy voice acting for Darkseid in the game’s intro, to the decent music tracks playing during the fights, helps to add to the games arcade feel. If it weren’t for the extremely poor game play, the sound would have been the finishing touch on what could have been a decent comic book arcade fighter for the Genesis.
Collectibility – Sought After
Games like this get the comic book bump as far as collecting goes. If the comics are popular, then the games based on the comics will appeal to collectors as well. Unfortunately, since this game is more of a generic fighting game with some DC super heroes thrown in, and not an actual video game adaptation of a comic book story line like X-Men: Children of the Atom or even The Death and Return of Superman, it’s not as valuable.
For example, The Death and Return of Superman is worth $52 complete in box while Justice League: Task Force is only worth $12 complete in box yet, both games were made by the same developer and were released for the same game system using the same DC comics license. If you see this game in the wild, don’t assume you have to buy it just because you see Superman and Batman on the cover unless of course, you’re a big Superman or Batman fan.
Average Value – $5 Loose, $12 Complete in Box, $26 New in Box as of 4/10/13
Rarity – Sought After with a 41% rating on RarityGuide.com
Happy Gaming and Happy Collecting!
Follow Pat’s Retro Video Game Reviews on Twitter @PatsGameReviews or you can hear him on the Play On! Podcast right here on Planet Arbitrary or on iTunes!
You can contact him directly via Email at pat@planetarbitrary.com

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

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Joe April 12, 2013 at 9:00 am

Just to put it out there, since I am mentioned in the article, JL:TF was actually a pretty cool idea for a comic. It was essentially DC’s answer to Marvel’s Secret Defenders. Essentially, Martian Manhunter (not even in the game) would select a group of heroes for specific missions. However, like all mid 90’s DC books, the character usage got tied up in inter-departmental disputes, and the team usually ended up consisting of really shitty characters no one cared about like Gypsy and Triumph. Fortunatly six months later Grant Morrison launched JLA and the terrible period in between Keith Giffens’ league (1987-1992) and the mostly excellent JLA (1997-2006) was mostly forgotton.


Joe April 12, 2013 at 9:04 am

also The only good videogame to feature the Justice League and get the characterization right is Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. While Injustice may look good and play well, the characterization is not right.


Pat B. April 12, 2013 at 12:04 pm

See, this is why you handle the comic book stuff. Thanks for clearing up that stuff up for me!


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