Review by russ_waddel
The Punisher. Now he can go with you anywhere!
The problem I see on the site regularly (when trying to read reviews) is how many people characterize portable games next to their console counterparts. Now, I am going to set the record straight, once and for all.
This is NOT A LIGHT GUN GAME. Nor was it ever a "light gun game." In any way, shape or form. Nor was it's bigger NES brother. They were always on rails shooters with crosshairs.
Now, let's review.
The Punisher gained popularity in the late 1980's as a gun-wielding anti-hero, because most of the regular superheroes would knock out the baddies and haul them off to jail. Not the Punisher. He is Batman minus the morals. He has guns, and a will to use them "wild west" style. He is vigilante justice in the purest form of the word. You are guilty? You die. Here and now.
In 1990, Beam Software (not Acclaim, as was previously said by another reviewer) made a game for the NES. This Punisher game shows Frank Castle (the Punisher) on the screen. Because of the limitations placed on the games and cartridges of the Game Boy system, this proved to be impossible. But, you can feel as though you are the Punisher in this way. Almost first person shooter style in that respect. Beam Software did an excellent job porting the game from the NES to the Game Boy.
Gameplay: Simplistic. This is an on-rails shooter. You move the crosshairs, press the A button to shoot your gun at the baddies (and the background to find powerups) and B launches your grenades. You have a health bar and lives on the bottom left of the screen, and # of clips and ammo in current gun on the bottom right. You shoot the bad guys, they shoot you. Pretty straightforward. This game only has five levels, and that is something considering all they packed onto this little cartridge at the time. It is pretty impressive. The difficulty is high, with the first level being almost unplayable unless you know the patterns of the bad guys. They come in pretty regularly, and in the same spots. If you have played the NES version, you would know what I am talking about. Once you know that, then it becomes move, shoot, repeat. Powerups in this game are limited to Machine Guns, Armor (which gives you temporary invincibility), Grenades, Clips, and Health. Pretty standard fare for an on-rails shooter.
Story: Let's face it. There wasn't much to the story back then. Most of the stories were simplistic, and this one is no different. Basically, the Punisher is punishing a criminal organization headed by the nefarious Jigsaw. Jigsaw was one of the best Punisher villains, and it is nice to see him rendered fairly well on the Game Boy. I will talk about Graphics in a moment. Spider-Man does show up in the first cutscene, helps rescue civilians and tells the Punisher to get the bad guys. Mostly because it takes Frank to the Jungle far from New York. Less of a body count to clean up I guess. This game is fairly short, and will be completed very quickly using cheat codes or knowing what you are doing. Many people might be put off (after playing the NES version) to see that Kingpin was taken out of the game and Jigsaw was the final villain. But, I think it works for this game. Also, people move their mouths and the Punisher even pumps the slide on his shotgun (why he has a shotgun in the cutscenes and never in the game I will never know), which is impressive by Game Boy standards. Spider-Man's mouth area moves really well, although it does give his head a distorted look. That is bad. But otherwise looks like Spidey.
Graphics: Very good for the age of this game. It was even impressive what they could do back then with handheld systems. I mean, it isn't the 2005 video game version of the Punisher, but the graphics are pretty decent. There are a few flaws here, because of the limitations of the system. But remember, this is a handheld. They didn't have an Xbox or PlayStation 2 or 3 to work with here. Heck, they didn't even have a PSP or Nintendo 3DS. So, cut them some slack, eh? The largest flaw here is render distance. On the NES, they could have background features and foreground features, but here, they can't seem to rectify this problem. Because the escalators look like slow moving waterfalls. Not a huge problem, but you have to use your imagination at times. Isn't that why we love video games in the first place? The sprites do some amazing acrobatics, ground rolls, jumping up from behind trashcans and such, climbing down ropes. The bosses are huge and well detailed (for a Game Boy game) and they have different animations depending on how much life they have left.
Sound: Excellent for the Game Boy. This is another nitpick area for reviewers. Like the game with 4 bits should have NES quality sound. Yeah, you try it. Actually, the Game Boy has some impressive music tracks. Try out Final Fantasy Legend or Adventure. Or Link's Awakening. Those are a few examples. But, getting back to the Punisher, the sounds are pretty impressive. The bullets sound like NES era bullets (reference Contra or the NES Punisher for those sounds). They sound "tinny," as the compression forces this. I mentioned this in my GoldenEye 007 DS review. It seems that when they compress sounds into the chips, it makes them sound "tinny." I wouldn't know how this is done, nor would I even know what to do with it if I could. But, overall the sound is quite excellent.
Overall: This game is awesome. If you are a Marvel fan, a Punisher fan (as I am, sitting here writing this in my Punisher t-shirt) or just a fan of games like this, give it a try. You won't be disappointed. It is a good game. Also, the level of violence is moderate, as yes, you are killing hordes of bad guys. But, the trade off is there are no blood spatters. They just fall over and disappear. I miss you NES and Game Boy era games!
Score 8 Punishers out of 10.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: The Punisher: The Ultimate Payback (US, 07/31/91)
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