Game Corner [JLA Day]: Justice League Heroes (PlayStation 2)


To celebrate the release of Justice League (Snyder/Whedon, 2017), DC Comics named November 18 “Justice League Day”. Sadly, this clashes with something else I have planned for that date this year but, setting aside all the drama surrounding that movie, this still provides a perfect excuse to dedicating some time to talking about DC’s premier superhero team, which set the standard for super teams in comics by bringing together DC’s most powerful heroes.


Released: 22 November 2006
Developer: Snowblind Studios
Also Available For: Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, and Xbox

The Background:
After coming together in November 1959, the Justice League of America (JLA) quickly became one of DC Comic’s best-selling titles. This shouldn’t be entirely surprising considering the team came to be comprised of DC’s most popular characters: Clark Kent/Superman, Bruce Wayne/Batman, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, Arthur Curry/Aquaman, Barry Allan/The Flash, and J’onn J’onzz (also known as “John Jones”)/Martian Manhunter. The team saw many members come and go over the years but was a constant staple of DC’s library of comic books and soon expanded into other media. Interestingly, the Justice League’s success hasn’t always resulted in the best videogames, though, meaning developers Snowblind Studios faced a bit of an uphill battle right from the start when creating Justice League Heroes. Built out of a modified engine of their critically acclaimed title Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance (ibid, 2001), the developers ending up removing features from that game and engine to focus on extending the length of Justice League Heroes, which has more than a few similarities to Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (Raven Software/Barking Lizards Technologies, 2006), which released about a month earlier. Reviews of the game were mixed across platforms, though, and the game was generally regarded as a bit of a mediocre and mindless beat-‘em-up.

The Plot:
The Earth is under attack from the robot forces of Brainiac, who has coerced many of the world’s most notorious supervillains into helping him consolidate the power afforded to him by a mysterious box from the stars. In response, the world’s greatest heroes, the Justice League, leap into action and team up to oppose Brainiac’s plot in a globe-trotting adventure that requires all of their individual abilities and skills.

Gameplay:
Justice League Heroes is a top-down action brawler in which you (and either another player or a computer-controlled partner) battle through a number of recognisable locations from the DC universe as various members of the Justice League. The game’s story is split into a number of missions that see two members of the Justice League teaming up at any one time; a second, human player can join the game at any point from the pause menu, a solo player can freely switch between the two heroes at will by pressing up on the directional pad (D-pad), and you’ll also be tasked with assembling one or more custom teams of two characters later in the story but you’ll never get the opportunity to switch out characters completely or replay missions with different characters. Gameplay in Justice League Heroes revolves almost entirely around beating up endless hoards of robots and aliens and solving some very light puzzles; characters can jump with a press of the Triangle button (and double jump or fly/glide with subsequent presses depending on who you’re playing as), attack with strong and fast attacks with Circle and X, respectively, and can grab enemies or objects with Square and block incoming attacks by holding R1. By entering different button presses (X, X, O, for example), players can pull off simple combo attacks to take out enemies but there are, sadly, no team up attacks to be found here.

The Justice League’s various superpowers are at your disposal and can be upgraded to be more effective.

While every character controls the same except for their ability to fly or glide, each one is made slightly different from the other through their individual superpowers. By pressing L1 and either Triangle, Square, Circle, or X, players can pull off their character’s signature super moves as long as they have enough energy stored up. This allows you to blast enemies with Superman’s heat vision, for example, or turn them into rabbits with Zatanna Zatara’s magic, or smash them with John Stewart/Green Lantern’s massive sledgehammer. Pressing L1 and R1 will see each character (with some exceptions) pull off a more powerful  super special attack which, again, varies per character; Superman, for example, will become stronger while Batman unleashes a swarm of bats to damage foes and Martian Manhunter briefly becomes intangible and invisible. They’re all pretty useful and different enough in their own way, with most characters having a projectile of some sort, a move to boost their attack or speed, or being able to stun or otherwise incapacitate enemies and you’ll sometimes (very rarely) need to use a specific character’s superpowers to bypass obstacles in order to progress. When playing alone, you can also issue simple commands to your partner using the D-pad; this allows you to increase the aggressiveness of their attack or have them focus on defence, which can be useful when teamed with Zatanna as she’s able to heal all team members.

Rescue civilians, activate consoles, and destroy certain targets to progress amidst the mindless brawling.

Overall, I found the computer to be surprisingly useful and competent; if your partner gets downed, however, you’ll have to rush in to revive them but the game automatically revives any downed characters when you reach one of its numerous checkpoints and enemies will often drop health-restoring orbs to keep you ticking over. Furthermore, if you’re able to attack enemies without taking damage, you’ll build up your “Heroic Meter”, which will increase your damage output until you get hit, and you can alter the difficulty of the game and its enemies by selecting different difficulty settings from the main menu. Despite the game being extremely linear, the developers included a helpful mini map, which you can expand by pressing in the right analogue stick. This isn’t always necessary but, as many of the environments are rather drab, grey, similar, and somewhat labyrinthine at times, it’s a welcome addition to keep you on track even during the game’s shorter and more straightforward missions. Unfortunately, the top-down view can be rather restrictive at times; many areas are filled with debris or obstructions and it always seems like you can only see just enough of the area, which can lead to enemies catching you off guard or hiding behind parts of the environment with no way to see them as they don’t show up on the map. It’s not all mindless brawling, either; occasionally, you’ll be tasked with rescuing a number of civilians or hostages, faced with a time limit, or directed to activate consoles to lower barriers in order to progress. As alluded to earlier, these very rarely require you to use the Flash’s superspeed or the Martian Manhunter’s intangibility to get past obstacles and stop fans, lower energy barriers, or deactivate Kryptonite hazards so that you can progress further. Sometimes you’ll also need to destroy a wall or use a character’s flight to progress across rooftops and, in the final portion of the game, you’ll not only have to protect Superman as he smashes through Darkseid’s fortress but you’ll also be faced with an extremely frustrating and confusing teleport puzzle that was the only time I had to actively look up a solution online.

Graphics and Sound:
Thanks to its zoomed out, top-down perspective, Justice League Heroes is, largely, able to get away with hiding any inconsistencies and defects in its in-game character models. Since you never really see your characters up close, the developers can have them talk and drop hints and quips without really needing to animate their mouths and the simple beat-‘em-up action of the game means that characters just need to look somewhat decent when they throw punches, grab cars, or blast out energy beams. And, for the most part, they do; there’s some neat little touches here and there (like Martian Manhunter being able to transform into his true, more monstrous form and the Flash being accompanied by a speed force double and lightning) and characters are always talking so you know when you need to drop or combine Boosts or have a vague idea of how the story is progressing.

Sadly, the game’s environments and enemies tend to be quite dark, bland, and boring.

Sadly, enemies and environments don’t always live up to the colourful and eye-catching depiction of the titular Justice League. It takes a long time for you to battle anything other than Brainiac’s generic robots or explore areas beyond the wrecked streets of Metropolis or the cold, grey corridors of Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Laboratories (S.T.A.R. Labs) and the like. Eventually, though, you do venture into more visually unique environments like the subways, a honeycomb and sap-encrusted hive, the ruins of J’onn’s civilisation on Mars, Gorilla City, a Lovecraftian dimension populated by strange rock creatures and living tentacles, and a version of Apokolips created on Earth but there’s very little variety offered in terms of the enemies or puzzles and hazards you face as you progress. No matter where you are, it’s the same thing every time: defeat all enemies, maybe activate a console, and reach the end of the stage.

Even Ron Perlman can’t salvage the blurry, rubbery graphics of the game’s cinematics.

The bulk of the game’s story (which is about as generic as you can get for a Justice League videogame) is conveyed through CG cutscenes featuring the traditional rubbery-looking graphics you’d expect from a PlayStation 2 game. I did notice some slowdown when there was a lot happening onscreen and, in terms of music and sound, the game is very unimpressive; the voice cast isn’t even the same one as in the popular Justice League animated series (2001 to 2006) and, while I love me some Ron Perlman, he just sounds bored whenever his Batman speaks (I’m also not really a fan of how often Batman is shown in broad daylight).

Enemies and Bosses:
As I’ve mentioned a bit already, you’ll wade through numerous disposable enemies in your mission to stop Brainiac and his lieutenants but none of them are particularly interesting. You’ll battle robots of varying sizes, humanoid wasps, White Martians on the surface of Mars, Gorilla Grodd’s gorilla forces, and Parademons but, once you’ve fought one lot of enemies, you’ve fought them all as they all feature regular foot soldiers who shoot at you and both flying and bigger variants that can take a bit more punishment. Honestly, the only enemies I even remotely found interesting were the weird crab and toad-like enemies you face later in the game and the instances where you battle Brainiac’s skull robots and failed clones of Doomsday because they at least looked a little different.

Many of the game’s bosses require you to fend off minions or destroy or activate consoles to attack them.

Before you can defeat Brainiac, you’ll have to battle a number of bosses; some of these are simply bigger, more dangerous versions of enemies you’ve already fought or Brainiac’s more deadly robots and duplicates. You’ll battle a Brainiac duplicate in S.T.A.R. Labs, for example, but this fight isn’t just about throwing punches. Instead, you have to activate consoles to lower barriers and rescue the scientists against a time limit all while “Brainiac” fires lasers and energy blasts at you. You’ll also encounter some of the more obscure villains from DC Comics’ gallery; Queen Bee has established a hive in the Metropolis subway and is transforming civilians into monstrous insect hybrids and, when you confront her in her throne room, she shields herself from your attacks and rains missiles into the arena that make the floor sticky. She’s only vulnerable when she leaves her throne but your window of opportunity to attack her is hampered somewhat by her minions, her energy blasts, and her tendency to dart across the screen like a madwoman. You’ll also butt heads with the Key, of all people. Like with Brainiac’s duplicate, you have to rescue some scientists against a time limit during this battle but the Key proves to be a particularly elusive and versatile enemy as he teleports around the place and causes hazards to blast out from his dimensional portals.

Grodd and Brainiac use their powers, technology, and minions to keep you at bay.

Similarly, when fighting Doctor Louise Lincoln/Killer Frost, you’re given one minute and forty seconds to destroy three missiles (and five seconds to get away from each before they explode) in addition to battling her and her icy minions. Killer Frost can conjure grunts, form ice shields, and blast at you with ice and icicles, all of which can make battling her quite tricky and annoying as your attentions are constantly divided. After reaching the core of a pyramid-like structure on Mars, Superman and the Martian Manhunter have to battle the White Martian leader; this guy is also accompanied by disposable White Martian grunts and you’re tasked with activating four nearby power nodes to defeat him. Things get noticeably more interesting when the Justice League splits into teams; while one team flies through the upper atmosphere destroying generators on invading spacecraft, another destroys power turbines in Gorilla City and gets into a confrontation with Gorilla Grodd. Grodd primarily uses his staff to attack and is joined not only by an inexhaustible supply of gorilla minions but also a series of energy-firing turrets so it’s probably best to try and keep your distance and stay on the move to emerge victorious in this fight. After battling their own security system in their Watchtower space station, the Justice League then faces off with a larger, more powerful Doomsday clone that, unlike pretty much every other boss in the game, boils down to a question of who can attack hardest and fastest rather than distracting you with tricks and puzzles.

Of course Darkseid turns out to be the true final boss of the game!

Eventually, you’ll breach Brainiac’s main base and be forced to battle his three robot guardians before you confront him; Brainiac is completely protected by an energy shield and is only vulnerable when he rises from his throne and only for a brief window of time. He also likes to teleport you to the far end of the arena, where you’re forced to destroy the generators that power his barriers and take out some minions just to get back up to him, so it’s more a question of patience than anything. As you might have guessed, the moment you defeat Brainiac he is immediately usurped by Darkseid, who teleports you away to a hellish dimension and then converts Earth into a new Apokolips. You’ll need to assemble two teams of four to confront Darkseid, who stomps around his throne room creating shockwaves and plumes of fire along the ground and blasting at you with his powerful Omega Beams. Being an all-powerful New God, his health also regenerates over time, meaning you’ll have to keep pummelling him again and again in order to keep him down. This was, honestly, a bit of a confusing fight; you can grab the “Apokolips Hypercube” nearby, which seems to weaken him and make him vulnerable to your attacks but I also found myself running around with it in my hands and not doing any damage to Darkseid at all and then he just suddenly succumbed to my attacks and was defeated.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
In almost every area in the game, you’ll find objects that you can grab and use as weapons; some of these are limited to the specifics of your character, though, meaning that you won’t be lifting cars over your head as, say, Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, for example. Still, you can grab post boxes and parking meters and cars and such to bash over enemy’s heads, which adds a bit of variety to the otherwise relentless combat. You can also pick up temporary power-ups throughout each environment to give yourself and your team mate a bit of a power boost so it can be worth exploring a little bit and smashing destructible objects wherever you see them.

Level-up to increase your stats power-up your attacks with Skill Points and Boosts.

The game also features some light role-playing elements; as you defeat enemies, you’ll gain experience points (EXP) and level-up once you’ve earned enough EXP. This will increase your stats and abilities but you also earn Skill Points that you can spend upgrading your character’s superpowers up to five different ranks to increase their effectiveness and duration. Additionally, enemies will also drop various “Boosts” that you can equip at any time; you can also combine Boosts together to create new, more powerful Boosts and equipping these will also boost your superpowers, increase your damage output or defence, or increase the range and duration of your attacks.

Additional Features:
Although the game is extremely linear, there are often some rewards to be found through exploration; generally, these will just be stockpiles of health, energy, or Boosts but you’ll also find be civilians in danger who need rescuing who will drop “Justice League Shields”. Shields can also be found by destroying parts of the environment and you can spend these on skins and additional characters. While you can select any of the unlockable costumes at any time, they won’t actually load until you reach the next checkpoint/area and you can only select to play as the unlocked characters when the game allows you to pick a team of your own. The skins available are quite impressive, though; while not every character gets a skin, some offer bonus boosts to your stats and there’s some fan favourites available here, like Superman’s black suit, Batman’s traditional blue and grey suit, and the Jay Garrick version of the Flash. You can also unlock the likes of Green Arrow, Aquaman (sporting his water hand), Helena Bertinelli/The Huntress, and what I assume is the Kendra Saunders version of Hawkgirl.

Unlock additional characters, costumes, and modes by finding Shields and completing the game.

You’ll notice, however, that neither Huntress, Aquaman, or Hawkgirl have an L1+R1 special move, though I’m not entirely sure why. You can also unlock Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner but, despite these two being separate characters, they control exactly the same as John Stewart, which is a little disappointing; none of the unlockable characters have alternate costumes either, which is a bit of a missed opportunity in my book. Initially, you can select from Easy, Normal, or Hard difficulties but you’ll unlock two more difficulty levels (Elite and Superhero, on which most enemies will kill you in one hit) and be given the option of starting the game over from the beginning with all of the upgrades and EXP you amassed during your run upon completing the game. Sadly, there’s no option to free play any mission with any character, no versus mode, and no option to play online or with more than one other player but there are a number of cheats that you can activate from the pause menu to give yourself invincibility, infinite energy, all upgrades, and a bunch of Shields to quickly unlock all of the game’s skins and characters.

The Summary:
Justice League Heroes isn’t going to really offer you anything you can’t get from any other mindless beat-‘em-up; the stages and enemy designs can be very bland and boring and there really isn’t much asked of you other than to mash the same buttons over and over and activate a few consoles. Still, as a fan of beat-‘em-ups and brawlers, I found Justice League Heroes to be a pretty decent way of spending an afternoon; there’s a lot of characters available to you and I like that the story mixes the teams up quite often and allows you to put together your own teams, and the game is probably even more enjoyable with a friend to play with. There could have been more options and unlockables available (such as free play mode, maybe some challenges, and a boss rush), the music and graphics can stutter a bit, and the game is awash with dark, boring, grey locations, but, as a repetitive brawler featuring the Justice League, it’s decent enough, though probably not very appealing to those that aren’t fans of the source material and characters.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Have you ever played Justice League Heroes? If so, what did you think to it? Were you disappointed by the game’s presentation, selection of villains, and the inability to freely pick characters on the go? Which of the available characters was your favourite and preferred duo? What genre do you think would work for a future Justice League videogame? What version of the Justice League is your favourite and are there any DC superheroes you’d like to see added to the team someday? How are you celebrating Justice League Day this year? Whatever your thoughts on Justice League Heroes, and the Justice League in general, feel free to drop a comment below.

Back Issues [Crossover Crisis]: The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans


In April of 1985, the first issue of the ground-breaking, twelve issue Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1986) was published. This event, which was easily the biggest in DC Comics at that point (and for many years), saw the destruction of the “Multiverse”, an infinite number of parallel worlds, and the awkward establishing of one unified DC canon. Over the years, DC have returned to this concept again and again, retconning it, expanding upon it, and milking it to the point of excess but that doesn’t change how influential this massive crossover was. To celebrate this momentous event, I’m looking at multiversal crossovers every Wednesday in April in an event I’m calling “Crossover Crisis”.


Story Title: “Apokolips… Now!”
Published: January 1982
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Walt Simonson

The Background:
As I’ve mentioned on a couple of occasions, DC Comics and Marvel Comics have had a surprisingly collaborative and amicable relationship over the years that has led to some inter-company friendships, homages, and co-publications between the two comic book giants. By 1982, both Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men and DC’s Teen Titans were seeing a resurgence in popularity thanks to both teams featuring an exciting new creative and character line-up. Over in Marvel Comics, writer Chris Claremont had revitalised Marvel’s Mutant team by introducing a group of diverse and multi-cultural new characters while the New Teen Titans, under the pen of Marv Wolfman, had been aged up and also included some of the title’s most synonymous characters. With so many similarities between the two teams, and considering the success of the two titles were selling at the time, a crossover between the two was a smart business move for both parties.

The Review:
“Apokolips… Now!” begins at the Source Wall, an impossibly large stone wall that represents the edge of the known universe and which is comprised of the legendary Promethean Giants, who were turned to stone for trying to breach the boundaries of the cosmos. There, we find Metron, the generally impartial intellectual of the New Gods, conversing with all-mighty Darkseid, who gifts him with the “Omega-Phase Helmet”, a highly advanced crown that allows Metron’s Mobius Chair to achieve the impossible and penetrate the great stone wall in order for them both to achieve their heart’s desire (Metron for knowledge and Darkseid for power).

A normal day at the X-Mansion is interrupted by a vision of Jean.

The story then jumps to Westchester, New York where Professor Xavier’s X-Men are engaging in a training session within the Danger Room, an exercise that grates on Logan/Wolverine’s patience despite his respect for the professor. After impressing Xavier with their teamwork, the Mutants retire for dinner and the story takes the opportunity to catch us up not only with the current X-Men roster and their powers (the aforementioned Wolverine, Scott Summers/Cyclops, Ororo Munroe/Storm, Piotr “Peter” Rasputin/Colossus, Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler, and Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat) but also the tragic rise and downfall of Jean Grey, who attained incredible cosmic powers as the Phoenix that eventually corrupted and consumed her. The X-Men’s memories of Jean are extracted by Darkseid and the Phoenix briefly assumes a corporeal form where she begs for help from Cyclops much like Barry Allen/The Flash did in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Raven and Starfire are spooked by Phoenix while Robin is jumped by Deathstroke!

Meanwhile, over at Titans Tower (yes, in this story, the Marvel and DC universes again exist in a shared world rather than being separate, parallel worlds), Rachel Roth/Raven of the New Teen Titans finds her dreams interrupted by a prophetic nightmare of a woman, taking the shape of a flaming bird, destroying their world. When Garfield Logan/Changeling assumes the form of a similar bird, Koriand’r/Starfire randomly loses control of herself and attacks him; well aware of the threat that the Phoenix poses, Starfire summons the remaining members of the team (Wally West/Kid Flash, Donna Troy/Wonder Girl, and Victor Stone/Cyborg) away from their procrastinations, personal lives, and crimefighting antics to bring them up to speed on the Phoenix’s destructive power. Dick Grayson/Robin, however, is kept from joining his team mates when he butts heads with one of Darkseid’s Parademons only to be attacked by Slade Wilson/Deathstroke the Terminator, who not only reveals that he’s in cahoots with Darkseid but is easily able to knock Robin unconscious thanks to his superior physical and mental abilities. The X-Men discover that Jean’s parents and other areas across the world have also witnessed visions of Jean and mysterious incidents all linked to Jean’s past. After locating Robin, Starfire relates Phoenix’s legend as the “chaos-bringer” and a cataclysmic force; although Robin points out that cosmic threats are a little out of their league, and the more pressing issue of Deathstroke’s current plot, he promises Starfire that they’ll do everything they can to track down and stop Phoenix. The story then introduces us to Ravok the Ravager, another of Darkseid’s henchmen who he recruits as part of his plot to siphon the Phoenix’s vast cosmic powers.

Both the X-Men and Teen Titans are captured with a ridiculous amount of ease.

Weary from pushing himself too far, Xavier enters a deep sleep and barely has enough time to defend himself when Starfire bursts into the X-Mansion and attacks him in a rage. Xavier’s unparalleled psychic powers are subdued by a combination of Cyborg’s ultrasonic blasts and Raven’s dark “Soul-Self”, however Robin is disturbed and irritated at his team’s recklessness in breaking into the mansion and attacking Xavier without provocation. His reprimanding is interrupted by the arrival of Ravok and his Shock Commandos, who storm the mansion looking for the X-Men but quickly adapt to defeat and kidnap all of the Teen Titans but Changeling, who follows along undetected. While investigating New Mexico, the X-Men comes across Deathstroke and one of Darkseid’s “Psi-phons”; although they easily destroy the Psi-phon and are able to fend off the Parademons, Deathstroke quickly recovers from Wolverine’s initial attack to take each of the Mutants out with a “fear ray” that grounds Storm, a “toxi-grenade” that renders Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, and even Wolverine unconscious while a Parademon blasts Cyclops, and overpowers even Colossus’ hulking metallic form. Deathstroke and Ravok bring their captives to all-mighty Darkseid, who waits at the Source Wall and immediately sees through Changeling’s deception to subdue him, and then kills Ravok for his ineptitude with his destructive “Omega Beams”.

Darkseid summons Dark Phoenix but the heroes quickly join forces to confront the New God.

Darkseid secures his captives to a gigantic machine, the “Psychon-Wave”, which painfully and forcefully draws upon their superhuman powers and the Mutants’ memories of Jean, concentrating them on the breach in the Source Wall to bring Dark Phoenix back to life. He then regales the inquisitive Changeling with the reason for this plot (basically, he wants to use the Phoenix to transform the Earth into a new Apokolips that will allow him to conquer first New Genesis and then the length and breadth of reality itself). Hungry for destruction, Phoenix willingly accompanies Darkseid through a Boom Tube to begin this plot but, quite ludicrously, the heroes’ restraints disappear when Darkseid departs! Freed from captivity, the Teen Titans and the X-Men immediately agree to work together to stop Darkseid and Phoenix despite Wolverine not being happy about working with kids. While Shadowcat tries to flirt with Changeling and Kid Flash comments on the diversity of the X-Men, Cyborg, Xavier, Starfire, and Cyclops locate and acquire the Mobius Chair, which Shadowcat and Changeling accidentally activate to provide them with a means of escape. Tensions are stirred when Colossus sees Shadowcat flirting with Changeling and when Starfire kisses Colossus in order to learn Russian, but the team are soon carried back to New York in order to fulfil Cyclops’ solemn vow to make Darkseid pay for violating Jean’s memory and peace. They follow Phoenix’s unique psychic trail to a series of underground tunnels beneath the city where they are attacked by Deathstroke’s Parademons once more. Rather than waste time in a pointless battle, Robin and Cyclops give the order to collapse the tunnel and blast an escape route for their two teams, which conveniently brings them out right at Darkseid’s main base.

Dark Phoenix threatens the Earth’s safety so is subjected to a psychic attack.

Impressed at the tenacity of his foes, Darkseid dispatches Deathstroke and Dark Phoenix to hold the two groups off while he complete his work; although Starfire attacks Dark Phoenix in a fury, her starbolts succeed only in further empowering the corrupted Jean, who vehemently resists Nightcrawler’s attempts to reason with her and equally overwhelms even Raven’s Soul-Self. Dark Phoenix then powers up Darkseid’s “Hellpit” and Darkseid boasts about how this will transform Earth into Apokolips within mere minutes. Interestingly, he actually offers the X-Men and the Teen Titans the opportunity to yield and join his cause, which isn’t something I’ve ever seen Darkseid do before, but Shadowcat and Changeling opt instead to use their powers to try and disrupt and destroy the technology powering the Hellpit. For their insubordination, Darkseid commands Dark Phoenix to destroy them but they are saved at the last second by the combined power of Raven, Xavier, and the Mobius Chair. After Cyclops subdues Deathstroke and Robin spirits Shadowcat and Changeling out of danger, Dark Phoenix is bombarded by a psychic assault that simultaneously drains her rage and hatred and overwhelms her with love and affection.

Darkseid is defeated when the Phoenix Force is unleashed against him.

Drained, and close to unravelling, Dark Phoenix is easily goaded into reabsorbing the blast she fired at the Earth to sustain herself. When Darkseid moves to intervene, he is assaulted first by Kid Flash and then the combined forces of Cyborg, Wonder Girl, Colossus, and Starfire, who force his Omega Beams back into his eyes and therefore keep him from stopping Dark Phoenix from empowering herself and thus sparing the Earth. However, still at risk from being consumed by her raging power, Phoenix heeds Darkseid’s advice to focus her energies through a physical form and bonds herself to Cyclops. This, however, proves to be her undoing as Cyclops channels her powers with his undying devotion to his lost love and then turns the full Phoenix Force against Darkseid. The chaotic, flaming energy blasts itself, and Darkseid, across the vast cosmos of the universe to return to the Source Wall and thus imprison the New God within the Wall alongside the doomed giants of yore. Victorious, the two teams revel in how close they came to being destroyed and how fantastic their triumph was, while Scott finds some solace in Storm’s suggestion that Jean’s good soul ultimately saved them in the end. Finally, Metron returns to his chair and bids farewell to the imprisoned Darkseid, commenting that everything has returned as it once was as is to be expected.

The Summary:
“Apokolips…Now!” is quite the chaotic story; considering how many characters it has to juggle, it’s honestly surprising how coherent the story ends up being. If there’s one thing that always puts me off about team-based comics, especially X-Men and the Teen Titans, it’s the sheer abundance of characters and lore a single issue has to deal with so to mash the two together is no mean feat. The result is that no one single character from either team really gets any focus; indeed, many of the characters have next to nothing to do and the focus is, instead, on the meeting of the two teams rather than a bunch of separate interactions between them.

There are a lot of characters who don’t always get time to shine and whose interactions are a bit limited.

This is best seen in the fact that neither Robin or Cyclops get much of a chance to act as a field leader; Nightcrawler is basically a non-factor, and Wonder Girl may as well not be there. Sure, most of the characters are assumed to be busy in fisticuffs with the Parademons and the Shock Commandos but we don’t really get to see much of this. Indeed, we’re even denied a proper fight involving Deathstroke; he takes out Robin with a ridiculous amount of ease, subdues all of the X-Men largely single-handedly, and his fight with Wolverine all takes place off-panel! These days, I like to believe that you’d never see that happen given how prominent Deathstroke and Wolverine are but, in this, Deathstroke is little more than one of Darkseid’s minions who gets taken out pretty quickly to continue the focus on Dark Phoenix. Indeed, Jean’s presence gets more play here than a lot of the other characters; her death was still relatively new at the time and hadn’t been driven into the ground yet so her reappearance is a particularly emotional moment for the X-Men, particularly Cyclops. However, while it’s pretty cool to see Dark Phoenix enamoured with Darkseid and willing to commit global destruction on his behalf, it’s not really enough to elevate this story for me.

While the art is great, the story is just okay and wastes a lot of potential.

I’m not entirely sure where Metron went or what happened to him when he breached the Source Wall and Darkseid’s plot basically boils down to every other plan he has (he’s either seeking out the Anti-Life Equation or trying to conquer the universe, it seems) and, again, he really doesn’t do all that much. This isn’t entirely out of character for Darkseid, who typically allows his underlings to do his work for him, but it’s kind of weird to see him team up with Deathstroke. Like…did Darkseid pay Slade off? I can’t help but feel Trigon might have been a more suitable villain for the New God to ally with. Overall, it’s a pretty decent tale; we don’t get to see the X-Men and the Teen Titans facing off against each other (the closest we get to that is when the Teen Titans attack a weakened Xavier), which is a shame, but it’s fun seeing the teams co-operate. There’s a little tension in the brief Colossus/Shadowcat/Changeling “love triangle” but that’s about all the dissention we get; I would have liked to see how Robin and Cyclop’s leadership styles differ and more interactions from Kid Flash, Wolverine, Wonder Girl, and Storm. Instead, the comic is all about the spectacle of seeing these different comic publisher’s heroes and villains interact in as unspectacular a way as possible. A fun adventure, to be sure, but maybe a little too “safe” and it could very easily be any one of a hundred other X-Men or Teen Titan stories with a few tweaks…but at least the artwork is good.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Have you ever read The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans? If so, what did you think to it? Do you own a copy of the original comic or do you remember reading it when it was first published? Were you disappointed that the two teams didn’t come to blows or were you happy to see them just working together with no issues? Would you have preferred to see different characters in each team’s line-ups? What did you think to Darkseid’s plan and the return of Dark Phoenix? Would you like to see the X-Men interact with Marvel heroes again in the future and, if so, what stories would you like to see? Whatever your thoughts on The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans, and comic book crossovers of this kind, drop a comment down below and check back next Wednesday for the final instalment of Crossover Crisis.

Game Corner: Injustice 2: Legendary Edition (Xbox One)

GameCorner
Injustice2Logo

Given that Warner Brothers bought Midway back when they were forced to shut up shop, it should have been seen as inevitable that a videogame would be made that mashed together characters from the Mortal Kombat series with those of the DC Universe. Of course, Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Midway Games, 2008) was quite the barebones, lacklustre effort compared to the spiritual successor, Injustice: Gods Among Us (NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, 2013).

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Brainiac is coming to collect the Earth!

Injustice was generally applauded not only for its graphics, gameplay, and competitive fighting mechanics but also its story mode; NetherRealm Studios have seemingly perfected the art of infusing their fighters with an in-depth and genuinely captivating single play story and Injustice 2 (ibid, 2017; 2018) continues this trend. After the Justice League travel to a parallel world to help end the reign of a dictator-like Superman and his regime of similarly-evil former heroes, the Injustice-world faces a new threat in the form of Brainiac. Though Batman attempts to rally a new generation of heroes against Brainiac, they have no choice but to free Superman from his red sun prison cell in order to combat the threat and enter into an uneasy alliance.

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A good roster, bogged down with one-too-many Batman characters.

A fighting game is only as good as its roster; like Injustice, Injustice 2 has an unhealthy obsession with Batman characters – Batman, the Joker, Robin, Poison Ivy, Red Hood, Scarecrow, Bane, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Deadshot bloat out the roster. While it is a little disappointing that this appears to have caused other, unique characters such as Booster Gold or Doctor Sivana miss the cut, Injustice 2 does bring some welcome new faces to the game; Firestorm, Blue Beetle, Atrocitus, Gorilla Grodd, and Doctor Fate are just some of the new heroes and villains available to play as. The Legendary Edition also includes some fantastic downloadable characters, such as Hellboy, Black Manta, and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

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Every character has a unique play style.

Every character boasts their own unique combos, special moves, and super moves and plays a little differently; Darkseid, for example, is slow and methodical, Supergirl is a much faster character, while characters like Green Arrow and Batman rely more on their gadgets and skills to succeed. Successfully pulling off combos, counters, and landing attacks allows players to build up their super meter and power up their special moves or execute a world-ending super move. Each character starts with three loadout slots, which can be increased to five, that allow you to gear up Aquaman, for example, to have one loadout the favours attack, one that favours health, one that favours special moves, and so on, depending on the gear you apply. You can also apply this gear to AI Loadouts and have them fight for you, which is kind of weird and I’m not sure why you would want to do that rather than play the game yourself but it is useful for the game’s Endless and Survival modes.

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Injustice 2‘s stage selection levels much to be desired.

While Injustice 2 has a decent roster, it doesn’t have much in the way of stages; there are only twelve stages to pick from and they’re not really that dynamic or interesting. You can still send characters flying to other parts of the stage, which is fun, but it seems there’s a lot less opportunities to do this than in Injustice. There are also some fun stage interactions to be had, like smashing Swamp Thing over the head with a crocodile in Slaughter Swamp, but, again, it seemed that there were more and better stage interactions in Injustice.

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Customise each fighter with the Gear System.

The primary selling point of Injustice 2 is the Gear System; winning matches not only earns experience points for each character and the player’s profile but also awards numerous gear. Players can then apply this gear to each character to boost their attributes, gain performance buffs (such as greater attack strength against Metahumans), alter the character’s costumes, and even unlock different special moves. Winning matches also earns the player coins and crystals, which can used to buy Mother Boxes and unlock more gear, transform or combine gear to make it stronger, or unlock Premier Skins for certain characters.

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Premier Skins are available…at a price.

Premier Skins allow you to play as new characters; Cheetah, for example, has a Premier Skin that turns her into Vixen and Raiden’s Premier Skin is Black Lighting. This is great, as it effectively adds even more characters to the game’s roster; the only downside is that, to purchase Premier Skins, you need Source Crystals, which are few and far between. You’re therefore forced to grind over and over, levelling up your profile and characters, to earn a pittance of Source Crystals or spend real money. This latter appears to be what NetherRealm Studios want you to do as it is extremely difficult to earn enough Source Crystals as the Premier Skins carry a hefty price tag, and only the best Mother Boxes and rewards can be earned through spending real money, it seems, making the in-game currency all but worthless. Unlocking gear and applying it to characters is fun but, let’s be honest, you won’t be applying all of your gear to every character as some characters are better than others and some or just dead weight. The biggest downside to the Gear System is that, unlike in Injustice, it is the gear that determines what your character will look like; therefore, you can’t just select Green Lantern and choose to play as Yellow lantern, you have to unlock the correct gear and colour palette (which also require Source Crystals), which is quite disappointing and annoying.

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The clash mechanic as as annoying as ever.

In terms of gameplay, Injustice 2 is very similar to its predecessor with a noticeable increase in AI competency; I played the entire game on Very Easy and, on more than one occasion, noticed that the AI doesn’t take any shit. If you spam moves or favour a certain tactic, the AI calls you out on it and gives you a competitive match more often than not. The story mode is fun to play through but a breeze; I finished it in within two casual days of gameplay and only went back to it to finish off the branching paths. The clash mechanic returns from Injustice and it’s just as annoying as ever; as you take damage, you can spend your super meter initiating a clash and pressing a button in a rock/paper/scissors type of mini game, which will either deal additional damage or restore your health. It seems that the AI always busts out a clash at the worst or most annoying opportunities and it’s easily to most frustrating part of the game.

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Take on the entire Multiverse…once you’re levelled up enough…

Similar to Mortal Kombat X (ibid, 2015), Injustice 2 utilises an ever-changing Multiverse mode that allows players to fight a number of opponents and obtain better rewards. These change hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly and often carry certain themes that will be familiar to DC Comics fans; you can also use the Battle Simulator to play traditional tournament modes or battle endless opponents. One thing I will praise about Injustice 2 is that every battle is different; I don’t think I ever fought the same version of a character twice as it seems every match sees random gear and colour schemes applied to the opponent. You can also join a Guild and take part in Guild Multiverses and challenges to unlock even more Mother Boxes and rewards; these are far more challenging than the regular Multiverse modes and, similarly, the best Multiverse rewards are only available when you’ve levelled a character up to level twenty or thirty, meaning that you’re going to have to play again and again and grind over and over to reap the benefits.

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Unlocking stuff is time-consuming and random.

Honestly, maybe I’m a bit jaded, but I don’t find myself particularly enthusiastic about stepping up to this challenge; Injustice 2 features a wealth of Achievements, many you can sweep through regular gameplay, but the more specific ones (such as maxing every character’s level out) just seem like too much of a chore. I really don’t like that I have earned so many in-game coins and yet I cannot use them to purchase Premier Skins or extra colour palettes; I don’t really want to spend my actual money buying them, was disappointed to see that they weren’t already unlocked in the Legendary Edition, and am not sure I can be bothered to grind over and over to unlock them.

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Want the best stuff? You better have deep pockets!

In the end, Injustice 2 is good; it’s fun to play, the story mode is decent, and the graphics are very impressive but there’s not too much calling me back to it. I played Injustice pretty much to death working my way through the challenge mode but you have to put some serious effort in to challenge the best Multiverses and the motivation is severely lacking this time around just because the best gear and rewards are either really rare or too expensive. Maybe, next time around, NetherRealm Studios should limit the in-game currency to two forms (one to buy stuff, one to upgrade stuff) and move away from forcing players into spending their real-world money on additional extras, especially if they’re going to bring out a Legendary Edition after the initial versions.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better